Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder

Published by Dial Books Bodies Are Cool (9780593112625): Feder, Tyler, Feder, Tyler:  Books Bodies Are Cool (9780593112625): Feder, Tyler, Feder, Tyler:  Books

Summary:  Tall, short, wide, narrow, fat, thin, hairy, bald, skin of many different colors…bodies are cool!  This is the repeating refrain that concludes each of the catchy rhymes (“Freckled bodies, dotted bodies, rosy-patched or speckled bodies, dark-skin-swirled-with-light-skin bodies. Bodies are cool!”).  Each two page spread shows lots of different types of people all enjoying fun activities like swimming, eating ice cream, or going to the movies.  Conclusion? “My body, your body, every different kind of body! All of them are good bodies! Bodies are cool!”.  32 pages; ages 2-7.

Pros:  What’s not to like?  The positive images and words accept all different types of bodies and body parts, including those that are sometimes deemed “ugly”.  The busy illustrations are a joyful celebration of humanity, and, combined with the catchy rhymes, will have preschoolers up on their feet dancing.

Cons:  I can’t help feeling envious that this message is in the world for kids now…I wish it had been the case when I was growing up.

I Am a Peaceful Goldfish by Shoshana Chaim, illustrated by Lori Joy Smith

Published by Greystone Books

I Am a Peaceful Goldfish: Chaim, Shoshana, Joy Smith, Lori: 9781771646376: Books
I Am a Peaceful Goldfish – Greystone Books Ltd.

Summary:  When things go wrong, two kids practice self-calming by breathing deeply while thinking of things around them: a goldfish blowing bubbles, an elephant trumpeting, a dandelion scattering its seeds, or a flower stretching toward the sky.  When they’re calm, they’re ready to focus on the task at hand.  Includes an author’s note about using breathing techniques to feel better in difficult situations.  48 pages; ages 3-6.

Pros:  A perfect introduction to the use of breathing as a calming technique for the preschoolers or early elementary kids.  The real-life examples are engaging and will help them visualize how to take calming breaths.

Cons:  A creature with gills may not be the best example of deep breathing.

Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris

Published by Chronicle Books Have You Ever Seen a Flower? (9781452182704): Harris, Shawn:  Books
Children's Book Week 2021: Have You Ever Seen A Flower? by Shawn Harris -  Sincerely Stacie

Summary:  Have you ever seen a flower?  Really seen a flower?  Seen it using only your nose?  Have you ever felt a flower…the veins on the petals that feel like veins on your skin?  Those veins show that life is inside you and all around you.  Put your hands on your belly (like your stem), then stretch your arms up toward the sky like a flower reaching for the sun.  48 pages; ages 3-7.

Pros:  Shawn Harris has his debut as an author, although he illustrated Her Right Foot and A Polar Bear in the Snow, two books, which, like this book, defied categorization.  His brilliant (in both senses of the word) colored pencil illustrations made me want to go color, and kids will undoubtedly feel the same tug of inspiration.  The text could be used for a lesson in mindfulness, using your imagination, or undoubtedly a host of other interesting ways that my limited mind isn’t thinking of right now.

Cons:  Adults may be scratching their heads at the end, wondering what exactly this book was about (which might actually be a “pro”).

Bear Island by Matthew Cordell

Published by Feiwel and Friends

Bear Island: Cordell, Matthew: 9781250317162: Books
We're Going on a Bear Island Hunt: Matthew Cordell Talks Grief and Hope and  Bears - A Fuse #8 Production

Summary:  In the pages before the title page, Louise packs a ball into a box with other doggy items, and she and her parents hold the box, with the caption, “Goodbye, Charlie.”  The main story begins as a grief-stricken Louise rows a boat to a small island near her house.  As she starts to enjoy the animals she sees there, colors return to the sepia-toned illustrations.  Then a bear appears.  Louis is afraid at first, but her fear turns to anger and she roars back at the bear.  The bear seems as sad as Louise, and on subsequent visits to the island, the two become friends.  As winter approaches, the bear settles down to sleep.  “It’s not fair,” thinks Louise “when the things we love must end.”  But sometimes an end is a beginning, and before spring, Louise has a new puppy named Milly.  The two of them return to the island, but she doesn’t find the bear, and Louise wonders…was he ever there?  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  I’ve been avoiding this book since I read it was about the grief of losing a dog, but I’m glad I finally overcame my resistance.  Caldecott winner Cordell does a masterful job of exploring grief and the healing powers of nature and time in ways that kids will relate to.

Cons:  The ending may be a bit ambiguous for the younger set.

Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Beth Griffin, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga

Published by Charlesbridge

Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Beth Griffin: 9781580899369 | Books
Ten Beautiful Things: Griffin, Molly, Lechuga, Maribel: 9781580899369: Books

Summary:  Lily’s in the back seat of Gram’s car, heading toward her new home: Gram’s Iowa farm.  To distract Lily from her sadness, Gram suggests they find ten beautiful things before they get to the house.  “There’s nothing beautiful here,” says Lily, but at that moment, there’s a breathtaking sunrise.  Every time she starts to descend back into her sadness, there’s something beautiful to see: a wind farm, a red-winged blackbird, a gurgling creek.  Finally they pull up at Gram’s farmhouse.  “We only made it to nine,” says Lily.  But Gram reaches down for a hug.  “We’re ten,” she says.  “None of this was easy.  Maybe it would never be easy.  But she belonged with Gram now.  She belonged here now.”  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  While the reader never finds out why Lily is going to live with Gram, it’s clear there’s a lot of grief behind the reason, and Gram is wise to start the hunt for beauty.  The illustrations of the sunrise and thunderstorm are pretty spectacular.

Cons:  Some kids may feel dissatisfied not to know more about Lily; on the other hand, there are many groups of kids who will connect with her situation, so the vagueness may be a good thing.

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Published by Harry N. Abrams

Our Little Kitchen - Kindle edition by Tamaki, Jillian. Children Kindle  eBooks @
Our Little Kitchen: Tamaki, Jillian: 9781419746550: Books

Summary:  A group of volunteers comes together to provide a community dinner, working with the food that they have on hand to make chili, bread, salad, and apple crumble.  The pace quickens as someone shouts “Fifteen minutes!”, and the early birds start to arrive.  Finally, it’s dinnertime, and the volunteers bring the food to the waiting crowd.  Everyone sits down to share a meal and some time together.  As the guests trickle out, one of the kids loudly announces the obvious: “OK, time to clean up!”  Includes an author’s note about her experiences volunteering in a similar small kitchen weekly to prepare a community meal, and endpapers that outline how to prepare vegetable soup and apple crumble.  48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  The bouncy rhyming text and colorful, comic-inspired illustrations by Caldecott honoree Tamaki have a ton of kid appeal and an inspiring message.  Pair it up with Harlem Grown for a community service-themed story hour.

Cons:  Some of the rhyming words (hot/start/bought) were a little loose.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Saturdays Are for Stella by Candy Wellins, illustrated by Charlie Eve Ryan

Published by Page Street Kids

Saturdays Are For Stella: Wellins, Candy, Eve Ryan, Charlie: 9781624149214: Books
Book Giveaway: SATURDAYS ARE FOR STELLA by Candy Wellins | Writing and  Illustrating

Summary:  George’s grandmother, Stella, makes everything fun, which is why George likes spending every Saturday with her.  Sometimes they go out to the dinosaur museum, to the park, or downtown, and sometimes they stay in and have ninja tournaments or play games together.  One Saturday, George wakes up late, and gets himself dressed and ready for his visit.  But when he comes into the kitchen, his parents have some sad news about him about Stella.  He’ll never spend another Saturday with her; from then on, George hates Saturdays.  But other changes are afoot, and one day George gets a baby sister…and her name is Stella.  As Stella grows, George teaches her to do the things he and Grandma Stella used to do together.  And soon he loves Saturdays again, because Saturdays are for Stella.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  We all need a story about the ups and downs of life right now, and this one is at the perfect level for kids to understand that life is made up of both joy and grief.  The illustrations are adorable; I love Stella Junior’s pink hair.

