Inside: Looking for an amazing book to celebrate a special grandmother? Look no further than MY GRANDMA AND ME, an exquisite new story by MIna Javaherbin and illustrated by Lindsey Yankey. Come on in and check it out!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!
Oh my gosh, do I have a new favorite bedtime book! So you know I like funny books as much as the next one, but my heart is always with beautifully illustrated picture books (especially when they showcase our diverse world!), lyrical writing and a plot that inspires wonder and imagination. And this is precisely why I fell madly in love with Time for Bed, Miyuki, by Roxanne Marie Galliez and illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavanh. The book tackles a universal problem (I mean, do any of you not struggle getting your kids down at bedtime?!) and is set against an exquisite backdrop adorned with images depicting Japanese culture on every page.
In Time for Bed, Miyuki, 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.
Time for Bed, Miyuki is utterly captivating, both visually and lyrically. Children and parents alike will be enchanted by the story within the story, by the magical, detailed illustrations, and by Miyuki’s sweet and oh-so-familiar stalling techniques that so many kids employ night after night. It doesn’t matter where you live, bedtime for children around the world is always met with resistance! The tenderness between Miyuki and her grandfather shines and is sure to inspire the sweetest of slumbers as you kiss your little ones on the forehead and tuck them in for the night. A fun, whimsical beauty — my very favorite kind of book. Two trunks up!
Want the book? Get it here! Time for Bed, Miyuki by Roxanne Marie Galliez. *This is an affiliate link.
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
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.
What’s in a name? I’ve always loved that question. Sure, some parents pick names for one reason and one reason only: because they like the way they sound. But many of us pick our children's names for a reason: as a tribute to someone’s memory, to honor someone currently living, or because the name has a special definition we hope our sons and daughters will emulate. We picked our boys’ names for all of the above reasons, and their names- both their given names and their Hebrew names- are so special to our family. Because I love the derivation of names, I particularly loved Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal. This book is simply perfect - and absolutely stunning to boot!! It’s no wonder it was awarded a 2019 Caldecott Honor!
In Alma, a little girl complains to her father about her long name -- Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela. “It never fits,” she tells her Dad. Her frustration prompts a discussion between father and child as to why Alma was given such a long name, and Alma's eyes suddenly open to the legacies she carries with her and the beloved ancestors she was named for. After Alma learns all about her vibrant name, she realizes that it may be the perfect fit after all.
I am in LOVE with everything about this beautiful book: the story, the gorgeous illustrations, the reasons Alma comes to love and celebrate her name, and the way in which it lends itself to so many fabulous activities, either at home or in the classroom. Alma and How She Got Her Name is rich with activity ideas- from having children research the meaning behind their own names, to having kids learn about different cultural traditions for naming babies, to having kids write about the people for whom they were named and how they may emulate the characteristics of those people. The ideas are endless, and this beauty of a book is rife with possibility. Two trunks up for this stunning treasure, one that will stay with you and your children long after the final page is turned.
For a full list of the ALA awards, including the prestigious Caldecott, Newbery, Geisel and Coretta Scott King awards, check out this post of all the 2019 winners! And did you know Alma made our list of Favorite Picture Books of 2018? Don’t leave without checking out that post here!
Want the book? Get it here! Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
Do you have an advanced second grade reader at home or in your classroom? This is the book for you!
Wishtree, the latest novel by Katherine Applegate, got a lot of hype. A LOT. And I’m always hesitant to pick up books like this because I pick them up with extremely high expectations. But this one- with its quiet, piercing beauty- absolutely blew me away. Wishtree lived up to the hype and then some, and I continuously find myself trying to get it into as many hands as I possibly can.
"Trees can't tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories..." And so it is with Red, a majestic oak tree that is nearly two hundred and sixteen "rings" old, harboring secrets and stories that have been nearly forgotten by the people in the community in which it lives. Red is a wishtree who watches over the neighborhood, keeping mostly to himself. When a Muslim family moves onto the street, however, Red witnesses firsthand that all neighbors aren't so welcoming, and even children are forced to undergo hateful messages. It is then that Red realizes his status as a wishtree is more important than ever, and it might be just the time to break with tradition and intervene.
