“We’re not all the same. Thank goodness we’re not.”

Nancy Tillman’s newest book You’re All Kinds of Wonderful is another magical, empowering picture book for young children that teaches an important lesson. Written in beautiful couplets, the story celebrates differences and the fact that we are not, in fact, all the same.

You’re All Kinds of Wonderful digs deeper than more picture books that explore differences, focusing on our different personalities and abilities as individuals. The story embraces the idiom of “bells and whistles” and says that when we are born, we’re each supplied with our own bells and whistles to set us apart. The bells are what we do best, but for some people it takes practice to make those bells ring. Sometimes figuring out what that bell is takes patience, other times getting good at ringing it does.

You’re All Kinds of Wonderful teaches the reader that not only are we all good at something, that the journey of uncovering what that something is can sometimes be long and challenging but to stick with it because in the end it’ll be worth it.

The powerful impact of this story reaches readers of all ages as it beautifully promotes resilience and perseverance. You’re All Kinds of Wonderful is a must have in any home or school library. As a classroom teacher, books like You’re All Kinds of Wonderful are invaluable in that they open up the dialogue for celebrating what makes us unique individuals.

Click here to purchase a copy of this book.

*I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest and open review.

 

Picture Books About Peace

September 21 is International Peace Day. It is a day for people across the world to come together to explore how we can achieve peace for all. One day is not nearly enough to engage in this important conversation. Peace is a topic that should be introduced from a young age and revisited constantly in order to help us move our thinking and actions forward.

There are some wonderful picture books that explore the concept of peace, including Karen Katz’s Can You Say Peace? and Todd Parr’s The Peace Book. 

Can You Say Peace? is a simple picture book but powerful. It begins, “Today is Peace Day all around the world” and features children from many different places saying peace in their languages. The illustrations are beautiful and colorful, giving a sense of what each country is like. The illustration of the child is large-scale and sweet, allowing the reader to understand the humanity of that person.

Karen Katz wraps up the book by pointing out that all children, regardless of where they live, want the same thing, to be kids and to feel safe. This amazing picture book is accessible for very young kids. You can invite them to create their own version these pages for their own home countries, especially if they are not represented.

The Peace Book by Todd Parr is provides another great entry point into a conversation with young ones about what peace looks like in their lives. The different contexts he provides are easily relatable and introduce subtle differences among people. For example, peace is reading different types of books and listening to different types of music.

Todd Parr’s book features diverse characters, who wear different types of clothing and have different bright colored faces, characteristic of all his books. The Peace Book is yet another one of his books to successfully introduce multiculturalism and celebrate diversity in a way that is accessibly for young kids.

Both Can You Say Peace? and The Peace Book are perfect for kids ages 3-6.

Click here to purchase copies of Can You Say Peace? and The Peace Book (affiliate links).

A Happy Merry Birthday to You!

When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano perfectly captures a child’s excitement for her birthday. It begins in an almost breathless way with, “when’s my birthday?/ where’s my birthday?/ how many days until my birthday?” The tone of urgency unique to a young child spills across the pages, too excited to even utilize proper capitalization!

This book explores the idea of being patient and having to wait for a fun event or celebration. In a way it reminds me of Kevin Henkes’ Waiting.

At first the narrator wonders when her birthday is, from specific date to season. Then she continues to wonder about the different activities, the menu and the guest list. The process of planning the party is not that different from my own train of thought when I am tasked with planning an event.

Illustrated by Christian Robinson, one of my all time favorite illustrators. His illustrations include beautiful collage work, combining photographs and painting with thick, expressive brush strokes.

The repetition of the text and the topic of birthdays, will make this a delightful addition to any home library as well as the perfect birthday or even pre-birthday gift.

Click here to purchase a copy of When’s My Birthday? (affiliate link)

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest and open review.

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke is an adventure filled retelling of the childhood classic Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack’s little sister Maddy was carried into another realm by an ogre. Jack and his friend Lilly bravely follow them through a portal into an unknown world of magic and terrifying creatures.

Though they begin the journey together, Jack and Lilly are quickly separated. Jack must choose whether to follow Lilly or to continue his pursuit of the ogre that kidnapped Maddy. The reader follows both characters through their parallel stories in their quest to save Maddy and themselves.

