Picture Books About Winter and Snow!

Looking for children’s books about winter, especially picture books about snow? Look no further!

Favorite Books About Winter and Amazing Picture Books About Snow

It doesn’t snow in Miami.

This was a cruel reality when I was a child. When winter break began, I watched holiday movies on television with such longing, wishing I could jump right into the picture on the screen so I could join in an epic snowball fight or sit at the kitchen table with a steaming mug of hot chocolate while snow blanketed the world outside. Instead, I was “stuck” in tropical paradise. While most people couldn’t wait to come to South Florida for a vacation, I just wanted the temperature to drop below seventy degrees. Cousins would send pictures of snowmen while we were more likely sweating than shivering, and retail stores were filled with sweaters, mittens and hats which, if purchased, would rarely be worn.

What to do when it seemed the rest of the world was winter-white and rosy cheeked? I couldn’t just hop on a plane and head to the mountains, so I had to create a winter wonderland right in my own home. The best way to do that? I used books, of course. I was a kid with a big imagination and a voracious appetite for story, so reading became my entryway into a magical, mystical world where silent treks through the snowy plains I saw in books led me to create my own imaginary snow days, right smack in the middle of steamy Miami.

There have forever been beautiful stories about snow, which, of course, makes so much sense. Snow is a natural wonder that, with nothing more than a gentle whisper, creates magic across the miles. It allows the imagination to take flight, inspires play in its purest form, and fosters a great sense of awe in children. So the next day you’re snowed in -- or looking longingly at palm trees and wishing they were white capped mountains - grab a stack of these books from the library, make a cup of cocoa, and cuddle on the couch with these perfect winter reads.  

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Little Penguins, by Cynthia Rylant and Christian Robinson: The snow is coming! Perfect for your youngest children, five little penguins watch the snow fall and bundle themselves up before heading outside to play. But, oh no! The littlest penguin decides to stay behind to wait for mama.  When their snowy fun is finished, the penguins come back inside, warm up in their coziest jammies, and relax with cookies and sippies. Winter is here!

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Samson in the Snow, by Philip Stead: Samson, a giant woolly mammoth, shares his dandelions with a red bird who is looking to cheer up a sad friend. When the bird flies away, Samson is left wondering what it would be like to have a real friend of his own. Samson subsequently awakens from a deep sleep, only to find the world covered in snow. He immediately worries about the red bird, so he sets off to find her to ensure she’s warm. As Samson journeys through the snow, he finds that warmth can be found in more ways than one. A testament to compassion, kindness and friendship, we simply love this quiet, beautiful story!

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Before Morning, by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes: Written as an invocation, this quiet beauty tells the story of of a young girl who wishes for just a little more time for family togetherness. The child yearns for a snow day so her mother, a pilot, will be grounded and forced to stay home. Through Krommes enchanting scratch board illustrations, readers witness what happens while the child sleeps soundly and her deepest desires are fulfilled: she will wake up to a blanket of snow outside her window.

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Bear and Wolf, by Daniel Salmieri: One winter’s night, bear and wolf stumble upon each other while both wander in the snow. What fun it is to have a companion! The two delight in having a friend by their side, until it comes time to say goodbye. After all, bear must hibernate for the winter and wolf must run with his pack. This is a beautiful, timeless story, a calming read that is at once an ode to friendship and a testament to the power of being mindful and staying in the present.

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Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr: Late one night in the dead of winter, a young girl and her father set out to go owling. They barely speak on their journey through the snow, for you don’t need words to go owling.  Instead, they maintain hopeful hearts and exercise patience as they wait to witness the resolute stare of a wise old owl. A poetic masterpiece and an exquisite mentor text to explore personal narratives, this is a story that has captivated both children and adults for years.

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Max and Marla, by Alexandra Boiger: Max and his pet owl, Marla, are the truest of Olympians. They are champions who know preparation is everything.  When they take their sled up the mountain only to experience "technical difficulties," the two don't give up-- they simply fix the sled and try again the next day. Max and Marla continue to face challenges but each day they continue to tackle them. Will they succeed? Maybe, but not in the way you may anticipate. That is the beauty of this sweet story!

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The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats: In this classic, a young boy wakes up to discover snow has fallen during the night. He goes outside to fully experience the first snowfall of winter, and as he plays, his eyes open to the wonder and possibility of the new world at his fingertips, for everything changes when draped in a blanket of soft white.  

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Brave Irene, by William Steig: Steig's sweet story from the 1980s is a wonderful testament to the power of perseverance and the things we do for love. When Irene's mother, a dressmaker, falls ill, she is unable to deliver a dress she made for the duchess before an important ball. So Irene takes it upon herself to deliver this dress, but she must battle the bitter cold, tons of snow and howling winds to get there. Irene almost gives up. But she braves the elements and her perseverance is rewarded greatly. A classic!

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Wolf in the Snow, by Matt Cordell: In this wordless Caldecott award winner, a girl in a red coat braves a harsh snowy day on her way home from school. As she walks, she comes across a lost and scared wolf pup. The girl befriends the pup and what follows is her journey through the sting of winter to return the pup to its family. She travels long and far though. So long and so far, in fact, that she loses her way. How will she ever get home? The emotion conveyed in every one of these stunning illustrations is simply exquisite.

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Waiting for Snow, by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Renata Liwska: Badger is a bit impatient - he can’t wait one more second for snow! Hedgehog tries to explain that snow will happen in due time, but Badger just can’t wait! The animals use their most creative tricks to bring on the snow, like tossing pebbles at the sky and sifting powdered sugar off the roof, but alas, the tricks don’t work. Yet one morning after a slumber party, the animals wake up to discover a perfect winter wonderland.  Absolutely love these adorable illustrations!

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Blizzard, by John Rocco: Blizzard is a fabulous picture book based on the author’s real life experience during the infamous blizzard of 1978 which brought fifty-three inches of snow to Rocco’s Rhode Island town. Beginning with just a few flakes and ending with mounds as high as stop signs that kept him from opening his front door, Blizzard tells the story of a transformative snowfall, including the magic, the anxiety, and the tremendous relief at seeing the first snow plows break through the drifts.

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First Snow, by Bomi Park: A modern day version of The Snowy Day, this is the quiet story of a young girl who wakes up to the first snowfall of the year. The child goes outside to play, making snow angels and snowmen, and as she plays, she discovers the wonder and awesome simplicity that snow brings to her world.

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The Wish Tree, by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Chris Turnham: Though Charles is desperate to find a wish tree, his brother and sister try to tell him there is no such thing. Yet Charles is determined and sets out through the snow on a journey to find one. With his trusty sled Boggan and a song in his heart, Charles discovers the enchantment of winter and the wonder of wishing.  

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Toys Meet Snow, by Emily Jenkins and Paul Zelinsky: When their Little Girl goes away for winter vacation, StingRay, Lumphy the buffalo and their friend Plastic, a red ball, head outside to experience their first snow day. The three take part in traditional snow activities, making hilarious hypotheses about the world around them and relishing in the warmth their friendship provides. There’s nothing better for children than reading about toys that come to life!

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Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal: Over the snow, the world is white and quiet. But under the snow is a world of magic, with a multitude of animals staying hidden from harm and making homes for the winter. In this beautiful work of nonfiction, children will learn about the subnivean zone -- the area between the snowpack and the ground -- and the way animals adapt during the harshest of winter days.

Which of the above stories are your favorite books about snow? What would you add to the list? Let us know on our Facebook page! And make sure you are following us on Instagram and Twitter, too!

Did you like this post? Yay! We think you will love these as well - make sure to check them out! Favorite Books to Spark Your Child’s Imagination, Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2018 and Favorite Picture Books of 2018.

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What is Given From the Heart, by Patricia McKissack

Looking for an amazing kids’ book to read with children of ALL ages that touches on compassion, kind words, giving, empathy and gratitude? We’ve got just the book for you — it is all those things rolled into one incredible story!!

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So totally in love with this one, you guys. What is Given From the Heart is simply PHENOMENAL. It is powerful and beautiful and the most tender and perfect ode to kindness - one of the best kids’ books I’ve read in a long time.  If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I love to showcase what I call “books for better” (#booksforbetter) here on Happily Ever Elephants. Well, What is Given from the Heart, the fabulous new book by the late Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by April Harrison, is the epitome of this phrase. This is one of McKissack’s last books -- and it’s such a perfect one to highlight. It is an absolute must for everyone - I’d say kindergarten or first grade on up. It would make an incredible read aloud for upper elementary, middle school and high school aged children. Why? Check it out!

In What is Given from the Heart, James Otis and his Mama don’t have much. His father died, they lost their farm, and when Christmas rolls around, there isn’t much to open. It’s been a rough couple of months for sure, but they have their health and strength, so Mama says they are blessed. On the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, their reverend makes an announcement during services: the Temple family has lost everything in a fire, and everyone will make a Love Box containing whatever they think might be helpful to the family. James Otis wonders hard - what should he give that the family will like? What would a little girl named Sarah want from him, a boy who has so little? James Otis thinks and thinks, and he suddenly comes up with an idea. It certainly comes from the heart - but will it be enough?

Empathy? Check. Kindness? Check. Generosity? Check. Compassion? Check, check, check. My goodness. To say this book is extraordinary doesn’t even do it justice. In my eyes, it’s sheer perfection. It teaches every human being, no matter how old or how young, that even those who have so very little still have so much to offer to others. Sharing from the heart is inherently good, and McKissack’s narrative powerfully conveys how generosity and compassion can change lives. Though the narrative touches on challenging issues - from the death of a parent to poverty - the story never takes a downward spiral. Instead it is uplifting and poignant, celebrating life, ingenuity and the spirit of giving on each and every page. And those illustrations. Breathtaking! Harrison captured the essence of McKissack’s words perfectly with exquisite illustrations that elevate the text and so beautifully dignify the characters. I simply cannot rave about this one enough. It is pitch perfect and a must read for every child, even those of you with tweens and high schoolers.

Books like What is Given From the Heart are why I believe words can truly change worlds. Simply put: What is Given from the Heart is a masterpiece by a brilliant writer who will be so very missed. “What is given from the heart reaches the heart.” There are no truer words than those, and there is no more stunning story than this.

Did you like this post? We are so glad! Check out these fantastic lists - we think you will love them too! Favorite Books About Gratitude you can read all year long (not just Thanksgiving!), Favorite Books About Friendship, Favorite Books About Love, and Favorite Books for Raising Kind Kids. And for the books we loved from last couple of years, check out Favorite Picture Books from 2018 and Favorite Picture Books from 2017!

Are you following us on social media? Make sure to check us out on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!

Picture Books About LOVE!

Looking for awesome picture books about love? Here you go!

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It's almost Valentine's Day! Can I be honest with you guys for a minute? If I told you I’m head over heels in love with February 14th, I’d totally be lying. Flashback to 1994, and you would see a lanky girl with frizzy hair, a mouth full of braces and an elephant-sized backpack weighing her shoulders down to the ground as she walked the halls of a Miami high school. Um, that would be me. I always looked on — partly with awe, partly with envy — while the so-called “pretty” girls pranced around like human floral shops, their pink and red heart balloons bopping in the air atop bouquets of roses and carnations. And so it was that I began to rebel against the day, wearing black every Valentine’s day thereafter, telling all who would listen that it was absurd to have a holiday forcing us to say I love you, when it really should be said to those we care about all the time. Angst, anyone?!

Ok, ok. Before you exit out of this blog post, I get it. I’m a mom now, and yes, it’s fun to shower my kids with love and special treats on Valentine’s Day. But, more importantly, whether you love it or whether you rebel against it like I used to, Valentine’s Day does present us with perfect opportunity to talk to our kids about the ways in which we express affection and show others we care. What is love, anyway? What does it mean to love someone or something? How should love make us feel?

These are big questions, and they don’t always have the easiest answers. After all, sometimes love makes us feel like the sun is shining only for us, but other times, that love can be so overwhelming (or unrequited) that it brings us to tears. It is no wonder that children have such a hard time understanding what is going on in their little heads when one single emotion can affect us in such profoundly different ways.

So how do I celebrate Valentine’s Day with my boys now? As our worlds turn various shades of posy pink and radiant red, we like to celebrate by sharing some heart-filled books with messages that actually transcend Valentine’s Day. Any book that honors love in its purest form are fair game, books we can read, enjoy and contemplate all year round. This February 14th, you’ll no doubt find us snuggled together on the couch and reading fun and quirky stories about it means to love and be loved. Here are some of our favorite books -- the huggy kind, the kissy kind, the self-love kind, and -- my personal favorite -- the love is love is love kind.  Enjoy!

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Love, Z, by Jessie Sima: We adore this new release about a robot who is trying to understand a message he finds in a bottle. “Love, Beatrice,” the message says. But what is love? And who is Beatrice? As the robot journeys to find the answers to his questions, he discovers that love actually surrounds him all the time — he just never knew the right word to explain how he felt. Children will simply adore the idea that sometimes love is hard to explain, but we know it when we feel it. So in LOVE with this one!

