Best New Picture Books to Spark Conversation and Language Learning

I’ve promised to get out some lists of my favorites, whether tech toys, games, pretend play toys or books. Well I just love hanging out at the book store and visiting old friends and seeing new ones on the shelves. I guess if I had to analyze myself I would say that I’m attracted to picture books that have a seemingly simple story but lots of depth in terms of fantastic vocabulary, rhyme, content and/or conversation starters. AND I love illustrators that make the story come alive but leave some concepts to the imagination and room for descriptions and analysis. Here are some favorite PAL Award winners:

Double Take! A New Look at Opposites by Susan Hood and Illustrated by Jay Fleck. Double take is exactly what kids AND adults do as they read through Susan Hood’s latest picture book, packed with language learning, and clever fun! Susan Hood’s books inspire thoughtful conversation, description, comparisons and verbal perspective. Fleck’s vintage illustrations delightfully depict  opposites, some more subtle than others that kids loved to discover. Beginning with a simple in/out, asleep/awake set of opposites,  the author lets us know “while those pairs are plain as DAY and NIGHT, not every duo is so BLACK and WHITE.” The perspective changes for near/far or strong/weak, depending on what character is added to claim the title. The elephant looks strongest until the whale shows up! “Now just when you think you’ve mastered that notion, watch relative words set matters in motion.” Take a look from a different point of view, up close or far away, and see how dashes and dots become a butterfly. I loved reading this book to a 7, 9, and 11 year-old and watched them try to describe the message here. “It’s good to look in a different direction!” said the 11 year-old. Talking about perspective, point of view and comparisons was a rich exchange of ideas and could even be applied to how we view friends and classmates that might be different than we are.

Ally-Saurus & the Very Bossy Monster by Richard Torrey. I was excited to see the return of Ally-Saurus,  in Richard Torrey’s new book, “Ally-Saurus & the Very Bossy Monster,” as she was a favorite in my speech therapy sessions as kids LOVED her freedom to be creative and imaginative! Now our little girl with the dinosaur spirit picks up her play in this new story as she “stomped, roared, danced and laughed” until she and her buddies were stopped by the new girl on the block. Every activity was ruled by Maddie, precluded by “You have to…you can’t …you mustn’t,” taking the fun and spontaneity out of pretend play. Finally Ally-Saurus stood up to this bossy newcomer and set her own rules that included, “any, whatever we want, and super” as they took on their dinosaur and master of ceremonies personas to prepare for an amazing monster dance.Torrey’s newest book, again provides a wonderful story to stimulate conversation about different kinds of friends, how to deal with a bossy kid, inclusion, standing up for yourself, respecting differences and more. As a speech pathologist,I find his stories inspire conversation on many levels about how to use your words to deal with a tough situation common to kids.

What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamaka, Illustrated by Mae Besom. This is

the story of a child who wakes up one day surprised by his idea, tagging along behind him, not knowing where it came from or what to do with it. I love the beautiful descriptive vocabulary used to describe this companion as they journey through the story–strange, fragile, magical, silly, weird, waste of time, different or crazy. Each word invites a conversation about why the little boy could be thinking that. What happens throughout the story? His dream grows, they become friends, he tends to it, believes in it, and comes to love it into taking flight, to change the world! Click here

Big Words for Little Geniuses by Susan and James Patterson and illustrated by Hsinping Pan. I first learned of this book when it was being promoted on the Today Show. I loved the concept as I am tired of picture books that dumb down vocabulary for kids. This may be the opposite as it is an ABC book filled with multi-syllabic (9 syllables in the first entry for A) that have fascinating, silly and whacky definitions with playful ilustrations to get the imagination going. “Arachibutyrophobia” (spell check apparently hasn’t heard of it either) is not a word I learned in my family as we loved peanut butter so describing someone with “an alarming fear of peanut butter sticking to the top of the mouth” wasn’t necessary. At first you might think why would I want to read these long words to my kids? It’s actually a wonderfully engaging way to practice reading skills. Each word is divided by syllables of 2-4 letters with those accented in capital letters AND they are just plain fun to say! Which words sound like what they mean? “Catamampus” sounds like “tilted, diagonal, or just a little bit crooked,” right? I learned so many new words–I might just be a “Fliggertigibbet.” You’ll have to look that one up. As I progressed through the book I felt like many of the words sounded like their definition. It’s loads of fun to read with a child. Click here

Mighty, Mighty Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld. WE start our day again in the construction site with trucks stretching and rolling out of bed to discover a task too big for the five-truck crew. “Cement Mixer is thinking fast, he gives his horn a blaring blast!” Rinker’s tight, playful rhymes generate a clear message of fun and bounce for little ones as the story adds a helpful truck to each of the starting crew. “Skid’s breaker bit blasts rocks so Dozer can make his way to clear the rocks while Excavator and Backhoe team up to dig the trench, set the pipe and cover the hole. A wonderful tale of cooperation and teamwork, this book would be a wonderful lesson to share with a class about working together, using everyone’s talents. Click here

Be Brave Little One by Marianne Richmond. What a sweet story that explores what it means to be brave, a mother’s dream for her child. Sharing the different sides of bravery, “Be brave to step up and try something new. Be brave to step out when it isn’t for you.”  I love how the author sees bravery in participating and sitting still when you’ve had enough. The contrasting messages are ripe for conversation starters with kids challenging them with all sides of bravery and to “be brave to be with your feelings, each one: the happy and sad, the silly and glum.” This book can show kids that bravery can be in the biggest most outlandish situations as well as the quiet, contemplative ones. That’s a big concept for little ones. Click here

 

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