Descriptive language? Check. Incredible characterization? Check. Depth? Check. Real world issues? Check. Sensitive for even younger readers? Check. My goodness, how I love this book. Applegate writes with such a light, unadorned touch, yet her words move deeply and speak volumes. She tackles tough, mature topics in an accessible, easy to understand manner, allowing even young readers to grasp the enormity and import of these issues. I am so frequently asked for great books for advanced second graders, and I finally found a modern, perfect one. Wishtree is an absolute beauty. It is a timeless story that soars, with words that stir your soul. It is a treasure, and it will undoubtedly be devoured and loved by children and adults for generations to come.
Want the book? Get it here: Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate. *This is an affiliate link.
Playing and watching sports has forever had a unique ability to bring people together in ways that so few other things can. Rooting for a common cause, just for fun, through sun and rain and everything in between, can transcend differences and create commonalities where some never saw them before. Perhaps this is why I so loved The Field, the beautiful debut picture book written by Baptiste Paul and stunningly illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara.
In The Field, 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.
Paul grew up in Saint Lucia, and I absolutely love the way he made his childhood come alive through The Field. He weaves Creole words into the narrative, bringing such a richness to the text. The story buzzes with energy, from the vibrant illustrations to the fast paced game, and it reminds us that we can weather all challenges, no matter how daunting or challenging they may seem. A beautiful debut -- and I cannot wait to see more from these two!
Want the book? Get it here! The Field, by Baptiste Paul, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced copy of The FIeld, but all opinions contained herein are expressly our own.
Jeffers does it again! I was so fortunate to receive a copy of his latest release, Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, a beautiful ode Jeffers penned for his child in which he tells his son all the important things he needs to know about the world around him. What a stunner this is. As much as the prose is simplistic perfection, Jeffers truly outdoes himself with his new book, in which his magical illustrations showcase his extraordinary talent, not just as a picture book illustrator, but as a fine artist.
In Here We Are, Jeffers seeks to answer all of those bewildering questions a new arrival to our planet may have- questions about space and sea, people and animals. From taking care of our bodies to taking care of each other, the book handles each of these concepts with such a light, delicate touch -- though with enough wit thrown in to keep it fresh and unique. Most importantly? The book sensitively illuminates that kindness makes the world go round, and it reminds us that on this great planet of ours, we are never truly alone.
This gorgeously illustrated story is a must for your collections, for it answers simple questions, not with formalistic responses, but with fun and age appropriate wisdom. This is such a treasure for your home and library collections, one you will return to again and again with your children. A tender, joyful and beautiful read -- one that gets two enthusiastic trunks up from our team.
Want the book? Get it here! Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, by Oliver Jeffers. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
My grandparents met when they were only kids, living in Chicago the 1930s. Gigi taught Poppy how to dance; they met at his first lesson, and the rest (as they say) is history. Shortly thereafter Poppy broke barriers when he went to college—he was the first Jewish boy to receive a basketball scholarship to DePaul University. Poppy was a brave, moral man who always stood up for the underdog and championed those values he held dear. When he went off to fight in WWII, he was put in charge of a camp for prisoners of war. What did he do? He fashioned a basketball court for the men at the camp so they could entertain themselves. Humanity, he said. Even when the world disagreed on the very fundamentals of our rights as human beings, he thought it critical to treat each other with kindness and respect.
I've always cherished this story about my grandfather -- and I've always loved the way oral storytelling can shape and mold our lives as we try to embody the most beloved virtues of our ancestors. Perhaps this is why I so connected to Islandborn, the exquisite new picture book by one of my favorite authors, Pulitzer Prize winning Junot Diaz, and exquisitely illustrated by Leo Espinoza. In Islandborn, Lola's teacher asks the students to draw a picture of the country from which they immigrated. But Lola, perplexed and upset, can't remember The Island where she was born; she left when she was just a baby. She thus begins speaking with relatives and friends to learn more about her homeland. And as she hears story after story of The Island, Lola quickly understands that "[j]ust because you don't remember a place doesn't mean it isn't in you."
