Community. It can mean so many different things. It could be a group of people living in the same place or a group of people with the same interests or the same cultural background.

Here are 7 picture books about community and finding a place where you belong.

Illustration of a urban garden beehive with a man removing hives the children watching
Follow That Bee is part of a great series by Scot Ritchie.

Follow That Bee! The First Book of Bees in the City

Follow That Bee! The First Book of Bees in the City in part of a really great series by Vancouver’s Scot Ritchie (April 2, $16.99, Kids Can Press), which includes See What We Eat and Look Where We Live, among other titles.

This book finds Pedro, Nick, Yulee, Sally and Martin helping Mr. Cardinal plant a bee-friendly urban garden to help our bee friends, which in turn helps us:

“One out of every three bites of food we eat comes from plants pollinated by bees.”

While the kids are learning about the importance of pesticide-free plants (pesticides are killing our bee populations), we get to learn all about the amazing honeybee including the fact they can’t see the colour red (who knew?) and the waggle dance, which tells fellow bees exactly where they need to go to find pollen and nectar. “The more a bee waggles, the more food is available.”

Each double page spread offers different information about bees, along with a story and conversation between the kids.

Qin Leng illustrations of a giant panda pushing away a plate from a giant panda cub.
Friendship, sharing and belonging message in this Kids Can Press book.

Mine. Yours.

Mine. Yours. Is by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by one of my favourites – Toronto artist Qin Leng (who illustrated Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, see Ojiichan’s Gift below).

The book is about Little Panda who wakes up Big Panda, who pushes the cub outside and declares the den as his. To make him go away, Big Panda gives Little Panda a kite, which the cub flies around, annoying the other creatures who offer the same message: “Mine. Yours.”

I love, obviously, the illustrations in this book. I love that whether Leng creates people or creatures, I always know it is her work. I also love the fact all the animals are from Asia and Leng lets us know which they are in order of appearance. We see the giant pandas, a raccoon dog, Chinese jumping mice and golden snub-nosed monkey, among other things.

Mine. Yours. Is $18.99 and is by Kids Can Press. It comes out April 2.

Paper art of a little boy hoping over rocks in a forest with green grass and trees.
Love of nature is apparent in this book.

My Forest is Green

My Forest is Green by Vancouver’s Darren Lebeuf and illustrated by Toronto’s Ashley Barron (April 2, $18.99, Kids Can Press) is about a little boy who lives in an apartment in the city that overlooks a forest. He uses his art to interpret the forest, describing what it looks like – tall (trees) and short (ants building their nest), loud (squirrels and birds) and quiet (deer) as well as a variety of colours from tiptoe grey and sneaky blue to mainly green and all its shades.

I love how the boy loves his urban forest and embraces all it has to offer. I love that the illustrations are cut-paper and paint and I love how the author obviously loves nature and it shows throughout these pages. A lovely book.

Illustration of a little girl holding brightly coloured balloons shaped like octopus and fish, standing on an island.
Dreamlike quality to the illustrations in this book.

My Island

My Island by Stephanie Demasse-Pottier with illustrations by Seng Soun Ratanavanh ($23.95, Raincoast Books, Princeton Architectural Press) is about a little girl who welcomes people to her island, where the flowers are always blooming, providing they know how to imagine, share and dream. The little girl describes her island within the pages of this brightly coloured book as well as what she and her animal friends do while on it.

The illustrations have a dream-like quality to them and there is lots to look at.

Illustration of various types and colours of trees.
Learn all about trees in this illustrated book.

Nature All Around: Trees

In Pamela Hickman’s Nature All Around: Trees (April 2, $18.99, Kids Can Press, illustrations by Toronto’s Carolyn Gavin ), we learn about trees in general as well as those native to Canada and the United States. We learn about trees in each of the seasons and how to identify them. We learn about the life cycle of a tree and how to plant and protect them. The Nova Scotia author also lists some of the world’s strangest trees including toxic trees, known as manchineel, found in Florida.

“All parts of the dangerous machineel tree contain poisonous chemicals. In the rain, sap from the tree can drip on your skin and cause blistering and other painful sores. The tree’s fruit are called ‘death apples’ since they are toxic to anyone who accidentally takes a bite.”

Good to know.

Read my review of Nature All Around Bugs here.

Illustration of a young girl raking a garden of sand and rocks with an older man with a cane looking on.
Lovely story in Chieri Uegaki’s Ojiichan’s Gift.

Ojiichan’s Gift

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki is still one of my son and I’s favourite picture books. I feel Ojiichan’s Gift (April 2, $18.99, Kids Can Press, illustrations by Genevieve Simms) might be another hit.

When Mayumi was born, her grandfather created her a garden of rocks. Each summer when she flew half way around the world to spend two months with her Ojiichan, the pair would tend to the garden, raking rocks and trimming the bushes to look like clouds. Then one summer, everything changes: Ojiichan has grown too old to care for his home and garden.

“Can Mayumi find a way to keep the memory of their garden alive?”

Ojiichan’s Gift is a beautiful story. I like the author’s dedication as well as the definitions of the Japanese words and their pronunciation guide.

Illustration of a bird with women like long legs sitting down on a roof.
Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon is about finding your community

Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon

Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon is written by Governor General Award-winning author JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Nahid Kazemi.

The book shares the story of an unusual bird who understands that you can “be far away inside and far way outside. With other, but still on your own…”

Eventually, bird comes to learn what it’s like to know yourself and finding your community.

The illustrations in this book are neat, but not my style. I have come to realize I don’t like to puzzle out the meaning of a book, but just enjoy a story. This one is too abstract for my liking.

Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon is $26.95 (Publishers Group Canada, Enchanted Lion Books).

A copy of these books were provided by Kids Can Press, PGC Books and Raincoast Books
for an honest review. The opinions are my own.