The next seven books in my favorite picture books series begins with a Valentine’s Day book, #because love wins…
(You can read my first seven here.)
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli; illustrations by Paul Yalowitz.
Eileen Spinelli’s book is the absolute best Valentine’s Day book ever, but really any day is a good day to read this book to someone you love.
Mr. Hatch is quiet and keeps to himself. He has an uneventful life and talks to no one, and no one talks to him either. Then one day the postman brings him a box of candy with a note that says it is from a secret admirer.
Mr. Hatch is stunned. He has a secret admirer? And suddenly he finds a silly little grin on his face. He puts on a yellow tie and some aftershave. He brings the box of candy into work and shares it with his co-workers. In short, his life is changed. All because someone loves him.
There is more. Much more. But I can’t spoil it for you. Just be sure to have some chocolate candy (in a heart-shaped box) or brownies to share with this story.
I Wish I Were a Butterfly by James Howe; Illustrations by Ed Young.
James Howe is famous for writing the Bunnicula series; Ed Young is famous for his elegant watercolors. (His book Lon Po Po : a Red Riding-Hood Story from China won the Caldecott Award in 1990 for the best illustrated children’s book of that year.) But together, they have made a superior storybook. This is a bit long — probably best suited to a six-to-eight-year-old’s attention span. But the main idea is timeless — we are all beautiful, no matter what our outside appearance is.
The frog who lives in Swampswallow Pond has just told the little cricket that he is the ugliest thing in the world; so now the cricket is wandering through the meadow seeing wonderful insects who are much more attractive than he is — a ladybug, a butterfly, a dragonfly… They all give him rather random advice: Buck up, Cheer up, Forget about it, and none is very helpful. So he goes to visit his best friend the Spider to get comfort from her. To the little cricket, the Spider is beautiful because he loves her. She laughs at him, and they have a very interesting discussion about friendship, beauty, bullies, and loving your own talents — and the last line is one of the most perfect ending lines ever. Go read it.
The Wolf’s Chicken Stew by Keiko Kasza.
Simple illustrations, simple story = belly laughs and a great moral.
The wolf goes out to eat the hen and her one hundred chicks, but once there, he has the great idea to fatten them all up before he eats them. He makes them 100 pancakes and delivers them at night. And then 100 biscuits, and then… Eventually though, he finds the chicks are so darling, that he just can’t eat them — they end up calling him Uncle Wolf — proof that anyone can be redeemed! A great story about loving your enemies…
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson; illustrated by Tara Calahan King.
And if you would like specifics on how to love your enemy, here is one of the best instruction books — Make Enemy Pie.
And better yet, Dad knows the recipe. But one of the secret ingredients is having to spend the Whole Day with your enemy. Can it be done? And then what happens to the enemy? Heartwarming and real… (and Dad is both the hero and the chef).
Why the Sky Is Far Away: a Nigerian folktale by Mary Jane Gerson; illustrated by Carla Golembe.
Once the people lived in paradise — all their needs of food came from the sky. But they grew greedy and wanted more, even though the God of the sky had warned them about their greed and lack of obedience. One woman’s selfish greed ruined it for all the people, and as their punishment, their God moved away from them and the people now had to toil for their food. Sound familiar?
This folktale is five-hundred years old from the Bini tribe of Nigeria. It is billed everywhere as an ecological tale — how the stewardship of the earth is in the hands of humans. And, it is that. But a believer cannot help but see the connections to Genesis, Chapter 3. It is a fascinating discussion starter, and the illustrations are magnificent.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce; illustrated by William Joyce and Joe Bluhm.
Every librarian has their own favorite stories about libraries and books. Mine were always these two: I Took my Frog to the Library by Eric Kimmel and Book! Book! Book! by Deborah Bruss. Those two are fun books, and by all means, check them out. But my absolute new favorite is William Joyce’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. My son-in-law got it for me for Christmas — he actually sat down in Barnes & Noble and read it — and therefore, he realized that it was the perfect book for me. I must write a caveat here: all these other 28 books have been read aloud to children by me, multiple times. They are guaranteed. This one is not. I’ve not read it to any children, so I don’t know how they will like it. I can only say…
This is the perfect book.
Morris Lessmore had me at the opening illustration. He is sitting on his porch in front of beautiful French doors (just like the doors that I am sanding for our back porch) in an Adirondack chair (that is the exact green color of my kitchen) surrounded by stacks of books (much like the stacks next to my bed). But his idyllic life is interrupted by a Dorothy-in-Kansas-like storm. He wanders, stricken, through several black-and-white pages of destruction, until he sees a lovely lady who was being “pulled along by a festive squadron of flying books.”
She sends Morris a good story — that looks much like Humpty Dumpty — who leads him to a remarkable building — that looks much like a Carnegie Library — where thousands of books live. Morris walks inside and hears “the faint chatter of a thousand different stories, as if each book was whispering an invitation to adventure.”
This book is a quiet homage to the power of words and stories to inspire us and change our lives. The short film won an Academy Award, and the web site and app make it fun to play with AFTER you read the book…
Big Chickens by Leslie Helakoski; illustrated by Henry Cole.
And the last book of this post (stay tuned for the next seven) is absolute Chicken Fluff — hilarious to read, hilarious to listen to, with absolutely no redeeming value except laughter. (And yes, I know, it’s the second book in this list about chickens and wolves. But just so you know, this book was so popular that there are two more in the series.)
The four big chickens go squawking and pwocking and flocking into the woods to hide from the wolf who is sneaking around their henhouse. The cowardly chickens come upon barrier after barrier and each time their worst fears are realized. They fall into the ditch, they step into a cow patty, they fall into the lake, they stumble into the cave, and sure enough, they meet the wolf. They shriek, and they squeak, and they freak until the wolf is scared away by their antics. The word play is fun and the illustrations are fun; in fact, it is one of the most fun books ever for reading out loud… And now that I think of it, there is a moral of the story: Even if your worst fears are realized, they are rarely as bad as you have imagined them to be…
Stay tuned — the next post will have seven more...