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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Health and Safety

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.


Teaching health to primary grades left me scrambling for resources. But I found the following picture books work great as starting points when discussing safety rules—at the pool, playground, neighbourhood, during a fire, as well as safety regarding allergies, dressing for the weather, sleep and hygiene.

Book Cover Swimming Swimming

Swimming, Swimming, by Gary Clement, is a fun depiction of the classic song: “…When days are hot/When days are cold/In my swimming pool.” The lyrics provide the framework for Clement’s playful depiction of a day-in-the-life of an avid swimmer meeting his friends at the pool.


The following four great resources by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by Martine Gourbault, are fun, rhyming stories that teach.

Book Cover No Dragons for Tea

In No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons), the girl befriends a dragon at the beach and invites him home where his sneeze starts a fire. A slew of safety rules are addressed throughout the story: stay down low to avoid smoke, have an exit plan/family meeting place, don’t go back inside for a beloved toy. At the end is a fire-safety poem kids can recite and a checklist for further discussion, including “stop-drop-and-roll,” not touching hot handles, and knowing your smoke alarms. 

A Treasure at Sea Dragon and Me

In The Treasure at Sea for Dragon and Me: Water Safety for Kids (and Dragons), a girl and her dragon friend follow a canoe full of “pirates” at the lake, hoping to find treasure. Dragon ends up breaking some safety rules, such as waiting for an adult to be nearby, always swimming with a buddy, and avoiding diving into unknown water. 

Also included in this series are: Once Upon a Dragon: Stranger Safety for Kids (and Dragons) and The Tale of Sir Dragon: Dealing with Bullies for Kids (and Dragons).


Book Cover A Promise is a Promise

 The importance of listening to parents, as well as safety around frozen bodies of water, are poignantly presented in A Promise is a Promise, by Robert Munsch and Michael Kusugak, illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka. Young children find this tale captivating, especially when they learn that parents of northern children use the story of the Qallupilluit to warn kids away from thin ice. Allashua breaks her promise to her mom and the mythical creatures take her underwater where she almost freezes to death.


Book Cover The Fire Station

In The Fire Station, by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Marchenko, Sheila and Michael disobey the grownups and venture into a fire station, ending up in the back of a truck at a real fire. The consequences: a five-day bath before their parents recognize them through the filth from firefighting and welcome them back home. 


Rules around allergies are the topic of the next two titles. 

book cover no nuts for me

No Nuts for Me!, by Aaron Zevy, illustrated by Susan Tebbutt, is a great resource because the main character speaks directly to the reader, inviting connections, asking questions, i.e. “Do you know anyone at your school with a food allergy?” The protagonist talks about his Medic Alert bracelet and EpiPen for Show-and-Tell. “Maybe someone can do that at your school,” he says to the reader. 


Book Cover Aaron's Awful Allergies

In Aaron’s Awful Allergies, by Troon Harrison, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, Aaron loves animals. He acquires a dog, a cat, kittens and guinea pigs, then sadly discovers he’s allergic to his pets. A replacement fish from his parents fails to measure up until he sees “Flash’s” unexpected qualities.


Book Cover Up Up Down

Climber safety is the subject of Up, Up, Down, by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko. “Be Careful. Don’t Climb,” Anna’s parents always say. But Anna climbs everything, and falls. One day she scales a tree. When her parents climb to get her down, they are the ones who get hurt, putting Anna in the position of warning her parents to be more careful.


Book Cover Thomas's Snowsuit

Wearing appropriate clothing for the weather is the focus of Thomas’ Snowsuit, also by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko. Thomas refuses to wear it. He tussles with his teacher and his principal, who all end up wearing each other’s clothes.


Book Cover Mortimer

Sleep is the theme of Mortimer, by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko. Mortimer gets lots of attention for singing, “Clang-clang, rattle-bing-bang/Gonna make my noise all day” when he’s supposed to be sleeping. He works his family into a frenzy, but by the time the police arrive, Mortimer’s finally given in to slumber. 


Book Cover Please Clean Up Your Room

Cleanliness is addressed in the next five books. In Please Clean Up Your Room!, by Itah Sadu, illustrated by Roy Condy, Christopher refuses to clean his bedroom. In this hilarious, rhythmic book, Christopher’s two goldfish become so worried about the state of their health that they enlist the help of the cockroaches (who find it too stinky to help) but the fish cry and the roaches give in and the army of bugs start dropping onto Christopher while he sleeps, even dropping into his mouth. Christopher finally gives in.


Book Cover Mud Puddle

In Mud Puddle, by Robert Munsch, Jule Ann discovers the power of soap in the face of a mud puddle.


Book Cover Purple Green Yellow

In Munsch's Purple, Green and Yellow, illustrated by Helene Desputeaux, Brigid gets herself into trouble decorating her skin with super-indelible-never-come-off-till-you’re-dead-and-maybe-even-later colouring markers. 


Book Cover No Clean Clothes

In No Clean Clothes, by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko, Lacey hides her dirty clothes or leaves them in the backyard. Mom tells Lacey to wear her one clean t-shirt—her “Kiss meI’m Perfect” t-shirt until the laundry is done. Wearing it brings some unexpected results.


Book Cover Smelly Socks

In Smelly Socks by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko, Tina wears her new socks for so long the animals start to fall over as she passes them on the way to school. The kids hold her in the river to wash her socks and the river starts to smell so bad even the beavers vacate their homes. Tina is so pleased with the washing job, she decides to never do laundry again.


On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.

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