Full of sunshine and cheer, these four picture books focus on helping children gain courage, confidence and self-esteem. These spirit-lifting stories will awaken young readers to the wonders of nature, and they just may become emboldened to embrace their unique qualities and step outside to make a mark on the world.
Written by Jeanne Willis, Stardust is a perspective-changing story about the importance of self-worth. The book’s young female narrator longs for attention, but she can’t compete with her overachieving older sister—the star who excels at everything. Her big sis is a better knitter, the winner of the big costume contest, and she was also the one who found mom’s wedding ring after it goes missing. Yep, definitely star material. The narrator feels overlooked and underappreciated until Granddad tells her a story about the universe and the way stars are created. He assures her that she’s as bright as her sister. “You just shine in different ways,” he explains. Briony May Smith adds dazzle to Willis’ prose through lively illustrations of the narrator—a spunky figure with red hair—on imaginary travels with Granddad in outer space. As Willis demonstrates in this winning story, establishing a sense of self-esteem in children is critical from the get-go. Stardust can help get the conversation started.
In Pat Zietlow Miller’s heartening story Remarkably You, the author pays tribute to the traits that make people unique and emphasizes themes of acceptance. A skillful poet, she packs nuggets of wisdom into nimble rhymes: “No matter your volume, your age, or your size, / YOU have the power to be a surprise. / You have the know-how. / You’re savvy and smart. / You could change the world. / Are you willing to start?” Illustrated with nuance by Patrice Barton, Remarkably You features a diverse lineup of youngsters, each with myriad talents and strengths, who come together to forge friendships. Through beautiful scenes of the kids at work and at play, Barton depicts the different ways children can contribute and enhances the story’s uplifting mood. It’s never too early to encourage children to own who they are. A book that can serve as a confidence-booster in the classroom, Remarkably You reminds readers to appreciate and cultivate the qualities that make us all special.
Sure to ignite a sense of possibility in readers, Shelley Thomas’ poetic new offering, From Tree to Sea, celebrates the pleasures of getting outside and the lessons that children can glean from their surroundings. Touching down in a variety of locations including the desert, the ocean and the rocky heights of a steep mountainside, this appealing picture book follows adventurous girls and boys as they make exciting discoveries about their environments. Throughout the book, Thomas plays up the aspects of nature that can provide comfort and assurance to young readers. Her accessible text makes the title a perfect read-along: “Trees show me how to stand tall. / Even when the wind / tries to blow me down, / I dance with the breeze. / I do not fall.” Filled with creative rhymes and arresting imagery, her verses capture the multifaceted quality of the great outdoors. The book’s colorful, vibrant illustrations, contributed by artist Christopher Silas Neal, will intrigue young explorers. Simple on the surface, this sweet story imparts important truisms about the planet we call home.
Nature’s many valuable messages are also at the center of The Amazing Idea of You. Featuring poetic text by Charlotte Sullivan Wild, this book looks at the cycles of nature through the eyes of a young girl. From a bird’s egg to a caterpillar’s cocoon, the story demonstrates how life abounds with transformation, potential and mystery. Apple in hand, the girl thinks about the secret inside the fruit—“the idea of a tree” contained within its seeds. When she starts an orchard of her own, she bears witness to the results: “Where you once planted seeds, now an orchard teems with creatures singing, springing, fluttering, winging.” Artist Mary Lundquist provides warm, wonderful depictions of earth’s busy inhabitants such as leaping frogs, a colorful butterfly and a waddling goose with her goslings. Wild’s accessible verses reveal important connections between birth, growth and renewal. From start to finish, this is a first-rate introduction to the workings of the world and the magic of sprouting things.