Focus on the Family

10 Family-Friendly Picture Books from 2008

Here are 10 family-friendly picture book reviews in alphabetical order.

The Berenstain Bears: God Loves You!

created by Stan & Jan Berenstain with Mike Berenstain

Summary: Brother Bear wants to be on the basketball team, and Sister Bear hopes to star in the school musical. Although they do their best, they're disappointed when Brother becomes the team manager and Sister the stage manager. Mama and Papa cheer up the kids with a family walk. Along the way, the family sees a rainbow and talks about God's love. They explain that God is proud of His children even when they aren't the star of a team or play.

Christian beliefs: Mama says rainbows and stars are God’s way of telling His creation how much He loves them. She says He loves us because He made us, not because of what we do or how good we are.

Authority roles: Mama and Papa encourage and practice with the cubs as Brother and Sister Bear prepare for tryouts. The parents sympathize with the cubs when the cubs don't get to be involved in the way they'd like. Mama and Papa tell the cubs they're proud of them for having important roles with a lot of responsibility. While Papa has a little trouble answering questions about God's love for His people, Mama is quick to tell the family that God loves them no matter what. The basketball coach and the drama teacher patiently watch everyone try out and make their decisions based on performance.

Fancy Nancy: Bonjour, Butterfly

"Fancy Nancy" series

by Jane O’Connor (author); Robin Preiss Glasser (illustrator)

Summary: Fancy Nancy and her friend Bree love butterflies. Bree makes butterflies the theme of her birthday party, and Nancy creates a shiny butterfly costume. When she tells her parents, Nancy realizes that her grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary is on the same day. Nancy is devastated. After telling Bree she can't attend her party, Nancy alternates between sulking and being angry, even on the train ride to her grandparents' party. She does feel a little better when she sees her grandparents, and she finds the City Squire Motel, where her family stays, very fancy. The anniversary party is in a ballroom, and everyone dances. The party is fun, and Nancy whispers an apology to her mother for her behavior. The next day, her grandparents take her to a butterfly garden. Nancy sees an Azure Butterfly, says, "Bonjour," and thinks the butterfly may understand her.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: Nancy's parents do not let her go to her friend's butterfly party because her grandparents' 50th anniversary is on the same day. At one point, both Nancy and her younger sister enter their hotel room from the hallway where there is a candy machine and an ice dispenser. It does not appear that they are supervised. Nancy, who is young, is in the bathroom giving herself a facial, and she has a fishing tackle box full of make up. It appears that her younger sister is in the bathtub, and there doesn’t seem to be parents supervising them. Nancy's father offers a champagne toast to honor her grandparents. Children dance alongside adults at the anniversary party, and Nancy learns the cha-cha from her grandfather.

I Am Blessed

by Grace Maccarone (author); Jaqueline Rogers (illustrator)

Summary: Written in rhyme, this first-person narrative has a child counting the many things for which he is thankful: his body, things he can do, food, friends, music, birds, animals, his home and the people he loves.

Christian beliefs: The word blessed is used instead of thankful and seems to mimic Christian jargon, yet Jesus is never mentioned nor is the church. So a message of thankfulness is presented well from the perspective of a young boy, but the youngster is not thankful to God.

Authority roles: The young boy appears to do most activities on his own, but a in a few of the illustrations, his mother is kissing him at breakfast, holding his hand during their walk and lying down on the grass with him. His father holds the boy on his lap and reads to him as the boy prepares for bed. On the last page, his parents kiss him goodnight.

The Legend of Ten-Gallon Sam and the Perilous Mine

"Heroes of Promise" series, Book No. 2

by The Miller Brothers (authors / illustrators)

Summary: The White Rider tells a Western couple that they will have a baby boy. Their boy, Sam, will be strong, but only if he wears the White Rider's hat. The White Rider's prediction comes true. When Sam is old enough, the White Rider asks him to stop Phil the banker from tricking the people of Promise, Sam's town. Sam thwarts Phil's scheme to rob people of their farms through a shady livestock trade. Over time, Sam begins to like Phil's niece, Delilah, who is into fashions. To keep her affection, he buys a new suit that comes with a new hat. Immediately, Delilah burns his old hat, and before long, Phil kidnaps and holds Sam in a secret mine. Without his hat, Sam is powerless. When Sam tells the White Rider he's sorry, the White Rider gives him a new hat, and Sam's strength returns. To stop Phil and his gang, Sam collapses the mine with himself and all of Phil's gang inside.

