Inside: Children’s book suggestion for every day in March. The books on our list cover a wide variety of topics and feature unforgettable stories, imaginative plots, and creative illustrations.
The name March comes from Latin martius, after Mars, the Roman God of war, because in Roman times this month signaled the beginning of warfare.
Here in Chicago, it signals the time of year when we line up snow pants and swimsuits. It might snow, or it might get to +88. Everything is possible. But we are okay with our unpredictable weather because March is full of fun things to celebrate and learn about.
In March, we are busy building leprechaun traps and reading Irish legends (it’s an Irish American month). March is also a great month to celebrate our planet (International Earth’s Day and World Wildlife Day), to read about inspiring women (it’s Women’s History Month), and to eat spinach and waffles (Spinach Day and Waffles Day). It’s also the ideal time to learn more about Dr. Seuss, Albert Einstein, Vincent Van Gogh, and Sebastian Bach, who were all born this month.
Spring, the spring equinox, seeds and gardens, bugs, farms, and baby animals are all exciting things to explore this month. On our list, you will also find exciting books about friendships, mother’s love, and pigs. Pigs? Yes! Let’s dig in!
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March 1 – Piggie Pie, Margie Palatini
What’s your favorite storybook pig? Let me guess. Is it Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web? No? Piglet from Winnie the Pooh? Or perhaps the third (wisest) pig in Three Little Pigs? These were the answers we got from asking around. We took a vote in our family, and Ian Falconer’s Olivia and Mo Willems’ Piggie from Elephant and Piggie won. But when it came to picking the best piggie book EVER, Piggie Pie was selected.
Everybody has days when they wake up craving a special treat, and when this happens to Gritch the Witch, she’s willing to go to great lengths to satisfy her craving. The only problem is that pigs at Old MacDonald’s farm are way too clever and keep coming up with strategies to avoid being caught. This book is a great read-aloud for National Pig Day today and any time of the year. It even inspired my kids to invent a strategy game; they call it Surrender Piggies and involves spying, sneaking, and catching the
March 2 – The Bippolo Seed, Dr. Seuss
Today is a birthday of an amazing children’s book author, Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. The Bippolo Seed is little known, but it’s my favorite Dr. Seuss book.
In the story, “a young duck named McKluck had a wonderful, wonderful piece of good luck” when he found a seed that he can plant to grow a Bippolo Tree. And “whatever you wish for, whatever it be will sprout and grow out of a Bippolo Tree.” As can be expected, things don’t go as expected, and there are a few valuable lessons to learn along the way. The book features the typically captivating Dr. Seuss rhyme, his deft drawings, and a memorable plot.
March 3 – Tallyho, Pinkerton, Steven Kellogg
I can’t think of a more fun book to celebrate World Wildlife Day today than with Tallyho, Pinkerton, written and illustrated by Steven Kellogg, who is always surprising. In this story, a young girl needs to take a hike in the woods to spot ten different birds and mammals for her school report. Her mom grabs a picnic basket, and the girl grabs her pets (they need fresh air, too). As you would expect from Mr. Kellogg, they find themselves in a hilarious situation involving bloodthirsty fox hunters. a hot air balloon, and an assortment of wild birds and animals.
March 4 – Exclamation Mark, Amy Krouse Rosenthal
An exclamation mark has an existential crisis. It doesn’t seem to fit in with the other punctuation marks and has little confidence in itself. But then a question mark enters the scene and helps the exclamation mark discover its strengths. This clever and humorous book is not only perfect to celebrate National Grammar Day today but also to open a discussion about fitting in, confidence, and self-discovery.
March 5 – The Greentail Mouse, Leo Lionni
Leo Lionni’s books have been read into tatters in my house. Have you heard the story of how he became a children’s author?
Leo Lionni was an esteemed art director for Fortune Magazine when he found himself on a train with no drawing supplies. He started tearing the magazine pages into shapes to help him tell a story he had in mind, and that’s how his iconic paper collage medium was discovered. The fateful train ride soon led to the publication of his first children’s book. One year later, he quit his job and began his career as a children’s book author/illustrator. He is the pioneer of using paper collage as a medium for book illustrations, and he has received four Caldecott Medals for his illustrations.
In Greentail Mouse, a Mardi Gras celebration gets out of control, but most of the participants make a full recovery (except for one mouse who is forever marked by a green tail). We love the vivid art and the big double-page spreads. Read it today on Mardi Gras before decorating your own masks and baking a king cake.
