All kinds of books, and then some!

I started this blog because I am blown away by how many terrific kids’ books are unexplored/unknown to most kids and their parents.  But last week I had a thought – what if there really aren’t that many different themes about which to write?  There are ABCs, trucks and dinosaurs, but what else?

Out of curiosity, I sat down to build a list.  I was quite surprised!  I identified at least 130 themes (give or take a few) about which I could easily provide a decent-sized list of terrific books.

Here they are, roughly grouped by categories:

You
Board Books for Babies
Individuality
Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drum
Books to Inspire Them
All The Things that You Can Be and Do!
Finding Your Groove
Social and Emotional Intelligence
Mindfulness and Meditation
Fun Picture Books that Teach Important Lessons
Strong Girls
Overcoming Obstacles
Loosen Up and Have Fun

With Others
If You Love It, Set It Free
Learning to Get Along
Friendship
Sibling Rivalry
Are You My Mother?
Unlikely Companions
All Kinds of Love
Everyone’s Family Is Different
Bullying
Grieving

Your Life
Your Home
Food habits
Bedtime
The Dark
Bath Time
Party Time
Favourite Stuffie

The World Around You
Neighborhood
City
Nature
Gardens
Sea and Islands
Discovering the World/Travel
Making a Difference in the World
Be Good to the Planet
Weather
Seasons

All the Creatures
Silly Animals
Animals and Zoos
Farms
Butterflies
Birds
Pigs
Sheep
Cows
Owls
Bats
Fish
Cats vs. Dogs
Bears
Elephants
Squirrels
Crocodiles
Bugs
Bunnies
Dinosaurs
Penguins
Monkeys
Whales

Are They Real?
Dragons
Monsters
Witches, Zombies and Ghosts
Fairies and Goblins
Legendary Creatures

All About the Books
How to Grow a Reader
About Books, Reading and Libraries
Writing
Word Play Picture Books
Wordless Picture Books
Favourite Authors
Lovable Characters
Poetry for Kids
The Classics
Bunch of Munsch
Rhyming Picture Books
Learning to Read

The Arts
Art and Artists
Dance
Making Music
Creativity of All Sorts

Learning
Books about School
Alphabet Books
Colours
Shapes
Counting
Sounds
Fun Math Books
Careers and Such Things
STEM Books
Building
Inventors and Scientists

So Much Fun!
Silly, Silly, Silly
Fantabulous Excuses
Tall Tales
Sticky Situations
Lost and Found
The Slightly Inappropriate Books
Interactive Picture Books
Quirky
Food With Feelings

Kid-centric Themes
Astronauts, Space and Aliens
For Aspiring Cowboys and Cowgirls
Superheroes
Spies and Ninjas
Detectives
Adventure
Toys
Magicians and Magic
Robots
Hats
Pirates
Not Your Typical Truck/Car Picture Book
Not Your Typical Pink Princess Book
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Flying
The Magic of the Box
Holidays
Valentine’s Day
Easter
Halloween
Hannukah
Christmas

Extra Special
Just Magical
Beautiful Illustrations
Fun Illustrations

Other Genres
Fractured Fairytales
Look and Find
Non-Fiction
Graphic Comics
Chapter Books with Illustrations

I guess I’d have enough to keep me busy for a while…

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Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drum

Of the multitude of picture books in print, there are bound to be many different genres.  One of my faves is the “marching to the beat of your own drum” type.

So here goes:

Woolbur

Meet Woolbur.  He runs with dogs.  He cards his own wool.  He rides the spinning wheel. And he NEVER follows the flock.

Woolbur makes me happy.  He is a free spirit who does his own thing, and he ends up inspiring the rest of the flock.

A Bad Case of Stripes

This one has the makings of a classic.  Camilla Cream LOVES lima beans.  But she won’t eat them because none of the other kids at school like them.  In fact, she’s so worried about what people think about her that it causes her to break out into a bad case of “Stripes”!

Not Your Typical Dragon

Crispin is literally not your typical dragon.  Instead of fire, he breathes whipped cream, marshmallows, teddy bears, and assorted other things.  But sometimes, you need a different kind of talent to save the day.

Henny

Henny is a chicken with arms.  Need I say more?

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

Mr. Tiger decides he’s had enough of the orderly, polite life of the city so he decided to go wild.  But maybe what he really needs is a happy medium.

I’m soon going to become a broken record, but we LOVE Peter Brown books.

Oddrey

Oddrey is a little bit different from everybody else.

Giraffes Can’t Dance

This one’s a best-seller on Amazon.com.  Though in my humble opinion, most of the ones on this list are equally worthy.  So many great books!

