Please welcome Judy Newman today. She’s the President of Scholastic Book Clubs and is sharing her list of 10 Books for Kids with Supportive Families. We are also giving away 10 signed copies of Bobs and Tweets: Perfecto Pet Show. I’m giving away 5 copies on my Instagram (@PragmaticMom), and 5 copies here. Feel free to enter both giveaways to increase your chance of winning. Please fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter.
Family Matters by Judy Newman
There is so much I want to tell you about the Bobs and Tweets and I am so grateful to Mia for this opportunity to speak to her wonderful community—you!—people who care passionately about getting a wide range of diverse books into the hands of all children.
Bobs and Tweets: Perfecto Pet Show by Pepper Springfield, illustrated by Kristy Caldwell
This is an interesting concept: a rhyming early chapter book! In this story, the Bobs and Tweets, two very different kinds of kids, help each other out in order to get to their school pet show on time. Differences can be helpful, the Bobs and Tweets learn, when it comes to fixing a disaster. [early chapter book, ages 5 and up]
That’s been my day job too. My career, as President of Scholastic Book Clubs, has been devoted to making sure all children have easy access to top quality, affordable books in which they can see themselves and others—and help them make sense of the world around them. And…have fun, be entertained, and learn to love to read! It’s a tall order, but great children’s books are uniquely able to do all that hard work.
In the Bobs and Tweets series, Kristy Caldwell, the illustrator, and I are creating a big world on Bonefish Street (where our characters live) and populating the community with interesting, imperfect, relatable characters—all kinds of kids and families—from many diverse backgrounds with different world views.
Teachers tell me that for kids to be successful in school they need strong support at home, but of course all families are not the same. Most young kids go to school every day shouldering some kind of stress at home beyond their control, and some kids are just not comfortable with how their families behave. I wanted to get a few of those “elephants out of the room” and help kids meet relatable characters who have challenges, and yet find ways to be their own best selves, navigating life successfully, in spite of their families’ imperfections. And I wanted to make these stories funny—not too heavy handed—easy to read (in rhyme), fully illustrated (in color), and comfortable and fun for all families to share.
Some readers of the Bobs and Tweets books identify with Dean Bob, the youngest in his family. Dean keeps his room neat, loves to read and write and go to the library, takes excellent care of his dog, Chopper, and prefers an orderly lifestyle. But the rest of his Bobs are well…slobs. The Bobs tend to be rowdy, build skateboard ramps in the middle of the street, and love a good-natured food fight.
Lou, the youngest Tweet, is also different from the rest of her family. The Tweets are meticulous and embrace a healthy lifestyle filled with kale and hiking and classical music. Lou, on the other hand, never cleans her room, loves sugary Blurpee drinks from the Bonefish Street Community Pool snack bar, and with her cat, Pretty Kitty, dances with gusto to rock ‘n’ roll.
But in spite of the frustrations of living with families who are not like them, Dean and Lou assert their individuality and stay true to themselves. And it is a happy accident (or perhaps a deliberate ploy by a character named Mo who we meet in Book One?) that the Bobs and Tweets unwittingly move across from each other on Bonefish Street, so Dean and Lou can meet, and share their stories of life in their families, and become best friends.
What I love about the Bobs and Tweets is that, even as they pursue their own unorthodox lifestyles, they respect Dean and Lou—the youngest in each family—and give them space—and family support—to be themselves. The Bobs and Tweets may not always behave well in public but they always show up, they are always supportive, and they value family and community most of all! For me, the real theme of the Bobs and Tweets books is: Family Matters.
10 Books for Kids with Supportive Families
There are lots of wonderful books in which the love of supportive families shines. Here are ten of my favorites:
1. Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Jose Aruego
Leo cannot read, or write or draw. He is a sloppy eater. And he never says a word. Leo’s Dad frets and hovers, worried that there is something the matter with Leo. But Leo’s mother has faith:
“Are you sure Leo’s a bloomer?”
asked Leo’s father.
“Patience,” said Leo’s mother.
“A watched bloomer doesn’t bloom.”
I wish every helicopter parent could read this book and trust, as Leo’s mother does, that Leo will indeed, bloom. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
2. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
“Sylvester Duncan lived with his mother and father at Acorn Road in Oatsdale. One of his hobbies was collecting pebbles of unusual shape and color.”
Thus begins one of my very favorite picture books about the power of unwavering family love. One rainy day, Sylvester finds a magic pebble. When he makes a wish to turn himself into a rock to escape from a scary lion, he finds himself stuck as a rock with no way to turn back into his donkey self. His parents are frantic, looking for him all Fall and Winter and into the Spring—but they never, ever give up on finding him. I won’t spoil the ending but when they do find Sylvester, it is one of the most joyous reunions in children’s literature. [Caldecott picture book winner, ages 3 and up]
3. Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats
It’s often hard for parents (who are coping with the demands of a new baby in the house) to manage the feelings of older siblings when a new baby arrives. In Peter’s Chair, with his brilliant, trademark simplicity, Ezra Jack Keats shows the power of Peter’s parents’ love and respect for Peter to help him embrace his new baby sister.
Peter sat in a grown-up chair.
His father sat next to him.
“Daddy,” said Peter, “let’s paint
the little chair pink for Susie.” [picture book, ages 3 and up]
4. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
I grew up in Newton, Mass, outside of Boston, so all of Robert McCloskey’s books were staples in our house. There is so much to love about this Caldecott Medal winning picture book, but for me what stands out is the great teamwork between Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, their respect for each other’s preferences, and their total devotion to their family.
