Bring the world inside your home with these stunning multicultural children’s picture books, the big kid version of our popular diverse baby books post!Read More
Looking for an amazing children’s book about empathy, one that touches on compassion, kind words, giving and gratitude? We’ve got just the book for you — it is all those things rolled into one incredible story!!
One of the Most Perfect Children’s Books About Empathy
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, especially if you are looking for fabulous children’s books about empathy. 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. If you are looking for the perfect children’s book about empathy, this is the one for you!
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!
And for the books we loved from last couple of years, check out Favorite Picture Books from 2018 and Favorite Picture Books from 2017!
I love kids books about kindness that simultaneously show children how acts of generosity can impact a person so profoundly. Thank You, Omu! Is a new favorite children’s book that handles this topic exquisitely. Check it out!Read More
I remember the first time I saw art. I was 10 years old, and my family and I had traveled to Paris. We were at the Musee d’Orsay, where I came face to face with Edgar Degas’ exquisite Dancers in Blue painting. Oh my gosh, did it blow me away. I’d seen art before, of course, but I’d never really SEEN it before, if that makes sense. I’d never had a visceral reaction to it, never realized the transcendent power of a painting to stir your soul and really make you feel. But that day, I experienced it. And I was taken right back to this memory of 29 years ago the second I picked up the stunning new picture book Imagine, by Raul Colon.
Imagine is a wordless wonder, a stunningly illustrated picture book showcasing the day one young boy discovers art. Though he has passed by museums in Manhattan many times prior, on this 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 as he ponders that one painting, and then another, the figures in these famous works come to life, jump off the canvases and into the real world, and 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. He is left transformed.
Oh, what a beauty Imagine is, and what a glorious tribute to the transcendent power of art. This exquisite book is a powerful way to introduce children to artistic expression and creativity as well as some of the world’s most prominent artists. The paintings celebrated within Imagine’s pages include Pablo Picasso’s Three Magicians, Henry Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy, and Henri Mattise’s Icarus. The book moves fluidly from page to page, leaving readers dazzled and delighted as the boy and his new friends experience New York’s many icons. Imagine is a true beauty and a powerful testament to the power of art to transform the ordinary into something extraordinary. Imagine gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from our team!
Want the book? Get it here! Imagine, by Raul Colon. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are our own.
Wow. WOW. It is not very often that I finish a book and want nothing more then to pick it right back up again, flip back to page 1, and read it cover to cover just one more time. But that’s exactly how I felt when I put down Harbor Me, a stunning new novel by Jacqueline Woodson. If I have said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Woodson is a gift to literature. Her words resonate deeply, and she possesses an extraordinary ability to tap into timely, almost desperate situations in a manner appropriate and gentle enough for young kids to grasp.
In Harbor Me, six children are taken to their school’s old art room and told it’s a place for them to have a weekly chat— without teachers, thus making it totally unmonitored. The six kids, from varying walks of life, are hesitant at first. They each have their stories, but is it safe? Can they open up to one another? The room becomes dubbed the ARTT room, an acronym for “a room to talk,” and soon enough, their stories begin. As their connections develop and their words bridge divides, the students realize that sharing their stories could be the very thing they needed to give them the strength to handle circumstances that once made them feel so desperately alone.
Harbor Me is stunning. At once both a coming of age story and an exploration of how America’s political and social challenges affect children daily, Woodson’s words ground us firmly in the ARTT room as the kids struggle to comprehend both their identities as individuals as well as their places in society. These children are America’s children. They are OUR children- children affected by the headlines pervasive in our country today including immigration, deportation, incarcerated parents, and the black lives matter movement. These children are in our homes and schools, and their confidence and self worth is being shaken regularly due to government regulations, racial profiling and harmful ignorance. Through Woodson’s evocative prose and magical storytelling, we watch the children become safe harbors for one another, their initial apprehension slowly turning into compassion, connection and perhaps most importantly, courage.
Want the book? Get it here! Harbor Me, by Jacqueline Woodson. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
The Day You Begin is a Remarkable First Week of School Book!
So many of us have stood in that uncomfortable spot, right there in the doorway about to enter a room where the blanket of faces staring back at you look wholly different from your own. It's one of those feelings that is bound to make your stomach hurt or your eyes sting - especially when you're only a child.
At that moment, all we see are the differences in those people: different skin colors and eye shapes, different clothing -- even different accents when they begin to speak. What we forget during these challenging situations, however, and what we need to remind our kids, is that underneath these different exteriors lie a multitude of similarities.
This is the beauty of Jacqueline Woodson's newest picture book, The Day You Begin, stunningly illustrated by Rafael Lopez (you may remember him from one of my favorite books, Maybe Something Beautiful). The Day You Begin tells the story of a young girl who walks into a new classroom and finds no one like her. But then she sits down, her classmates begin talking, and as their words fill the air, shared sentiments become bridges to building connection.
The Day You Begin reminds us to seek out similarities rather than focusing on our differences!
The Day You Begin reads like music, with rich melodies that rouse your senses and settle softly upon your heart. Woodson's words, as is typical for her, are a song to celebrate. She reassures us that, when we are brave enough, we can all find connections with one another.