Cons:  I don’t think I could read this to kids without losing it; I got kind of choked up just writing this review.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

10 picture books that teach persistence and grit

I think it goes without saying that these characteristics will be essential for students and teachers in the 2020-2021 school year!

When Sophie Thinks She Can’t by Molly Bang

Published by Blue Sky Press

When Sophie Thinks She Can't...: . . . Really, Really Smart: Bang, Molly,  Bang, Molly: 9781338152982: Books

Sophie’s teacher shows her how having a growth mindset can help her solve problems instead of giving up. Buy it on Amazon.

Jabari Jumps and Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall

Published by Candlewick

Jabari Jumps: Cornwall, Gaia, Cornwall, Gaia: 9780763678388:  Books
Jabari Tries: Cornwall, Gaia, Cornwall, Gaia: 9781536207163:  Books

Jabari’s dad and little sister help him find the courage to jump off the high dive and to persist in his efforts to design and build a flying machine. Jabari Tries will be released September 8. Buy it on Amazon.

Golden Threads by Suzanne Del Rizzo

Published by Owlkids

Golden Threads: Rizzo, Suzanne Del, Sato, Miki: 9781771473606:  Books

When a battered stuffed fox washes up at Kiko’s house, she and her father repair him like they do broken china, with golden threads. Broken does not mean imperfect, and the fox leads Kiko and her dad to new friendships. Buy it on Amazon.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

Published by Schwartz and Wade

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read: Hubbard, Rita  Lorraine, Mora, Oge: 9781524768287: Books

Born into slavery in 1848, Mary Walker worked hard her entire life. At age 114, she decided to put her energy into learning to read, and was eventually certified as the oldest student in America. Buy it on Amazon.

More-Igami by Dori Kleber

Published by Candlewick Press More-igami (9780763668198): Kleber, Dori, Karas, G. Brian: Books

Joey loves to fold, so when he learns about origami, it seems like it’s right up his alley. It’s not as easy as it looks, though, and he needs persistence to figure out how to do it. Buy it on Amazon.

Truman by Jean Reidy

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Truman: Reidy, Jean, Cummins, Lucy Ruth: 9781534416642: Books

When Sarah leaves for her first day of school, her pet turtle Truman can’t understand where she’s gone. He decides to go find her, doggedly seeking a way out of his tank and to the front door. Buy it on Amazon.

After the Fall by Dan Santat

Published by Roaring Brook Press

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again): Santat, Dan, Santat,  Dan: 9781626726826: Books

Humpty Dumpty got put back together again, but his new fear of heights proves crippling. His determination to overcome his phobia results in a transformation and one of the best picture book endings ever. Buy it on Amazon.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Published by Kids Can Press

The Most Magnificent Thing: Spires, Ashley, Spires, Ashley: 8601411239502: Books

It’s not as easy as it seems to make “the most magnificent thing”. This girl and her dog must keep going when their first attempts fail to create what they want. Buy it on Amazon.

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson

Published by Random House Children’s Books

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah: Thompson, Laurie  Ann, Qualls, Sean: 0884547302700: Books

Born in Ghana without the use of his right leg, Emmanuel learned to persist in school and sports. In 2006, he rode a bicycle from one end of Ghana to the other to raise awareness about people with disabilities. Buy it on Amazon.

Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick

Published by Simon and Schuster

Small Walt - Kindle edition by Verdick, Elizabeth, Rosenthal, Marc.  Children Kindle eBooks @

Small Walt and Gus team up to clear the streets, holding their own with the bigger, more powerful snowplows. Buy it on Amazon.