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Loved to Bits, by Teresa Heapy and Katie Cleminson: Do your children have a stuffie that goes on adventures with them every day? Is that stuffie chewed and tattered and torn, but still your kiddo’s most prized possession? This is a whimsical and tender story about a boy and his beloved bear, Stripy Ted, who weather all kinds of journeys together. And when Stripy Ted loses a leg, or an eye, or yet his other leg - the boy still thinks he’s just right. A beautiful ode to your child’s favorite toy!

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Robot in Love, by T.L. Mc. Beth: Robot’s smitten. He has fallen in love with someone special. Someone shiny and special. And he will stop at nothing to win her attention. But can he keep his circuits from overheating and find the courage to tell her how he feels? This one has a twist ending you won’t see coming, and we laughed about it for days!

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Worm Loves Worm, by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato: What happens when two worms fall in love and want to get married? Which worm will wear the dress and which will wear the tuxedo? On second thought, if worm loves worm -- why should anything else matter? This fabulous story is without a doubt Happily Ever Elephants' favorite book about love. For our full review of Worm Loves Worm, click here!

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This is not a Valentine, by Carter Higgins and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins: This is a tender story of a little boy navigating his first crush. It’s not about the trite things kids (or adults, for that matter!) think they should give someone to show their love- but instead those precious, unique things children do that, when viewed through a little one's eyes, become magical and meaningful. This heartfelt book is so accessible to children, illustrating that love is composed of those tiny actions we take to show someone we care about how much they brighten our world. For our full review of This is Not a Valentine, click here!

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Love Is, by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane: A little girl learns what it means to love as she cares for her new pet. Her duckling requires a lot as he grows, needing constant attention from the girl. She hugs him closely and cares for him with everything she has… but eventually, it is time to let go. This is a tender beauty for any child caring for a pet - and for those who need a gentle reminder that sometimes, when we love something, we have to set it free.

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Love, by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff: Stacy McAnulty does it again with her newest book, Love, a companion to Beautiful and Brave. We love the way this book explores the concept of love, using illustrations that surprise and delight while also shattering those trite and conventional ideas of how we showcase affection to those we love. We adore McAnulty’s work, and we are just as thrilled with her latest book as we were with her others. (For our review of Beautiful, a book we believe should be in every child’s collection, click here!)

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When an Elephant Falls in Love, by Davide Cali, illustrated by Alice Lotti: When an elephant falls in love, he experiences many of the same emotions as the rest of us: he's giddy with joy and weak with anticipation.  He's left feeling equal parts shy and bold, and sometimes a little bit foolish too.  There's nothing like first love!

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Loving Hands, by Tony Johnson and illustrated by Amy June Bates: If you are a parent or a guardian, I dare you to read this without crying! In this beautiful ode to the love shared between a mother and her son, readers see how the tiniest of life’s moments are always grounded in love and reassurance. Though the boy continually reaches for his mother’s hand as he grows, time eventually passes and he becomes the one offering affection and support to his mother. A tender, gentle beauty.

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I Heart You, by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright: A beautiful tribute to the incomparable connection between a parent and child, this is a lyrical and tender exploration of the ways in which a parent's love can both encourage and reassure.  A perfect gift for expecting parents! 

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What do You Love About You, by Karen Lechelt: We are all individuals, and as each and every one of us has our own unique attributes, we all have something to celebrate! This book is a perfect reminder that each of us is special in our own way, and it encourages kids to ask themselves "what do I love about me?!"

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Hug Machine, by Scott Campbell: The title says it all -- no one can resist the hug machine! He's really good at hugging.  So good, in fact, that you will be amazed at all the little things we never think to hug but really enjoy a good dose of affection. Pure joy!

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Hedgehugs, by Steve Wilson, illustrated by Lucy Tapper: Hoarce and Hattie do everything together.  Well, almost everything.  Hard as they try, the hedgehogs just can't find a way to hug -  their sharp spikes always get in the way! The two set off on a mission to figure out how to hug - and it will undoubtedly make your little ones giggle with glee.   

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All Kinds of Kisses, by Heather Swain, illustrated by Steven Henry: How do giraffes kiss? What about hummingbirds? If your little ones love hitting you up for smooches, they will love reading this book with you -- and trying to imitate the animals' actions. This is always a winner in our house, ending up with my boys rolling on the floor in fits of giggles as they try to mimic all of the animal kisses.

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Love Monster, by Rachel Bright: Poor googly-eyed love monster just can't find a way to fit in with all the cuddly folks of Cutesville. This causes Love Monster to set out on a journey in search of someone to love him just the way he is.  Reminding even the most jaded that love happens when you least expect it, this book is sure to leave you with a smile... and an open heart.

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I Love You, Stinky Face, by Lisa McCourt and illustrated by Cyd Moore: “Mommy, mommy, will you still love me if….” YES! Yes, I’ll still love you if… Have you heard these questions before? Then this book is a must. It’s silly, it’s wacky, but it drives home a very important point: a parent’s love is constant and unwavering, no matter the situation, no matter the stink! This one is a blast - an oldie but goodie!

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Love, by Matt De La Pena and Loren Long: This is a meditation on love- that transcendent, all encompassing, powerful emotion so integral to who we are as humans, an emotion so easy to feel but so difficult to adequately express in words. The prose is poetry in its purest form, the message is timeless, and the notion that love can be found in both the familiar and the unexpected is masterful. The stunning illustrations will be mirrors for kids worldwide. For our full review of Love, click here!

Did you like this post? We are so glad! Guess what else we LOVE? Snuggling up and reading incredible books with our little ones. Check out these awesome lists for more books we love! Favorite Bedtime Books, Favorite Books About Gratitude you can read all year long (not just Thanksgiving!), and Favorite Books About Friendship. And for the books we loved from last couple of years, check out Favorite Picture Books from 2018 and Favorite Picture Books from 2017!

Are you following us on social media? Make sure to check us out on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!

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Red: A Crayon's Story, by Michael Hall

I’ll start with this: If you don’t have Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall in your home collection or in your classroom, hurry and get a copy now.

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I see it all the time. A mom who grew up dancing and pushes her daughter to take ballet, but the child has no interest and just wants to play soccer. A dad who was a high school baseball star and wants nothing more than for his son to follow in his footsteps, but that child has no interest and just wants to play piano. A mom who was — and maybe still is — the life of the party, so she encourages play dates and throws the coolest get togethers for her child’s friends. But that child? You guessed it. She has no interest in being a social butterfly and just wants to cuddle on the couch with a good book, more introvert than extrovert. So what do these parents do? They push.. and they push. We are all guilty of it in one way or another - I know I am. We push and we push because we want our children to be just what we imagined them to be, and we don’t always follow their lead.

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall reminds us to take a step back. To listen. To really, really listen. Red: A Crayon’s Story is the story of Red, a red crayon. Or is it? It seems the crayon is having an identity crisis, for though he is wrapped in a red label, there is no debating that every time he colors, he is not red but blue. His parents, his teacher and even his friends try to help him be Red, but no matter how hard he tries, he simply cannot be what everyone else thinks he should be. Then one day, something magical happens. The frustrated crayon meets a new friend who tells Red what he really needs to hear: Red isn’t Red at all… he’s actually blue! And so it is that this was just what Red needed needed: a gentle nudge to look inward and listen to what he likely knew all along. He was blue! He was really blue! With the encouragement of that one friend, Red gained the courage to be true to who he really was inside.

Is there any more perfect message we want our kids to take away from a story? Is there any more significant ideal we want to instill in our children and students? This book can be read on so many levels, as it hits home for any child — any person — who has ever been “labeled” in a way that doesn’t quite fit. When I first read through the book, I immediately thought it was a message for kids struggling with their gender identities. But after reading it through many more times, I discovered the book conveyed a message so much broader than this. How so? Because when you boil Red: A Crayon’s Story down to its simplest level, it is about any child trying hard to be something that doesn’t fit, simply because they think they must conform to others’ ideas of who or what they should be.

It’s challenging for a kid to break away from societal norms or parental expectations. It’s hard to go against the grain, to follow your heart and do what feels right for you, even when you know you may disappoint others in the process. But Red: A Crayon’s Story beautifully reminds children that when they believe in themselves and stay true to who they are at their core, the possibilities are endless. It’s also a wonderful reminder to parents — and even teachers, too — that we are all unique, every single one of us. It’s hard for our kids to find the courage to let their true colors shine brightly. It’s even harder when we push them to be something they are not. What does this mean? Sometimes the adults need to be courageous, too. Sometimes we need the strength to let go of the expectations we have for our childrenand let them be who they were destined to be. Only then will they truly thrive.

So don’t delay. Grab Red: A Crayon’s Story, today, and let it speak to your kids. We have no doubt that it will get two trunks up from your little ones… and you too.

Have you read Red: A Crayon’s Story? What do you think about it? We want to hear from you! Let us know on our Facebook page! And make sure you are following us on Instagram and Twitter, too!

Did you like this post? We are so glad! We think you will love these as well, so make sure to check them out! Favorite Books About Courage, Picture Books to Help You Raise Kind Kids and Favorite Picture Books of 2018.

Want the book? Get it here! Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own!

Favorite Picture Books About Sports!

If you want awesome kids’ books about sports, you’ve come to the right place! Happily Ever Elephants has got your covered with the perfect picture books for your little sports fanatics.

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Pickle is sports obsessed. And when I say obsessed, I mean that he turns any object, article of clothing, or piece of paper into a ball and will spend his free time kicking it, throwing it or tossing it. He has perfected the art of being a quarterback, running back and wide receiver all at the same time, catching his own “passes” and running to a goal of his choosing for a touchdown (and yes, it’s as comical to watch as it sounds!) He has also perfected his dribbling, has one heck of a lay up, and is known around school as little Lebron. And, um, yeah. He’s only in kindergarten. And his Mom (hi!) is the most uncoordinated klutz you’ll ever meet.

Not gonna lie - Pickle loves to read, but often times he ONLY wants to read about sports. So, in honor of Super Bowl Sunday, here are some of our favorite sports books — both picture books and early readers, fiction and nonfiction. It’s an eclectic collection for sure, but in our house, each of these is a gem. And guess what? These books have taught ME a ton about Pickle’s favorite games too, and now I love being able to talk with him about all things basketball and football. We hope you enjoy these books as much as we do!

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Fun Stories

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Don’t Throw it to Mo (the Mo Jackson series), by David Adler and illustrated by Sam Ricks: These are hands down Pickle’s favorites. The Mo stories are part of the Penguin Young Readers for Progressing Readers series, and, though I used to read them to Pickle, he can now read most of them to me! There are four books so far, with each pertaining to a small boy named Mo as he struggles — and then succeeds - in playing different sports (football, baseball, basketball and soccer). We love how Mo never lets his tiny statute get in the way of his big passion for sport, always finding a way to shine! This is a must have series for little sports lovers!

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Football with Dad, by Frank Berrios and illustrated by Brian Biggs: This is a sweet story about a boy and his dad who can’t wait for football Sundays! Each Sunday, they wake up, put on their jerseys, watch the big games on tv, and then go outside to play some of their own. Cute and fun for your littlest readers.

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Randy Rileys Really Big Hit, by Chris Van Dusen: We adore all of Van Dusen’s books, but this one just takes the cake! Randy is a boy that is obsessed with two things — science and baseball — but he’s much better at the former than the latter. When he sees through his telescope that a giant fireball is headed straight for his town, he’s got to find a way to hit that ball out of the park - and save his neighborhood from danger. Will he succeed? This one is just so much fun!

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The Field, by Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara: A group of children assemble on a field and get ready for a game of soccer. They have their bol (ball), soulye (shoes) and goal (goal), and just like that, they are off! They kick the ball back and forth, passing and running and jumping until the skies burst open and the ground is deluged with rain.  But do they stop? No! They just take their shoes off and keep on keeping on. It's only when their Mamas call for them that the game is paused, they quit for the night and go home to their beds where they dream about futbol, friends and the field. 

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She’s Got This, by Laurie Hernandez: Calling all gymnasts! This is a new picture book by Olympian Laurie Hernandez about a young girl named Zoe who wants to fly like the gymnasts she sees on television. But then she goes to class and falls off the balance beam — and it’s a lot scarier than she anticipated. This is the story of how one child must find her courage and face her anxieties about falling if she wants to learn how to fly. It is perfect for all kids who have to learn to conquer their fears so they can then conquer their dreams!

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The Littlest Leaguer, by Syd Hoff: Harold is the smallest player in the baseball league, and no matter how hard he tries, he’s just no good at the game! He can’t catch a ball, he runs too slow, and he spends more time on the field than on the bench. But one day, during a big game, little Harold has the chance to make a big, big play.

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Here Comes the Strikeout, by Leonard Kessler: This is an oldie but goodie about one boy who is so good at baseball — except when it comes to actually hitting the ball! He can run, slide and catch, but he just can’t hit. Or can he? With a lot of hard work and perseverance, Bobby may find he has what it takes to get a home run. We love this awesome story to teach growth mindset!

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Take Me Out to the Yakyu, by Aaron Meshon: We all know that baseball is a great American sport, but did you know that it is also beloved in Japan? This is the story of one boy who goes to baseball games with his grandfathers on both sides of the world, one in America and one in Japan, and it takes readers through the awesome cultural traditions in each country. The bright pictures and fun text make this book a home run!

