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
Kids books about kindness are so important when it comes to instilling this virtue in our children. And when you can bring books alive with interactive activities, learning takes flight and kindness flourishes. This is what happened when we read The Kindness Elves, and incorporated these adorable guys into our daily routine. 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!
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
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
"In a gentle way, you can shake the world." - Gandhi
Use your words. It's a phrase parents and educators know well. It's one of the first things we teach our children when they begin to speak. "Use your words," we say, when they are pointing instead of asking. "Use your words," we remind them, when they are hitting instead of talking. It’s one of the mantras that plays like background music - a soundtrack to those infamous toddler years - because getting our children to use words instead of hands is pretty critical. And as important as it is to instill in our children, it is of utmost significance that adults, too, follow and live by this mantra. This is perhaps why I have always been intrigued by Mahatma Gandhi and his belief in nonviolence to create social change— his belief that words possess more power than punches.
I am thus thrilled to be a part of the I Am Justice blog tour to share Brad Meltzer's fabulous book, I am Gandhi, an empowering story in the Ordinary People Change the World Series. We adore this series, especially I am Gandhi, for the way it teaches children that violence is never a means to an end.
I am Gandhi tells the story of how Gandhi, as a young man, was appalled by the unequal treatment of Indians. Refusing to tolerate injustice, Gandhi came up with a brilliant and powerful plan to protest discrimination against Indians in South Africa and to end British rule in India. Like the series' biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi's story focuses on peaceful heroism in the struggle for civil rights and social evolution.
One of the reasons I so love this book is because Gandhi's peaceful, nonviolent teachings can be understood by children of all ages. His beautiful words can teach kids how to create impactful change without violence and aggression. I am Gandhi can be read in a variety of ways within your home or classroom and paired with so many complementary learning and literacy activities. Have your kids or students write peace pledges, identifying how they can use their words to embody peaceful action in their schools and homes. Have students identify problems in their communities, and brainstorm peaceful ways to tackle and address these challenges. Create kindness concept posters to showcase the many ways in which we can peacefully address conflict. The possibilities are endless… and if we emphasize Gandhi’s message of nonviolence, our kids will be at the forefront of a kinder, more respectful, and more empathetic generation. Can we ask for anything more?
Want the book? Get it here! I am Gandhi, by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. HEE received a copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
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 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.
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.
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
Every once in a while you pick up a new book and the first time you read it through, the combination of words and pictures speak to you so deeply, it just makes you breathe in and say "Yes. This." This is exactly what happened to me the first time I read On the Night of the Shooting Star, written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Jenni Desmond. I can't pinpoint why I loved it so much, but the manner in which this story tackles the contradictory feelings of loneliness and connection was so emotionally resonant and a story I think any and every child will be able to relate to and connect with as well.
In On the Night of the Shooting Star, Dog and Bunny reside on opposite sides of a fence, living virtually parallel lives. They see each other every day, but the two never talk or even acknowledge one another. They care though, as evidenced by wistful glances onto the other's property to check and see what may be happening on the other side of the fence. Seasons come and go, but one evening, as both are outside gazing into the night sky over their homes, the two witness a shooting star. And that miraculous site may just be the thing to help bring these animals together.
It doesn't matter how "popular" or well-liked you think your child is. Everyone struggles with feelings of loneliness, and everyone has looked across a fence-- or a classroom or a quad or a playground-- and felt a pang of sadness when they realize there's one person-- or even a group of people- they would love to connect with. But it seems awfully challenging, right? Reaching out isn't easy. In fact, it can be downright hard. The rewards though? Tremendous. Use On the Night of the Shooting Star to remind little ones that these feelings of solitude are universal-- but we can't overcome them until we make an effort and force ourselves just a little out of our comfort zone. Sometimes, even the tiniest step is all it takes. Absolutely love this one.
Want the book? Get it here! On the Night of the Shooting Star, by Amy Hest. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
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.
When you read a book and find yourself drawing frequent comparisons to To Kill a Mockingbird (one of my all time favorite novels), you know you are in the hands of a masterful storyteller. And so it is with Wolf Hollow, the beautiful, haunting and mesmerizing debut novel by Lauren Wolk, a story which gripped me tightly as I read and still hasn't let me go.
Wolf Hollow is the story of Annabelle, an eleven year old girl living in rural Pennsylvania as World War II rages overseas. Annabelle's days are largely peaceful, and she feels somewhat protected by Toby, a WWI veteran who roams her neighborhood behind the lens of a camera given to him by Annabelle's family. But when Betty Glengary moves to town, a bully not afraid of inflicting brutal harm upon others, Annabelle's days go from peaceful to riddled with anguish. Soon Betty goes missing- and so does Toby. And the small neighborhood in which they all live is out for vengeance.
