Feminist, Social Justice-Themed Board Books for Children

I Want to Be…, Nibi is Water and I am Violet, are part of Second Story Press’s first season releasing feminist, social justice-themed board books for babies and toddlers, ages 0-3 years. The three books explore some  amazing and unusual jobs people do; talk about how we use our precious water; and celebrate the color of our skin. Such a wonderful and diverse series of books for little ones! There is simplicity in all three books and they are beautifully illustrated in bright colors that will please toddlers.

I Want to Be…A Gutsy Girls’ ABC

Farida Zarman, Author and Illustrator

Apr. 14, 2020

Synopsis: Filled with diversity and empowerment, little girls will see that they can be anything they want. There are an alphabet of possibilities for when you grow up. Some jobs sound fun — ice sculptor, toymaker, dog handler, kite designer, party planner, and wind farmer. And some jobs sound exciting and important — jockey, aerialist, novelist, sportscaster, oceanographer, and mountain climber. Each fun letter is complimented by an illustration of a girl filled with delight and wonder as she shows us how we can be anything we want to be.

Nibi is Water (Nibi Aawon Nbiish)

Joanne Robertson, Author and Illustrator

Apr. 14, 2020

Synopsis: A first conversation about the importance of nibi (water) told from an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) perspective. Toddlers will learn about the many forms of water in rain, snow and ice. They use water to drink, bathe, brush their teeth and flush the toilet. They build snowmen in the winter, swim in the pool or canoe on a lake. Nature depends upon water to grow plants, food, and trees. Animals need water to drink and fish swim in water. Our role is to thank, respect, love and protect nibi in our daily activities.

I Am Violet

Tania Duprey Stehlik, Author

Vanja Vuleta Jovanovic, Illustrator

Synopsis: This book celebrates and explores how people come in a rainbow of beautiful colors. A little girl looks around her and sees that some people are blue, some are green, some are red. People in the world come in a rainbow of colours and Violet herself is a wonderful mixture of her mom and dad. Her mom is red, her dad is blue, and, as the little girl declares: “I am proud to be both. I am proud to be me! I am Violet!” Her message of pride and acceptance has been simplified for the youngest among us so it can be shared even earlier.

Resources: All three books are great first discussion books. Parents can help toddlers  identify letters associated with amazing gender-neutral jobs; they can talk with them about protecting water and learn dual language words (glossary at the end); and they can help their little ones explore their own skin color and the skin color of others.  Encourage children to draw pictures of fun jobs, how they use water, and self/family portraits showing their skin colors in bright colors. Children have big imaginations.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copies provided by the publisher.

I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde

I Am Love: A Book of Compassion

Susan Verde, Author

Peter H. Reynolds, Illustrator

Abrams Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Sep. 17, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Love, Compassion, Empathy, Gratitude, Kindness, Mindfulness

Opening: I put my hands on my heart and listen. And that is where I find the answer: I have compassion. I act with tenderness. I am love.

Book Synopsis:

Love means showing kindness, living with gratitude, and taking care of our minds and bodies. Letting our hearts lead the way can help move us closer to a better world.

Grounded in mindfulness and wellness, I Am Love asks readers to look inward when they feel afraid, angry, hurt, or sad. When a storm is brewing inside us and the skies grow dark, the transformative power of love lets the light back in.

Why I like this book:

Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds uplifting book will leave a smile in your heart. It celebrates love in all its forms and encourages readers to develop empathy and compassion towards others. Love is ever present when you help an older neighbor, listen with understanding, give a hug, face a fear and take care of yourself. The message is sincere and heartwarming.

Reynolds’ colorful illustrations have his trademark whimsical appeal and will resonate with children. They are expressive watercolors and contribute to the books celebratory mood. I love the yoga poses that emphasize self-care and wholeness throughout the story.

I Am Love, is the fourth book in the I Am Books, from this bestselling  team that created I Am Yoga, I Am Peace and I Am Human.

