imgres-1I’ve gotta say there’s not much that gets me quite as excited as discovering a fantastic new children’s picture book and usually the author behind it! In the last few years, here are some stand-outs that pack some powerful messages of overcoming fear, encouraging others, finding friends among those a little different than ourselves and doing our best:

Author Susan Hood turns out to be a neighbor of mine, introduced through a fellow speech-language pathologist. Formerly an editor for Scholastic, Susan has taken off on her own and produces one gem after another. My favorite book to give little girls (and tell children’s store owners about) is “The Tooth Mouse,” the adorable story of Sophie, the little mouse who aspires to succeed the aging Tooth Mouse, who wants to retire. Susan’s “Rooting For You” is about a little seed embedded in the soil who refuses to venture out,  grow up, sprout, break new ground, go toward the light, and bloom. With the help of his cast of new friends–worms, ants, beetles and spiders–this seed blooms into the beautiful sunflower he is intended to be.

 The Pout-Pout Fish series by Deborah Diesen ( check out her latest, baby book, “Sweet Dreams, Pout-Pout Fish”) is a wonderful collection of our grumpy, grouchy fish who turns himself around in several adventures.  I’m not sure where I picked up my first Pout-Pout Fish book but was so in love that I wrote to the author. Subsequently I went on vacation and came back to a lovely hand written letter from Debbie Diesen with some little paper Pout-Pout activities. I remember telling Debbie that her book will be on the New York Times bestsellers list and guess what? It was. We even exchanged notes about the existence of a real pout-pout fish which I happened to see on a trip to our local aquarium. She is a former school librarian which explains all the rich vocabulary she includes in her books, refusing to “dumb down” books for kids.

Just last week I was reading “Two Speckled Eggs” by Jennifer K. Mann, one of my recent favorite discoveries! A tale about finding a friend who might be a little different, this book sparked a long conversation with a 2nd grade boy who had been bullied the year before. He said, “I’m different.” to which I said, “Why?” and he went on to tell me he was the best reader in class and other positive characteristics he was proud of. He obviously got the point that “different” can be “good.”

Let’s be sure to take a minute while reading a favorite picture book and talk about it, letting the lessons, experiences and feelings sink in for further conversation.