I’ve rounded up ten colorful, whimsical, informative Texas-themed children’s books for inspiration and gentle learning.
Were you born and raised in Texas? Perhaps you’re not from Texas…but Texas loves you anyway? (I’m a big Lyle Lovett fan, I couldn’t resist.) Either way, if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve got one or more little Texans in your household. Generally speaking, I find that the more I learn about a place, the more I connect to it and appreciate it.
In that spirit, read some or all of these with your kids, and you’re bound to discover something new in our metroplex and state to notice, talk about, and love a little more.
I worked through this stack of books with my girls over the last couple of weeks. During that time, my two-year old’s vocabulary expanded for words like “boo-bonnet” (bluebonnet), my seven-year-old learned state symbols, and I added several places to our sightseeing list. We explore a lot around DFW and take road trips when we can. I enjoyed watching my seven-year-old have that little pleasure of recognizing a picture or the name of places we’ve been in a book. It works the other way, too: if we read about a place first, it peaks interest when we visit it later.
The board books on this list work like any other board book for toddlers: they gently introduce shapes, symbols, and words. It’s fun reading about things that are bound to pop up in our local environment.
10 Texas-Themed Children’s Books
- In 123 Texas: A Cool Counting Book (Cool Counting Books) Toddlers practice counting, among other things, 1 lone star, 4 Houston astronauts, 6 monarch butterflies, and 10 ten-gallon hats.
- In Good Night Texas we sight-see around the state from dawn to dusk, stopping briefly by the Grapevine Vintage Railroad to cheer on “Puffy,” the oldest continuously operating steam engine in the South. DFW moms: if you haven’t seen Puffy, you should!
You’ll also recognize the Dallas skyline on the last page. What a superb view of the Dallas skyline! The stars at night are especially big and bright without light pollution!
3. In Hello, Texas! little ones greet creatures and features associated with our state, including the once-thundering cows of the Fort Worth Stockyards.
4. Little Texas uses simple rhyming riddles to get kids thinking about Texas plants, animals, foods, etc.
I recommend enjoying the rest of the books on this list with children approaching school age (4-5 year olds) through early elementary school, depending on your child.
5. At State Fair time read The Cotton Candy Catastrophe at the Texas State Fair. A malfunctioning cotton candy machine quickly turns Fair Park into sticky chaos, wreaking havoc on everything from the Midway, to the livestock, to the Cotton Bowl, to Big Tex himself! Until Jake finds a way to solve the problem!(I wonder if this story will deter my children from cotton candy when we go to the Fair? Here’s hoping! I’m going to do my part to steer them towards Fried Thanksgiving Dinner. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the winner of Most Creative in the annual fried-food contest.)
6. My girls loved Texas State Bird Pageant, the story of how Molly the Mockingbird captures the title of Miss Texas State Bird, beating out beautiful and gifted (but also kinda snarky) birds from various regions of the state. The super-talented Molly ultimately finds her true voice, winning over the crowd and the competition with her melodious singing, intelligence, and personality. Did you know that mockingbirds can mimic a cackling hen, a barking dog, even notes from a piano? I was impressed.
7. Don’t Ever Cross That Road! An Armadillo Story. Armadillos give me the heebie-jeebies, yet this book makes them endearing enough to focus on…for a few pages. The ‘dillos in this story go to school to learn about their ancient history as ten-foot-long glyptodonts, their current characteristics, and, most importantly…how to avoid becoming roadkill.
8. Tomie DePaola’s classic The Legend of the Bluebonnet beautifully retells the Comanche legend about the official state flower. The language is minimal, the illustrations beautiful, and its message about sacrifice and generosity uplifting. Despite having lost much, a lonely girl sacrifices her most beloved personal possession to bring forgiveness and healing to her land and her people. The beauty of her sacrifice is remembered with the annual return of the blue and white flowers. If these little blue beauties already make you smile, you’ll love them more after reading this book.
9. L Is for Lone Star: A Texas Alphabet assigns each letter of the alphabet to people, wildlife, foods, landmarks, industries, etc. celebrated in Texas. It’s an alphabet book suitable for elementary-aged kids, with nice pictures and good sidebar info.
10. First published in 1967, M. Sasek’s This Is Texas is a classic state overview book. In my opinion, it’s best for kids 3rd grade and up. It’s long (60 big pages), witty, and has detailed info about the region. The illustrations are stylish and grand. Go ahead and buy this one for yourself; give younger kids something to grow into. Several images of the Dallas/Fort Worth region can be found among its pages, including Casa Manana, Fort Worth Botanical Gardens, The Will Rogers Memorial Center, Dealy Plaza, Big Tex, and downtown Dallas.
It’s fun to be a “tourist,” simply by snuggling with your kids on the couch, reading in the comfort of your own home. If you enjoy some of these, consider sharing them with families in your neighborhood via Little Free Libraries, a great community-building idea Becky explains here.
*Bonus* Goodnight Dallas is a beautifully illustrated book written by Texas Author, Jennifer Gaines Drez. Your child will say, “goodnight,” to their favorite Dallas icons, including the ducks at NorthPark Mall, the Dallas Cowboys, and other familiar landmarks.
I know there are more Texas-themed children’s books out there, and I’d love to hear about them!
Do you have recommendations to share?
This post was originally published October 2, 2013.