Each year around this time, I write a column focused on “back-to-school” books for children. While our kids are headed back to school (mine have already started), I could not ignore the fact that this school year is unlike any other and felt like my back-to-school column this year needed to reflect that. I’ve focused this year on picture books that will hopefully be reassuring both for children and the adults who are reading these books to them, books about friendship, family, and how to handle worries.
The Bear in My Family by Maya Tatsukawa
There is a bear living in this child’s house, and it is making life hard. The bear is scary looking and loud. It steals food at dinner and gets rough when playing. For some reason, the child’s parents consider the bear family, even when the child tells them it’s really a bear. It’s very frustrating that the parents can’t see what the child sees. One day in the park, when the child is being bullied by a group of other children, the bear comes along and scares the other children away. This leads the child to see the bear in a different light and realize maybe having a bear in the family isn’t so bad after all.
Can Cat and Bird Be Friends? By Coll Muir
Everyone knows cats and birds are natural enemies. Cats eat birds, after all. But could they be friends, instead? Bird finds a great box for Cat to play in, and Cat shows Bird a great wire to sit on. Bird knows a tall tree for Cat to climb, and Cat knows where there are worms for Bird to eat. But just because they are helpful to each other doesn’t make them friends. Friends need something they like doing together, and it’s not until they get to know each other better that they discover what that is and realize it is possible to truly be friends.
Elmore and Pinky by Holly Hobbie
Elmore the porcupine has lots of friends, but he longs for a best friend. How is he supposed to find a best friend? His uncle tells him “it just happens,” but Elmore is not so sure. A best friend would definitely need to be nocturnal like him. And not be afraid of his prickly quills. A best friend would need to like the same activities and also be content to just “be” together. As Elmore thinks about it, he realizes he already has a best friend and just didn’t realize it.
Ruby Finds A Worry by Tom Percival
Ruby loves swinging, playing outside, and exploring. She is perfectly happy until one day while exploring, she finds a Worry. It is very small. So small that she hardly notices it at first. But it follows her everywhere, and the more it hangs around, the bigger it gets. Even though it gets huge, no one else can see it, so Ruby tries to pretend it’s not there. But it gets so big that she can’t ignore it, and she starts to feel like it will never go away. Then one day, she notices a boy who also has a big Worry hanging around him. As they talk about their Worries, Ruby notices that her Worry gets smaller and smaller and realizes it is much better to talk about Worries than try to ignore them.