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This is It, by Daria Peoples-Riley: If you have a dancer at home, or any child who gets anxious about an audition or try out, this book is awesome! A young girl is nervous for her ballet audition, and it is the child’s shadow who comes to her rescue. Taking the girl on an adventure through the city, her shadow helps her find confidence in her self, her body, her movement and her skills. And then? Then she shines.


Informational Books and Anthologies

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Sports Illustrated Kids: My First Book of Football and My First Book of Basketball: If you have little sports lovers at home who want to learn everything they can about how to play different games, these books for rookies are the best! With fun facts, great illustrations, and easy to understand explanations, this series so perfectly helps passionate players learn more about their favorite games. Though we love the Football and Basketball books in our house, the series also contains fantastic Soccer, Hockey and Baseball editions!

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For the Love of Basketball from A to Z, by Frederick C. Klein and illustrated by Mark W. Anderson: This book is so cool! If you have a basketball obsessed kiddo in your house, she will love this guide. Each letter of the alphabet represents a different basketball hero, including Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. Through witty rhyme and beautiful illustrations, this ode to basketball greats gives fun facts in a unique way.

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Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win, by Rachel Ignotofsky: This book is just fabulous! Featuring female athletes from the 1800s to the present day who play all kinds of sports, this anthology is a must have. From Billie Jean King to Simone Biles, Kristi Yamaguchi to Mia Hamm, this collection brings both well known and lesser known athletes — and sports— to light. Its beautiful, informational, and oh-so-fun!

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Goodnight Football, by Michael Dahl and illustrated by Christina Forshay: For your young fans of the game, this is an adorable rhyming bedtime book that celebrates all things football. It introduces kids to football vocabulary, diverse players, and even good sportsmanship. This was Pickle’s choice of a bedtime book for months! There are also baseball, soccer and hockey versions!

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Slam Dunk!: Top 10 Lists of Everything in Basketball, by The Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids: Oh my goodness. Pickle will sit and pore over these pages for hours. This is not one for young kids to read on their own, but I had to include it because it is so well loved in our home. The photographs, the stats, the players — he can’t get enough! Filled with lists like the biggest players to the smallest, the best teams of all time and the greatest dunkers, any basketball fan will fall in love with the facts and trivia in this awesome book!

Biographies

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Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, by Lesa Cline-Ransom and illustrated by James E. Ransome: If you know kids who can’t stop, won’t stop when it comes to tennis or any sport, they will absolutely love this beautifully illustrated story of tennis stars and sisters Venus and Serena Williams. The dynamic sisters are two of the greatest athletes of all time, but they didn’t become champions without dedication, talent, and a whole lot of heart. A wonderful story of perseverance and a testament to their tenacity and love for their sport.

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Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated by Bryan Collier: My students fell hard for this fascinating true story of Ernie Barnes, a young black man who loved art but took to playing football in order to make a living. After all, the south was segregated when Barnes grew up, and he knew there was no future in painting - there were no black artists in the museums! Nonetheless, despite his career as a professional football player, Barnes never stopped yearning to be an artist. He eventually conquered his dreams, painting for the NFL and influencing a generation of artists and illustrators.

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Salt in his Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream, by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn M. Jordan and illustrated by Kadir Nelson: Did you know that when Michael Jordan was just a boy, he almost gave up on his basketball dreams for fear that he wouldn’t be tall enough? Thankfully, his parents told him that what it took to be a real champion was not height, but patience, perseverance, and lots and lots of effort. This is the story of family and faith — and how one boy’s family helped him achieve his dreams.

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I am Jackie Robinson (Ordinary People Change the World), by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulous: Jackie Robinson loved sports, and he was a fantastic athlete. But he lived before the Civil Rights Movement, and he was not allowed to play on the best teams because of the color of his skin. Jackie was undeterred though, believing in his heart that the best sports teams were those that transcended race and included people of every color playing together. Due to his bravery, Jackie became the first black player in Major League Baseball, and his courage changed the face of African Americans in sports, paving the way for black athletes to play on all teams.


Did you like this post? We think you will love these, too! Favorite Picture Books About Perseverance, Favorite Picture Books About Courage, Favorite Non-Fiction Books of 2018.

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American Library Association announces its 2019 Youth Media Awards!

Caldecott! Newbery!! Geisel!! OH MY! We are so excited about the 2019 ALA Youth Media Awards that were announced this week! It’s like the Oscars of children’s literature, with incredible books in all genres celebrated. Just like the Academy Awards (and Emmys, and Golden Globes, and Grammys), some years you are thrilled with the awards, and some years you simply are not. But this year? This year was an OUTSTANDING YEAR! I watched the awards from my desk, furiously messaging with my kid lit friends, and I literally screamed with delight at so many of the announcements. Though many, many books that touched our hearts were not award winners, SO MANY BOOKS WE LOVED this year have authors and illustrators who are jumping for joy tonight, their lives changed forever. We are so excited!

Here is an list of some of the major awards (with a link to the complete list on the ALA website at the bottom), together with affiliate links, links to our blog reviews and any Happily Ever Elephants’ Lists on which the award winners may appear!

Without further ado, here are the winners!!!!

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John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

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WINNER: Mercy Suarez Changes Gears, by Meg Medina. I realized this afternoon that this one has been sitting on my desk for months - cannot WAIT to read it!

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HONOR: The Night Diary, by Veera Hirandandani. The Night Diary was on our Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018 list!

The Book of Boy Newbery Honor Best Chapter Books for kids

HONOR: The Book of Boy, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Ordered 2 copies today - one for me and one for our school library!


Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for Children

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WINNER: Hello Lighthouse, by Sophie Blackall. A stunner!

Alma and How She Got Her Name Caldecott Honor Best Picture Books for Kids

HONOR: Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal. Check out our review here! This book made our Favorite Picture Books of 2018 list!

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HONOR: A Big Mooncake for Little Star, by Grace Lin. This book made our list of Favorite Bedtime Books!

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HONOR: The Rough Patch, by Brian Lies. We LOVE this one but haven’t yet reviewed it - it will be on an upcoming list for awesome books about life transitions.

Thank You, Omu! Caldecott Honor Best Picture Books for Kids

HONOR: Thank You, Omu!, by Oge Mora. Check out our review here! This book also made our Favorite Picture Books of 2018 list, and our list of Favorite Books About Gratitude!

ALA Award Winning Books including Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King, Geisel and more

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

This award is given to the most distinguished beginning reader book.

Fox the Tiger Geisel Award Winner best books for beginning readers

WINNER: Fox the Tiger, by Corey R. Tabor.

The Adventures of Otto: See Pip Flap Geisel Honor best book for beginning reader

HONOR: The Adventures of Otto: See Pip Flap, by David Milgrim.

Fox and Chick Geisel Honor Best book for beginning reader

HONOR: Fox + Chick: The Party and Other Stories, by Sergio Ruzzier.

King and Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth Best book for beginning reader

HONOR: King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth, by Dori Hillestad Butler and illustrated by Nancy Meyers.

TIger vs Nightmare Geisel Honor Best book for beginning reader

HONOR: Tiger vs. Nightmare, by Emily Tetri.

Coretta Scott King Book Awards - Author

This award recognizes African-American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults.

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WINNER (AUTHOR): A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, by Claire Hartfield.

Finding Langston Coretta Scott King Honor

HONOR (AUTHOR): Finding Langston, by Lesa Cline-Ransome.

The Parker Inheritance Coretta Scott King Honor Best Chapter Books for Kids

HONOR (AUTHOR): The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson. This book made our Favorite Middle Grade Novels of 2018 list!

The Season of Styx Malone Coretta Scott King Honor Best Chapter Books for Kids

HONOR (AUTHOR): The Season of Styx Malone, by Kekla Magoon.

Coretta Scott King Book Awards - Illustrator

The Stuff of Stars Coretta Scott King

WINNER (ILLUSTRATOR): The Stuff of Stars, illustrated by Ekua Holmes and written by Marion Dane Bauer.

HIdden Figures Coretta Scott King Honor Book Best Books for Kids

HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, illustrated by Laura Freeman and written by Margot Lee Shetterly. This book made our list of Favorite Books for Black History Month!

Let the Children March Coretta Scott King Award Best Picture Books for Kids

HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): Let the Children March, illustrated by Frank Morrison and written by Monica Clark-Robinson. This book made our list of Favorite Books for Black History Month!

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HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and written by Alice Faye Duncan.

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award

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WINNER (AUTHOR): Monday’s Not Coming, by Tiffany D. Jackson

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WINNER (ILLUSTRATOR): Thank You, Omu!, by Oge Mara. Check out our review here! This book also made our Favorite Picture Books of 2018 list, and our list of Favorite Books About Gratitude!

Pura Belpre Awards

This award honors Latinx writers and illustrators whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.

Dreamers Yuyi Morales Pura Belpre Award Winner Best Picture Books for Kids

WINNER: Dreamers, by Yuyi Morales. This award made our list of Favorite Picture Books from 2018!

Islandborn Leo Esponosa Pura Belpre Honor Best Picture Books for Kids Latinx

HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): Islandborn, illustrated by Leo Espinosa and written by Junot Diaz. Check out our review here!

When Angels Sing The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana Pura Belpre Honor

HONOR (ILLUSTRATOR): When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana, illustrated by Jose Ramirez and written by Michael Mahin.

Stonewall Book Award

This award is given annual to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience.

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love Stonewall Book Award best books about the LGBT experience

WINNER: Julian is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love. This book made our list of Favorite Picture Books for 2018!

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake Best books honoring LGBT experience Stonewall Honor Award.jpg

HONOR: Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake. Check out our review here! This book made our Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018 list!

Picture Us in the Light

HONOR: Picture Us in the Light, by Kelly Loy Gilbert.

Sydney Taylor Awards

This award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.

All of a Kind Family Hanukkah Sydney Taylor Award Best Book for Younger Readers about the Jewish Experience

WINNER (YOUNGER READERS): All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah, by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinskey.

Sweep by Jonathan Auxier, Sydney Taylor Award Winner Best Books for kids about the Jewish experience

WINNER (OLDER READERS): Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster, by Jonathan Auxier. Check out our review here! This made our list of Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018!

What the Night Sings Vesper Stamper Sydney Taylor Award Best Book for Teens Honoring the Jewish Experience

WINNER (TEEN READERS): What the Night Sings, by Vesper Stamper.

Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature

This award promotes Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage and is awarded based on literary and artistic merit.

Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat best book promoting Asian Pacific American culture and heritage

WINNER (PICTURE BOOK): Drawn Together, written by Minh Le and illustrated by Dan Santat. This book is part of our Favorite Picture Books of 2018 list!

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WINNER (CHILDREN’S LITERATURE CATEGORY): Front Desk, by Kelly Yang. Check out our review here! This book made our Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018 list.



Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award

This award goes to the most distinguished informational book for children.

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HONOR: Camp Panda: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild, by Catherine Thimmesh.

Spooked! How a Radio Broadcast and The War of Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America Sibert Honor informational book for kids nonfiction.jpg
The Unwanted Stories of the Syrian Refugees Sibert Honor nonfiction for kids.jpg
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HONOR: We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, by Traci Sorell and illustrated by Frane Lessac. This book made our list of Favorite Books About Gratitude!

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HONOR: When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana, by Michael Mahin and illustrated by Jose Ramirez.


Schneider Family Book Award

This award goes to a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience.

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WINNER (YOUNG CHILDREN): Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship, by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes and illustrated by Scott Magoon.

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HONOR (YOUNG CHILDREN): The Remember Balloons, by Jessie Oliveros, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte.

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WINNER (MIDDLE GRADE): The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, by Leslie Connor.

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HONOR (MIDDLE GRADE): The Collectors, by Jacqueline West.

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WINNER (TEENS): Anger is a Gift, by Mark Oshiro.

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HONOR (TEENS): (Don’t) Call me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health, by Kelly Jensen.


Congratulations to all the winners!

For the complete list of awards, including the Michael L. Printz Award, CLICK HERE!

ALA Award winners including Caldecott Newbery Coretta Scott King Pura Belpre Geisel and more




































































Favorite Bedtime Books!

Looking for the next great bedtime book to read with your kids? Check out this post!

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Bedtime. I don’t know an adult that doesn’t love it.  In our exceedingly frenetic and fast paced world, bedtime is so often the only time of the day when I can finally be quiet.  It’s when I can be mindful and present with my breath, when I can think about and reflect upon my day, and when I can surrender to the comfort of my bed and the hush of darkness. I love when the only sound I hear is the ceiling fan whirring above my head!

If only children felt the same way about going to sleep every night! Unfortunately, though, if your house is anything like mine, the sheer call of “bedtime!” inspires nothing but madness.  The word alone can conjure so many frightening emotions for a child. For my boys, it’s loneliness. The idea of being alone, confined to a bed in a dark room, is such an uncomfortable feeling for them, not even all the stuffies, lovies and comfort objects in the world can soothe it.  It’s the reason my boys keep asking for water, for one more hug, for one more trip to the bathroom. They simply don’t want to be by themselves.

For others, its fear. Fear of the dark. Fear of something in the closet. Fear of something under the bed. How many times has your child asked you to turn the light back on? Called you out of your room because they heard a frightening noise in theirs? Asked you to look in their closet, or in their drawers, or in their toy box just one more time to make sure the coast is clear? The fear can be crippling, and it will undoubtedly have your kids dashing from their rooms like marathon runners and catapulting into your bed like pole vaulters.

