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!

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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