Christian beliefs: This is the story of Samson told as an allegorical Western tale.

Authority roles: Sam's parents pray for him long before he is born. The White Rider takes care of His people in the city of Promise.

Let's Be Kind

by P.K. Hallinan (author/illustrator)

Summary: Written in rhyme, this first-person story explores how kindness is reciprocated. Opportunities for children to be kind are given by God — helping others, caring for animals, doing chores, minding the noise level, listening.

Christian beliefs: Kindness is a godly attribute, and people tend to trust kind people. Also, God rewards those who are kind. There is no mention of Jesus.

Authority roles: God is seen as an authority. The unnamed young boy says, "Hi," to strangers, but only when his mother is near him. Also, this boy and his friend have ice cream cones, and the friend's mother is in the doorway with a bucket of ice cream, implying that she has given it to them.

Mama's Little Duckling

by Marjorie Blain Parker (author); Mike Wohnoutka (illustrator)

Summary: Dandelion Duckling lives with Mama Quack on the edge of a pond. Mama Quack keeps her duckling safe because she loves him. When Dandelion wants to explore on his own, Mama lets him, but she prevents a hungry pike from attacking him. The next day, Dandelion explores, again. He doesn't pay attention to his surroundings, and Mama protects him from a hawk. On the third day, Dandelion is intent on exploring but keeps alert this time. When he notices a weasel, he warns those around him, which includes his mother. Because he learned his mother’s lessons, he and his mother are safe for another day.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: Mama Quack is intentional about giving Dandelion freedom while protecting him from a pike and a hawk. As she lets him experience his world, she also teaches him about safety by modeling what to do when there is danger.

Peekaboo Bedtime

by Rachel Isadora (author / illustrator)

Summary: Youngsters are invited to play peekaboo with an adorable toddler. The boy peeks at someone or something, but the reader must turn the page to find out whom or what. He plays peekaboo with his grandparents, the moon, his parents, his cat, his puppy, his slippers, his rubber ducky, his blankie and finally the reader.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: None, although the toddler's parents and grandparents are shown in many illustrations as taking care of and loving him.

Psalm 23

"The Master Illustrator Series"

illustrated by Barry Moser

Summary: This book is not a written story but merely Psalm 23 from the Bible. Yet a story is derived from the illustrations of a modern-day shepherd and his flock. There are two pages at the beginning of the book, which are not meant for a child, and two pages that are a note from the publisher at the end of the book, which are not meant for a child. The rest of the book allows parents and children to learn something more about Psalm 23.

Christian beliefs: The entire book illustrates Psalm 23 from the Old Testament.

Authority roles: The shepherd is in authority over his sheep, but he uses his authority for the good of his sheep.


by Patrick McDonnell (author/illustrator)

Summary: A charming, wordless story tells about a bird that awakes to find the rest of the flock has flown south for the winter, leaving him behind. Mooch the cat offers his help and travels with the bird. About the middle of the journey, Mooch leads the bird through a city. Tall buildings and colorless, grim people are a contrast to the color of the bird and cat. Eventually they find the flock. The art is warm, soft watercolor on beige paper.

Christian beliefs: This story of a cat helping a lost bird aligns with Jesus' story of the sheep and the goats: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40).

Authority roles: Mooch the cat takes responsibility for helping the bird find his flock, holding his wing as they journey, and even carrying him on his shoulders at one point. Mooch tires and falls asleep in the middle, but wakes immediately when he hears the bird crying.

You Were Loved Before You Were Born

by Eve Bunting (author); Karen Barbour (illustrator)

Summary: From a mother's perspective, this book talks directly to a child to let him or her know that parents, grandparents, friends, relatives, the mother's students from her dance class and even the dog, were waiting for the child’s birth. They all loved him or her even before the child was born, and they still do.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: The child's parents are looking forward to the birth of their child with love and anticipation.


10 Family-Friendly Picture Books from 2009

Here are 10 family-friendly picture book reviews in alphabetical order.

Along Came You

by Karona Drummond (author); Estelle Corke (illustrator)

Summary: A mother compares her life before the arrival of her child to family life after her child enters the family in the areas of decorations, noise, companionship, activities, outings, books, sleeping, and the joy found in watching the child grow.

