You’re Mean, Lily Jean (Frieda Wishinsky, author. Kady MacDonald Denton, illustrator. North Winds Press, 2009)
This is a gem of a picture book from a well-known Canadian author. The girls and I finally borrowed it from the library again after reading it for the first time a few years ago. Our second sign-out did not disappoint and I’ve taken better notice of its humour and the engaging illustrations. Snooty Lily Jean moves to the neighbourhood and immediately breaks up a sister playmate duo. Carly, the youngest sister, is intentionally left out, so agrees to anything that Lily Jean suggests so that she can play with the older girls. Carly is delegated to the role of the baby that crawls, the cow that moos and eats grass and the dog that sits under the table and says ‘bow-wow’. But dogs are smart, and so is Carly. Dogs also like to dig in the sand; so does Carly. She plays Lily Jean’s game and wins. Look for the fantastic one-liners in the final pages of this picture book. The topics of bullying, standing up for yourself and forgiveness are touched on in a light, kid-friendly manner, making this picture book thoroughly enjoyable for my girls (and their mom).
Owen (Kevin Henkes; Greenwillow Books, 1993)
Owen has a beloved yellow blanket that he takes everywhere. But he can’t take it to school, and school is starting soon!
The neighbour, Mrs. Tweezers, cannot keep her whiskers on her own side of the fence. Mrs. Tweezers must know that parents appreciate unsolicited advice about how to change their child’s undesirable behaviours – she certainly has some ideas about how to rid Owen of his baby blanket. “Haven’t you heard of the Blanket Fairy? The vinegar trick? Have you heard of saying ‘no’?” Owen’s parents hadn’t heard of any of these things.
This story reminds us that the best actions come from the heart. It’s Owen’s mom that comes up with a plan that maintains peace in the family … and even manages to silence Mrs. Tweezers.
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse (Kevin Henkes; Greenwillow Books, 1996)
I discovered this picture book from a parenting magazine’s list of ‘best picture books of all time’. My eldest daughter is pleased that it is renewed again from the library – this time we have the shiny new 20th anniversary edition in our hands! ‘Wow’ is about all I can say. Leave yourself some extra time to read this book and enjoy the multiple illustrations on most pages – being 20 years old, its word count is longer than most contemporary picture books that are trending shorter in length. Trust me, though, you’ll be enraptured by every word as Lilly takes her new purple plastic purse to Mr. Slinger’s class for a day. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse is a fun, relatable story for children; once you read this picture book, I have a feeling that about all you’ll be able to say is ‘wow’.
Knuffle Bunny (Mo Willems, Hyperian Books for Children, 2004)
Mo Willems has come full circle for my family – his Elephant and Piggy books are regularly being sent home as part of my daughter’s reading program, and I now realise he created Knuffle Bunny, which was a discovery of ours over five years ago. Mr. Williams may be our family’s favorite picture book author right now.
On to Knuffle Bunny – this book is highly relatable for children and parents alike, as you’d be hard pressed to find a child that doesn’t have a favourite stuffy, hasn’t misplaced it, and whose parents haven’t searched high and low for it. Some parents have possibly even asked their daycare to open up after hours to retrieve said stuffed animal…but I digress. Parents who have managed their child’s temper tantrum and ‘boneless’ physique will empathise with Trixie’s Dad. And then there are the times when one parent is at a complete loss as to what is causing their child’s outburst of emotion, and the other identifies problem in a split second. The real photographs from Brooklyn, NY, which form the background for every page, are a neat touch, especially for suburbanites like me who ponder what family living in a big city would be like.