The character Lilly was a personal favorite as I read Mighty Jack and the Goblin King. It quickly becomes apparent that Jack is an impulsive and brave character, and if the two stayed together, Lilly would be the more cautious sidekick. The decision to separate the duo allowed Lilly to evolve as a character and to shine in an unexpected way. She is clever and emerges a leader.

Left to his own devices, Jack learns to be less of an act now, think later kind of character. He is protective of his sister Maddy who is on the Autism spectrum.

Ben Hatke skillfully blends adventure and fantasy in this second installment of an awesome graphic novel series. He continues to tackle important social issues including diverse family structure as well as different abilities.

Click here to purchase a copy of Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest and open review.

First Day of School Jitters

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex is a wonderful first day of school picture book read aloud for lower elementary school grades. The main character is Frederick Douglass Elementary School, a newly built school building that is experiencing first day jitters.

The school learns, through a conversation with the janitor, that children will soon be arriving and begins to feel nervous. Though the school observes all the students and their different interactions, it pays closest attention to one young girl in particular. A little girl with freckles who has to be carried into the school building by her mom. The school’s feelings are hurt when the children say they don’t like school or that they don’t want to be there.


The day goes on and slowly the different characters begin to relax and even have fun, including the school. At the end of the day when everyone has left except for the janitor, the school asks him to invite the children back the next day.

School’s First Day of School is the perfect book to read to young ones to get them ready for the first day of school. It captures and normalizes the nervousness that all kids, and even school staff and teachers experience each year as they prepare for the first day of school.

Click here to purchase a copy of School’s First Day of School (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest and open review.

 

A Powerful Picture Book About Standing Up for What’s Right

The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton is a wonderful picture book about curiosity and exploration. Erin Pike lives with her mom and dog in a big fishing town. Erin yearns to go out to see but it’s just too dangerous, especially the legend of Black Rock. Erin is a brave girl and all the warnings and cautionary tales do not diminish her desire to venture out to sea.

Erin devises the perfect plan to stowaway on her mom’s boat. Things don’t go exactly as she planned and Erin ends up in a very dangerous situation. Just then Black Rock wakes up and lends a helping hand. It is then that Erin realizes that Black Rock is not dangerous, it was in fact a very misunderstood creature. People fear Black Rock because they don’t understand it. In reality, Black Rock provides shelter for many different sea creatures.

 

Erin returns home to help reveal the truth about Black Rock, but the grown ups are so lost in their own misconceptions, they don’t take the time to listen to her. They are intent on viewing the creature as an enemy. Will Erin be able to change the way they see Black Rock?


The Secret of Black Rock is the perfect picture book for teaching kids to stand up for what they believe in and to advocate for others. It takes a girl with curiosity and courage to see something or someone for what it really is, rather than for what everyone else has told her it is. The diverse family structure portrayed is an added bonus along with the subtle yet impactful environmental message.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Secret of Black Rock (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest and open review.

The Ultimate Staring Contest

Don’t Blink written and illustrated by Tom Booth captures the excitement young children experience playing a game as simple as a staring contest. An adventurous and enthusiastic young girl climbs and balances on rocks, then sits down on an almost blank page and invites the reader to Go! Her eyes are wide open and she has a sweet smirk on her face.

One by one different, very well mannered, creatures join in on the staring contest them against you, the reader.

Young readers can guess what other animals will join in as the contest continues. They enter the scene from all directions, including a monkey who drops down from above.

The illustrations are delightful and colorful. Each animal and the young girl have a designated color text that indicates that they are speaking. The directions in of the animals’ eyes once the contest is over helps the reader determine to whom each one is speaking.

Finally a round of the contest ends and a winner is declared. The animals scurry off, all but the turtle who was slowly walking toward the young girl throughout the entire story. Even though many of the other animals passed the turtle to play the game, it did not give up. It maintained it’s slow and steady pace and even shouts out encouraging words to the others as they struggle to keep their eyes open.

Don’t Blink is a fun, interactive picture book that takes a simple childhood game and teaches the reader how to play together while including others. There are many different layers to this story that can be uncovered as you read and reread one.