Christian beliefs: The importance of a child is based on Psalm 127:3.

Authority roles: The mother in this book extols her joy at having a child and being in relationship with the child on a daily basis. The illustrations show the mother supervising the child's activities and not becoming upset or worried over the many changes that have taken place in her formerly well-ordered life. Although this mother remains the authority figure as a parent, she interacts with her child in a way that the child can appreciate and may remember.

The Berenstain Bears Love Their Neighbors

created by Jan & Mike Berenstain

Summary: The Bear family demonstrates good stewardship by keeping their house clean and well maintained. Most of their neighbors do the same, but the Bogg brothers don't. They have a run-down, messy place, and Mama and Papa Bear do not approve of these neighbors.

On the Bear family's way to a town festival celebrating their neighborhoods, their car breaks down. The Mayor and Mrs. Honeypot drive by. The Mayor is leading the festival, and they're late, so they can't stop to help. The Squire and Lady Grizzly drive by. They, too, are late. Lady Grizzly is the flower-arranging contest judge, so they can't stop to help. The Bogg brothers stop and help the Bear family — towing the vehicle to a gas station and fixing the car.

When the Bogg brothers won't take money for their services, Papa Bear invites them to the town's festival, and Mama Bear invites them over for dinner the following week. The Bogg brothers accept both invitations.

Christian beliefs: The story is a loose allegory of the parable that Jesus told about the good Samaritan when someone asked Jesus who was his neighbor (Luke 10:25-37).

Authority roles: Mama and Papa Bear are good stewards of their home and their things. Their children follow their example. When Mama and Papa realize that they have been wrong to judge the Bogg brothers, they act neighborly toward them.

Cecil The Lost Sheep

created by Andrew McDonough (author/illustrator)

Summary: Cecil the sheep grows bored of being a part of a 100-sheep flock. He escapes and climbs a steep mountain. He eventually gets stuck on a cliff on the mountainside. Although he wants help, he doesn't cry for it because he is afraid the shepherd will be angry with him. When the shepherd notices Cecil is missing, he leaves his flock of 99 sheep and searches until he finds Cecil. Instead of being angry, the shepherd is so happy that he has found Cecil that he throws a party that Cecil and the other sheep get to enjoy.

Christian beliefs: This humorous rendition of the parable about the good Shepherd is based on Luke 15:1-7.

Authority roles: The shepherd knows each sheep by name and each sheep is important to him. He will search for lost sheep, even when it's the sheep's fault that it is lost. When a sheep returns to the fold, the shepherd celebrates.

God Is With Me Through the Day

written by Julie Cantrell

Summary: The words and photographs in this picture book demonstrate how God's love makes the world a less fearful place. The text reminds children that God loves them and that they can trust in God no matter how they are feeling. To do this, the book pairs simple words with animal photographs. For example, to demonstrate that children wake up and stretch, a bear is shown stretching. The photograph of a rodent safe in a tree's knothole represents the security children may feel in their homes. Some of the childhood emotions covered are loneliness (demonstrated by a raccoon hiding in a bush) and how small a mouse feels in a great big world. The book ends with an encouragement to children to remember that God is with them, just as He was with David and Jonah in the Bible stories they hear.

Christian beliefs: Children are encouraged to bring their emotions before God and trust in Him even when scared (Psalm 56:3). God is seen as strong, omnipresent, comforting, safe and full of love for the reader.

Authority roles: A mother penguin is touching its youngster as if it were kissing it. A spotted leopard cub is seen as cuddling with its parent. A mother polar bear protects its cub. A baby monkey trustingly looks up at its parent.

Meet Genna and Russ, The Generous Kids

by Sarah Wilson (author); Terry Taylor (illustrator)

Summary: Genna and Russ are twins. They enjoy doing many things, such as swimming, hiking, playing soccer, skating, biking, caring and sharing. They read books to younger animals, help friends out of tough places, introduce themselves to new people, help others with work, donate clothes and cheer up friends. Because of this, they are a part of the Generous Kids Club.

Christian beliefs: No Scriptures are given, but the general principle of loving your neighbor is described.

Authority roles: Although Genna and Russ help an adult with his garden, this book is solely focused on children and what they can do for each other.

