13 Banned and Challenged Books For Kids

banned picture booksIt’s Banned Books Week and today I want to share with you some banned books we have reviewed and enjoyed. When I wrote an article over at Scholastic Parents this week about banned books and how I use them to teach my children lessons the response was overwhelmingly positive but what struck me was how shocked so many people were that books still get banned. The first step to banning is challenging a book and the most common people making challenges are parents. I get that parents want to protect their kids and discuss issues with them when they decide to but I simply can’t see banning a book from other people’s children as the answer.

This summer I published a list of picture books that include families with gay and lesbian parents and I lost a few dozen Facebook followers , a number of email subscribers and fielded some pretty brutal comments about me and my children. I expected it. I know that the world has many viewpoints and not everyone shares mine. So after you browse the books below tell me how would you want these books handled? Are you in favor of free access like I am? Restricting access? All out banning?

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animalia by Greame Base

Animalia by Graeme Base is iconic in teaching circles, you can loose yourself for hours in the detailed illustrations. The book is an alphabet book on steroids! Each page had a wonderful paragraph in each letter such as for the letter L ” Lazy Lions lounging in the local library.” The pages are filled to the gills with pictures of things that start with that letter as well. Parents and kids a like will fall in love!

Why was it banned or challenged? It was challenged at a school library in Texas for violence and horror. This surprised me because I have a seriously low threshold for horror and I have never been bothered at all, neither have the approximately 150 kids I have read it to over the years.

draw me a star

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.

Why was it banned or challenged? Banned because of nude depiction of a man.
king and king

 

King and King by Linda de Haan is a fairytale and a funny one at that. The queen is old and cranky and wants her son to take over the kingdom but he must be married to do so. He tells her he’s not really into princesses but Mama doesn’t take the hint. After finding fault with every princess presented to him he falls in love at first sight with a prince and they live happily ever after. I like the whimsical illustrations and my kids thought the prince was funny. My son thought the book had a twist at the end with the princes falling in love, but just like the queen in the story there was no debate over why.  I like that this book uses the familiar fairytale structure to make an important statement about the existence of same sex marriage and can be a great ice breaker to talk about it with your kids.

Why was it banned of challenged? Banned and often restricted to adults because of the depiction of gay marriage.

The_Sissy_Duckling

The Sissy Ducklingby Harvey Fierstein is a lovely book. As a mom to a son I worry about him getting teased when he is older if he isn’t into sports, or likes to bake cookies more than play video games. This book address that, in a cute but frank way. I especially love how the dad isn’t super happy that his son is into more traditionally girly things. I think that even though we hope that all parents would be immediately supportive the reality is, that parents are human too and acceptance can take time even when there is lots of love. ETA: Now that my son is almost 6 and very into sports and very into pretty much everything that is stereotypically “boy” I use this book to teach him the other side. To see that all people are unique and to respect everyone for that uniqueness not for their ability to fit some societal mold.

So why was it banned? The reasons given were gay positive themes.  As you will see that is unfortunately a recurrent theme on this short list.

walter the farting dog

Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray is a story about a dog with really bad gas but a really loving family. The book does talk a lot about farting but it’s really about unconditional love. Kids love it, will giggle through it and it has a way with kids that don’t call themselves readers. I talk more about the power of potty humor in this article for Scholastic Parents.

Why was it challenged? Challenged but retained for the use of the words fart and farting repeatedly throughout the text.

Heather Has Two Mommies

Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman was widely banned when it was first released. It is probably the best known picture book about a family with same sex parents . When you read it the first thing you will probably think is that it doesn’t live up to the banning. I always imagine banned books to be truly out there and this book is about a family with a doctor , a carpenter and their daughter. Heather is starting a new school and she is nervous and exploring all the possibilities of what a family looks like just as her classmates are. She recognizes that her family is different but not less than.  The illustrations are black and white and a little dated but the story is on the right track.

Why was it banned or challenged? Banned because of it’s acceptance of lesbian mothers raising a child.

The Family Book

The Family Book by Todd Parr is a book that doesn’t give readers a narrow definition of family , it doesn’t say that your family has to look a certain way, or be the same as your neighbors. As a teacher I really appreciated the matter of fact way it embraced diversity. Kids see that families are not all like theirs and it’s important to validate the truth while recognizing that while they may not all look alike, all families are made with love.  Great book , cute illustrations and children love it.

Why was this book banned or challenged? This book wasn’t banned 10 years ago it was just recently banned from use for an elementary school curriculum about diversity, tolerance and bullying. It was banned from a curriculum about tolerance. Am I the only one who sees the irony? The issue was with it’s pages that state that some families have two moms and some have two dads. It makes me sad that some children who do have two moms or two dads won’t get a chance to see their family reflected in this bright, fun and diverse book.

 tango

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson is a much debated book. It’s the true story of two male penguins in Central Park Zoo who didn’t have any interest in the girl penguins but definitely liked each other. When the zoo keepers noticed that they were in every way a matched pair they also noticed that they prepared for a baby just like the other penguins. Time after time they were sad until they were given an egg to care for. Just like all families love and care is what matters when creating a family and baby Tango and his two daddies have thrived . My son loved this book and asked me to please go see the penguins when I was in New York City. I didn’t have time to but I wish I had. Their story simplifies a very debated topic and I think it’s a great book not only to explain how all families are different but also how love and care are really what makes a family even for penguins.

