Our Garden Librarian’s Favorite Children’s Books
Going to the library is one of the fondest memories I have of my elementary school years. The nostalgia I feel when walking past children’s books is unmatched, and for good reason! There’s nothing like roaming the aisles and losing all track of time as you try to find the perfect book to read.
Story time in particular was special because it taught me that I can be anything!
I could be an explorer navigating the deep forests of South America, or I could be a regular kid in the neighborhood learning about the power of friendship. The possibilities were endless and sometimes I have to remind myself that they still are.
To revisit that part of my childhood, I headed to the Lora M. Robins Library to meet Carissa Elder, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Director of Library and Archives. She started in May and she, as well as other members of the Garden team, host Storytime in the Garden every Friday and Saturday morning at 10 a.m.
Each story time, Carissa or another team member reads two books aloud that follow a theme. Then, she leads a craft, song, and movement activity inspired by the books. Carissa’s favorite part about reading children’s books is, “being able to help kids see themselves in stories.” She adds that she “loves sharing stories that expose us to different perspectives” and that reading regularly “helps with development and literacy skills from a young age.”
Seeing as Carissa is a story time expert, I was curious to know what her top children’s book recommendations were. Here are eight of her favorites:
Oona is about a little girl and her sea creature friends that go looking for treasure. “The main character is spunky and mischievous,” says Carissa. “I like this book because it teaches readers the values of perseverance and friendship.”
“Circle Under Berry is a creative, clever picture book and it’s one of my favorites because it introduces concepts like shapes and colors in an easy-to-understand way,” says Carissa. It’s one of those books you can read again and again and find something new each time.
Children of the Forest has a plot that reminded me of Bridge to Terabithia; a boy and his sister use their imagination to go on adventures in the woods.
This picture book is good for encouraging kids to go outdoors, and that can be useful if they’ve been glued to their devices for a while. So, if you want a book that will help get your kids active, this is the one for you.
Wingbearer is a graphic novel, which Carissa recommends for middle graders who adore fantasy and adventure. “It’s a great choice for readers who love being transported to magical worlds, and the illustrations are fantastic,” she says. The story follows a young girl who, along with her friends, must protect their world from an evil force.
If your child has ever read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, this might be for them. The Very Impatient Caterpillar plays off of that in a very wacky way. It’s about this caterpillar that doesn’t want to wait until it becomes a butterfly. “This is a silly, interactive book that teaches patience,” says Carissa. “It provides facts about caterpillars while providing a good laugh.” If you like it, be sure to check out the companion, The Little Butterfly That Could, written from the point of view of the same character after they’ve turned into a butterfly.
6. Berry Song
Berry Song is about a grandmother that collects items from nature with her granddaughter. This book is based on the Tlingit people and tells a story of respecting the earth through a bit of mythology. “I love this book because it values wisdom and working together intergenerationally,” says Carissa.
7. The Honeybee
“The Honeybee is an educational and sweet read that teaches kids about the process of pollination,” Carissa says. “The artwork is clean and simple for kids and invites them to join in on a fun journey.” Kids knowing about pollinators isn’t a prerequisite for loving this sweet book.
The Boy with Flowers in His Hair follows a boy that loses the flowers that grow in his hair and gets them back in a heartwarming way. “This book is about empathy, friendship, and being true to yourself,” she says. “It’s always a hit at story time.”
“Story time is a space where kids can be kids,” and Carissa wants them “to be seen, heard, and respected.” It’s good to know that the magic of story time hasn’t been lost in all of these years.