Feature image for Life Around the Table's post, The Best Children's Picture Books Part. 3.
Books,  Motherhood

The Best Children’s Picture Books (Part 3)

Cover of Come On Rain, a children's picture book.

“I stare out over rooftops,
past chimneys, into the way off distance.
And that’s when I see it coming,
clouds rolling in,
gray clouds, bunched and bulging under a purple sky.

A creeper of hope circles ‘round my bones.

“Come on, rain!” I whisper.

This book really puts one in mind of a sweltering hot summer day when the humidity is thick in the air and you just know it’s got to rain. A young girl named Tessie calls her friends to come over with their swimsuits on and they stand and wait in the alleyway under the “swollen sky” and wait for the rain to come. And then they dance in the rain. Their mothers soon join them. You can feel the joy and the relief. “Come On, Rain!” is a delight to read. It is full of beautiful poetic imagery and unique words to expand a child’s vocabulary. The watercolour illustrations are emotional, down-to-earth and authentic. A wonderfully diverse group of families is represented in these pages. A must have book.

Cover of The Gruffalo, a children's picture book.

“A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood.
A fox saw the mouse and the mouse looked good.
“Where are you going to, little brown mouse?
Come and have lunch in my underground house.”
“It’s terribly kind of you, Fox, but no–
I’m going to have lunch with a gruffalo.”

The little mouse in this story meets three different predators as he walks through the forest. He outsmarts a fox, an owl and a snake by telling them that he’s on his way to have lunch with a fearsome creature called a Gruffalo. The mouse describes this mythical creature of his own invention as having terrible claws, orange eyes and purple prickles all over his back. The mouse frightens away predators by telling them the gruffalo has an appetite for forest creatures like them. Just when the mouse thinks he has outwitted his foes he ironically stumbles upon a real gruffalo who says mouse is his favourite food! But the clever mouse won’t give up so easily, he has a plan…

This is a simple, entertaining and rhythmic story that stands up to many rereadings. Your child will request this one over and over. The illustrations are so colourful and engaging. Using different voices for each creature is a must.

Cover of Sonya's Chickens, a children's picture book.

“Sonya took her job of tending to the chickens very seriously, and they grew quickly into gawky pullets. As her mama and papa went about the duties of the farm, Sonya was proud to do her part. Everywhere Sonya went, her little birds were at her heels, peeping loudly.”

This book provides a gentle way to introduce your child to the concept of loss. Sonya has one of her chickens stolen by a fox and her father helps her process her loss and to understand that the fox has a family of baby foxes to feed. Phoebe Wahl’s illustrations are beautiful enough to frame as artwork.

Cover of Make Way for Ducklings, a children's picture book.

Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, the ducks, are hunting for the ideal place to live.

“This is better,” quacked Mr. Mallard. “That island looks like a nice quiet place….Yes, ” said Mrs. Mallard, remembering the peanuts. “That looks like just the right place to hatch ducklings.”

Once the ducklings hatch, Mrs. Mallard leads her eight ducklings on a journey through Boston to travel from one pond to the other with the help of a friendly policeman named Michael. This book is an absolute classic and for good reason. A quiet, slow and light-hearted story I personally believe belongs on every child’s bookshelf. The illustrations are charming and the ducks’ faces are so expressive. 

Cover of The Mitten, a children's picture book.

The Mitten is a retelling of an old Ukrainian folktale. A boy named Nicki drops one of his white mittens into the snow and he leaves it behind. Animals stumble upon the mitten and burrow inside to shelter from the cold. Animals of varying sizes from a tiny mole to a big brown bear struggle to squeeze inside the wool mitten. By the time Nicki finds his mitten again the animals are gone but his mitten is stretched to five times its original size.

“It started snowing, but the animals were snug in the mitten. A waft of warm steam rose in the air, and a fox trotting by stopped to investigate. Just the sight of the cozy mitten made him feel drowsy. The fox poked his muzzle in. When the mole, the rabbit, the hedgehog, the owl, and the badger saw his shiny teeth, they gave the fox lots of room.”

We own many Jan Brett books and her illustrations are unmatched. The best part of Jan Brett’s illustrations is the decorative border around the pages that include additional scenes and sneak peeks into what other characters are doing. Jan Brett often uses this decorative border to foreshadow which character is coming into the story next. She accomplishes so much more with her illustrations because of this technique and my children love pointing out what’s going on in these border pictures.

Cover of Last Stop on Market Street, a children's picture book.

“CJ looked around as he stepped off the bus. Crumbling sidewalks and broken-down doors, graffiti-tagged windows and boarded-up stores. He reached for his Nana’s hand. “How come it’s always so dirty over here?” She smiled and pointed to the sky. “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.” 

CJ is a young boy who asks a lot of questions, including some of the harder questions in life. He wonders why they always have to take the bus and why they don’t own a car. He wonders why the man on the bus is blind and he wonders why he doesn’t have an iPod like those bigger kids are able to afford. His Nana shares with him a positive perspective on how to view what surrounds them. Your child is introduced to many different people in this book. It’s rich with diversity. I especially love this book for the ending when CJ and his nana arrive at their destination and it’s revealed that they’re heading to a soup kitchen to volunteer to feed people in the city. CJ and his nana are obviously not “rich” themselves but they have hearts that are happy because they help others and have a generous perspective on life.

Cover of Strega Nona, a children's picture book.

“She sang,
Bubble, bubble, pasta pot,
Boil me some pasta, nice and hot,
I’m hungry and it’s time to sup,
Boil enough pasta to fill me up.
And the pasta pot bubbled and boiled and was suddenly filled with steaming hot pasta.”

This is the story of Big Anthony who “didn’t pay attention”.  He was a young man who went to work for Strega Nona, an old and kindly witch because she was “getting old and needed someone to help her keep her little house and garden”. Shortly after hiring Big Anthony, Strega Nona leaves on a journey and tells Anthony to never touch her magic pasta pot. Big Anthony agrees but he can’t help but tell the people in the town square about the wonders of the magic pot that can make endless amounts of spaghetti. Naturally, they laugh at him because it sounds too good to be true. Big Anthony is hurt and decides to prove to them that the pasta pot is magic. He says the magic words he heard Strega Nona say to bring the pasta pot to life but alas he didn’t hear the ending of the spell Strega Nona used to turn it off! The pasta spills out of the pot, out of the house, down the road and threatens to cover the town! But mercifully at that moment, Strega Nona comes down the road, home from her visit….. 

This book is a fun read and full of suspense with an important reminder to listen to instructions. My oldest son loves this book and his eyes are wide in his head when he’s watching the pasta spill down the road toward the town.

Hi! I’m Christy, a happy wife and mother to three boys, a nutritionist, a food lover and a Canadian. Creating and experimenting in the kitchen is my idea of an afternoon well spent. To me, a clean kitchen is an empty canvas of possibility and that means my kitchen never stays clean for long. My dream is that one or more of the recipes I share here will inspire you, perhaps even becoming a cherished family favourite.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *