By Nikki Francis

Ever find yourself wondering how to give loved ones something different than a gift card, or more memorable than a standard Hallmark greeting for special or life changing occasions?

As a teacher and new mom, I find myself savoring moments where I am able to read and discuss picture story books and their messages with my kids and students.   These books are often able to bridge unseen communication gaps and convey important life experiences to children.  Some of the authors are new, others have been around for decades, and some have even passed, but their picture story books and the messages expressed are enduring and hopefully endearing (even for adults . Below is a sampling of my favorites.  Hopefully you can enjoy these books as I have, and will choose to share others that have a special meaning to you in some way so that this list is always growing.

  • The Gift of Nothing, by Patrick McDonnell

The author of the comic strip, Mutts, has created a short story unraveling the depths friends go through for one another to find the perfect gift.  Perfect even for the person who has everything.

  • For someone going through a rough time, Hug Time, by Patrick MacDonald.

The same friends, Mooch and Earl from The Gift of Nothing go all over the world to give as many hugs to as many animals as possible. Just because.

  • For a brand new baby introduced to a family with a pet, The Other Dog, by Madeline L’Engle.

A surprising treat from Madeline L’Engle, who typically writes for older children, this book tells the story of a new baby in the house and how the family dog thinks the baby it is a new dog.  A heartwarming tale about the new bonds between animals and the new house “pet.”

  • For expecting mothers, The Wonderful Happens, by Cynthia Rylant.

“The world is filled with so many wonderful things– birds that fly through the sky and peaches that grow on trees, spiders spinning webs and cats napping in windows, fresh-baked bread and new fallen snow.  And then there’s the most wonderful thing of all—You!”

If you are one of the expectant mothers reading this book, have some tissues handy as it’s sure to make you tear up with its special message.

  • For pets who have passed on, Dog Heaven/Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant.

This book has religious overtone and tells where cats and dogs go in the afterlife and the joy they bring Heaven while they are there.

  • For teaching children about sharing mom’s attention and love, I love you the Purplest, by Barbara Joosse.

A mother and her two boys interact while the mother carefully chooses words to express the different ways she loves each of the boys for their uniqueness.

  • For siblings of new babies, Julius, the Baby of the World, by Kevin Henkes

A real life look from a new sister’s viewpoint, as her new baby brother takes over mom and dad’s affections.  Lilly’s repetitive word choice, “disgusting,” is surely to give you and your little ones a giggle when reading.

  • For teaching little ones prone to toddler tantrums about patience and understanding through delightful and memorable phrases such as, “No more of this llama drama,” Llama Llama series by Anna Dewdney is a good read.
  • For teaching children the value of giving without asking for anything in return, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Silverstein weaves so many emotions into this tale of a Tree’s undying love for a boy throughout his life, despite the boy growing up.

Do you have books that you enjoy giving to others?  Have you received a book at a time in your life that was special to you?  Please share the authors and titles below, and thank you, Nikki, for your ideas!