My Dad and Me

by Alyssa Satin Capucilli (author); Susan Mitchell (illustrator)

Summary: In the autumn, a girl and her dad rake leaves and play in them. In the winter, a boy and his papi (Spanish for father) play in the snow, make large snowballs and sled when they are alone together. A girl and her aba (Hebrew for father) hike, bike and relax together in the spring. During the summer, a boy and his bábá (Mandarin for father) go to the beach to look at shells, play in the waves and go in a boat together. A girl and her bapa (the Hindi word for father) enjoy being together. At the end, a young boy snuggles in his father's lap. The whole book centers on the special relationship between a child and his or her father.

Christian beliefs: None, but the principle of children looking up to their parents with respect is present.

Authority roles: The father's place as a role model in his child's life, amid different cultural backgrounds, is emphasized.

The Tallest of Smalls

by Max Lucado (author); Maria Monescillo (illustrator)

Summary: Each night, a certain number of names are called in Stiltsville. People want their name called because it means that they may be the best at something — the prettiest, cleverest or funniest. These special people receive stilts.

One night, Ollie was chosen, and the town cheered for him. He became extremely popular as he stood on his new stilts. He enjoyed the prestige, until birds started nesting on him because he was so high in the air. Their nesting made him fall to the ground where he used to live. As soon as he fell, his stilts were removed. This upset him until Jesus came and told Ollie that he was precious, not because he did or did not have stilts, but because he belonged to Jesus. Jesus taught Ollie that he was the "tallest of talls" because of Jesus' love.

Christian beliefs: The message in this book is a reminder that children are special and that Jesus loves them. It is written to reinforce the idea that a person's significance comes from God, not his culture or what he does well.

Authority roles: Those in authority in Stiltsville use their position to give fame to some and look down on others. Jesus accepts Ollie as belonging to Him, regardless of whether he is popular with others.


by Rufus Butler Seder

Summary: Children are asked if they can waddle, stomp, prance, hop, slither, flap, scamper or leap like various animals, such as a penguin, frog, pig, elephant, snake, bird, bear or dolphin. On the page opposite each question is an animal that performs the action specified, actually moving (using Scanimation) as the page is turned.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: None, although the reader, who is probably the parent, is asking these questions, so there is an interactive element to this Scanimation picture book.

When I Grow Up

by Leonid Gore (author/illustrator)

Summary: A young boy wants to know what he will be when he grows up. A raindrop will one day be a river and thinks that perhaps that is what the boy will be. A green sprout suggests that the boy may follow his lead and become a tall tree. A caterpillar thinks the boy may become a butterfly like it will. A chick says it will become a rooster, so perhaps the boy will, also. A shadow says that it will eventually grow into the night; perhaps the boy will also be a part of the night. The boy decides that when he grows up, he will be just like his daddy.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: In the opening and closing pages, a young boy interacts with his father as a young boy would with a parent and his role model. The author captures the pride a youngster has in the idea of becoming just like his father.

Yes Day!

by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (author); Tom Lichtenheld (illustrator)

Summary: This illustrated picture book explores the idea of a holiday called Yes Day, when any yes/no question the child asks is given a yes response. The main character wants pizza for breakfast, to use hair gel, clean his room another day, choose what to buy at the grocery store, have ice cream, eat lunch outside, have a food fight, invent his own game, take a piggyback ride with Dad, have a friend over for dinner and stay up late. But the day does come to an end, and the child can't wait until this day comes again the following year. On the inside cover of the book are calendar squares that show other days, such as Maybe Tomorrow Day, We'll See Day, Not Today Day, You Gotta Be Kidding Me Day, Go Ask Your Father Day, Go Ask Your Mother Day, As-a-matter-of-fact-I-am-the-boss-of-you-and-I-said-no Day, Talk Backwards Day, and many more. The book seems to suggest that with all the no's a child receives during the course of a normal day, sometimes it's good for him to have an occasional Yes Day.

Christian beliefs: None

Authority roles: Although this book is from the child's perspective, the main character knows he must ask his parents' permission, and it's up to them to say yes. His parents are shown as reasonable and ready to celebrate Yes Day with him, even though the cover flaps show that from a child's perspective, he has a lot of no's in his life. The child asks for reasonable things, which makes the reader tend to think that his parents are raising him well. Throughout, the child shows how he likes interacting with his family, and the book gives the idea that occasionally, it's OK to do things differently, even if it's messier or doesn't fit into the daily routine.