Favorite Picture Books

I am often asked which books I consider my favorites. I have often talked about The Very Hungry Caterpillar being my all time favorite so I am leaving it out today but here are books that when I read they took my breath away( and some made me cry) , they all have really important messages for our children and us as we read them together.

One Green Apple by Even Bunting is a treat. The book is not about apples really at all, instead it’s about Farrah a little Muslim girl who has come to the United States from an unnamed country and her first day at school. The day is spent on a field trip to an orchard , where the children pick apples and make apple cider. I immediately related to this as my first day of work at a school in my new country was trying, although I could speak the language unlike Farrah it was still daunting to be new in unfamiliar territory. The melting pot analogy is turned into a apple cider one as all the children throw their apples in and work together to press it into cider, even Farrah helps. They all drink the collectively made cider. My son was too young for this book but I think it would be realistic for a PreK – 2nd grade.

Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman is one of those books that you read and think oh I love it, but will kids? I am here to tell you yes! They love this old Yiddish folk tale about a little boy, his very special blanket and his grandfather who made it for him. Over the years Joseph’s blanket transforms into a jacket, a vest, a tie, and handkerchief and finally a button. The story is beautiful and kids love not only the repetitive text when the grandfather is sewing but also the continuing storyline of the mice that live under the floor boards who use the scraps of material for all sorts of things. There are no goofy gimmicks, no lights or sounds just a great story and beautiful illustrations in this gem! A fantastic book about family and growing up.

That Summer

That Summer by Tony Johnson. I read this at the library alone knowing that my 3 year old wasn’t ready for a book about death quite yet. I didn’t even try to conceal my tears, I wasn’t crying I was sobbing.  The book is about the summer that one little boy watches his brother Joey get sick and die from Cancer.  The author does a masterful job at relating grief, and the sadness of watching someone you love and don’t expect to die, get weak and leave you.  As Joey’s condition worsens he learns to quilt and ultimately it’s his brother who finishes his quilt. I can’t rave about this book enough it simply makes the reader get it, as much as you can without ever living this particular nightmare. The line that haunted me was ” I learned a lot that summer, how to grin when your heart is in shreds..” that was the line that forced me into the “ugly cry”.

pocket full of kisses

A Pocket Full of Kisses by Audrey Penn is another book in her Kissing Hand series. Chester is not so happy about having a little brother and suggests that he gives him back! I love that jealousy doesn’t stem over toys or material things but rather over Mama giving his little brother a kissing hand too.  My mom has always called me sunshine and I will grudgingly admit that I do not like it when someone else earns this name, it’s an instinctual reaction and I am in my 30s! When Chester raccoon bursts into tears kids and adults a like can relate to it. Mam raccoon handles it beautifully and Chester understands that no matter how much love a mama has for one child it doesn’t take any way from others. This book was a great vehicle for discussion about our recent arrival and I urge other parents dealing with a new sibling or jealousy to check it out.

Let Them Play by Margot Theis Raven and Chris Ellison is an amazing book, it tells the true story of the 1955 State Champion Little League team from South Carolina. The story is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once as the authors tell the readers about the realities and injustice that this team of little boys faced. They were the first all black all star team who were disqualified from playing in the little league world series because they hadn’t played a single game to become state champs, because all the other teams forfeited. I dare you not to cry, I was a sobbing mess by the end. The book itself is too complex for really little guys, my son had no interest in the text, though he loved the pictures. All kids old enough though should take a look, and be prepared to answer some tough questions about why people were so mean. Wonderful wonderful, important book!

Alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst was another childhood favorite that I have enjoyed sharing with my own son. This book is beautiful, even though it may take a few reads to see it’s not a story about a whining little boy so much a lesson that sometimes things do not go our way. Days can suck. It’s just the way it is. As a child I related to Alexander’s feelings of frustration and things being unfair. How often to you hear a child say “No Fair!” probably a lot. This book taps into that feeling, being little is hard but just because you are mad, or your day was bad doesn’t mean you get your way. Great book to talk about anger and frustration with your child, and it’s funny too! The magic of this book is that the end isn’t happy , Alexander goes to bed still mad and that’s okay, sometimes days are bad.

Don’t Forget about our Summer Reading Challenge!

Back To School Kids Craft

This apple craft can be done two ways, lacing it for older more dexterous children and simply using a stapler for younger kids and toddlers. Either way there is something I just love about apples made from brown craft paper or my low cost alternative – grocery bags!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a brown grocery bag or craft paper, newspaper, hole punch ( or stapler if you aren’t doing the lacing), ribbon, red, brown and green paint, scissors and paint brush.
  2. Start by drawing an apple on the paper.
  3. Cut out 2 apples ( back and front).
  4. Paint.
  5. While the paint dries crumple up your newspaper.
  6. When dry punch holes in the apple ( make sure you punch them in the same spot on both front and back).
  7. Tie your ribbon on. You can also use a button to act as a stopper.
  8. Start lacing.
  9. Stuff with your newspaper.
  10. Finish lacing.