Why was this book banned or challenged? This picture book was the most frequently challenged and banned book of 2010, 2008, 2007 and 2006. A true story about a family of penguins. Wow.

chamber of secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling . My husband has just started reading book 2 in this series to my son at bedtime and they are hooked!  They finished the first book a few months ago and we took a break before book 2.  I love the whole Harry Potter series and it hasn’t been without much discussion between my husband and I on how we are going to space out the books. If you have read them you know that the subjects age and mature as the characters do by a school year with each book. I encourage parents to read any book that they are going to share with their young kids first to make sure it won’t scare or upset your child as well as to make sure it fits with your family. What I love so much about these books is that JK Rowling has created such a thick and detailed world and it grips even kids that don’t normally get into books as much as it does little bookworms!

Why was it challenged and banned? People get really upset about witch craft and if you google ” Harry Potter Banned” you will get recent articles and blog posts promoting it’s banning. Really.

banned books 5

In the Night Kitchen (Caldecott Collection) by Maurice Sendak is one of the many books I remember exactly where I was when I first read it ; Coquitlam Public Library sitting in the shag carpeted row boat amazed that the main character Mickey had no clothes . Which is exactly why it got banned. First let me tell you about the story if you have never read it. Mickey falls out of bed and into the night kitchen where the bakers try to bake him and ultimately he saves the day and falls back into bed and back to sleep. For me this story is about power and freedom and how kids don’t get to feel that day to day but free from reality at night in their sleep they can. Even as a little girl giggling at the pictures in the book I read the words and felt the freedom from being little that Mikey felt. When I read it to my son he giggled and giggled at Mickey’s body. I was sorta hoping he’d be more mature than I was at 5, we always expect the best from our kids right? Like me he still got the heart of the story and even expressed that Mickey was naked because he was dreaming and got to do whatever he wanted.

So why was is banned? That whole lack of clothing issue really upset a lot of people. So much so that it’s been in the top 25 banned books for decades.

Where_The_Wild_Things_Are

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak probably doesn’t need an introduction especially with the current film adaptation. We read this book often and my son randomly quotes the book throughout the day. Telling me to “Be still” just like Max tells the Wild Things. If by chance you are not familiar with this book, it’s a story of a little boy Max who is sent to his room for being wild and his imagination turns it into another world, filled with Wild Things and freedom from rules for behavior. Ultimately though Max’s heart pulls him back home where he is loved most of all, even when he’s wild.

So why was it banned or challenged? It was challenged widely because of it’s inclusion of “witchcraft and supernatural elements.” Guess those are my things because I adore this book and the whole Harry Potter series that has also been banned and challenged for these reasons.

sylvester and the magic pebble

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig is a book many of you may recognize from your own childhood . I remember the sweet story from my own. Sylvester is a little donkey who finds a magic pebble and after discovering that it grants wishes he makes a terrible mistakes and turns himself into a rock. As a rock he is unable to wish himself back into a donkey and is left to sit silently while his parents are frantic, search and finally grieve. Sylvester almost gives up himself until by chance his parents come across his rock and the magic pebble and he is turned back into his “true self”.  My son loved the story and I loved how when we talked about it he expressed so much empathy for Sylvester and his parents. The obvious message that you have to be careful what you wish for is a powerful one for kids learning about consequences. The other messages which for us were the more important ones were that  family bonds can break through anything and that no matter what even if he is a rock I would never give up on him.

Now it sounds like a great book right? It is. So why was it banned? When Sylvester goes missing his parents go to the police who are portrayed as pigs. All the characters are animals and my son didn’t make the connection because he’s never in his life heard anyone refer to police officers as pigs. I thought it was tongue in cheek but in 1977 it was enough to get banned.

Daddy’s_Roommate_cover

Daddy’s Roommate by Micheal Willhoite is a little different from the other books in this list in that the child in the book has a mommy, a daddy ,and daddy also has a roommate. The book was written in 1990 and even though we don’t often hear “roommate” as a euphemism for partner or boyfriend anymore but in 1990 is was probably more common. That aside the book does a good job of explaining what this little boys life is like. Bug catching, reading, scary dreams… it’s pretty average stuff but he has three adults to care for him. I also like that the boy’s parents are divorced which will be something many readers will connect with. The books explanation of what gay means is really simple and perfect for the books audience. I do think that the pictures are dated but I don’t think kids will pick up on that as much as adults will.

Why was it banned or challenged? It is one of the most banned books because of it’s gay subject matter.

 

So what would you do with these books? How would you talk about them or restrict them from your child?

