Excellent Books Encouraging Problem-Solving

Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished by Camille Andros, illustrated by Brianne Farley

A curious, focused, and experimental rabbit, Charlotte uses science to identify, diagnose, and solve her problem: not enough space with all her bunny brothers and sisters. She loves running experiments and lacks space to conduct them. Following a child-friendly scientific method, she figures out how to get more space in an unexpected way.

Then, she realizes the trade off and continues to figure out another way using humor and playful illustrations. Excellent STEM introduction to K-2nd graders. What problem will you try to solve?

Values Promoted:

  • Tradeoffs

  • Problem Solving

  • Scientific Method

Seven Mice on the Ice by Kazuo Iwamura

A warm story that takes place mostly on an iced-over pond, seven mice struggle to catch enough fish to share. They learn that their mother was once known as the “Ice-Fishing Princess,” but must figure out how to encourage her to help them. Unlike most American books, children help the adult and solve problems as group vs individually.

Values Promoted:

  • Family

  • Children Helping Adults

  • Teamwork

  • Problem Solving

Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base

Elaborately illustrated and cleverly rhyming, this story unfolds a mystery. It’s Horace’s 11th birthday, and he cooks up an elaborate feast for his costumed guests, mouths watering over the feast Horace prepared. They play a series of games and each page drops a hint of which guest sneaked devouring the feast while the others played the games. Was it Sam the Crocodile, masquerading as a judge? A handsome Bengal Tiger, whom no one seemed to know? The cat dressed at Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt and the Nile? I won’t give it away here.

Values Promoted:

  • Curiosity

  • Problem Solving

  • Focus

What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada, Illustrated by Mae Besom

Evocative story promoting big ideas, creativity, and stick-to-it-iveness. These can be tough concepts to teach children who are concrete thinkers, and this story effectively illustrates bringing an idea to fruition for preschool aged children using concepts they already understand. Kids love this book and it lends itself well to discussing how an idea can grow into something beyond your child’s dreams.

Values Promoted:

  • Diligence

  • Creativity

  • Confidence

Books About Nature That Will Make You Want to Go Play Outside Like a Kid Again

Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin

Very inviting. The story follows two backpacked kids who know where to find “wild.” Simple theme to enjoy nature and seek out adventure, even in expected places right nearby. Reading this story makes me want to go outside on an adventure. Right now. Where will you look for Wild?

Values Promoted:

  • Trying new things

  • Curiosity

  • Nature

Leap by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon

Exciting story flitting from one jumping animal to another. Poetically composed, drawing on enchanting words. It’s repetitive in the way young kids love while still intriguing for an adult to enjoy. Each page builds on the prior sentence in a way that naturally encourages active participation. Hard to listen to this story without “reading” along.

Values Promoted:

  • Adventure

  • Astuteness (describing what is around you)

  • Active listening

Miss Maple's Seeds by Eliza Wheeler

Tender and charming, the teacher/parent figure Miss Maple nurtures young seeds until they are ready to go out in the world and grow. She mentors each seed and teaches them about the world until they are ready to blossom. The illustrations are so luminous that I don’t want to turn the page. The story triumphs the potential in all of us, as “even the grandest of trees once had to grow up from the smallest of seeds.”

Values Promoted:

  • Value of caretaking

  • Growing up

Uplifting Books with Nurturing Grandfathers (There Aren’t Many!)

Ms. Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

A classic for good reason, Ms. Rumphius traces the life of an old woman who explores the world on her own terms and finds her own way to make the world more beautiful. Thoughtful portrayal of being an independent woman and finding her place in the world, a topic salient to children gaining more independence.

Values Promoted:

  • Adventure

  • Independence

  • Making the world better

Rain by Sam Usher

Gently written story of a young boy and his granddad on a rainy day. The little boy is eager to go out and play in the rain, described from the realistic perspective of a child. Yet, they wait. The banter is respectful and realistic. When it’s time to go out, adventure and surprise awaits! “You see. The very best things are always worth waiting for.”

Further, portrayals of engaged grandfathers is relatively rare in children’s literature, so this book offers a graphic example.

Values Promoted:

  • Patience

  • Adventure

In Plain Sight by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Good choice for kids who frequently misplace items, as it promotes focus on finding “lost” objects. Sweet story about a little girl’s relationship with her grandfather who entices her to find lost items. The kind of book that kids won’t let you turn the page until they look at the picture longer to find the hidden picture. Can you find the item?

Values Promoted:

  • Perceptiveness (finding lost things)

  • Curiosity