Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Children's Picture Books on Running

Today is National Running Day!

"National Running Day, held annually on the first Wednesday in June, is a day when runners everywhere declare their passion for running."

I love to run.

I love the feeling of being outdoors in the fresh air, surrounded by wildlife and spectacular views. Combine this with an invigorating run and I'm a happy person. 

I enjoy running so much that I wrote Running Boy In this story, the question that everyone is asking is, "Running Boy, why do you run?" It is my hope to instill in the hearts of children the love for running…and reading!

Speaking of reading, NationalRunning Day is a great opportunity for me to share with you a few more picture books on running. My two favorites are Marathon Mouse, by Amy Dixon and The Pumpkin Runner, a Smithsonian Notable Book by Marsha Diane Arnold. These are wonderful reads that I hope you will share with your children in hopes to get them more active.

I am excited to have authors Marsha and Amy sharing their inspiration behind the books they wrote in celebration of National Running Day! May these selections motivate and inspire you to run!

Nearly all the sheep ranchers in Blue Gum Valley rode horses or drove jeeps to check on their sheep. But Joshua Summerhayes liked to run...with Yellow Dog trailing behind him." So it's no surprise when Joshua decides to enter a race from Melbourne to Sydney. People laugh when old Joshua shows up in his overalls and gumboots, calmly nibbling a slice of pumpkin for energy. But then he pulls into the lead, and folks are forced to sit up and take notice.Inspired by a true event.

Marsha Diane Arnold
The Pumpkin Runner was inspired by Cliff Young, a 61-year-old Australian farmer who loved to run.  He enjoyed running around his farm for years, then decided to enter an 875-kilometer race from Sydney to Melbourne against professional runners. People laughed at the unlikely runner, but he surprised everyone by winning!  Then he surprised them again by splitting the $10,000 prize among all the other runners. Cliff didn’t run for the money. He ran for the love of it!

I first heard about Cliff Young while attending a workshop led by a friend. He told the story of Cliff to demonstrate perseverance. He’d read about Cliff’s feat in Sports Illustrated; there was just one short paragraph. When I heard the story of this improbable “hero,” I knew I had to write a picture book about him. My book is fiction, of course, but it was inspired by a real race and a real man. I named my fictional hero Joshua Summerhayes.

Thank you, Romelle, for sharing The Pumpkin Runner on National Running Day! This Smithsonian Notable book has been around since 1998, but I’m delighted to say it’s still “running” strong. I know of at least two schools that celebrate The Pumpkin Runner with races and other activities.  For the past three years, I’ve skyped with the wonderful community at Walter Jackson Elementary in Alabama to help celebrate their annual Pumpkin Run day.  I hope to run with them in person in the future!

The mice of New York City dread the day of the New York City Marathon more than any other—the crowds, the large shoes, the noise. All of them, that is, except for Preston. He and his family live underneath the starting line on the Verrazano Bridge and every year Preston has dreamed of joining all the other runners in the marathon. This year, Preston is determined to make his dream come true, even though his family tells him that mice are not fit to run marathons. He trains hard, showing his family that mice can do much more than just scurry.

Amy Dixon
It was 2011, and in the 2 years since my husband, Rob, had taken up distance running, I had been in search of a picture book about the sport that I could share with my children. I was looking for something that reflected the early mornings, the intense training, and the roadside cheering that was now part of our family culture. But I couldn’t find one! The seed was planted…I wanted to write a book about running a marathon.…but I had no idea what the story would be.

Cut to November. On the morning of the NYC Marathon, we settled in to watch the international event on TV, and saw this picture:

This is a picture of the start of the NYC Marathon. All of those brightly colored blobs are PEOPLE. Over 40,000 people, all lined up on a bridge together. What a scene! This picture launched a series of questions in my head…what was it like to be there? What about the people that live there? Do they love the marathon or do they hate it? From there, Marathon Mouse took off. What would it be like for a mouse family, who lived underneath the start line? If Marathon Day was the one day of the year they hated because they were afraid for their lives, how would it feel if one of their kids wanted to be a runner?

Marathon Mouse accomplished a few different things for me. There are so many kids out there like mine who spend their weekends cheering on their mom or dad from the sidelines. I love that they get to see their experiences reflected in this book. It also introduces running as a fun and rewarding pastime to a younger generation. And lastly, it encourages kids to work hard to achieve their dreams! 

Thank you Marsha and Amy for sharing your story behind the story.

Feeling inspired? Then grab your running shoes and run...

to the nearest bookstore!

For fun, complete this sentence in the comments below: I RUN...

I'll start:

For more children's books on running visit Outdoor Nation. The books that are featured are:

Nonfiction children's books:

~Happy Running!


  1. Excellent post! I have not been running as much as I should and now you are inspiring me. Will have to check your book and the pumpkin runner out.

    1. Thanks, Sylvia! Running also fuels my creativity. Try it. You may come up with a draft for a new story!

  2. Running was about the only thing I was good at in high school gym but I don't actually like it because I am a super couch potato at heart. ;) I speed walk these days on the treadmill (while reading).

    Those two books are wonderful books on running though! I love that you got Marsha and Amy to tell us about them themselves.

    1. Speed walking is great! I'd like to build a desk for my treadmill! But I haven't mastered reading while speed walking. My eyes can't seem to focus on the bouncy book.

  3. Fun! I didn't even know about National Running Day!

    1. Jennifer, there's a national DAY for almost everything!

  4. Hey, buddy! I am so glad to finally get by here. Christopher has had a lot of health challenges. I miss you. Plus, I've been working on my site. I am a runner from way back. LOVE running. Back in the day, I was the last one chosen to be on the teams unless it was track. That bridge pic is SO COOL. I must buy Running Boy. xoxo



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