Four books for graduation (that aren’t Dr. Seuss)

Published 8:59 am Tuesday, May 23, 2023


Plaid Elephant Books

I’m a sucker for graduation season. I like to celebrate life transitions with flare. Bring on the pomp and circumstance (musical or otherwise). Order a cake. Invite your friends. Print a giant cutout of your child’s face and plant it in the front yard.

Email newsletter signup

One of the best things about graduation? It’s a chance to give picture books to (nearly) grown children.

In fact, it’s practically an obligation. If we, as parents, are going to spend the event picturing them as the tiny children they were instead of the tall, confident almost-adults they are becoming, then darn it we’re going to give them picture books.

The classic graduation book is Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Place You’ll Go.” The delightful Seussian cadences mixed with the forward-looking language of adventure and exploration are well-suited to the occasion.

But there are other, equally worthy choices, in the humble opinion of this bookseller.

Here are a few titles you may be less familiar with.

• “The Blur” by Minh Le and Dan Santat. This magnificent book pays homage to the truth that childhood passes in the blink of an eye. From marveling at the birth of their daughter, to celebrating her growth, to sending her into the world…it all passes in a blur. I absolutely 100% cannot read it without crying. Then again, I also cannot watch The Lion King without crying, so your response may vary. But for me, this book perfectly encapsulates the bittersweet experience of watching our children grow up. It paints in loving detail the tangled emotional threads of radiant joy, limitless pride, searing heartbreak, and abject terror that come together in jumble when our children spread their wings to fly.

• “I Pray You’ll Be” by Hannah C. Hall, illustrated by Catalin Ardeleanu. This is the lovely choice if you are looking for a faith-based blessing. Each page outlines a different heartfelt wish on the part of the narrating parent. One spread proclaims – “I pray you’ll be courageous; reuse to live in ear. Take a risk – you’re in good hands. God always holds you near.” – while accompanied by an illustration of a young boy pedaling an invented lying machine towards a castle in the distance.

• “You Are Ready: The World Is Waiting” by Eric Carle. From the author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and featuring Carle’s distinctive painted paper illustrations, this small hardback is a joyful celebration of the strength and resilience of its intended reader.

• “What Can You Do with a Chance” by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom. This book is incandescent as it gently illustrates the importance of taking chances, and the beautiful experiences that await when we do. With “chance” personified as a glowing paper airplane, the young hero of the story is at first hesitant to grab it, letting fear and self-consciousness prevent him from grasping the chance. But eventually he realizes that “Maybe I don’t have to be brave all the time. Maybe I just need to be brave for a little while at the right time.”

Kate Snyder is a Danville resident, a mother of three, and the owner and founder of Plaid Elephant Books – Central Kentucky’s only independent children’s bookstore. For more information, visit