It is challenging to find children’s books about refugees or the immigration experience that are authentic and not didactic. But Lubna and Pebble, a new picture book about friendship and refugees, stuns, shines and shatters everything you think you know about this genre of books.Read More
We love STEM books! Any book that encourages kids to make, tinker and discover gets two trunks up in our book, and this new STEM book, Be a Maker, by Katey Howes and illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic, is a total winner!Read More
My poor Pickle. He’s one of the only kids in his kindergarten class who has yet to lose a tooth. Some of his classmates have lost not one, but mouthfuls of teeth! In our house, though, we don’t even have a teeny-tiny wiggle. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Not gonna lie — it totally bums him out sometimes, and he’ll stand in front of the mirror to examine whether any of them are finally wiggly. Thank goodness for Josie’s Lost Tooth, an adorable and oh-so-authentic new book by Jennifer K. Mann! It couldn’t have come into our lives at a more perfect time.
In Josie’s Lost Tooth, Josie was always the kid in her grade to do everything first, but not anymore. Poor Josie is the only one who hasn’t lost a tooth. But, alas! One day, she feels a wiggly one! With every move she makes, she thinks it will be the move to knock that tooth right out. But nothing, absolutely nothing, works, until Josie plays sharks on the playground with Richard, and she trips and falls. And that trip? It does just the trick and knocks Josie’s tooth right out of her mouth. Her stumble does such a good job, in fact, that Josie can’t find her lost tooth anywhere! Whatever will she leave the tooth fairy now? Shark loving Richard comes to the rescue -- but I can’t tell you anymore without spoiling the story!
Having a kiddo in the exact same position as Josie while we read this book made us love Josie’s Lost Tooth and it’s authentic main character so very, very much. Why? Because Josie’s Lost Tooth is one of those special books that speaks directly to kids without being didactic or preachy. It made Pickle feel so understood, so much more OK with the fact that he still hasn’t hit the milestone that so many of his friends have, and because of this he just loved it. He was mesmerized! Even better? The way Richard helps Josie when she can’t find her tooth, coming up with an awesome and incredibly thoughtful alternative to Josie’s plight. Richard’s action is such a touching addition to the story. It is simple yet gracious, setting a powerful example that generosity will always move mountains and kindness will forever be cool. Josie’s Lost Tooth gets two trunks up from our team, both for helping little ones who struggle with feeling left behind, and for simultaneously showing them that kindness rocks!
Did you like this post? We are so glad! Check out these fantastic lists - we think you will love them too! Favorite Books About Friendship, Favorite Books About Love, and Favorite Books for Raising Kind Kids. You will also enjoy this grouping of books about doing good deeds!
Want the book? Get it here! Josie’s Lost Teeth, by Jennifer K. Mann. HEE received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
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
There’s something about Those Shoes, written by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones, that calls to me every November. And so each year, the week before Thanksgiving hits, this is the book I pull out to read to every single one of my elementary school classes. And each time, without fail, when my students see me pull the book out from behind me, they clap and cheer. Those Shoes is beloved by our school, and it fills me with such joy to see student reactions to this story.
Jeremy wants nothing more than the same pair of shoes that the rest of the kids at school wear. But, according to his grandma, Jeremy’s “wants” are not nearly as important as his “needs.” When his shoes fall apart at school, Jeremy is both ashamed and embarrassed that he has to wear babyish sneakers given to him by the school guidance counselor. So when his grandma takes him to the thrift stores, Jeremy is in heaven when he finds a pair of THOSE SHOES- and he buys them with his own money even though they are too small and destroy his feet. Leave it to grandma, though, to sneak a new pair of warm snow boots into Jeremy’s closet. What happens when Jeremy’s friend, Antonio, the only boy who didn’t laugh at Jeremy’s babyish shoes, comes to school with taped up sneakers, and his feet are noticeably smaller than Jeremy’s?
Those Shoes is an honest and poignant story. Before I begin reading this with students, I always start with a discussion of the differences between wants and needs- it provides such an amazing entryway into the book. After we read, the maturity and depth of conversation usually skyrockets. Why? Because the book so beautifully conveys that the things Jeremy has - family, new snow boots to protect his feet, and the opportunity to help someone in distress - truly are more valuable than holding on to something he wants because it’s “cool.” Often times, the things we so desperately “want” don’t bring us nearly as much fulfillment as the things we need. You can practically see the wheels spinning in the kids’ heads after they read this book! Those Shoes offers a perfect segue into a discussion of gratitude and the countless things we have to be thankful for. It also reminds us that there are so many ways we can help others less fortunate during the holiday season and all year round.
