1. Super Manny Stands Up!
By Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Manny loves to pretend he’s a superhero battling everything from armies of zombie bears to evil cloud monsters. At home he wears capes of many colors, but when he goes to school, he takes his invisible cape. Over lunch one day, he’s battling giant squid (his spaghetti and meatballs!) when he hears Tall One picking on Small One. He’s frozen and doesn’t know what to do – until he remembers his invisible cape and decides to stand up and be truly brave. His act of standing up leads his schoolmates to realize that they can be superheroes too – and soon he isn’t standing alone. I love the way that this book shows children a very simple and practical way that they can be a hero in their everyday lives and how one action leads to a ripple effect.
2. Explorers of the Wild
by Cale Atkinson
My favorite thing about this book is the clever way that it’s written. While the story is told in the first person, there are two main characters, a boy and a bear. Both are explorers, and as the illustrations suggest, it seems that both of them are narrating. While it starts out with them each on their own adventure, it quickly becomes a tale of friendship as these two very different creatures come together through a shared love of the wild. I love the way that the ideas of respect for those who are different and appreciation of nature shine through in the simple text that my son delighted in quoting after only a few readings.
3. I Love You More Than the Smell of Swamp Gas
by Kevan Atteberry
This book reminds me of one of my favorites (I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt) in the way that it features the playful banter between a parent and child over how much the child is loved. Unlike Stinky Face, this book is written in rhyme. Kids will love the monsters and quirky creatures – like blood-sucking ducks and toe-biting stones; the funny names used for the monster child (“my stinkling” is my personal favorite) and the evocative language. The title says it all with this one!
4. Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished
by Camille Andros; illustrated by Brianne Farley
I love the way that this book introduces young readers to the scientific method using a problem that many children can relate to. Charlotte, a bunny with a love for science, starts with a problem – she’s squished by all of her siblings. She needs more space to do her experiments, so she applies the scientific method to her problem. She asks a question, makes a hypothesis, and does some experiments which eventually take her to outer space. She finally has just what she wanted – plenty of space. But soon she’s lonely and even misses being squished which leads her to draw a new conclusion that gives her the best of both worlds!
5. I Have a Balloon
by Ariel Bernstein; illustrated by Scott Magoon
I love the way this book sounds like a child could have written the dialogue! That’s not a dig, bur rather a compliment to Bernstein’s voice which is spot on here. My favorite line throughout is: “The only thing I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a shiny, big red balloon.” If you’ve ever spent time around kids (or adults for that matter!), you know how true that is – they are perfectly content with what they have until something else comes along that is just out of their reach. In this case, that something is Owl’s balloon. Monkey’s willing to trade one of his possessions for it, but Owl’s not interested until. . . I don’t want to give away the object that catches Owl’s attention, but let’s just say this book has a perfectly satisfying kid-like conclusion.