Sherman Crunchley

Sherman Crunchley has to find a way to tell his dad that he really doesn’t want to follow in his footsteps and become chief of police when his father retires.

The Cow Who Climbed a Tree

Tina is an adventurous cow whose sisters don’t believe that she has climbed a tree and met a dragon.

Mostly Monsterly

Bernadette isn’t like other monsters (hey, it’s the theme), which makes it hard for her to make friends when she goes to Monster Academy.

Finklehopper Frog

Finklehopper Frog buys a snazzy jogging suit and starts hop-jumping.  But all the other joggers laugh at him until Ruby Rabbit points out that his style suits him just fine.

Like many other rhyming books, it may take you a few reads to get the rhythm right.  But it should be worth your while because the kidlets will definitely enjoy it.

Skippyjon Jones

Skippyjon Jones is no ordinary cat.  In his imagination, Skippyjon is El Skippito, the great sword-fighter ready to fight banditos:

My name is Skippito Friskito.
I fear not a single bandito.
My manners are mellow,
I’m sweet like the Jell-O,
I get the job done, yes indeed-o.

Some folks feel the book is full of stereotypes, so definitely not everyone will like it.  Personally, I think the Skippyjon Jones books are terrific.  Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think there’s anything bad about having a strong accent and liking pinto beans.  And Skippito LOVES doing his own thing.

The Hueys in The New Sweater

The Hueys are unique in the world but are all alike and do everything the same, until one of them decides to knit himself a sweater.

Steve, Raised by Wolves

Steve’s mom tells him to be himself on his first day of school, but that can only get a wolf-boy in trouble.  After all, wolves howl, shred and pounce.  Will Steve find his place in the classroom?

Happy reading!  🙂

Superhero, But Not Superman

Next up:  Superheroes!  Our boys have always loved superheroes, so they inevitably made their way into our reading repertoire (see my post on How to Grow a Reader).  But I discovered pretty quickly that Spiderman and Superman type stories were painful for me to read to them (maybe it’s just a matter of personal taste).  So I hit the bookstores and our local library in search of more exciting (albeit to me, not them) superheroes.

Here are some of our all-time faves:

Leonard has superpowers so it’s a given that he’s going to attend superhero school, but he’s sorely disappointed when they spend all their time on math rather than the important stuff (like destroying alien death rays and conquering supervillains).  But when the teachers are kidnapped by the ice zombies, the superstudents’ math skills come in very handy!

We love all of Aaron Reynolds’ books, and this one is no exception.

Eliot is a quiet, ordinary boy during the day.  But when the clock strikes midnight, he becomes a superhero.

Every superhero gets his powers from somewhere.  Photon Man had his ring.  Robo Girl had her bionic arms.  My superpowers came from my hair.

The more my hair grew, the more awesome my superpowers became.

But then, Rocco gets dragged away to the “villain’s lair” (aka the barber) and gets his hair cut off.  How will he ever recover?

We love John Rocco’s picture books as well, though this one is definitely in a different style altogether than Blizzard and Blackout (two other “must reads” that will find their way into a future post).

You are wearing the patches of power and the buttons of braveness.

Timothy’s mother had fixed his pajamas so well that they were now SUPER STRONG PAJAMAS.

After finding that his newly repaired pajamas make him super strong, Timothy uses his powers to help others.  And they repay him in kind when his pajamas rip again just when he needs his strength most.

The Princess in Black is also recommended in the Pink Princess Books post.  But hey, whoever said princesses can’t be superheroes?

Dawson is a superhero who turns trash into treasure:  “Everything can be used again.”  But when he builds a machine to do his chores, it becomes more powerful than he intended and he must stop it.

The book is creative, fun and chock full of gadgets and thingamajigs with labels describing what they can become.  It was a huge hit with our boys!

Not entirely a superhero book, but there aren’t enough girl superheroes.  And Ladybug Girl has a lot of spunk, so she’s still a great role model.

Will Extremely Boring Man be able to save the world from Filth and Vacuum where other superheroes have failed?  Will the father reading his kids manage to get them to fall asleep?

Not everyone will necessarily love this one, but we sure did.  At the very least, parents are likely to enjoy the satire.  It’s great to find books that can appeal to kids and parents alike.

This is a bit of an odd-duck kind of book, but it’s still great.  Mr. Particular’s superhero friends get frustrated when he foils their plans to save the universe with his fussiness.  But when it really counts, he more or less manages to overcome his worst fears.

Dex the dachshund is small and gets bullied by Cleevis the big tomcat.  But he works out, orders a superhero costume, and becomes the hero when he rescues Cleevis.  It might be too predictable for the grown-ups, but the kids will love the underdog (literally) story.

