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Keep kids thinking all year long with Sasquatch Books' lovely, educational reads

Photo: amanda tipton/Flickr

Picture books are a fantastic way to keep kids thrilled about reading.


The first day of school has given way to familiar routine. Now that your fam has settled in a bit, why not treat yourselves to some picture books that build on key concepts and curricula? As the days get shorter, snuggle up with stories that can keep kids thinking all year long. Reading that's relevant but also entertaining is a great way to hammer home the joys and rewards of literacy. 

For preschool through second grade, I love recommending local Washington artist Hannah Viano’s gorgeous alphabet books. S is for Salmon pairs cut paper art with whimsical yet scientifically correct descriptions of nature from the Pacific Northwest. Viano’s latest book, B is for Bear, covers flora, fauna, geography, and weather from all over the country, a universally appealing alphabetical exploration. Both books reinforce concepts like alphabetical order, beginning letter sounds, and respect for nature. To go above and beyond, use the books to start discussions about classification and other scientific ideas: Which letters represent living things? Which are animals? Which are mammals? Which are insects? Now you’re into sorting, taxonomy, and more!

Learning to tell time? Studying the continents and countries in geography? Calculating elapsed time and learning about time zones? Delving into cultures from around the world? For any and all of these concepts, the beautiful At the Same Moment Around the World by Clothide Perrin will bring extra delight and understanding. Kids and adults alike will enjoy thinking about what happens at the same time in all the different time zones featured. The fold-out map is a good jumping-off point for researching other countries and cultures.

While I appreciate that the cover and title of When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt by Molly Bang echo the popular perennial about emotions, When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry…, I can’t help but wish the title and cover gave more of a peek inside, because this isn't just a book for the school counselor’s office! A class does an art project about their favorite trees, and students’ reactions to Sophie’s non-literal interpretation of a beloved tree initially make her doubt her perception of the world and her self-expression. The teacher gently guides the class (and the reader) to appreciate unique vision and creativity. The trees – and the class – leap off the page in glorious, exuberant color, serving as perfect inspiration for your kids' own art projects about favorite places and things as well as exploration of masterpieces that use color and form unexpectedly, like those of Matisse, Van Gogh, and Picasso. 

You may have already thought of the Larry Gets Lost series to supplement geography lessons, since the books follow Pete and his dog Larry on tours of famous sites in US cities like Seattle, Portland, Washington, DC, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York City, as well as the states of Texas and Alaska. The most recent Larry books are also perfect to prepare for or debrief from field trips to a natural history museum or an aquarium: Larry Gets Lost in Prehistoric Times and Larry Gets Lost Under the Sea. John Skewes’s art and story, with writing from Andrew Fox and Eric Ode, provide plenty of great details that you can use to relate to exhibits. 

Elementary audiences might also enjoy Bigfoot Does Not Like Birthday Parties by Eric Ode, illustrated by Jaime Temairik. This story about a cryptid whose whole town throws him a party, despite his wishes, is a perfect prompt for conversations about classmates’ birthday celebrations, empathy, and silver linings. Because it introduces many of the citizens of the fictional town of Mossy Pockets, it is a good fit with lesson plans about community. For older students, the internal rhyme, alliteration, humor, and suspenseful use of repetition work well as examples for writing workshops. 

Tegan Tigani is a Children’s Book Editor-at-Large for Sasquatch Books' children’s imprint, Little Bigfoot, as well as a children’s book buyer for local independent bookstore Queen Anne Book Company and a private enrichment tutor.

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