March 6 – In Like a Lion Out Like A Lamb, Marion Dane Bauer
I don’t know what March looks like where you live, but here in Chicago, it often starts with harsh winds, rain, and sometimes even hail and snow, but by the end of the month, spring is in the air. Even if your March is not as changeable as ours, you will love this rhyming book about the change of seasons and the duality of March weather.
“March comes with a roar.
He rattles your windows and scratches at your door.
He turns snow to mud, then tromps across your floor.”
The rhyming cadence might at times make you cringe, but the ink and watercolor drawings by Caldecott winner Emily Arnold McCully more than make up for that.
March 7 – Spring for Sophie, Yael Werber
There’ve been times when we’ve returned from the library carrying bags bulging with books, all containing the word “spring” in the title, only to discover that most were so boring we couldn’t finish them. I know kids need to learn the technicalities of spring, but does it really have to be that boring? I don’t think so.
In this well written and illustrated book, little Sophie wants to know how she will recognize spring when it comes. Her mom tells her to listen for it, and in the next six pages, we learn how Sophie is using her ears to listen for spring. Sophie’s dad also tells her that she can use her feet to feel for spring, and now Sophie pays extra attention to her feet. Then it’s time to use her senses of sight, smell, and taste….
It’s an enjoyable book to read and look at, but it also will turn your kids into keen observers of nature.
March 8 – Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, Peter & Connie Roop
There are many fabulous books you can read on International Women’s Day with your children. If you need some inspiration, check out my post “Girls Can Do Anything.” Today I want to talk about Abbie Burgess, who at the age of 16 kept the lighthouse lights burning for 21 nights without help, not much sleep, and only a little food (one cup of corn mush and an egg per day). She also saved the lives of her sick mother and younger sisters by moving them into a stronger part of the lighthouse (just before the furious ocean filled their regular quarters). It’s a true and very moving story that my kids refer to as “the book that makes mom cry.”
I love reading this book to my kids, even though it does make me cry sometimes. Not only is it expertly written, but it also has evocative watercolor pictures that warm my heart.
March 9 – Home In the Rain, Bob Graham
Nothing extraordinary happens in this simple story. It’s just a mom and her child driving home in the rain, as might have happened to you countless times. You might expect a lot of rain this time of the year when it’s a frequent visitor. What Bob Graham, a talented Australian author and illustrator, is inviting you to do is press the “pause” button and find the extraordinary in the mundane. Wonderful watercolor and ink artwork accompanies the narrative.
March 10 – No Matter What, Debi Gliori
If you haven’t yet read this heartwarming book to your kids, then run to the library and get a copy right away. In this story, a fox child wants the reassurance of his mother’s unconditional love, and he learns that his mother will always love him no matter what. The sweet rhyming text and warm illustrations will probably bring up very strong emotions in you. Sniffing and outright weeping is acceptable.
March 11 – Johnny Appleseed: a Tall Tale, Steven Kellogg
It’s Johnny Appleseed Day! March 11 is presumed to be the day of his death, even though the date is under dispute. In September, there is another Johnny Appleseed Day to commemorate his birth.
Quickly, without thinking about it, answer this question: Are there more children’s books about Johnny Appleseed or about Albert Einstein and Sebastian Bach? A man who planted apples across America has dozens (hundreds?) of books written about him while you will be hard pressed to find more than one picture book each about Einstein and Bach.
Steven Kellogg’s Appleseed book is the best. The narration is witty, the illustrations are humorous, and it always makes my kids chuckle and even laugh out loud.
March 12 – Plant a Kiss, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney
It’s Plant a Flower Day! If it’s too early to plant flowers outside where you live, you can plant kisses instead. Find inspiration in adorable and sparkly Plant a Kiss by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by everybody’s favorite artist Peter Reynolds (author of The Dot).
But if it’s real flowers you want to read about today, then try Miss Rumphius, written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney (a two-time Caldecott medalist, as well as a recipient of a National Book Award and a Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international recognition for creators of children’s books). Little Alice is brought up by her grandfather who told her that when she grows up, she must do something to make the world a better place. As an adult, she orders a bunch of seeds from a seed catalog and plants purple, blue, and rose flowers in her village. The story is inspired by a real person who spread flower seeds along the coast of Maine.
March 13 – The Bad Seed, Joey John
I think the reason my kids like this book so much is because they like the reassurance that misbehaving doesn’t make them bad. If they push another child, say something mean, or do any other impulsive, thoughtless thing that at times characterizes kids’ behavior, there is hope. At any moment in time, they can choose to make the right choice. It might not always work out (keeping cool and sharing is hard even for some adults), but they can keep trying. The other reason is that the writing is funny and the illustrations are playful.
I don’t know how often you sit down for a deep, meaningful conversation with your children, but this book definitely opens a great discussion about self-confidence, kindness, taking things one day at a time, and our ability to always evolve and grow in positive ways.
March 14 – On a Beam of Light: the Story of Albert Einstein, Jennifer Berne
Discover the story of a little boy who was scolded in school for being different from others, who asked too many questions, and who liked to spend his time wondering, thinking, and imagining. This little boy became Albert Einstein, the scientist who changed the world.
With this book, Jennifer Berne has done something seemingly impossible: she has made Albert Einstein exciting to little kids. The writing flows well, and the story is filled with great information.
The artwork, by Vladimir Radunsky, an extremely talented Russian illustrator, is absolutely brilliant. The watercolors outlined with ink on a textured paper are well suited for the subject matter. It’s Albert Einstein’s birthday today.
March 15 – The Frogs and Toads All Sang, Arnold Lobel
This collection of silly poems about frogs and toads from Caldecott Medalist Arnold Lobel is very enjoyable. I never get tired of reading it. Dancing in a lemonade, baking apple pies, squirming and giggling, playing a violin, hitting the moon—these are the poems that will make your kids love poetry.
These poems, complete with cartoonish pencil sketches, were discovered after the author’s death and published with the addition of some color by his daughter, using her dad’s watercolor technique. If you’re big fans of the Frog and Toad series, as we are, you might be interested to know that this poetry book was the first time Lobel wrote about these amphibians.
March 16 – The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day, Natasha Wing
What do you do the night before St. Patrick’s Day in your house? In Natasha Wing’s book, Tim and Maureen are decorating and making traps to catch a leprechaun. As you know, catching a leprechaun is not easy, and the joke is on them when a leprechaun makes a giant mess and escapes.
This adorable rhyming book is patterned after The Night Before Christmas, and it’s a great book to get kids excited about St. Patrick’s Day. My kids always want to start decorating and designing traps as soon as we read it.
March 17 – Fiona’s Luck, Teresa Bateman
A personal favorite of mine! Fiona’s Luck is a skillfully crafted fairytale about Irish luck. It has magic, spells, three tests, suspense, and a happy ending. What’s absolutely amazing is that it’s not an old fairytale but an original one by a contemporary American author.
Once there was a lot of luck in Ireland but not anymore because the leprechaun king keeps it all locked up. With unflinching intelligence and ingenious plotting, Fiona gets the luck back from the leprechaun king, not a small feat since, as the legend goes, nobody can outwit a leprechaun.
The principal strength of the story is that all the parts fit so neatly that you can’t help nodding your head and thinking “yep, that’s exactly how it happened. It couldn’t be any other way” until you shake your head and remind yourself it’s a fairytale.
March 18 – Lucky Ducklings, Eva Moore
Mama duck takes her brood for a walk, and all her five ducklings end up falling into a storm drain. “Oh dear, that could have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t, because…” just as the name suggests, those ducklings are lucky. After reading this book, one of my children said, “this is a REALLY good book,” with lots of emphasis on “really,” and that was even before I told him that it’s a true story.
Digitally enhanced charcoal drawings complement the story and take me back to my childhood. This kind of artwork was very popular a few decades ago. I love the tender shades of brown and green, and the clever attention to details (take note of what the littlest duckling is looking at every time he makes an appearance).
March 19 – The Magic Horse of Han Gan, Chen Jiang Hong
Myth, legend, and the culture of ancient China, spellbound narration and suspense, and the most extraordinary silk paintings combine here to create one of the most fascinating children’s books I’ve ever read. This is a story that is impossible to forget. The physical setting and the general sensibilities combine to transport us to a different era (over 1,200 years ago), and the ending is a surprise.
The main character of the story is Han Gang, a Chinese artist, who was legendary for painting horses that looked alive. In this story, one of these horses does spring from the page and become a great warrior’s war horse. All throughout, you will see splendid paintings of horses. I knew I had to buy The Magic Horse the moment we finished reading the library copy, so we could read it over and over again.
