Crash Adams Is the Strong KidLit Heroine That Your Daughters (and Sons) Have Been Waiting For

Crash Adams is 10 and I’m pretty sure she could kick my butt

I have a nine-year-old daughter, so every time I go into a bookstore, I am on the lookout for strong female protagonists. I spend an inordinate amount of time flipping through books that have been recommended by friends, quickly trying to evaluate their female characters, hoping that they’re active, interesting, and actually contribute something to the story. Basically, I’m trying to get a sense of whether or not the female lead will cause my daughter to pump her fist and scream “Heck yeah” or quietly shut the book and forlornly say “But she didn’t DO anything.”

Crash Adams made my daughter pump her fist.

The Adventures of Crash Adams: One Ear Returns is the first in a new, independently published middle-grade reader series by Mike Adamick. I’m a big fan of Adamick’s. He has a tremendous blog and he’s written a number of incredibly fun nonfiction books – titles like Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects, Dad’s Book of Awesome Recipes, and Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Projects.

Adamick’s nonfiction works celebrate the wonders of kids getting their hands dirty and actually making something, doing something, building things from scratch, and his first foray into fiction carries those themes over nicely. The story of One Ear Returns is simple and short, but the character is anything but.

Crash Adams is a dirt-covered, self-reliant ten-year-old girl whose family moved out to a small farm in Marin County, California a few years earlier. Crash roams the wilderness surrounding her farm with her faithful dog Zorro – who is preternaturally skilled at understanding commands – and learns as much as she can from experiencing nature firsthand.

If your kids enjoyed Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, they’ll find a kindred spirit in Crash. She’s the kind of singularly capable, adventurous kid that we don’t see in many works for middle-graders. In juvenile novels, you get a lot of precocious children. You get curious and precocious kids like they’re going out of style. But Crash isn’t precocious. She’s clever and quick and hardened by experience, even though she’s only ten. She feels like a throwback, like the lead character from a Laura Ingalls Wilder book who was dropped off in modern-day California and was told that she could ditch the gingham and put on a pair of jeans. [read the rest of the post…]


The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes

Did you know that the Easter Bunny was a working single mom? True story.

Easter is an odd holiday. While it has admittedly deep religious significance for Christians, for the rest of the world (and for Christians too), Easter mashes together a very weird pastiche of cultural iconography, presumably all about the celebration of “Spring.” Easter is a holiday symbolized by bunnies who deliver eggs (as opposed to chickens who are normally responsible for egg production), cute little chicks that apparently came from eggs that escaped the bunnies’ dye factories, a metric ton of candy, and really, really big hats. I’m not entirely sure how that all comes together to celebrate the Spring Equinox, but, like most major holidays, it’s just weird enough to work. I don’t understand Easter, but I like it and I really enjoy sharing it with my daughter.

And one of the best ways I’ve found to share Easter with my daughter is reading her The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward and Marjorie Flack, a book that I regard as THE definitive Easter book for kids. You can find many Easter-themed books at the bookstore, just begging to be tucked into that weird fake grass in your child’s Easter basket, but, trust me, no book has ever done a better job of creating a more enchanting and engrossing mythology around Easter than The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes.

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes

The Country Bunny might be the world’s first feminist holiday icon…

Originally published in 1939, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes was actually authored by Du Bose Heyward, the author best known for writing the novel Porgy, which was the basis for George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess. Heyward originally composed the story simply to entertain his nine-year-old daughter Jenifer – the book’s subtitle is “as told to Jenifer” – until Marjorie Flack, a noted illustrator, asked him to collaborate with her into turning The Country Bunny into a children’s book.

(If you want a much more detailed and beautifully written account of the book’s origins, check out the entry on The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes on Anita Silvey’s wonderful Book-a-Day Almanac.)

So, what’s so special about this seventy-four-year-old picture book? For starters, it creates one of the most coherent mythologies around Easter that I’ve ever read. As the book opens, Heyward explains to us:

We hear of the Easter Bunny who comes each Easter Day before sunrise to bring eggs for boys and girls, so we think there is only one. But this is not so. There are really five Easter Bunnies, and they must be the five kindest, and swiftest, and wisest bunnies in the whole wide world, because between sunset on Easter Eve and dawn on Easter Morning they do more work than most rabbits do in a whole year.

