Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

It is November and that means it is Picture Book Month!

Time to read and celebrate all things picture book. For me, it’s the perfect excuse to generate lists!

This week’s list? Picture books that capture the essence of childhood. With actual children in them! When I started looking at some of my favourite picture books, I realized that many of them were actually not about children. Many feature animals (bears are strangely (or not) represented) or a lot of adults. Some are about children but feature animal characters. These can be fantastic and very easy for children to connect to (I’m thinking everything Kevin Henkes does). The ones with “real children” characters can sometimes have heavy themes or be a little too forced. They don’t all ring true. We can’t pluck a character off the page and believe that child could quickly leap into a playground full of children and completely blend in. Or beautifully stand out . . .

Move into chapter books and boom, there are the kids! Marty Macguire. Clementine. Billy Miller. Flora Belle Buckman. William Spiver. Dory Fantasmagory. Piper Green. Nate Foster. Popeye and Elvis. There are no shortage of children behaving like children.

Finding them in picture books? Not as easy. Hence, my list.

These 20 titles are all about kids and all that they are. Childhood and all of the quirky, all of the lovely, all of the human, all of the unique. Sometimes the messy and challenging. Sometimes the sweet and lovely. All of it absolutely honoured and celebrated. These 20 books all hold a special place in my heart.

I would love to know which books you would add to this list and why. Please share in the comments.

Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

On the list because? Children have some interesting, not always sensible, problem solving strategies.

 Stuck Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

The Frank Show by David Mackintosh

On the list because? Kids worry about not being the coolest, the best, the greatest. Even in the Grandparent department.

The Frank Show Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine, written by Allison Wortche and illustrated by Patrice Barton

On the list because? Primary students need to navigate a lot in a day – sometimes doing the most simple of things like growing seeds: envy, friendship, forgiveness, competition

 Rosie Sprout's Time to Shine Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Let’s Do Nothing by Tony Fucile

On the list because? Little ones have a hard time doing just nothing or even turning off their racing imaginations. Those busy brains are pure delight!

Let's Do nothing Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

The Man with the Violin written by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Dušan Petričić

On the list because? Children notice what we should. Especially the very beautiful and amazing things in the world.

The Man with the Violin Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Ben Rides On by Matt Davies

On the list because? When given the chance to do the right thing, children usually will. Eventually.

Ben Rides on Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Yuyi Morales wrote and illustrated Niño Wrestles the World

On the list because? Children love to embrace the wild and amazing energy of their heroes.

 Nino Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo

On the list because? Being brave sometimes requires a little wisdom from someone who has been around for a while. Or a little magic.

Nana in the City Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Wilfred Gordon Macdonald Partridge  written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas

On the list because? Childhood is about navigating the road between making memories and learning from the memories others share

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Blizzard by John Rocco

On the list because? Snow day after snow day after snow day and the chance to be a hero. Childhood magic!

Blizzard Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Desmond and the Very Mean Word written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams and illustrated by A.G. Ford

On the list because? Learning about forgiveness is one of childhood’s most powerful lessons. Often as adults, we still don’t have it figured out.

 Desmond Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Float by Daniel Miyares

On the list because? Children approach rain in the best of ways. All in. Rubber boots, puddle jumping, sailing of boats!

Float Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Ask Me written by Bernard Waber and illustrated by Suzy Lee

On the list because? Little ones have lots and lots of stories to tell. If you don’t ask, they will remind you to.

Ask Me Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Sparky! written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans

On the list because? Thee is something particularly magical about childhood faith and hope.

Sparky! Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

I’m Bored  written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

On the list because? “I’m Bored!” is a childhood theme song! But “Kids are boring.” Those are fighting words!

I'm Bored Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

This is Sadie written by Sara O’Leary and illustrated by Julie Morstad

On the list because? All children need to have a little piece of Sadie inside of them and have space to let it shine!

This is SadieTwenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Harriet You’ll Drive Me Wild! written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Marla Frazee

On the list because? When you are little, it seems to be all too easy to make parents a little crazy.  Just like that. Pesky is too easy. But forgiving and hugs are part of it all too.

Harriet You'll Drive Me Wild Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

John Patrick Norman McHennessy – the boy who was always late. by John Burningham

On the list because? Everyday holds huge imaginative possibilities. Even if others don’t quite embrace our wild stories, we persist in telling them. And maybe they are true . . .

John Patrick Norman McHennessy – the boy who was always late. Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Millie Fierce by Jane Manning

On the list because? Sometimes when we discover new found ferocity, it takes a little while to tame. Inner strength and big doses of kindness, we need them both.

Millie Fierce Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

Singing Away the Dark written by Caroline Woodward  and illustrated by Julie Morstad

On the list because? A lone walk through the woods is a journey of many small moments of bravery. Singing to combat the fear? A perfect strategy.

