Picture Books About Worrying

books about worrying for kids anxiety books Young children have a hard time putting their fear into words ( umm tantrum anyone?) sometimes finding a book that adds words to their feelings is just what you need. Here are 16 books about worrying  and separation anxiety.

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Parts by Tedd Arnold is so funny. Readers follow along as a 5 year old boy begins noticing things about his body he’d never noticed before like belly button lint, snot, peeling skin, and more. His anxious assumptions about his body falling apart will have you in stitches. My 2 year old laughed and got most of the humor but slightly older children will be laughing hysterically at how silly the little boy’s worries are.

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First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg has a special spot in my heart.  It’s a book about not wanting to go to a new school, the first day is always the hardest and it’s easier to just stay in bed! The beauty of this book isn’t just the recognition of the anxiety about the first day but in the end the twist is that it’s the teacher who has the jitters not a student. I love this book and the power it has to help anxious kids, I have read it more than once to a jittery child and see how it can help first hand.

don't worry bear

Don’t Worry Bear by Greg Foley is a short little book about a bear who is so so worried about his little caterpillar friend. Most children will figure out what is really going on and that the bear really doesn’t have anything to worry about but that’s not the beauty of this book. The beauty of this book are the awesome illustrations. They are simple but packed with emotions.

Wemberly Worried

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes This book is about a little mouse who is about as anxious as possible. She worries about everything, and it makes her family worried too. This is a fantastic book to read before starting anything new! I read it for the children’s time at my church right before school started last fall. It was a great opener for a talk about anxiety. We all have worries and even though we may not worry as often or as fiercely as Wemberly this book makes it seem okay and normal to feel those feelings. The way the author illustrates both through words and pictures the intensity of her feelings really creates compassion in the reader for this little mouse. And that ability to understand what another is feeling is something that I desperately want to instill in my children.

kishand2

The Kissing Hand by Audry Penn is an absolute favorite . Chester is a raccoon who like most of us doesn’t like change. In his case it’s starting school. He wants to stay home with his mama and play with the friends he already has instead of going to school away from her and his friends. So his mama explains to him the magic of the kissing hand . The real magic is the message that we have to do things that scare us sometimes but that the love of our family is always with us to help us through. Go get this book.

teacher from the black lagoon

The Teacher from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler is the original book in the very popular Black Lagoon series. The imaginative story is all about a boy’s worries that his teacher is going to be a terrible child eating monster. My son giggled through the whole book and loved the gore and dark humor. I do not suggest reading this to very sensitive kids or ones that really are very nervous about school. It’s humor may not be reassuring, but kids comfortable with school will find it hilarious.

just in case

Just in Case by Judith Viorst is a funny and spot on look at the anxious child who must prepare for everything ” just in case”. As a worrier myself who must start at the worst possible scenario and then slowly come back to reality I get this book. It’s funny for kids who aren’t worriers and makes the anxious preparer feel like they aren’t alone.  The book also shows kids that they aren’t powerless to their worries.

Owl Babies

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell is perfectly written for toddlers who are eager to “do it myself” but still need a loving parent safely within view.  Three baby owls wake to find their mom away and as time passes the three all get more anxious in their own ways. My daughter loves this book and completely related to poor little Bill who repeats ” I want my mommy!” over and over.  At night she is very much like little Bill, but during the day she is braver like the other two owls Sarah and Percy. No matter what level of separation anxiety your child may have at times they will relate to one or all of the little owls. Of course the story ends with mama coming back and reassuring her little owl babies that she always will.

Scaredy Squirrel at night

Scaredy Squirrel at Night  by Melanie Watt. I love Scaredy Squirrel. His crazy anxiety, tendency to play dead and hilarious facial expressions never fail to make me laugh out loud while reading.  I love this installment because it talks about something very topical in many preschooler’s life – nighttime anxiety. I was expecting a funny book but it was also really touching and useful in regards to conquering fears. I must say for any new parent the bits about sleep deprivation will hit home, trust me.

scaredy squirrel makes a friend

Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend  by Melanie Watt is hilarious! I laughed  from start to finish, my son who was 18 months old didn’t get the humor at all but laughed at me laughing! Older preschoolers will get most of the humor though and like my son, will love the pictures ! Here is my favorite line : in very small print on the inside cover it reads ” * Caution: this story not suitable for walruses. ” Oh how I laughed ! The dry humor aside, the book follows an anxious squirrel looking for a friend , but one that is safe and won’t bite! Of course the message is about taking risks and kids will get it! I love this book!

my somebody special

My Somebody Special by Sarah Weeks is a sweet and simple book about that feeling when everyone else has been picked up from school or daycare except you. The illustrations accurately depict a preschool and I relate very well to and know many children will as well. Of course the last parent comes running in and all is well and a good reminder to children that sometimes parents are late but they will be there as soon as they can.

felix and the worrier

Felix and the Worrier by Rosemary Wells Let me start by saying I really love Rosemary Wells but I really really do not love this book. Often when I find books I don’t like I just omit them from round ups but when I saw this book on the shelf I thought ” I bet this one is great!” because of the author and grabbed it without thinking. The story is about Felix who worries a lot at night but the worries are personified as a freaky little yellow guy that taps on Felix’s window and comes in to scare him out of his happy dreams. All of the worries are over the top and while I understand what the author was trying to do the Worrier ( the little yellow guy) is just plain disturbing. The other thing I don’t like is how dismissive Felix’s mom was about his worries and how in the end it’s a puppy that fixes everything. If you have read this book and like it please offer an alternative review, I want to think that it might help some child but really it just made mine laugh nervously at the smiling but terrifying Worrier.