In The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, Heyward transforms the Easter Bunny into a shared role held by five different rabbits of varying shapes and sizes, which, as a parent, I think is fairly genius. Particularly because, around Easter time, kids are barraged with Easter Bunny meet-and-greet opportunities and the colors and sizes of those Easter Bunny costumes vary WILDLY. But, thanks to The Country Bunny, when my daughter asks me why the Easter Bunny at the mall was white and the Easter Bunny at the grocery store was brown, I can just say, “Hey, remember The Country Bunny? There are five all together, so…” (I realize that Heyward probably wasn’t thinking about furry character photo ops when he wrote the book, but, hey, it works for me.) [read the rest of the post…]


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

We see an old guy overanalyzing the heck out of a 26-page book for babies….

In my last post about Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle‘s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, I talked a lot about how reading the book aloud to my daughter became this shared meditative experience between the two of us. It’s a book that, to me, really comes alive when you read it out loud. I also mentioned that Gwyneth Paltrow had narrated an audio version of the book and debated whether the book could sound as powerful coming from a recording. Well, thanks to magic of YouTube, we can test that theory.

There are several different readings of Brown Bear, Brown Bear available on YouTube, so I picked THREE different versions and, dear readers, I’d like you to take a listen to all three and let me know what you think. Is there a version that particularly resonates with you? Do any of them fall completely flat? Would you actually play any of these for your kids? I’m interested to hear your feedback.

The first version is the author, Bill Martin Jr., reading the book himself. He definitely brings his own musical rhythm to the text, singing the lines like they were the lyrics of a children’s song from his youth.

The next reading of Brown Bear is the aforementioned Gwyneth Paltrow version. I’m including a video that has the highest-quality audio I could find, but, just a heads-up, it doesn’t follow along with the book. (There is a version that pairs Paltrow’s reading with a flip through the book – you can see it here – but the audio quality in that video is really bad, so I didn’t think it was fair to feature it.) Paltrow actually reads the book closer to how I read it. She takes her time, she doesn’t sing the words – I never read the book as a song – and she actually does voices for the animals. It’s an interesting take.

The third reading totally turns Brown Bear, Brown Bear into a song. In fact, it sings the entire book to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” If I’m being honest, it would be an understatement to say that I @#$%ing hate this version.

Which one is your favorite? Or would you rather just stick with live readings?


Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

I see a book that should be a fixture in any home library…

Ever since I started this blog almost a year ago (our first anniversary is rapidly approaching), I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a post along the lines of “The Ten Essential Children’s Books You MUST Have in Your Home Library.” It’s the kind of article that’s easy to write, it attracts traffic, and it can be a great discussion starter, if done right. (If done wrong, it can be trite, repetitive, and disposable.) However, every time the idea occurs to me, I find myself paralyzed when it comes to trying to define the criteria for the list. What makes a book essential? Will my definition of “essential” correlate to other parents’ definitions? How can I say that these ten books have more inherent value than every other book ever published? I’ve just never been able to tackle the topic in a way that makes me comfortable.

But, with all that said, I will say that, if your kid doesn’t have their own copy of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle, there is something truly significant missing from your home library.

Is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? an “essential” children’s book? To me and my subjective definition of “essential”, yes, it is. Why? There are a lot of reasons, but if I had to pick one, it would probably be this – it is a magical picture book to read aloud to a young child.

For younger readers (and I’m talking mostly about kids ranging from newborn to around three years old), it seems like most of the books targeted at their age group fall into one of FOUR main categories.

First, there are STORY books. These are books that – surprise, surprise – tell a story. They have a beginning, middle, and end. They follow the arc of a character from point A to point B. Maybe they have a message or moral to convey. Most books fall into this category – fairy tales, legends, Red Riding Hood, Madeline, Strega Nona, etc.

