Friday, October 9, 2015

How I Chose a Great Children's Book for Story Time

I read more than 50 books last month! Impressive, huh? Well, you won’t think so once you hear most of them were children’s books.

There was a reason for my reading so many titles: I was asked to do Story Time for a group of preschoolers and was searching for a book they'd enjoy. I actually wanted to read more titles, but with only days left before the scheduled event I forced myself to stop and make a choice. “Duck and Goose” ended up the winner. Runner up was “It’s (Not) Mine,” another fun read. 

Enjoyed reading to this attentive group. All attend Community Christian Academy, Hemet, CA

Now that Story Time is past it seems a shame to not pass along my findings. If you are like me, I lean on book recommendations from others. With so many titles out there it’s wonderful to have others steer you towards a good read. So, with that in mind, here are a few titles which merit recommending from my recent hours of research and reading, plus a few of my all-time-favorites for beginner readers.

What is my criteria?

For anyone interested, the criteria I keep in mind when evaluating a children’s picture book is noted below: (Not interested? Just skip this section and go right to the book listings.)  
  • Story: Does the book keep child’s interest, entertain or teach a lesson? Is it too wordy or long for little ones who have a short attention span? Is it an exceptional story and truly original, or is it predictable and boring?
  • Writing: Did the author use correct grammar and words familiar to intended age level of audience? Are concepts easy to grasp/understand for age of reader?                                   
  • Visual appeal. Does the art assist in telling the story or does it distract? Is the type easy to read? Too small? Placed wrong on page?  

Enough criteria. Let’s get to the books.

Duck and Goose by Tim Hills. This book succeeds in every way. Colorful. Not too much copy. Fun story with a teaching element about sharing, but a few words are too advanced for pre-schoolers. The "frog who burps" offers a bit of humor making up for the book's one weakness. Yep, both parents and kids will go for this title. Note: Best to read this title first, which introduce the characters, before going on to 11 others in series. 40 pages.

Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin, also by Tim Hills. Very few words in this simple story. Suggest you read it to your child prior to heading to the pumpkin patch this October. Ideal for children, age 2-3, or any beginner readers. Graphics are rich and colorful. This is a 22-page, large, board book. 

That’s (Not) Mine by Anna Kang. A big shout out to the book’s designer who knows the value of white space, proper size type, and drawing characters with expressions that tie in perfectly with copy. A terrific book for a parent trying to help their child learn to share. 

You Are (Not) Small also by Kang is equally good. Comical and interesting way to teach children how to see themselves correctly. This 32-page book is the winner of the 2015 Theodore Seuss Geisel Award. 

Let’s Go For a Drive by Mo Willems. Take one elephant and a pig and what have you got? An adorable series. This one starts with one great idea that requires a wonderful friend and teamwork. Length: 64 pages. Ideal for a young reader. (Note: Anytime you see a Theodore Seuss Geisel Award sticker on the cover of a book take notice. Those books rarely disappoint.) 

How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamarra. One of my favorite titles I read to classes who visited the library each October. Book is loaded with oodles of information. Got good participation from students when I brought in a pumpkin and asked everyone to guess how many seeds were in it . . . and later disclosed actual seed count. Author wins my vote for how she incorporated math and science while telling a good story. 40 pages.

10 Little RubberDucks by Eric Carle. I'm a fan of this artist/author who wows kids with his unique style. In this title children are taught their basic numbers (1-10) via a story about a box of yellow ducks which topple off a ship. As they drift and separate from each other, one little plastic duck ends up part of a “real” family of ducks. Like the surprise ending.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. I can see why this book is a bestseller and award winner. It is charming, funny, and imaginative -- due mostly to the clever writing found in letters penned by various crayon colors to their owner, Duncan. Parents will enjoy this title as much as kids. Best suited for children, age 5 and up. Length: 40 pages.

Books for young readers

In a future post I will give you more recommendations for young readers. But for today, here are two books by an author who is on my favorites list.

Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride by Kate DiCamillo. Love this 6-book series about a winsome pig. The short chapters and artwork appeal to kids and adults. 80 pages.

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo. This is the first title in a new series she has developed called:Tales from Deckawoo Drive, 96 pages. Illustrations are super. 

Now it's time for me to get back to my normal reading material: wholesome novels, a couple biographies, and quite a few non fiction works. 

Late last night I started "Life Lessons from the Hiding Place" by Pam Moore. It's a captivating read and I've barely begun. But then, I cherish learning about this remarkable woman called Corrie ten Boom. Though no longer alive God still uses her life and words in profound ways. 

Enjoyed telling you about my world. Thanks for giving up your precious time to read my words. 

P.S. If you were asked to read at Story Time what book would you choose? I return to those preschoolers in November so suggestions are wanted. So too are people to "subscribe" to my blog at top of page. Hint. Hint. 


  1. I loved this one, Julie! You know about my little people's book club and I'm always looking for something fun for my members. I'm printing out your list and will see if they're in my book club price range; with so many to send, I try to keep to $6 or under. I especially want to take a look at That's (Not) Mine. Great job on this and I'm sure you're a wonderful addition to story time! Good job!

  2. I hope to suggest more next month. Your "Little people book club" idea is terrific and one day must talk about it here at The Suitcase Journals.

  3. I love this post. It's good info for authors too ... those who want to write children's books. Next time you have story time we'll have to get a video team together and tape you.

  4. Such a nice comment. Thanks. Hope that video team includes a makeup artist!


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