Picture Books Can Help Kids Embrace Change

Change can be tough for kids. Most of them thrive on familiarity. But in life, change, whether situational or change of perspective, is inevitable. Luckily there are many books out there to help kids understand that change, although sometimes scary, doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Three of my favourites from this past year are Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian, Knuffle Bunny Lost by Mo Willems and The Sandwich Swap by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah (of Jordan).

 In Memoirs of a Goldfish we meet the young goldfish who is quite enjoying life in his bowl. Some days he swims around his bowl. Some days he swims around his bowl twice. Then one day new residents begin to appear in his bowl, and unwillingly he must share his personal space with a strange cast of characters. As the bowl becomes more and more crowded, he wishes for a space of his own again. Suddenly, his wish comes true. The elation at having a private bowl again is only brief. Soon the goldfish is wondering about how all of his old companions are doing without him and missing the life he had been trying so desperately to escape. Then, of course, he is put into a new bigger tank with all of his old friends, and they all live happily ever after.

 In Knuffle Bunny Lost, master children’s book author Mo Willems continues the story of Trixie and her beloved stuffed Knuffle Bunny. Trixie is on her way to Holland to see her grandparents, and her Knuffle Bunny gets left on the airplane. The airplane then flies to China. Trixie is heartbroken at first, but she comes to realize that she is growing up and doesn’t really need Knuffle Bunny any more. She enjoys the rest of her trip, feeling happy and confident in herself now that she has realized she no longer needs to rely on Knuffle Bunny’s support. On the flight home there is a small miracle – Knuffle Bunny is on the plane!  Trixie is thrilled, but she knows she doesn’t need Knuffle Bunny any more and so she gives him to a baby sitting behind her who is in need of comforting. Kids will love the fun illustrative style, with two-dimensional characters drawn onto photographs, and the message about letting go and growing up is told thoughtfully.

 In The Sandwich Swap, Lily and Salma are best friends and they like to do all the same things. They have one big difference however: Lily eats peanut butter sandwiches every day and Salma eats hummus. Neither can understand why the other would want to eat something that seems so disgusting. Soon, this seemingly insignificant difference creates a rift between the girls. The judgments they make become the source of a series of insults which leads to more hurt feelings. Finally, one of the girls works up the courage to ask the other if she would like to try her sandwich. As they try each other’s lunches, they realize that just because something is different from what they usually eat, that does not mean it’s bad. By stepping outside their comfort zone (or perhaps we should call it their comfort-food zone) they have learned an important lesson about acceptance of diversity and differences.

Erika Anderson is the manager of a bookstore and is always happy to share her love of books with others.