Second, there are (what I call) STIMULUS-RESPONSE books. These are books that are less structured around a story and are more structured around eliciting some kind of response or feedback from your kid. Pat the Bunny is an example – it’s a book that wants you to (wait for it) pat the bunny. Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is another example. That picture book isn’t setting up a big character transformation or narrative adventure for the Pigeon. Rather, it wants its readers to yell out “NO!” and to answer the Pigeon when he begs to be allowed to drive the bus. These are books designed to encourage interaction. (Press Here is another great stimulus-response book.) [read the rest of the post…]


PSSST! by Adam Rex

Such a funny trip to the zoo…

Yesterday, I kicked off this short series in which I’m going to be calling out three fairly amazing picture books that have been on our family’s radar lately, books that I think are perfect for any bored early reader looking for something interesting to read this summer. These aren’t recent books or hot new best-sellers. They’re just what we’re reading and enjoying at the moment and I think they make for great summer reads. And, in my introduction to the series yesterday, I made an off-hand reference to a note I’d scribbled while looking for books to recommend. The note was “Best zoo book ever?” I was referring to today’s recommendation, Adam Rex‘s PSSST! (2007), a wonderfully original comedic gem of a picture book.

Adam Rex got on my daughter’s radar in a big way after we checked out Chloe and the Lion from the library a few weeks ago, so, when she saw PSSST! on a librarian’s pick shelf, his name stopped her in her tracks. “Is this the Chloe and the Lion guy?” she asked. When I confirmed that it was, without a word, she picked up PSSST! and dropped it into our tote bag full of all the other books we were planning to check out that day. (“We HAVE to get that one, OK?” she sternly informed me. I just smiled and nodded.)

The best part was, once we got home, we discovered that the book took place at a zoo – from the cover, we only knew it was about a girl talking to animals – and, coincidentally, my daughter was right in the middle of attending a week-long summer day camp at our local zoo. So, that weird piece of chance, mixed with the fact that my daughter found the book to be hysterically, uproariously funny, meant that we read PSSST! at bedtime every night for a week. It was a colossal hit.

PSSST! by Adam Rex

My daughter is now convinced that giant hamster balls are the future of the zoo industry…

The story opens with a young girl visiting the zoo by herself. And, before I get much further, I have to mention that this is one of the most visually arresting, hands-down coolest zoos I’ve ever seen in a picture book. Adam Rex‘s imagination is only matched by his tremendous artistic talent, and his vision of a zoo in PSSST! is so original and whimsical and grand that my daughter spent days poring over the details on every page. Details like the ticket booth shaped like the letters “ZOO” or the Egyptian-themed camel habitat called “Camel-lot.” This is a zoo where deer and rhino roam the grounds in giant hamster balls and a narwhal swims in a giant glass snowglobe. This is a very, very cool zoo.

(Quick nerd aside – I’m a big fan of Steve Purcell’s Sam & Max, a cult comic that has been turned into a series of very popular cult adventure video games, and Rex‘s oddball design work and tendency to drop deliciously-skewed details into his backgrounds reminded me a lot of the world of Sam & Max. But that’s just me.)

So, as the young girl makes her way through this amazing zoo, suddenly, she hears someone say “PSSST!” She turns around to see a gorilla looking at her. This is the conversation that follows:

GORILLA: Over here.
GIRL: Oh. Hi.
GORILLA: What’s up?
GIRL: Not much.
GORILLA: Great. Listen. Could you get me a new tire?
GIRL: Why do you need a tire?
GORILLA: My swing broke. See?
GIRL: Oh. Well… I guess so.
GORILLA: Great. Get two, just in case.

PSSST! by Adam Rex

I guess “stranger danger” doesn’t apply for gorillas…

And the girl walks away. And this situation repeats itself over and over again. She finds herself hit with requests from a javelina, some bats, a group of penguins, sloths, turkeys, a baboon, and a tortoise – all of whom ask for completely random items, ranging from bike helmets to flashlights. The girl is hesitant to help, but they give her money (the peacock collects coins from the fountain) and there IS a store that seemingly sells everything right across the street. As if the girl’s awkward interactions with the animals weren’t funny enough, the whole scenario is leading up to a tremendous punchline at the end of the book that I won’t spoil here. Needless to say, the animals have an ulterior motive and it’s very, very funny. My daughter cackled – CACKLED – at the end of PSSST!, and there’s a particular exchange at the end (that takes place one week later) that she INSISTED on reading herself, simply because she wanted the pleasure of performing such a great gag herself. [read the rest of the post…]


A Ball for Daisy

A Ball for Daisy: Winner of this year's Caldecott Medal

Earlier this week, Chris Raschka’s A Ball for Daisy won the 2012 Caldecott Medal, the very prestigious annual award for the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Earlier this evening, I was flipping through Chris Raschka’s A Ball for Daisy as my daughter brushed her teeth and worrying that she wasn’t going to like it.

