Picture books are a great way to read books and have fun as well. You not only read a book (and can read several in a day: Think of a tailor and some flies and “seven in one blow”), but you can learn something. Like how to make pancakes out of your pants, or what britches are, and even that some plants need snow to help them grow. And not only that, you can just have a delightful story you can solo read or read to a group or individual child. Some recent reads that will fit any need, from humor to siblings to women’s rights to gardening and family, are below.
Farmer Pettson wants to make birthday pancakes for Findus, his talking cat. But things, of course, do not work out as planned. And of course, things end up with one of the neighbors spreading the rumor that Pettson was trying to make pancakes with his pants. Pancakes for Findus (Findus and Pettson) by Sven Nordqvist is a “house that Jack built” concept that keeps snowballing and rolls down the mountain (well, if there was a mountain.) Each part of this, “I just want to make pancakes for my cat for one of his three birthdays” story, is more absurd than the last. The idea of things makes no sense to the outsider, but of course it makes sense to Farmer Pettson and even cranky Findus. Old school illustrations and old world feel, makes this a mix of classical and modern sensibilities and folktale. It is silly and fun, but not for everyone. Nordqvist had fun making things, or so I would hope, but there is a lot going on in a longer picture book format meaning it might not be for the very young reader, but works well for the older crowd.
Farmer Pettson was different, but so were the Van Buren sisters, Addie and Gussie. They were raised to “ignore stuffy rules about women.” And in J.F. Fox’s The Van Buren Sisters vs. the Pants Police picture book (read via an online reader copy, though currently available), we see what they did. They skirted the law by wearing britches while doing a motorbike cross country ride. They were raised to be strong, independent, do well in sports and even boxed. They are cleverly illustrated by Anna Kwan who brings to life how the sisters would become part of the women’s movement, help bring fashions to be more inclusive, become a lawyer and a pilot who would know Amelia Earhart. Extras at the end show a bit “behind the scenes” of what was happening to women and the sisters at the time. Delightfully fun, it can be adapted to multiple ages, but is aimed at an older audience.
What is not odd, is the title A Garden Called Home by Jessica J. Lee and Elaine Chen. This is a lovely story about a young girl and her mother and how nature brings them together. Part love story of home, and part making home where you are, Lee and Chen’s delightfully sweet, brightly illustrated and perfectly detailed story is a gem. The young narrator and her immigrant mother go to visit her aunt in her mothers home country. Here the two connect in ways they do not at home, and this gives the girl an idea on how to connect to her mother back home. The beauty of nature is all around us, and regardless if there is snow or flat plains, the outdoors can make a house into a wonderful home. The artwork is what really draws things together by being colorful, cute and not overly detailed but not skimping either. The extras and glossary at the end are a nice addition allowing the book to grow a bit with your child, but is not “over the head” of a younger reader/listener