For a select few, though, bedtime undoubtedly inspires a quiet journey to the depths of the imagination. The call for bedtime means jumping into a safe haven of blankets and pillows and the soft, comforting cadence of a loved one’s voice reading a wondrous story.  There’s nothing better than snuggling under the covers, close to a caregiver, as he or she opens the pages of a crisp picture book and begins to read a story that fills a child with laughter or awe. This is what we want for all of our kids, and this is what we as parents should strive for at bedtime.

But how do we make this happen? It’s easier said than done - trust me, I know.  But bedtime stories can help tackle some of these common childhood anxieties and give kids the courage they need to get to sleep calmly. In addition to the significant developmental benefits that reading aloud with children provides, sharing stories with your little ones at bedtime can help soothe their nerves and reinforce bonds between children and their loved ones, making them feel safer and more secure when going to bed. So what are you waiting for? Grab a hold of these books, snuggle up with your kids, and get reading.

The following stories are ones we love in our home, books that ease my boys’ nerves through thrills, wonder, and good old fashioned laughter. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

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Sleep Like a Tiger, by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski: A quietly magical bedtime book about a girl whose parents insist she get ready for bed even though she declares she is wide awake.  Once under her covers, the child asks her parents how particular animals sleep at night. Through gentle prose, her parents describe the animals’ sleeping habits, which the little girl then mimics once she is alone in her bedroom. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the child falls sound asleep. This story speaks perfectly to little ones who want nothing more than to stay awake when it's time for bed. For our full review of Sleep Like a Tiger, click here!

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Orion and the Dark, by Emma Yarlett: Darkness personified- it's a brilliant concept.  Yarlett takes darkness, something many kids are terrified of, and gives him a cuddly frame, a timid but warm smile, and a gentle hand to hold. She shows our little ones that the dark can wrap you up and squeeze you in the most perfect hug, and that the unknown and scary expanse of the night isn't so frightening after all once you explore it with a friend. To simply say this book is "special" doesn't do it justice; it leads the pack when it comes to stories for kids afraid of the dark. For our full review of Orion and the Dark, click here!

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It Is Not Time for Sleeping, by Lisa Graff and illustrated by Lauren Castillo: The premise of the story is simple- a little boy is staunchly resisting his bedtime. Yet even though he becomes more stubborn in his convictions as he moves through each part of his habitual bedtime routine he eventually - finally!- succumbs to his fatigue. Children will feel an immediate connection to the child in the book as well as his familiar routine, both of which create a sense of comfort for little ones as they snuggle under their covers. For our full review of It is Not Time for Sleeping, click here!

Shhh! This Book is Sleeping Best Bedtime Books for Kids.jpg

Shhh! This Book is Sleeping, by Cedric Ramadier and Vincent Bourgeau:  It is a rare child that likes to be told to brush his teeth, go to the bathroom one last time, and get into bed.  But this interactive bedtime book allows the kids to be the "boss." It enables the reader to make sure the book has completed its bedtime routine, that it is warm enough, and that it gets a good hug and kiss before turning out the light. What I love most about this simple and quick read is that it gives little ones power in a situation where they often feel totally powerless. For our full review of Shhh! This Book is Sleeping, click here!

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A Big Mooncake for Little Star, by Grace Lin: In this whimsical book, a 2019 Caldecott Honor, Little Star cannot resist the great Mooncake her mama bakes her - but she simply cannot resist a nibble! This wonderful book, a modern day myth, tells an enchanting -- and totally delightful -- story about the different phases of the moon.

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Please Bring Balloons, by Lindsey Ward: A note, a carousel and a polar bear. Is it a dream? A fantastical adventure? We are still wondering—and that’s so much a part of why we love it. Both artistically beautifully and perfectly fanciful, we adore this captivating story! For our full review of Please Bring Balloons, click here!

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Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey,  by Emily Winfield Martin: A lyrical tale with one of those perfectly rhythmic cadences that will gently lull little ones to sleep.  This book invites kids to close their eyes so they can discover their own dream animals -- and find out what adventures their animals will take them on as they soar through the stars.  

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Don’t Blink!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and David Roberts: Oh, how I love this ingenious bedtime book, and I have no doubt your kids will too! Can your little ones rise to the challenge and refrain from blinking as they turn these pages? I guarantee they will do everything in their power to pass the test however they can, because if they can get to the end of the book without blinking, they win a very coveted prize— they can avoid bedtime! This one is a must.

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I Need My Monster, by Amanda Noll and illustrated by Howard McWilliam: This book is guaranteed to get your kids laughing about ogres and beasts, rather than fearing them. When Ethan looks under his bed to check on his monster, Gabe, Ethan finds a note from Gabe instead.  What does it say? Gabe has gone fishing and will be back in a week! How on earth will Ethan get to bed without his monster’s heavy breathing lulling him to sleep? This book is a hoot and will help your kids turn the tables on their monster woes.

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The Goodnight Train, by June Sobel and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith: All aboard for dreamland! If your kids love trains or cookies, or trains and cookies, then they want to make sure to climb aboard the Goodnight Train, one that soars past mermaids and ice cream clouds and has heaps and heaps of cookies on board.  This was on reread in our house for a good year, as my children loved being rocked and rolled to bed.

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The Big Bed, by Bunmi Laditan and illustrated by Tom Knight: A young girl has no interest in sleeping in her own bed in her own room (*ahem* nope, can't relate to that one at all!) So what does she do? She comes up with the perfect solution to her problem: she sleeps in her parents’ bed and gifts her dad a camping cot, attempting to convince him why he should no longer be sleeping in his own big bed where he belongs. From the girl's well thought out arguments to the hilarious illustrations, The Big Bed will have your kids laughing from start to finish. For our full review of The Big Bed, click here!

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Night Out, by Daniel Miyares: This book is exquisite! The words are sparse, but the illustrations are rich with detail and emotion, telling stories upon stories in and of themselves. A young boy at a boarding school finds himself friendless and alone, but when he gets ready for bed one night, he finds a mysterious invitation. The boy then departs on a magical, mystical journey where he befriends dancing animals and attends a glorious celebration.  He returns to his room with the perfect story to tell to a new friend.

The House in the Night Best Bedtime Books for Kids.jpg

The House in the Night, by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes: If you love Goodnight Moon (or, perhaps, if you are in the camp of people who do not like it at all!) then you must check out this elegant book immediately. Gentle and lyrical prose inspired by cumulative poetry combines with exquisite scratchboard illustrations to make this story an absolute winner. This book is bedtime perfection, a quiet good night book sure to lull your child to sleep with its dreamlike narrative and pictures.

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Llama Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney: This is one we recite by heart in our house, a classic story about a little llama who gets himself in a tizzy at bedtime. When baby Llama settles into bed, he begins to worry as soon as his beloved Mama leaves his room. How will he handle the dark on his own? Before long, Llama’s whimpers and worry turn into hollers, and soon it escalates into an all out Llama Drama!

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Stop That Yawn!, by Caron Levis and illustrated by LeUyen Pham: Gaby is over bedtime. Yawns and snores are such big bores! So she decides to take some action and leave bedtime behind, setting out with her bewildered granny to find a place where beds are for bouncing, ice cream is available round the clock, and there is no more hushing and shushing. But despite her best efforts, even poor Gaby realizes that sometimes, it is just a bit to difficult to stop that yawn!

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The Night Box, by Louise Greig and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay: When a child opens the Night Box, day slips into evening as darkness unfurls and stars light up the sky. He is the holder of the key that opens this wondrous box, the one that breathes out night and breathes in the day. What a wonderfully imaginative and unexpected story about one child who holds the key (literally) to our world’s most natural cycle. For our full review of The Night Box, click here!


Which of the above stories are your favorite bedtime books? What would you add to the list? Let us know on our Facebook page! And make sure you are following us on Instagram and Twitter, too!

Did you like this post? Yay! We think you will love these as well - make sure to check them out! Favorite Books to Spark Your Child’s Imagination, Picture Books to Help You Raise Kind Kids and Favorite Picture Books of 2018.

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THANK YOU!

Thirty thousand followers on Instagram! How on earth did that happen?

Thank you for helping us grow to become one of the best kid's book review sites on Instagram!JPG

I’m still not sure how I got so lucky, but ever since I planted roots into the magical world of children’s literature, I wake up each morning with a smile. Trite, maybe, but absolutely true. Every day, I wake up excited to read with my students in our school library. I run to my mailbox in the afternoon to see what books may have arrived from publishers. Most important? I eagerly anticipate nightfall so my sweet boys and I can snuggle together for storytime.

As you know from my recent post about how and why I began reviewing children’s literature, Happily Ever Elephants began as a result of a difficult time in our family’s life. Writing about our family’s favorite stories and sharing those words with you helped ground and guide me, and I can say without hesitation that this has been the most inspirational journey. Together, my boys and I have grown, persevered, and read stories that filled our hearts with happiness — stories that taught us to always search for opportunities even when times were challenging. The books we love — and the books we choose to share with you — remind us that people are filled with goodness, kindness is cool, we can conquer tough obstacles, and laughter has the power to heal.

Happily Ever Elephants has been a true labor of love, and I am grateful for the incredible and vibrant community of fellow book lovers we have created. We are all here for a common purpose: because we believe in the power of words to change worlds. We know that reading is fundamental to the growth of our children, that storytime creates unbreakable bonds with caregivers, and that a great book nurtures empathy in our little ones. I can’t stress it enough: reading is vital to the healthy development of young hearts and minds.

Because we hit a big milestone this weekend (30,000!!!), Pickle, Bo and I wanted to take a moment to say thank you because we are unbelievably grateful for your support. Thank you to the authors and illustrators who work tirelessly to brighten our worlds with stories that enchant us and with characters who become like family. Thank you to the agents and publishers who edit, toil and push to get these tremendous works of literature on the shelves and into our hands. Thank you to my fellow “bookstagrammers,” mom bloggers, and other “kidlit” friends who never tire of talking books with me. And, finally, thank you to our followers. We wouldn’t be where we are without you, and we are so grateful that you turn to Happily Ever Elephants for guidance when you want to select magical and meaningful stories for your children.

Thirty thousand people. Wow. I am honored and humbled… but, mostly, I am excited to see where this book-loving journey takes us next. For all of you who similarly believe reading gets “two trunks up,” THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

With love and gratitude,
Lauren, Pickle and Bo

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Have you checked out some of our most popular posts of the year? Don’t miss these incredible lists!

Favorite Picture Books of 2018

Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2018

Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018

Favorite Chapter Books for Emerging Readers

Picture Books to Help You Raise Kind Kids

Favorite Books About Courage

Favorite Books About Friendship

We will be eternally grateful if you continue to share our blog with your friends and colleagues. Word of mouth is vital to helping us grow! Make sure you are following us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter so you don’t miss a single post!

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Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish, by Beth Ferry

Looking for an amazing picture book to read in anticipation of a big birthday? We’ve got just the book for you!

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Birthdays. Oh, the joy they bring for children! And, let's be honest, adults too! I hate being the center of attention, but I absolutely, wholeheartedly, love celebrating my birthday. I love the hope each new year inspires, I love wondering what I’ll achieve in the next 365 days, and I love, more than anything, making a birthday wish. Even better than my own birthday? Celebrating my boys’ birthdays. And guess what? We have one in our house this very week! And so it seemed like the perfect time to share this fun and fabulous new picture book, Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish, by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Tom Licthenheld.

In Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish, we learn that there are ten, most definitely ten, “very specific, tried and true, and absolutely essential Rules For The Making of a Birthday Wish.” The most important? It must be your birthday, or close to it, obviously. Once rule number one is established, readers are escorted by a bunch of cheerful animals on a romp through the rules, ending with the last and most special one: a reminder that the word “wish” ends in “shhhhh” — so keep that wish quiet and dream about it coming true. So adorable!

This irresistible picture book radiates fun. It brings birthdays and wish making to new heights, making both seem even more special, more exciting, and more impactful to the birthday boy or girl. Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish reminds us of the joy deeply rooted in a day dedicated just for us, as well as the hope and magic inherent in thinking of, and then making, a wish. Whether big or little, a “now” wish or a “future” wish, there is nothing better than knowing that wish is all yours, and only yours, to dream into fruition. This book is SO much fun, especially when you share it with your kids in the week leading up to their birthday! Pickle was grinning and giggling the whole way through, and he can’t stop thinking about that special wish he gets to make this week. One thing is for sure - Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish has become a new birthday week tradition in our house!

Want the book? Get it here! Ten Rules of the Birthday Wish, by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are completely our own.

Does your family have any special traditions incorporating books? Let us know on our Facebook page!

If you liked this post, make sure to check these out too! Favorite Picture Books of 2018, Favorite Picture Books of 2017, Favorite Books to Spark your Child’s Imagination.

The picture book you want to read leading up to your child's birthday!



A Jewish Child, a Hateful Note, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Looking for great picture books about Martin Luther King, Jr. to read with children of all ages? Look no further.

