Buy The Thank You Dish here! (hardcover, $9.99)
What if I'm not doing enough for my kids? What if my students don't like that lesson plan? What if I run out of gas halfway between here and Denver? These questions aren't part of the book, or a quote from my kids... it's just a sampling of my inner dialogue from time to time when I'm not paying attention. One of the many beautiful things about Michelle Nelson-Schmidt's picture book, Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster, is that its message is just as beneficial for adults as it is for kids!
Jonathan James is a regular kid. He plays sports, he goes to school, he hangs out with friends. But when it's time to try something new, the little "whatif" monster following him around pokes doubt into Jonathan's mind. When Jonathan James is climbing a tree, the Whatif Monster wonders, "What if you tumble? What if there's wind? What if you slip, and your knee gets all skinned?" The Whatif Monster sews these seeds of doubt as Jonathan James is playing baseball, trying a new dish at dinner, running in a race, and more.
But finally, Jonathan James confronts the monster: "Now wait just a minute! I have something to say, after hearing 'what ifs' all through the day. I hear all your worries; I hear all your claims, But what if you're wrong?" And Jonathan James poses different scenarios, in which he has fun climbing trees, hits a triple home run in baseball, really likes the new dish... And, in the end, the Whatif Monster is having fun, too!
The lesson in this book is clear, but it doesn't bonk you on the head. It's Jonathan James that has to decide to think differently - not an adult or a friend. He's the one who decides to try new ventures, rather than being held back by fear and doubt. And yes, this is a lesson adults need to hear, too! We are all confronted with that little Whatif Monster from time to time, but we will miss out on some pretty great adventures if we let it decide how our day will go.
This sweet story is fun to read beyond the message, though - it has lyrical words and rhythm that help kids predict what's coming next, bold and playful illustrations that bring you into the story... and you can bring home your own Whatif Monster, too! There's a sweet - and really soft - plush available to accompany the book.
It's that book with a message so timeless and valuable, you'll remember it as much as your kids.
Buy Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster here! ($6.99, paperback)
And don't forget your matching Whatif Monster plush ($12.99)
"Mom look, sunflowers just like we have!" My garden isn't quite as abundant as I would like yet, but I love that my boys are excited about "working" in it and tending to our plants. And now that they've seen flowers growing in real life, they are even more curious about how they work.
And behold, now we have a book that explains it all! How Do Flowers Grow? from Usborne (written by Katie Daynes, illustrated by Christine Pym), is a hardy lift-the-flap book that takes you through the many questions that might pop up about flowers. Do plants need food? What does pollen do? What's inside this pod? Why do some plants have tasty berries? ...and, of course, What's making that smell?
Each page is filled with flaps that answer these questions - and of course, like with all Usborne flap books, the flaps aren't formulaic. One flower has four flaps that open outward, another has spikes to mirror the spiky seed it's explaining... a tree flap even has a mini flap of a bird nest to peek through. And besides the flaps, the pages also contain textile elements like finger tracing lines to follow a bee from flower to flower as it collects pollen, cut-outs to highlight changing weather (snowflakes, raindrops), and smell lines to emphasize stinky flowers.
Essentially, each page has lots of detail to keep your kiddos engaged while learning about flowers! The illustrations are fun, too - they are detailed enough to accurately depict what's going on with the growing process, but cartoony enough to not feel like you are reading a science textbook. And the info provides an effective balance of teaching but not overwhelming.
"Duck wanted to make some new friends. So he decided to join a club." We've all been there... we find ourself in a situation where we want or need to put ourselves out there. How do we act? Sometimes it goes well, sometimes not. Can I Join Your Club, by John Kelly and Steph Laberis, explores this situation in a sweet and endearing - and funny! - way.
Duck's first foray into friendship is an appeal to the Lion's Club. He dons a mane-like wig, approaches Lion, and asks to join Lion Club. Lion replies, "Well, I see you already have a magnificent mane. But can you ROAR like a lion?" Lion takes a deep breath, puffs out his chest, and roars. So Duck gives it a try:
As you can see, it doesn't go so well. Duck is exposed for what he really is, and his application is denied: "You're not really what we're looking for in Lion Club." Duck tries similar bids for entrance into Snake Club and Club Elephant but faces the same defeat.
Now, here comes the best line: "Duck felt down, but he knew what he had to do. He started his OWN CLUB!" I love this because, despite being shot down three times in a row, Duck doesn't wallow or feel sorry for himself - he takes matters into his own hands. He forms Duck Club, and when Tortoise asks to join, Duck admits him... and just like that, "Duck Club" evolves into "Our Club." And, as it turns out, that's a club Lion, Snake, and Elephant want in on, too!
And of course, what's great about this lesson is that, although the first three clubs are all based on connecting with those who are similar to you, the most successful and fun club in the end is the one that welcomes everyone.
Hi there! I'm Christine - Usborne Books & More independent consultant, kids' book fan, English teacher, mom of two boys.