Click here to purchase a copy of Don’t Blink! (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of Don’t Blink in exchange for my honest review.

A Fantastic Spin on a Childhood Classic

The Giant of Jum by Elli Woollard is a clever twist on the classic childhood tale Jack and the Beanstalk. The Giant of Jum is hungry. He sets out in search of a legendary snack, a boy named Jack. This storyline reminds me of one of my favorite books, The BFG by Roald Dahl, which I love reading to my upper elementary-aged students each year.

The Giant of Jum is presented as a horrific creature. He is grumpy and grouchy. He stomps all about and dreams about eating young children. Each time the Giant of Jum encounters young children, he ends up helping them rather than feasting on them. From fetching a ball from the top of a tall fountain to rescuing a skeptical looking cat.

When The Giant of Jum finally meets a young boy named Jack, will he fulfill his destiny or start to see himself in a different light?

The Giant of Jum is a funny and engaging book about a giant who sees himself one way and ends up learning a lot about himself on his journey to find the elusive snack, a boy named Jack. The story is beautifully written with hilarious rhymes woven throughout. The illustrations by Benji Davies complement the tone of the story perfectly. The Giant is large in comparison to the characters and objects that surround him, yet his features are exaggerated in a way that make him odd looking rather than scary.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Giant of Jum (affiliate link).

I received a complimentary copy of The Giant of Jum in exchange for my honest review.

 

An Autobiographical Account of a Penny

One of my most memorable experiences as a student teacher came from a regular math routine early in the school year in a second grade classroom. Each day the class came together for a morning meeting and part of that routine included tracking the number of days we’ve been in school. They kept track of this number by writing the number, collecting colored dots on the tens frame and also by collecting coins that equaled the total number of days. On the first day the teachers put a penny underneath the document camera for the class to see. They asked the students, “What do you notice about this coin?” A young boy named Jack raised his hand and instead of describing the shape of the coin or the color of the coin, as we’d all expected, he gave the lengthy history of the coin. This experience was so important to me as a future teacher, you never know what to expect from kids and what knowledge they bring with them into the classroom if you don’t ask.

One Proud Penny by Randy Siegel is an awesome picture book that presents historically accurate information about the penny. It is narrated as an autobiographical account by a penny. It begins with information about when this penny was “born” and where, in 1983 in Philadelphia. Then continues on to explore the different uses of a penny, from providing exact change to spinning and flipping out of boredom or for fun.

One Proud Penny hints at the argument of whether pennies should be banned, one we explore in my 4th grade classroom during our argument and persuasive writing unit. It also highlights some important change over time (pun intended). For example, a penny used to be enough to buy ice cream or a newspaper, but that’s no longer the case.

One Proud Penny even details the difference in the composition of pennies when they were originally minted and today.

One Proud Penny is a wonderful tribute to the penny. A small yet durable coin that at times is a nuisance in our pockets or taking up lots of space in our wallet, and other times, helping us make exact change. The illustrations by Serge Bloch blend simple line drawings with actual images of pennies, in a way that adds to the comedic tone of the text. Together they create an informative and exciting informational book.

This is a must have book for any classroom and school library as well as any home collection of a kid who loves facts and information about money and coins. Click here to purchase a copy of One Proud Penny (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Mr. Tweed and the Band in Need

Mr. Tweed is back! This time he is at the zoo to see his favorite 10-piece band perform, but Wollo the walrus and band leader, can’t seem to find any of his band members.

Join Mr. Tweed and Wollo as they explore the different animal exhibits for their friends. The illustrations are bright, colorful and super detailed. For example, can you find the banjo playing jellyfish?

Mr. Tweed and the Band in Need is more than an amazing hidden images picture book. It incorporates counting, colors, and animal and instrument recognition. Each creature is hidden in its habitat, for example Jimmy Toots the toucan is hidden in the tall trees. Readers can use different clues on each page to help them find the missing band member. This book teaches children to look carefully at illustrations as they hunt for the tiniest of details.

Mr. Tweed and the Band in Need written and illustrated by Jim Stoten is an engaging and fun read. It teaches about the importance of collaboration and helping others in need. This book is making it on my go to list of books to give young readers as a gift.

Click here to purchase a copy of Mr. Tweed and the Band in Need (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.