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I was in Mr. Terry’s seventh grade civics class when I found it. Just weeks away from my Bat Mitzvah, I walked into the crowded classroom, headed to my desk, and sat down to find a note waiting for me. It was a folded up piece of paper, and it had my name, Lauren, scribbled on the front. I remember smiling as I opened it up, because what kid doesn’t love getting notes, waiting with anticipation to discover the sender? But when the paper was spread out in front of me, I inhaled sharply. I vividly remember trying to fight back the tears that flooded my eyes, the fear that paralyzed my body. I recall my hands shaking as I tried desperately to catch my best friend’s attention, all while wondering which of my other classmates were laughing at me as I suffered.

What was inside this awful note? A crude, black swastika.

As a Jewish child, I grew up learning about the evils of religious persecution and racial discrimination, but this was the first time it hunted me down and stared me in the face, the first time I was personally affected by such despicable hatred. This experience left an indelible scar on my heart, right before the momentous day I was meant to rejoice at becoming a Jewish young woman. It was on this day I truly understood that people would engage in abhorrent behavior simply because they don’t like how you look or agree with what you believe.

As you know, sharing #booksforbetter has become a true passion of mine. I love sharing books that help us bridge divides and teach kids that we are all one and the same — all of us human beings with beating hearts and big dreams and a thirst to learn and grow. It has also become important to me to share books showcasing the dangers of hatred — and how love, communication and understanding can help assuage this dark stain on our world.

Here we are celebrating my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah last year. A Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah is a life cycle event in which a Jewish child comes of age and is recognized as having the same obligations as adults to observe the commandments.

Here we are celebrating my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah last year. A Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah is a life cycle event in which a Jewish child comes of age and is recognized as having the same obligations as adults to observe the commandments.

And so it is that I have always had a deep appreciation for stories about Martin Luther King, Jr. Every time I read about or watched his powerful “I have a dream” speech following that hateful act in civics class, I believed he was also speaking to me, a young Jewish girl seeking to understand why someone would want to hurt me because of my religion, just as people wanted to hurt him because of his skin color. I hoped his vision included a world where black and white children played together alongside children of all other races and religions, too. After all, one of the core tenets of Judaism is to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” a commandment which comes with no qualifications or asterisks. MLK’s words and brave actions in the face of extreme danger gave me hope at a time when I was terrified, hope that we would all — White, Black, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Gay, Straight, you name it — find a way to love one another wholly and unconditionally. His words continue to bring me hope today, especially in light of recent events in our country like the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and the horrific murder of eleven Jews worshiping at Shabbat services in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

While many believe we have made significant progress both as a society and as a country, racial and religious discrimination still lurk behind dark corners. It is sickening — and thus vitally important that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy is taught to and celebrated by children around the globe. Why? Because MLK is a hero to us all, and his legacy will continue to motivate future generations to carry out his great vision. His mighty words can find a home within every person’s heart and soul. They have the ability to inspire each and every one of us to reject prejudice and strive for a society where equality, compassion and respect reign supreme.

I sincerely hope that if you do one thing on Monday, January 21st or during Black History Month this February, you read a story about Martin Luther King, Jr. with your children and students. There are phenomenal picture books about MLK’s life that can be discussed with kids of all ages, and I cannot stress how important it is to share this one lesson with the next generation: Hate is a learned behavior. Only when we listen to one another and embrace our glorious differences can we eradicate hate and replace it with love.

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We hope you enjoy these remarkable books as much as we do.

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Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by James E. Ransome: I love reading this beautiful book with my youngest students, for it imparts all of the values MLK stood for, without going into the more painful details of his journey. This book encourages a new generation of young people to be kings by emulating MLK’s remarkable character traits and actions. The lovely illustrations show kids how they can reenact his teachings in their own lives by always standing up for peace, breaking the chains of ignorance, and stamping out hatred by putting a foot down and standing tall.

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Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier: Through his own famous quotes, this beautiful picture book brings MLK to life. Beginning with his life as a young boy and his vow to one day get “big words” like his father, to his death at a garbage worker’s strike, this biography is a fabulous introduction to one of the most prominent voices of the Civil Rights Movement. This is one of my favorite books to read with early elementary students, for its simple narrative that doesn’t stray from the gritty facts but hits all the right notes for younger readers. Age appropriate, powerful, and elegant.

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I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and illustrated by Kadir Nelson: On August 28, 1963, MLK stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. during the March on Washington. It was there he delivered one of the most powerful speeches our nation has ever witnessed. His words from this monumental speech are paired with Nelson’s exquisite paintings, making this a magnificent book to be treasured, memorized and honored for generations to come.

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I am Martin Luther King, Jr., by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulous: We absolutely love the Ordinary People Change the World series for the way it tackles big stories and remarkable heroes in a kid-friendly, accessible manner. Through comic illustrations and word bubbles, this story gives voice to MLK as a child, then subsequently showcases his journey to changing the American landscape through peaceful protests and powerful words. This series is a favorite of my students.

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As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Herschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom, by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colon: We all know the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., a black boy who grew up to witness horrifying racial discrimination in America. He became a minister like his father before him, and subsequently rose to become one of the most visible and vital voices of the Civil Rights Movement. Abraham grew up years earlier in Europe, and as a Jewish man, he too, faced atrocious persecution. Abraham fled to America where he became a rabbi, and like MLK, he became a voice for equality. This is the story of how these two remarkable men came together as victims of discrimination, formed an unbreakable friendship, and used their voices to fight for peace and social justice. An extraordinary story, and a favorite to read to tweens.

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Did you like this post? Hooray! Make sure to check these out, too — we think you will love ‘em! Amazing Books for Black History Month, Ten Favorite Books to Evoke Change, and Twenty Picture Books About Amazing Women.














Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake

If you are looking for a fabulous book for any child questioning his or her identity, an LGBQT story, or a thought-provoking read about one tween’s journey to understanding and finding herself, you must check out Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake, stat.

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My goodness, can these middle grade books get any better? Where were these phenomenal stories when I was a young girl? I remember when I was 12 years old, and my home in Miami was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew. It was a pivotal year in my life- I had just become a Bat Mitzvah, I was struggling to figure out if I would ever become a graceful teenager and not just a gawky teen, I longed to know if boys would ever look my way, and I wondered if my community would ever get put back together after suffering from total destruction. So many questions, so much angst— and so few stories to help me feel less alone and less confused.

Though my longings were not quite the same, I wish I’d had a book like Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World! Ivy Aberdeen’s angst hit all the right notes and resonated so very deeply. In this story, Ivy’s home is flattened by a tornado that rages through her town. All she manages to save is her pillow which contains her most precious possessions inside a thin case - fancy markers and a journal filled up with drawings, many of which contain illustrations of her and an unidentifiable girl. While staying in a school gym with other displaced persons after the storm, Ivy’s notebook goes missing. When her pictures start turning up in her locker, together with notes encouraging her to be true to herself and come clean with who she is at her core, Ivy begins to hope that the mysterious letters are coming from a girl on whom she has secretly developed a crush. Will Ivy let go of her fears and embrace who she is meant to be?

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World will be a valuable window book for some and a mirror book for so many others. Ivy fears being unlike those around her- being shunned for wanting something so different than her friends and her big sister. After all, when Ivy’s sister and her best friend stop speaking and Ivy believes it’s because her sister’s friend has come out of the closet, Ivy fears her sister will totally disown her, too. Though the yearnings expressed in Ivy’s story may certainly be different for some tweens, the burning desire to understand who you are at your core, to not just accept those things that make us unique but love them too, is simply universal. We have all experienced, in unique ways and to varying degrees, the unsettling and anxiety-provoking fear that comes hand in hand with feeling so wholly different from those around us.

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World gave me chills, and it is a book of incredible importance that has an especially significant place in every library, every classroom, and every child’s bookshelf. I am so grateful to the fabulous kidlit authors that continually place these notable books into children’s hands around the globe. There is nothing like a book to make you feel less alone and more understood.

What did you think about Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World? Let us know on our Facebook page, and make sure to follow us there! If you liked this post, make sure to check out our Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018. We think you will also love these books about tweens discovering themselves: Front Desk, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, and Brown Girl Dreaming.

Want the book? Get it here! Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake. *This is an affiliate link.

If you have a tween reader at home, Ivy Aberdeens Letter to the World is a fabulous middle grade book about self identity is an absolute must!.jpg



Amazing Picture Books for Black History Month

Looking for fabulous children’s books to celebrate Black History Month? Look no further, because Happily Ever Elephants has got you covered!

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Black History Month. It’s a celebration engrained in the fabric of our society, a month of learning and healing and remembering in our homes and schools. The national celebration was established around 1976, when President Gerald Ford decreed it an annual American observance. His goal? To honor the frequently overlooked or neglected accomplishments of Black women and men across America.

Throughout our lives, and most notably during our grade school years, many of us studied the groundbreaking — even radical —accomplishments of important social justice advocates such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. But African-Americans were not only leading the fight for civil rights. They were doing so much more to leave lasting and vital impacts on our world! Contributions by Black Americans on our society were - and continue to be - nothing short of phenomenal. Yet, they are so frequently ignored. From artists to engineers, dancers to doctors, the stories of Black Americans who tenaciously broke boundaries and challenged societal norms are not just inspiring, but necessary to our country’s beautiful, multi-layered tapestry. I am absolutely delighted that we are finally beginning to see these thrilling stories come to life through picture books.

While the children’s publishing industry has made progress over the last couple of years, it continues its tremendous push to bring diverse books of superior quality to the market. There is a concentrated effort to publish more representative stories, including more biographies of Black men and women highlighting their remarkable achievements. Though we still have significant work to do, the results are tangible. As our homes, schools, libraries and bookstores continually showcase these beautiful new books, the smiles that light up children’s faces when they find themselves in stories for the first time is nothing short of magical.

As we lead into Black History Month, Happily Ever Elephants is thrilled to share some of our favorite picture books. Below you’ll find several outstanding picture books on Martin Luther King, Jr, as well as numerous biographies about Black men and women whose determination and accomplishments have left indelible contributions on our country. And that’s not all. You’ll also find a moments and movements section, which contains numerous breathtaking stories about slavery, the fight for civil rights , and even music and space. Happy reading!

Commemorate Black History Month with this fabulous list of more than thirty picutre books about famous people, movements and moments.jpg

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

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I Have a Dream, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and illustrated by Kadir Nelson: On August 28, 1963, MLK stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. during the March on Washington. It was there he delivered one of the most powerful speeches our nation has ever witnessed. His words from this monumental speech are paired with Nelson’s exquisite paintings, making this a magnificent book to be treasured, memorized and honored for generations to come.

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Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by James E. Ransome: I love reading this beautiful book with my youngest students, for it imparts all of the values MLK stood for, without going into the more painful details of his journey. This book encourages a new generation of young people to be kings by emulating MLK’s remarkable character traits and actions. The lovely illustrations show kids how they can reenact his teachings in their own lives by always standing up for peace, breaking the chains of ignorance, and stamping out hatred by putting a foot down and standing tall.

As Good as Anyone Best Picture books for black history month.jpg

As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Herschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom, by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colon: We all know the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., a Black boy who grew up to witness horrifying racial discrimination in America. He became a minister like his father before him, and subsequently rose to become one of the most visible and vital voices of the Civil Rights Movement. Abraham grew up years earlier in Europe, and as a Jewish man, he too, faced atrocious persecution. Abraham fled to America where he became a rabbi, and like MLK, he became a voice for equality. This is the story of how these two remarkable men came together as victims of discrimination, formed an unbreakable friendship, and used their voices to fight for peace and social justice. An extraordinary story, and a favorite to read to tweens.

Martins Big Words Best Picture Books for Black History Month.jpg

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier: Through his own famous quotes, this beautiful picture book brings MLK to life. Beginning with his life as a young boy and his vow to one day get “big words” like his father, to his death at a garbage worker’s strike, this biography is a fabulous introduction to one of the most prominent voices of the Civil Rights Movement. This is one of my favorite books to read with early elementary students, for its simple narrative that doesn’t stray from the gritty facts but hits all the right notes for younger readers. Age appropriate, powerful, and elegant.

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I am Martin Luther King, Jr., by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulous: We absolutely love the Ordinary People Change the World series for the way it tackles big stories and remarkable heroes in a kid-friendly, accessible manner. Through comic illustrations and word bubbles, this story gives voice to MLK as a child, then subsequently showcases his journey to changing the American landscape through peaceful protests and powerful words. This series is a favorite of my students.

PICTURE BOOK BIOGRAPHIES

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Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson: Henry Brown was born into slavery, never even knowing his own birthday. Torn from his family at a young age, he is put to work at a warehouse. And though he grows up, marries, and has a family of his own, he is once again devastated when his own family is sold at a slave market. Henry longs to be a free man, and upon lifting a crate at his warehouse one day, he knows just what he must do: he will mail himself to freedom. Teach children about the Underground Railroad with this gripping true story.

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Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis, by Jabari Asim and illustrated by E.B. White: Provide kids with background on the Civil Rights movement and the childhood story of one of its most important heroes. John wants to be a preacher when he grows up - but he doesn’t want to wait! Upon being put in charge of the family’s farm, John discovers his chickens make an amazing congregation, and he begins preaching to them. John’s journey — from addressing his farm animals to becoming one of the most vital voices of the Civil Rights Movement, to his stint as a Georgia Congressman to his continued contributions as a significant activist in America — is simply remarkable.