I recommended this one in my post on alphabet books, but it will definitely work for superhero-loving kids too.

Very cute book with great illustrations, but it’s definitely for kids under 5.

Joe is worried about the awful creature that has moved in next door, so Superhero Joe comes out to conquer it.  When they finally come face to face, it seems Superhero Joe might have let his fears run a little too wild.

Zany ABCs Books

Our boys really loved alphabet picture books from ages 2 to about 4 or 5.  There’s something irresistible about the alphabet to kids around that age.  Maybe it’s the feeling of accomplishment from learning their ABCs or maybe it’s the inkling they have that there’s a big secret to be unlocked…

But let’s be clear:  I’m not referring to the “A is for Apple and B is for Ball” type of alphabet books, because those would probably be boring for any child over the age of 2.  Nope.  I’m talking about singing letters and superhero alphabets.

Here’s a sampling of terrific books to help your littles learn their ABCs, develop a love for books and in some cases, have a good laugh along the way:

The numbers and the letters fight over who’s more important.  And wait until the animals and props start showing up!

Z decides he’s tired of going last.  But when Z goes first, the result is chaos and pandemonium!

A fun Halloween version of AlphaOops!

The alphabet will never be the same again after Moose is done with it, and neither will Zebra.  The interactions between Moose and Zebra are hilarious!  Moose and Zebra also star in Circle Square Moose.

This is quite a coincidence:  there are actually TWO alphabet books published in 2012 that happen to feature a zebra as the straight-laced character and a friend who is bound and determined to mess up the alphabet (in one case a moose, and in the other it’s an ox).

In any case, both Kelly Bingham (Z is for Moose) and Erin Cabatingan (A is for Musk Ox) pull it off with great success.  A is for Musk Ox is laugh out loud funny, even for the parents.  And some stand-alone sequels are also worth checking out:  Musk Ox Counts and The World According to Musk Ox.

From Angry A to Zigzag Z, each letter makes its grand entrance into a yellow room.  Each letter has its own big personality and all are perplexed as to why they are brought into the room.  At the end, the big secret is revealed.  This one is a bit unique and might not be to everyone’s taste, but we loved it.

Agent A To Agent Z

Our boys especially loved the spy theme of this book and the agents’ various letter-themed activities are hilarious.

This was another big hit with our boys.  The superheroes have hilarious powers (like Bubble Man who blows bubbles at bullies) and the illustrations are terrific.

While not our absolute favourite, it was still a hit with the boys.  They especially loved the zooming zuzza zozza zizza Zak (the only imaginary animal in the menagerie).

The captain of the pirate ship won’t allow the sailors to rest until they’ve found  all the letters of the alphabet.

The following four recommendations aren’t humorous but still sure to entertain:

The creative illustrations are outstanding.  Even the older kids will enjoy pouring over the illustrations.  Our boys sure did!

The alphabet comes alive… with peas!

The uppercase letters (the parents) are trying to put the lowercase letters (the kids) to bed, but the kids just want to play. Our boys loved this one, and always had a good giggle when u took off his underwear! 🙂

A told B
and B told C,
“I’ll meet you at the top
of the coconut tree.”

When all the letters of the alphabet race one another up the coconut tree, will there be enough room? This one is a classic and should probably be on every child’s bookcase.

The next two books are geared toward slightly older kids.  They are essentially chapter books with illustrations rather than picture books.  The first contains terrific plays on words combined with creative illustrations:

The alphabet thief stole all of the B’s, and all of the bowls became owls… is combined with an image of owl bowls flying off into the sky.

The humour in this next one is a bit more aimed at older kids:

From Booklist:

On an otherwise quiet day in Alphabet City, exasperated X rebels against his appearance in so few words and his nearly last position in the alphabet. Standing on a soapbox, he stirs up the other letters and leads a revolution to change the old order.

You’ll have to read it (presumably with your kids) to find out what happens.

Happy reading!  🙂

How to grow a reader

Hubby and I are raising readers.  Here’s some proof – in the pictures below, youngest child is reading his book on my back while I’m “helping” with his shoes and oldest child is reading while he waits and reading while he walks.

How can you do the same?  I have a few tips for you:

1. Start reading to them as soon as they are born (earlier if you’d like).  If reading is part of their life from day one, I’m willing to bet it will continue to be.  For newborns, black and white books are your best bet.  Here are a few that were favourites with our boys:


 

 

 

2. Make it part of their daily routine.  Bedtime is the most logical choice, but there are lots of other times to read with your kids.  Speaking of bedtime, here’s one of our favourite bedtime books from the toddler years:

3. To help make it part of their day, keep books strategically located throughout the house.  I always point out to hubby that piles of books are the one type of clutter that will always be allowed in our house.  We have books piled in almost every space in the house, with more than one pile in some rooms.  And bookshelves are always full.