Why was I worried? Because, recently, my daughter, who turned five in November, has started to gravitate towards older and older skewing reading material. She still loves picture books and even has a few board books that she refuses to pack away with the rest of her toddler toys, but, lately, she’s shown increasing interest in early readers and chapter books. We’d just spent the past two days reading her the 128-page Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst and Lane Smith, and she’d loved it. It was a huge hit. (It’s both a beautiful and a hysterically funny chapter book. I definitely recommend it.) My wife and I began thinking, “OK, this is where we’re headed. More Mercy Watson, less Eric Carle.”

So, as I flipped through A Ball for Daisy, a wordless picture book with big, expressive illustrations that even the youngest of readers could appreciate, all I could think was “She might be too old for this.”

BUT, as frequent readers of this blog will recognize, there is one seemingly constant and unchangeable rule of parenting that I never seem to be able to escape. What’s that rule? The fact that – when I make a parental decision or even when I speak a particularly declarative sentence – I am almost always, always WRONG.

A Ball for Daisy

They're so cute together. I hope nothing ever happens to that ball...

My five year old didn’t just LIKE A Ball of Daisy. She adored it. This little 32-page book, with no words at all, brought out so many emotions from her in a short bedtime reading that I could barely believe it. And, once I finished reading, she was more animated and chatty about what she’d just read than I’d seen her be in a long time. It was one of the best bedtime reads we’d had in weeks and it all came from a book that five minutes earlier that I assumed she wouldn’t like. (My great apologies, Caldecott committee. I shouldn’t have doubted you.)

I think the reason that A Ball for Daisy worked so well for my daughter – and why it probably works so well for other children too – is that it very skillfully takes its reader on an emotional journey. The simple, yet achingly deep story is all about a cute dog named Daisy who LOVES her big red ball. How do we know she loves it? Because, in Raschka’s expressive drawings, you can see Daisy’s face light up and almost hear her tail wag whenever she’s near the ball. The kicker is the beautiful moment when Daisy, while trying to fall asleep, decides to cuddle up to her red ball on the couch. (Trust me. Cuddles go over HUGE with kids. My daughter let out an audible “Aww” at that part.)

Daisy’s owner takes Daisy and her ball on a walk to the park, and Daisy meets a new brown dog, who excitedly jumps in to play with Daisy’s ball. And then the unthinkable happens – the ball pops. It explodes in a little red burst and, suddenly, it’s gone. All that’s left is some red plastic, deflated and broken on the ground. [read the rest of the post…]

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The 16th Elephant and Piggie book by Mo Willems, Happy Pig Day!, is being released today and, in honor of its publication, I spent last night composing this long-winded ode to the Elephant and Piggie series, a collection of easy reader titles that have had a big impact on our household. I’ve wanted to write about Elephant and Piggie for a while now, but it’s hard to know where to begin. Because, at this point, the way I feel about Mo Willems as a children’s book creator is the same way I feel about the Coen Brothers as film directors. It’s not a question of which of their works are good and which are bad. It’s pretty much just a question of measuring excellence.

There Is a Bird on Your Head

There Is a Bird on Your Head

Quick semi-related diversion: In my opinion, the Coen Brothers have never made a bad movie – yes, Ladykillers wasn’t Raising Arizona, but it was way better than most average film comedies (for Hanks’ lead performance alone), and Intolerable Cruelty is an unheralded gem – so, when discussing their films, I mostly just find myself ranking favorites. The same thing happens when I talk about Mo Willems. I simply have yet to meet a Willems title that my family hasn’t enjoyed. So, when looking at his whole body of work, I’ll admit, it turns into a semi-pointless exercise of pure fanboy-esque categorization, with me ranking his titles from “the very best” to the “normal best.” (Ooh, aren’t I a harsh headmaster? Grading his books from “A+” all the way to “A-“.)