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Rosa by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier: Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white man on the city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, remains one of the most pivotal moments - and remarkable actions - in American history. The stunning prose and cut paper illustrations are a winning combo here, bringing new life to Parks’s perseverance, courageous story and steadfast commitment to the civil rights movement.

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Through My Eyes, by Ruby Bridges: At just six years old, Bridges became a focal point of the Civil Rights Movement when she walked, surrounded by federal marshals, through a mob of angry segregationists and became the first Black student at an all white school in New Orleans, Louisiana. This stunning memoir describes Bridge’s courageous- and at times harrowing - journey, in her own words. It is a testament to hope, courage, and the lengths one innocent child went to be afforded an equal education to her white peers.

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Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ekua Holmes: This gorgeous biography highlights the life and achievements of Fannie Lou Hamer, particularly her stunning accomplishments in connection with the Civil Rights Movement. Fannie, the youngest of twenty children, grew up in a family of sharecroppers. She endured hardship after hardship at her home in Mississippi but never gave up, eventually making it to the stage at the Democratic National Convention in 1964, giving a speech that roused support for the Freedom Democrats and was integral to civil rights for black Americans.

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The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton: Inspire child activists with the true story of a little girl who fought for freedom despite her young age. At nine years old, Audrey wanted to go places. So when she heard grownups speaking about doing away with Birmingham's horrible segregation laws, she knew she wanted to be a part of it. Audrey stepped up with confidence, used her voice, and marched for freedom alongside thousands of children and teens. The youngest person to be arrested for protesting in Birmingham, Audrey’s story shows that you are never too young to make a difference.

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Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Eric Velasquez: This book absolutely blew me away. Schomburg tells the story of Arturo Schomburg, an Afro-Puerto Rican man who was astonished that people of African descent had no historians to bring their stories to life. Schomburg became determined to correct history, and his quest led him to curate a remarkable collection at the New York Public Library that became the cornerstone of the new Negro Division. I can’t rave enough about this fascinating story – this was my favorite picture book biography of 2017.

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Take a Picture of Me James VanDerZee, by Andrea Loney and illustrated by Keith Mallett: James VanDerZee fell in love with the camera when he was just a young boy. He moved to the bustling world of New York City after school and got a job, only to be told by his boss that no white person would want their photographs to be taken by a black man. VanDerZee was undeterred and opened his own studio in Harlem where he took portraits of not just the ordinary neighborhood folk but prominent Harlem Renaissance figures as well, including Marcus Garvey, Florence Mills, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. His portraits were eventually displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe, by Deborah Blumenthal and illustrated by Laura Freeman: Ann Cole Lowe, great grand-daughter of slaves, learned to use a needle and thread as soon as she could walk! She worked with her mother in their dress shop, sewing dresses for fancy ladies who had fancy parties to attend. Ann’s mother died when Ann was only 16, and Ann eventually left home for New York City to pursue her dreams. She went to design school, but due to segregation Ann was forced to study on her own. Through it all, Ann never gave up. She studied, designed and sewed, working her way towards becoming society’s “best kept secret” and designing dresses for Oscar winners and even Jackie Kennedy.

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Mae Among the Stars, by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Barrington: This beauty of a book tells the story of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel to space! With her mother’s words of encouragement continually whispered in her ears, Mae’s intelligence and drive led her to conquer insurmountable odds until she found herself at NASA. “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.” You can even touch the stars.

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The Doctor With an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath, by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley: From toy chemistry sets to laser probes, this engaging, rhyming book tells the story of Dr. Patricia Bath, a woman born in Harlem with big dreams of becoming a doctor. Undeterred by the evils of sexism and racism, Dr. Bath persevered, eventually becoming an ophthalmologist and subsequently co-founding the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, preserving and restoring the gift of sight. Another win for STEM!

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Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated by Bryan Collier: My students fell hard for this fascinating story of Ernie Barnes, a young black man who loved art but took to playing football in order to make a living. After all, the south was segregated when Barnes grew up, and he knew there was no future in painting - there were no black artists in the museums! Nonetheless, despite his career as a professional football player, Barnes never stopped yearning to be an artist. He eventually conquered his dreams, painting for the NFL and influencing a generation of artists and illustrators.

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Champion: The Story of Muhammad Ali, by Jim Haskins and illustrated by Eric Velasquez: Sure there have been books about the great Muhammad Ali, but this one is a gem. With beautiful illustrations that at times are so real they look like photographs, this stunning biography of the great boxer and his commitment to social justice touches upon the struggles, successes and set backs of Muhammad Ali. It truly shines a light on his great legacy and will be a treasure for fans new and old

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Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, by Leda Schubert and illustrated by Theodore Taylor III: Today’s generation of ballerinas admire and hope to emulate the great Misty Copeland. But do these young ladies know about the famous ballerina who inspired Misty herself? Raven Wilkinson was the first African-American woman to dance for a major classical ballet company, never letting racism and mockery hold her back from her dreams. Raven’s persistence led her to dance for royalty in Holland and at the New York City Opera after that— until she was fifty years old. A must have for your little dancers.

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Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, by Lesa Cline-Ransom and illustrated by James E. Ransome: If you know kids who can’t stop, won’t stop when it comes to tennis or any sport,  they will absolutely love this beautifully illustrated story of tennis stars and sisters Venus and Serena Williams. The dynamic sisters are two of the greatest athletes of all time, but they didn’t become champions without dedication, talent, and a whole lot of heart. A wonderful story of perseverance and a testament to their tenacity and love for their sport. 

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Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Pregnancy, by Pete Souza: Souza was President Obama’s Official White House Photographer for two years and was with him during more critical moments of his presidency than anyone else. In this stunning book of approximately seventy-five photographs, Souza captures photos of Obama that showcase him as both an extraordinary leader and man, one who frequently engaged with America’s youngest citizens and continually encouraged them to “dream big dreams.”

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Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison: This stunning anthology features snippets of 49 black women who, in their own various ways, helped change the world. From poets to pilots to politicians, the fascinating stories combined with stunning illustrations make this book a winner, conveying to our children how people can break barriers when they dream, persevere and never stop believing in themselves.

MOMENTS AND MOVEMENTS

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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Dreams and Their Lives Brought to Life, by Ashley Bryan: This stunning book of poetry incorporates actual documents from an estate appraisal on July 5, 1828, valuing the will and worth of eleven slaves who live and work on the plantation. The only thing that can not be valued? The dreams of these men and women. On stunning collaged spreads, each slave is given a voice, with one page describing the “worth” and skills he or she brings to the plantation, while the other page explores the dreams that each slave wishes he could achieve with those skills. Powerful, astonishing, and incredibly emotional, this is a stunning achievement and an important, unique look at this stain on American history. 

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Freedom in Congo Square, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie: In this poetic work of nonfiction, readers learn about a little-known piece of Black history. Though slaves toiled during the week in nineteenth century Louisiana, they counted down to Sunday afternoons - a time when they congregated at Congo Square in New Orleans. Here they could temporarily forget about their oppression and, for several hours, sing, dance, play, and even open up a market. Congo Square was a place of celebration, freedom, hope and resilience, and it helped black men and women maintain some of their significant cultural traditions.

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Let the Children March, by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison: After hearing the powerful words of Martin Luther King, Jr., many Black children volunteered to march for their civil rights in protest of the laws that forbid them from attending the same schools, playing on the same playgrounds, and drinking from the same water fountains, as white children. Despite their fears, these children faced hatred and danger to march in The Children’s Crusade, using their voices to change the world.

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Freedom Summer, by Deborah Wiles and illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue: This remarkable story describes what happened after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forbidding segregation. When two best friends, one white and one black, discovered the town pool would now be open to everyone, the two boys raced each other there, only to be in for a very rude awakening. Use this story as a springboard to discuss segregation and the unfortunate reality that it takes more than new laws to eclipse hate. One of my very, very favorite stories - incredibly powerful and thought-provoking.

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Sit In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney: This wonderful book celebrates the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, when four college students, following Martin Luther King’s example of peaceful protest, sat down at the “white’s only” counter at Woolworths and placed a simple order for a doughnut and coffee with cream. This sit-in became a defining moment in the struggle for civil rights and racial equality in America.

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Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Shane W. Evans: This is a powerful historical picture book about a 100 year old African-American woman who makes a long trek up a steep hill to vote for the very first time. As she walks, she remembers her family history — from the passage of the fifteenth amendment to her parents registering to vote, from the impossible tests given to prevent Black men and women from voting to marching in the civil rights protest from Selma to Montgomery.  Moving, lyrical and tremendously important, this is a fabulous glimpse at American history.  

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, by Selina Alko and illustrated by Sean Qualls: I love this beautiful, non-fiction book about the Lovings and their fight to make interracial marriage legal in every state across America.  Richard (a white man) and Mildred (a Black woman) fell in love and got married - yet,  marriage between people of different races was illegal in Virginia and they were thus forced to marry legally in Washington D.C.. After their marriage, the police barged into their Virginia home and jailed the couple, prompting a fight against the unfair law that ended up before the Supreme Court -- where the Lovings won. A fabulous intro to the Lovings and the fight for marriage equality. 

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Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly and illustrated by Laura Freeman: Did you love this movie? Well now you can share the inspiring story of these four brilliant women with your kids and students. Hidden Figures is the captivating true story of four Black women who lived at a time when being Black— and being women — limited their abilities to do what they wanted to do: math. And they were really good at math. Did they let societal and gender norms stand in their way? Absolutely not… and so they broke boundaries. This book is outstanding.

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Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph, by Roxanne Orgill and illustrated by Francis Vallejo: We are in love with this beautiful tribute to jazz musicians in the fifties! In 1958, Esquire Magazine planned to salute the American jazz scene in one of its issues. One graphic designer had a crazy idea to gather and photograph a group of beloved Black musicians on a Harlem stoop. The photograph became iconic, and this fascinating collection of poetry celebrates the lives — and even quirks — of some of America’s most beloved musicians.

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Roots of Rap: 16 Bars and the 4 Pillars of Hip Hop, by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Frank Morrison: Did you know that hip hop has its roots in folktales and poetry? That rap music long preceded DJ Cool Herc and Grandmaster Flash? With a forward by Swiss Beatz, this vibrant book uses the four pillars (graffiti, break dancing, rapping/MCing and DJing) to illustrate how hip hop is a language spoken around the globe, including nods to some of the music’s most prominent artists today.

We hope you commemorate Black History Month in your homes and schools with these outstanding works of children’s literature. Enjoy!

Which of these books are your favorite? Make sure to let us know on our Facebook page (and don’t forget to “like” us there, too!)

Did you like this post? We think you will love these too! Kind Hands, Kind Words, Kind Hearts: 21 Books to Promote Kindness, Inclusiveness and Equality, Ten Favorite Books to Evoke Change, Twenty Picture Books About Amazing Women, and Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2018.

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The (Very) Long and (Not at All) Short of It: Why I Began Reviewing Children's Books

There’s one question I get asked repeatedly — and it’s the same question I often find myself shying away from answering: why did you start reviewing children’s books? There’s a simple answer, I suppose. But there’s also a very long one. So long, in fact, that sometimes giving you the simple answer feels like a cop-out. I’ve been at this blog thing for nearly three years now, and I’ve built up quite an incredible and loyal community, so I guess it’s time to share the long and short of it.

My sweet boys and me on New Years Eve. “Bo” (age 4) and “Pickle” (age 5).

My sweet boys and me on New Years Eve. “Bo” (age 4) and “Pickle” (age 5).

The short answer is easy: I love the written word. Ever since I was a little girl, reading was a visceral experience for me. I found power in books — a transcendent force that plucked me from my pink flowered bedroom and placed me squarely in the midst of every story I read. I found pieces of myself in every book I picked up, and I loved reading so much that I began writing my own stories too. Words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters. They were, and still are, an integral part of my life.

But I’m not giving you the whole truth if I stick to this response. So here’s the long answer.

Though I loved reading, I couldn’t actually make it my career, right? I couldn’t read for a living. Or could I? Be a lawyer, some said. All you’ll do is read and write, they said. So I listened. It seemed like a perfect fit, and I thought being an attorney would be incredible. Reality check? It was not. For me, being a lawyer was wholly unsatisfying, and I felt stifled by my inability to be creative. My career felt like a chore, and while I know many people feel this way, I really struggled with it.

But then I got married, and I shoved that dissatisfaction away. Shortly thereafter I had my first beautiful boy (who we call “Pickle” on the blog) and then a second one (“Bo.”) And then the walls came crashing down around me when, at ten days old, Bo suffered from a perinatal stroke. A stroke? I didn’t even know kids - much less infants - could have strokes. But there I was, with a baby that needed significant intervention, and that was my new reality.