Back to School Books !

Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come by Nancy Carlson did not live up to my expectations. It was written in 1999 but the information seems out dated, the little mouse in the story is entering kindergarten but is still unsure of his ABCs and could only count to 10. I know this seems like a minute detail but it bugs me because most kids entering kindergarten are well aware of the alphabet and can count past 10 with ease. I felt like it covered the basics about what a child can expect but it doesn’t go into any depth and I doubt it would ease any anxiety or fulfill any honest curiosity. I hate giving bad reviews but I just don’t like this book.

Miss Mingo and the First Day of School by Jamie Harper is a delightful book. Miss Mingo is a flamingo and teacher who wants to know about her students on the first day of school. She starts the exercise by sharing some fun facts about being a flamingo , like why she is pink, and before you know it the whole class of different animals are sharing. This book not only shows kids that it’s okay to share about themselves but it is full of fun facts about animals in the fine print. I learned something I never knew about a Narwhal! It is a bit long for a toddler but each page highlights new animals and it’s easy to skip a few for those that aren’t ready for a book of this length. This is going on my buy list!

The Kissing Hand by Audry Penn is an absolute favorite . Chester is a raccoon who like most of us doesn’t like change. In his case it’s starting school. He wants to stay home with his mama and play with the friends he already has instead of going to school away from her and his friends. So his mama explains to him the magic of the kissing hand . The real magic is the message that we have to do things that scare us sometimes but that the love of our family is always with us to help us through. Go get this book.

Books About Cats!

by Carrie Anne
It’s an on going debate. It comes out in casual conversation, at social gatherings, in line-ups, even in the playground. Are you a cat or dog person? In our house it’s cats all the way; we have four. So you can guess books about cats are a popular read in our home. Even if you’re not a cat person these books are great to read with your little ones.

Cookie’s Week

Written by Cindy Ward, Illustrated by Tomie dePaola
(age 3 – 5)
Kids will enjoy following the mischief cookie the kitten gets into during the week. From falling in the toilet on Monday to climbing the curtains on Saturday, Cookie’s Week is great at reinforcing the different days of the week.The repetitive text makes it fun for kids to anticipate what comes next. The limited text also makes it a great book for early readers.
Cats, Cats, Cats!
Written by Leslea Newman, Illustrated by Erika Oller
Published by Simon and Schuster
(age 4-8)
Mrs. Brown lives on the edge of town with a house full of cats, all sorts of shapes and sizes and colours. But Mrs. Brown doesn’t mind at all. She enjoys spending time with them, petting them, chatting with them, even doing their nails. But the real cat fun begins after Mrs. Brown goes to bed. My kids love the story of Mrs. Brown and her partying cats, as told in a lyrical rhyme. You’ll laugh at the craziness these cats get up to when Mrs. Brown is asleep. Makes me wonder what our cats do when we’re asleep.
Grumpy Cat
Written and Illustrated by Britta Techentrup
Published by Boxer Books
(age 3 – 6)
Cat ate alone, slept alone, spent time alone. The other cats thought he was grumpy but Cat was just lonely. One stormy night cat met Kitten and everything changed. Sometimes a person’s shy or introverted behaviour doesn’t mean they want to be alone. This story illustrates this well through Kitten’s act of kindness how Cat’s personality changes; this shows to kids that  a simple ‘hi’ or smile can impact those around you.
Scat, Cats! (Easy-to-Read, Puffin)
Written by Joan Holub, illustrated by Rich Davis
Published by Puffin
Easy to Read, Level 1
(age 4 – 8)
A sister and brother are inundated by loud cats, sly cats, all sorts of cats, but the kids start to miss the cats after they scare them away. This Easy-to-Read book is great for beginning to read with its fun rhyme. It reminds you also to be thankful for what you have, not to take advantage of the things you love, even if you don’t really know you love them. My son loved when I read this story to him as a child; it’s still a popular read with all my kids and now my oldest reads it to her little sister.
Bad Cat
Written and illustrated by Tracy-Lee McGuiness-Kelly
Published by Little Brown
(age 4-8)
Bad Cat lives in the city, the big stinky he calls it. No matter where he goes, trouble seems to follow. Or does it? People are annoyed or upset with Bad Cat until they realize his actions actually had positive outcomes, but by that time Bad Cat was on the run again. This is one of my favourite stories, one about innocent behaviour and making quick judgements. It’s a great story to share with kids, illustrating that something good can be found in most actions if you look. I love Bad Cat’s innocent behaviour, similar to that of a child.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Carrie Anne is a contributing writer on No Time For Flash Cards , she is a cat person , Managing editor of EverythingMom.com and an avid reader. You can catch up with her on her blog  Another Day. Another Thought…Or Two

Books About Community Helpers

Police Officers, Santitation Workers, Mail Carriers, Teachers and more!  These books celebrate those community workers and their jobs that are devoted to make our communities better.