Love Waves

Love Waves by Rosemary Wells is about as far from the disturbing previous book as you could get. The book is all about those invisible but very real waves of love that connect child to parent no matter how far apart they are. In this one a little bunny is separated first from mom then from dad while they work outside the home, readers get to see the parents work , and miss the little bunny, then the happy reunion.  I loved this book but not as much as my daughter did. Very sweet and exactly what I’d expect from Rosemary Wells.

piglet and mama

Piglet and Mama by Margaret Wild is a book I would suggest for the under 3 crowd. My son loved it when he was 2. Piglet is searching for his mom and even though all the other animal mommies offer for him to join them and their babies he wants his mom! The illustrations by Stephen Michael King capture the warmth between a mama and her baby beautifully . My son had the “Mama” scream perfected and quite enjoyed seeing the little piglet do the same thing for her mama when we read this book. Even if separation anxiety isn’t something you are dealing with at your house this is a sweet book.

mama always comes home

Mama Always Comes Home by Karma Wilson was a last minute grab at the library that I am so thankful I saw. It starts off with animal mother’s leaving their babies, for all different reasons . A bird gathering food, a dog greeting his master and more. The animal mothers leave, but they also always return to their babies. Then it switches to a child and mother. She reassures the child that she will be back and we watch her leave, and return . I loved this book because my son isn’t the best when I leave him, he related to this book immediately and was repeating ” Mama always comes home!” half way through. { I originally reviewed this in 2009 and have since read it many times to my daughter who also needed those gentle reminders that I would always return. }

jake starts school

Jake Starts Schoolby Micheal Wright is such a great book that has just the right amount of sarcasm for the adults reading it and a great message and humor for the kids too. Jake is a little scared about his first day at school so he decides to hold on to his parents and not let go. The day wears on and his parents patience is wearing thin as they do everything stuck together including recess… but a great teacher finally gets Jake to connect with a book and become her helper and finally he lets go of him poor aching parents. I really enjoy this author/illustrator because I relate so well to his characters, Jake who is anxious and his parents that love him and will support him but aren’t necessarily thrilled to be sitting at his desk in his kindergarten class. I thought it was touching  and my son thought it was funny so it was a win win for us.

Books About Cancer For Kids

books about cancer for kids I know this isn’t a happy subject but I am getting more and more requests for books written for children about cancer. A few days ago I was scrolling through my facebook feed and four statuses in a row were about cancer written by friends. There is no six degrees of separation when it comes to cancer. I hope you never need to read any of these books, I hope this list is the least used list on my site, but it’s here if you need it. This is not a definitive list, please if you know any books about cancer for kids share the title in comments.

Some of these books explain treatment and are hopeful and some include death and grief. I have noted the end result of the cancer in each review because I want to help you find the right book. All titles are linked to amazon.com with affiliate links.

you are the best medicine

You Are the Best Medicine by Julie Aigner Clark stands out among these books. The book follows a mom sharing her new cancer diagnosis with her young daughter saying why she is both happy and sad about it. She relates everything back to happier times to put a positive spin on the challenges.  The memories she has of time spent with her daughter and all the times she is still looking forward to will be the best medicine. Everything about this book is gentle and soft and ultimately positive. The book speaks of getting better like it’s a given and while emotions are absolutely discussed , loss is not part of this book. Its goal is reassurance and comfort.

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is for kids – but much bigger kids . This YA novel is witty and funny and yes about cancer. It will also probably make you cry. It’s a love story about two teenagers who meet at a support group for kids with cancer. I don’t want to ruin it for you ( and I do encourage adults to read it, it’s not typical YA) but it captures the essence of cancer not being fair. It also captures the feelings parents might have when their child is very very ill. Many of the adults that I knew who read this book cried because they related to the main characters but I teared up reading dialog between Hazel and her parents. Great book for young teens and older.

That Summer

That Summer by Tony Johnson. While reading this I didn’t even try to conceal my tears, I wasn’t crying I was sobbing.  The book is about the summer that one little boy watches his brother Joey get sick and die from Cancer.  The author does a masterful job at relating grief, and the sadness of watching someone you love and don’t expect to die, get weak and leave you.  As Joey’s condition worsens he learns to quilt and ultimately it’s his brother who finishes his quilt. I can’t rave about this book enough it simply makes the reader get it, as much as you can without ever living this particular nightmare. The line that haunted me was ” I learned a lot that summer, how to grin when your heart is in shreds..” that was the line that forced me into the “ugly cry”. This book would be incredibly useful for children who are grieving and feel like they are treading these waters alone.

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Champ’s Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too! by Sherry North is a sweet book about a little boy and his dog. While petting Champ Cody he finds a lump and it turns out to be cancer. Cody takes very good care of Champ while she goes through her chemo and she returns the favor when he is hurt. The story is touching and hits a few great points but the real gem are the back pages of the book that include facts and even quizzes about cancer.

punk wig

Punk Wig by Lori Ries is about as funny and cute as any book about cancer can be. In the book a little boy explains that his mom has cancer and as she goes through chemotherapy and looses her hair they go shopping for a wig. The wig she ends up choosing is a punk one that looks nothing like her hair before she lost it. The banter between mom and son is adorable and it explains cancer as ” alien blobs” and chemo as “zapping ” them with medicine. The overall feeling of this book is upbeat and even the parts where the mom is obviously sick have little bits of whimsy thrown in. This is a good pic for preschoolers and for children curious about why a friend or acquaintance has lost their hair during chemotherapy. In this book the mom goes into remission and it’s explained as all the alien blobs have gone away and she gives her punk wig to her son for dress up.

