Excellent Picture Books

Let’s talk about this wonderful historical fiction picture book, Freedom Over Me: Eleven slaves, their lives and dreams brought to life by Ashley Bryan. Everytime I read it I find more things I love about it, but my favorite aspect of this powerful story is thinking of all the kids who will read this book and have a profound emotional connection to it and what it symbolizes.

For many years Ashley Bryan collected slave-related documents, and being deeply moved by them he knew he had to bring their stories to life. He chose a document titled Appraisement of the Estate dated July 5, 1828 which listed eleven slaves for sale among some cows, cotton, and tools. Eleven people for sale like common goods. Eleven people treated like property, listed for sale as Man, Woman, Boy or Girl. No ages or identities, just gender, name, and price, as if that’s all they were.

Bryan took what he knew about them, which was not very much at all, and gave them responsibilities, relationships, substance, purpose, but most importantly hopes and dreams.  The illustrations are stunning and some of the backdrops are replicated slavery documents from Ashley’s collection.

As you turn the pages you meet the eleven slaves one by one and learn about their duties as a slave on the grounds but also about their hopes and dreams and all the things they wanted to be and do when they were freed. It’s those hopes and dreams as well as the relationships they formed with other slaves that kept them going day after day through a stifling and oppressive existence.  

It’s easy to understand why this picture book is gaining so many accolades including:

  • 2017 Newbery Honor
  • 2017 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
  • 2017 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
  • Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best
  • Kirkus Prize Finalist
  • NCTE Notable Poetry List
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Kids

If you love this book as much as I do, you’re probably going to like these picture books too: Henry’s Freedom Box and Pink and Say.

If you'd like to buy one for you or your local school's library, click on the link below:

Exclamation Point by Amy Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is an absolute MUST HAVE for every children's book shelf. The exclamation point tries to fit in, but it seems like he doesn't belong anywhere. Thanks to a great friend he realizes it's great to be different and unique, and that he was born to STAND OUT! It's a great story of acceptance and learning to be comfortable with who you are. I loved it, and I know you and your kids will too. If you're looking for an enjoyable story with a great message, this one's a great pick.

Amy and Tim are the amazing duo behind a few great books including, Duck, Rabbit, another lesson-learning humorous story about when to let an argument go.

I could bet money your local public library has a copy of these books just waiting for you to check out!

But if you're like me and want to own a copy or buy one to donate to your local school library, just follow this link to Amazon:

I always love introducing non-fiction picture books to kids because I love to see their brain gears turning when I tell them it's a book about something that really happened...they are always so used to picture books being full of magic and make believe. These three books are some of my favorite non-fiction picks because their content is so rich and educationally fulfilling while providing vivid, colorful, and interesting illustrations children crave. (and with Thanksgiving Day just around the corner, you've got plenty of time to reserve a copy of Balloons Over Broadway from your local library and teach the kiddos about how those huge balloons in the Macy's Day Parade came to be)

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca tells the amazing true story of the first humans to land on the moon. This book is packed full of kid-friendly information and great illustrations.

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet tells the story of how the Macy's Day Parade transformed from a parade of live animals in cages to what it is today. If you love watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade every year (like me) you will surely enjoy reading about the puppeteer whose ideas and creativity are responsible for the amazing balloons that parade through the streets of New York every year.

Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne tells kids about the amazing underwater world Jacques Cousteau loved so much. Told through vivid watercolor illustrations and kid-friendly text...this is definitely one of my favorites.

To purchase any one (or all) of these books for yourself or donate one (or all) to your local school library, follow these links to Amazon...

I do not love spiders, but after reading I'm Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton I'm really trying to at least like them! This is a gem of a picture book...it's non-fiction but illustrated like a fiction picture book. The illustrations are just awesome, and the colors are cool. I like EVERYTHING about this book except for all the spidery talk! But all kidding aside, this book is full of amazing spider facts and any kid (even the ones who think spiders are creepy crawly icky) will enjoy learning about spiders with this very entertaining and slightly interactive book. I like picture books that are clever, beautiful and well written, and this one is all three.

Click Here to see a special preview of the book.

Call your local library and request it TODAY!

And of course, you can always buy it...or donate one to your local school library, just follow this link to Amazon (I love Amazon)...

This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne is a clever story about Bella and her dog. Just as she is taking him for a walk, he disappears into the pages of the book! Her friend Ben tries to help, but he disappears too! Then help finally arrives and...yep...they also disappear. The simple illustrations are very inviting and the interactive turn the book takes was a refreshing surprise! Kids are going to love this book. Especially when the author asks them to shake the book to help the trapped characters escape the pages!