10 picture books about kindness and community

This year, for so many reasons, kids need to feel the safety of the classroom community more than ever. And, of course, whether your students are Zooming or social distancing, creating community will be extra challenging. Here are some books to help you get started.

The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates

Published by Simon and Schuster

The Big Umbrella: Bates, Amy June, Bates, Juniper, Bates, Amy June ...

This umbrella is big enough to cover everyone. A quick read, great illustrations, and a diverse cast of characters get the conversation on inclusion rolling. Buy it on Amazon.

The Buddy Bench by Patty Brozo

Published by Tilbury House Publishers

The Buddy Bench - Kindle edition by Brozo, Patty, Deas, Mike ...

What happens when kids are being left out at recess? This class has a solution: build a buddy bench. When you see someone sitting on the bench, you know they’re looking for a friend. Buy it on Amazon.

The Cool Bean by John Jory

Published by HarperCollins

The Cool Bean - Kindle edition by John, Jory, Oswald, Pete ...

In this school, the cool kids are also kind, and the bean who’s been feeling kind of uncool appreciates it. Buy it on Amazon.

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar

Published by Sterling Children’s Books

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh - Kindle edition by Kelkar ...

Harpreet dresses according to his moods, and a new school has him wearing white every day, trying to fade into the background. But a new friendship helps him start dressing in all the colors of the rainbow again. Buy it on Amazon.

I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoet

Published by Schwartz & Wade

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness ...

The girl in this wordless story has to figure out what to do when she sees new girl Vanessa getting picked on. The whole school ends up coming together to put an end to the bullying. Buy it on Amazon.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

Published by Roaring Brook Press

Be Kind - Kindle edition by Zietlow Miller, Pat, Hill, Jen ...

After her friendly overtures are rebuffed, a girl reflects on what it means to be kind. Buy it on Amazon.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

All Are Welcome: Penfold, Alexandra, Kaufman, Suzanne ...

Rhyming text and busy illustrations show a diverse classroom of children and families coming together to form a community. Buy it on Amazon.

Say Something! by Peter H. Reynolds

Published by Orchard Books

Say Something: Reynolds, Peter H., Reynolds, Peter H ...

“Some people find it easier to say something than others. But everyone has something to say.” Encourages extroverts and introverts alike to express themselves in a variety of ways. Look for Reynolds’ newest book Be You! Buy it on Amazon.

You Matter by Christian Reynolds

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

You Matter | Book by Christian Robinson | Official Publisher Page ...

Even when you feel small, insignificant, or lost, you matter. A quick and reassuring read for every member of the group. Buy it on Amazon.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

The Day You Begin - Kindle edition by Woodson, Jacqueline, López ...

Four kids feel a little strange on the first day of school, but as time goes on, they start to connect and feel okay about what makes them unique. Buy it on Amazon.

Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall

Published by Candlewick (released September 8)

Jabari Tries: Cornwall, Gaia, Cornwall, Gaia: 9781536207163 ...

Jabari Tries: Cornwall, Gaia, Cornwall, Gaia: 9781536207163 ...

Summary:  Jabari, his little sister Nika, and his dad are back for a follow-up book to Jabari Jumps.  This time, Jabari is excited to be building a flying machine.  “It’ll be easy,” he says.  “I don’t need any help.”  His first attempt flies, but crashes, and Jabari works to redesign it.  He thinks about other Black engineers and scientists who have had to solve problems like this one.  When another attempt fails, his dad suggests that he take Nika on as a partner.  Another crash brings frustration, and Dad helps Jabari take a break, then try again.  Nika turns out to have the key to success, and when Jabari implements it into his design, success!  The two engineers are ready for their next project: a rocket to Jupiter.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  I was happy to see the return of Jabari and his family from one of my favorite slice-of-life picture books.  This one celebrates both engineering and grit, helping readers see what it takes to persevere.  

Cons:  This story felt a bit more didactic than the first one.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.