The best upbeat, humorous picture books about doing the right thing

Who am I?

Over my career as an elementary school teacher and a science educator I’ve seen time and time again that no matter the topic, learning happens best when people feel positive and engaged. My favorite books to share with young readers are those that capture their attention–be it with stunning illustrations, unusual information, or hilarious situations–and leave them with a strong emotional connection to the characters or story. Now, as I read oodles of picture books for writing research, I keep an extra special eye out for those that leave me smiling and also make me think. Some of my very favorites are collected for you here.


I wrote...

Book cover of Rat Fair

What is my book about?

When a group of industrious, fun-loving rats find letters fallen from an Art Fair sign, they put the sign back together—with one small adjustment—and get to work creating a spectacular Rat Fair. Their fair is ruined when humans sweep away everything the rats have created. Undaunted, the rats switch gears and start working on their very own Rat Art Fair. As they are wrapping up their first day of the Rat Art Fair, a human child who has been following their progress from the sidelines catches them red-handed, and the rats must decide if they can trust the child.

A nearly wordless tale about creativity, kindness, and perseverance.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Chopsticks

Leah Rose Kessler Why did I love this book?

As perhaps you can tell from my own book, Rat Fair, I’m a sucker for wordplay, and Chopsticks hits all the right notes. Its subtle playfulness with language makes it eminently re-readable, and I have nothing but respect for its fervent dedication to terrible puns. Not only is Chopsticks light-hearted, funny, and expressively illustrated (who knew a cotton ball could look so concerned?), but at the heart of this fast-paced, cutlery-based romp is the idea that you can be deeply attached to someone you love and also be able to enjoy your own life apart from them. That, in fact, you’re likely to work better as a team because of the time you both take for yourselves.

By Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Scott Magoon (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chopsticks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

The second entry in a trio of favorite "punny" tales about chopsticks from beloved bestselling and award-winning author Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

Meet Chopsticks!

They've been best friends forever. But one day, this inseparable pair comes to a fork in the road. And for the very first time, they have to figure out how to function apart.

From New York Times best-selling author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and rising artistic talent Scott Magoon, this witty and inventive tale celebrates both independence and the unbreakable bonds of friendship.


Book cover of Bunnybear

Leah Rose Kessler Why did I love this book?

Bunnybear, oh Bunnybear… this book is one of my all-time favorites. I came for the adorable cover illustration and stayed for the sweet characters and beautifully crafted metaphor about being true to who you are and listening with love to the people around you. Like the other books on this list, this story doesn’t hit you over the head with its message, but instead, seamlessly weaves it into a lighthearted, fun narrative. Also, minor spoiler: this book has a character named Grizzlybun. How can you not love a story with a character named Grizzlybun!?

By Andrea J. Loney, Carmen Saldaña (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Bunnybear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

2018 Storytelling World Resource Award Winner - Stories for Young Listeners
2018 Rainbow Book List

Bunnybear is more than a bear.

Although Bunnybear was born a bear, he feels more like a bunny. He prefers bouncing in the thicket to tramping in the forest, and in his heart he's fluffy and tiny, like a rabbit, instead of burly and loud, like a bear. The other bears don’t understand him, and neither do the bunnies. Will Bunnybear ever find a friend who likes him just the way he is?


Book cover of Potato Pants!

Leah Rose Kessler Why did I love this book?

I adore Potato Pants! It’s laugh-out-loud funny, has hilarious illustrations, entertaining asides, and is the best example I’ve ever seen of effortlessly and humorously modeling how to make amends when you’ve gotten something wrong. Having a potato as the main character is brilliant, and the way he instantly assumes the eggplant has negative intentions is extraordinarily relatable. I wish I’d had this book when I was teaching elementary school. My students and I would have had a good laugh, followed by a good conversation.