Annabelle's coming of age story forces a young girl who never before had reason to lie to take desperate matters into her own hands, even if she has to operate under a veil of secrecy. As she attempts to right the wrongs in a community overwhelmed by intolerance, she is forced to confront social injustice in all its brutal forms. Wolf Hollow is a 2017 Newbery Honor book for a reason. The prose is simple and the pacing is masterful, steadily building tension and suspense as the story races to a climax. Annabelle is a beautifully drawn character, tackling preexisting prejudices in a way she believes will bring darkness to light, all the while struggling with how judgments and preconceived beliefs about people can mount and escalate until poor choices and horrible actions appear to be the only answers. Wolf Hollow is complex, thoughtful and, at times, unsettling. But it is a powerful, if not masterful debut by Wolk. A must read.
Wolk's second novel, Beyond the Bright Sea, pubs tomorrow (May 2), and we cannot wait to get our hands on it!
It's been less than six months since I did a complete about face and changed careers entirely, leaving the law behind to become a school library media specialist. It's been incredible, to say the least. And in this short time, I've learned something rather quickly-- something I've always known, but never before had the opportunity to experience with a large group of kids: a class read aloud can be a very, very powerful thing.
One, by Kathryn Otoshi, was one such read aloud. In One, Red is a hothead who continuously picks on Blue. Though this bullying is witnessed by several other colors, no one is ready to stand up for Blue and tell Red to stop his taunting. But then One comes along, and One has no qualms about standing up to Red -- and in doing so, One teaches his friends a valuable lesson. What happens when Red realizes that he no longer has power over the other colors? Will kindness win out?
Every class I read One with was totally and entirely captivated. At once a concept book on both colors and counting, the story more importantly provides a spring point for discussions on bullying, kindness, and inclusiveness. Though the subject matter can certainly lend itself to extreme didacticism, Otoshi handles this subject in a unique manner that leaves children feeling both intrigued and empowered. Use this book to teach your little ones how to stand up for themselves and say no. Even better - make them stand up and say no as you read. If you need to address bullying with any age group and begin some thoughtful discussions on the topic, look no further than One. Two trunks up! For another great #picturebookoftheday, check out @booksandgiggles.
Our fabulous book club, @kidlitpicks, is focused on #loveandkindnessbooks all February -- and One is a perfect choice to demonstrate that kindness wins. For more on this stellar topic, look no further than: @readingisourthing, @ilovebooksandicannotlie, and @books_and_babycinos.
Want the book? Get it here! One, by Kathryn Otoshi. *This is an affiliate link.
It's almost Valentine's Day! As your world turns various shades of posy pink and radiant red, why not celebrate by sharing some heart-filled books with your little ones? Here are our top ten favorite books about love -- the huggy kind, the kissy kind, the self-love kind, and -- my personal favorite -- the love is love is love kind. Enjoy!
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.
Love Is, by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane: A little girl learns what it means to love as she cares for a duckling, hugs him closely, and then learns to let go. A tender beauty.
XO, OX: A Love Story, by Adam Rex, illustrated by Scott Campbell: An awkward ox falls in love with a gorgeous (albeit conceited) gazelle, and he takes to writing her one love letter after another. Though his overtures are sharply rebuffed, the ox nevertheless persists and eventually causes the gazelle to have a change of heart.
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!
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!
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?!"
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!
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.
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.
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.
If I could bottle up Pickle's infectious smile and the heart melting face Bo makes when I greet him in his room every morning, they would be the first two things in my treasure box. There are a million more things I would add, and my family and I absolutely adore the precious book, All My Treasures, for this very reason: it reminds us of all of the things we have in our life that bring us joy on a regular basis. Oh, my heart.
Jo Witek and Christine Rousseau- the dream team that brought us the fabulous book In My Heart (check out our review, HERE!) - are back at it again with All My Treasures. This is another stunning and special book that I believe belongs on every child's book shelf. In this sweet story, a young girl is given a treasure box by her grandmother. It is porcelain and lovely, and the child is not sure what she should put inside as she doesn't want to harm the box. But then her treasures begin rolling in- laughter, bubbles, memories- and readers' spirits begin to soar as they recognize the gems she holds close and dear.
All My Treasures is simple, powerful, and stunning, with flaps to open and precious details to discover on every page. The prose is elegant, the illustrations are whimsical and lovely, and the sentiment is spot on without being saccharine or heavy handed. This book reminds us to delight in the small things that we may often overlook as beautiful, as well as the bigger things that fill our hearts with happiness whenever they grace our days. During the holiday season, when children seem to think of nothing but presents under the tree or by the menorah, All My Treasures is a perfect reminder that the greatest gifts are those that don't need unwrapping - they can be found in life's everyday moments whose beauty can take your breath away if you only stop for a moment to watch and listen. Two trunks up for this beauty!
Want the book? Get it here! All My Treasures, by Jo Witek. *This is an affiliate link. I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions are my 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.