 

18 Books About Sea Animals

books about ocean animalsThis week was aquarium week for us. My son’s kindergarten class visited the Seattle Aquarium on Wednesday and yesterday my parents and I took my daughter to our little local one.  It is only fitting for us to showcase some of the many great picture books about sea animals today.  Do you have a favorite that didn’t make the list ? Share in comments!

comotion in the ocean

Commotion in the Ocean by Giles Andreae is a happy book full of rhymes about all sorts of sea creatures, including jelly fish. Each page has rhyming text that goes along with the animal. The book is cute and the illustrations are bright and bold. My son enjoyed it pointing out the animals. That said it’s not a must buy, more like a great to have on hand when you are specifically learning about the subject.

secret Seahorse

Secret Seahorse by Stella Blackstone is a fascinating and beautiful board book. The story follows a little seahorse that hides on each page as it makes it’s way along the ocean back to it’s family. The illustrations are felt, fabric, sequins and other fun and very beautiful hand stitched creations. I am never ready for the next page because the present one has so much to look and marvel at. Kids like finding the seahorse on each page too!  My son and I re read this tonight to my daughter and she liked it but he was still loving it, which is pretty impressive for a board book. It’s just so pretty!

house-for-a-hermit-crab-

A House for Hermit Crab  by Eric Carle is a book I have owned for many years. It offers so many learning opportunities for young readers and doesn’t lose any of the entertainment in trying too hard to teach. The hermit crab feels drab and each month he asks different sea creatures to help decorate his shell . As the shell is getting more and more beautiful it’s also getting more and more snug. The book teaches about sea creatures, months of the year and moving. More than moving it teaches about change . Change is  difficult for all of us but a little trickier for most preschoolers which makes this book so valuable.

seahorse

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle is a story about the most involved fathers in the sea. Mister seahorse isn’t the only fish that takes care of his eggs until they hatch , in the book we meet other dads that do too. I didn’t realize how many people don’t like this book until I read some reviews on amazon when ordering the book a few months ago. Many parents are off put by the father fish who announces he is “babysitting” his own baby fish. It never really bugged me even though when a parent says that in real life it irks me. All the positive daddy fish outweigh that one comment for me.

Hooray For Fish

Hooray for Fish!  by Lucy Cousins gets are huge “Hooray” from our house. I thought my son would think this book was a little young for him. He’s started saying board books are for babies, and he’s a big boy and even though this isn’t a board book it’s simple, big and bright like one. Nope, he loved it. Little Fish takes the readers on a tour of all the different kinds of fish , the bright fun illustrations are so interesting to look at , and choose your favorite fish on each page. The rhymes are fun and when we finished reading my son immediately asked to read it again! Edited for 2011 – now that he is almost 5 he flatly refused to read this with me but his sister who is 14 months liked it!

fish eyes

Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On by Lois Elhert is a classroom favorite in every school I have ever been in. The colors are so bright and the eye cut outs that give readers a sneak peak at what colors are coming next is fascinating for babies and kids alike. I have used this book for various themes like under the sea, shapes and of course counting.

Ordinary Amos and the amazing fish

Ordinary Amos and the Amazing Fish by Eugenie and Henry Fernandes is a funny book that forces readers to look at pet fish in a whole new light. Amos gets caught by a family of fish and they keep them as a pet. This book was a favorite of all my classrooms, children love to imagine other worlds and one where they are the pet is both a little scary and really silly too! I love the message of empathy, and kids grasp it. They see that Amos once caught is sad and depressed in his bowl and that it’s no fun being caged up.

O is for Orca

O Is for Orca: An Alphabet Book by Andrea Helman is a book about the nature of the North West packaged in an alphabet book.  Each page is dedicated to one large photo and a animal, plant or other part of North West nature.  My son was reluctant at first wanting to read a Star Wars chapter book but only a page or two in he was engaged. Many of the letters represent sea animals like sea stars, urchins and of course orcas. There are a lot of facts in this book and if I were reading it to my toddler I’d skip the paragraphs and go through the alphabet and each photo only. That is what I love about books like this you can adapt them so easily to your audience.

Barry the fish with fingers

Barry the Fish with Fingers by Sue Hendra is a goofy fun book that had me wrapped around it’s fingers with the title, I mean a fish named Barry? And he has fingers?! I love it. Thankfully my judgment was smack dab on because the inside of the book was as funny as the cover. Barry isn’t just a fish with fingers he is a hero when his fingers save the day. The illustrations are so fun, the text is zippy and both my kids ( 4 and 10 months) loved it from start to finish.

fish

Fish Is Fish  by Leo Lionni is a cute book that not only talks about friendship but it also explains the transformation of a tadpole into a frog in an entertaining way . I have used this book in classrooms while doing animal life cycles and kids always love how the fish in the book imagines people as fish with legs. The story of friendship between the little tadpole and minnow can’t be ignored either, it’s a great message about change and the way true friendships can withstand change.

