All posts in Reading Lists: Picture Books

Homelessness in Children's Books

Homelessness in Children’s Books

In creating this list, I noticed that most of these homelessness stories have parents who work part-time jobs, often more than one. Despite shelter uncertainty, they are going about their lives, sending their children to school, and even going to college themselves. It’s usually a series of setbacks or a tragedy like the death of a breadwinner than sends them spiraling downward. This is not surprising given that most Americans are one paycheck away from the streets.

On a single night in January 2015, 564,708 people were experiencing homelessness — meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. National Alliance to End Homelessness

Part of this 564,708 homeless number includes women and children. It’s a heart breaking statistic. Imagine families with children trying to go about their everyday life without a place to sleep. It’s becoming a more common sight in cities like Boston where I live.

With the spike in homelessness, has come the homeless spikes. Yes, it’s as horrible as it sounds. MacDonald‘s is one such company that puts anti-homeless spikes designed to keep the homeless away.

Some artists decided to fight back against the anti-homeless spikes, starting a movement they call “Space, Not Spikes.”

not spikes

“Space, Not Spikes” reclaimed the spiked area by covering it with bedding, pillows, and a bookshelf stocked with reading material. Upworthy

Hostile design doesn’t solve the issue of homelessness. It just tries to remove the homeless from the line of sight of those who have a place to live. And yet, there are humane solutions to homelessness like these tiny homes the size of garden sheds.

tiny homes for the homeless

My oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei, is headed for art college. She thinks about social issues from a design perspective. I hope that one day she will work on the issue of homelessness.

Maybe this book list will inspire kids to tackle this problem with solutions that start and end with compassion, not spikes? Here’s hoping!

How about you? What books would you add to this list? Thanks for your help!

 

Homelessness in Children’s Books

Homelessness in Picture Books

Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan

Nationally, about one out of every eight people is poor. Many of them are children. The patrons of the soup kitchen include the unemployed, the needy, and the homeless. No one is excluded.

A young boy is nervous to see the Can Man in his neighborhood, but his Uncle Willie who works at the soup kitchen knows him well. The boy notices a woman sleeping on a park bench and decides he wants to learn more about his uncle’s soup kitchen. On his day off from school, he accompanies his uncle to work. It’s little things that he learns: children who sit in high chairs eat here; not everyone is homeless; somehow there is always enough food for everyone. [picture book, ages 6 and up]

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14 Picture Books to Teach Gratitude

14 Picture Books to Teach Gratitude

We all want our kids to be grow up to be happy. It turns out that gratitude is the surest path to happiness. These 14 picture books all have a different take on gratitude and thankfulness. What are you favorite books on this topic?

14 Picture Books to Teach Gratitude

Penguin Problems by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith

Mortimer, the little penguin is the opposite of grateful as he starts his morning.

“It’s way too early. My beak is cold. It’s too bright out here. I’m hungry. It snowed some more last night, and I don’t even like snow.”

As he hunts for food, he is also being hunted. He has so many problems (and complaints). Finally, a walrus sets him straight with some zen thoughts, challenging him to appreciate what he has both in his community and the natural beauty that surrounds him.

Do walruses understand penguins? They do seem to understand gratitude! Kids will enjoy this hilarious picture book about looking at things from a different perspective. [picture book, ages 3 and up]

The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau, illustrated by Gail de Marcken

A greedy king is unhappy despite his piles of treasures and he thinks a quilt from the magical quiltmaker will fulfil him. She only gives her quilts to the poor and needy and agrees to make him a quilt on one condition:

“Make presents of everything you own, she said, “and then I’ll make a quilt for you. With each gift that you give, I’ll sew in another piece. When at last all your things are gone, your quilt will be finished.”

“I can’t do that!” cried the king. I love all my wonderful, beautiful things.”

“But if they don’t make you happy,” the woman replied, “what good are they?”

The king can not part with his treasures so he punishes her instead. With each attempt, she foils him with sewing projects that help an animal, who helps her in turn. Finally, the king decides to give away his things. Slowly he learns that giving away his treasures actually fills him with happiness.

