Kids Books Quick Picks

Fall always heralds the arrival of great children’s books, and this year’s crop doesn’t disappoint. Behold a few of our favorites of the season:

Fall always heralds the arrival of great children’s books, and this year’s crop doesn’t disappoint. Behold a few of our favorites of the season:

stanley

Stanley’s School, by William Bee, (Peachtree; $14.95, 32 pages, ages 2-5) is the latest in a series starring a charming hamster. As the title suggests, Stanley is running things at school and leads his furry charges through a typical day: from arrival to read-aloud, lunch, and dismissal, these pint-size creatures demonstrate the inner workings of pre-k and elementary school. Bee’s large, cheerful illustrations invite young readers to revel in heading to class. The padded covers invite little hands to fully explore while also signaling the transition from board books to picture books.

squirrel

In another rodent-driven narrative, Martin Jenkins’s The Squirrels’ Busy Year (illustrated by Richard Jones, Candlewick; $16.99, 32 pages, ages 3-6), introduces changing seasons and weather patterns by following a year in the lives of two inquisitive squirrels. Foraging for acorns and dodging owls are a few of the daily adventures these busy critters face, depending on the season. Straightforward and uncomplicated prose is accompanied by front matter offering specifics in case adults get peppered with a few “why” questions after a read-through. An index with follow-up questions meand to encourage further inquiry roud out this smart volume, while Richard Jones’s mixed-media renderings of the natural world are textured and comforting.

creature

National Book Award Finalist Sy Montgomery’s How to Be A Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals (illustrated by Rebecca Green, HMH; $20.00, 208 pages, ages 7-up), examines a life spent in the company of animals and how those relationships taught her compassion, love, and forgiveness. From a family pig named Christopher Hogwood to a giant Pacific octopus named Octavia, each vignette imparts life lessons that only a non-human can provide. “Other species, when we are allowed to know and care about them, give us a chance expand our moral universe,” says the author. “We learn to embrace the Other. We have a lot in common with our fellow animals–we share about 90% of our DNA with fellow mammals, and animals from clams to elephants share our same neurotransmitters, responsible for perceptions and emotions.” Montgomery’s poetic text proves her ability to write for readers of all ages. Accompanied by author photos and Rebecca Green’s whimsical, folk-art inspired sketches, How to Be a Good Creature affirms what many of us already know: that human-animal bonds are not just real, they are powerful agents of change, acceptance, renewal. Consider reading this in tandem with your child–there’s plenty here to encourage a robust dialogue on many of life’s big questions.

Cover image: “Compulsory Education,” by Charles Burton Barber. 1890. Public Domain.

Platypus, by Sue Whiting, illustrated by Mark Jackson; Candlewick Press, 32 pages, $16.99, ages 6-9.

Have you ever taken a good look at a platypus? Outfitted with a duck’s bill and webbed feet, this mammal has a flat tail like a beaver, but lays eggs and provides milk to its young. Australian picture-book author Sue Whiting examines the peculiarities of this marvelously puzzling creature by weaving lyric prose with scientific text. Expertly matched by fellow Aussie Mark Jackson’s mixed-media illustrations, Platypus unravels the mysteries of one of natures most secretive and peculiar creatures for early readers. 

About Habitats: Polar Regions, by Cathryn Sill, illustrated by John Sill; Peachtree Publishers, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 2-7.

Barack Obama made history this week as the first American president to cross the Arctic Circle. Stopping in places like Kotzebue, Alaska, the trip highlighted the administration’s efforts to help coastal fishing communities battle climate change and to also spread the word on rapidly rising oceans and temperatures. In recognition of his visit, today’s book About Habitats: Polar Regions is a perfect invitation for young explorers to learn about the Arctic and Antarctica. Husband-and-wife duo Cathryn and John Sill’s award-winning About Habitat series offers simple explanations of complex ecosystems with short, declarative sentences in large font. (Mrs. Sill was an elementary school teacher for three decades, so she has a pretty good idea of what grabs young minds.) John Sill’s wildlife paintings are striking and inviting, and each painting is accompanied by plate descriptions in the afterword. The whole is rounded out by a glossary, bibliography, and websites. The delicate flora and fauna of the polar regions are on the front lines of climate change, and this book will serve as a powerful, beautiful inspiration to budding scientists.