I was provided complimentary copies of The Pandas and Their Chopsticks and The Horse Raid for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
Sometimes books are just for fun, and Monkey and I love laughing over them together. But I also love finding books for him that teach a lesson, especially when done well. A book that makes a great point is valuable, but only if the kids will actually read it! Finding that fine balance between teaching and entertaining is difficult – it’s something I struggle with in the character building classes I help teach for Monkey and his friends. The books below strike this balance well – they keep kids’ attention without diluting their message. In short, we think they’re great!
Children’s Books that Teach Life Lessons
The Pandas and their Chopsticks by Demi is a lovely collection of animal tales with a moral at the end of each. Similar to Aesop’s Fables, most are only a page or two long. Kids love animal stories, and all of the tales are all so clever that kids (and parents!) will be totally charmed. Many of the stories – like the turtle who could not keep his mouth shut – are guaranteed to get big laughs, while others are more thought-provoking. All are sure to become bedtime favorites!
Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan is hilarious. Betty Bunny is a self-professed “handful,” and kids will enjoy Betty Bunny’s love affair with chocolate cake. More importantly, they will relate to her struggles to be patient and wait to have her dessert until after dinner. My favorite part is the dialogue among Betty Bunny and her siblings, which rang very true for me. Monkey and I both enjoy reading this one again and again.
Red or Blue, I Like You! is another wonderful Sesame Street book. I mean, how can you go wrong with Elmo? While the metaphor of red and blue monsters is not exactly a subtle way to talk about race, it’s one that young kids can understand easily. I love that Elmo is so nonchalant about the different colored monsters (and even humans!) in his neighborhood. This book is a great way to show the power of friendship to overcome stereotypes and demonstrate that, in the end, we all love to just eat and play together!
The Empty Pot, also by Demi, is another real gem. It is a simple tale, beautifully told, that elegantly demonstrates the courage needed to tell the truth, and the rewards that come from this powerful act. The Emperor holds a contest among all the children in the land to determine who will become his successor. But when Ping feels he has failed at the task they were given to perform, he must decide whether presenting his best – an empty pot – is good enough.
Enemy Pie by Derek Munson is a very popular book, and it’s easy to see why! The main character’s father has a clever way to get rid of an enemy – make him enemy pie! While his father cooks up the mysterious dish, the boy must do his part by spending a whole day with his enemy and even being nice to him. The suspense of the book is wonderful, and ultimately it seems to me like a modern version of Never Say A Mean Word Again, which I reviewed recently, as the boy learns that the best way to get rid of an enemy is to turn him into a friend.
Horse Raid: The Making of a Warrior by Paul Goble is a wonderful find for older children. Younger children will enjoy the incredible illustrations, which are a treasure in themselves. I love that the book comes with well-researched introductions that rescue the practice of horse raids from the negative light in which they are typically cast by outsiders. Instead, these notes and the story itself show how the raids were a respected way of demonstrating bravery and establishing oneself as a warrior, as the main character attempts to do in this suspenseful tale.