The Challenge: Read 10 picture books each month that are “I-really-liked-this-and-you-should-read-this-too” good. Share them here at the end of each month. Without further ado, here’s April!
Dare to Dream…Change the World edited by Jill Corcoran – In recognition of April being National Poetry Month, we’ll start with a picture book compilation of poetry. This is a collection of poetry, biographical sketches, and inspirational people. A diverse selection of difference-makers are honored including: Sylvia Mendez, Father Gregory Boyle (G-Dog), Jonas Salk, Martha Graham, and Temple Grandin. This book is a gem. Smaller children probably won’t make it through in one sitting, but this is the perfect book to have laying out for small hands to pick up and choose a page or two to read. Older children’s curiosity will be sparked by the challenges and creative solutions that arise through the legacies of these individuals: cows, archaeology, dance, art, polio vaccine, and the creators of You-Tube.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt – In the event you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years and have not read this book, let me be the first to tell you: Read it! Each crayon has a note to send to Duncan about his use, misuse, lack of use, or abuse of their color. Daywalt gives each crayon a unique personality that comes through in each of the letters-no two colors look the same and they certainly don’t sound the same. This is a great book, and I love it even more because it does not fall into the “picture-books-should-be-500-words” limit. I like big books. I’m glad my girls like some big books too. I’m glad publishers still make big books.
Am I Small? (Bin Ich Klein?) by Philipp Winterberg – It looks as though this book was written as a way to learn English. I bought it as a way to practice my German. There are several dual-language combinations available. Tamia wants to know if she is small. Her answers depend on who she asks. To some, the moon for example, she is microscopic. But when she asks the turtle he says she is big. In the end she concludes that if she is in all these ways big and small then she must, in fact, be just right. Stimmt! Genau!
The Sandwich Swap by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah – Two best friends do everything together – including eating lunch. And every day they look at the sandwich that the other has and think it looks awful. Peanut paste? Yuck! Chickpea paste! Ick! One day they don’t just think it, they say it out loud. Food unpleasantness escalates quickly. Eventually, the girls reconcile and bring to the principal a better idea.
I loved this book. It is a simple premise and a simple story about friendship, but it vividly shows how unkind words can spiral out of control. Her Majesty makes a point to note in the text that the words quickly changed from assaults on the type of food that was being eaten to personal attacks unrelated to anything at all.
Ernest’s First Easter by Päivi Stalder – Ernest is a bunny. His parents are giving him one house to deliver Easter Eggs to. The story follows his efforts to find a hiding place-only to discover that all his ideas have already been used by previous Easter bunnies. Eventually he succeeds and is thrilled to have completed his first drop. My 5-year-old asked a bunch of questions about the Easter Bunny this year. My husband and I aren’t gun-ho bunny fans, but we try to put out a small gift. Our understanding of the Easter Bunny back-story is sadly lacking. This book helped fill in a few gaps and spark some imaginative thinking about what the Easter Bunny does and how he/she does it. Fun spin on the tale.
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts – Little Sally is so little that hardly anyone notices her. But Sally notices everyone and everything else. Actions that go unnoticed by Sally – a bully on the hall, tears that almost get shed, a parent pulling a child roughly away, a kite tangled in a tree, a bulldozer flattening a field of wildflowers. It is all too much for little Sally, and she takes a stand. She takes a stand and others notice. They stand with her. And then the little details that Sally notices are small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness that may not change the rhythms of dogs barking and cats fighting but that do make a difference in the lives of the people around her.
Bonus: Roberts uses the word “scooched”; it’s a fun word to say, and I always wondered how it would be spelled. Now I know.
The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson – I remember this story making the news. World-class violinist Joshua Bell played his priceless violin in a metro station in Washington, D.C. It was children who wanted to stop, and adults who wanted to hustle by. This story captures a little of all that. The illustrations do a superb job of showing the music engaging the little boy throughout the day, and the writing prickles and tickles the senses in describing the power of music. Plus, it’s a tribute to small children and their curiosity-Dylan noticed something that was important, but his mother didn’t. What child doesn’t want from time to time to one-up their parents?
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae – Hands down one of my all-time favorites. I have often identified with giraffes (tall, quiet, not very graceful), and this book introduces readers to Gerald the Giraffe. He can’t dance. He can do a lot of other stuff, but when it’s time to boogey, well, he’s got nothing. A wise fiddling cricket (because, why not) tells him to find the music that works for him. And Gerald learns to dance.
What Was That? by Geda Bradley Matthews – This is probably my favorite. I grew up with my grandma reading it to me every summer. My siblings and I, all four of us, would pile on her bed and she would read it with gusto, enthusiasm, and the necessary element of surprise to pull off “What was that?”. I still love reading it today. A family of bears snuggles into bed. The youngest hears some noises, sits up in bed and says “What was that?” and runs to the next oldest brother bear who explains the sounds. Then those two hear noises and run to the oldest brother who explains the sounds. Eventually all five bears end up in the same bed which makes the loudest noise of all when it crashes to the floor.
And, my 5-year-old has added the word “skedaddled” to her vocabulary from hearing this book. What’s not to love about that?
! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – In all fairness, this one may just be a favorite because I’m a grammar and punctuation nerd. Technically, I’m not a fan of the exclamation point, but this book gives him a good spin. Poor guy stands out a bit. Until Question Mark comes along and asks so many questions that Exclamation Point finds his voice and uses it loudly to stop the asking. And there’s no stopping him after he figures that out! A fun read for whatever age-group studies punctuation (and for adults).