4. Get your books where you can.  It can be pricey to buy them all (though some precious gems beg to be kept forever), so get a library card and use it to the max.  Our local library has no limit on the number of holds you can place on kids’ books nor on how many you can borrow at a time.  I should know because I’ve tested it.  Also:  Buy them at used book sales.  Buy them online.  Accept hand-me-downs.  But get them.  Lots of them.

5. Read to them about everything (animals, volcanoes, outer space, etc.), read to them to make them laugh/cry/learn, and read to them to inspire them.  I’ll blog on each of these types of books (and many more) in due time.

6. Read to them about what is interesting to THEM.  This might be the most important thing of all.  If they love the subject, they will likely love the book.

So if Captain Underpants or Walter the Farting Dog is the book for them, hold your nose (pun intended) and get it for them.  And if tv shows or video games are their favourite thing, I can assure you there are books about those too.  Our boys have loved Pokémon guide books, Lego Ninjago graphic novels and Minecraft instruction books.  And I’m pretty sure my addiction to books started with Archie comic books.  🙂

Once they’re hooked, you can try to stretch them.  But the important thing is to get them hooked.

7. Try all genres:  picture books, graphic novels, non-fiction, etc.  You never know what will stick for your child.  Here’s a great graphic novel for the younger crowd (I’ll post something on this subject later too):

8. Present reading as a privilege.  Tell them that if they’re good, you’ll spend some extra time reading to them.  Before bedtime, give them 15 minutes to read in bed.  But tell them they get no more than 15 minutes.  And they’ll get an extra 5 if they’re good.

9. Find the great books.  It can be a bit of a challenge but it’s worth it!  Read blogs, ask friends about their favourite books for kids, get to know your local librarian, get lists of favourite authors and find all books they’ve written.  I’m not going to be overly critical of any books, but there are much, much better books out there than the bland fare that gets marketed the most.  Standard fairy tales and big red dogs have never really made an appearance in our house.  I find them boring and I’m pretty sure my boys would too.

Mo Willems has written some terrific books that always make our boys laugh.  We especially love the Elephant and Piggie series:

10. Lead by example.  Make sure you let them see you reading.

11. And it’s never too late to start!  Find out what are the best books to introduce to them.  Are their friends reading Amulet?  Harry Potter?  Geronimo Stilton?  Chances are, they’ll want to read it if their friends are into it.  Use that peer pressure to your advantage!  🙂

Our oldest wanted to read this one after he saw a friend reading it at school:

Happy reading!

Not Your Typical Princess Book

We have two boys, so you might think that I wouldn’t be that interested in books that appeal to girls. But as a strong girl myself, I love coming across picture books about strong girls. Plus, I feel like it’s my job to teach my boys to respect and value strong girls. They’ll be happier and more fulfilled if they have a partner who has plenty to say for herself and plenty to offer. But this is supposed to be about you and your girls, so here’s my pitch:

On the whole pink and princess thing: Some girls love all things pink and princess. And like many parents, you may bemoan the “pink books” that are marketed to your daughters. But if your daughter loves pink and princesses, give them to her. After all, what’s the alternative? That she doesn’t read? That is just not an option in my world, and it shouldn’t be one in yours.

The BEST WAY to get kids reading is to give them material that appeals to them. Not to you, to them. This is about her. Forget about the Classics or the books you loved as a child. What does SHE want to read? That doesn’t mean that you should only give her books about princesses as portrayed in fairy tales and as frequently marketed in popular culture. Personally, I wouldn’t even offer any of those.

But I’ll let you in on a secret: There are plenty of princess books out there that unapologetically reject the “princesses are helpless and must be rescued by a prince” stereotype. These have princesses who are actually the true heroine of the book and some of these even feature princesses who prefer living with pigs or had rather wear a paper bag than a princess dress.

So feel free to entice your daughter with the princess title in these books, but I’m willing to bet that she’ll feel empowered and adventurous after you’re done reading them to her.

Here are some of my favourites:

The Princess and the Giant

The princess is determined to find a practical solution to the problem of the loud and scary giant that lives above their house, and it involves books and story time. Even if your daughter doesn’t consciously register it, the positive message is definitely there.

The Princess and the Pony

Princess Pinecone wants a battle horse for her birthday, but instead her parents get her a cute plump pony with a flatulence problem. When they join a warrior battle (think spitballs and dodge balls), the pony wins the hearts of the warriors with its cuteness. The illustrations are terrific and there’s a great message about sticking together even if your partner is an underdog (or a flatulent pony). Part of me wishes that they hadn’t won with “cuteness”, but I can forgive that small flaw in an otherwise terrific book.

The Paper Bag Princess

The princess rescues the snooty prince from the scary fire-breathing dragon, but he is repulsed by her paper-bag dress.  So instead of cleaning up for him, she happily dances off into the sunset.

Princess in Black

Princess Magnolia may not be able to defeat monsters, but the Princess in Black sure can!  Note that this is more of a chapter book with lots of pictures, but it still targets the same audience.  It can also be a great bridging book!

The Princess Knight

The king raises his daughter to excel as a knight just like her brothers but on her eighteenth birthday, he expects her to wear her prettiest dress and let the winner of the knight contest take her hand in marriage. But the princess knight has something else in mind.

Princess-in-training

Princess Viola’s skateboarding and karate-chopping skills aren’t well received at Camp Princess, at least not until the green dragon shows up!

Princess Pigsty

Much to the king’s chagrin, Princess Pigsty had rather sleep with the pigs than act like a proper princess. She stands her ground and in the end, the king accepts her for who she is.

Princess Smartypants

Princess Smartypants wanted to stay a Ms., so she gave each of her suitors impossible (and funny) tasks.  When Prince Swashbuckle turns up and performs each of them, she rewards him with a kiss and turns him into a frog and is finally left alone.

Part-time Princess

A little girl dreams of being a princess at night, but this little princess puts out dragons’ fires and tames trolls.

Princess Daisy and the Dragon and the Nincompoop Knights

Three nincompoop knights fail to brave the fierce dragon, Princess Daisy swoops in to save the day (and the dragon)!

Pirate Princess

Princess Bea wants to be a pirate.  But when she finds a pirate ship, she doesn’t seem to be good at any of the pirate tasks (when she climbs the crow’s nest to be the lookout, she heave-hoes on everyone below).  But things take a turn when she smells gold on a nearby island and the pirates dig up a large treasure chest.

The Princess and the Packet of Peas

The prince doesn’t want to marry a real princess, he just wants to marry a girl who likes to play hockey and camp and maybe has a nice smile.  And his good friend Pippa might just be that girl!

Sharing a love of books

Why another blog on picture books?

Here’s my thing:  I have deeply loved books and reading ever since I can remember. And lucky for me, I fell in love with and married a man who also greatly loves books (maybe it was part of the reason I fell in love with him).  So when we had children, it was natural that we would want to impart them with a love of reading too.  And we have.

Here’s some proof.  This is the VERY FIRST THING they did when we came home after a 10 day vacation recently:

IMG_7064 another

And there’s lots more like that to share – including the telltale sign of the flashlight beam under the covers!

And I’d love to help other parents impart the love of reading to their kids too.  Thing is, it’s not as obvious as you might think to find the “right books”.  At first, it was relatively easy to find books that they would love.  There are a few classic books for babies that one can’t help but come across as soon as you have a baby – whether you receive them as shower gifts or baby gifts, or walk through the children’s section of any bookstore, you are pretty much guaranteed to come across these treasures.

But after a while, I started to think that we had found “all” of the good kids’ books that we could find at local bookstores and at the library. Boy, was I wrong!  I started to ask friends with children about their favourite kids’ book authors and started finding lists created by fellow book lovers on our local library’s website.  And I found great books.  And I’m still finding more.  And now I realize that we’ll never be able to read them all to our boys because there are so many.  And because there are so many, and because I think all children should benefit from the rich treasure trove of children’s books out there, I decided to write this for their parents and educators to help you find the right book or books that will help them fall in love with reading.

I know that there are books out there that list the 100 books you should read to your child, and so forth. But those are the “should reads” and in my opinion, those are only good to test ourselves and for bragging rights.  If people go through those lists, it’s probably often just to see if they’ve met the standard.  And if you’ve done it, you’ve probably been relieved to think “I’ve read 37 of those to my kids, so I’m doing ok.”  Instead, I’d like to give you a list of “wanna reads”.  I’d love to help you find the books that will touch your child, teach them to love books, make them laugh or cry, but most importantly make them want to read more books.  And if they truly enter into the universe of books, they will never be bored.

And I realize that there are lots of blogs out there about kids’ books, but I don’t think that there are too many.  And besides, it’s an excuse for me to keep reading children’s books even as my boys may grow out of them!