If you need a great children’s book about sibling rivalry to read to one of your kids who may be feeling a bit envious of his sister or brother, you need to check out STARDUST!Read More
Are you looking for phenomenal self esteem books for kids to add to your collection at home and at school? Then this list of self confidence books, stories about self love, and all the reasons to rock what we’ve got is the list for you!Read More
The best books for beginning readers must be short with large text and simple sentence structure. A good pre reader book must also contain words that are easy to decode and, most importantly, keep kids wanting more! This is why we totally love Fox the TigerRead More
Talking to children about matters of the heart can be complicated. If your kids are anything like mine, they get totally confused because the heart can do wayyyyy too many things. After all, it can fill with joy or break with sadness, swell with pride or even be given away. It can grow, it can melt, it can open and close. It can shatter, it can puddle, it races fast and then slows. No wonder they don’t understand! These metaphors are challenging to comprehend— and to a literal child, they can seem totally nonsensical. Leave it to Corinna Luyken, an author/illustrator whose work has blown me away over the last couple of years, to give us My Heart, the perfect picture book to gently address the heart’s complexity with kids.
In My Heart, each page is a metaphor for the heart’s various manifestations. As the diverse group of kids journey through the heart’s numerous emotions, they learn it can be a puddle or a slide or a window opened wide. The children are happy at times and scared at others, remorseful on some pages and joyful on others. When faced with a tough emotion, they find companionship in family and friends to help them through. And overall, they learn one very important notion: whether their hearts are open or closed, tiny or large, each and every child has the freedom to decide how he or she feels at a particular time. My Heart conveys a powerful message, one that helps children discover their strength and unlock their inner resilience.
My Heart is exquisite, though and through. Luyken’s illustrations are shadowy and vibrant at the same time. Shades of grey shot through with bright yellow perfectly represent the heart’s many phases, bringing hope to the wounded heart and light to the dark one. They set the tone so beautifully for a book that speaks to emotional awareness, and, when paired with the simple (but brilliant) prose, convey a message that we get to decide how our heart feels at any given moment. The book is contemplative yet dynamic, subtle yet empowering, ultimately conveying the most reassuring message: “tiny can grow and broken can mend / and a heart that is closed can still open again.” Sensitive, stunning and simply spectacular. Two trunks up for this beauty!
Did you like this post? Hooray! We think you will love these, too! First, our review of Corinna Luyken’s The Book of Mistakes (which was on our list of Favorite Picture Books of 2017). Second, our review of Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse, illustrated by Luyken, which was on our list of Picture Books to Help You Raise Kind Kids AND Favorite Picture Books of 2018!! ENJOY!
Want the book? Get it here! My Heart, by Corinna Luyken. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions expressed herein are entirely our own.
If you are looking for a fabulous book for any child questioning his or her identity, an LGBQT story, or a thought-provoking read about one tween’s journey to understanding and finding herself, you must check out Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake, stat.
My goodness, can these middle grade books get any better? Where were these phenomenal stories when I was a young girl? I remember when I was 12 years old, and my home in Miami was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew. It was a pivotal year in my life- I had just become a Bat Mitzvah, I was struggling to figure out if I would ever become a graceful teenager and not just a gawky teen, I longed to know if boys would ever look my way, and I wondered if my community would ever get put back together after suffering from total destruction. So many questions, so much angst— and so few stories to help me feel less alone and less confused.
Though my longings were not quite the same, I wish I’d had a book like Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World! Ivy Aberdeen’s angst hit all the right notes and resonated so very deeply. In this story, Ivy’s home is flattened by a tornado that rages through her town. All she manages to save is her pillow which contains her most precious possessions inside a thin case - fancy markers and a journal filled up with drawings, many of which contain illustrations of her and an unidentifiable girl. While staying in a school gym with other displaced persons after the storm, Ivy’s notebook goes missing. When her pictures start turning up in her locker, together with notes encouraging her to be true to herself and come clean with who she is at her core, Ivy begins to hope that the mysterious letters are coming from a girl on whom she has secretly developed a crush. Will Ivy let go of her fears and embrace who she is meant to be?
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World will be a valuable window book for some and a mirror book for so many others. Ivy fears being unlike those around her- being shunned for wanting something so different than her friends and her big sister. After all, when Ivy’s sister and her best friend stop speaking and Ivy believes it’s because her sister’s friend has come out of the closet, Ivy fears her sister will totally disown her, too. Though the yearnings expressed in Ivy’s story may certainly be different for some tweens, the burning desire to understand who you are at your core, to not just accept those things that make us unique but love them too, is simply universal. We have all experienced, in unique ways and to varying degrees, the unsettling and anxiety-provoking fear that comes hand in hand with feeling so wholly different from those around us.
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World gave me chills, and it is a book of incredible importance that has an especially significant place in every library, every classroom, and every child’s bookshelf. I am so grateful to the fabulous kidlit authors that continually place these notable books into children’s hands around the globe. There is nothing like a book to make you feel less alone and more understood.
What did you think about Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World? Let us know on our Facebook page, and make sure to follow us there! If you liked this post, make sure to check out our Favorite Middle Grade Books of 2018. We think you will also love these books about tweens discovering themselves: Front Desk, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, and Brown Girl Dreaming.
Want the book? Get it here! Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake. *This is an affiliate link.
