Stories about animals are a wonderful way to teach or remind children how they should treat others. My own kids’ teachers have often encouraged parents to make up and use such stories (in oral storytelling format) to help modify behaviors or work through problems. Shelter by Céline Claire is an excellent example of this teaching tool.ShelterShelter is the English translation of the French book L’abri, released last year. It teaches kindness and caring toward others—even strangers—who are in need.

This is the tale of five families of forest animals who wake one morning to learn that a storm is coming. They prepare by gathering wood and stockpiling food.

Soon, everyone is safely tucked away in their homes—except two strange bears who emerge from the fog as the wind howls.

The bears ask the different animal families for help, but are turned away at one door after another. My little one’s reaction to the way the bears were being treated was all I needed to see to know that the moral of this story was hitting home for her.

The story is very concise—just a few lines on each page—and all of the words are well within a young reader or listener’s understanding.

Qin Leng’s illustrations are beautiful. She alternates between full-page spreads to the strategic use of white space on the page to separate between the different animal homes. Ms. Leng’s choice of colors in her watercolor paintings is perfect for the story Ms. Claire is telling.

In one full-page spread, Ms. Leng expertly and effectively depicts the bears outside in the gloomy storm, knocking on an animal family’s door. The animal family is inside, refusing entry and lying to the bears. The impact on my little one was immediate—she could see the deceit, she knew the animals should be treating the bears with kindness instead of turning them away, and she spoke out for the bears.

Ms. Claire is the author of a number of children’s books, but I think Shelter is the only one that has been published in English as well as the original French. Ms. Claire’s website is (but you’ll need to read French!). Follow Ms. Leng on Instagram to see some recent illustrations:

Shelter will be released on October 3, 2017. I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. My daughter and I are grateful to Ms. Claire, Ms. Leng, and Kids Can Press for the opportunity to read Shelter.

Have you read any great books lately?

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