Welcome to 2017, parents and caregivers of young children! I hope this year is full of magical moments for you and your little ones. There. Now that the customary well-wishes are complete, let’s get into something far more important: the letter Z. Though frequently overlooked due to its 25 predecessors, I submit to you, that the letter Z—strange as it might look in its cursive variety—is worthy of a celebration. How do I know this to be true? Because the Internet says so. Apparently there is an entire holiday devoted to people whose names begin with the letter Z that is celebrated on January 1st each year! Wrap your mind around that little nugget for a moment or two! The last letter on the first day. Brilliant!
Real or imagined, such a holiday got me thinking: why should we relegate the celebration of Z to only one day? Doesn’t this oft-forgotten letter demand more from us? The answer, dear reader, is a resounding yes. To remedy this woeful situation, I submit to you a proposal for a month-long celebration of the last letter of the alphabet. By the authority vested in me, I dub this most honorable month Z Month! Or Zanuary! You know what, it doesn’t really matter. You can decide. The point is we’re going to celebrate children’s books that contain the last letter of the alphabet in the first month of the year! Bam!
I hope you love these books as much as I do. This was a really special list to curate because so many of these titles serendipitously called to memory moments of wonder and curiosity I shared with my 7-year-old son during his preschool years. We didn’t ever celebrate the letter Z, but I certainly keep many of these books and authors close to my heart. I hope a few help foster the same magical moments with your family. Until next time, keep reading together! And my best wishes for a most fantastic Zanuary to each of you!
Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham (illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky)
Zebra has his ABC book all planned out: A is for apple, B is for ball, C is for cat, and D is for…moose? Find out what happens when Zebra’s antlered friend waits for his turn to star in one of my all-time favorite ABC books. This one has a lot of humor, the perfect dash of tenderheartedness, and awesome re-readability.
Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion (illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham)
Originally published in 1956, this book was probably read by your parents (and perhaps even your grandparents!) as children. I wouldn’t include it unless it was deserving, so I hope you’ll check out this classic story of a fun-loving dog who hates bathes on your next trip to the library!
Augie to Zebra by Caspar Babypants (illustrated by Kate Endle)
Whether as a President of the United States or as Mr. Babypants himself, Chris Ballew has created music both for my adolescence and for my son’s childhood. I’m sure you’ll love this kid-inspred (his son’s name is Augie) quirky romp through all 26 letters. Bonus: all the artwork is done by Ballew’s wife Kate Endle! You can pick up the free MP3 version of the book here.
On Beyond Zebra by Dr. Seuss
Most people stop at the Z, but not me! is the self-explanatory and oft-repeated refrain from this classic children’s book. You’re sure to have a blast discovering new letters as you make your way through Seuss’s handbook on alphabet transcendence. This is a rather lengthy read, so you might want to share it with a 5-7 year-old before trying it out on a preschooler!
Stop Snoring Bernard by Zachariah O’Hora
Bernard is a fun-loving otter that loves mealtime, playtime, and especially naptime. Bernard loves naptime so much that he promptly falls asleep and begins snoring so loudly that he disturbs Grumpy Giles. Giles finally has enough and banishes Bernard from the otter habitat. Will Bernard be able to get any rest away from his buddies?
No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah O’Hora
O’Hora is one of my favorite illustrators. He’s also a really great picture book author so I wanted to include another winner from his stable of stories. Nilson is Amelia’s pet gorilla with a perfect demeanor. Perfect, that is, until something doesn’t go his way. Then you can count on Nilson to throw the biggest, hugest, most gorilla-est fit you’ve ever witnessed. Can Nilson calm down and earn a frozen treat for his good behavior? Readers are in for a tenderhearted surprise when the ice cream vendor is out of Nilson’s favorite flavor.
Musk Ox Counts by Erin Cabatingan (illustrated by Matthew Myers)
Poor Zebra. All he wants to do is compose a simple counting book with his friend Musk Ox. Easy, right? The only problem is that Musk Ox is a bit of a mess. Okay, a big mess. In this follow-up to A is for Musk Ox, he engages in all sorts of tomfoolery that derails Zebra’s plan. Zebra will have to work hard (and do some math along the way!) to outwit Musk Ox. Humorous moments for young and old abound in this perfect counting book for kiddos ages 5-7.
The House that Zack Built by Allison Murray
This book uses the familiar rhythm of the childhood song, “The House that Jack Built.” The digital illustrations are modern yet soft and warm and the text is unique to the story; it doesn’t follow the original version exactly. I really enjoy this aspect of the book. It’s like rediscovering an old friend, but with a funky new hairdo. This is an excellent read-aloud that lends itself to multiple readings.