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And Still They Bloom: A Family’s Journey of Loss and Healing by Amy Rovere is a wonderful book about loss and grieving. The story follows two children as the navigate the loss of their mother to cancer. So many issues are addressed in this book. Issues include well meaning but hurtful comments, anger towards the deceased, and fear of forgetting what they looked like. So much of this book deals with the anger that accompanies grief and how unfair it all is. There are no saccharine answers or platitudes, just real honest and frank discussions about the validity of emotions. The text is long and the target audience would be school age and up.

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Mom and the Polka-Dot Boo-Boo by Eileen Sutherland is a simplistic rhyming explanation of breast cancer for young children. It keeps the facts simple and explains what is going to happen like being tired, and loosing her hair but it also says that she will feel great and be able to play chase again when all the treatments are done. The illustrations are all children’s artwork and they help to balance the serious subject.

Hair For Mama

Hair for Mama by Kelly A. Tinkham is beautiful. The story is about a little boy who is desperate to find some hair for his mama who has lost hers to chemotherapy. Marcus wants mama to be in the family photo but she doesn’t want to be the way she looks. His mission comes to a climax when he shaves off all his own hair hoping to give it to his mama. When the barber sweeps it up with the other hair on the floor Marcus is heart broken and goes home in tears. I was sobbing reading this, I knew it was a story about a mom having cancer but the way the author wrote it , it was magical. The complex emotions this little boy felt for his mom and she for him, jumped off the page and you can’t help but cry. I wasn’t sad ,I was touched by the love and desire to fix his mom and make everything better, and his parents tenderness to his feelings. I can’t recommend this book more highly. I should note that this is not a book for toddlers, I would probably wait until a child is 4-5 before reading them this gem. In the end the mom is still fighting cancer.

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Where’s Mom’s Hair? by Debbie Watters is a documentary in a book. The family consists of a mom , dad and two boys and mom has cancer. They throw a bog party for her when her hair starts falling out and everyone gets their hair cropped super short. The book then is less of a party while she is going through chemo but ends on a high note with new hair and seemingly great health. The book is told from the perspective of one of her children and talks about her being sick but never about the fear of loosing her to the disease. I loved the photos in this book because it felt like you were right there with this family.

 

Books About Superheroes

books about superheroes for kids When my son was four he was obsessed with superheroes. If you dig through our archives from May through September 2011 you will see he is almost always in a Batman tee-shirt. This was more than just a little love of a hero it was about strength and security. We were selling our house, moving to a new one , and in his life there were a lot of changes. Kids aren’t impervious to big life changes even if they are resilient. That tee-shirt was his security along with this shield and a sword fashioned from a broken toy. This is why I LOVE books about superheroes, they help our children tap into their inner strength, feel invincible, and eventually face and work through their fears.

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Super Duck (Duck in the Truck) by Jez Albourough was ok, I liked it but my little man didn’t. The book is part of a series and we haven’t read the other books, we grabbed this one because of the superhero theme and Super Duck was only kinda super . I liked the rhyming text because it flowed well, the rhymes were never forced but it was just too young for my son who was 4.5 when we reviewed it.  He didn’t find Duck funny, but I am sure other kids would. It’s a fun silly book, just don’t grab it for a kid who is expecting body armor, x-ray vision, and golden lassos.

Supersister by Beth Cedena wasn’t full of x-ray vision or super powers either but my son adored it. Kids are unpredictable. This story though is sweet and also has a little but of mystery to it , which upon reflection could be one reason why my son liked it so much. Supersister is a little girl who is brave and helpful demonstrated by how she lovingly ties her moms shoes for her before zooming off to school. Okay so I preach about pre-reading books, but rarely do it and reading this I was so worried the mom was going to be in  hospital bed and that’s why she needs her daughter to tie her shoes. I lean towards the dramatic so I doubt you’d even be thinking that and my son didn’t either. No nothing tragic has happened to mom , she is just very very pregnant. Supersister is practicing her role as a caregiver and older sister! My son loved that since he takes his still fairly new role of big brother very seriously. Cute book for new siblings especially!

awesome man

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon is a fun book with a little secret twist to keep readers engaged. I won’t ruin the twist but I will say that if you read this book you MUST read it with a silly announcer voice, it makes it so much more fun. In the book Awesome Man and Moskowitz the Awesome Dog fight off over the top villains and save the day more than once in this witty and surprisingly lengthy book. My children liked the book and it’s funny tone. It is not a scary superhero book at all and I love the vocabulary used throughout. The retro feel to the illustrations by Jake Parker were my favorite part !

Batman

Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight by Ralph Cosentino is rare a book about a comic book character that is in a picture book format. I am telling you it’s hard to find books about Batman that I feel is not too violent for my 4 year old. This one is great , and the illustrations will leave you breathless. It explains the gist of the Batman story without going into too many dark  details and the text is the right length for preschooler’s attention spans. My son loves it and had it memorized in just a few days. The author illustrator also has  Superman and Wonder Woman in the series.

Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero by Alex Cottringer was exactly the kind of superhero book both my son and I were looking for. Eliot is just a calm quiet boy by day but by night he saves the world! It tapped into my son’s imagination right from the start and he was hooked. He loved the action and I loved that unlike the more character driven superhero books the plot is high on action and saving and low on violence and aggression. My son loved that scientists were working with Eliot, and that he had to travel to the Himalayas as part of this mission to save the world. I loved it to because it totally promotes and makes science and geography extra cool! All in all a great book although the text would have been too long for my son a year ago at 3. I’d keep this one for the 4 and up crowd.

ladybug girl

 

Ladybug Girl Dresses Up! by Jacky Davis is one positive girl book that my daughter adores. In this board book Lulu dresses up in a handful of different costumes including both “girl” ones and “boy” ones. She is equally happy in a princess dress as she is as a pirate. The one costume she loves above all the rest is her Ladybug Girl one, because as Ladybug Girl she can do anything. The message I want to send to my daughter more than any other, she can do anything even if she may have to work as hard as a superhero.