One day the ducklings hatched out. First came Jack, then Kack, and then Lack, then Mack and Nack and Ouack and Pack and Quack. Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were bursting with pride. It was a great responsibility taking care of so many ducklings, and it kept them very busy. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
5. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak
The Kissing Hand is a teacher favorite and I recommend it to parents whose children are scared or worried about leaving home. Chester the raccoon, does not want to go to school. He wants to stay home with his mother and play with his friends and his toys and read his books and swing on his swing. But his loving mother shares with him a very old secret she learned from her own mother.
Mrs. Raccoon smiled. “Now,” she told Chester, “whenever you feel lonely and need a little loving from home, just press your hand to your cheek and think,” ‘Mommy loves you. Mommy loves you.’ And that very kiss will jump to your face and fill you with toasty warm thoughts.” [picture book, ages 3 and up]
6. The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
I love all of Christopher Paul Curtis’ books and look forward to whatever he writes. The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963, his first novel, (a Newbery Honor Book and a Corretta Scott King Honor Book) remains one of my favorites. The “Weird Watsons” of Flint, Michigan make a trek to visit Grandma in Birmingham, Alabama in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. This brilliant novel is as important and relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1995. And at its heart it is about the power of family.
“All of my family sat real close together on the couch under a blanket. Dad said this would generate a little heat, but he didn’t have to tell us this, it seemed like the cold automatically made us want to get together and huddle up.” [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
7. The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue
Arthur A. Levine is a Scholastic colleague and friend of mine and whenever he publishes a new book under his imprint, I get excited. Emma Donoghue, whose adult novel, Room, was made into a major motion picture, has written a wonderful sprawling middle grade novel about a wonderful, sprawling, family brimming with deep respect for each other and committed to learning and growing and growing some more. When the grandfather from the Yukon (soon to be nicknamed “Grumps”) who has dementia, moves in with the Lotterys, family life and cherished routines are disrupted.
“How’s your new room” asks CardaMom, putting her hand on Sumac’s neck. “Sumac’s being extraordinarily generous and giving your grandfather her bedroom,” she tells the others.
I encourage you to meet the Lotterys whose motto could easily be: Family Really Matters. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
8. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
I was bowled over when I first read this new graphic novel by Raina Telgemeier, the creator of the bestsellers, Smile, Sisters, and Drama. In Ghosts, Catrina has to leave her home and her friends when her family decides to move up the coast to Bahia de la Luna, California where the climate will be better for Catrina’s younger sister, Maya who has cystic fibrosis. Family love, learning about yourself, and exploring a new community are all wonderful themes woven into Ghosts.
“What was the point in moving here, Mom?” “What do mean, honey?” “We came to Bahia de la Luna so I could be healthier, right? So I could actually DO stuff—I wanted to go trick or treating tonight so bad.” [graphic novel, ages 8 and up]
From Mia Wenjen, please note the controversy around Ghosts:
I wanted to add the comments from American Indians in Children’s Literature about Catholic Missions and ghosts referenced in Ghosts:
That visit to the mission is the point where–for me–the story really starts to unravel.
The missions were there (obviously) for a specific reason: to turn Native peoples into Catholics and to claim that land for Spain. Some see missions and missionary work as a good, but if you pause for a minute and think about what they and that work is designed to do, and if you do a bit of reading, you’ll learn that it was far from the benevolent character with which it is regarded by most of society.
At the missions, life for Native people was brutal. There was rape. Enslavement. Whippings. Confinements. And of course, death. Analyses of the bones at the mission burial sites that compare them with bones found elsewhere show that the bones of those who died at the missions were stunted and smaller than the others.
Some of Telgemeier’s ghosts might have spoken Spanish, but it is far more likely that their first language was an Indigenous one. Did they joyfully want to be spoken to in Spanish, the language of their oppressors?
9. Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Cheaper by the Dozen was my favorite novel for most of elementary school! I wanted to have 12 children like the Gilbreths and I wanted to be a time management expert like the Gilbreths’ Dad, Frank, (who I credit with inspiring me to focus on finding efficient solutions to all kinds of working mother challenges). Honestly, I just wanted to be part of this incredible family. (By the way: this original book, published in 1948 inspired, but is very different from the 2003 movie starring Steve Martin.)
“One reason (Dad) had so many children—there were twelve of us—was that he was convinced anything he and Mother teamed up on was sure to be a success.” [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
10. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, illustrations by Robert Lawson
I was in a beautiful bookstore in Tokyo last Spring and I saw (and bought!) a copy of The Story of Ferdinand translated into Japanese. I keep this Japanese edition in my office because it underscores for me the universality and timelessness of another of my very favorite picture books. I am excited that there is a new movie coming out inspired by The Story of Ferdinand. I don’t know much about the movie but I know it will draw attention to this wonderful and important book about being yourself (even if you just want to smell the flowers) and the power of a mother who believes that happiness matters most of all.
“His mother saw that he was not lonesome, and because she was an understanding mother, even though she was just a cow, she let him just sit there and be happy.” [picture book, ages 3 and up]
5 Book SIGNED GIVEAWAY of Bobs and Tweets: Perfecto Pet Show
I’m giving away 10 signed copies of Bobs and Tweets: Perfecto Pet Show. I’m giving away 5 copies on my Instagram (@PragmaticMom), and 5 copies here. Feel free to enter both giveaways to increase your chance of winning. I can only ship to U.S. mailing addresses due to the cost of shipping. Please fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter.
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