Swimmy

Swimmy by Leo Lionni has been a favorite of mine for many years. I love Lionni and how he can weave multiple layers of meaning into a simple story for children. Swimmy is a story about a little fish who lost his family to a giant tuna fish and after grieving he is reminded of all the wonderful things there are to see and experience in the ocean. When he comes across a school of fish just like his former one hiding afraid of the big fish he knows he can’t let them miss out on all the wonders of the ocean. He rallies them to work as a team and face the big fish head on.  This is a great book for teaching children about the power of working as a group to combat challenges as well as conquering fears.

Way Down Deep In the deep blue sea

 

Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea by Jan Peck is about a little boy swimming in the “deep” looking for treasure. Along the way he encounters different sea animals. The cute kicker is that all along the little boy is really in his bath tub and the animals are just toys. I liked the twist and so did my son who then requested a laundry basket to play bath, funny how he didn’t actually want a bath… a mom can dream! Edited for 2011 – my son re discovered this book as we were setting up the playroom in our new house. It’s still a hit with him after 2 years.

Fish School

Fish School by Nancy Poydar is a really funny book that also manages to teach the reader a lot about fish.The story is about Charlie who gets Wishy a goldfish for his birthday and then sets off to teach him all sorts of things. When his class takes a field trip to the aquarium guess who Charlie pops into a ziploc and into his backpack. My son loved the silliness of this book as well as the information that is shared as the class progresses through the aquarium. Lots of giggles and learning with this cute story.

baby

Baby Beluga by Raffi is a classic children’s song cleverly illustrated into a beautiful book. I grew up on Raffi in Canada and am still shocked when moms don’t know who he is, if he is new to you go to your library and check out one of his cds. When my son was a toddler he loved this book and all the sea creatures inside. I must say that I am unable to read this without singing the song. It might be a good thing to read it before listening to the song .

Little Shark

Little Shark by Anne Rockwell is a great non fiction book from one of our favorite authors. Readers follow a shark from birth until it’s full grown in this book filled with fascinating shark facts. I like that it reads like a story because it sucks the reader in instead of just spouting off cold facts about these cool and scary ( to me) animals. I loved that my son was rather shocked that sharks don’t stay with their moms or their many siblings, and are instead solitary. I loved how it explained a little bit about the food chain in the ocean and how we get oxygen from air but fish get it from the water. Add this one to your shelf.

Trout Trout Trout

Trout, Trout, Trout!: A Fish Chant by April Pulley Sayre is not a story but a chanting book. It lists a number of fish found in the United States in a rhyming text. Along with Trip Park’s funny illustrations the book works although my son didn’t ask to read it again after  our initial reading. I like the facts at the back of the book about each type of fish inside and think that any child into fishing would probably be more interested in this book than my son was.

Amos & Boris

Amos & Boris by William Steig is a touching story about the power of an unlikely friendship and helping others. Amos is a mouse and sailor who is rescued by Boris a whale when he goes overboard in the middle of the ocean. After the rescue they develop a tender friendship despite their obvious differences and go their separate ways with full hearts. Many years later though it is Amos’ turn to rescue Boris and we are all reminded that size does not equal ability to help a friend.

sea animal books

Ten Little Fish by Audrey and Bruce Wood . The book is a rhyming countdown story about 10 little fish and what happens to them one by one. The illustrations look like an animated movie, and the rhymes are well thought out. My one wish is that the numbers were shown as digits not simply words, so that younger children who can recognize the numbers in digit form but not yet by reading the word could more easily follow along. The ending made me giggle, and you’ll have to grab the book to find out why !

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30 Books About Being Different & Being Yourself

Being different is hard and seeing other kids being brave and celebrating themselves for who they are is a powerful tool for any child. These children’s  books all celebrate children who are a little or a lot different . Some characters stand tall from the start and others have a wobbly road but find their legs as they go, all will inspire children to embrace who they are.

books about being different

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae is a very sweet story about a giraffe who gets laughed at because he doesn’t know how to dance. A cricket gives him some great advice and with new found confidence that different isn’t always bad he starts to dance!  This has been a favorite in our house for years!

books about being different

Small Knight and George by Ronda Armitage is a gem! This story is funny, cute and a great message about not being what we think we should be but rather who we truly are. Small Knight is not so sure about being, brave and fighting but he does know how to make a friend. When he sets out to slay a dragon he ends up befriending one. A great book for all kids . Even though my son is presently all about battles and weapons he still likes and relates to this more peaceful story of a knight. As soon as I read it to him I was searching for the next in the series.

books about being different

Calvin Can’t Fly: The Story of a Bookworm Birdie by Jennifer Berne is a story about a starling Calvin who can’t fly and really isn’t even interested in learning. Calvin loves books and the library and while all the other birds are flying in a pack he is off on his own. There is some teasing but ultimately the pack helps Calvin and he in turns saves everyone. I love that he doesn’t really try to fit in but that in the end he discovers something new about himself once he’s accepted for being different.

Ballerino Nate by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley   is on my must buy list. I don’t say that often, especially with such a great public library, but this book is wonderful. Nate is a little boy who after seeing a ballet school production with his class at school, decides he too wants to take ballet. Of course his older brother has something to say, and say and say but Nate is pretty confident with the help of his parents , that boys can take ballet.  I love that Nate wants to dance but he hates the idea that he might have to wear pink, clearly pink is not a good thing to him, he just wants to dance.  what I love about this book as a woman who spent more than her fair share of time at a ballet bar in her growing up years, is that it depicts boy dancers well. The stereotype of a “sissy” doesn’t often fit and I knew many boys that danced that were masculine and graceful. I encourage parents of boys and girls to read this, to open our kids horizons to being whoever you are, not to what older brothers, neighbors or anyone else tells them to be.

Princess Smartypants by Brenda Cole is the antithesis of the classic beautiful frail princess stories, but it still ends with happily ever after.  Princess Smartypants does her own thing and doesn’t understand why her family is so obsessed with finding her a husband. She bends to their wishes but still does things her way. I think this is a great message about happiness and confidence for girls and balances out some of the other princess stories. She was happy just the way she is and didn’t  need a spouse to feel complete.

Cowboy Slim by Julie Danneberg is a touching story about a cowboy who just doesn’t fit in. He writes poetry and is proud of it at first until someone calls it sissy. Then he fails and fails and fails again at all the things that “real cowboys” can do. When the herd is in danger though Slim saves the day with his rhymes! This book was too long for my son at 2 to enjoy but 4-5 year olds would be perfect for this length of book as well as the message about putting other people’s interests down and why it’s okay to be different even if others don’t get it.

The Sissy Ducklingby Harvey Fierstein is a lovely book. As a mom to a son I worry about him getting teased when he is older if he isn’t into sports, or likes to bake cookies more than play video games. This book address that, in a cute but frank way. I especially love how the dad isn’t super happy that his son is into more traditionally girly things. I think that even though we hope that all parents would be immediately supportive the reality is, that parents are human too and acceptance can take time even when there is lots of love.

Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose by Nancy Gow  is a story about two very different fairytale characters. They may be a prince and a princess but they are definitely different . I love the book’s rhyme ” I am what I am and that’s alright with me.” which is such a fantastic message to self acceptance and before confidence can be built we must accept who and what we are . The love story is pretty cute too, it is a fairytale after all.

Barry the Fish with Fingers by Sue Hendra is a goofy fun book that had me wrapped around it’s fingers with the title, I mean a fish named Barry? And he has fingers?! I love it. Thankfully my judgment was smack dab on because the inside of the book was as funny as the cover. Barry isn’t just a fish with fingers he is a hero when his fingers save the day.  I love how Barry is different but it’s his differences that makes him the hero. The illustrations are so fun, the text is zippy and both my kids ( 4 and 10 months) loved it from start to finish.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is a lovely book about having confidence in who you are, loosing confidence and regaining it in the end. Chrysanthemum is a little mouse who loves her name until she goes to school and is picked on for it being out of the ordinary. Who can’t relate to this? I know I can . Thankfully my son  has yet to experience this all too common, but still so heartbreaking experience . I love that I have a book like this to share with him and open up about it before it happens. Ultimately Chrysanthemum learns to love her name again and regains the confidence in being herself that she once had. Another fantastic book from a consistently wonderful author.

Princess Pigsty by Cornelia Funke  is a fantastic story about a little princess who is different. She is so disgusted with being perfect and pretty that she chucks her crown into the pond. I love this book and cheered throughout.  When she refuses her father’s orders he punishes her by sending her to the pigsty but she loves it and feels more at home there than in her royal chambers. I also love that her sisters who are girly , prim and proper aren’t too bully ish and seem to love their traditional roles. There is room for all sorts of princesses in this family, well eventually there is. Good book.

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis has been talked about so much I think I had inflated expectations. Don’t get me wrong I think the message is so important and the book does a good job at introducing readers to her son who is different , to how he gets hurt when people laugh at him and how great his family is at accepting him. I like how simply blunt  the book is and it should be because the lesson should be about acceptance and allowing people, especially children to express their true self. I think I was expecting more of a story even though I knew it was non fiction. It opened a great dialog with my 5 year old son about how he would treat a male friend if they wanted to dress in a dress- good discussion at our house , worth the read for sure!

Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus is a childhood favorite. I think as a youngest child I always felt behind the curve, always playing catch up. I think this book is more for parents and is a great reminder to chill out and let our kids bloom in their own time and in their own way. If you aren’t familiar with this book it’s a simple story about Leo who isn’t doing what all the other animals his age are doing. His dad is more than a little anxious but Leo blooms in his own good time.

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf is a classic tale about doing your own thing and not letting any amount of pressure change you. Ferdinand is a bull but just because he is doesn’t mean he wants to fight in the bull ring. I love the message this book has about being who you are no matter what environment you are in . Kids love this book because it’s funny , the text is just the right length and the illustrations are so expressive.

