A trip to the zoo is such a joyous occasion, isn’t it? Our urban zoo in Boston is a little sad, so we typically go to the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island, about an hour away. It reminds me, on a smaller scale, of the great San Diego Zoo which is about 2 1/2 hours from where I grew up and is the zoo by which I measure all zoos against.
This zoo children’s book list — zoo picture book and chapter books — is inspired by the Newbery award winner, The One and Only Ivan. Is there a favorite zoo children’s book you’d like to add to the list? Please help me out and I’ll add it to the list. Thank you!
10. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead
In a perfect world, zoo animals and zoo keepers would be best friends, just like zoo keeper Amos McGee. When he gets sick and misses a day at work, the animals come by to his house to check on him and help him get better. The artwork by Erin Stead, the author’s wife, is stunning. She uses carefully rendered pencil drawings with what I think is monotype prints. The results are visually arresting. [Caldecott picture book, ages 2 and up]
My mother is Buddhist and I grew up going to mostly weddings, funerals, and remembrance ceremonies at Buddhist temples in the Los Angeles area. Years later, when I attended UCLA for business school, I ended up in West Los Angeles’ Little Japantown a half block down the street from the Buddhist temple that my grandparents went to.
Most the Buddhist services that I attended were in Japanese which I did not speak so it was a blur of strange sounds and an occasional joke while I squirmed in my seat, bored. I’d nudge my mom for a translation but it was often too complicated to be whispered to me right then and there. So you might say that I got very little by way of Buddhist philosophy despite my mother having taught at her Buddhist temple before she had us.
My parents let me attend any place of worship I was inclined towards. I went to Mormon church class with my best friend in 2nd grade and Catholic masses with my friend Natalie in college. I went to Baptist church camp and took communion with best friend from Junior High.
But the local Presbyterian church was my favorite. I went to Sunday School there because of the neighbor kids but stayed because of the Old Testament comic books that were handed out after class. Those stories always ended on a cliffhanger!
Yet, as I get older, Buddhism resonates the most for me. The idea of karma just seems logical. The circle of life makes a lot of sense too. For my pick of The Picture Book of the Week, I chose one with a circle of life theme by Caldecott author Mordecai Gerstein. I hope you enjoy it.
What picture books that explore religious or philosophical questions do you read with your kids? Please share!
Circle of Life Picture Books for Kids
The Mountains of Tibet by Mordecai Gerstein, with a commentary by Sogyal Rinpoche
Gerstein says of The Mountains of Tibet, “I’ve come to believe that during the course of our lives, we can live many lives. … At one particularly momentous new beginning, I looked back at all the choices I’d made that had brought me to that point. That was when this book began.”
I just got the lastest Red Knit Cap Girlpicture book, a sequel with an environmental message and this inpired me to create this list. I had hoped the first one would win a Caldecott but alas no. It did win a New Times Best Illustrated Book award but here’s hoping that Red Knit Cap Girl To the Rescue gets a Caldecott nod this year!
What are your favorite chapter books, picture books, folk tales, graphic novels or non-fiction books about the moon? Please share!
5 Multicultral Moon Themed Books for Kids
5.Red Knit Cap Girl To the Rescue by Naoko Stoop
Red Knit Cap Girl is back and when she finds a young polar bear cup, she asks the moon how to get it home. She and White Bunny go on a charming adventure that speaks to our fragile eco-system. Stoop uses found materials to illustrate using both paint and collage work which supports the eco message in subtle and beautiful way. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
I think that Jerry Pinkney is one of the finest watercolor illustrators ever to grace a children’s book. I would include Alan Say in that category as well. There is just something magical about Pinkney’s storytelling abilities when he puts brush to paper. Even as he conveys an old and well known fable, he brings his own spin to the story. I don’t want to be a spoiler but there’s a subtle surprise ending that kids seem able to easily interpret. It’s a good message for kids, particularly those who compete in sports.
I also like his wise elder message to adults, and it rings particularly true for me. Slow and steady wins the race but also remember to enjoy the journey. There are so few words are in this gloriously illustrated practically wordless picture book set in the American Southwest, and yet he manages to convey several story threads. I guess that is why he is a Caldecott honored illustrator!
What is your favorite Jerry Pinkney book? Or your favorite watercolor children’s book illustrator? Please share!
Picture Book of the Day
The Tortoise and the Hareby Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney
Pinkney says in his artist’s note, “‘Slow and steady wins the race’ was particularly meaningful in my youth, since I often struggled in school beause of dyslexia, but the moral rings truer than ever today. As the pace of our lives continues to speed up, many yearn for a less hurried approach to life. The tortoise proves that it can be wise to have a goal, but one should relish the process of getting there.” [nearly wordless picture book for ages 2 and up]
Kids of all ages probably feel that rules and social norms are confining. Think of all the rules preschoolers have to learn! Adults feel that same way too. I feel that way a lot and I’m in good company. Author and illustrator Peter Brown says this is his most autobiographical picture book to date!
