“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).

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.

A Stunning Take on a Norse Myth

Joe Todd-Stanton’s Brownstone’s Mythical Collection: Arthur and the Golden Rope is a remarkable blend between a graphic novel and a picture book. Here is the tale of young Arthur who joins forces with the Norse god Thor to take down Fenrir, a huge wolf who has terrorized his town and extinguished the great fire.

Though Arthur has had many adventures, the other townsfolk consider him a nuisance and doubt his ability to actually help them.

Instead of letting their harsh words get to him, Arthur decides to go find the god of storms.

It turns out that all of his previous adventures and experience collecting strange objects works in his favor. Arthur does not allow anyone or anything to get in his way, and when all seems hopeless conducts research and gets creative. A great lesson and skill for readers of all ages!

Arthur and the Golden Rope is an action-packed book with wonderful illustrations to accompany the text. The illustrations depict an ancient Viking land with magical objects and mythical dangers. It teaches that even the unlikeliest of characters can be the hero.

Click here to purchase a copy of Brownstone’s Mythical Collection: Arthur and the Golden Rope.

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest 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 Appreciation For Personal Space

My Very Own Space by Pippa Goodhart is about a young rabbit who is looking for a quiet place to read. He is frustrated by all the commotion and noise around him. He decides to create his own personal space by drawing a large red oval and declaring that “nothing is allowed over this line.”

At first he has to remind the other rabbits that his his his own space. Finally, he has some quiet time to read his book Space Bunny.

Rebecca Crane’s charming illustrations show an overwhelmed rabbit surrounded by busy bunnies engaged in a variety of activities from playing instruments to ballet dancing and flying paper airplanes. When the rabbit draws his own personal space, there is more empty space on each page which creates a sense of peace and quiet.

Rabbit spends some time quietly reading his book and imagining himself as an astronaut traveling in space. After some time has passed, he begins to reengage with the real world and yearn for interactions with the other rabbits. He needed this alone time, and now he’s ready to interact with the other rabbits again.

My Very Own Space is the perfect book for introducing personal space and alone time to kids. Every year I have a handful of students who exhibit introvert tendencies and a book like this would help them better understand their need to disengage from time to time and recharge. It’s an important aspect of one’s personality to recognize and to be able to identify when this alone time is needed. In addition, it helps more extroverted personalities understand that not everyone is always outgoing or feels the same way about social interactions all the time.

Click here to purchase a copy of My Very Own Space (affiliate link).

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

 

The Perfect Picture Book About Friendship

Big and Little are a great team. They have a lot in common, but they are also different in their own, special ways.

One day, out of the blue, Big hides. Hence the title, Big Hid. He retreats into his tortoise shell and he does not want to come out. Little tries everything to coax Big out so they can play together, but much to his dismay nothing works.

All out of ideas, Little give Big a hug. Which ends up being just what Big needed.

Big Hid by Roisin Swales may be one of my favorite books about friendship that I’ve read in a really long time. The story is simple, but impactful. When Big has a bad day, feeling out of sorts, he just needs a simple gesture from a friend to make him feel better. The illustrations are bright and colorful, adding comical elements to the story.

Big Hid creates a great opportunity to normalize feeling down or sad and open conversations with young kids about what might make them feel that way and what are some things to do to help them feel better. It also encourages the reader to consider that just because we feel a certain way in a moment, that doesn’t mean we will always feel that way. This is a challenging concept for young kids who often feel emotions with such intensity, they have a hard time imagining that they will feel happy again in the near future.

Click here to purchase a copy of Big Hid (affiliate link).

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