superpowers

The Day I Lost My Superpowers by Michael Escoffier is a sweet look at a child’s imagination and how she sees the world and her place in it. I love the how the super powers include things like “going back in time” at nap time and flying… off the slide. The best part though is when all the super powers disappear. All kids have rough days and this book recognizes that and tells them it’s OK not to have super powers every day.

awesome dawson

Awesome Dawson by Chris Gall was an instant hit with both my children. Dawson is an amazing little boy who invents new things from other people’s trash. Dawson is just like other children who try to find ways to get out of their chores so he can get back to the important work of play. He’s one step ahead of most kids though and invents a robot to take care of this chores, but things don’t go as awesome as he hoped. That’s when he must re-invent himself into a superhero to save the day. I really love this book and how inspiring it is for kids exploring the idea of invention and tinkering.

traction man

Traction Man Is Here! by Mini Grey tickled me. I loved this slightly absurd book about Traction Man an action figure superhero. The excitement begins with Christmas when Traction Man is given to a little boy and they immediately dive into action. He saves the day over and over until the day includes a hand knit outfit made by Granny. The page where Traction Man puts on the outfit and matching bonnet made me snort I laughed so hard, but my daughter only smiled. While she liked the book much of the humor was above her head at 4. The very end is hilarious and everyone at the lunch table was giggling as I read it. The story is fresh and fun and in the end Traction Man saves the day.

My First Batman Book

My First Batman Book: Touch and Feel by David Katz. This is a  rare find. A board book , a touch and feel no less,  about Batman. Trust me it’s rare, I squealed when I found it at the library and could not believe what a treat it was to read with both my kids. It’s not secret my son ( the one in the improvised Batman mask above) is into superheroes, he is also into books and I want to encourage that. However some of the books are so violent and I don’t want to expose him to all that at 4.5 , he is just too young for my comfort zone. For beginning readers there are some great I Can Read books but for even younger children pickings are super slim. Luckily there is this book. It’s sturdy, it’s age appropriate and it even glows in the dark

super princess kitty

Princess Super Kitty by Antoinette Portis is fun little book about a little girl playing pretend. She starts out as a kitty and as the play continues she evolves into superhero and finally adds princess to her title before playing with her siblings.  This book captures pretend play and how so much of it is about trying on powerful roles. For my daughter this was a very familiar tale because her pretend play often includes a princess ballerina superhero. We read the book three times in one sitting and have yet to return it to the library because “It’s just so fun Mama!”

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Batman Classic: Meet the Super Heroes: With Superman and Wonder Woman by Micheal Teitelbaum is another Batman book that both my son and I really liked. It’s an easy read for independent readers and not too long for kids not yet reading alone. What I really appreciated about this book was that the super heroes used teamwork to defeat a dragon. Here is why I liked this, because it wasn’t person on person violence , no guns, and all the heroes pitched in.  It’s hard finding books that satisfy your child’s love of a character while still fitting your comfort zones. This book does it.

Books About Adversity

books about facing adversity for childrenAdversity is something my kids haven’t had to face much of in their lives. They have struggled but not in any great way. While I do know that there will be a time when they will really struggle ( gosh just thinking about that brings tears to my eyes) . I want them to know they are strong that their strength is greater than they know. One way I can show them that while also teaching them empathy is to share books about other children who have faced adversity. All of these books are tough to read, many include extreme adversity , many have left us weeping and that’s not a bad thing. I want my children to put themselves in other people’s shoes and not only feel gratitude for the life they lead but more importantly see that the human spirit is stronger than any challenge.

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Picture Book Of Harriet Tubman

A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman (Picture Book Biography)by David A. Adler. Often when I am reviewing a book with my kids I will jot down notes. This book had only one note. ” Amazing!!!” I have always known the bare facts about Harriet Tubman and her involvement in The Underground Railroad but I loved being able to learn more at the same time as my son. Our eyes both got wide as we read her incredible story of strength and leadership. My son loved this book as well and I appreciate how the author gives details without getting lost in them.  My son told me “She was crazy brave !” and I agree. This is a wonderful book about a real American hero.

A mama for owen

A Mama for Owen by Marion Dane Bauer makes me cry every time I read it, and not just because I am pregnant ( this review is from 2010 I am not expecting)  It’s a true story about a baby Hippo who lost his mama in the Tsunami that so many other babies both creature  and human did . The story is one about friendship , about adoption and about love. See Owen the little Hippo finds Mzee a big old giant tortoise and even though they are different species, and Mzee is a boy, Owen treats him like his mama.

Edited in 2013 – Even though I had read it with my son many times as a toddler when we read it together when he was five and fully aware of the finality of losing a parent it devastated him and I was left feeling terrible. He was very upset by this and I wanted to mention how differently kids can accept books years later because of their greater understanding of the world.

How many days to america

How Many Days to America?: A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting made my heart beat fast and stomach tie in knots. I was so worried for the young family that was fleeing their homeland in a small fishing boat. The book doesn’t tell you exactly where the family is from although it seems like they are from somewhere in the Caribbean. What it does do is provide readers with a sense of the urgency, sadness, and the trials along the way when you are a refugee.

rudi's pond

Rudi’s Pond by Eve Bunting is about two friends, one who is sick and dies and the other who is left to grieve. What I liked about this book was that a child dies. OK I hated that too and had to take more than a few moments to compose myself while reading this to my son but it’s a useful book for those who need it. Kids get sick, kids die and this is a good book about ways to remember friends when they do. I think the way that the little girl dealt with her sadness was honest and wonderfully portrayed.