That being said, although I love the Pigeon (like many others, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus was our first Willems title), the large bulk of my Mo-love is reserved for the Elephant and Piggie books, a remarkable series for beginning readers. The E&P series, which began in 2007 with There Is a Bird on Your Head!, falls under the category of “easy readers”, a term that generally describes books designed for children who are just starting to read on their own. Easy readers are equal parts illustrations and large, easy-to-read text, and their vocabulary is normally limited to words that appeal to kindergarten to second-grade reading levels.

The Elephant and Piggie books boil down the easy reader to its essential components. The lead characters, Gerald the elephant and Piggie the pig, stand in front of a plain white backdrop, acting out their stories with just their body language and bare minimum of props. The earnest duo – like a more affectionate animal version of Laurel and Hardy – communicate through sound effects and large-text word balloons that make it easy for kids to pick out key words and follow the action. The dialogue-driven E&P books are, actually, a lot like wonderful, condensed one-act plays for kids. There are series of engaging verbal volleys between Elephant and Piggie in each volume, replete with knowing humor, repetition, and facial expressions that really help the young readers understand the inflection and emphasis of the words. [read the rest of the post…]


Before I start my discussion of Mercy Watson to the Rescue – which, by the way, is an exceptionally good book – I’m going to get into an annoyingly pedantic discussion of children’s book categories. Why? Because one big part of collecting books for your child is figuring out what books are appropriate for your kid at what age.

Mercy Watson to the Rescue

Mercy Watson to the Rescue

And I’m not talking about subject matter. Generally, you don’t have to worry about boobs, blood, and salty language until you get into later-age YA fiction. (Unless there are some really awesome picture books that no one has turned me onto yet. Clue me in, guys. I’m cool.) I’m talking about format – how many pages, what’s the text-to-picture ratio, how big is the font, how long is the story, etc. Different formats work best at different stages along your child’s development as a reader. There are lots of categories and terms for these books – some are used often, some less so, some are interchangeable, some are used incorrectly… it can be a huge pain. (If you’re really not interested in reading a brief aside about children’s book types, scan down a bit and I’ll say “BORING PART OVER” when I’m done.)

There are easy readers (sometimes called “I Can Read” books), beginning readers, middle readers, transitional readers, chapter books, young adult books – the list goes on and on. Since my daughter is almost five, we’ve had limited interaction with some of these book types so far, particularly the ones above her current reading level. We have TONS of picture books. (Almost literally tons.) Over the past year, we’ve spent a lot of time getting comfortable with easy readers. And we even have a few younger-skewing YA novels (mostly the works of Roald Dahl) that we’ve read aloud during bedtimes (plus whole shelves of YA novels that can be classified under the “Books My Kid Will One Day Read” category).

If I had to pick a category that we’ve explored the least so far, it’d be chapter books, but I bet that’s going to change a lot over the next year. Chapter books are story-books that are normally targeted at 6 to 10 year olds, and they’re sort of mini large-print novels. They’re short novellas with a relatively large font size and a much higher emphasis on text than images. (All chapter books have illustrations.) They’re the next step up from easy readers and, typically, they’re broken into frequent chapters to help hold the attention span of the reader and make it easier to check in and out if the reader can’t finish the whole book in a single sitting. (As I describe them, they sound a lot like Dan Brown novels… but better.)

BORING PART OVER! – At the moment, our favorite chapter books come from Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series, which began with the fantastic Mercy Watson to the Rescue. In the world of chapter books, the Mercy Watson series skews pretty young – Chris Van Dusen produces so many expressive, polished, retro-styled paintings to accompany each book that, at times, they resemble longer picture books – but the stories are so simple yet sophisticated that many different age groups can enjoy the series. An eight-year-old would get a kick out of reading them and, I can attest from past experience, a four-year-old loves having them read to her. A lot of that has to do with Kate DiCamillo’s talent as a writer.

