Growing Readers Review: Colors, Numbers, and Life Lessons

Father reading to his young son on a couch
A lot of children’s books are geared to imparting some useful and specific information to young readers. You’ve no doubt seen the racks of alphabet books, number books, and books of colors in the supermarket or at the library. Some of them are quite engaging, but children’s literature offers so much more. For even the youngest readers, well written and illustrated books can be the teaching aids for life lessons.

The three books highlighted in this issue of Growing Readers Review cover such topics as what it’s like to be the youngest child in the family, how kindness can overcome selfishness, and what a teenager can do when faced with family illness and jealousy. These are heavy themes that you might expect to see on an adult list of best sellers, but here they are – available to children as young as toddlers.

Is this subject matter really of interest to little ones? For an answer, we have to rely on our young reviewers. After being introduced to Titch by her dad, Lilly, our 2 ½ year old reader insisted on hearing it nine more times! Luckily, her dad is an accommodating reader. Even though she is not the youngest of several children in her family, Lilly was drawn to Titch who rights a family wrong.

For slightly older readers, If you Plant a Seed beautifully illustrates the old adage, “reap what you sow” and kindness wins out over conflict. As an adult reviewer, I wasn’t sure I’ d enjoy The Crossover. Basketball is not my favorite topic and how engaging could a story told in verse be? Like the other Growing Readers reviewers, I couldn’t put it down as this young protagonist worked through issues that tested the family bond.

Real issues of family position, disagreements, health – all rolled up with art and poetry in three must-reads for young children. Parents will enjoy them as well and will find them to be the start of great conversations.

By Susan C. Brenner, EdD.


The Crossover, written by Kwame Alexander, School-Age: The Crossover, named after a basketball move, is a unique book which schoolagers will love. Written in free verse and hip-hop style poetry, the quickly moving story is engaging and fun to read. The design of the page uses creative fonts adding visual interests and expression to the story. The Crossover tells the story of teen-age twin brothers, Josh and Jordan (JB) Bell, who are star basketball players in their middle school. In a style that is both simple yet sophisticated, we learn of a rift that arises between the brothers when JB has his first girlfriend and Josh misses the closeness they had previously shared. Their father, a former basketball player himself, is struggling with health issues which he is hesitant to address. Real life issues of competition, family loyalty, winning and losing, anger, and forgiveness are raised.

Titch, written by Pat Hutchins, Infant/Toddler: Titch is the youngest and smallest in his family and everything he has is smaller than what his siblings have. However, that doesn’t mean that Titch doesn’t have big things to offer. He offers a small seed to his siblings and it grows and grows into a big and beautiful plant — reminding us that everyone has an important role.

If You Plant a Seed, words and paintings by Kadir Nelson, Preschool: Caldecott honored author, Kadir Nelson, impresses again with this simple story about the beauty of growing and nurturing as two animal friends work together to plant seeds and pass the time together to watch them grow. As they wait, they are challenged by others who are interested in the fruits of their labor. They have to decide whether to keep things to themselves, or share with others. In the end, kindness prevails and everyone benefits. The story is beautifully complemented with oil paintings that bring the book to life.


Where is Pim, written by Lena & Olof Landstrom, Infant & Toddler: This story explores a universal concept - the importance of a young child’s security toy. With his dog’s help, a little boy, Pom, is reunited with his much-loved stuffed animal, Pim.

Henny, written & illustrated by Elisabeth Rose Stanton, Infant & Toddler: In this story, Henny tries to overcome her differences from other chickens. Born with arms instead of wings, she quickly realizes all the great things she can do!

Float, written by Daniel Miyares, Preschool: A boy takes his paper boat outside for some fun and adventure. When it begins to rain the story takes an unexpected turn as the pouring rain carries the paper boat away and the little boy gives chase. This book is wordless. but the dynamic

artwork causes the reader to get caught up in the excit ment of the boat’s journey.

Strictly No Elephants, written by Lisa Mantchev & illustrated by Taeeun Yoo, Preschool: In this beautifully illustrated story, a boy and his pet elephant show others what it means to be a true friend in a diverse world.

Nuts to You, written by Lynne Rae Perkins, School-Age: A group of squirrels set out on a journey to save a friend who was snatched by a hawk and then released. All of the squirrels are lively characters with lots of personality.

The Story of Diva and Flea, written by Mo Willems & Tony DiTerlizzi, School-Age: Set in Paris, France, a pampered dog and a street cat become best friends. This unlikely pair share adventures that help them appreciate the differences in their lives.

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Father reading to his young son on a couch