Jennifer Garner smiling against blue curtainJennifer Garner is known and respected across the country not just as an actress, but also as a mother. I am a fan of hers, so when she shared a few of her favorite children’s books on Instagram, I immediately added them to our reading list. Since then, several of her recommendations have become family favorites, and I want to share them with you today.

The Seven Silly Eaters, written by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Marla Frazee.

Book Cover: The Seven Silly EatersPoor Mrs. Peters raises seven picky eaters. One needs his milk served not too cold, not too hot. One only drinks pink lemonade. One only eats bread and another only porridge – but without any lumps! Each new child brings a new, labor intensive menu item for Mrs. Peters to prepare. It all becomes too much, and Mrs. Peters goes to bed the night before her birthday, feeling overwhelmed and defeated.

Her children have a surprise planned, though, they want to make seven special treats for her birthday – each of their favorite foods! But when their good intentions result in a messy disaster, they attempt to hide their blunder in the warm oven. When Mrs. Peters awakens the next morning, she is delighted to find a pink and perfect birthday cake – the result of all seven ingredients baking together.

This is a sweet story of a family who finds their strength by embracing their unique identities. Hoberman’s gentle rhyming text is complimented by Frazee’s nostalgic illustrations. Children will enjoy discovering the little details included on each page of the story. The Seven Silly Eaters is published by HMH and recommended for preschool to 3rd grade.

Mama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya, written by Mary and Rich Chamberlin and illustrated by Julia Cairns.

Book Cover: Mama Panya's PancakesMama Panya’s Pancakes is a sweet story of community that beautifully illustrates village life in Kenya. The story begins as Mama Panya and her son Adika leave their home to travel to market. Adika is especially excited because Mama Panya is going to buy ingredients to make pancakes. Mama Panya only has two coins to spend, but each time Adika sees a friend along their journey, he invites them to join them at their pancake dinner.

As the guest list grows, Mama Panya becomes more and more worried that there won’t be enough food. But when their friends arrive for dinner, each brings an item to share at the feast: milk, butter, fish, flour, salt, and spice.

The book includes extra pages describing village life in Kenya, sharing a few words in Kiswahili, information about animals and trees that are found in the illustrations, and even a recipe for Mama Panya’s pancakes. Mama Panya’s Pancakes is published by Barefoot Books and recommended for for preschool to 2nd grade.

The Circus Ship, written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.

Book Cover: The Circus ShipWe are big Chris Van Dusen fans in my house, but The Circus Ship is probably one of our favorite stories. Told in rhyme, The Circus Ship tells the tale of circus animals who survive a shipwreck by swimming to a nearby island. At first, the people living on the island are surprised and frightened to find wild animals roaming around their town.

This all changes when the tiger selflessly rescues a young child from a fire; from then on, the people and animals coexist peacefully. Then one day, the circus owner comes into town. The circus owner is a mean, angry man and he is determined to get his animals back! Together, the townspeople and animals come up with a clever plan to keep him from taking the animals away from their new, happy home.

Van Dusen’s illustrations are vibrant and captivating, the perfect companion to the story’s imaginative charm. Children will delight in seeing the animals making their homes in such an unusual setting; especially the pages where they can search for all the animals in their very creative hiding places.

The Circus Ship is published by Candlewick Press and recommended for ages 4-8, but older children and adults will enjoy it as well.

Jennifer Stemwedel with husband and two children

Jennifer S. (she/her) is a graduate of Fresno State University. She spent a number of years working for non-profits before becoming a full-time stay-at-home mother. She currently lives in Central California with her husband, two children, and two codependent cats.