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Edwardo the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World by John Burningham is a must read for anyone who is in a position of authority among children, it is a poignant look at what happens when you scold and belittle a child and then what the outcome is when you praise.  I have always had a extra special place in my heart for students who act out . It’s rarely not for a reason and this book will help remind anyone how children need understanding more than harsh words and punishment especially when they are being horrible.

immigration3

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is such a lovely book. The main character is Unhei a little girl who has just immigrated from Korea. She is trying to decide on an easy to pronounce American name and her new class helps by offering up suggestions and places them in a name jar. As she gets used to her new surroundings and develops friendships she realizes she doesn’t need an American name after all.  I really loved this book because there are so many great lessons about being yourself, about being supportive of friends and about being brave in new situations.

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Her Mother’s Face by Roddy Doyle is not really a book for very young children, but I loved it. I would read it with a child who is 6 or older , the text is long, the humor is subtle but the message is fantastic.  Set in Ireland , a little girl is silently suffering from her mom’s passing. She doesn’t tell anyone she is sad, she doesn’t tell anyone she can’t remember her mother’s face or that she can’t talk to her dad about her loss. A chance meeting with a young woman in a park changes things for her in the simplest of ways. As the years pass her pain lessens and eventually she is able to talk to her dad who clearly misses her mother desperately too.  I like that this book wasn’t about the moment her mom passed away, but rather years later, about how she was trying to hold on to the memories and deal with her grief.

my brother martin

My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Christine King Farris. Teaching preschoolers about history is tricky, but you can do it, you just have to break it down and give them bits they can relate to. This book does a fantastic job, while reading it I always have to hold in tears, it is just such a unique look at the childhood of a man who’s dreams changed the world. What I love about this book is that the majority of it is about his childhood and children can relate so much more easily to him as a child growing up then simply as this great man on the podium. Kids always love learning that he played pranks on people just like they like to do. The author explains prejudice and segregation in a straightforward and simple way so that children can understand and reflect on how it feels to be treated like that. The book doesn’t ignore the great accomplishments and wonderful man the little boy became but does a wonderful job making Dr. King into a hero your child can feel something in common with , and in return become more interested about.

Rosa

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni is not so much a biography, but it is most definitely a historical account of one woman who changed a nation.  We all know the story of Rosa Parks but no matter how well you know the facts, reading a children’s book about it makes me cry. The author has done a fantastic job setting the stage, explaining how Rosa Parks was not your typical heroine, she was just a seamstress, just like everyone else.  This is imperative to the message that a single person can stand up for what is right and  make big changes. I also appreciated that the author included so much about the women who spearheaded the bus boycott. I am 36  and I feel inspired reading this as a woman, to think of the power it can have over the younger generation excites me. This would be a wonderful introduction to learning about the civil rights movement for kids 5-10.

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Most Loved in All the World by Tonya Cherie Hegamin moved me so much when I read it that I am in tears just reviewing it. It’s heartbreaking in it’s bravery. The story is about a mother who is part of the underground railroad and prepares her daughter for a journey to freedom, without her. When my son and I read this together after reading about the underground railroad he fully grasped the implications that the mother sacrificed her safety for her daughter’s freedom. There weren’t too many dry eyes that bedtime. Even though this is a picture book I think it’s really for the 5-8 year old crowd who can get the deeper meanings and historical significance.

That Summer

That Summer by Tony Johnson. I read this at the library alone knowing that my 3 year old wasn’t ready for a book about death quite yet. I didn’t even try to conceal my tears, I wasn’t crying I was sobbing.  The book is about the summer that one little boy watches his brother Joey get sick and die from Cancer.  The author does a masterful job at relating grief, and the sadness of watching someone you love and don’t expect to die, get weak and leave you.  As Joey’s condition worsens he learns to quilt and ultimately it’s his brother who finishes his quilt. I can’t rave about this book enough it simply makes the reader get it, as much as you can without ever living this particular nightmare. The line that haunted me was ” I learned a lot that summer, how to grin when your heart is in shreds..” that was the line that forced me into the “ugly cry”.

princess-boy

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis has been talked about so much I think I had inflated expectations. Don’t get me wrong I think the message is so important and the book does a good job at introducing readers to her son who is different , to how he gets hurt when people laugh at him and how great his family is at accepting him. I like how simply blunt  the book is and it should be because the lesson should be about acceptance and allowing people, especially children to express their true self. I think I was expecting more of a story even though I knew it was non fiction. It opened a great dialog with my 5 year old son about how he would treat a male friend if they wanted to dress in a dress- good discussion at our house , worth the read for sure!

wilma unlimited

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathryn Krull  Do you know who Wilma Rudolph was? She was the African-American Olympian who became the first American woman ever to win three gold medals at one Olympic Games. But her story is even more amazing that that. She also suffered from Polio as a child and was told she’d never run. Her determination stands out and inspires. I have mentioned many times how my grandmother was an Olympic medalist so this story hits a personal chord for me. I am awed and amazed by how far women have come from their first Olympic games in 1928.

story of anne frank

The Story of Anne Frank by Brenda Ralph Lewis impressed me. I struggle with how to tell such a horrifying story to young children. I should explain that this book is not geared for preschoolers, it’s a school age book , but still it’s a daunting task.  This book helps break down the facts while including details about this young girl’s personal and family life.   This balance of historical facts and Anne’s family life is the key to why this book works. There is so much horror to digest that the little details like how Anne was a bit of a trouble maker, and talked too much in class helps to tune the reader back into the very personal story.  I think this is a fantastic precursor to reading Anne Frank: The Diary Of A Young Girl , it will give all the needed background for your older child to fully comprehend and appreciate the diary itself.

