Read Like a Kid: Picture Book Edition

I’ve been a long-time fan of children’s and YA books. Now that I’m at home reading more than ever while simultaneously clinging to my sanity, working kid and teen books into my rotation has added some great variety to my bookshelf. Below are my picks for fun picture books to enjoy!

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Strega Nona and Quiet, Tomie dePaola

It’s a wonderful time to explore (or revisit) Tomie dePaola’s work as he unfortunately passed away a few weeks ago. As a kid, I adored all of his Strega Nona books which are magical, funny, and ultimately heartfelt. Strega Nona means grandmother witch in Italian and these stories feature this sorceress’s adventures in her Italian village alongside lovable sidekicks like Big Anthony and Bambolina.

dePaola’s work features a variety of cultures and time periods. Quiet is a more recent book that readers can especially appreciate now. In Quiet, a grandfather teaches his grandchildren about sitting calmly outside together. Anyone who’s beginning to practice mindfulness or wants to introduce meditation to little kids should read Quiet. Who couldn’t use a little more calm today?

Be Quiet and We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Ryan Higgins

I love the sense of humor Higgins’ books portray! Be Quiet is excellent for slightly older kids who still like having a story read to them (or are starting to read to the grownups). The book features Rupert, a mouse who aspires to create a ‘very serious and artistic’ picture book with no words. Unfortunately, his friends cannot stop talking! Much of the humor relies on wordplay so it could be a fun addition to at-home English classes.

Younger kids can enjoy Higgins’ We Don’t Eat Our Classmates. Penelope the dinosaur learns about going to school and how to be empathetic in this cute tale. Look for its sequel, We Will Rock Our Classmates, to be released July 7th.

Don’t Feed the Coos, written by Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Heather Fox

Don’t Feed the Coos is a crowd-pleaser that follows the structure of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff. If you feed a flock of pigeons, hilarity and chaos will ensue! The story pairs delightfully with Fox’s illustrations, admirably capturing the antics of those pesky coos! Stutzman and Fox have previously collaborated professionally on the Llama Destroys the World books and are spouses as well!

We Could All Use a Story Time Right About Now

In my pre-quarantine life, one of my jobs was working in the children’s section of a bookstore. I usually did story time at least once a week for half an hour. I would read three or four books interspersed with some songs to help hold the kids’ attention. The pleasure of looking at gorgeous illustrations, the delight of reading a complete story in one sitting, is wholly unique. Trying to remember that kid perspective of curiosity and trying to figure the world out is a very valuable one for my adult self to experience. At story time, everything gets put aside (except for maybe some of your favorite snacks). At story time, you focus on being with the group and enjoying a few books.

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Vogue.com published an article last week called “I Can’t Read a Book Right Now—And I Am Not Alone” by Sophie Vershlow (https://www.vogue.com/article/why-cant-i-read-books-right-now). Personally, reading is one of the few things keeping me sane right now, but I can relate to only being able to engage with certain kinds of books. I’ve been making a bit of an event of picking a new book (why not?), selecting four or five titles and reading the first few pages to see what best captures my attention. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most serious ‘literary’ fiction fell to the bottom of the pile each time. Mystery, horror, YA—these genres helped immerse me in a world apart from the COVID-19 quarantine.

So just like you don’t have to be a bastion of productivity right now, you also don’t have to tackle that list of ‘Great Books’ you’ve been carrying around for years if you don’t feel like it. Maybe instead you plan your own story time. Maybe instead you read a comic book (“excuse me, we call them graphic novels now”). Maybe instead you reread that picture book you loved as a kid.

I think there’s a reason so many people are reading picture books on social media feeds currently  (other than helping frantic parents and caregivers). Reading stories out loud is fun. Reading picture books is fun. Sharing stories is fun. Whatever your story time looks like right now, don’t apologize. Just please enjoy it (and make sure you have snacks).

Next week I’ll recommend some of my favorite children’s books for little and big kids alike. Let me know if you’ve got any favorites that have been keeping you company during quarantine.