This is a wonderful classic about how true happiness comes from giving to others in need. It belongs on every bookshelf! [picture book, ages 4 and up]

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Rethinking & Examining Dr. Seuss' Racism

Rethinking & Examining Dr. Seuss’ Racism

Dr. Seuss and Dr. Seuss Enterprises profited profoundly off of the sales of this book, it’s Broadway rendition, the Horton Hears a Who! movie (which grossed $297 million dollars) and associated merchandise. None of it went to the Japanese community, including those still impacted by cancer and leukemia from the atomic bomb blasts. Dr. Seuss never directly apologized for his anti-Japanese work and this book doesn’t hold up as a meaningful, indirect one.

I’ve had the privilege of working with Katie Ishizuka-Stephens, Executive Director of The Conscious Kid Library. She is also Japanese American and her parents were forced into internment camps during WWII. This makes us both sensitive to the dehumanizing racism against Japanese-Americans during WWII that allowed the American public to accept putting innocent civilians into concentration camps in which Dr. Seuss’s political cartoons played a large role.

Japanese Internment Books for Kids & My Family's Story

She found me when I posted on The Racist Side of Dr. Seuss That You Didn’t Know About. We both objected to the National Education Association’s (NEA) Read Across America’s choice of using Dr. Seuss as the featured author.

Slap That Jap and Dr. Seuss racist cartoonsNow there is a Dr. Seuss museum that is opening near me in Springfield, MA. There are no plans to include Dr. Seuss’s racist political cartoons as part of his legacy. The museum is carefully orchestrating hiding this side of Dr. Seuss that no one knows about. Ostensibly, their excuse is that they don’t have any original political cartoons of his, and the artwork featured is all original. This is not a very high hurdle given that Dr. Seuss’ sad political cartoons have no marketRead more…

Baby Bunny Nest in Our Yard & GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU? Giveaway

Baby Bunny Nest & GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU? Giveaway

My husband ordered 6 cubic yards of mulch for our yard and we went to town for three days. While he was raking off the dead leaves to prepare for the mulch in our front yard, he happened upon a bunny nest with four baby bunnies inside!

wild bunny nest in our yard

He showed me the bunny nest, and one bunny popped out and ran for it. Luckily the bunny was  slow, so my husband was able to catch it and stuff it back inside the nest.

runaway bunny

The next day, PickyKidPix, caught wind of the bunny nest and asked to be shown it. This time when they peeled off the top which was made of leaves and brush, the bunny took off. It took them twenty-five minutes to catch the baby bunny.

baby cottontail bunny in our yard Read more…

Hidden (or not) Things to Spot in Famous Picture Books

Hidden (or not) Things to Spot in Famous Picture Books

It’s fun to discover hidden things to spot or personal references in beloved picture books. My husband and I delighted in searching for the mouse in Goodnight Moon with our kids. I think it was my husband who pointed out the red balloon hidden in Goodnight, Gorilla to me. After that, the hunt was on. We loved to figure out what surprises illustrators left to be discovered.

How about you? What things have you noticed in picture books that are hidden away, or, a signature reference, in plain sight by your favorite illustrators? Thanks for sharing!

Things to Spot in Famous Picture Books

Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd

things to find in Goodnight Moon

Look for a white mouse on every color page spread and also check out the clock in the room. It takes mother bunny a full hour to put her baby to bed.

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11 Great Father's Day Books for Kids & GIVEAWAY

11 Great Father’s Day Books for Kids & GIVEAWAY

Need a children’s book idea to gift to the dads in your life? Here are 11 ideas. You can also just check it out of the library and read at bedtime on Sunday, June 18th.

I’m giving away three picture books perfect for Father’s Day. Please fill out the Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter.

What are your favorite books for kids featuring dads? Thanks for sharing!

11 Great Father’s Day Books for Kids & GIVEAWAY

My Dad Used to Be So Cool by Keith Negley

To all the (incognito) rock star dads out there, this is the perfect picture book for you! I’d gift to any dad who was or is an musician in a rock band, or just is secretly cool. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown

Dads who are fans of Star Wars need this book. Imagine is Darth Vader babysat four-year-old Luke Skywalker. Would Darth have made different choices? This funny picture book imagines a vacation with the absent dad. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr

This lyrical picture book should be on every book shelf. It celebrates the bond between a father and his daughter as they search at night for owls. Gift to a dad who is always taking his kids on nature adventures. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Things To Do With Dad by Sam Zuppardi

Celebrate Father’s Day with this wordless picture book where dad and son do all the household chores together, and then knock off another To Do list. This is a list the little boy makes that includes fly jet packs, ride a dinosaur, visit the moon, and sail a pirate ship. Dad is willing to do it all! Gift this to a dad who play imaginary games with their kids! [wordless picture book, ages 4 and up]

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#BlackHistoryMonth by Carole Boston Weatherford

#BlackHistoryMonth by Carole Boston Weatherford

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Carole Boston Weatherford in Roxbury, Massachusetts last year. I was struck by her quiet elegance and dignity. Her books reflect that too.

Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes with Mia Wenjen

Carole Boston Weatherford is on the left. Ekua Holmes is on the right.

I didn’t realize how many #BlackHistoryMonth stories that would have remained largely untold if not for Carole’s work. Today, I wanted to share with you her books in honor of #BlackHistoryMonth.

#BlackHistoryMonth by Carole Boston Weatherford

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Lena Horne

Lena Horne, image from Wikipedia

Lena Horne was both an legendary actress and activist, born into a well educated and high achieving family. During the Great Depression, Lena started her career at the Cotton Club as a dancer in the chorus line. Her career catapulted from there, to Broadway, headlining an all-white band, to Hollywood. During WWII, her activist side emerged in full force, which resulted in being blacklisted during McCarthy’s Red Scare. Still, Lena persisted. With a new husband, she was able to further her career to become an international star, and use her fame in the fight for civil rights. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Congo Square New Orleans

Congo Square, U.S. National Register of Historic Places, image from Wikipedia

“Slavery was no ways fair. Six more days to Congo Square.” The back story of the birth of jazz in New Orleans: because Louisiana was a French colony, then a Spanish colony, even slaves had Sunday off from work. In most states, African drums and music were banned. But once a week at Congo Square in New Orleans, hundreds of slaves and free blacks would congregate, play music, and dance. Told in simple rollicking rhyme, this picture book is exuberant as it is informational about a little known story that expresses a human’s capacity to find hope and joy even in the most difficult circumstances. And this resulted in the birth of jazz, America’s only original art form. Carole Boston Weatherford’s books are all exceptional. Both she and illustrator R. Gregory Christie are Coretta Scott King Honorees. Freedom in Congo Square is one of my (accurate) Caldecott picks. [picture book, ages 2 and up]

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Picture Books Celebrating Imagination and Friendship

Picture Books Celebrating Imagination and Friendship & GIVEAWAY

I’m delighted to have Jackie Azúa Kramer guest posting today with a picture book list that celebrates imagination and friendship. She picked some of my all time favorite picture books in her ten book list; half about Imagination and half about Friendship.

Her newest picture book is also a perfect blend of friendship and imagination. We are giving away a copy of The Green Umbrella too! Please see the giveaway at the bottom of the post.

The Green Umbrella by Jackie Azúa Kramer, illustrated by Maral Sassouni

Elephant’s green umbrella is also Hedgehog’s boat, Cat’s tent, Bear’s flying machine, and Rabbit’s cane. Elephant doesn’t limit the use of the green umbrella to keeping himself dry either; it’s his sword, balancing pole, and baseball bat. As the rain clears up, the animals each want their toy back. Instead of fighting, they come up with the perfect solution for more adventures together. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

How about you? What are your favorite books that spark the imagination, celebrate friendship or even BOTH?! Thanks for sharing!

Picture Books that Spark a Kid’s Imagination

1. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

A little girl has an amazing idea that she’s going to make the most magnificent thing! All she has to do is make it. But making her magnificent thing leads down a frustrating path of trial and error. This book best reflects–Inspiration + motivation + passion = Endless possibilities. The girl’s emotional journey reminds a child not to quit. [picture book ages 3 and up]

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Our 2017 Caldecott Predictions

Our 2017 Caldecott Predictions

I’m no expert in predicting the Caldecott but it’s a fun exercise. While it’s an award for illustration, I think it’s more than that.

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

dis·tin·guished

successful, authoritative, and commanding great respect.

Caldecott medal

Caldecott Picture Books Should Appeal to a Wide Audience

The Caldecott is determined by adults, first and foremost, so the picture book has to appeal to adult sensibilities who then imagine this book for a young audience. I think this broad audience is also a fundamental characteristic for winning a Caldecott. In fact, the broader the better, both in age and in subject matter.
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