I am often asked which books I consider my favorites. I have often talked about The Very Hungry Caterpillar being my all-time favorite so I am leaving it out today but here are books that when I read they took my breath away( and some made me cry), they all have really important messages for our children and us as we read them together.
One Green Apple by Even Bunting is a treat. The book is not about apples really at all, instead, it’s about Farrah a little Muslim girl who has come to the United States from an unnamed country, and her first day at school. The day is spent on a field trip to an orchard, where the children pick apples and make apple cider. I immediately related to this as my first day of work at a school in my new country was trying, although I could speak the language unlike Farrah it was still daunting to be new in unfamiliar territory. The melting pot analogy is turned into an apple cider one as all the children throw their apples in and work together to press it into cider, even Farrah helps. They all drink the collectively made cider. My son was too young for this book but I think it would be realistic for a PreK – 2nd grade.
Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman is one of those books that you read and think oh I love it, but will kids? I am here to tell you yes! They love this old Yiddish folk tale about a little boy, his very special blanket, and his grandfather who made it for him. Over the years Joseph’s blanket transforms into a jacket, a vest, a tie, and handkerchief, and finally a button. The story is beautiful and kids love not only the repetitive text when the grandfather is sewing but also the continuing storyline of the mice that live under the floorboards who use the scraps of material for all sorts of things. There are no goofy gimmicks, no lights or sounds just a great story and beautiful illustrations in this gem! A fantastic book about family and growing up.
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”.
A Pocket Full of Kisses by Audrey Penn is another book in her Kissing Hand series. Chester is not so happy about having a little brother and suggests that he gives him back! I love that jealousy doesn’t stem over toys or material things but rather over Mama giving his little brother a kissing hand too. My mom has always called me sunshine and I will grudgingly admit that I do not like it when someone else earns this name, it’s an instinctual reaction and I am in my 30s! When Chester Raccoon bursts into tears kids and adults alike can relate to it. Mam Raccoon handles it beautifully and Chester understands that no matter how much love a mama has for one child it doesn’t take anyway from others. This book was a great vehicle for discussion about our recent arrival and I urge other parents dealing with a new sibling or jealousy to check it out.
Let Them Play 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. A wonderful wonderful, important book!
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst was another childhood favorite that I have enjoyed sharing with my own son. This book is beautiful, even though it may take a few reads to see it’s not a story about a whining little boy so much a lesson that sometimes things do not go our way. Days can suck. It’s just the way it is. As a child, I related to Alexander’s feelings of frustration and things being unfair. How often so you hear a child say “No Fair!” probably a lot. This book taps into that feeling, being little is hard but just because you are mad, or your day was bad doesn’t mean you get your way. A great book to talk about anger and frustration with your child, and it’s funny too! The magic of this book is that the end isn’t happy, Alexander goes to bed still mad, and that’s okay, sometimes days are bad.
Don’t forget about our Summer Reading Challenge!