The best children’s picture books on separation and belonging

Naomi Danis Author Of Bye, Car
By Naomi Danis

Who am I?

I’m the author of picture books about feelings (I Hate Everyone), friendship (My Best Friend, Sometimes), and family (While Grandpa Napsand now, things that go (Bye, Car). I’ve also written about taking a bath and going for a walk. Wanting to be close and cared for, and at the same time, wanting to take even tentative steps toward independence is at the heart of the challenge of growing up for young children. Negotiating between the wish to belong and the wish to separate can be messy. The themes of connection, relationship, love, and ambivalence inspire much of my writing

I wrote...

Bye, Car

By Naomi Danis, Daniel Rieley (illustrator),

Book cover of Bye, Car

What is my book about?

Each new book is an adventure for me. Bye, Car began as a story of how children love to notice cars going by, and in a wonderful synergy with editor and art designer Annie Kubler and illustrator Daniel Rieley, became so much more. The simple sensory language that might mesmerize a younger child also represents a vision of a new day with greener means of getting around. The beautiful illustrations of urban scenes and transportation options offer opportunities for further conversation. In a modest way, this picture book represents my hope that we will learn to take better care of our environment for future generations.

The books I picked & why

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Owl Babies

By Martin Waddell, Patrick Benson (illustrator),

Book cover of Owl Babies

Why this book?

“I want my mommy” is the poignant refrain of the youngest of three owl babies as they await the return of their mother owl who has flown off into the night. “I want my mommy” is his answer to every comment and speculation from his sibling owls in this simple story that has a reassuring, satisfying ending. I love the directness and psychological truth and the wonderful predictable refrain that makes this story fun to read aloud with a child.

Don't Forget to Come Back!

By Robie H. Harris, Harry Bliss (illustrator),

Book cover of Don't Forget to Come Back!

Why this book?

Mommy and Daddy are going out—without her— and the narrator of this compassionate and sweetly, smartly funny picture book doesn’t like it one bit. She keeps finding three new very important things to tell her patient parents to prevent their leaving—to no avail. The babysitter, not surprisingly, turns out to be very cool. I love the imagination, resourcefulness, and spunk of this child narrator coping with her own feelings of separation.

Where the Wild Things Are

By Maurice Sendak,

Book cover of Where the Wild Things Are

Why this book?

Having perhaps been a wild thing himself, Max is sent away to his room where he imagines being in a land of wild things—monsters—creating a rumpus with them, but eventually returning home, where he finds his supper on a plate waiting for him, and it is still warm. Sendak, as both an author and illustrator, was a picture book pioneer in showcasing children’s sometimes unconscious conflicted feelings.

Night Job

By Karen Hesse, G. Brian Karas (illustrator),

Book cover of Night Job

Why this book?

While the city sleeps a small boy accompanies his dad on his night shift as a school custodian, playing ball in the gym while his dad sweeps, sharing a meal they brought with them, listening to a game on the radio as they go from classroom to classroom, reading aloud on a couch until he dozes off while his dad polishes the library. I love this story for its tender sense of togetherness and for sharing the adult world of work. The night time makes it special too.

Big Red Lollipop

By Rukhsana Khan, Sophie Blackall (illustrator),

Book cover of Big Red Lollipop

Why this book?

In a heartfelt but also comic story, the eldest of three sisters in an immigrant family comes home from school with her first-ever birthday party invitation and much to her chagrin, her mom insists she must call the classmate to ask if she can bring along her annoying “I wanna go too!” sister. It’s hard having her sister with her at the party, and even worse when they get home.  I Iove the sibling rivalry, depicted so perfectly here, and the sibling love and family solidarity that goes with it.

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