When we muster up courage and extend our hands and voices, we will find possibility where it first seemed like none existed.
The Day You Begin conveys wisdom, hope and heart, on vibrant, collaged pages that are a perfect accompaniment to the exquisite text. This is a book to treasure, reminding both children and adults that there is so much beauty to be found when we embrace who we are and find the strength to view challenges as opportunities.
We give this one two trunks up, and we have no hesitation in calling The Day You Begin an absolute MUST for every home, classroom and library collection.
The Day You Begin: My Favorite Classroom Activity
Are you looking for a simple yet effective classroom activity for the first week of school? Try this!
First, group students in pairs of two - if possible, pair up kids who aren’t already good friends. Give the class two minutes, and have them silently write down five things they notice about their classmate that appear different from themselves — whatever comes to mind.
Next, read The Day You Begin aloud to the class. After you read, have the students pair back up again and this time, give them some time to talk about their summers - what they did, who they spent time with, anything they want to share.
After this chat session, give them a couple more minutes to write silently. This time, each student should write down five ways in which they are similar to their classmate.
Finally — discuss your findings as a group! How did the similarities make the differences seem unimportant? What kinds of connections were made? How did sharing with a classmate help bridge divides?
The Day You Begin is the perfect book to begin a new school year!
Use this beautiful story to showcase the beauty of looking beyond external differences, and watch as your students enter a new school with open eyes, compassionate hearts, and a willingness to challenge rash judgments they may make upon first meeting new people.
DID YOU LIKE THIS POST ABOUT THE DAY YOU BEGIN? WE THINK YOU WILL LOVE THESE, TOO!
Want the book? Get it here! The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
So many of you have asked about books to help you discuss the news with your kids. Why? Because no matter whether we like it or not, we all experience the same thing, time and time again. Some day, somewhere, something happens and we feel immobilized by grief, anger, and even helplessness. Our kids understand that something in the news has affected us profoundly, but it’s not always easy (or age appropriate) to tell them about the latest current event. So what do we do? What do our KIDS do?
In Sarah Lynne Reul’s The Breaking News, a child’s community is rattled when devastating news strikes it at its core. The news leaves the adults in the neighborhood exhausted and distracted. At school, the child's teacher tells her class to look for the helpers in times of distress. The girl wants to be a helper. She wants to help her family and her community in as big a way as she can- until she realizes that maybe one small act of kindness is all she needs to do to make a difference.
I absolutely adore The Breaking News. I love how it offers a child-centric perspective on family and community upon the receipt of bad news as well as the manner in which the child seeks to positively impact her community afterwards. Though our children may not always understand the “adult” events that happen around the world and even in our own backyards, they are undoubtedly impacted by our distress. Many of these kids don’t know how to help, but they so desperately do their best to try. The Breaking News beautifully illustrates that kids may not be able to fix major challenges, but they can absolutely contribute to brightening the world around them in small, simple ways. This is a timely story that parents and teachers will want in their collections for those tough situations when our own words fail us but a perfect book opens the door for education and understanding.
Want the book? Get it here! The Breaking News by Sarah Reull. *This is an affiliate link.
Ever since reading Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, I've been on a Rita Williams-Garcia kick. I reread Jumped, a YA novel told from multiple accounts, which I loved, and then I reread One Crazy Summer, since this was the book my fourth and fifth graders tackled for our school book club last month. Oh my goodness, how I love this book! There's just something about Williams-Garcia's storytelling - the way she shows rather than tells, the way she grounds you so firmly in her settings and makes her characters truly leap off the pages. She is such a brilliant writer, and her work never fails to amaze me. One Crazy Summer is a multiple award winner for a reason.
In One Crazy Summer, eleven year old Delphine and her two younger sisters travel from Brooklyn all the way to Oakland, California, to meet the mother who abandoned them. The year is 1968, and the fight for racial equality is alive and well. Unfortunately for the sisters, their mother, Cecile, is not at all what they had hoped she would be, showing little interest in her children. Instead of engaging with her daughters, the radical Cecile sends them to a daily summer camp run by the Black Panthers while she spends time shut up in her kitchen, working on a mysterious project. Over the course of their month in California, the girls learn about the revolution and do their best to stay far away from their mother. And throughout this time, the sisters learn some startling truths about their mother, their culture, and their country.
I absolutely love the way this book explores how pivotal moments in our country's history can shape and mold the every day lives of its citizens -- both with respect to their families and friends, their communities at large, and their education. One Crazy Summer is a fascinating exploration of cultural identity and an important political movement that has so many parallels to our current social and political landscape. Williams-Garcia incorporates just enough information to give young readers background on the Black Panthers without bogging them down in heady information. But it is not just the fight of African-Americans to be recognized as respected US citizens that shines here -- it is also the fight of these three young girls to be recognized by their mother. Their struggle looms large throughout the story, and it is handled with grace and glorious writing that simply jumps off the page and begs to be reread. Two trunks up for this fabulous and important read for upper elementary students.
Want the book? Get it here! One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia.