Favorite Kids’ Books: Knowing & Growing

On this page, you’ll find an ever-expanding list of children’s books that I’ve paired with some of my photos, videos, and blog posts. These titles came to mind when I saw something interesting outside, but the books are not about the natural world. Instead, they’re books about learning skills, both tangible and emotional. I think you’ll see the connections as you scroll the page.

(If you wish to buy a book, consider Bookshop.org, where profit from online book purchases is distributed among independent bookstores.)

In this lovely picture book about sharing, Rabbit searches for food after a winter storm. He cannot believe his eyes when he pulls a huge radish from the snow. But instead of eating the radish, he thinks of Monkey—a friend he’s sure is hungry, too. Rabbit leaves the radish where Monkey will find it. Monkey gives it to another hungry friend… who gives it to another hungry friend. I love this beautiful tale. It’s fun to read, with totally improbable winter food finds and a repeated refrain that your youngest littles will love. Each page turn will have them guessing where the radish will go next and where it will end up!

I recommended The Radish is Back in this blog post about three crows and an eagle I saw standing on an ice-covered lake. The crows crept ever closer to the eagle as the bigger bird dined on a carcass. I wondered if the eagle might share its meal. Or just leave some leftovers. Based on the post’s title–So Much for Sharing--you can probably guess the answer.

3 crows on a frozen lake, watching a bald eagle eat a carcass

Can a slug win a gardener’s heart? Author Stephanie Shaw makes it happen in her picture book SYLVIA FINDS A WAY. A slug stars in a story about patience, giving, and gratitude, and especially about embracing what makes us different. The book, beautifully illustrated by Fiona Lee, didn’t change my hostile view of this hosta-muncher:

The slimy scalawag ate lots of holes in the hostas just below the siding on our house. My gardener’s heart may be permanently hardened against this particular slug, but I highly recommend the book for kids 5 to 8.

Stormy: A Story about Finding a Forever Home, written by Guojing, is a powerful, wordless picture book. Emotion-packed illustrations tell the story of a stray dog that must overcome fear to accept a human’s love. It’s a sweet but tension-filled story that will grab your heart and the kids’ hearts, too. The visual storytelling in this book is superb. Kids will be able to tell you Stormy’s story as they turn the pages, no reading required. What a terrific opportunity to engage them in a discussion about fear, kindness, trust, and empathy.

I especially related to this book when our dog Finley came to live with us as a pup. He was easily spooked in his new home, and my husband and I had to work to earn his trust. Here’s Finley at three months old.

In Squirrel’s Sweater, main character Squirrel is distressed to find that her sweater, knit by Granny Gray, is too small. Friends’ efforts to make the sweater fit fail. Then Squirrel finds a way to turn it into a new precious possession that keeps Granny’s memory close to her heart. The story is lovely, and the art is beautiful. Great for any kid attached to clothing, a stuffy, or any item that no longer fits or is falling apart. Written by Laura Renauld, illustrated by Jennie Poh.

This squirrel might just need a sweater, too!

Lucy in the City: A Story About Developing Spatial Thinking Skills, by Julie Dillemuth, illustrated by Laura Wood. This is a terrific book that introduces kids to maps and ordinal directions. When Lucy, a young raccoon, gets separated from her family in the city, she asks an owl for help finding her way home. The owl gives directions, such as ‘go one block east and three blocks north.’

We get an owl’s-eye-view map of the city streets where Lucy is lost. The book is published by Magination Press, the kids’ book imprint of the American Psychological Association. It has activity pages in the back, also downloadable from the author’s website, designed to help kids use the concepts introduced in the book. It’s a fun, well-written story that I think works well with kids 4-7.

I’m not aware of any map-reading creatures in the neighborhood. I was struck, however, by one raccoon mama’s circuitous route through our woods. She was nursing babies in a tree den and left often during the day for food and water. Her route seem perilous but she avoided walking straight down the den tree, a path that would have left a scent trail to her kits. Here’s mama navigating some mighty thin branches. You can see more, including a video of her tenuous travels in my blog post, Mama Raccoon’s High Wire Act.

Mama raccoon stretches to reach the next branch in her treetop travels

Yours in Books, by Julie Falatko & Gabriel Alborozo. In this story told entirely in letters, Owl and Squirrel are correspondents. They write about books and the kid-induced mayhem that Owl attracts like a magnet. The book is funny and full of little jokes. But it’s big on heart, too. The story celebrates the love of books, connections made when we share books, and books as problem-solvers. You’ll want to read this book with your littles, maybe taking turns reading the letters. The publisher recommends the book for ages 3-5, but I think even older kids will enjoy the story.

This character neither reads books nor writes letters. But seeing him balance that leaf on his nose, maybe I should write a book about him!

Here’s a book recommendation that’s about a skill (bread baking) and about nature. That’s because, at least in my opinion, sourdough’s natural yeasts count as wildlife!

The book is Bread Lab! by Kim Binczewski and Bethany Econopouly, art by Hayelin Choi. It’s fact-filled fiction when a girl turns her kitchen into a bread lab, making sourdough bread with her scientist aunt. The book has lots of silly puns and jokes, but the bread science is solid. There’s even a detailed recipe. The authors are real-life bread scientists from Washington State University’s Bread Lab at WSU Pullman. The book is a great lead-in to baking bread with your littles. I love that the publisher, Readers to Eaters, makes kids’ books focusing on food literacy—knowledge about where our food comes from.

Here’s a peek at my sourdough barley bread. I’ve nurtured a colony of sourdough yeasty creatures for more than seven years.

Too Many Bubbles, A Story about Mindfulness was written by Christine Peck & Mags Deroma. When Izzy’s grumpy thoughts bubble up, she finds a way to let them go—with a little ‘help’ from the reader. I love the book’s simple but powerful story. It also has ideas for more ways adults can help kids tune into their emotions. It’s a great book to share during this time when we’re all dealing with negativity. Also, check out the authors’ website. It has more books, games, and puzzles to help kids build social-emotional skills.

Spittlebugs make foamy bubbles for protection from predators. The nymphs create a perfect hiding spot by mixing liquid poo with other fluids. Then they blow the bubbles using air produced by abdominal contractions. Nature never fails to amaze me! This photo has no connection to Too Many Bubbles. Its foamy mass of bubbles was simply the image that made me think of the book and how helpful it might be to kids in emotional overload.

Here’s a great picture book that helps kids manage anger: Clovis Keeps His Cool, written by Katelyn Aronson, with art by Eve Farb. Clovis, a bull in a china shop, finds ways to tame his temper even when bullies smash his wares. The text is fun and clever, and the art is superb. I love all the facial expressions! Kids will enjoy the story, and it’s a terrific book to start a discussion about handling the impulse to lash out.

Speaking of lashing out, take a look at this hangry kid. He’s mad because mom is feeding him smaller and smaller meals, a move meant to encourage him to fledge and find his own food. This clip might be a fun way to introduce a chat about handling anger, followed by reading and discussing the book.

Image Credits: Carol Doeringer, Carol Doeringer, Publishers (for book covers).