My three-year-old is firmly planted in the “why?” stage: Why is there a dog? Why are those people going that way? Why can’t I have a candy?
It is annoying?
Yes—in part because he can and does ask why about anything. But also because there are so many times I don’t have an answer, or at the very least, I don’t have a good enough answer.
I read once that that you can sideline the questions by simply asking your child what they think the answer is. My child does not care for that type of trickery. He will stick out his bottom lip and simply wail “No. I want you tell me.” In his mind, for every question there must be an answer. And a good one, too. Even if he asks the same question seven billion times in a row. It must be answered, by someone else.
So for those of you who find yourself in a similar position, read on. This month we will be looking at a bunch of books that will answer a whole lot of questions—from bugs to puberty and a lot of topics in between.
To begin, I have chosen the aptly named book Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Neal Porter Books, 2019). In this book a curious young rabbit asks her friend bear “why?” over and over again as the seasons change. Patiently he answers her question—until she asks one that he doesn’t have an answer to.
While this book covers a seemingly simple subject—kids and their unending questions—Seeger does not shy away from harder questions, such as why people die. The beautiful illustrations tell half the story and add to the emotional impact of the narrative. For ages 4 to 8.
Along the lines of Why? is Just Because by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (Candlewick Press, 2019). In this story a father is putting his young child to bed when she asks him “Why is the ocean blue?” Her imaginative father, and the wonderful illustrator, bring to life a rich and concise story to go with each of her questions, until his answer becomes “just because.” But even then he feeds her imagination. For ages 4 to 8.
If you have a child who is fascinated by flight then you will want to grab Alis the Aviator by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail and illustrated by Kalpna Patel (Tundra, 2019). This alphabet book starts with the Arrow, works its way through Goose, Norseman, and Renegade, before it ends with Zeppelins. For those of you who don’t know, those are all names of different flying machines.
At the end of the book there is an information sheet on Dr. Alis Kennedy, the pilot who inspired this book, who is quite possibly the first Indigenous woman to get her pilot’s license in Canada. And for anyone who wasn’t satisfied with the brief snippets of information with each letter, the back of the book also goes into a little bit more detail about the planes and other aircraft mentions. For ages 3 to 7.
Another book that covers questions older children may have is Help! Why Am I Changing? The Growing-Up Guide for Pre-Teen Boys and Girls by Susan Akass (Cico Kids, 2019). This book, which is written with help from several doctors and experts on children, doesn’t only cover the physical changes that pre-teens go through. It also talks about the emotional, mental, and social struggles they may deal with, such as why they are always arguing with their parents now, what to do is someone they care about is being bullied, and how to stay safe online. For ages 9 to 12.
Of course, children don’t just have questions about machines and sex, a lot of children also want to know about animals. And if you have an ornithophile, a.k.a. a bird-lover, in your house they’ll enjoy Falcons in the City: The Story of a Peregrine Family with photographs by Luke Massey and text by Chris Earley (Firefly, 2016). This book follows a family of falcons that took up roost on the balcony of an apartment on the 28th floor. Each page is graced with stunning photographs and amazing facts about these wonderful birds. If you or your child has ever wondered about these birds and how they feed their young, this is the book for you. For ages 8 and up.
And finally, the promised book about bugs: Bug Lab for Kids: Family Friendly Activities for Exploring the Amazing World of Beetles, Butterflies, Spiders and Other Arthropods by John W. Guyton (Quarry, 2018). This book is filled with anything a budding bug lover could want to know. It has photographs of different bugs and the homes they create for themselves, facts about these arthropods, and instructions on how kids can study them on their own. For example, the book covers who to create a bug-catching net, a pitcher plant and fly game, and a native pollinator home. For ages 8 and up.