First Day Jittersby Julie Danneberg has a special spot in my heart.  It’s a book about not wanting to go to a new school, the first day is always the hardest and it’s easier to just stay in bed! The beauty of this book isn’t just the recognition of the anxiety about the first day but in the end the twist is that it’s the teacher who has the jitters not a student. I love this book and the power it has to help anxious kids, I have read it more than once to a jittery child and see how it can help first hand.

day in the life of a garbage collector

A Day in the Life of a Garbage Collector by Nate Leboutiller is presently my son’s favorite book.  Unlike the next book that focuses on the process of garbage collection and recycling this book focuses on the workers that make it all happen.  From what time they have to get up, the safety measures they take, clothes they wear and how they drive the trucks it covers it all. Perfect for kids like mine that are curbside waving at the garbage collector every week!

policeman small

Policeman Small by Lois Lenski was first published in 1962 and is retro in all the awesome ways. Cute and cheery it’s like a little Rockwell painting in a book! Policeman Small is about a policeman in a simpler time, a time that is perfect for little readers not looking for the reality of what police work is, instead looking for something simple. A big hit with young toddlers.

Delivering Your Mail: A Book About Mail Carriers by Ann Owen is a simple book about being a mail carrier. The text is to the point and perfect for toddlers and young preschoolers learning about mail carriers for the first time. It focuses on not just what the mail carriers do but how it impacts the reader, which is paramount for young children who see the world through their perspective only. Cute beginner book!

Firefighter Frank by Monica Wellington was a huge score at the library. My son and I both love this author/illustrator and have read many of her books , but this one has never been available, and I can see why. The author has a knack for sharing information with her readers in a fun, simple way that is perfect for preschoolers. This book is no exception to her other great books.  I particularly enjoy some of the vocabulary she uses in this book about Firefighter Frank, words like shrill, intense, and exhausted. They aren’t obscure words but they are not often seen in books geared to those as young as this one, and the context is supportive so that even a young child can help decipher the meaning of the words.  The book itself tells a simple( and common) story but between the author’s ability to tell the story better than other authors, and the bright and beautiful illustrations this books stands out from the firefighter crowd.

Books About Space

Draw Me a Star by Eric Carle is often not read in classrooms simply because of a depiction of a naked man and woman. It’s not what most parents expect to find in an Eric Carle book but it is very fitting in this beautiful and really touching book. The story although very similar to a biblical creation story isn’t necessarily reflective only of a christian view point , rather as I read it is was the author’s own creation. It begins and ends with a star , and hits all the right points in between.


Comets by Melanie Chrismer surprised me. This little book was not only full of facts about comets but it also kept my son’s attention from cover to cover. The facts are simple, and presented in small bits with illustrations . The straightforward approach was perfect to support an introductory activity about comets.

On the Launch Pad: A Counting Book About Rockets by Michael Dahl was a great find, my son loved counting down from 12-1 with the bright illustrations , simple text and hidden numbers on each page. Something that seems simple but was really awesome was that each page had the number written as a word, shown as a digit and as dots to count. You can take the time to count each dot, read the word or simply recognize the digit!


How to Catch a Star
by Oliver Jeffers is a sweet story about a little boy who wants a star of his own. I loved the bright and simplistic illustrations and the message about holding on to your dreams, working for them and figuring out that sometimes things come to you in packages you don’t expect! Great book!


The Way Back Home
by Oliver Jeffers is a moving story about a boy , a martian and the moon they were both stuck on. Together they figure out a way to get back home even though they are so sad to say goodbye to each other. I love this author, I love his illustrations as well, they are so unique and the emotion he manages to convey is amazing. There is an illustration of the boy and martian standing awkwardly before they have to say goodbye and it embodies the emotion. Grab anything written by this author and you will be happy!

Hush, Little Alien by Daniel Kirk is a quirky updated version of the classic lullaby. So many bedtime books are super sugary but this one is funky and bright! I love the space theme and the illustrations are great! The rhymes are funny and kept my son interested in the lullaby much longer than the traditional one which he deems a “baby song”.

Our Stars by Anne Rockwell is another wonderful non fiction book from this author illustrator. The book shares the most basic facts about stars with the reader as well as more complicated facts about constellations, comets and meteors. I love that the facts are shared pretty independently on each page, so if something is above your toddlers head you can simply skip that page, until they are . The illustrations are fun enough to grab attention but detailed enough to help explain the facts being presented.