Swimmy

Swimmy by Leo Lionni has been a favorite of mine for many years. I love Lionni and how he can weave multiple layers of meaning into a simple story for children. Swimmy is a story about a little fish who lost his family to a giant tuna fish and  After grieving he is reminded of all the beautiful things in the ocean and goes on. When he came across a school of fish just like his former one hiding afraid of the big fish he knew he couldn’t let them miss out on all the wonders of the ocean and he rallied them to work as a team. This is a great book for teaching children about the power of bravery and working as a group to combat challenges

mollyd

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell is a fabulous book about a little girl who is bullied mercilessly. Molly Lou Melon is all the things that her bully picks on her about . She does sound funny, she is very short and she does have buck teeth but she is also confident and strong and celebrates them in the face of being bullied. I particularly love that her confidence comes from her grandmother who tells her to stand tall and be proud of who she is. This is exactly the message I want to yell from the rooftops to kids. Celebrate who you are!  Children love the super fun illustrations by David Catrow which always remind me of Seuss so much so that I have referred to Molly Lou as Cindy Lou Who more than once over the years. If you have never read this book you really must!

marvelous mattie

Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventorby Emily Arnold McCully is a book that all little girls should read. I think I may buy 20 copies and give them to every girl that invites either one of my kids to their birthday parties.  The reason I think this book is so wonderful isn’t because it’s about some woman that is on a coin ( no disrespect Susan…) but because I had never heard of Mattie but I should have, we all should have. Many of her inventions are still in use today… like the paper bag that stays upright. She made history many of us just didn’t know it. Her story of invention, entrepreneurship and strength of character are stunning. She stands up for herself , learns from her mistakes, and follows her passion even though it’s not the easy or even the “only kinda hard” road. All the way she faces challenges and just keeps going. This is far more inspiring than any girl power book that I have read before, and it’s true.

baseballbooks2

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki is such an important book for children to read. This book is all about how baseball helped keep children and families busy at Minidoka the internment camp in Idaho during world War Two. A lot of adults don’t know much if anything about this part of American history and this book is a good place to start teaching your child about it. From a child’s perspective readers see the injustice and grief during and after confinement. Although my son knows a good bit about Japanese internment during WWII this book personalized it for him and baseball gave him something to connect him to the boys in the story.

the blessing cup

The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco made me cry. This book is the story of the author’s great grandmother and her family fleeing Russia as a child during the progroms. There are scary bits when the Czar’s soldiers are attacking the synagog but they are imperative to read. If you decide to read this story with your children you can’t leave them out. The brutality isn’t graphic but it’s important for children to understand why the family had to leave Russia. The goodness they encounter on their way to America will take your breath away and the tea cup that comes to represent this will make you look at your mom’s fine china in a different light. This book is long but appropriately so, I would share it with children in kindergarten or older who can have thoughtful conversations about such a thoughtful book.

let them play

Let Them Play (True Story) by Margot Theis Raven and Chris Ellison is an amazing book, it tells the true story of the 1955 State Champion Little League team from South Carolina. The story is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once as the authors tell the readers about the realities and injustice that this team of little boys faced. They were the first all black all star team who were disqualified from playing in the little league world series because they hadn’t played a single game to become state champs, because all the other teams forfeited. I dare you not to cry, I was a sobbing mess by the end. The book itself is too complex for really little guys, my son had no interest in the text, though he loved the pictures. All kids old enough though should take a look, and be prepared to answer some tough questions about why people were so mean. Wonderful wonderful, important book!

My name is yoon

My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits is a book about a little girl from Korea who is adjusting to her new life in America. When her father shows her how to spell her name in English she doesn’t like how it looks. It’s different, just like she is in her new country. At school she doesn’t write her name even though she is able, instead she experiments with other words wondering how her teacher will react when she does. Her teacher is patient and Yoon eventually decides that while her name may look different it is still her name and still has the same meaning. The illustrations have an amazing dreamlike perspective to them and balance out the big emotions in the text.

i will come back for you

I Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding During World War II
by Marisabina Russo, is based on a true story of a Italian Jewish family who have to hide from the Nazi’s during World War II. The book looks like an everyday picture book but the content is mature. The family hides while their father is detained.The focus is on the bravery and kindness of the helpers but it doesn’t shy away from the realities of war. Only three members of the author’s family make it to America and there are even real photographs of the author’s family which personalizes this story for readers.

the gardner

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart Is a really touching book that I would happily recommend for school age children. It’s a beautiful story about a little girl during the depression who is shipped to the city to work in her uncle’s bakery because both her parents are out of work.  She is obviously nervous but knows that it’s something she has to do.  She takes a little of the country with her in seed packets which she plants in the city while she learns about baking and becomes friends with her uncle’s employees. This is more a story about making the most of hard times, and would be a great way to talk about the Great Depression with your child. There are so many little things in the illustrations by David Small to talk about , from a picture of FDR to traveling by train and  the general sense of sadness . It doesn’t leave you depressed though, its message is ultimately one of hope.

Amos & Boris

Amos & Boris by William Steig is a touching story about the power of an unlikely friendship and helping others. Amos is a mouse who is rescued by Boris a whale when he goes overboard in the middle of the ocean. After the rescue they develop a tender friendship despite their obvious differences and go on their separate ways with full hearts. Many years later though it is Amos’ turn to rescue Boris and we are all reminded that size does not equal ability to help a friend. This book is the odd one out on this list. My son actually started crying when I read it to him a few months ago ( not the first time we read it) and then after he explained that he was worried they’d never see each other ever again it clicked he was finally old enough to get that, and I wept.