Islandborn is positively incredible! I love how Lola feels increasingly connected to her island the more she learns from her loved ones. I love how she suddenly sees, hears and tastes her birthplace, this place that is the essence of her core. More importantly, I love the various ways you can use this text in your homes and classrooms to help your children connect with their pasts, because their family stories will undoubtedly mold their futures. You can so easily guide children to learn about their ancestors, cultures, countries, and even the history and politics that shaped their families' daily lives. Read Islandborn and then have your students explore! You can use simple prompts for younger kids ("interview a family member about an experience that shaped his/her childhood") or go deeper for older children ("how did the political climate of your grandparent's home country shape his/her upbringing?") The information they learn can be used to write narrative essays, illustrate a picture book like Lola, or even create video presentations using apps like 30hands. The possibilities are endless. This is what happens when a phenomenal book finds its way into your hands. You can't stop thinking about it, and you want to use it to enhance learning in every way possible. Thank you Junot Diaz for this treasure!
Want the book? Get it here! Islandborn, by Junot Diaz. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received a review copy from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own!
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.
This book blew me away on the first read through, with its striking illustrations, its fabulous pacing, and its breathtakingly phenomenal voice. Wow. Crown, An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon James, was a window book like none other, a story about a young African-American boy who goes to the barbershop to get a haircut and walks out feeling like a million dollars. I remember being a young kid and sitting down in the hairstylist's chair vividly, but my experiences were wholly different then the one described in this vibrant story. As a child, I cried every time I looked into the mirror at the end of my cut when I was struck with a horrible realization: my hair was not long, not blonde and certainly not straight like Rapunzel's. Instead, it was mousy brown and more akin to Medusa than any Disney princess, with thin ringlets bouncing like a halo all around my little head. But this book, to think of how amazing this child felt every time he went to the barber - it was so poignant and immediately brought tears to my eyes.
In Crown, a boy walks into the barbershop. He saunters in "as a lump of clay, a blank canvas." But when the man has finished the cut, the boy looks so fly, "they'll want to post [him] up in a museum." The story moves seamlessly through the child's experience as the man drapes him like a king with a cape and then single handedly transforms him -- and his confidence -- with a new hairdo.
Crown is an absolute force. It firmly grounds the reader in the setting, right in the center of all that magic, where children become royalty alongside the other men visiting the shop that day. From the very first page, the very first sentence, Barnes transports the reader right into that barbershop culture through vivid details that come to life with brilliant authenticity. It is a celebration of self-confidence and self-worth, a beautiful window into a snippet of a boy's day that transforms him and makes him feel recognized and powerful. The voice, the word choice, the rhythm - it's all astonishingly perfect. Crown is a powerful read that should be in every classroom and every library around the country -- and in your homes too. An eye opener, a winner, a joy. Two trunks up!
Want a copy? Get it here: Crown, by Derrick Barnes. HEE received a review copy from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming is one of those novels that's been on my shelf for a couple of years now, but for one reason or another, I just never got around to reading. What on earth was I waiting for?!? A ton of my students checked this out last year, all returning it breathlessly and recounting how much they loved it with stars in their eyes. Well, I have to say that this book's beauty captivated me too, and it will undoubtedly be a forever favorite of mine.
Brown Girl Dreaming is a fictionalized memoir about brilliant author Jacqueline Woodson. Woodson writes about growing up as an African American child in the sixties and seventies during the height and aftermath of the civil rights movement - first in Ohio, then in South Carolina and, eventually, New York. The remnants of Jim Crow are everywhere, and as Woodson navigates her own identity and worth, she is also faced with a country battling racism, animosity and segregation. A powerful and mesmerizing read, Woodson's poetry reflects a young woman's journey to find not just her voice, but her place at home, in school and in society at large.
Some children get nervous about reading poetry and novels in verse, but what is so remarkable about Brown Girl Dreaming is Woodson's ability to keep each of her poems both accessible and relatable. Despite their richness and her beautiful use of language, her poems never feel too cerebral or heady for a child reader. Instead, a young one can so easily grasp Woodson's poignant verses and, most importantly, her yearning- for family, for friends, and most importantly, for writing. A sensitive, beautiful memoir about finding oneself amidst the backdrop of a country also searching for a new identity- this is a true work of art.
Want the book? Get it here! Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson. *This is an affiliate link.