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk  is about a pancake and a piece of french toast that race through the fridge, in and out of obstacles, trying to get to the last bit of syrup. They pushed and shoved their way there only to find the waffle had beat them to it and ate the last drop. In the end they were embarrassed by their behavior and wished they would've worked together instead of fighting their way through. I loved the message, the pictures, and I'm a sucker for rhyming stories.

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea by Michael Ian Black is hilarious! The words are great, but the illustrations by Kevin Hawkes are what make this book such a wonderful experience. Kids (and adults) will laugh at the honest truths about pigs and what they would do if someone tried to put them in a parade. It's definitely a must read for all ages.

Remember you can borrow these books for FREE from the public library!

And if you want to purchase all of these awesome books for yourself, some lucky kids in your life OR donate one to your local school library, here are some links to Amazon...

There Are Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwartz has launched itself to the top of my list of favorite picture books. It has everything kids love about picture books: loveable characters, lift-a-flaps, and interactive narrative! Tiny, Moonpie, and Andre are so happy you opened the book and with every page you turn, they get to have more fun...so they want you to keep turning the pages. The book begins with the three cats snuggling together under a blanket...and it ends with you tucking them back into their blanket for another nap! I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes books.  

To watch an awesome review of this book by 5 year old Eion...click here!

Read it for free at you local library OR buy a copy from Amazon by following this link...

And if you love this book, think about how much joy it would bring to the kids at your local school...you could donate a copy and enrich the lives of hundreds of kids with just one book.

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Hoot and Peep By Lita Judge is beautiful. I love the subtle colors, the softness of the owls, the expressions...visually this is one of my favorite picture books of all time. Hoot is a big brother to Peep, and wants to show Peep the way to do all the things, but Peep has some different ideas about how to do things. At first Hoot doesn't like Peep straying from his example, but soon realizes Peep's way is effective too and much more fun! Such a nice message about being open-minded to other's opinions told through a wonderfully illustrated book. 

Sparky! By Jenny Offill is just adorable. Sparky is a sloth. Sloth's don't do much, which seems like just the kind of pet the narrator's mom agrees to let her get. After he arrives by mail, he doesn't quite live up to his new owner's expectations, but she loves him anyway.

The Bears in the Bed and the Great Big Storm by Paul Bright is an absolute gem. I love all the books Jane Chapman illustrates...she's amazeballs. This story follows a family of bears through a stormy night, which ends with a great big scare! But the story doesn't end the way you would expect. Great storytelling combined with great illustrations is every picture book reader's dream...I wish all picture books could be this good.

To purchase any one (or all) of these books for yourself or donate one (or all) to your local school library, follow these links to Amazon...
The Bears in the Bed and the Great Big Storm
Hoot and Peep

The Sheepover by John and Jennifer Churchman is the true story of Sweet Pea, an orphaned lamb, who came down with an infection, got better, then had a Sheepover (a sheep sleepover) with her barnyard friends to celebrate her recovery. Non-fiction picture books have to be visually engaging or they're a flop with kids. This one is extraordinary. The way the Churchman's combined photography and art is so captivating, and readers of all ages will applaud Sweet Pea's recovery.

Check out this cute video about how The Sheepover became a book.

Tuesday Tucks me in by Luis Carlos Montalvan is the true story of an Army veteran and the service dog who saved his life from a debilitating case of PTSD after being honorably discharged from service. This picture book is a kid friendly spin-off of the best selling non-fiction story, Until Tuesday.

Here's Luis Carlos Montalvan talking about his experience. The piece is promoting the book, Until Tuesday, the non-fiction book from which the picture book, Tuesday Tucks Me In was inspired.

Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore has a special place in my heart because I have my own little flock of ducks I raised from ducklings. It's the true story of a group of ducklings who fall into a storm drain and get rescued by some caring humans while mama duck looks on.

To purchase any one (or all) of these books for yourself or donate one (or all) to your local school library, follow these links to Amazon...

Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond Between a Soldier and His Service Dog
The SheepOver (Sweet Pea & Friends)
Lucky Ducklings

Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins holds a 2016 Ezra Jack Keats Honor Award for new illustrator. Look at that cover! I was laughing before I even opened the book. That big pink cake you see? She's very rude to all the little sweets until someone bigger is rude to her. Well, obviously she didn't like THAT one bit, and begins to see why being a nice cake is so very important.