Want to #gettrunky* with it? Here’s an easy and quick idea. If you are an educator, use the Padlet app (it’s free!) and create a Gratitude Wall. I used a simple prompt- “what is one thing you are thankful for and why?” I made sure to limit student responses so they would have to think more deeply - thus, they were not allowed to answer with “family,” “friends” or “food.” Using their school devices, the students could write, draw, photograph or video their responses. The result? A beautiful, interactive bulletin board, showcasing the things our students value most, from backpacks (because they hold tools used to create!) to names of teachers (because they teach us and help us learn every single day), to the ability to dance (because dancing is a way to express myself). The results will both astonish and surprise you.
*What on earth does it mean to #gettrunky? Click here to find out!
Want the book? Get it here! Those Shoes, by by Maribeth Boelts and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. *This is an affiliate link.
If you love kids books about kindness and you are working hard to teach your child about always using kind words and having a kind heart, then you’ve got to check out this amazing book, BE KIND!Read More
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.
The imagination is a powerful tool. So powerful, in fact, that it can transport a child from tough circumstances to a world where he can settle amidst more comfortable or even luxurious surroundings. But what about those kids who recognize that another child may be imagining things that aren’t exactly real? What about those kids who want to shout from the rooftops that one of his peers is a dirty rotten liar? It’s a difficult situation, no doubt. We learn as children to be honest, but the truth is that the imagination can be a powerful and wonderful defense mechanism for some, so much so that their imaginary worlds provide them with significant comfort.
Enter Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse, written by Mary Campbell and exquisitely illustrated by Corinna Luyken. In this poignant story, Adrian Simcox tells his classmates that he has a horse- and not just any horse. Adrian’s horse is the best and most beautiful horse in all the world. But Chloe knows Adrian is lying. After all, Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house and has holes in his shoes, so there’s no way he has a horse in his backyard. And the more Adrian talks about this beautiful horse, the angrier Chloe gets... and the more she wants to prove him wrong. Will vindication give Chloe the satisfaction she so desires?
If you are looking to nurture empathy in your children or students, Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse is a touching new picture book for your collection-- a must have, in our opinion. Campbell’s light touch is evident throughout this book, especially through her subtle text and the way Chloe comes to realize why Adrian may be lost in his imagination. Should Adrian's circumstances matter if he isn’t being truthful, and how on earth do we explain perspective to children? I love the way this story so beautifully encourages kids to walk in other’s shoes, as well as the manner in which it helps children recognize that indulging a classmates' fanciful stories is sometimes ok - especially if it helps that child make his personal living conditions easier to bear. Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse is a classic in the making, and I absolutely cannot wait to read it to my students when school begins.
Want the book? Get it here! Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse, by Marcy Campbell. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
I love walking outside and feeling a gentle breeze on my neck. Even better, I love a blustery, drizzly day, when you can watch the wind whip leaves into a frenzy, all while snuggled under a blanket on the couch with a steaming cup of coffee in your hands. I never actually took the time to think about the wind though - especially how important it is to have structures or trees to break it. Not until I read Kate, Who Tamed the Wind, that is, the fabulous new book written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Lee White.
In Kate, Who Tamed the Wind, an old man lives at the tippy-top of a steep, steep hill where a strong wind blows and blows, turning his world upside down and leaving him throwing his hands up in frustration. What to do with all this wind that bangs his shutters and bends his boards and spills his tea? A young girl in an itty-bitty town at the bottom of the hill finds the man's hat that blew out of his house - and after hearing his cry of "what to do?!" carrying on the wind, she finds a solution, too.
I am so in love with the way the prose in this book almost feels like the wind is blowing through the pages. The words are lyrical, the rhythm of the text is musical, and reading it aloud is pitch perfect. This is a beautifully illustrated, breezy story to read with students interested in or learning about ecology. But that's not all -- I love the way it explores friendship, problem solving, and ingenuity, too. Kate, Who Tamed the Wind is perfect -- not just for Earth Day, but all year round. Two trunks up!
