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Picture books are a delightful way to enjoy the beauty of the paintings on each page. These books can be brief with few or no words or they can have very involved storylines. Many times, these books have profound messages or concepts to be learned and can be very clever, unique and ingenious. Other times they are just to be enjoyed. I have compiled some picture books that involve all of these ideas and can be enjoyed by reading out loud. They are best for ages four through eight, unless otherwise indicated.

Molly & Mae: A Friendship Journey, by Danny Parker, and gorgeously painted with hues of amber and citrus by Freya Blackwood, is a story of the highs and lows of friendship. Two little girls meet at a train station. They immediately bond and friendship develops. But while traveling with their families, disagreements entangle the two who then separate. After realizing their mistakes and missing the friendship that was building, they apologize and continue their travels. Be sure to check out the end-pages that begins with daybreak and ends with night. 

Home in the Rain, by Bob Graham, is a celebration of family. This sweet story begins as Francie goes out the door with her mom after saying goodbye to Grandma. They have a long distance to go and the rain “hit the highway” and sloshed and splashed everywhere. Francie wonders when her dad will get home from working way out at sea. She writes dad, mom and her own name on the fogged-up windows but she wants to write the soon arriving baby sister’s name. Mom is about to figure out this special name so Francie can write it. And so, will you. Graham is a master at weaving words and painting his beautiful watercolor scenes to blend a story of love and family.

Owl Bat/Bat Owl, by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, is a wordless book where you can actually turn the book upside down to see the vantage point of the bats that are hanging below the tree limb where the owls are stationed. You can see from the expressions of these animals that they want the branch just for their own family. But the children desire to learn more about who’s living on their branch and acceptance is just on the other side. One of the great advantages of wordless books is it gives the reader, or observer, a chance to tell the story. These delightful illustrations were done digitally.

On the Spot (A Book You Don’t Just Read, You Play), by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Lea Redmond, and brightly illustrated by Sanne Loo, lets you, the reader, help write the story. There are actually several “mini” stories in the book. As you begin a story, you’ll soon discover some main components missing from the storyline. You can either select a sticker from the back of the book or add your own object making the story quite silly and very fun. Watch out! You may find an author amongst your family! 

Midnight at the Zoo, by Faye Hanson, is a spectacular event that happens only during the deepest part of night. When Max and Mia are left behind from the rest of the students on their zoo trip, they realize that all the animals aren’t just slumbering. They are waiting for midnight when the celebration begins. These pages explode with color and completely fill many of the open-page illustrations. You will find yourself pouring over each page because there is so much to see and discover! The illustrations were drawn with pencil then colored digitally. The end-pages display great detail of the locations of each animal.

The Queen’s Handbag, by Steve Antony, has a sneaky swan taking the British queen’s purse right off her shoulder as it swoops down to her royal carriage. From there the swan takes flight throughout some of England’s landmarks until the queen is able to capture the swan and retrieve her handbag. You’ll chuckle to see her modes of transportation as she chases the bird. There is information found at the back concerning the landmarks. The colors used are mostly blues, reds and blacks and stand out amongst the white background.

Thank You, Mr. Panda, also by Steve Antony, is similar to his other very popular books: “Please, Mr. Panda” and “I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda”. These books are all so well written because he keeps the storyline simple with few words on each page. But the message is great and children of all ages can use more politeness in their reactions to others. In this case, he has gifts for all his friends. But each gift is lacking in something particular that friend would need, such as long socks for the octopus. However, all the way through, nice Lemur exclaims “It’s the thought that counts”. The color on every page is bright and once again drawn with much white background making the animals stand out. Be sure to check out the end-pages!

How it Feels to be a Boat (Through Smooth and Stormy Seas!) by James Kwan, is a metaphor on life’s adventures and what you can expect with the outcome. The concept is a bit complex for younger children but still very valuable to help them understand as they go through difficulties. It’s a very valuable book for kids of all ages to help them understand that life can be like a boat going through

smooth and then rough seas. The illustrations, made from several layers of graphite renderings and watercolor textures which were combined and colored digitally, are wonderful and move this boat right along.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors, by Drew Daywalt, and illustrated with vibrant color and humor by Adam Rex, is the perfect read aloud with all the implications of a battle ready to burst. Daywalt used his text in such a way to help the reading become even funnier as Rock attempts to battle anything that comes his way. The text becomes large and bold as Rock takes on each challenger. Rex has marvelously created each object with such a sense of humor, kids will giggle on the outset. Feel like having a laugh-out-loud moment? Read out loud this engagingly fun read!