Instead of Mommy and Me classes, I spent every day rushing my sweet infant across town from therapy appointments to doctor appointments and then back for more therapy. I learned more about the inner workings of the brain, gross and fine motor skills than I’d ever cared to know, and I came home every day feeling lost and scared. Only one thing felt right during these hellish months: story. Reading to my sweet boy seemed like the one thing in our suddenly off-kilter world that I could make sense of. It was the one thing I could still control. We read about the significance of perseverance and the importance of embracing our unique characteristics. I put much emphasis on the notion that however we may look, whatever challenges we may face, we are all human, plain and simple. And of course, I read him stories to make sure he knew how much he was loved: truly, wholly and deeply.

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I went back to work when Bo was about six months old, only to rediscover an old friend: dissatisfaction. It manifested in a different way though. Here I was on a daily basis asking Bo to put his best self forward. I was challenging him with exercises, pushing him to learn to crawl, walk and simply move appropriately, making him work when I knew it was downright hard.  Yet all this time, I was pursuing a career where I knew I wasn’t the best version of me. I wasn’t challenging myself, I wasn’t pursuing my passions, and I wasn’t chasing my dreams because of one simple fact: I was terrified.

And then it hit me. I was a total hypocrite.

How could I possibly ask my son to persevere when things got tough, to be the best kid he could possibly be, when I wasn’t doing those same things myself? It was an awakening. As I grappled with these tough questions, I began reading and writing profusely. I bought way too many picture books, picked up old manuscripts, began new ones and, kind of as a fluke, put together a private facebook page where I began sharing our favorite picture books with friends who were constantly asking me for recommendations. It felt gratifying to share the stories that helped my own family grow and laugh. And every day that I wrote, I felt stronger, happier, less afraid, and more grounded.

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When that small facebook group went from 20 friends to 200 group members in the span of two days, someone told me to start an Instagram page. So I did, and when that took off, I began my blog. And guess what happened next? The school where both of my kids were in the early childhood program was looking for a librarian -- someone who knew children’s literature, loved kids, and had a passion for reading and literacy. I got the job. It would be a huge change, but Bo was doing great, and I felt ready. A month later, I traded in the courthouse for the schoolhouse, and from the very first second, I knew I was home.

Months later, my husband and I decided our marriage was no longer working, and we got a divorce. The feeling that I’d failed my boys was excruciating. But, once again, I found solace in story — and in sharing the stories that helped us with others. Seeking out picture books to help us find our inner courage, cope with challenging emotions, and accept a new family structure became even more important than ever, and I credit extraordinary books with getting us through these challenging times. Truth be told, books still get us through the tough days, because that’s what story does. Whether we have physical or mental differences, non-traditional family structures, fears about going to bed or school or the doctor — every time we opened the cover of a book, we were on level playing field. We were all on the same first page. There was nothing more magical - or more meaningful - than sharing stories with my boys and letting the words and illustrations gently spark important conversations we needed to share with one another. Stories became the foundation of our home and the heart of our little threesome. They helped us heal. And there has become nothing more fulfilling for me than sharing the stories that have crept their way into our hearts with you, in the hopes that your children and your students will find as much meaning - and as much hope - in them as we have.

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So there you have it, the (extremely) long and (not at all) short of it, the perfectly imperfect path that got me here, with you, doing what I love. And even though it’s had ebbs and flows, even though some days I’m scared out of my mind, I’ve never looked back. I’m all in. And I’ve never, ever felt happier.

Thanks for letting me share the whole truth.

Want to see the books my boys and I love? Make sure to check out these posts! Favorite Picture Books of 2018, Favorite Picture Books of 2017 and Favorite Books About Courage.

Are you following us on Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? Make sure to join our party now, so you can always see what books get two trunks up!




Favorite Picture Books to Spark Your Child's Imagination

It’s a new year! Imagine all of the possibilities the next 365 days will bring with phenomenal picture books that will help your child’s imagination set soar!

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My almost six year-old thinks he’s Lebron James. In his mind, he plays for the Lakers, keeps his pals from the Heat and the Cavs on speed dial, and has a jump shot that takes down the moon. When he broke his arm last year, half of the boys in his pre-K class sent cards telling “Labron Jams” to get well soon. Some may call it an identity crisis, but I like to think of it as a vivid and vibrant imagination.

Too often, we underestimate the power of play. Yet it is play - pretend play, imaginative play, playing “make-believe” - that helps our children make sense of their worlds. Kids learn not just by doing, but by imagining. When they use their imaginations, our kids are gaining valuable developmental skills. They learn empathy by taking on new personas and stepping into another’s shoes. They explore scary situations while nestled in safe spaces. They experiment with language when they act as parents or teachers, or, even better, when they make up their own languages while pretending to be animals or fairies. They even learn to problem solve when they determine how build a castle or how to perfect a jump shot high enough to knock down a star. 

So what do you do when your little one keeps insisting he’s Lebron James or Daniel Tiger or, even cooler, a cyclops unicorn with long blond locks just like Rapunzel? Encourage it! Encourage your kids to think, to dream, and to unleash their creativity in any and all ways possible. They are learning tremendously without even realizing it, and I have no doubt that you’ll be wildly entertained by their antics.   

Looking for ways to encourage that imaginative play? Here are some of Happily Ever Elephants' favorite books to help their imaginations run wild. 

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Du Iz Tak?, by Carson Ellis: Read this once with your kids, and I promise they will be rolling on the floor laughing as they listen to the made up “bug language.” Read it a second time, and magic happens when your little ones realize the words actually make sense.  This book is genius, both for the hilarity it inspires and the critical thinking it involves. Even better? I almost guarantee your kids and students will be wholly engaged in creating their own unique languages long after the book is put down.

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The Whisper, by Pamela Zagarenski: When a little girl goes home from school after borrowing a book from her teacher, she discovers that all of the words have disappeared from the pages, leaving only the illustrations for her to look at. She is frustrated at first, until she hears a whisper telling her that she can imagine the words and the stories all on her own. What follows is a child who initially grapples with the idea of putting her own words to the illustrations, but then slowly finds her voice and unlocks the doors of her imagination. For our full review of The Whisper, click here!

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A House that Once Was, by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Lane Smith: This book is exquisite. When two children come across a house that once was but is no longer a home, imaginations take flight as the two wonder who lived in the house, walked through the halls, and slept in its bedrooms. And why did they leave? A stunning blend of art and prose that together make music, this is one I return to frequently for the mystery within its pages and the way it so perfectly allows children to let their creativity take flight.

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This is Sadie, by Sara O’Leary and illustrated by Julie Morstad: This is one of my absolute favorite picture books, celebrating story and creativity with a beautiful narrative and gorgeous illustrations. Through casual yet precise text, this story takes the reader through a mundane day that becomes both adventurous and awe-inspiring through nothing more than Sadie’s power of imagination. With each turn of the page, we see how books transform Sadie’s ordinary experiences into extraordinary adventures. For our full review of This is Sadie, click here!

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Please Bring Balloons, by Lindsey Ward: After a mysterious note instructs her to bring balloons to the animals on the carousel, Emma obliges. It is then that a wondrous adventure ensues, when the polar bear she rides steps right off the carousel and into the night sky. This is one of those books we come back to again and again, for the sheer awe it provokes, not just in my boys, but in me as well. It is a perfectly magical escape, and it gets those little minds working. If polar bears can ride right off a carousel and into the black of night, what else could happen? For our full review of Please Bring Balloons, click here!

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Poppy Pickle, by Emma Yarlett: Poppy Pickle has quite the imagination, and upon being sent upstairs to clean her room, her imagination comes alive. Her room fills up with the fantastic images she conjures up, and life seems pretty incredible… until, that is, it starts getting crazy. What happens when a mammoth steps right through the door and a crocodile thinks Poppy would make an excellent snack? However will Poppy get these creatures to go away? This one is amazing for letting your kids imaginations run totally, totally wild!

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The Night Box, by Louise Greig and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay: When a child opens the Night Box, day slips into evening as darkness unfurls and stars light up the sky. He is the holder of the key that opens this wondrous box, the one that breathes out night and breathes in the day. What a wonderfully imaginative and unexpected story about one child who holds the key (literally) to our world’s most natural cycle.

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Beyond the Pond, by Joseph Keufler: A little boy in an ordinary town, living in an ordinary house, decides to explore the depth of the pond outside and ends up on an extraordinary adventure. What lies below? Ernest and his dog dive in, and deep down in the water they find a fantastical world complete with dinosaurs and unicorns where bravery reigns supreme. When the boy and his dog finally surface and comes up for air, their seemingly ordinary surroundings may contain a bit of the extraordinary after all.

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What If…, by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Mike Curato: Here is a child who will do whatever it takes to express herself, no matter what challenges she must conquer to do so. She can draw, of course. But she will also sculpt, build, collage, sing or dance her dreams into being. This enchanting story is an ode to the imagination, and a testament that creative minds will always find a way to innovate and bring their visions to fruition.

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Everything You Need for a Treehouse, by Carter Higgins and illustrated by Emily Hughes: In this achingly beautiful and wondrous story, readers are given "instructions" on what they need to build a treehouse, beginning with time, a look up, and a hefty imagination. The book breathes life into each and every requirement for the house. Together, the story and illustrations spark magic and awe. For our full review of Everything You Need for a Treehouse, click here!

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Chalk, by Bill Thompson: In this gorgeous wordless book, three kids find an unusual bag of chalk on a rainy afternoon. They start drawing on the pavement, and within moments, their drawings come to life, entrancing the children with their remarkable power and mystery. This book is an absolute dream, with vivid illustrations that bring this imaginative story to life. The kids can stop the rain and create a sky full of butterflies, but how on earth will they tame a devilish dinosaur?

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Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg: This book is an absolute gem that shows children (and adults!) that with a bit of creativity, our mistakes can be turned into discoveries. Maybe tears in paper, ink spills and drawing mishaps exist simply to make magic happen. This book, with its pop-ups and flaps and holes and tears, certainly makes it seem so.

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Door, by Jihyeon Lee: What happens when, during your daily, mundane activities you come across a key - and then a solitary closed door? You go through it, of course. And you enter a world where people and animals and other unique creatures live together in harmony and beauty despite their significant differences. Because this book is wordless, children’s imaginations set soar as they eagerly select their own words to tell this wondrous story.

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The Book of Mistakes, by Corinna Luyken: This is a quiet masterpiece illuminating the inherent beauty underlying every misstep we make. So many kids are perfectionists, beginning a project again and again because they can't get it just right. So how can we, the adults help to nurture their creativity and limit their insecurity? Use this book to show little ones that magnificence can be found in mistakes, even our biggest ones.  For our full review of The Book of Mistakes, click here!

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Wallpaper, by Thao Lam: This is the story of a young girl who moves with her family to a new home. Outside her window, the child sees kids in a treehouse, but she is too scared to say hello.  With nothing else to do, she picks at a torn piece of wallpaper in her room, and a fantastical journey suddenly ensues.  What happens when she discovers a monster on her journey? She's scared, of course, until she realizes the monster simply needs a friend. And he may be just the creature to give her a hefty dose of courage to survive her new circumstances. For our full review of Wallpaper, click here!

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I am Famous, by Tara Leubbe and Becky Cattie and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff: If you have a child who lives for the stage, this book is for you. This one cracks me up, because Kiely doesn’t just think she is famous, she knows she’s famous. The paparazzi (her adoring parents) take pics of her wherever she goes, and she even has a personal chef and chauffeur (gotta love mom!). I Am Famous is perfect for kids who dream they are stars of their own shows.

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Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, by Josh Funk and illustrated by Brendan Kearney: A pancake and a piece of french toast are the best of friends, until that fateful day they discover there is only one drop of syrup left in the fridge. Behind the closed doors of the refrigerator, all food comes to life, and the competition to get to that last drop of syrup is not just fierce, but incredibly fun as well. Talk about a rollicking rhyming romp! This may just be the most imaginative food fight ever, and if your little ones are anything like mine, they will totally delight in the escapades that ensue once the refrigerator doors close and the food inside takes over. For our full review of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, click here!

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Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis: A box is just a box. Or is it? Of course not! Not a Box is the perfect book to help toddlers get their imaginations soaring, as it brilliantly teaches little ones that with just a bit of imagination, an ordinary box can become so much more. Your kids will turn boxes into cars, castles and candy shops before too long!

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Imagine by Raul Colon: In this stunning wordless book, one young boy discovers art for the first time. Though he frequently passes by Manhattan’s museums, on one particular day he decides to walk in to the Museum of Modern Art. The boy studies painting after wondrous painting, until he stops at one and the famous work suddenly comes to life, its characters jumping off the canvases and into the real world, to join the boy on an adventure. The boy’s afternoon is thus filled with exploration and wonder as he and his new friends discover all of the excitement New York City has to offer. For our full review of Imagine, click here!

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Time for Bed, Miyuki, by Roxane Marie Galliez and illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh: Sweet Miyuki just doesn’t want to go to sleep, despite her grandfather’s pleas. Why? There are too many things to do, like water the vegetables, gather the snails and prepare for the arrival of the Dragonfly Queen. With gentleness and patience, her grandfather indulges Miyuki’s antics until finally, she is ready for bed and sleep overtakes her. Children will delight in the gorgeous illustrations and Miyuki’s marvelous imagination! For our full review of Time for Bed, Miyuki, click here!