Want the book? Get it here! Kate, Who Tamed the Wind, by Liz Garton Scanlon. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
The Invisible Boy is one of the most phenomenal picture books about friendship, the power of kindness, and the significance of making sure no one child is ever made to feel invisible. Check it out!Read More
Accepting imperfection is not an easy task for many adults, much less many children. Flexibility, too, is something that so many of us struggle with. Learning to let go, to embrace the flaws and blemishes that inevitability mar our daily lives, can be a fearful journey, one that must come from deep within ourselves before we can learn to appreciate the sweet in the seemingly sour. Perhaps this is the reason why we so love Grandmother Thorn, the beautiful debut picture book by Katey Howes, with gorgeous, multimedia illustrations by Rebecca Hahn.
The titular character, Grandmother Thorn, treasures her beautiful garden- it is pristine and perfect, with not a twig out of place. But when an unwanted plant begins to sprout without her permission, Grandmother Thorn begins to break down. With the help of a dear friend and the passage of time, Grandmother Thorn may just learn that some things in life are beyond anyone's control- and that life's greatest disappointments can also give rise to the greatest gifts.
What a gem this book is. Grandmother Thorn powerfully conveys the message that beauty can be found where we least expect it-- or want it-- when we learn to let go of our stubborn ways. The story reads as if it's a time-tested classic or an age-old folk tale, with rich characters, lush prose and not a word out of place. This is an especially fabulous story for upper elementary and middle school students- sparking important discussions on the meaning of perfection, friendship and embracing fear. A gorgeous debut -- two trunks up!
Want the book? Get it here! Grandmother Thorn, by Katey Howes. *This is an affiliate link.
If you love quiet, gentle stories that will tug just a little at your heart strings and stay with you long after the final page is closed, you must check out Pandora, written and illustrated by Victoria Turnbull. If you love The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc, this tender story will capture your heart in much the same way.
Pandora is a fox who lives alone in a world of broken things, carefully repairing what she can and breathing life into the lifeless. Though she has a home, made with care out of the things people have left behind, no one ever comes to visit her. But then one day, a wounded bird falls from the sky with a broken wing. Pandora helps the bird grow stronger and stronger-- but what happens when the bird is strong enough to fly away on its own?
The beauty of Pandora is it's subtlety in speaking to the need for connection sparking so brightly within each of us. Her story is a journey of things lost and found, hearts broken and mended, hope diminished and renewed. The wonderfully complex art is a perfect match for Turnbull's spare prose. Though muted to start- likely to reflect Pandora's isolation in a land replete with broken material goods- the illustrations fill with increasing brightness as the story progresses, highlighting the impact that love and kinship can have on our lives. A meditative story on the power of connection to heal our loneliest days, Pandora is a story to treasure and pull out on days when your children need to be reminded of the power of love.
Want the book? Get it here! Pandora, by Victoria Turnbull. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received a copy of this book from the publisher; however, all opinions expressed herein are our own.
If you love picture books about friendship, especially books that showcase empathy and inclusiveness, you will adore Be a Friend by Salina Yoon!
It's been a rough week for me, and I needed to take a break from social media. I needed some time to think about the world in which we live, the reasons I'm devastated about the results of the election, and the way I can convey to others that this has nothing to do with being a sore loser or which candidate had the better economic policy but everything to do with the tenor of hate that the results of the election is inspiring. It scares me. It makes me fearful for the world we will leave to our children. And so I come back more determined than ever to do what I can to stand up to the hate and to convey messages of love and inclusiveness at every opportunity I have. I turn to books.
Be A Friend, by Salina Yoon, is one of my absolute favorite books from 2016. In this sweet story we are introduced to Dennis, a young mime, who never uses words to convey his emotions. He is lonely- going through his days in solitude- until he is befriended by a little girl who catches his make-believe ball. The beauty of this story lies in the fact that Dennis's new friend does not try to make Dennis speak. Instead, the readers see that their newfound friendship transcends words. Even without talking, the children finds ways to communicate and easily establish a special connection with one another.