Resources: There is an Author’s Note and a page of Heart-Opening Yoga poses that will help children learn to “lead with our hearts by opening and expanding the front of the body.” These activities can be done at home or in school.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill

Around the Table That Grandad Built

Melanie Heuiser Hill, Author

Jaime Kim, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Holidays, Traditions, Multigenerational, Thanksgiving, Diversity

Opening: This is the table that Grandad built. These are the sunflowers picked by my cousins, set on the table that Grandad built.

Book Synopsis:

In a delightful take on the cumulative classic “This Is the House That Jack Built,” a family  gathers with friends and neigbors to share a meal around a very special table.  The table brims with memorable associations: napkins sewn by Mom, glasses from Mom and Dad’s wedding, silverware gifted to Dad by his grandmother long ago. And of course there is a delightful spread of food — the squash and potatoes from the garden, bread baked by Gran, and pies made by family and friends. All give thanks.

Why I like this book:

Melanie Heuiser Hill’s Around the Table That Grandad Built is a joyous celebration of family, friends and community. It is sure to become a favorite family treasure, perfect for Thanksgiving or any holiday feast.

It also is a multigenerational book that quietly emphasizes diversity through food, faces and culture. Grandad’s table is a gesture of openness and inclusivity.  Coming to feast at the table is a time to build upon memories, show gratitude, recognize similarities and give thanks. The children are the new generation honoring the old but making new memories.

The cover showcases Jaime Kim’s bold and colorful Illustrations, as well as the joy and anticipation on the childrens’ faces.  Who wouldn’t want to dine at this table!

Resources: As the holidays approach, include them in the special activities like setting the table, making the table decorations, helping with the food preparation and baking. Talk about inviting a veteran or someone who is alone to join you. Create some new traditions.

Melanie Heuiser Hill is the author of the middle-grade novel Giant Pumpkin Suite. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and children.  About Around the Table That Grandad Built, she says, “I have a fondness for long tables crowded with food food and loved ones — and homemade pie for dessert.” Visit Melanie’s website where she shares stories of her large family and photographs.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
*Review copy provided by publisher.

Say Something! by Peter H. Reynolds

Say Something!

Peter H. Reynolds, Author & Illustrator

Orchard Books/Imprint of Scholastic Inc. , Fiction, Feb. 26, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Using your voice, Making a difference, Diversity

Opening: The world needs your voice. 

Book Synopsis: The world needs your voice. Say something, with your words, with your music, with your poetry, with your courage and with your presence. It doesn’t need to be perfect as long as it’s from your heart. If you see someone lonely or being hurt, say something. If you have a great idea, share it with others.

Why I love this book:

Peter H. Reynolds’ newest gem, Say Something, is an inspiring, powerful and thought-provoking story that encourages children to use their voices to make a difference in their communities and world. Say Something pairs beautifully with Reynolds’ books Happy Dreamer and The Word Collector. Written for young readers, children have the power to make a difference through their thoughts, voices and actions. Reynolds’ text is lyrical and spare. His expressive illustrations feature diverse characters and will help kids see themselves. They will enjoy pouring over the detail and a fun word bubbles. Check out the endpapers.

This is my favorite kind of picture book because it introduces children to activism. Children naturally want to be involved and do things that help others or a greater cause. Say Something encourages children to be kind, creative, imaginative, bold, brave and step outside of their comfort zone to make their world a better place. This is an excellent classroom read-aloud and discussion book.