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester is such a cute and funny story, your kids will love it! Tacky is an odd bird but when hunters come to get some pretty penguins is funny odd ways of doing things turn off the hunters and saves Tacky and his perfectly not odd companions. This is a sweet look at being different and being happy as pie about being different.  My son loves this book and will often point out that Tacky is proud to sing just the way he wants. I love that it can preach to kids without preaching at all.

Frederick by Leo Lionni is a fable about the importance of imagination. When all the mice are working hard to gather things for winter Fredrick is quietly taking in the sun, and colors they will need to help get them through the dark, cold hungry days ahead. The other mice don’t see why this is so important until everything they have gathered runs out and they need Fredrick and his imagination to help them make it. Great commentary about art being vital and being yourself.

The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon is a really cute book. This is the story of Ginny who doesn’t know that the way she things is a little different than the other kids in her class. She is teased, her teacher reprimands her for squinting but it’s not until she has an eye screening that the nurse figures out she has double vision. I like this book because it really allows children to experience what Ginny goes through , how being different but not knowing it can be fixed feels.  Ginny is given a patch and that too could be a source of humiliation but she is proud to be a pirate! Great and unexpectedly tender look at being different at school.

Elmer by David McKee is another book with a great message. Elmer is different, he isn’t gray like all the other elephants, and he’s a little bit of a goof too! He’s not so sure he likes that though. Like all of us it takes some time for Elmer to accept who he is but in the end he sees that patchwork is just who he is!

Stephanie’s Ponytail is my favorite Munsch book. I feel a little like I am cheating on The Paper Bag Princess but I love Stephanie’s confidence. The story is about Stephanie whose friends, and even teachers start copying how she wears her ponytail. She moves if to the side, to the top of her head even right in front of her face and they keep copying her. So she outsmarts them all with shocking results. I like this book and while reading it to a class I would re-arrange my own hair to match Stephanie’s and have the class in hysterics when my ponytail ended up block my view of the book. The message though is about being your own person, a powerful one for kids today.

Willow by Denise Brennan Nelson is another wonderful book about artistic spirit. Willow doesn’t follow the rules in art class, instead she paints what she sees when she closes her eyes. Her teacher’s rules are unfair, restrictive and she is just plain mean! It’s hard as a teacher to read stories with mean , repressive teachers in them, and this one takes the cake. Willow doesn’t stop painting blue apples and is confident in her individuality and isn’t as bothered by her mean teacher as I am. This story is really worth a look!

Moosetache by Margie Palatini is a absurd book about a moose with an out of control mustache! Kids love this book, they laugh at the poor moose who is quite anxious about his unusual facial hair. The book has a valuable message about accepting yourself and the quirks that make you you.

It’s Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr is a straightforward simple book about being different and why it’s ok. Parr is renowned for his bright silly illustrations that help kids find his deeper messages fun and more importantly makes them memorable. I think this is a perfect general book that addresses all the ways that kids might not be like their friends and tells them what friends don’t always say, that it’s okay to be different.

A Very Big Bunny by Marisabina Russo is a nice book about two bunnies that don’t fit in at school.  This book opened a good dialogue between my son and I as we were reading about how both the tallest and the shortest bunny in the class got picked on.  The students in their class were mean and  they excluded these bunnies because they simply didn’t fit. The part that hit me the most was when the teacher lined the kids up by height, and Amelia the tall bunny was always last. It just made me think of how adults so often single kids out without trying to be terrible, but really hurting them.  It’s a wonderful book about accepting who you are and how having a good friend helps All that aside, the book itself comes to a nice conclusion and I think it’s worth grabbing for any child tall or short or in between.

A Bad Case Of Stripes is about a little girl so worried about impressing others that she keeps changing and looses who she really is. This story is a cautionary tale about being yourself, and not being yourself. A great book for older preschoolers and young elementary aged children. At 4 my son is starting to get the message of this book, but has enjoyed reading it and giggling at the antics for sometime now.

Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki has been on my shelf for years. I really really like this book, the message is fantastic! Suki loves her Kimono, she doesn’t care that her sisters think it’s not cool to wear it to school, her grandma gave it to her and she likes it. I love that she is depicted as confident but not 100% sure of herself, it allows readers to really connect, recognizing those times when we are putting up a brave face even if inside we aren’t so sure. Being yourself is hard and the author connects to that while still creating a strong lovely heroine.

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems . When you start this story you are told 3 things about naked mole rats, one of which is they are all naked, except Wilbur. Wilbur loves clothes. He loves how he looks and how different clothes enable him to express his varying personalities and moods. The other naked mole rats are shocked by this behaviour. After many attempts to convince Wilbur to shed his clothes, the naked mole rats seek help from the Grand-pah, the oldest and wisest naked mole rat. A proclamation is made but it’s not what anyone is expecting. Similar to Willem’s other animal character books, the animals are the main focus without adding to much background (just the pale pink naked colour of the mole rats). There is more text in this story than Willem’s other books but the placement and font usage makes it interesting on the page. The story isn’t so much about wearing (or not wearing) clothing but rather sticking by your convictions and questioning what people do around you. This is a great book to encourage kids to have courage and belief in themselves and others will follow.