Angel Child dragon child

Angel Child, Dragon Child by Michele Maria Surat is a heart wrenching and honest look at the struggles of a young girl from Vietnam as she goes to school in America. The story talks about her mother being far away and as a reader you think that maybe it’s because she is back visiting family in Vietnam. After being put in detention for fighting with a bully it comes out that they didn’t have enough money for all the children and mom to join their father. The bully turned friend helps raise money to bring her mom to America so the family can be reunited. It’s a great lesson for children about being empathetic and realizing that others may be facing struggles much greater than they let on.

oliver's game

Oliver’s Game (Tavares baseball books)by Matt Tavares is a great book. I will say that while this is a picture book it’s not really for preschoolers, a few might get the messages of disappointment, sadness ,and sacrifice. The story is about a grandfather who shares his big league experience with his grandson. What’s so sad about that? Well in the story the grandfather’s dreams were cut short by World War Two. My 7 year old and I had fantastic discussions after reading this book together and it was easy for him to relate this story to other stories of sacrifice and making the most of what you are given. Love this book!

Hair For Mama

Hair for Mama by Kelly A. Tinkham is beautiful. The story is about a little boy who is desperate to find some hair for his mama who has lost hers to chemotherapy. Marcus wants mama to be in the family photo but she doesn’t want to be the way she looks. His mission comes to a climax when he shaves off all his own hair hoping to give it to his mama. When the barber sweeps it up with the other hair on the floor Marcus is heart broken and goes home in tears. I was sobbing reading this, I knew it was a story about a mom having cancer but the way the author wrote it , it was magical. The complex emotions this little boy felt for his mom and she for him, jumped off the page and you can’t help but cry. I wasn’t sad ,I was touched by the love and desire to fix his mom and make everything better, and his parents tenderness to his feelings. I can’t recommend this book more highly. I should note that this is not a book for toddlers, I would probably wait until a child is 4-5 before reading them this gem.

LGBT Picture Books – Books About Families with Lesbian, Gay, and Transgendered Family Members.

LGBT picture books Last year when I posted a similar LGBT picture books round up some of my readers made it very clear that they were not happy about my post. So before I even start let me say these books aren’t going to be for all of you. But this post and book list isn’t about you. It’s not about your politics or mine. This list is a resource for families. It’s a resource for the mom who is trying to explain to her child why their uncle is now an aunt, for the teacher who has a child with two dads and wants some good titles to add to her classroom library to reflect all her students, it is for that child who thinks something is wrong with them because none of their books show families like theirs. This list is for them.

I know some of you will disagree but I have to do what feels right to me and to my heart even if there are consequences. If this list turns 100 of you away I’ll be sad but OK with it if it helps one child, and I know it will.

uncle bobby's wedding

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen is a sweet book about a little guinea pig Chloe and her issues with her uncle getting married. Now you might think that the issues are around the fact that he’s marrying another male guinea pig but that’s not it at all. The issues are about how close Chloe is to Uncle Bobby and how she doesn’t want that to change. This is a great book that normalizes same sex weddings and focuses instead on the things that matter most to the children- how they are going to be affected.

10000 dresses

10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert is a story about a little boy who doesn’t feel like a little boy and dreams of the most amazing dresses every night. He tries to tell his family about his dreams but they brush them off reminding Bailey he is a boy and boys shouldn’t dream of dresses. His family is NOT accepting at all and you must know that. For me I saw this as an opportunity to talk about adversity. What I love about this book is that while the narrator refers to Bailey as a she all of Bailey’s family refers to Bailey as a boy. Only Laurel an older girl who accepts Bailey as she views herself calls her a girl. While my 3 year old is too young to get the various levels of this book she understands that it’s OK for people to dress how they want and my 7 year old is old enough to understand that gender is not always black and white. The book itself is amazingly creative and a great book about acceptance even if you don’t dive head first into a discussion about transgender issues with your kids they will still like it.

 

Molly's Family

Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden had both my kids captivated when I read it to them at lunch yesterday. The story is about Molly who is in kindergarten and after she draws a picture at school of her two moms she is faced with a classmate telling her she can’t have two moms. There are many things I love about this book but most of all it is the adult reactions to this child saying it’s not possible that drew me in. Molly’s classmate that was sure two moms was simply impossible wasn’t told that he was wrong instead the teacher discussed how different every family was and how Molly’s was just as much a family has his or any other. I loved even more how Molly became shy about displaying her drawing because it gave me a chance to talk to my 6 year old about the power of words and not listening to others and how dismissing people can hurt . I also loved how the next day the little boy who was so sure that two moms wasn’t possible was totally cool with it. He just didn’t know it was a possibility and I think that is a good reminder for why books like this matter.

king and king

King and King by Linda de Haan is a fairytale and a funny one at that. The queen is old and cranky and wants her son to take over the kingdom but he must be married to do so. He tells her he’s not really into princesses but Mama doesn’t take the hint. After finding fault with every princess presented to him he falls in love at first sight with a prince and they live happily ever after. I like the whimsical illustrations and my kids thought the prince was funny. My son thought the book had a twist at the end with the princes falling in love, but just like the queen in the story there was no debate over why. I like that this book uses the familiar fairytale structure to make an important statement about the existence of same sex marriage and can be a great ice breaker to talk about it with your kids.

jacob's new dress

Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah Hoffman is about Jacob who likes to wear dresses.  Unlike Bailey in 10, 000 dresses Jacob is accepted by the majority of his peers and family. His parents encourage him to be himself cautiously and I liked that throughout the story his parents softened their stance as Jacob became more confident about how he felt and how he’d handle teasing. Jacob was teased but he was also accepted which makes this book a great discussion starter with any child whether they have a child in their school who may dress in gender non conforming ways, or a family member who is transgendered. Not all boys who wear dresses are going to identify as transgendered or gay and this book doesn’t say they will, instead it says to be yourself whoever that may be.

princess-boy

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis has been talked about so much I think I had inflated expectations. Don’t get me wrong I think the message is so important and the book does a good job at introducing readers to her son who is different , to how he gets hurt when people laugh at him and how great his family is at accepting him. I like how simply blunt  the book is and it should be because the lesson should be about acceptance and allowing people, especially children to express their true self. I think I was expecting more of a story even though I knew it was non fiction. It opened a great dialog with my 5 year old son about how he would treat a male friend if they wanted to dress in a dress- good discussion at our house , worth the read for sure!