Resources: After reading the book, explore with children the many ways the characters say something. There is a detailed Teacher’s Guide that is packed with ideas about using all three books in the classroom. It will easily support school curriculums and encourage kids to find and use their voices in many unique ways. Visit

Peter Hamilton Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of many books for children, including The Dot, Ish, Playing from the Heart, Happy Dreamer and The Word Collector. His books have been translated into over twenty-five languages around the globe and are celebrated worldwide. In 1996, he founded FableVision with his brother, Paul, as a social change agency to help create “stories that matter, stories that move.” He lives in Dedham, Massachusetts, with his family. Visit Reynolds at his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Being You by Alexs Pate

Being You

Alexs Pate, Author

Soud, Illustrator

Capstone Editions, Fiction, Oct. 1, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-9

Themes: Individuality, Self-discovery, Interpersonal relationships, Hope, Diversity

Opening: This story is about you and / the way your eyes will shower light / to open a path through the noisy night. 

Synopsis:

When you are a kid, it can be hard to be who you really are. In Being You, two kids learn that they have a choice about how the world sees them. They can accept the labels that others try to put on them, or they let their inner selves shine. Are they powerful, smart, strong, capable, talented? Together these kids find people who see their value and help them face the world on their own terms.

But in this world, there are whispers

that move through the air

like paper planes or falling leaves

They swirl around you

Sometimes they tell you

who you are

But only you and love decide

Why I like this book:

Being You is a celebration about what makes children unique individuals and how they can use their voices to communicate who they are to others. It is a contemplative book that gently nudges kids to find their own inner greatness, with the support from the adults and friends in their lives.

The book is poetic with occasional punctuation and open-ended expressions. The spare text is lyrical and packs a powerful punch. It questions, probes, and encourages readers to look at their own lives. This is a beautiful story that encourages self-discovery and builds self-esteem.

Soud’s illustrations are breathtaking and add to the depth of Pate’s theme of individuality. They are colorful and expressive and shine a light on diversity.

Resources: This is a beautiful discussion book belongs in elementary classrooms. Make sure you read the comments from the author at the end of the book. Ask children if they had a sign on their chest what would it say? And then ask them to list five things. Then encourage each child share.

Alex Pape grew up in Philadelphia. He is the author of several books, including Losing Absalom, named Best First Novel by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and winner of the Minnesota Book Award. He has been a corporate executive, small-business owner, and college professor. In 2012 he launched Innocent Classroom, a program that seeks to end educational disparaities by closing the relationship gap between educators and students of color. You may also want to visit his personal website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Everybody’s Favorite Book by Mike Allegra

 

Everybody’s Favorite Book

Mike Allegra, Author

Claire Almon, Illustrator

Imprint/Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, Fiction, Oct. 30, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-6

Themes: Heroes, Humor, Mystery, Fantasy, Big words, Poop jokes

Opening: “You are very lucky. You are reading Everybody’s Favorite Book. There is not one person anywhere who has a different favorite book. Do you want to know why this is everybody’s favorite book? I’ll explain. ”

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Anyone who says, “You can’t please everybody,” isn’t trying hard enough. At least, that’s what the cheeky narrator of this meta picture book thinks!

A “good” book may have a spaceman or a ninja or a cowboy, but Everybody’s Favorite Book has something better: a Space Ninja Cow. And that’s only the beginning. You like princesses? We got ‘em. Prefer a mystery? No sweat. Want the definition of gallimaufry? A good poop joke? A giant, carnivorous guinea pig? Spy kids? Check, check and check. And there’s more! Much more! This book has everything, for everybody! At least that’s what the cheeky narrator thinks!

Here’s hoping things don’t go awry. (Spoiler, they do.)

Why I like this book:

This clever and humorous picture book will appeal to kids who like to make up their own stories. And, they couldn’t have a better teacher — the outrageous and quirky author, Mike Allegra, who loves to think outside-the-box and make kids laugh. His book would make a great read-aloud in an elementary classroom.

A narrator guides readers through the story. With every page turn the story keeps changing because some readers don’t like violence, others want princesses, some prefer a mystery (missing Space Ninja Cow) and others want big words. As more characters appear, so does the chaos and the book becomes quite crowded. It becomes clear the narrator has lost control of his readers and finally shouts “STOP!”  How will the narrator regain control? Or will he?

Claire Almon’s cartoon-like illustrations are lively, colorful and hilarious. They add life to the story.