A song. A harmony. A refrain. It's amazing how music can stir the soul, touch a heart, and keep us connected to loved ones both while they are living and long after they are gone. So it is in Rita Williams-Garcia's beautiful new novel, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, a poignant story of love and loss, steeped in music, that details one boys struggle to cope with the sudden death of his beloved grandfather.
In Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, Clayton, a young musician, idolizes his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd. Cool Papa is a true bluesman, but Clayton's mother doesn't approve of Cool Papa's music -- or his lifestyle. When Cool Papa suddenly dies, Clayton's grief is unbearable and is compounded by his mother's seeming indifference. Thus, he runs away one day, on a mission to find and join Cool Papa's fellow bluesmen. The result is an emotionally resonant journey, not to be missed, as Clayton learns not just about life, but himself too.
Williams-Garcia has created yet another noteworthy novel that has already been short-listed for the National Book Award. In Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, the author masterfully creates vivid scenes with sensory details so rich they transport the reader right into the pages of the settings she creates. The relationships between her characters are nuanced and real, highlighting the challenges that exist between some family members and the closeness shared between others. The book explores life & death, music, family, and even jealousy with such authenticity, resulting in middle grade literature at its finest. Two enthusiastic trunks up from our team.
Want the book? Get it here! Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, by Rita Williams-Garcia. *This is an affialite link.
There is something extraordinarily special about the relationships between children and the elderly. Be it a grandparent, a great aunt, or just a special friend, the elderly are storytelling gold mines -- and they love to share their anecdotes with children. Saddled with history, and without all the rules that come with being an actual parent to a young child, there is much to be cherished when it comes to these multi-generational relationships-- not to mention so much to learn. Perhaps this is the reason why I so thoroughly enjoyed Walking With Miss Millie, the poignant debut novel by Tamara Bundy.
Walking With Miss Millie is set in 1968 in Rainbow, Georgia. Alice, a tween girl, is angry about her move to Rainbow. Though her mother grew up in the town, it is certainly no place Alice wants to call home. Alice is resistant to settling down in her new community -- but when she is caught eavesdropping and her punishment is to walk her elderly neighbor's dog, Clarence, Alice quickly learns that maybe Rainbow isn't so bad after all. Why? Because Clarence won't walk without his owner, Miss Millie, and Alice quickly finds that Miss Millie's companionship is the highlight of every day. With their companionship comes trust... and Alice soon finds that true friends come in sizes and places we least expect.
Walking with Miss Millie is rich with wisdom. During their walks, Alice confronts segregation and racial prejudice -- and these evils become all the more painful when she learns about Miss Millie's own tragic family history. Alice's growth in this moving novel is beautifully conveyed, and the unexpected friendship between Alice and Millie leaps off the pages and reminds young readers that confidantes can be found in people you never intended to become friends. A lovely, touching debut for upper elementary students.
Want the book? Get it here! Walking With Miss Millie, by Tamara Bundy. HEE received a review copy of this book from the publisher; however, all opinions contained herein are expressly our own.
Black History Month is coming to a close, and I would be remiss if I didn't post about this phenomenal new poetry collection, One Last Word, from poet extraordinaire Nikki Grimes (who just won the 2017 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her substantial and lasting contribution to children's literature). I am so thankful I finished this before the end of February! One Last Word is another book I devoured in a very short time - which, with two little ones at home - is no easy feat and speaks directly to the ingenuity, brilliance, and beauty of this collection.
One Last Word pairs the voices of the Harlem Renaissance - including Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Georgia Douglas Johnson - with Grime's unique words. Utilizing a method known as the "The Golden Shovel," Grimes' poems incorporate original stanzas from these master poets into new and inventive pieces. The result is astonishingly beautiful: poems that resonate deeply with the reader and touch upon issues that still plague society today - issues such as racial injustice, identity, and peer pressure.
One Last Word is a moving meditation on the African-American experience that will leave students enthralled and amazed at how challenges that dominated society so many years ago continue to dominate our modern discourse. Interspersed with gorgeous illustrations from prominent African-American illustrators, Grimes' poetry is a chorus of richly drawn voices that will provoke thoughtful discussion among kids and adults alike. The collection is moving and important; Grimes' words are true art. One Last Word belongs in every home collection and school library. It is one of the most powerful books I've come across in a long, long time.
Want the book? Get it here! One Last Word, by Nikki Grimes. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are my own.