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Culture Children's Books

Ages and stages

Children's Books

Ages and stages

Four recent picture books

I’m a Duck 

Eve Bunting

A duck egg rolls into a pond by accident. Mother duck rescues the egg, but when it hatches, the baby duckling is afraid of the water. As all the sibling ducklings swim, the little one asks neighbors how to overcome fear. Bunting tells this simple story in rhyming verses. Artist Will Hillenbrand provides expressive illustrations that should charm young readers. The book ends with this line: “Wasn’t it fantastic luck that I grew up to be a duck?” A generation ago that would have sounded innocuous. But when identity is under attack, it’s just squishy enough to raise eyebrows. (Ages 3-5)

Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover 

Markus Motum

Told in the first person, from the perspective of a Mars rover, this picture book will appeal to children fascinated by outer space and numbers. It’s filled with illustrations that focus on technical details: batteries, distances, treads, dimensions. One two-page spread details the booster rockets that propelled Curiosity through the Earth’s atmosphere. Another shows what was required to slow Curiosity’s descent onto Mars. Readers come away with a sense of wonder and admiration for the scientists who designed the amazing machine and sent it successfully to Mars, where it continues to send back information. (Ages 6-12)

When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon & Garfunkel 

G. Neri

It’s not clear who the intended audience is for this melancholy picture book about Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel as boys and young men. It’s a text-heavy story about how they met, why they became friends, and their many failures on the way to success. The story ends on New Year’s Day 1966: “The Sounds of Silence” is the No. 1 song on the charts. “For one last moment, sitting in the car together, Paul and Artie are still just two boys from Queens, dreaming about the future.” Nostalgic baby boomers may read it to grandchildren while they listen to old records. (Ages 8-12)

Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List 

Kate Klise

When Astrid comes home from the hospital as a baby, she meets Eli, the family’s shaggy dog. From that moment, they become best friends. But as Astrid ages, she realizes Eli is getting old. She writes a list of all the things she wants Eli to experience: eating in a restaurant, going down a slide, being read to, going for a bike ride. Eli enjoys those activities, but his real joy comes from being with Astrid. A sweet book about aging and spending time with those we love. Lively illustrations portray the friendship between a child and a dog. (Ages 3-6)

(Charlotte Pardi)


Children’s books often convey worldview, especially books that deal with death. The website Brain Pickings called Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved (Enchanted Lion Books, 2016) “the crowning jewel” of all the children’s books trying to make sense of death. In it four children live with their ill grandmother. Death arrives, leaves his scythe outside, and takes the time to tell them a story, which ends with this bit of nonsense: “What would life be worth if there were no death? Who would enjoy the sun if it never rained?”

In My Father’s Arms Are a Boat by Stein Erik Lunde (Enchanted Lion Books, 2013), a boy struggles to sleep. Outside is winter white. Inside, dad sits by the fire. With spare dialogue the boy asks anxious questions and the father gives calm replies. Cutout illustrations match the poignant mood in this book about the sorrow and loneliness that follow a mother’s death. Missing ingredient in both books: Biblical hope. —S.O.