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins also holds a 2016 Ezra Jack Keats Honor Award for new illustrator. Bruce is a cranky bear who likes to cook gourmet meals from fancy cookbooks. One of his recipes calls for goose eggs, and after stealing the eggs from a nest, he puts them in a pan and before he can cook them they hatch! Naturally the goslings think he is their mother, but the cranky old bear will not stand for that so he marches them back to the nest only to find that mama goose has already flown south for the winter and he's forced to care for them.  

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach holds a 2016 Ezra Jack Keats Honor Award for new writer and the illustrations are worthy of their own award, let me tell you. It's about a bear who gets lost in the city and happens to find an unattended sandwich...could that really be true? Or is someone spinning a tale? Hmmm....I'd love to hear what you think really happened to that sandwich.

As always, you can read all three of these awesome books FOR FREE just by visiting your local library.

To purchase any one (or all) of these books for yourself or donate one (or all) to your local school library, follow these links to Amazon...
Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins
Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

Have you heard about The Book With No Pictures? It is seriously laugh-out-loud funny! I read it every year to the K-3 elementary classes, and every time a student checked it out I smiled imagining them taking it home for their parents to read to them that night. Kids love silly books, especially when it's a book that makes adults say silly things. 

The New York Times #1 bestseller is an instant classic read-aloud kids will want to hear over and over again, and you'll be happy to do it...it's just a fun book to read. Click here to see B.J. Novak read it to a group of kids...

You can read it for free by checking it out at your local public library! 

To purchase this book for yourself or donate one to your local school library, follow this link to Amazon...
The Book with No Pictures

The Napping House by Audrey Wood is a fun tale about a rudely interrupted nap. The repetitive text and beautiful illustrations will entice the youngest of listeners. It is definitely a must have on everyone's book shelf.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is one of the most recognizable picture books of all time. The story follows a very hungry caterpillar feasting through several pages as he fattens himself up to prepare for a cocoon and at the end of the book he turns into a beautiful butterfly. First published in 1969, it has won the hearts of parents, educators, and children for decades. Supportive material and crafts associated with this title can be found all over the internet.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is about a boy who is sent to his room without dinner, and dreams of escaping to a distant land where the wild things are, becomes king of the Wild Things and begins to miss home. The Wild Things are sad to see him go, but he trudges on and finds his dinner waiting for him in his room when he returns. This story has also been well loved for decades as it was first published in 1963 and still remains in print today. This book, much like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, can be recognized by a single illustration alone.

Check them out at your local library for free!

To purchase these books for yourself or donate one to your local school library, follow these links to Amazon...
The Napping House
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Where the Wild Things Are

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon is about a baby fruit bat who falls into a bird's nest and is raised by mama bird alongside three baby birds. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is sure to make everyone feel both sad and laugh out loud happy. Click this link to hear the story read by actress Pamela Reed Stellaluna Read-Aloud

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin is a hilarious barnyard story about some cows who find an old typewriter and begin writing letters to Farmer Brown demanding electric blankets for the cold nights. Farmer Brown is furious! Especially when the cows get the hens involved and they all go on strike.

Memoirs of a Goldfish chronicles two weeks in the life of a goldfish. At first he is all alone, then more fish are added to his little bowl. Before you know it the bowl is way too crowded and all he wants is to be alone again. One day he is scooped up and placed in a small bowl by himself and he immediately begins to miss everyone else. The story ends on a happy note...but you'll have to read it for yourself to find out what happens next! The author, Devin Scillian, is a news anchor up in Detroit, and the illustrator, Tim Bowers, is one of my favorites.

To purchase these books for yourself or donate one to your local school library, follow these links to Amazon...
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
Memoirs of a Goldfish

School's First Day of School by Adam Rex is about a newly built school that thinks he's actually the janitor's house because that's the only person in the school throughout the summer. The janitor tells the school he is actually a school, and will soon be filled with children. The school gets nervous and wonders if the kids will like him. Before school started, he really had no idea what he was. Everyday he learns more and more about what being a school is all about, and after the kids fill his hallways he realizes he's not the only one with the first-day-jitters. This is the perfect picture book to read to kids on or right before the first day of school. Adam Rex, a genius author/illustrator, chose to write but not illustrate this one. The illustrations by Christian Robinson are a perfect fit. Great story, great pictures...I highly recommend adding this one to your library, especially if you're an educator.

Don't forget to borrow this one from your local library! It's FREE!

If you're looking for more First Day of School picture books, check out Wemberley Worried and Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten?

If you're interested in purchasing this book for your own collection, or as a gift for your favorite teacher, or to donate to your school's library just follow this link...School's First Day of School

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