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Also an Octopus, by Maggie Tokuda-hall and illustrated by Benji Davies: Do you know what the best stories start with? If you guessed a whole lot of nothing, you’re absolutely right. Storytelling has to involve a character who wants something, and this instructive, fantastically creative picture book will have your kids laughing and imagining goofy characters and wild situations in no time at all. Also an Octopus is, hands down, one of our very favorites for budding authors.

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Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, by Julia Denos:  This is a spellbinding story about Swatch, a wild little girl with even wilder black hair, who is a color tamer. She jars up colors and collects them on her shelves, and she longs to harness all of the colors in the world. But Swatch eventually discovers that some colors refuse to be tamed, causing a drastic change in her master plan. The result? Something special and luminous, resulting in an imaginative story and illustrations your kids will pore over again and again. For our full review of Swatch, click here!

Which of these books are your favorites to ignite your child’s imagination? Let us know on our facebook page, and make sure to follow us there!

Did you like this post? We have a feeling you will love some of our others too. Make sure to check these out! Happily Ever Elephants Favorite Picture Books of 2018, Favorite Books About Friendship, and Favorite Books About Courage.

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Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, by David Ezra Stein

Do you love kids books that make you laugh out loud?! So do we… and we have got the best picture book to start off your year!

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How many of you totally giggle when your kids innocently mess up words and phrases? Did you know that our blog name came from my older son who insisted the phrase at the end of stories was “happily ever elephants” and not “happily ever after?” My little one thinks we do our grocery shopping at “Pluglix” rather than “Publix.” For a good six months, Pickle insisted that it wasn’t “Mickey” but “Bickey,” and it took at least a year for Bo to understand that “Miguana” is actually “Moana.” These twists of tongue make me laugh continuously, and perhaps thats why I fell in love with Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise. David Ezra Stein is back and better than ever!!

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise is the sequel to the Caldecott Honor Book Interrupting Chicken. In this new story, everyone’s favorite little red chicken and her papa are doing homework together. The little chicken is home from school and can’t wait to share the important lesson she learned that day with her dad: every great story contains an elephant of surprise! Or is it, as papa explains, an “element” of surprise? The little red chicken insists she is right, and so Papa sets out to convince her otherwise. After all, there are definitely no elephants in Rapunzel and the Ugly Duckling. Or are there?

David Ezra Stein is wickedly funny and a creative genius. The “story within a story” concept never gets old with us, especially when the stories featured within the main plot are classic tales my kids readily recall and understand.  The manner in which Stein distinguishes the classic stories from the scenes at home (pale colors for the books the pair are reading together, versus bright and warm scenes of Papa and the little red chicken sitting at home) makes it easy for young readers to follow along and understand what is happening. The dialogue is snappy and fun, the suspense builds with each page turn, and humor abounds on every page - your little ones will shriek with glee, and I have no doubt that you will too. Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise is a joy - and dare I say, the story lover and writer in me may like it even better than the first. TWO TRUNKS UP for this gem!

Did you know that Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise made our list of Favorite Picture Books for 2018? We think you will love that post, so make sure to check it out here! And if you adore kids books that will make you and your little ones laugh out loud, we have a whole section of our blog dedicated to helping you embrace your sillies, so make sure to check out our picks here!

Want the book? Get it here! Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise, by David Ezra Stein. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise is a kids book guaranteed to make you and your kids laugh




Happily Ever Elephants' Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books of 2018

Another year, another incredible array of nonfiction picture books for your youngest readers! The nonfiction books for kids released in 2018 were simply unbelievable. The stories were engaging, the facts intriguing, and the illustrations truly remarkable. To say I’m in awe of the books I’ve added to my boys’ collection as well as our school library is an understatement. I’m truly astounded by the depth and breadth of these stories and the painstaking research that goes into each one. Each of these books is a remarkable achievement by the authors, illustrators, agents and editors that put them together, and I am continually grateful to these stellar teams for getting these stories into the hands of young readers.

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And now, without further ado, these are the nonfiction books from 2018 that my children, my students and I most adored, the ones we read over and over again, and the ones that contained facts and illustrations that surprised, delighted and even tricked us as we read!

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Our World

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A History of Pictures for Children: From Cave Paintings to Computer Drawings, by David Hockney and Martin Gayford and illustrated by Rose Blake: If you have kids that love creating and can’t get enough or art and painting, this awesome book takes young readers on a journey through art history. Discussing everything from cave paintings to iPhone photography, you don’t want to miss this one for your budding artists!

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The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, by Dylan Thuras and illustrated by Joy Ang: Have a kid who dreams of exploring the world as soon as he can? Have a child who thrives on adventure? This fabulous book describes one hundred of the coolest, weirdest places on our wondrous planet. It is your passport to some of the most incredible, breathtaking and unbelievable attractions around the globe, and if you have a child with wanderlust, he won’t be able to put this one down.

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Lovely Beasts, by Kate Gardner and illustrated by Heidi Smith: This fabulous book encourages young readers to challenge what they think they know about some of the worlds “scariest” animals. Gorillas, porcupines and rhinoceroses may certainly be frightening, but they do exhibit some surprising - even gentle - characteristics. I absolutely love the way this book challenges preconceived notions children (and adults!) have about wild animals and the manner in which it inspires them to move beyond first impressions.

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Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo that Changed the World, by James Gladstone and illustrated by Christy Lundy: Many of us learned about the Apollo 8 mission to explore space. But did you know about the photograph astronauts took from the spaceship that sparked hope worldwide and electrified the environmental movement? This book elegantly weaves facts into an accessible, mesmerizing narrative, and I fell in love with its simplicity, beauty and profound message.

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The Elephant, by Jenni Desmond: Did you know elephants walk on their tip toes? Or that they can detect the rumbling of other elephants from nearly six miles away? We absolutely adore Jenni Desmond’s non-fiction offerings, including The Blue Whale and The Polar Bear, and this beautiful picture book about the endangered elephant is another stunner filled with gorgeous, true-to-life illustrations and fascinating facts for little minds.

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Dinosaurium: Welcome to the Museum, by Lily Murray and illustrated by Chris Wormell: Calling all dinosaur lovers! Raise your hand if your kids are obsessed with learning about these gigantic, ancient beasts. If your hand’s up, you need this fabulous guide in your home! Welcome to the Museum is a beautiful, informative series, and this installment features a wide range of dinosaurs for kids (and adults!) to learn about, from the triceratops to the much less known tsintosaurus. Your children will be mesmerized! And make sure to check out the other books in this awesome series, Botanicum and Animalium.

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Drawn from Nature, by Helen Ahpornsiri: Oh my gosh is this book exquisite! You won’t want to miss this one if you teach your kids or students about our four seasons. The illustrations are intricately made from pressed plants and include leaves, seeds and petal. The result? A uniquely gorgeous feast for the eyes, capturing our world’s natural wonders in a majestic way.

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National Parks of the U.S.A., by Kate Siber and illustrated by Chris Turnham. If you love the great outdoors, this is a book your kids need on their shelves! This book has already been awarded a 2019 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students: K-12, and it’s no secret why. Through captivating illustrations and text, this guide through our national parks, divided into six regions, introduces students to the various flora and fauna of 21 different parks, complete with a summary of each park’s makeup as well as illustrations of the animals and plants that live in each.

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Flying Machines, by Ian Graham and illustrated by Stephen Bietsy: Have a child that can’t get enough of airplanes? This fabulous interactive book describes eight of the most incredible flying machines of all times, while also introducing famous aviators and the first aircrafts. Flaps and fascinating details about planes and helicopters make this a fabulous introduction for children!

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Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey, by Dominic Walliman and illustrated by Ben Newman: If your kids are totally intrigued by the human body — its inner workings, why we actually have certain body parts, and why we do the things we do — your little ones will love this book! Professor Astro Cat and his gang are back in this adventure through the human body, traveling from head to toe to teach kids everything they want to know!

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Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries, by Ammi-Joan Paquette and illustrated by Laurie Ann Thompson: My students can’t get enough of these crazy stories - they just can’t believe they are true! This awesome book is a play on everyone’s favorite party game — it tells two true stories and one fake one, and you have to guess which ones are real and which is false. Kids are always astounded when the most unbelievable stories turn out to be factual. It is wild, informative, and a totally engaging read, especially for those kids who are more reluctant to pick up non-fiction.

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Highest Mountain, Smallest Star: A Visual Compendium of Wonders, by Kate Baker and illustrated by Page Tsou: Do you have a child wondering about the height of the tallest mountain on earth? Whether a bird can fly faster than an airplane? This gorgeously illustrated book is chock-full of comparisons and absolutely perfect for those of you with curious kids who can’t stop asking questions. From nature to dinosaurs, the solar system to trees, you don’t want to miss this if you have an inquisitive kid!


Biographies and Anthologies

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Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, by Sandra Neil Wallace and illustrated by Bryan Collier: My students fell hard for this fascinating story of Ernie Barnes, a young black man who loved art but took to playing football in order to make a living. After all, the south was segregated when Barnes grew up, and he knew there was no future in painting - there were no black artists in the museums! Nonetheless, despite his career as a professional football player, Barnes never stopped yearning to be an artist. He eventually conquered his dreams, painting for the NFL and influencing a generation of artists and illustrators.

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The Eye that Never Sleeps: How Detective Pinkerton Saved President Lincoln, by Marissa Moss and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes: Allan Pinkerton will forever be known as one of the greatest American detectives. Though he has a resume full of accolades, his most important and well known achievement was protecting Abraham Lincoln on the way to his presidential inauguration in 1861. Though a group of assassins was attempting to murder Lincoln while on the way, Pinkerton foiled the plot and ensured the president made it to the capital safe and sound. A fascinating and little known slice of American history!

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First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great, by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace: This fabulous anthology chronicles the lives of immigrants and refugees who have made phenomenal contributions to American society. These courageous men and women hail from countries world wide, such as Mexico, Syria, China and Somalia, and include iconic figures like Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Albert Einstein and journalist Jorge Ramos. It is at once inspirational and motivational, and children will be astounded by the obstacles overcome and the determination each of these figures possessed.

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Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, by Lesa Cline-Ransom and illustrated by James E. Ransome: If you know kids who can’t stop, won’t stop when it comes to tennis or any sport, they will absolutely love this beautifully illustrated story of tennis stars and sisters Venus and Serena Williams. The dynamic sisters are two of the greatest athletes of all time, but they didn’t become champions without dedication, talent, and a whole lot of heart. A wonderful story of perseverance and a testament to their tenacity and love for their sport.

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Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World, by Katherine Halligan and illustrated by Sarah Walsh. What a collection! This is a fabulous keepsake, a beautiful compilation celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of fifty women who changed the world and left an indelible mark on our society. Readers young and old will learn about the challenges these women faced as children and young adults and be forever inspired by their courage and stunning achievements.

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How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and her Amazing Squeeze Machine, by Amy Guglielmo and illustrated by Giselle Porter: There’s nothing quite as inspiring as reading a story about a person who has overcome so many odds to achieve wild success. And Temple Grandin is at the top of that list - conquering such an array of obstacles that her achievements are simply mind-blowing. As a child with autism, Grandin hated hugs — but she so desperately wanted one. It wasn’t until she invented her amazing Hug Machine that she was able to realize her dream - and this was just one of numerous accomplishments. Astounding!

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Just Being Jackie, by Margaret Cardillo and illustrated by Julia Denos: Jackie Kennedy was not just JFK’s beautiful wife and an icon of style and grace. She was so much more than that! Jackie was smart, tireless in her work as first lady, a gifted journalist, a critical part of the preservationist movement to secure the legacies of national landmarks, and an award-winning editor. Her name alone evokes respect, brilliance and sophistication, and this book so beautifully highlights her life and achievements.

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Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno: Harvey Milk had a dream to create a global symbol of unity and inclusion, one that would allow LGBQT people to be proud of not just who they are, but also who they love. This beautiful book tells the story of the Gay Pride Flag from its inception in 1978 thanks to Milk’s activism, all the way to the present day, describing how it became an important symbol worldwide. This is a story of love, hope, and equality that has an important place on every book shelf!

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Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World, by Vashti Harrison: In the highly anticipated follow up to her knock out book, Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, readers are introduced to the true stories of 35 influential women in their respective fields, some whose names will be recognized, and some you may not know. From trailblazing artists like Mary Blair to environmental activist Wangari Maathai, this book will leave you inspired to get out there and do something incredible.

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Mae Among the Stars, by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Burrington: This beauty of a book tells the story of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel to space! With her mother’s words of encouragement continually whispered in her ears, Mae’s intelligence and drive led her to conquer insurmountable odds until she found herself at NASA. “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.” You can even touch the stars.

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Turning Pages: My Life Story, by Sonia Sotomayor and illustrated by Lulu Delacre: Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina Supreme Court justice, inspiring children across the United States - and even world wide - to chase their dreams. But did you know that it was books and reading that inspired Justice Sotomayor? It was books that helped the Justice navigate her world, everything from her father’s death to her diabetes diagnosis to helping her connect with family in New York and Puerto Rico. If you simply turn the page, you are opening yourself up to a world where anything and everything is possible.

Which of these books are got two trunks up from your kids or students? What would you add to our list? Make sure to let us know on our Facebook page!

Did you like this post? We have a good feeling you will love these too! Favorite Picture Books of 2018, Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018, and Top 20 Picture Books of 2017. Make sure to check them out!

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