Since I retired from the field of education last year I decided to look into all of the new(ish) children’s books from the last few years. Who better to give me input about these books then our local librarian at our public library here in town. Jo works with the little kids in our town, conducting Story Hour for our preschoolers, and for all children during the Summer Storyhour. She was thrilled that I asked her to help me, and she told me how hard it was to narrow the selection down. When I went into our library to meet with her and check out which books she chose as her favorites I burst out laughing, because sitting on the table was two stacks, over ten high of children’s books. And that, Jo said, was just the beginning. She was glad that I narrowed it down to just this past year (although she did sneak in a few from previous years). I also talked her into being a future guest blogger so that she can share some of her all-time favorite children’s books with you. So over the next month or two I will be reviewing Jo’s favorite children’s books from 2016.
The Book With No Pictures, by B.J. Novak
This book actually came out in 2014, but Jo said that it’s a favorite of the kids in storyhour, and that she read it a lot this past year. I had seen this book before and think it’s simply brilliant! There really are no pictures at all in this book, just text. But oh my, the text is hilarious! The book starts out stating that it probably won’t be any fun to read a book with no pictures, but making sure you know that the reader (the adult reading the book to the child) MUST say everything that’s in the book. No exceptions. What ensues is a back-and-forth narration of silly, crazy, made-up words such as “blork” and “bluurf” and the reader trying to get out of saying these things. Throughout the book the reader must say things like, “I am a monkey robot. And my head is made of blueberry pizza.” And “My best friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt.” You know that children (and adults) will laugh their way through this entire book. I love how it requires the adult or person reading the book out loud to say all of the goofy and ridiculous things. I’m sure children will ask to hear this book over and over again. If you want to watch B.J. Novak read the book you can find it on youtube here.
Jacob’s New Dress, by Sarah and Ian Hoffman. Illustrated by Chris Case
This is a phenomenal story about a young boy named Jacob who likes to wear dresses. He chooses dresses in the creative dramatics center at school and he likes to wear them at home. Sadly, he is teased by some classmates, and seeks comfort from his parents, who are cautious, but supportive, of his desire to wear dresses. He asks his mom if he could wear his dress to school, but she is not sure that’s a good idea. He decides to wear a “dress-thing” that he made out of a towel, but some students harass him and take it from him. At home his mom comforts him, and then she and Jacob make a new dress together with her sewing machine. When he wears it to school he and his good friend Emily have fun matching the colors in their clothes. I love the part when he shows off his new dress during Show and Tell and when a child asks why he wears dresses the teacher says, “I think Jacob wears what he’s comfortable in. Just like you do.” I love that simple and accepting answer. In the end Jacob stands up to the bullies telling them that he’s proud of the dress he made!
I am so happy that there are children’s books being written about gender-nonconforming children. I think this is so important in today’s world, where more and more parents are accepting these differences in their children. There are statements in the back of the book by the authors, whose son is gender-nonconforming, and they talk about him and how important it is for people to look at this like other differences, such as left-handedness and the color of our skin. Kudos to these authors and the publishers for recognizing this important niche in the genre of children’s literature.
Kate Glinsmann (she/her) was an owner-partner of BabyNames.com, a lifelong educator with a masters degree in Education. For over 30 years, she worked with preschoolers with special needs, kindergartners, and English language learners.
In her spare time, Kate was a stained glass artist, who built her own studio and gave classes to her local community. Kate was a tireless advocate of those in need, particularly children, mothers and refugees. Kate passed away in December of 2019.