Resources: This is rambunctious and silly story will inspire reader’s imaginations. Encourage kids to choose a scene and write their own ending. Or have them draw the scene on paper. Make sure you check out Allegra’s website.

Mike Allegra is the author of the picture book, Sarah Gives Thanks. Under the pseudonym Roy L. Hinuss, Mike not-so secretly pens the Prince Not-So Charming chapter book series. He was the winner of the 2014 Highlights for Children Fiction Contest, a recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council for the Arts, and a nominee for a 2017 Pushcart Prize.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Copy won in a book giveaway.

I Am Human by Susan Verde

I Am Human

Susan Verde, Author

Peter H. Reynolds, Illustrator

Abrams Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Oct. 2, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Making mistakes, Empathy, Compassion, Kindness

Opening: “I was born. A miracle! / One of billions / but unique!”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

I am Human.

But being human means

I am not perfect.

I make mistakes.

Being human means we are full of possibility. We learn, we dream, we are curious, we wonder at the world around us, and we make discoveries. But we also make mistakes, hurt others and can be fearful of trying new things.  Because I am human I can make choices.

I Am Human is a hopeful celebration of the human family. It affirms that we can make good choices by acting with compassion and having empathy for others and ourselves. When we find common ground, we can feel connected to the great world around us and mindfully strive to be our best selves.

Why I like this book:

I Am Human is a timeless treasure penned by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. It is a realistic portrayal of what it means to be human, because we all make thoughtless choices and careless mistakes that hurt others and ourselves. Because we are human we can choose to be thoughtful, treat others with kindness, and lend a helping hand.

This uplifting story will leave a smile on your face. It will touch the hearts of both children and adults. It encourages readers to develop empathy and compassion towards others. We are individuals connected to billions of humans worldwide. This journey is one we make together.

Reynolds’ illustrations have his trademark whimsical appeal and will resonate with a global audience. They are expressive watercolors and contribute to the books celebratory mood.

I Am Human, is the third book in a wellness series from the bestselling team that created I am Yoga and I Am Peace.

Resources: The book includes a Guided Meditation for parents to use with children. Verde says that one of wonderful ways to share love and kindness with all humans is to practice a loving-kindness mediation. They are tools that will benefit children for a lifetime. And they are easy to use.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Copy is a Library book.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

International Day of Peace, Sep. 21, 2018

All Are Welcome

Alexandra Penfold, Author

Suzanne Kaufman, Illustrator

Knopf Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Jul. 10, 2018

Pages: 44

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Diversity, Inclusiveness, Classroom, School, Friendship

Opening: Pencils sharpened in their case. / Bells are ringing, let’s make haste. / School’s beginning, dreams to chase. / All are welcome here.

Publisher Synopsis:

Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps or sitting in wheel chairs. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions, share lunches, play hard at recess, share science projects, play musical instruments, and gather as a whole community to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.

Why I like this book:

All Are Welcome celebrates inclusiveness and diversity, sending the message to children and parents that everyone is welcome in their school, in their class, and in their community.  Suzanne Kaufman’s joyful and lively illustrations remind kids that the world is a rainbow of color when cultures merge from every part of the world. There is a beautiful surprise in the book.

The text sings with Alexander Penfold’s simple rhymes and repetitive chant “All are welcome here,” which  will resonate with young children as they will pour over pictures of kids like themselves. Some with dark skin, light skin, red hair, and curly hair. Others wear baseball caps, hijabs, glasses, hearing aids, and sit in wheelchairs.  It is a place where diversity and compassion advance the culture of peace.

As a new school year begins, All Are Welcome is a must-have book for pre-schools and elementary schools everywhere. It demonstrates on how much fun children have together in the classroom, on the playground and in the lunch room. “Time for lunch – what a spread! /A dozen different kinds of bread. / Pass it around till everyone’s fed. / All are welcome here.” 

