Cry, Laugh, Shiver, and Learn: New Picture Books
Reading a good book can be an emotional experience. Here's a selection of new picture books that can run you through the full gamut.
"City Dog, Country Frog" by Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon J. Muth (Hyperion, $18)
We all know Mo Willems from his comedic kids' classics like "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! " and "Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale," but never before have we seen him tug those heartstrings the way he does here. This sweet and warm story, told over the course of five seasons, recounts an urban dog's visits to his human family's bucolic vacation house. With no canine companions to be found, the pooch bonds with an affable frog who teaches him the ways of the country. The ending -- aided by the wonderfully realistic paintings of Jon J. Muth ("Zen Shorts") -- packs quite an emotional wallop. Adults and kids alike can expect to get weepy.
"The Shadow" by Donna Diamond (Candlewick, $16)
This wordless tale, told through a series of gorgeous paintings, is a masterpiece of suspense and horror. Yes, it's a children's picture book -- but it's also one of the creepiest, most genuinely scary books I've read in a while. It's all about a little girl who is afraid of her shadow, and who eventually overcomes her fear and shows the shadow who's boss. That shadow, depicted in the terrifying way the girl envisions it, is flat-out spooky. Be prepared to hide under the covers with your kids.
"How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps" by Jennifer LaRue Huget and Edward Koren (Schwartz & Wade, $17)
The humor is in the details. And boy, does this book pack in the details. As the imaginatively resourceful Ann Erica Kelly instructs you in the simplest and best ways to make your bedroom look spic-and-span, you'll laugh at the specifics of both the text ("Pizza crusts may be munched on if they are less than a month old.") and the illustrations (did she just close a live fish in her closet?). Whether you're a neat freak or a creative cleaner, like Ann Erica Kelly, there are plenty of laughs for you in here.
"How Rocket Learned to Read" by Tad Hills (Schwartz & Wade, $18)
Tad Hills, creator of the cute Duck & Goose books, gave himself a daunting task: Trying to work an actual academic lesson into a story that's also supposed to entertain. But he pulled it off. This endearing tale has not only enough humor, drama, and adorable characters to pull preschoolers in, but some primer-worthy ABC work as well. Rocket is a fuzzy dog who gets unwillingly roped into reading lessons from an erudite bird. His reluctance leading into eagerness mimics the emotionally journey many kids take while learning to read. With any luck, tots who get this book read to them will then want to take a stab at sounding out the text themselves.
Related: Summer Picture Books You Must Read to Your Kids
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.