Once you start collecting books for your children – or even regularly checking books out for them at your library – you will very, very quickly start to develop a list of “must-read” authors. These are the authors who are so good so consistently that you’ll find yourself going back to them again and again. We have a couple of must-reads at our house. It’s very hard to go wrong with Mo Willems, Maurice Sendak, Lane Smith, Julia Donaldson, William Steig, Doreen Cronin… the list goes on and on. Kate DiCamillo is definitely on our “must-read” author list too. [read the rest of the post…]

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I’ve spent a lot of time hunting down books to add to my daughter’s collection and, hands down, one of the best parts of that experience is stumbling upon a book that I’ve never heard of before and slowly and suddenly realizing… “Oh, this is a good one.” You just get hit with this wave on unexpected pleasure, the sort of heady ego-boost that comes from accidentally finding yourself exposed to, what seems like, secret knowledge. “Oh, I’ve found a very, very good book here. And I didn’t hear about it from a friend or from a book review or a librarian… I found it MYSELF. I’m the person who gets to tell everyone I know about this one.” Don’t ask me why. But it gives me a little shot of endorphins, which is really, really sad.

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies

Bats at the Library

This was my experience with being introduced to Bats at the Library by Brian Lies, a completely sensational picture book, all about a charming colony of bats expressing their love for their local library. Remember that smug little sense of self-importance I spoke of earlier? I was totally awash in that sensation when my daughter and I discovered Bats at the Library in the remains of a very picked-over children’s section in a going out-of-business bookstore back in March. And, trust me, that hipster-esque ego charge of finding a book that “you probably haven’t heard of” becomes even more sad when you later realize that, even though you’ve never heard of it personally, the book in question was a best-seller (12 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list) and a major award winner (won the 2010 Bill Martin, Jr. Picture Book Award, among other prizes). It’s like bragging that you found this great new little boutique called “Target” that you just can’t wait to show to all your friends.

But, regardless of my lame personal hang-ups and constant need for affirmation, Bats at the Library has become a big favorite in our household on its merits alone. The basic premise is simple – a group of bored bats are excited to discover that a window has been left open at the town’s library, so the colony heads over for an impromptu “Bat Night at the library!” The good-natured, excitable bats (think Stellaluna, only cuter) have a grand old time, playing with the overhead projectors, splashing around in the water fountain, exploring pop-up books, and reading, reading, reading. Lies is a masterful artist – his playful, detail-packed paintings remind me of the great David Wiesner – and, in Bats at the Library, his verse is almost just as equally well-executed. His rhyming lines balance the bats’ cheeky excitement with a real reverence for the pleasures of reading. To quote the bats at the end of their adventure: [read the rest of the post…]


Finding good nonfiction books for children under five is a tricky business. Granted, there are a lot of DK Publishing “visual guides” to different subjects and, when you weed out the glorified sticker books, some of them are pretty good. (We’re particularly fond of an “Oceans” book we picked up at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium.) I’m a big believer in having lots of big, picture-filled reference works or coffee table books lying around the house, just waiting for a kid to start flipping through them. Provided that the subject matter is appropriate – “The Visual Guide to Nazi Panzer Tanks” or “Autopsies in Detroit: A History” should probably be kept on higher shelves – I think those over-sized, glossy photo books act as a really alluring windows out into the world for little kids – even though, for the most part, the text from those photo books is going to be completely lost on them, thanks to both its reading level and often miniscule font size.

Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins

Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins

Even the DK books are fairly hard to read. They’re great to browse or to search for a specific fact, but the text can be small and dense and, for a first grade or younger child, who is more used to the traditional picture book reading experience, trying to sit down and read what is, ostensibly, a reference book is going to be next to impossible. (Trust me, I make reference books for a living. They’re not made to be read in one sitting.)

So it’s rare (in my limited experience) to find nonfiction works that can actually appeal to young readers in the same way as a traditional picture book, and that’s why I hold Steve Jenkins in such high regard. Jenkins is an artist and author who makes the coolest science books for kids you’ve ever seen. It’s probably not even accurate to call them simply “science books.” Jenkins is, first and foremost, a hell of an artist, and he creates these intricately rad paper collages to illustrate the wonders of the natural world. He’s an artist-biologist, but his picture books also have this very specific and very kid-focused way that he presents his facts, which makes them perfect for young readers.

His nature books don’t read like encyclopedias – they read like books, really engaging picture books, and you can tell from even just his titles that he knows how to hook in young readers. His books include such titles as What Do You Do When Something Wants To Eat You?; What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?; How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly?; and Biggest, Strongest, Fastest; to name a few. Our favorite Jenkins’ book is the amazingly-titled Never Smile at a Monkey: And 17 Other Important Things to Remember, and it’s a staple in our home library. [read the rest of the post…]