Singing Away the Dark Twenty Picture Books that capture the essence of childhood

How I love sharing picture book lists during this month of picture book love!

Happy Picture Book Reading!

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Monday April 13th, 2015

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

I have been sharing a reading photo of the week each week. This picture makes me completely smile. This is one of our readers from the BLG law firm that visits with a new book each week. He is reading us Strongheart: The World’s First Movie Star Dog. I love that one listener couldn’t remain seated and stood next to him through the entire read aloud.

Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

This week it has to be two photos as it just gets cuter! My class so loves to be read to!

Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

This week I also shared details of some very special buddy reading we did when we had a K class visit us from another school.

Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.

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I read a wide variety of picture books this week:

Gaston written by Kelly Dipucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson

What makes family? Having your Dad’s blue eyes or feeling like you belong? This book lets us ask those important questions. There will also be some giggles and smirks along the way.

Gaston Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Way to the Zoo by John Burningham

I love all that John Burningham does! He captures vivid childhood imagination so very well.

The Way to the Zoo Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Strongheart The World’s First Movie Star Dog by Emily Arnold McCully

What an interesting story about a retired police dog that started acting in silent movies. We learned about Strongheart’s training, how he needed to be taught how to play and about his deep connections to his owners. My students were captivated.

Strongheart Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Coyote Run by Gaëtan Dorémus

Wild wordless about the wild west. Won’t be for everyone but should be experienced.

Coyote Run Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Sam’s Pet Temper written by Sangeeta Bhadra and illustrated by Marion Arbona

This book explores many aspects of anger and self control – some really quite well. Others, still not sure as I haven’t had a chance to “kid test” this book. Love how strategies of calming down are explored.

Sams Pet Temper Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Camp Rex by Molly Idle

This book made me nostalgic for story time with my own children – I can see this being a read it again and again title when they were small. Charming. Sweet. Silly.

Camp Rex Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Enemy by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch

I can see this book being used in a high school class and keeping conversation going for days. Not a book I would pick up and read without previewing with a primary class. Could intermediate classes manage this? Absolutely. There is much to talk about. It poses such large and important questions about war. Just who is the enemy?  What and whose purposes does war serve? How do we remember the humanity behind each soldier? Powerful.

Enemy Davide Cali Serge Bloch Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

In other reading:

Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon

I literally laughed out loud multiple times reading this book. It is absolutely silly and full of fantasy, imagination and “made-up-ish-ness” attached to many things. It is over the top at the same time as absolutely accurately portraying sibling dynamics, parent frustration and little child antics. Full of wonderful illustrations, this has ADORED written all over it.

Dory Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

 The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern

Whoa Maggie. What a girl you are. Voice bellows from the pages. What a family. So much that is challenging. Not much that is perfect. So very endearing.

The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

If you just read the poems in this book, I suspect it would garner its fair share of 5/5 ratings. But then there is Gabi and her story. Her story is everything. She is surrounded by issues via her family, her friends, her own experiences. Drug addiction. Teenage Pregnancy. Coming out. Family rejection. Teenage hormones. Teenage dreams. Grief. Angst. Passion. Gabi is . . . such an out there character -not out there as in extreme or strange but out there in terms of honest and real and relatable. Loved this novel for so many reasons. Highly recommended.

Gabi A girl in pieces Monday April 13th, 2015 #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Updates on my 2015 Reading Goals:

2015 Chapter Book Challenge: 18/80 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 145/415 books read

#MustReadin2015: 8/24 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 30/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2015: 14/50 books read

Up next? I am about to begin Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lai

Off along the road to learn

It’s been a two week break and we will all return to school tomorrow ready again – to learn. A perfect evening to read John Burningham’s John Patrick Norman McHennessy – the boy who was always late. This book has been a favourite of mine for many years and every time I read it again, it establishes itself as one of the best books ever (according to my list!)

The premise of this book is a simple one: John Patrick Norman McHennessy is often very late for school and his teacher never ever believes the reasons (dramatic as they are) that explain his tardiness.  The teacher gets quite distraught – shouting, becoming red in the face, leaping about as he doles out ridiculous punishments. Standing in the corner. Writing out lines. Repeating “I must not tell lies about. . . ” On and on. Finally, when John Patrick manages to arrive on time, his teacher is being held up on the roof by a big hairy gorilla. Hmm . . .

I must not . . . .

Lines, lines and more lines. This must be the answer for deceptive little boys with overactive imaginations! What I love about this book is that it is not actually simple at all. What a delightful boy to come to school each day with stories of trouser tearing lions, sweep you off your feet tidal waves and crocodiles who play tug of war with your school satchel. And yet, he is punished day after day after day.

But, each morning he gets up and sets off on the road to learn. What exactly is he learning, one might ask?

On the road to learn. . .

I look forward to third term in the classroom. Celebrating imaginations. Inspiring ideas. Thinking outside of the box! Off along the road to learn!