SEASIDE STROLL by Charles Trevino will convince families with even the most ardent aversion to cold to venture out for a beach walk no matter the weather. Written as a narrative collection of S-words, this beautiful picture book follows a rambunctious little girl as she explores the snowy, sandy beach with her mother. Seagulls, stones, shells, seaweed, and more are all a part of the adventures as our protagonist delights in her surroundings. Children can find barnacles and crabs of different types as well as sea starts, anemones, and a variety of seaweed in the pictures.
The words are sensory and descriptive, and Trevino’s skillful ability to lead readers through the story without “telling” it is impressive. One particularly effective part of the story involving a favorite doll: “Steady step, stolid step, shaky step…stumble. Swish…swirl…surge…surprised! Slip…splash…sink…soaked!” Not only is this an excellent book to have fun with onomatopoeia, but for pre-readers and early readers, the words will be fun to repeat aloud and read on their own. For caregivers who want to go the extra mile, pointing out nouns, adjectives, verbs, and interjections will be easy and fun. The author also discussing his inspiration and elaborates on the use of each type of word and the format in the end pages.
The SEASIDE STROLL illustrations by Maribel Lechuga are powerful in their storytelling as well. The waves splash against the shore and the wind blows hair and lifts seagull wings. The expressions of wonder and joy convey just as much personality as the shock and sniffling sadness the little girl shows. The joyful activity on the beach becomes contemplative stillness from one page to another using colors, textures, and details galore. There are myriad details for children to discover and notice throughout.
YOU ARE ENOUGH is an inspirational and encouraging picture book inspired by Sofia Sanchez, a young girl with Down Syndrome. Written by Margaret O’Hair, who has a series with Sofia, the book is a first-person narrative from Sofia’s point-of-view. After sharing a short history of how Sofia arrived to the USA from Ukraine, sharing that she and one of her brothers have Down Syndrome, Sofia as the narrator launches into the thrust of the book: We are all beautiful, just as we are.
Being different, being unique, and being the star of your own story is emphasized again and again without feeling repetitive or mundane. The book acknowledges that sometimes being different can be scary to some people, and that can make someone feel lonely. Sofia enthusiastically encourages readers to be stronger than their fears and to have courage when trying something new. Each page contains supportive mantras for readers who are doubtful or unsure of themselves. “You are just right exactly as you are,” “Be YOU wherever you are. If people stop and stare, just keep going!” and “Never say no to being yourself” are just a few examples.
The joyful pictures by illustrator Sofia Cardoso show children of all abilities, races, gender identities, religions, and interests, emphasizing the “Different is Beautiful!” message. Two children are shown with vitiligo, and another child who is an amputee uses crutches. Characters who are blind have a cane and a seeing eye dog. Different body types are represented as are children using wheelchairs, wearing hijab, wearing glasses, and one girl with albinism. The diversity extends to the adults depicted as well.
ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF THE SEAS by Lynne Cox is a sweet fictionalized picture book retelling of the true story of an elephant seal who seemed to prefer freshwater and city surroundings to the ocean despite the community attempting to help her back to the wild. The author’s note at the beginning of the story explains how Cox learned about Elizabeth and her adventures. For families concerned about how humans impact and respond to wild animals, this book will provide opportunities for discussions and different perspectives.
Cox presents a little boy, Michael, as a focus of the story after Elizabeth the sea lion has been introduced. His devotion to Elizabeth and his joy when he interacts with her is reflected by the community of Christchurch, New Zealand. Despite a beginning that depicts an idyllic existence in freshwater and parks surrounded by humans, the perils of city life for a wild animal are shown when Elizabeth chooses to warm herself in the road. After three attempts to bring Elizabeth to other sea lion colonies, which were followed by Elizabeth returning three times to Christchurch, the residents adapt by erecting a sign warning drivers of an Elephant Seal Crossing. Brian Flora’s illustrations personify Elizabeth without making her cartoonish, and the drawings help widen the meaning of the text with a variety of scenes and personalities detailed.
While the book is heartwarming and gives what is meant to be a happy ending with Elizabeth ending up “exactly where she belonged,” it lightens some of the true-to-life events for a younger audience. Families who focus on animal welfare will have opportunities to discuss how humans attempted to assist Elizabeth and they can also compare the elephant seals in the wild versus Elizabeth’s life in the city. The end of the book also has a page of facts about elephant seals to further discussion and research.
Jane Goodall’s A PRAYER FOR WORLD PEACE is a wide-open call for awareness and understanding of how we are all — people, animals, the environment — connected in our world. The prayer includes whoever wants to join in by reaching our to the “Great Spiritual Power,” and it continues with calls for open mindedness, generosity, and compassion. Soon, however, it leads into more specific and urgent calls that we heal the harm we’ve inflicted on the environment, pray for starving children, those forced into slave labor and prostitution, and child soldiers. Refugees of war and environmental destruction are highlighted, as are myriad forms of animal abuse and exploitation. Goodall writes, “We pray for an end to cruelty whether to humans or other animals…and torture in all its forms.” The book ends with a return to more general prayers for strength through love, understanding, humility, and learning not to take anything for granted.
While some of the sections of this prayer may feel shocking to younger readers, the various sections open up direct and malleable opportunities for families to discuss the impacts and effects, both positive and negative, that each individual can have. Caregivers will want to read through the book prior to sharing it with more sensitive children as the sections that mention abuse to children and animals are detailed enough to beg for elaboration.
Feeroozeh Golmohammadi’s rich and expressive artwork on each page reflects the hopeful sections as effectively as the harsh and painful section. Moving between cool blues and greens to reds, purples, and toxic oranges and browns, the artist evokes reactions and an urge to action together with the words. The abstraction of the images include details that will draw the reader’s eye to the page again and again.
The book includes a message from Jane Goodall at the end, as well as information about the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots & Shoots.