By Laurie Keller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Potato Pants! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Potato is excited. He's excited because today - for one day only - Lance Vance's Fancy Pants store is selling POTATO PANTS! Potato rushes over early, and just as he's about to walk in, who does he see inside? Mean, pushy eggplant who was rude to him the other day. Now potato is in a pickle. Can he stand up to eggplant in order to get his new stripey pants? Can these vegetable rivals make peace in the name of fashion? Find out in this one-of-a-kind story about forgiveness and making amends by the one-of-a-kind picture book creator Laurie Keller.…


Book cover of Whole Whale

Leah Rose Kessler Why did I love this book?

The Whole Whale is a counting book, a delightful, read-aloud rhyming book, and, at its core, it’s a book about making space for everyone, even when it might seem easier to say, “Sorry, there’s no room for you.” The other 99 animals in the book don’t hesitate to make way for their biggest friend by pushing and shoving until… voilà… they arrive at a special surprise—a double fold-out page big enough to fit all 100 different animals (Seriously! 100!). Talk about a page you and your little one can pore over again and again and find something new every time!

By Karen Yin, Nelleke Verhoeff (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Whole Whale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One hundred unusual animals try to squeeze into the pages of this raucous rhyming tale. But will there be room to fit a whole blue whale? The humorous ending features an expansive double gatefold and educational endnotes list the 100 animals in the book.


Book cover of Crab Cake: Turning the Tide Together

Leah Rose Kessler Why did I love this book?

Crab Cake speaks to me as a biologist and as someone who cares deeply about the environment. It has a more serious tone than the other books on the list—but only as serious as a book headlined by a baking crab can be. The illustrations of the seafloor community are detailed, and true facts about sea animals are “baked” right into the text. When the undersea community in the story finds itself on the ugly end of humans’ habit of dumping trash where it’s not wanted, the titular crab uses his penchant for baking cakes to bring the community together to solve the problem.

By Andrea Tsurumi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Crab Cake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kirkus Best Book / Publishers Weekly Best Book
★ "Readers come away with the idea that nourishing and supporting one another is the only way to change the world."–Kirkus, STARRED review

★ " [A] wholly original and moving affirmation of one crab’s power to bring a community together."–Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

Crab follows his heart in the wake of a disaster and discovers that everyone’ talents have value when applied with generosity. Feed your craving for a hilarious, heart-warming story with Crab Cake. Humorous, intricate illustrations are perfect to engage readers aged 3-7 while teaching gentle lessons of civic engagement…


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Hayley and the Hot Flashes

By Jayne Jaudon Ferrer,

Book cover of Hayley and the Hot Flashes

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer Author Of Hayley and the Hot Flashes

New book alert!

Who am I?

I grew up in a small town, with wonderful librarians who introduced me to books I remember fondly to this day. The Flicka, Ricka, Dicka series, the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew, and, of course, Little Women shaped my love for stories about relationships and the simple pleasures of daily life. Whether it’s a mystery or a memoir, I want interesting interactions between the main characters, meaty descriptions of daily activities and affairs, and, of course, a happy ending. As I’ve gotten older, I like books with older protagonists; those are hard to come by—one reason I wrote a novel about the adventures of five middle-aged girlfriends!

Jayne's book list on entertaining stories about relationships

What is my book about?

Country music diva Hayley Swift has fallen off the charts and into a funk. Desperate to regain her place in the limelight, she agrees to a low-budget tour of Southern venues, starting with her 35th high school reunion.

There, in an unexpected but fortuitous reconnection, The Girls Next Door —who sang together in their teens--become Hayley and the Hot Flashes as they embark on a road trip that will forever change their lives. You'll laugh out loud as the ladies deal with stage fright, stalkers, attitudes, egos, harmonies, hormones, and more. Middle age has never been moodier—or more melodic!

Hayley and the Hot Flashes

By Jayne Jaudon Ferrer,

What is this book about?

When five middle-aged girlfriends trade in carpools and casseroles for microphones and music halls, look out!

Hayley Swift, a country music diva who has slipped out of the limelight, gets more attention when she's mistaken for Taylor Swift's mom than for her former glory days. When she's invited to perform at her 35th high school reunion, a bus accident puts her back-up singers in a hospital, Hayley begs her long-gone-domestic quartet from high school to join her onstage for the gig. They're such a hit that she invites the women to fill in on a low-budget tour for a couple…


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