“Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back”
Did you know that there is a second part to the famous proverb? It supports the recent research that “children with lower socioeconomic status generally have lower achievement than peers, but those who were characterized as curious performed similarly on math and reading assessments as children from higher-income families.”
How do we support kids asking questions, even if constantly asking “why?” is annoying? It turns out that this is easy to do:
- Follow their interests
- Limit screen time
- Keep art supplies handy
- Read with your child
My book list explores curiosity and all the different forms that it represents from adventure and exploration to invention! And just remember, your kids may be asking “why? why? why?” today, but soon enough, they will find the answers they are seeking on the internet!
Picture Books about Curiosity
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
A little boy named Liam discovers a neglected garden and helps to bring it back. The garden has a life and mind of its own and spreads to transforms a drab metropolis into a paradise of greenery. In this case, curiosity, in the form of nature, overcomes a concrete jungle. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Curious George series by H. A. Rey
Curious George is a beloved children’s book classic. Kids can relate to the monkey’s adventures that stem from his curiosity. Established in 1989, The Curious George Foundation funds programs for children that encourage inquisitiveness in learning and exploring, as well as emphasize the importance of family, from counseling to peer support groups. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Cow Who Climbed a Tree by Gemma Merino
Tina is a curious cow, quite unlike her other sisters who are only interested in fresh and juicy grass. Tina’s quest for adventure leads her up a tree where she meets a very friendly dragon. Her cow sisters are not impressed, but when they go off to find her, they discover a wonderful world of possibilities. A picture book about the power of inspiration and discovery, framed in a cute and funny story. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Why? by Adam Rex, illustrated by Claire Keane
A supervillain is defeated by a little girl who incessantly asks him “why?”. Her questions help him peel away the layers of why he wants to take over the world. The little girl provides the space to let him go back to his childhood and discover what really matters to him. Asking questions, in this case, saves the world. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki
A little girl looks at the colors in the world around her and ponders the associations that each color brings. Each color is an exploration that invites questions. Think of this story as color therapy using free association, and as an invitation for readers to do the same. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
I Wonder by K.A. Holt, illustrated by Kenard Pak
I wonder why I wonder so much?
Because you are wonderful.
Some kids ask questions that seem to have no answers. Each page has a question similar to a koan. (A koan is “a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist monks to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment.”) This is the book for them. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Lane Smith
This book is a rhyming, lyrical story but I can’t figure out the exact poetry form. The rhyme pattern isn’t consistent, though each stanza has a rhythmic beat that is perfect for reading aloud. And the story is about two kids explore an abandoned house and all the questions that it brings up. The house leaves behind clues as to former occupants, as well as mysteries with all the stuff left behind such as a perfectly made-up bed and faded photographs. This is a gentle adventure, full of wonder, for the nascent historian in everyone. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Eric Fan and Terry Fan
“Maybe you are both right,” Marco said.
“But I think you make friends by asking them questions.” …
There were so many questions left to answer.
And so many more to ask.
Marco the fox wondered about the world and set off to find answers to some of life’s most mysterious questions that his fox friends could not answer. With an animal crew unseasoned in the ways of ocean exploration, they adventure together and find that their quest will be fulfilled through their journey. A book for kids who ponder the unknown and seek adventure. Pair this with Zen Shorts and The Three Questions. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Related post: Zen Picture Books to Teach Kids Mindfulness
The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na
Curiosity can sometimes be seeing something in a new and different way. Just the act of being open to new ideas opens up possibilities. Curiosity is the first step on the road to discovery and invention. In this picture book, an elephant finds a Thingamabob. Kids may delight in knowing what the Thingamabob is, but I love how the elephant models how to think about and explore something new. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Just Because by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
These are some of the common questions that kids wonder like “what happened to the dinosaurs?” and “why is the ocean blue?” but the answers are fanciful musings sure to make kids giggle and ask more questions, or perhaps dream up answers of their own using their imaginations. This is not quite the scientific method, but the first place to start when questioning why and how and what. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Ada Twist is the queen of questions. Like, why does hot coffee smell stronger than cold? What kind of birds live in her backyard? And, especially, why does her brother Arthur get so cranky when she borrows his stuff for experiments?
But Ada’s questions really come in handy when her friend Rosie Revere needs help. Rosie’s Uncle Ned has gotten carried away in his famous helium pants, and Ada needs some answers—fast!
How high can Uncle Ned float? Will he fly off into outer space? And, most important, how can they get him down? With the help of her fellow Questioneers Iggy Peck and Rosie Revere, her brother Arthur, and some new friends, Ada Twist is ready to save the day! [picture book, ages 6 and up]
Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard of by Natalie Labarre
It’s easy to fall into a trap of considering jobs that are well known — doctor, lawyer, farmer, teacher, chef, athlete, pilot, engineer — but there’s a world of incredible and interesting jobs that no one has ever heard of. Say hello to jobs such as snake milker, fortune cookie writer, water slide tester, and cheese sculptor. How about Christmas light untangler, toy breaker, or trend spotter? And … there are jobs out there that have not yet been created. [nonfiction picture book, ages 10 and up]
The Way Things Work Now by David Macaulay
Young engineers and inventors will enjoy this compendium that details the workings of hundreds of machines in a way that is easy to understand. The illustrations paired with text make this an encyclopedic reference for a lifetime. [nonfiction encyclopedia, ages 12 and up]
Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate
Not only is Lonnie Johnson a rocket scientist, but he also invented the highly popular Super-Soaking water guns ubiquitous today. We don’t have enough African American STEM role models, so this book is a must-have for every school and classroom library! His story is also one of perseverance, not just with getting inventions to work but in successfully bringing them to market. Pair this book with Curiosity: The Story of Mars Rover. Both books have a connection to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory! [nonfiction picture book biography, ages 7 and up]
Curiosity: The Story of Mars Rover by Markus Motum
Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder. We will never know everything there is to know but with our burning curiosity, we have learned so much. Clare Ma
Curiosity is a robot that roams the planet Mars in search of discovery … is there or was there once life on Mars? The robot is aptly named! The creation of Curiosity is detailed from the new technology that was invented for this mission to the men and women who worked to design and build it. It was a sixth-grader from Kansas, Clara Ma, who won the competition to name the robot. And thus, Curiosity will likely a new generation to wonder, dream and design … and to be curious about the wide world around us. [nonfiction picture book, ages 8 and up]
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
In William’s village in Malawi, there is no money for lights, and a drought throws the country into famine. William’s family can’t afford his school fees, or even more than one meal a day. At age 14 with free time on his hands, he goes to the library, a gift from the Americans, where he finds books on machines including a windmill. He gets the idea to build it to bring up water from below ground and makes it from trash: a tractor fan, shock absorber, broken bicycle, and plastic pipes. This is a true story. William studied at Dartmouth and returned to Malawi to work on renewable energy for electricity and pumping water. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
This is on my list of 10 Picture Books About Africa That Teach Empathy.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.