The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do

Lou can do almost anything. She can be an adventurer, run really fast, build fortresses with her friends, and rescue animals. Lou is pretty sure she’ll have a thrilling job one day; she may even be a pirate.

But when her friends want to make the tree outside into their own personal pirate ship, Lou isn’t so sure about this adventure. She’s never climbed a tree before, and she doesn’t exactly want to start now. She tries to get her friends to reconsider this plan, and, when that doesn’t work, she comes up with any excuse she can think of to stay out of that tree.

Eventually, though, Lou realizes that maybe it could be fun to climb the tree and join her friends. Can she possibly get up there without actually having to climb? Probably not. It looks like she’ll have to learn to climb. It won’t be easy, but Lou is a determined young lady. She may not achieve her goal right away, but she’ll keep trying.

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, beautifully written and illustrated by Ashley Spires, is a wonderful book for anyone, child or adult, who’s ever been afraid of doing something. In Lou’s case, of course, it’s climbing trees, and she goes through some very realistic thought processes in trying to avoid this task. (I totally get it. I’ve never climbed a tree in my life, and I don’t intend to start now.) Substitute anything fearful for Lou’s issue with climbing trees, and all readers will be able to relate.

This book, which comes out on May 2nd, is perfect for emphasizing concepts like courage, perseverance, encouragement, compassion, handling failure or challenges, and using one’s imagination. It is a must-add to any library that serves children.

It’s an Orange Aardvark!

It’s an Orange Aardvark! by Michael Hall is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

After hearing a noise in their tree stump home, five carpenter ants wonder what awaits them outside. Could it be a big, gray aardvark, just waiting on some juicy ants to gobble up? Instead of wondering, one ant bores several holes in the stump, and colors begin to pour in.

Orange is the first color the ants see, so, of course, they assume that it’s an orange aardvark ready for a tasty meal. After orange comes blue, red, green, yellow, and purple. With each new color, the terrified carpenter ants imagine a horrible fate just outside their home. But what if it’s not so bad out there? What if something magical awaits them instead? Find out what these five brave ants encounter when you read It’s an Orange Aardvark! by Michael Hall!

This book would be a great read-aloud when younger children are learning their colors. It’s a funny yet suspenseful book that will keep little ones eager to turn the next page, and it could inspire them to create their own similar stories.


Journey by Aaron Becker is a nominee for the 2015-16 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Journey, a wordless picture book, is an enchanting tale that highlights the power of imagination. It tells the story of a young girl who, using only a red crayon, journeys beyond the walls of her home (where no one pays attention to her) and into a magical place. She travels by boat, hot air balloon, and flying carpet, and she uses her wits (and some help from a special bird) to escape a fearsome ruler and find her way to a new friend.

Journey is an excellent book for units of study on wordless picture books. A fun writing exercise may be to have students make up their own narratives to go along with the pictures. This book may also be useful when studying various forms of transportation. How would students like to get from place to place if they had the choice? Like the girl in this book, students’ answers would only be limited by their own imaginations!

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man, written by Michael Chabon and illustrated by Jake Parker, is nominated for the 2013-2014 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

This book will appeal to the superhero fan in all readers, especially young boys. As Awesome Man uses his super grip and positronic eyeball rays to fight evil, readers will be wondering what his astonishing secret is. Awesome Man himself kind of shows readers his secret identity, but many readers will not expect the truth when it is revealed.

The illustrations in this book are wonderful, and I think they could serve to introduce the youngest readers to the wonder of comic books and graphic novels. I also enjoy how the author throws some physics terms into the narrative. This allows older science nerds (like me) to enjoy this story on an entirely different level.

Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse

Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse, written by Rebecca Janni and illustrated by Lynne Avril, is the winner of the 2012-13 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse is already a hit in my library. Any picture book with even a small mention of horses is sure to fly off the shelves, and this is no exception.

Since I work in a rural school, many of the girls that visit the school library really do live around horses, so this appeals to them. Then again, since the main character does not end up with a “real” horse, the story could be a bit disappointing.

Students who love to pretend and have vivid imaginations will definitely enjoy this book. Students who are extremely literal, however, will question every single page. (But that’s fun sometimes.)

The illustrations in this book are extremely vibrant and engaging and will encourage readers–boys and girls alike–to find out if this cowgirl does indeed get her horse.