Growing Readers Review: Children's Books About Photography

Pre-kindergarten boy sitting and reading a book
As a child, I loved looking through the pictures in the National Geographic magazine. I never read the articles but I loved the stories that the pictures told and I loved learning new things just by examining the photographs. The pictures introduced me to new worlds, new people, and new creatures.

Before they can read, children often closely study the pictures to give hints and reminders about the text of the story. The pictures really matter and that is true with this issue’s Books of Excellence.

Show Me Happy, the infant-toddler selection, is filled with wonderful photos of children from diverse backgrounds engaged in play or connecting with other children or adults. Infants and toddlers love to look at faces and will likely study these photographs for extended periods of time.

Best in Snow, the preschool selection, is a beautiful book, with stunning photographs of animals and nature in the snow. The breathtaking photographs are sure to catch children’s eyes.

It’s a Snap!, the school-age selection, is a little different from the others reviewed in this issue. The illustrator uses drawings to tell the story of George Eastman’s first photograph and the camera he invented. School-agers are sure to be intrigued by this engaging story of the early days of photography.

Photographs are a wonderful way to illustrate children’s books. Read more in this issue about some great books that use photos to tell or support the story.

By Linda C. Whitehead, Ph.D., Senior Advisor, Education and Development


Show Me Happy, written by Kathryn Madeline Allen; photographs by Eric Futran, Infant/Toddler: This picture book shows children from diverse backgrounds engaged in simple acts such as helping, sharing and putting things away, coupled with the varied emotions that children experience every day. Children will love the repetition and guessing which emotion is expressed in the photos. The book is a good introduction to social-emotional concepts to help children identify their own feelings.

Best in Snow, written by April Pulley Sayre, Preschool: The crisp photographs and flowing verse in this book pull the reader into the wonders of snow. In the opening lines, “a freeze” and “a breeze” combine to produce light snowflakes that drift from the sky and “land on a squirrel’s nose.” Sayre shows snow swirling around an orange-beaked cardinal and snow settling on drifting brown leaves. Coming full circle, “a freeze” and “a breeze” end the story with a storm that turns everything a sparkling white. With the “Secrets of Snow” section, young readers are encouraged to further explore the science behind how snow is created and the differences in snow, icicles and slush.

It’s a Snap! George Eastman’s First Photograph,written by Monica Kulling; illustrated by Bill Slavin, School-Age: George Eastman’s photography hobby grew into creating early versions of the camera due to his determination and his mother’s support. This is the story of George’s life and how he took what others thought of as crazy ideas and turned them into the great Eastman Kodak Company.

Wolf Hollow, written by Lauren Wolk, School-Age: Wolf Hollow, Based in a rural Pennsylvania community in 1943, eleven year old Annabelle’s life is turned upside down when Betty Glengarry arrives in town. Betty is mean and threatens others by inflicting verbal and physical pain. Annabelle’s friendship with the local drifter, Toby, brings her some comfort knowing that he is quietly looking out for her. The book explores themes of guilt and innocence; safety and protection; and friendship.

Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White, written by Melissa Sweet, School-Age: From his earliest memory, E.B. White had a relationship with words and writing, nature and animals. He loved adventure and used all that he learned and experienced to fuel his writings, including his classic children’s books, Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. Interspersed with real photos and hand penned notes, Melissa Sweet brings the reader into White’s life in a most interactive and interesting way.


Colors (Picture This), written by Marie Vendittelli, Infant & Toddler: Vibrant pictures of nature offer a beautiful look at all of the colors. Yellow fish, a white arctic fox, and a turquoise octopus give children an innovative and engaging way to see color.

Every Breath We Take: A Book About Air, written by Maya Ajmera and Dominique Browning, Preschool: The authors have taken the environmental issue of air and pollution down to a level for the youngest of readers to explore. The beautiful photographs illustrate a simple message about the air that is invisible but life sustaining to all living and moving things.

Grow! Raise! Catch!: How We Get Our Food, written by Shelley Rotner, Preschool: This book takes children along a global, multi-generational tour of the farm to table production of foods we eat. Colorful photographs depict foods being grown, caught, and raised. Quotes and text provide fun and informative facts to capture the interest of the young reader.

Families, written by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly; photographs by Shelley Rotner, Preschool/Kindergarten Prep: What is family to you? There are all kinds of families and this book does a wonderful job of celebrating the diversity of families. Enjoy reading how these families come together and have fun with one another.

Photos Framed: A Fresh Look at the World’s Most Memorable Photographs, written by Ruth Thompson, School-Age: This intriguing book analyzes famous photos (for example, from William and Kate’s wedding to Buzz Aldrin on the moon) and gives the reader ideas on how to evaluate individual photographs. The author offers insights into the photographer’s thinking about the famous photos.

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Pre-kindergarten boy sitting and reading a book