I Want to be a Cowgirl by Jeanne Willis is a story about a little city girl who doesn’t want to grow up to have tea parties. cook, clean or sew. She doesn’t want to be a girly girl at all, she wants to be a cowgirl. I love the sentiment in this book, how adamant she is about knowing what she wants and the lengths she goes to be a cowgirl using bananas as six shooters, and turning her dad’s rug into chaps! I like the message about following your own dreams not what society tells us we should be, and the rhyming text is perfectly suited for this sassy tale.

Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson is a lovely story about a big hippo that loves to dance, although her neighbors aren’t as keen. See Hilda is bog and when she dances she shakes and rattles everything, it’s noisy and disruptive and is making her friends very angry. They suggest that she try new hobbies, but knitting and singing won’t do it’s simply not in her heart, Hilda needs to move and groove!  I loves that a solution is found that makes everyone happy, that Hilda doesn’t have to give up her passion, but that she isn’t so selfish as to simply say ” too bad” to her friends either.

The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jennifer Wojtowicz is one of those books that stays with you. Rink is a little boy who’s family is strange, Rink is no exception, with every full moon he sprouts flowers , from his head. At school he is an outsider and only when a new girl comes to school does he make a friend. He reaches out to her because she too is an outsider, not at school, in her own family. In the end the kindred spirits celebrate their uniqueness. This odd romantic story will warm your heart and serves as a great lesson about how we all feel different and like an outsider sometimes. The illustrations by Steve Adams will stun you, they were so vibrant and paired so perfectly with the story. Wonderful!

Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen .This book is not so much about being different and facing adversity but about being yourself even if the world has decided you should be something else. When we think of Princesses we think pink, sparkly and dry clean only! These princesses can’t be pigeonholed, they do what’s in their heart not what’s expected of them just because they are princesses. The princesses have all different interests, all different looks and I love that there are some with glasses too. Strong girls being themselves isn’t too different but for a book about princesses it is and it’s refreshing to read!

There are so many more books about characters who are different or who learn to be themselves, did we miss your favorite? Let us know which book you think should be added.

 

Easter Picture Books & Giveaway

 scholastic book giveaway

I love getting to take a sneak peek at Scholastic Book Club selections every month and share them with you.  This month I chose to peak at their Easter Picture Books.  This 5 pack of Easter themed books is a great mix of stories focusing on different parts of the holiday. Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win all 5 books from Scholastic Book Clubs

The Best Easter Prize
by Kristina Evans is a sweet ( maybe too sweet) book about doing the right thing.  It’s Easter morning and after church is a big Easter egg hunt and whoever finds the most wins the prize. At first our heroine can’t find any but then she hits the jackpot only to find a crying friend who has an empty basket. Of course she offers her some of her eggs ( sweet) but then they cross the finish line holding hands ( too sweet). My dislike of sickly sweet picture books aside the story as a whole is cute, my kids enjoyed it and the lesson is valuable.

The Biggest Easter Basket Ever
by Steven Kroll is another story about cooperation and how two helpful hands are better than one, and a whole bunch of hands is way better! Clayton and Desmond both want to win the town’s biggest Easter basket competition but after making their own baskets they sneak a peek at the competition and realize they don’t stand out.  Luckily as the story progresses they figure out working together is key. My son loved this book but some younger friends ( young 4 year olds) lost interest in the middle. I love this author and I love how working together is presented in a practical way instead of simply because it’s the right thing because I think the former is easier for young kids to grasp.

Peter Rabbit’s Happy Easter

by Grace Maccarone is an interesting tale about how Peter Rabbit became the Easter Bunny.  The book has a few loose ends I really wish would be tied up but before I get to that let me give you a quick taste of the book. The story is how Peter wants to make his mom forgive him for being naughty so he steals ( although he doesn’t see it that way) eggs from neighboring farms to give her as a gift. Before he gives them to her paint falls on them and they get colored all different beautiful colors. His mom tells him not to steal and so he returns them at night becoming the Easter Bunny. Ok here are my issues…I don’t mind naughty characters, in fact I usually really enjoy them but sneaking back to return something you stole without apologizing left a bad taste. I know why the author wrote it like that to turn him into the Easter Bunny but it still didn’t sit well with me. The illustrations by David McPhail really stole the show , I thought they were beautiful.

Easter books

The Best Easter Eggs Ever!
by Jerry Smath is my favorite book in this pack . The story follows the Easter bunny and his 3 young assistant bunnies as they prepare for their big day. The Easter Bunny is getting tired and a little bored of his polka dot design for the eggs and decides to send out his assistants in search of new designs. The little bunnies head out with one egg and paints to all different places to find inspiration. When one of the little bunnies is captivated by the night sky she doesn’t notice how dark it is and how lost she has gotten. The Easter Bunny and his other assistants find her and in the morning the new designs are celebrated. My son loves an inside look at any sort of secret place like  the Easter Bunny’s or Santa’s workshop so he was drawn into this book immediately. I liked the illustrations and how detailed they were , it certainly got me excited about Easter.

easter books for kids

The Night Before Easter
by Natasha Wing is a Easter version of the classic “Twas The Night Before Christmas” . With fun pictures and an Easter Bunny so joyful I wanted to apply for his job this book was a hit at our house. My son was engaged through the whole book guessing at the rhymes and listening intently from one page to the next. Of all the books this was the only one that really engaged my toddler as well. She pointed out animals and loved the little boy in the book. Great Easter book.

