I like when picture books gently teach valuable life lessons in a way children can understand. Often, these books can be touchstones for discussion. Not to mention, they are good reminders for the adults who are reading them. I hope these book choices inspire dialogue and new understandings.
Valuable Life Lessons in Picture Books
Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed) by Ged Adamson
Life Lesson: Special things lose their value if too frequent
Ava loves the rainbow so much that she wishes it could stay forever. So it does. What happens, as happens when one wishes for such special things things to last forever like birthdays and such, is that the special loses it’s value. Soon the rainbow because background noise, not worthy of attention. The rainbow and Ava learn an important that it’s okay to have special things only occasionally. And, that after it rains, and only then, the rainbow will return making it “a rare and precious sight indeed.”
What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom
Life Lesson: Even if you might fail, take a chance because it could be worth it
You’ll love this abstract story about a very familiar and real situation — fear of failure. The author personifies the concept of a chance as a yellow origami butterfly. When the boy gets a chance, he feels unsure so the chance left. The next time the chance comes, he tries to grab it but misses. So, in his feelings of failure, he starts ignoring the chances that come his way. And the chances stop coming around anymore. The boy regrets his decision and hopes to find a chance again and prepares to be brave, even just for a moment. In fact, the boy is so brave, he goes looking for a chance. It’s a big one but he’s ready to grab hold!
“I now see that when I hold back, I miss out. And I don’t want to miss out. There’s just so much I want to see and do an discover. // So what do you do with a chance? You take it . . . because it just might be the start of something incredible.“
My Lazy Cat by Christine Roussey
Life Lesson: Slow down and smell the roses
Life is meant to be savored at a leisurely pace… I love this message! My Lazy Cat is about an over-scheduled little girl who doesn’t slow down until her cat, Boomer, helps her spend a day enjoying each other and nature. I can’t get enough of the whimsical illustrations in this book.
What’s My Superpower? by Aviaq Johnston, illustrated by Tim Mack
Life Lesson: We all have something unique and special to offer the world
Read this encouraging story with your kids to help them realize that not everyone knows what they’re good at right away. Nalvana wondered what it would be like to have superpowers. She’s ready, too — she wears a cape and goggles — but she also notices other kids superpowers. Like Davidee who can run faster than a Ski-Doo and Maata who can fly so high on the swings. Nalvana’s mom reassures her that they will figure out her special talent one day. She’s beginning to get discouraged until her mom points out that Nalvana’s superpower is noticing other people and making them feel good about themselves. Muted blue and yellow lovely illustrations.
Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal, illustrated by Holly Hatam
Life Lesson: You are wonderful just the way you are
Give this picture book as a gift to a girl who is celebrating a life transition (birthday or graduation). It’s an encouraging love letter to help your special girl know that she’s wonderful, smart, and beautiful.
Dave’s Cave by Frann Preston-Gannon
Life Lesson: The grass is actually not greener on the other side
Written in cave-man short sentences, follow Dave as he learns a valuable lesson about appreciating what he already has. Dave likes his cave. But he’s not happy thinking there might be a better cave with better rocks. “Dave want new cave.” He searches and finds lots of other caves but none are quite right. It turns out his old cave is perfect. Home. This simple life-lesson picture book could also be a good early reader choice!
Love by Matt de La Pena
Life Lesson: Love is many things
Each page shows a beautiful illustration and description of the many activities and feelings that love can be. “Love, too, is the smell of crashing waves…” or “And it’s love in each deep crease of your grandfather’s face as he lowers himself onto an overturned bucket to fish.” Books like this, that don’t have a story line, often work well in the classroom for mentor text and make beautiful gift books for graduation or other occasions.
The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler
Life Lesson: Take care of the environment
Mostly black and white illustrations make the focus of the story really pop — the yellow digger who carefully cares for a blue flower. Then Digger is devastated when another truck plows over the beautiful flower. Fortunately, he finds seeds left behind. He plants those and waits . . . I love the contrast of the big truck and delicate plant as well as the message of spending time taking care of nature.
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