March 20 – The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
Today is International Earth Day (established by the United Nations and not to be confused with the U.S. Earth Day in April) and the Spring Equinox, the event that marks the astronomical first day in the Northern Hemisphere. If you’re used to the equinox being on March 21st, get used to a new day. The equinox is not going to occur on March 21 until the year 2102. Not in my lifetime! If you are curious why the equinox changed its date, read about it here in the space blog.
The Lorax is a natural choice for today’s book selection. With humor, rhymes, and big colorful illustrations, Dr. Seuss turns a boring environmental topic into a moving, powerful, memorable tale. I read in an interview that it was the one book Dr. Seuss was most proud of writing. It’s exactly the inspiration our kids need to turn the world into a better place.
March 21 – Becoming Bach, Tom Leonard
What an enthusiastic introduction to the life of Bach, a boy with a passion for music who grew up to become one of the best classical composers of all times! You won’t find many children’s books about composers, and definitely very few so well-written and so magnificently illustrated (there are baroque-era-style double spreads throughout).
Bach’s parents died when he was 9. His older brother took him in and taught him music. You will learn quite a few surprising details about Bach, like the fact that he fathered 20 kids and that in his part of Germany the word “bach” meant “a musician.” So ever since he was a little boy he wanted to be “bach.” (Hence the title of the book).
The story’s focus is Bach’s love of patterns and how he saw them everywhere in the designs on his mother’s dress and on the river’s surface. Modern musicians still marvel at the mathematical precision of his compositions. I bet the first thing your kids are going to ask you after reading this book is to listen to Bach’s music. There are some great suggestions in the book. It’s Bach’s birthday today.
March 22 – Nothing Stopped Sophie, Cheryl Bardoe
Little Sophie liked math at a time when women were not supposed to like math, and her parents did everything they could to stop her obsession. They took away candles, they wouldn’t allow her room to be heated, and they even removed her clothes, but nothing could stop Sophie. You already have guessed that this true story has a happy ending. It’s quite satisfying to read that Sophie ended up solving a math problem that for years all the mathematicians in the world hadn’t been able to solve.
Our favorite moment is when a fancy math professor drops by Sophie’s house to meet an extraordinary student who’s been sending him remarkable work by mail, only to discover that the remarkable student is a woman. The illustration of a white-haired man peering at a young blushing woman through a monocle is priceless. Barbara McClintock’s animated pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are delightful. Don’t miss the horrified expression on Sophie’s mom’s face when she finds her daughter asleep on top of her math calculations.
Cheryl Bardoe managed to pack lots of amazing information into a small space—math, passion, women’s rights, convention, education, and even the French Revolution. This book ignited my kids’ curiosity about the French Revolution to such an extent that we’ve been studying and talking about it ever since. And one of my children started learning the French language.
March 23 – The Luckiest Leprechaun, Justine Korman
Today is National Puppy Day, and it’s a scientifically proven fact that puppies are the cutest animals in the world. I know, I know, I just lost half of my subscribers right here. If you think that little kittens are the cutest animals in the world, I’m just teasing you. I have a dog and a cat, and both are my favorite.
In this adorable story, a big shaggy Irish dog by the name of Lucky accidentally damages the home of MacKenzie O’Shamrock (he’s a Leprechaun). The incident becomes the start of a beautiful friendship, but not before we experience suspicion, suspense, and a gold adventure. The story’s lesson is that “Everything’s better when you do it together.” One of my children jumps up and down from excitement through the whole reading of this story.
March 24 – Our Tree Named Steve, Alan Zweibel
Like in The Giving Tree this story’s main character is a tree. It gives shade. It gives a place to hide. It holds a swing and a jump rope. It becomes the center of all the backyard happenings from barbeques to campouts. Most importantly, it gives this family “peace that comes with having things you can count on and a safe place to return to after a hard day or a long trip.”
But one day it has nothing left to give except for falling down in such a way that it doesn’t crash onto the family house. The story is written in the form of a letter, and if you know me enough by now, then you probably have guessed already that the story made me cry.
March 25 – Woodpecker Wants a Waffle, Steve Breen
This was the Chicago Public Library’s best of the best book in 2016, and I think it’s perfect to celebrate Waffle Day today. Woodpecker wants to eat a waffle, but the challenges arise along the way. His animal friends try to talk him out of waffles, but, instead, woodpecker comes up with a brilliant plan.
You will love the humor, delightful illustrations, and the satisfying ending.
