Days are shorter, the kids are going to bed earlier. To ease the transition from summer, we found kid-worthy fiction and non-fiction that will feed their imaginations and their minds during bedtime reading and cuddles.
FICTION (picture books)
Be Good, Peanut Butter” by Nicole Helget, illustrated by Erin McClean (River Horse Children’s Books, $18.99)
Minnesotan Helget, author of books for children and adults, is a manuscript coach and consultant who lives on a farm in southern Minnesota. Peanut Butter is a dog who finds himself alone for the first time when his family rushes out the door for the first day of school. Bored and curious, he sneaks out of the house in search of adventure, encountering new animals, exploring new places, smelling new smells. He even makes a friend. When he realizes the day is almost over, he must race home before the kids get there and find out he hasn’t been a good dog. Illustrator McClean, who lives in Northern Ireland, loves drawing cute, energetic characters and incorporating bright colors and traditional textures into her work. (Publication Oct. 4)
“Finding Bunny” by Renee Bolla, illustrations by Jess Bircham (Independently published, $16.99)
Nothing creates more drama in a household than a child who’s lost a stuffed animal. Elle loves her best friend, Bunny, but when Mom leaves and Dad is in charge, Bunny is nowhere to be found. Just when Elle’s tears begin, Mom comes home and takes Bunny out of the washing machine. This is a charming story that every kid who loves a stuffy can relate to. The illustrations are clean and simple, suited for little ones. Minneapolis-based Bolla left her career as a retail executive (most recently at Target) to follow her dream of becoming a self-published author. She’s writing books for her three daughters, each unique for the girl’s personality and real-life experiences. “Finding Bunny” is her debut.
“Saving the Night” story by David Hietpas, written by Matty Caron, illustrated by Bill Tierney (BookBaby, $32.99 hardcover)
Matty Caron, who grew up in St. Paul, tells the story of a young Prince who’s afraid of the dark and shares his adventures with a mushroom, a daisy, an eagle and a wolf, all of whom depend on the dark to thrive. It’s a story told to the debut author by his late friend, David Hietpas, 30 years ago. It’s a slightly complicated story for the littlest ones, but those past kindergarten should enjoy it. Bill Tierney’s paintings are almost like photographs and make for a very pretty book.
“Sprinkles” by Allison Wood, illustrated by Samuel Waddle (Independently published, $20.99 hardcover, $10.99 paperback)
Julia and her dad take a walk to the bakery on a beautiful day to get doughnuts before Grandma comes to visit. The baker lets Julia pick one just for herself and she chooses “the pretty, pink, super-sprinkly” one. At home, she eats her treat and there are sprinkles everywhere, even on her cat. Just in time, she and her dad clean up, and when Grandma arrives she’s carrying a big box of doughnuts — with sprinkles. Wood is an elementary English Learner teacher at St. Paul Public Schools. Waddle’s playful illustrations complement the light-hearted text.
SOME WITH A MESSAGE
Minneapolis-based Free Spirit Publishing is an imprint of Teacher Create Materials and the leading publisher of learning tools that support young peoples’ social, emotional, and educational needs. Three Free Spirit books published this year ($14.99-$16.99) fulfill this mission.
“You Wonder All the Time,” written by child-development expert Deborah Farmer Kris and illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin, is the newest addition to the All the Time series. Drawing on questions from real kids (Where do colors go at night?), the book is written from the perspective of an adult speaking to a child, helping young children know they are deserving of love through life’s ups and downs.
“Sometimes When I’m Bored” by award-winning psychologist Deborah Serani, illustrated by Kyra Teis, adds to Free Spirit’s Sometimes When collection with this answer to that complaint, “I am bored.” The text describes a child’s experiences with boredom and loneliness and, along with the main character, young children learn how to recognize boredom and see opportunities for imaginative play or new activities.
“We Accept No” by Lydia Bowers, illustrated by Isabel Munoz, is the fourth book in the We Say What’s Okay series.
This one teaches respect for personal boundaries, following Jamin, who is upset when his friend Zakiya doesn’t want to share a “great big extra-squeezy hug” at the end of the day. Parents and teachers can use the story to teach why accepting “no” for an answer is important, what kids can do with their sad and angry feelings, and what they can do when someone doesn’t want a hug.
Another Minneapolis-based publisher, Beaming Books, has a similar title, “Hattie Hates Hugs” ($17.99), in which a little girl attending a family reunion wants to play horseshoes with her aunt and uncle but older relatives keep hugging her.
Her stomach “squirms” when she’s hugged, and finally Great-Grandma helps her use clear body language — a raised hand — to indicate no more hugs. She asserts her right to consent or refuse physical touch — and she even wins at horseshoes.
Written by Sara Hovorka, illustrated by Heather Brockman Lee. Beaming Books is an imprint of 1517 Media, dedicated to helping children thrive emotionally, socially, and spiritually.
“Be A Bridge” by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Nabila Adani (Carolrhoda Books,$19.99), focuses on two children who go to school eager to find ways they can be a bridge to others.
They greet a new student, and kindness ripples through the class. Students invite classmates to join in at music, they speak up when another classmate teased and they listen respectfully when someone else is speaking. They comfort a friend when things go wrong. The day ends with an art project that builds connections between students and their community. At the back of the book is a Bridge Builder’s Pledge, as well as Bridge Builder activities and more books for building bridges.
The author and illustrator’s pervious collaboration was “Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship.”