Children are born with eyes full of magic and wonder as they take in their new world with those very eyes wide open. These little sponges begin to absorb things from an early age, which is why it’s important to arm them with the necessary tools that will help them understand all they take in as they grow and mature. That’s where the power of books comes in — they provide new knowledge, enrich children’s vocabulary, help develop critical thinking skills, ignite creativity, spark curiosity, and stimulate their young imaginations.

In fact, recent studies show that children who are read to frequently over the five years before kindergarten start school have heard a cumulative 1.4 million words more during these storybook readings than their peers who were never read to. Talk about the power of reading!

Here in Spokane, plenty of local authors and artists alike have been inspired by the city and its children, creating wonderful and captivating children’s books that our little ones can learn from.

Spokane Authors
Corinna Ren was commissioned by Spokane Public Works to create “Exploring Spokane: Turning Waste to Energy.” Photo courtesy: City of Spokane – Municipal Government

Exploring Spokane: Turning Waste to Energy by Corinna Ren

Local artist Corinna Ren created her children’s book “Exploring Spokane: Turning Waste to Energy“to show kiddos just how essential some city works in the Spokane community can be. The book follows two elementary-age students, Jules and Oliver, and a curious marmot. The plot revolves around the two children fixing lunch one day and noticing how they are filling up the garbage can rather quickly. The book describes the city’s waste management system and what makes it so important as the children explore this conundrum, illustrating garbage collection, transportation, and how it is disposed of in a waste-to-energy facility. It goes on to convey to children in a colorful and easy-to-follow manner how Spokane’s public works departments function and why they are needed.

The book was commissioned to Ren by Spokane Public Works. Local educators are already incorporating the book into their curriculum, providing a fantastic learning opportunity to connect science topics to regional operations and issues. Over 1,500 hardcover copies have already been created, with the book being free to interested people. All one has to do is email, then pick up the book in person at the Administration Building of the Waste to Energy Facility at 2900 S. Geiger Boulevard.

Spokane Authors
Illustrator Mary Pat Kanaley and author Mary Carpenter came together to create a magical tale inspired by the Looff Carousel and Riverfront Park, “Ponies in the Park.” Photo credit: Mary Pat Kanaley

Ponies in the Park by Author Mary Carpenter and Illustrator Mary Pat Kanaley

Spokane’s iconic Riverfront Park recently received the spotlight in “Ponies in the Park,” a children’s book by Spokane author Mary Carpenter and illustrator Mary Pat Kanaley. The collaboration between the dynamic duo resulted in creating a magical tale that brings to life the Looff Carrousel ponies, along with the park’s many sculptures, for a night of adventure.

The story follows a young girl named Grace who is disappointed to be stuck in the hospital overnight on her birthday. This is where art, history, and a touch of magic come together in the moonlight bringing the historic carrousel to life, along with other sculptures, including the Bloomsday runners, Native salmon fishers, red wagon, garbage goat, and others that have been featured in the Spokane sculpture walk. Together, they help Grace save a puppy in need. From there, the 40-page, full-color story continues with the last five pages, including a historical timeline of Riverfront Park and a background on each art installation. Also included in the book are two scavenger hunts for a fun and interactive learning experience among children; one to do inside the actual park itself and another for hidden images among the book’s pages. Other interactive projects for the kiddos are also available on the book’s website.

The ladies were awarded a $10,000 Spokane Arts Grant Award to complete the project, ensuring they could produce the book and give one to every second-grade schoolteacher and elementary school library. Those interested in purchasing what will surely become a beloved children’s classic among the Spokane community can find copies of the book at Wishing Tree Books, Auntie’s Bookstore, Atticus Coffee & Gifts, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, and online.

Spokane Authors
“GOLD!” is a humorous, modern day-riff on the mythical Greek cautionary tale of King Midas and his gold by award-winning author David Shannon. Photo credit: David Shannon

GOLD! by David Shannon

In “GOLD!,” children’s author and illustrator David Shannon depicts a riotous retelling of the Midas myth that follows the peculiar little boy Maximillian Midas and his intense love of gold. Shannon, who grew up in Spokane, is a Caldecott Honor-winner and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of “No, David!,” which is based on his childhood adventures and experiences in the city that is still very much a source of inspiration to the award-winning author. In “GOLD!”, he tackles the classic Greek mythology of Midas and his mythical touch in the present-day child’s (Maximillian) unwavering desire to make millions instead of friends so he can spend it all on what he loves the most, gold!

The rhythmic story written in verse starts out as all fun and games, with Max having a giant castle on a gold mountain where the boy is surrounded by his heart’s desire. As the tale unfolds, Max realizes something is missing in his gold-plated world, with things beginning to get lonely at the top. Shannon hopes retelling the classic cautionary story will help remind future generations like little Max that gold isn’t worth anything without friends and family by your side and highlight where true happiness comes from.

Spokane Authors
Candace has been a lifelong artist, but her book “Remi’s Snow Day” was her first children’s novel, which she also illustrated entirely in watercolor. Photo credit: Candace Rowe

Rami’s Snow Day by Candace Rowe

When Spokane artist Candance Rowe found herself weathering the storms of winter and the pandemic in a remote cabin with her husband in Montana, she decided to battle potential cabin fever by finding herself a project to work on. This time led to the creation of her first book, which is now warming the hearts of parents and children alike, “Rami’s Snow Day.”

The story recounts Rami’s joy, along with his parents, as they revel in the new snowfall, and the boy discovers the wonder of snowflakes and sunsets. From the time his mother bundles him up to the moment he is tucked into his snowflake quilt to finally fall asleep, the boy’s big smile and red cheeks make the audience remember their own special snow days, something parents of Spokane will have no trouble relating to as they tell us all tales of how they walked to and from school in such glistening weather.

These are just four fabulous children’s books written by Spokane authors and artists cultivating and enriching the minds of local children within our community. Still, plenty more can be found at your friendly neighborhood bookstore, such as Auntie’s Bookstore, Wishing Tree Books, Page 42, 2nd Look Books, and Giant Nerd Books, not to mention they are always available with free book check-out at the Spokane Public Library!