March 26 – Sylvia’s Spinach, Katherine Pryor
Today’s National Spinach Day, and we happen to know a great book about spinach that we can’t wait to tell you about. Sylvia’s teacher is distributing seed packets for a school vegetable garden, and she gets spinach. The problem is that she hates spinach and never eats it. However, taking care of the spinach plant proves to be so much fun that Sylvia ends up giving spinach a chance.
Every time we read this book, my kids ask, “Can we start the garden yet?”
March 27 – Ribbit, Rodrigo Folgueira
This is a super adorable book about a little pink pig who sits on a rock and says, “ribbit.” The pond frogs are utterly confused: What’s he saying? Is he making fun of them? They go to an old beetle for advice and realize that pig is learning the frog language to make friends with frogs. By the time they have figured that out, the pig is already in the tree speaking “tweet” with his new bird friends.
Did the frogs lose out on a chance to make a good friend? Oh no! On the last page of the book, you will find these frogs up in a tree along with some other animals all tweeting together. It might be one of the best books on friendships we have ever read.
March 28 – Sixth Violin, Hana Hashimoto
I got this book for my daughter as soon as she started taking violin lessons. In a sweet and non- preachy way, it introduces kids to universal wisdom that when it comes to playing a musical instrument, practice pays off, and a lot of practice pays off a lot. The Sixth Violin is an excellent conversation starter about music, playing, and commitment.
This delightful tale will inspire countless children to work harder, and as for parents, you will never get tired of rereading this well-written book full of colorful and exotic imagery—“the indigo evenings,” “the sound of raindrops on the oil-paper umbrella,” and “resting on a cool buckwheat pillow.”
Digitally covered pencil drawings by Qiu Leng are evocative. When you see little Hana walk with her violin across the stage to a microphone, you can’t help feeling goose bumps as you anticipate an approaching disaster (it didn’t happen). I recently ordered some other books illustrated by Qiu Leng and can’t wait to check them out.
March 29 – Father Bear Comes Home, Else Holmelund Minarik, and , Jessica Love
Today is International Mermaid Day, and our favorite mermaid book of all times is Father Bear Comes Home by Else Holmelund Minarik. In this story, Little Bear wonders if maybe his father will bring a mermaid home from his travels and before he knows it the “maybe” grew into so much more. This sweet book is a testament to the power of children’s imagination. I’ve read this book a hundred times, and I would gladly read it another hundred times. It’s very enjoyable.
Since we’re on the subject of mermaids, let me tell you about a new mermaid book we just discovered by Jessica Love. The central premise of Julian is a Mermaid is if you want to be a mermaid, be a mermaid. We also love the message that we should celebrate being unique and give people unconditional love.
March 30 – Artist and Me, Shane Peacock, and Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors, Tanya Lee Stone
Since today is National Doctors Day and Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday I have two great book recommendations for you. In Artist and Me by Shane Peacock, you will read a story about Vincent Van Gogh your kids have never heard before. It is the story of the artist being teased, bullied, and tormented by people for being different. The book is written by one of the tormentors. The phenomenal artwork by Sophie Casson looks like it was drawn by Van Gogh’s hand. If you have very sensitive children, you might need to read it on your own first to make sure it’s not going to be too disturbing.
In Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors by Tanya Lee Stone, we learn a thrilling biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, who became the first female doctor. There are many reasons to love this book—spunky narration, talented artwork by Marjorie Priceman (How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World), the inspiring subject matter, and the message not to let “them” decide what you can and can’t do. But the most amazing thing about this book is its power to ignite a meaningful conversation about obstacles, challenges, persistence, dreams, and courage.
March 31 – O’Sullivan’s Stew, Hudson Talbott
What an intriguing and well-rounded story! I couldn’t wait to find out what happens next. Kate O’Sullivan, this tale’s very likable heroine, cleverly cooks up a stew of captivating stories to keep herself, her brothers, and her dad alive. Her family was caught by the king’s guards trying to steal a horse, and now he wants them all dead. The horse actually belonged to someone else, and they wanted to return it to the rightful owner. Will Kate’s tales be compelling enough to save four lives?
O’Sullivan’s Stew has everything you might expect from an old-fashioned Irish tale and more—a witch, a stallion, giants, leprechauns, sea monsters, a suspenseful plot, and a modern (and unexpected!) ending. Talbott’s fun illustrations enhance the text. I enjoyed this book tremendously, and my kids did too (I walked in on my kids rereading this book on their own multiple times).
That’s it for March! What are you reading with your kids this month?