I’m wild for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild! There’s nothing trite about this picture book. The illustrations are gorgeous too! I love how there’s a spot of orange on each page spread that is really striking against the browns and greens on the rest of the page.
I tried to nominate Mr. Tiger Goes Wild for a Cybil but, alas, I was too late. Someone else had beaten me to it. I’m hoping it will get recognition in the Caldecott picture books category. What picture books are you rooting for to win a children’s book award?
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Mr. Tiger lives in a very proper urban setting. It’s all “Good day to you” and “Indeed it is”, pinky finger crooked and all. He didn’t like it at all so he had a better idea. He went wild. Native wild. Birthday suit wild! His friends were SHOCKED! So he went to live in the jungle. There was just one thing. He missed his friends. So he returned. And he found that they had all gone a little wild in his absence. Perhaps it was his influence? And now, Mr. Tiger felt that life was just right! [picture book, ages 3 and up]
My reader Natalie has a young daughter who has been reading enthusiastically at a young age:
My daughter read first books of Penderwicks and Half Magic, but I should look into their sequels to return her to a more gentle universe
My daughter is probably a little unusual since she is reading since she was 3, and it’s truly her favorite thing to do. We still read theme-based picture books (we really loved several of the kite books you recommended, by the way), but she is reading a lot of long books on her own.
She is a big fan of myths and legends as long as they don’t involve mummies and zombies – these are two things she is terrified of. She went crazy this summer about Percy Jackson and the Olympians – each book took her about 3 days to read, and then she reread all of them several times. Now she is reading through Famous Five by Enid Blyton. Last summer she read through Secrets of Droon, and, of course, she read all Magic Tree House and Magic School Bus chapter books.
I’ve arranged this list in the order of easier to more difficult books. So the 10th book is where I’d start your daughter and then I’d work down to the first book.
Readers, what other gentle chapter books for a young girl would you recommend? Thanks for sharing!
Old Fashioned Chapter Books for a Young Reader
10. My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Stiles
My kids usually get this as a read aloud in first or second grade. Teachers love this old fashioned fantasy easy chapter book series. [easy chapter book, ages 6 and up]
My mom friend Sarah Perry heads up The Second Step, a non-profit in Newton that provides comprehensive support services to survivors of domestic violence. She reminded me that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.
I don’t think about Domestic Violence much but when I researched books for kids on this topic, the titles alone broke my heart. And when I went looking for them at the library, my entire list was not on the shelves. Strange, huh?
I’m glad that there is a month every year that raises awareness about domestic violence because it’s under my radar in my day to day life. Luckily, there are brave souls out there who fight on behalf of victims of domestic violence.
One such stand out is actor Patrick Steward. I knew him from my obsession years ago with Star Trek: The Next Generation where he played Captain Jean Luc Picard. Watch this video below in which he answers a question from a brave soul about violence against women and what matters most to Patrick Steward.
The divorce rate in America peaked at around 50 percent in the 1980s and slowly has been trending downward. It is now slightly more than 40 percent. With so many divorced families, why are there more children’s books depicting single parents? Fruit & Veggie Mom (@Eatfruitnveggie3h) asked me on Twitter, “My question is – what about books for single moms? Everything is mommy and daddy!”
This list is for her! Can you please help me out by adding your favorite children’s books with single parents? Thanks so much!
Single Parent in Children’s Books
10. A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams
I love this picture book about an African American multigenerational family who save up and then search for a special chair after a fire destroys their home. Though it is never explicitly stated, the family is depicted as a grandmother, a mother and her daughter. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
I started haunting our local bookstore to read picture books but I always feel guilty using it like a library so I make sure to buy a small stack. When it comes to picture books, I am the pickiest purchaser ever because I am buying for myself! The Dark made my purchase pile. I had heard wonderful reviews about it and I have long admired Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen.
Other Monsters In the Closet Picture Books also delight us:
There’s Nightmare in My Closetby Mercer Myer
We love this sweet monster picture book in which a little boy bravely confronts his “nightmare in his closet.” It turns out that his nightmare is a good snuggler! I love the reading by Billy Crystal too! In fact, I always picture him reading it to my kids, even as I read it.
Hi! I'm Mia Wenjen. I love children's books (picture books through YA) and sneaking in teachable moments in art, science, math, foreign language and language arts.
I'd love to chat with you. Let's connect! PragmaticMomBlog (at) gmail (dot) com.
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