Enter

Now that you know what all the books are about want a chance to win them? All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling us :

What was the last book you read with a child  ?

 

Official Rules

This sweepstakes is open to American residents 18 years or older. To be eligible for the sweepstakes you must leave a comment on this post answering the question “What book did you read with a child today?” 1 winning commenter will be drawn at random, using Random.org, after the sweepstakes closes on Sunday March 4th at 8:00pm PST. The winners will receive all five books listed , valued at $18. After the winner is notified he or she has 48 hours to respond with their mailing address for Scholastic to ship their books to,or another winner will be chosen at random. No purchase necessary.The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Any information gathered through the sweepstakes including email and postal addresses will not be used in anyway other than contacting winners and shipment of winnings. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

 

I was not paid for my review, I was provided a copy of the books to review and copies to offer as a sweepstakes prize. All opinions are mine .

New Picture Books

by Carrie Anne

As the cold weather creeps in, nothing beats snuggling with your little one under a warm blanket and enjoying a fun book together. Here are a few new books you might enjoy.

Candy 1 to 20
By Laurie Wolf and Pam Abrams, photographed by Bruce Wolf
20 pages
Board Book
Chronicle Books/Raincoast Books
On the heels of Halloween, kids might have their minds on candy. Candy 1 to 20 is an early concept counting book full of bright, colourful candy photographs. Each page displays just the numeric number using actual candy photos taking on the shape of that number. The actual numbers are big, taking up the whole page, and are uncluttered by other elements or words on the solid white background. Each number consists of that same number in candy pieces. One liquorice strip represents the number one; thirteen gummy bears are laid out to represent the number thirteen. Kids can see and trace the number shape, plus they can count the individual candy elements to reinforce the number on the page. It’s a sweet book to enjoy together.


Julius: I Love Color: A Paul Frank Book (Paul Frank Books)
10 pages
Board Book
Chronicle Books/Raincoast Books
Paul Frank is always a lot of fun for kids. I had the chance to review Paul Frank’s Only In Dreams board book on EverythingMom . Kids will jump right in to a world of colour in I Love Color, especially with Julius the monkey as a finger puppet to take them through the pages. I actually love that the puppet is just his head with arms illustrated on the page; it’s easy and fun to move his head around to look at the image on the page. Along with matching the band of the rainbow, kids can pick out images on the page that are red and it opens it up to a discussion on other things they see in the world around them in that colour.

Amazing Baby! A Sing-Along Board Book
12 pages
Board Book, oversized
Silver Dolphin/Raincoast Books
This isn’t a new book by it’s a great book for parents and baby. The oversized board book is filled with colourful shapes and objects familiar with the Amazing Baby! books. The pages contains the words to some much loved and perhaps a few new lullaby songs. There are big chunky tabs on the side making it easier for little hands to turn the pages. The CD included contains beautiful versions of the lullabies within the book, acoustically sounding. I even found myself enjoying them. The book and CD can be used together or separately. Even my 7-year old son asked to hear the music before bedtime.

Clare Beaton’s Nursery Rhymes
Clare Beaton
14 pages
Board book
Barefoot Books
I love the illustrations and wordily tales told in many of the books from Barefoot Books. Clare Beaton’s Nursery Rhymes is another example of the publishers great illustrative work. The book contains words for 7 popular nursery rhymes but it’s the illustrations that add a wonderful warm feel to the book. Each image is a collage of fabric, like a story sewn in a family quilt. Even the rhyme titles themselves look hand-stiched on the page. What a wonderful way to share a classic nursery rhyme together.

Shadow
Suzy Lee
44 pages
Chronicle Books/Raincoast Books
I understand the benefit of wordless storybooks; they’re a great way to let a child use their imagination and tell a tale based on pictures. Most kids learning to read take a picture walk through a book prior to looking at the words. That being said, I’m not a fan of this type of book. But sometimes I do come across a wordless picture book that does interest me. Shadow is one such book. What starts off as a girl discovering her shadow while in the garage, turns into an adventure in the jungle. The girl’s world and her shadow world meld together, until mom calls her for dinner. I love seeing how shadows can transform and stir up a child’s creative thinking. After reading, why not try your own shadow adventure.
I want to thank Crystal from Raincoast Books and Leah from Barefoot Books for my review copies.

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Carrie Anne is a contributing writer on No Time For Flash Cards , she is a mom of 3 , and is the Managing Partner and Editor-in-Chief at EverythingMom.com.