Be a Friend is poignant, wise and exquisitely crafted. It's message, despite its simplicity, packs a huge powerful punch. These kids are different from each other. And difference, to some, is scary. Or threatening. But it shouldn't be, and Be a Friend reminds us that we can easily find ways to accept each other- for our similarities and especially for our differences. We don't have to try to change others to conform with our personal expectations. Instead, unexpected beauty can be found in embracing the differences we see in our neighborhoods and on our playgrounds. Read this book. Read it a lot. And help your kids understand that they can bridge divides with nothing more than a smile- or engaging the lonely child at the park in a game of make-believe.
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Want the book? Get it here! Be a Friend, by Salina Yoon. *This is an affiliate link.
Picture books about friendship are some of our favorites here at Happily Ever Elephants, especially when they shine a light on empathy and compassion like A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Keep reading to find out why this book is a must for your shelves!Read More
I love the idea that art can transform. There is a part of me that holds on to that-- that maybe we can paint the world beautiful, bring color to all of the darkest street corners and joy to the most desolate of communities, until one splash of color begets another, and then another, and soon the universe is bathed in love and light. That's why we fell hard for Maybe Something Beautiful, because there is so much power behind the idea that art can lift up a community.
Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, tells the story of young Mira, a girl who believes that just a little splash of color can make a big, big difference in her otherwise dreary community. Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, Mira shows us how even kids can accomplish great things - including transformation. Rafael Lopez, the book's illustrator, was also the artist behind the Urban Art Trail. His illustrations are as gorgeous as his real life murals.
This book is as beautiful as it sounds. Muted tones are first used to depict the city, so when we experience Mira's art, both individually and then together with the muralist, the artwork feels alive in its vibrance - a living, breathing masterpiece. This is such an evocative story of community, conveying how together we have the power to bring hope to the hopeless and light to the languishing, to create beauty where it didn't before exist. Pickle loved the energetic rhythm infused within these pages, but perhaps most importantly, he loved exploring how Mira's artwork had the capacity to revitalize a community. He kept saying, as simple as it sounds, that the book was pretty, and I have to agree. It is pretty not just for its illustrations, but for both the simplicity and complexity of its theme. Maybe something beautiful? No. I'd say definitely. Because there is no hesitation here. This book is definitely something beautiful, and one to cherish.
Want the book? Get it here! Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell. *This is an affiliate link.
We've only recently gotten into wordless picture books, and it never fails to amaze me how books with no text can pack such an emotional punch. Marla Frazee's stunning story, The Farmer and the Clown, may just be my favorite yet. What an understated beauty! This a powerful and poignant read, so spare in its details, yet one of the most emotionally rich stories we've picked up in a while. Frazee had both Pickle and I completely mesmerized, and if you haven't yet read this book, it should skyrocket to the top of your list.
The story begins when the Farmer, working in his fields, is startled by something catapulted out of a passing train. The Farmer is even more startled when he discovers this "something" is a child - all alone - dressed in full clown costume complete with a happy, made-up face. What follows is a spellbinding tale of the Farmer's rescue of the clown and an unexpected friendship between these two superbly drawn characters; it is a remarkable exploration of loneliness and companionship.
This stirring story provides so much fodder for discussion, and the illustrations made it easy for Pickle to follow along with both the plot and character development. He loved becoming the storyteller of these pages, putting his own unique spin on each picture. The Farmer's empathy towards the suddenly lost child- and the techniques he uses to comfort the little one who he takes in and protects - are brilliant. His emotional evolution- from accidental guardian to hesitant protector to loving caregiver- is so well done, and it keeps blowing my mind how brilliantly Frazee manages to convey this transformation with such simple illustrations alone. One spread depicting the clown washing off his happy makeup, only to reveal the face of a scared child, is so emotionally resonant that it literally brought tears to my eyes. Though this is a nearly wordless book, the characters in this story speak volumes. There is no doubt in my mind that this will become a cherished classic. We had checked this book out from the library, but as soon as we finished reading it, I ordered it for our home. That's how much we loved it. And that's how it know it's one to treasure.
Want the book? Get it here! The Farmer and The Clown, by Marla Frazee. *This is an affiliate link.
This is one of the best board books about the concept of paying it forward - that when we take care of our friends, that joy will come back to us tenfold. We love Hooray for Hat, and due to its repeating verses, we think this is one of the best books for two year olds.Read More