Readers Just Wanna Have Fun

On the Scene in 2016 Picture Book Debut Author Diana Murray shares with us about the importance of connecting reading and play.

When given a choice between “reading” and “playing”, what would most kids choose? Most of the time, I think the majority of young children would say they prefer “playing”. But what if they realized that the two are not mutually exclusive?


When my daughter was little, she enjoyed a book called OCTAVIA AND HER PURPLE INK CLOUD (by Donna and Doreen Rathmell, illustrated by Connie McClellan). After reading the book, she loved to act out some of the scenes with her toys. A hungry shark would come along and each sea creature would use a defense against it. She read the book and played this made-up game over and over again, adding new characters and plot twists.  My other daughter loved a book called THE MONSTORE (by Tara Lazar, illustrated by James Burks). It inspired her to make up her own monsters and draw them or sculpt them with play dough. And both of my daughters teamed up for some around-the-house detective work, peppering all of the “suspects” with questions, after reading A GRISWOLD AND WILCOX MYSTERY: THE CASE OF THE MISSING CARROT CAKE (by Robin Newman,

DORISCOVER.jpgillustrated by Deborah Zemke). I always loved it when reading books resulted in this kind of extended play.

It was that observation that led me to write DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS. And the specific character of DORIS was further inspired by this YouTube video of an adorable, vibrant,
young book fanatic:

In my story, I wanted to show how reading can inspire play, imagination, and curiosity. For kids who are reluctant readers (like Doris’s feisty little brothers), seeing the connection between reading and playing can help increase their interest.

Also, when it comes to reluctant readers it’s sometimes just a matter of finding the right book and/or listening to a book being read out loud to get the ball rolling. And once that ball does get rolling, they may be open to trying lots of other types of books, too. And that’s another thing. There are so many different books out there, from joke books to fairy tales–truly something for everyone.

While learning to read is hard work, reading doesn’t have to be a chore. It turns out reading and playing go perfectly together!


Diana Murray grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two daughters, and a spiky bearded dragon who loves listening to stories–especially about dinosaurs. DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS (Imprint/Macmillan), illustrated by Yuyi Chen, will be released in July, 2017. Some of Diana’s other picture books include GRIMELDA: THE VERY MESSY WITCH, NED THE KNITTING PIRATE, GROGGLE’S MONSTER VALENTINE, and CITY SHAPES. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Highlights, High Five, and Spider.

Themes, themes, themes

We have plenty of themes in our 2016 debut picture books, so this post is a monster list of themes.

EMPATHY abounds in:


Focusing on ENVIRONMENTAL themes:



TRANSPORTATION leaps off the page in these three titles:


FOOD, both real and imaginary, features in these picture books:


SPORTS are highlighted in:


HEALTH AND FITNESS themes are strong in:



RHYMING books include:


CONFLICT/RESOLUTION goes head-to-head  in:



HOLIDAYS sparkle in:


BEDTIME is front and center in:



And, BOOKS/STORIES as a theme in picture books stars in:



Picture Books with themes of Inclusion


Image courtesy of Sylvia Liu

Inclusion is an important theme that picture books can tackle in a way that’s accessible to young children. And when youngsters grow up loving books that show them the power of inclusion, there’s a good chance our future will be more inclusive.

Here are our 2016 debut picture books that delve into themes of inclusion:

Teamwork in Picture Books

Teamwork is a skill learned through communication and working together. This page from Nancy Churnin‘s THE WILLIAM HOY STORY is a great example of teamwork.



Penn State Extension’s Better Kid Care lists several reasons teambuilding with children is important:

Conducting team building activities with children can help children work on developing the following skills:

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Cooperation
  • Listening
  • Self-esteem
  • Idea exchange
  • Working with others and different groups
  • Leadership
  • Creative thinking

The link above also has several team building activities for children.

And to wrap up, why not read a picture book that demonstrates teamwork?

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Picture books about Family

Family is important and our picture books reflect that. As Michelle Lee says in her post about families at the New York Public Library blog, all families “share the same universal value: love.” Several of our 2016 picture book debuts showcase this.

From Preschool Education, here’s an action poem about families:

Some Families added 8-22-01 Original Author Unknown
Some families are large. (spread arms out wide)
Some families are small (bring arms close together)
But I love my family (cross arms over chest) best of all!


Picture Books with Animals

Picture books about animals or with animals as characters always resonate with kids. Animals can be friends.


Image courtesy of THE GREEN UMBRELLA by Jackie Azúa Kramer

Helping animals can build empathy. Sometimes we relate best to animals, and of course, pets can be very important parts of our lives. Here are our 2016 picture book debuts that centre around animals: