Five New Picture Books That Won’t Ruin Your Kids

by | Aug 14, 2013 | A Few of My Favorite Things, Catholic Mom Book Review, Five Favorites, What We're Reading | 14 comments

Have I mentioned that I do not like sassy, disobedient picture books? I have? Well, let me say it again: I doanlikum.

Sometimes a trip to the library can feel like I’m slashing through a jungle of fart jokes and hating the new baby and running away from home so dad can learn his lesson, just to try to find those few gems. It’s tough. But I think it’s worth it. Because there are GREAT new books out there — books with extraordinary design and illustration and wit that you can’t find in the lovely and charming old-timey books that many of us resign ourselves to, because we just don’t trust the new stuff.

I wrote this post a few months back, highlighting eight new books that I think get it right on all platforms: modern and appealing story, great to look at, and a message I want to present to my kids. 

Well, here are five more books to add to that list (all links go to Amazon, if you buy something there they will send me literally dozens of cents and I will spend it very wisely):

The Tooth Mouse: So it turns out that in France they do not have a tooth fairy, they have a tooth mouse. Seriously, France? That’s just silly. But this book is just lovely. The pencil and watercolor illustrations are soothing yet engaging. The plot centers around a young mouse who must prove herself to be “brave, honest and, above all, wise.” And the mice all live in Notre Dame Cathedral . . . for the win.

Up and Down: I recommended another Oliver Jeffers book in my other post. I am a big, big fan of his quirky illustrations and utterly absurdist and mostly adult-free worlds. In this one a boy and his penguin discover just how important their friendship is. And also they play backgammon.

Papa’s Mechanical Fish: This book is based on the crazy TRUE story of a father who took his family for a ride in a homemade submarine in lake Michigan in 1851. It’s a story of family love and support, and of the perseverance of an admirable father character (those guys are hard to come by, at least in fiction). I’m a little disappointed in the illustrations. They do not capture this Victorian gadgetry in the steampunky way it just begs for, but it’s still a great story with a nice message. 

Willoughby & the Moon: The most striking feature of this book are its pixelated, photo-realistic/doodle illustrations in black, white, and metallic silver. They are truly original. The story is very original as well, and explores the idea that each of us has to be brave in the face of our own particular fears. And I don’t know why, but I kind of loved that the biggest issue of the book is left unresolved.

Oliver: I think this has just surpassed Tails as my all time favorite board book. It combines stark, clean, modern illustrations with sparse, clever, simple text, and a mind-blowing magic trick at the end. The back of the book shows an open egg shell and the line (. . . Because miracles happen.) which makes me want to dance with joy. This book would make a great gift for a new baby or a first birthday, but even my eleven-year-old was transfixed by the magic trick.

So, what I have I missed? Have you found any books published within the last two to three years that want to entertain AND edify your little ones?

These are MY new favorites. And since there just happen to be five of them, I’m linking up with Hallie of Moxie Wife for Five Favorites. And since they also happen to be What We’re Reading (and it’s Wednesday), I’m linking up with Jessica of Housewifespice as well.

We’re back in LA after a wonderful summer and a blessedly uneventful flight home. Now I just need to get our school year sorted this week and get to it. Because when I counted back the weeks from Thanksgiving (when new baby is due and I had hoped to be done with the first semester) I realized that I would have needed to start . . . two weeks ago. Oops. But we can always double up a couple of weeks, or just do some school with a baby. Somehow it will work out.

Happy Wednesday everyone! 


  1. Ingrid

    An off-topic question, am I the only one who sees a yellow and blue in the edges halo around your son`s head in the family picture above the blog? The one standing next to father. No one else in the picture has it and it can`t be a smudge on my screen because other pages don`t have it.

    • Kendra

      He certainly does. And it's EITHER because he's very saintly OR because I don't have photoshop and did a head swap in paint instead. I will leave it up to you to decide.

  2. Sarah

    @ Ingrid- I think I can see it too. I hadn't noticed it until I read your comment but yes, he has a faint halo 🙂

  3. Kate

    Our little guys are growing up quickly. So ~ my husband has been reviewing a set of books that my 12 & 13 year old boys love. Both sets of books are by the same author. The first is the Rangers Apprentice series and the second is the Brotherband series. Both are written by John Flanagan. We have purged many books from our books shelves after reading Michael O'Brien's "If There Be Dragons". We are working on being more proactive now. These two series appear to be okay. The Rangers Apprentice series is better than the Brotherband but my husband explained the issues to watch out for the boys and it is only a triology. I am glad he was able to read them because they are very appropriate and engaging for boys ~ I was struggling to get into the story and my husband understood why once he started reading them. Sorry to be so long winded. 🙂

  4. Anonymous

    We've checked out The Tooth Mouse before…it is a super cute book.

    My favorite children's picture book from the library is called "Where Do Balloons Go". It just has super cute illustrations and a nice rhythm and cadence.

  5. Christine

    Thank you for sharing. Other countries besides France have the tooth mouse visit their children. I grew up having the tooth mouse visit. My husband grew up with the tooth fairy. The two take turns visiting in our house. Although I think that my husband prefers the idea of the tooth mouse. 😉

    I look forward to checking out some of the books that you mentioned, especially the first.

  6. Kris

    My boys used to love the Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant. We also love Chrysanthemum and Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes.

  7. Christy from fountains of home

    Great books Kendra! I love finding new books for the kids. I love Oliver Jeffers too! The kids always love him, and they ask for that moose book over and over!

  8. Anonymous

    I am a 4th grade teacher and mom to an almost 2 year old and a 4 mo old. I am always on the lookout for picture books to read at home and to use in my lessons at school. So thanks so much for the book reviews! Eve Bunting and Patricia Polacco are 2 authors I go back to over and over again. I'm also a newcomer to the Pete the Cat books. I like that his attitude in the original is go-with-the-flow, take things as they come, stay positive and make the best of whatever it is. We also love The Pout Pout Fish in this house…just a fun book.

  9. Laura Rydberg

    This is Not My Hat is fantastic: Caldecott winner this year. Also a huge fan of anything by Herve Tullet:i..e, Press Here is AMAZING. My two (almost three) year old can play with it for days. Maite Roche: a must.

  10. Jessica Thornton

    I was just going to suggest This is Not My Hat, which I have reviewed before. We like to give every animal a unique accent which makes it hilarious! The link back to the link up either isn't working, or it isn't there? Maybe because my post was rather late today. Thanks for linking up!

  11. Anonymous

    I am bookmarking this post. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  12. Amanda

    I also don't like sassy children's books. Sometimes kids are rewarded for bad behavior! If I end up with one, I generally add commentary like "and then she got a spanking."

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

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