If you are forever looking for self esteem books for kids to add to your collection, this one is a must! Rock What Ya Got will have kids cheering the beauty of self love throughout the whole story!Read More
If you have never read a story by Kate DiCamillo, prepare to get swept away by magic. If you are already a fan of Kate’s work, then prepare yourself for another mesmerizing character and another extraordinary story. From the second you open the first page of Louisiana’s Way Home, you are so clearly in the hands of a brilliant storyteller. DiCamillo simply plucks you off of the couch/bed/chair where you are curled up reading and drops you squarely in the middle of her world. That’s how vivid Louisiana’s Way Home is- that’s how magical each and every page.
Louisiana’s Way Home is a companion book to Raymie Nightingale. In it, we revisit one of the three girlfriends, Louisiana Elefante, of circus family fame. But our story begins not in Florida, and instead with Louisiana and her granny on the run - they have left Florida in the middle of the night and are driving straight up to Georgia, where they must stop when Granny suffers from a horrific tooth ache. And so it is that the pair winds up at a motel, and when Granny up and leaves again - this time without her granddaughter - Louisiana fears she is destined for only goodbyes. There is a curse on her head, after all. When Louisiana learns a painful secret, her past unravels before her eyes and she must decide what she wants — and who she wants to be.
“I want you to know something, Louisiana. We all, at some point, have to decide who we want to be in this world. It is a decision we make for ourselves. You are being forced to make this decision at an early age, but that does not mean that you cannot do it well and wisely.” Tears. Streaming down my cheeks. These characters, this voice. These decisions. Standing at a crossroads is tough- no matter the age. But when we reach this point, we have big choices to make. We have to decide if we want to forgive, and if so, how? We have to decide if we want to move forward, and if so, how? Most importantly, we have to strive to believe in love, compassion and generosity. Because without that steadfast belief, we may truly lose our way home. Louisiana’s Way Home is a beauty; perfectly paced, impeccably plotted, and the most compelling hero’s journey i’ve read in some time. I savored every word and every character, and I am already eagerly anticipating the third installment in this trio of books. TWO TRUNKS UP!
Want the book? Get it here! Louisiana’s Way Home, by Kate DiCamillo. *This is an affiliate link. HEE received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions contained herein are entirely 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.
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.
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.
I've always particularly loved window books. There's just so much to be learned by reading about a person so different from you, or a time period so removed from the one in which you live. From challenges faced to experiences had, the world seems to open at your fingertips, giving you glimpses into lives so opposite from your own. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I loved Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling, a middle grade novel written about a girl with no arms.
Aven Green, the story's protagonist, is a spunky girl who loves to make up stories about how she lost her arms. But the truth is, she was simply born without them. And her adoptive parents wouldn't let her sit by and mourn a life of things she couldn't do. Instead, they made her work for everything she wanted -- she opens her own backpack and plays the guitar and eats her own food -- all with her feet. But life with no arms is not easy. Especially when you suddenly find yourself moving to a new state, starting a new school, and friendless. But when Aven meets Connor, a boy at her school struggling with Tourette's Syndrome, a new world opens up for both kids, and they not only learn how to help each other, but they learn a ton about themselves, too.
If your kids or students loved Wonder, this is a fabulous "read-a-like" that upper elementary children will devour. Equal parts humorous and emotional, with even some mystery thrown in for good measure, Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus was a quick read that truly gave me much to ponder about my advantages as a fully able bodied woman. It is a book that will build bridges and empathy, taking the stigma away from "others" who may be different in certain respects, but who have the same yearnings for friendship and connection as everyone else. A beauty, and one I cannot wait to get into my students hands. Two trunks up!
Want the book? Get it here! Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling.
What happens after you fall- should you get back up again? Or will you let yourself fall apart? These are the questions pondered in After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again), the newest masterpiece sensitively written and stunningly illustrated by Dan Santat. Hands down, this book is absolutely remarkable. After the Fall’s emotional resonance blew me away, and it is so wildly perfect for both kids and adults alike, making it an easy winner for "Best Picture Book for Upper Elementary Grades" in the inaugural #bookstagramchoiceawards. I have yet to read After the Fall without losing my breath and fighting back tears. It’s just that special, and that perfect.
After the Fall tells the story of what happens after Humpty Dumpty is put back together. Though he is an avid bird watcher, the poor egg has become terrified of heights -- cripplingly so -- and can no longer engage in his favorite activities. Yes, his exterior shell has seemingly healed, but no matter— Humpty is left terribly broken at his core. Will Humpty be scared of high places forever? Or will he find the courage to break free from his fears?
After the Fall is simply breathtaking. The storyline runs deep, and the illustrations are outstanding, telling brilliant, thoughtful stories in and of themselves. The themes embraced here, those of anxiety, resiliency and putting oneself back together after a fall, are themes that easily lend themselves to extreme didacticism. Santat, though, delivers his beautiful message with such a brilliant, light touch, enabling the story to speak to both children and adults at varied social and emotional maturity levels. I have no hesitation when calling this book a masterpiece. It is without a doubt my favorite story of 2017, one that came at the perfect time to remind me that we all have wings to help us soar, even when we fear they are buried or broken for good.
Want the book? Get it here! After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again), by Dan Santat. HEE received an advanced review copy of this book, however 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.