Everywhere Babies

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers and Marla Frazee .This book celebrates all sorts of babies and all the every day things babies do. My daughter points out all the babies on each page as I read the rhyming text . So maybe you are thinking ” What’s so great about babies and text that rhymes?” nothing, that isn’t what makes this book so awesome. I love this book because of it’s diversity, inclusion, and acceptance of all babies and families. The illustrations are full of depictions of all sorts of families showering their smallest most precious member with love . What I adore about the diversity of the illustrations is that readers are left to put whatever assumption we wish on the families in the book. What I assumed were two mommies my husband thought was a husband and wife, I thought a lady was a grandma and my son said it was just a older mom. This is why I love this book, my daughter doesn’t see why this message is outstanding, what she does see is all sorts of happy babies in all sorts of families being the norm and this is the world we want her to know.

donovan's big day

Donovan’s Big Day by Leslea Newman is a book about Donovan’s day leading up to being the ring bearer at his moms’ wedding. The book does a fantastic job at showing that children in same sex families are just like children in any family. This day is a big day for Donovan but before he hands them the rings and kisses the brides he has a bunch of other things to do. I adore the illustrations by Mike Dutton and how he brings this little boy to life. Like so many of these books this book is not about politics it’s about a family celebrating a special day.

Heather Has Two Mommies

Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman was widely banned when it was first released. It is probably the best known picture book about a family with same sex parents . When you read it the first thing you will probably think is that it doesn’t live up to the banning. I always imagine banned books to be truly out there and this book is about a family with a doctor , a carpenter and their daughter. Heather is starting a new school and she is nervous and exploring all the possibilities of what a family looks like just as her classmates are. She recognizes that her family is different but not less than. The illustrations are black and white and a little dated but the story is on the right track.

Mommy, Mama and Me

Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman is a book about everyday life of a family with two moms. What I love about this book is that it showcases parts of the day that young toddlers through preschoolers can relate to easily. They have bath time, they go to the park, they cook dinner, in other words they are a family like any with a small child. My son loved this book and related easily to the baby in the book and to the experiences that they share.The book makes no political statement, no explanation of two mommies and it shouldn’t, it’s a book targeted to toddlers about one loving family and nothing more. There is also a version with two dads called Daddy, Papa, and Me .

father's day tale of two daddies

 

A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager is a book about a little girl with two daddies. She is playing with a friend who is asking her how it works to have two daddies. He asks her the type of questions any young child might and she answers them as they play together. I like this book  because it addresses the sorts of questions young kids have about same sex families and most of all it explains how similar all families really are no matter who is a part of it. I love that the illustrations are done from the perspective of the young children only showing the adults from about knee level and down. Cute, bright book and my daughter loves it.

2 mommies

A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager got my kids out of their seats at the table and glued next to me because they wanted to be that close to the illustrations by Mike Blanc . They were so vibrant and the perspective was so great that both my kids ( 6 and 3 ) were immediately smitten. The story is great too, it’s really a collection of questions from two friends asking a third about how his family with two mommies work. Sometimes adults go straight for the deep big issues when really kids just want to know which mom is the one to coach little league and which one bakes cakes. The overall feeling readers are left with is that this little boy’s life isn’t all that different at all.

The Family Book

The Family Book by Todd Parr is a book that doesn’t give readers a narrow definition of family , it doesn’t say that your family has to look a certain way, or be the same as your neighbors. As a teacher I really appreciated the matter of fact way it embraced diversity. It makes mention of some families having two moms or two dads in the same vein as all the other similarities and differences. Kids see that families are not all like theirs and it’s important to validate the truth while recognizing that while families may not all look alike, all families are made with love. Great book , cute illustrations ,and children love it.

tango

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson is a much debated book. It’s the true story of two male penguins in central park zoo who didn’t have any interest in the girl penguins but definitely liked each other. When the zoo keepers noticed that they were in every way a matched pair they also noticed that they prepared for a baby just like the other penguins. Time after time they were sad until they were given an egg to care for. Just like all families love and care is what matters when creating a family and baby Tango and his two daddies have thrived . My son loved this book and asked me to please go see the penguins when I was in NYC. I didn’t have time to but I wish I had. Their story simplifies a very debated topic and I think it’s a great book not only to explain how all families are different but also how love and care are really what makes a family even for penguins.

Daddy’s_Roommate_cover

Daddy’s Roommate by Micheal Willhoite is a little different from the other books in this list in that the child in the book has a mommy, a daddy ,and daddy also has a roommate. The book was written in 1990 and even though we don’t often hear “roommate” as a euphemism for partner or boyfriend anymore but in 1990 is was probably more common. That aside the book does a good job of explaining what this little boys life is like. Bug catching, reading, scary dreams… it’s pretty average stuff but he has three adults to care for him. I also like that the boy’s parents are divorced which will be something many readers will connect with. The books explanation of what gay means is really simple and perfect for the books audience. I do think that the pictures are dated but I don’t think kids will pick up on that as much as adults will.

 

Are we missing a book you think should be added to the list? Leave a comment and let us know so we can check it out!