I first learned about this book from Pragmatic Mom’s website last summer. Check out the story behind the story of how the author started a movement with a poster.

Resources: I believe this book would be a wonderful discussion book for today’s UN celebration of International Day of Peace. It is a day for engaging kids in peace-building activities.  And what better way than to remind kids they live in a rainbow world. Encourage kids to talk about ways to create peace at school, their communities and in the world. Whatever you decide to do, remember to pause at noon, (no matter your time zone) for a Minute of Silence and think about how you will build peaceful relationships.

Alexandra Penfold is the author of Eat, Sleep, Poop (Knopf, 2016) and the forthcoming picture books The Littlest Viking (Knopf) and Everybody’s Going to the Food Truck Fest (FSG). She is also a literary agent at Upstart Crow, where one of her clients is author-illustrator, Suzanne Kaufman! Learn more about Alex on Twitter at @agentpenfold and Suzanne on her website  or on Twitter at @suzannekaufman.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Book (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Line and Dot by Veronique Cauchy

Line and Dot

Véronique Cauchy, Author

Laurent Simon, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 12, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Creativity, Imagination, Diversity, Cooperation, Respect

Opening: One day, Line met Dot…and they decided to play together!

Synopsis:

The story begins with a white Line and a black Dot. They begin to make bold and brand new things. It is so much fun that Line and Dot decide to invite their friends — big and small, young and old — the more the merrier. They bring with them more ideas. With so many new friends they realize that together they sky is the limit and they are empowered to create so much more. Soon they have built a large city.  But something is missing. Line and Dot have another big idea. They invite their friends who live in distant lands. They arrive from all of the corners of the world to their city. The lines and dots are a festival of color — blue, yellow and pink, black and white — and they create something very wonderful.

Why I like this book:

Line and Dot is a joyful and engaging book for young children and one that belongs in classrooms. It encourages creativity and imagination. It cleverly shows the importance of accepting differences, learning something new from others, and living peacefully while maintaining individuality, differences and diversity. With simple text and whimsical illustrations, this story demonstrates the importance of mutual respect and cooperation.

Resources: This is a great classroom resource with endless possibilities for use. Teachers can simply focus on creativity and imagination by encouraging children to draw a picture using line and dots. Put kids on teams and encourage them to work together to come up with an idea and paint or draw it with lines and dots. There are no right or wrong answers, just the fun of creating something together.

Véronique Cauchy was born in Normandy in 1969. She had a penchant for writing at a very early age…but instead she studied business, going from Paris to Berlin via Reims and Sacramento! An expert in international trade, she directed a human resources company in her native Normandy, but her life changed when she had children. She discovered children’s literature and threw herself into the crazy adventure of writing for  young readers.

*Copy provided by the publisher.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Islandborn by Junot Diaz


Islandborn

Junot Díaz, Author

Leo Espinosa, Illustrator

Dial Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Mar. 18, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Immigration, Community, Culture, Memory, Diversity, Imagination, Belonging

OpeningEvery kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else. Hers was a school of faraway places.

Synopsis: When Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families emigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember the Island she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories — joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening — Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to the Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

Why I like this book:

Junot Díaz has written a poetic and nostalgic story about Lola’s family immigrating from their home on the Island (likely the Dominican Republic) to build a new life in New York City.  Lola’s lively and exuberant curiosity leads her on an enchanting journey of discovery of self-discovery. She relies upon the memories of her family, friends and neighbors to help her imagine an Island and a culture that has bats the size of blankets, music, dancing, bright colors, sweet mangoes, beautiful beaches, tropical sunsets, hurricanes and a terrifying monster (dictator) who hurts the people. Leo Espinosa’s dazzling illustrations bring Lola’s Island to life. They are a beautiful celebration of creativity and diversity. Brown children will see themselves in the many different skin-tones. Beautiful collaborative effort between the author and illustrator. This book belongs in school libraries.

Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This is How you Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award Finalist. Visit him at his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.