Children’s Book News: November 2019

November, our Thanksgiving month, is a time when we reflect on the many gifts for which we are grateful. The children’s books below focus on a few of these gifts.

Because book cover


by Mo Willems, illustrated by Amber Ren

Suggested ages: 3-7 years

There is no doubt that the gift of music engenders a sense of thankfulness in us all. It inspires, comforts, and adds joy and rhythm to all of our lives. Because reflects this truth but even more importantly, with simple wording, it tells the story of how each experience in life is due to a previous one, whether through one’s own determination and hard work or because of the lives and work of others or simply “because.”

The interconnectedness unfolded by this story is represented by a golden swish of a musical staff and notes across Ren’s illustrations. And so Franz Schubert’s music, inspired by Beethoven, and an extra ticket given to a young girl, leads in time to the creation of more beautiful music. But that’s not the end of the story – for the new music inspires another. Willems’ book, in turn, is a true gift to children illustrating the links between us all. And perhaps it will inspire another chain of events in a myriad of ways.

Alma and How She Got Her Name - Book Cover

Alma and How She Got Her Name

written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Suggested ages: 3-7 years

Little Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela wonders why her name is so long. She can never get it to fit on her writing paper. When she queries her father in frustration, he relates the story of each of her names.  In doing so, Alma is introduced to her grandmother, her aunt and many more relatives, learning a bit about what made each unique. She discovers that each, in their own way, has flavored her own personality and interests. Finally, her father comes to her first name, Alma, and he lovingly tells her that she is “the first and only Alma.” She will make her own story.

Our feelings of gratefulness for family – particularly for our extended family – is often an integral part of Thanksgiving celebrations. This captivating picture book, which received a 2019 Caldecott Honor award, mirrors the significance of family. Martinez-Neal, the book’s creator, was inspired by her own name’s story, beginning in Peru where she was born.

charlie and mouse book cover

Charlie & Mouse

by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

Suggested ages: 4-8 years

This first book of an early reader series is a Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner for 2018. The reader is introduced to Charlie & Mouse, two endearing young brothers. Each of the four chapters is a story onto itself but with connecting strands to the others. The language and flavor of the stories is reminiscent of Arnold Lobel ‘s classic Frog and Toad series. Charlie and Mouse’s relationship is a positive one that reflects both understanding and a bit of mischievousness. Light humor is infused throughout supported by expressive, detailed illustrations, which add additional substance to the stories. A sibling with whom one can share day-to-day adventures is certainly something to be thankful for!