Wednesday, July 28, 2021

…even then, you were loved.

 


Even then, you were loved.

When you did something great, something terrible, or nothing at all…

When you felt the pressure of praise for performance and when you felt completely and utterly unseen…

When God’s voice was loud and clear, and when God was eerily silent…

When your pain was unbearable, and when your joy was so full, it frightened you…

When you felt numb and apathetic, and when you were consumed with how much it mattered…

When your best wasn’t good enough and when your worst surprised even you…

When you were absolutely sure you were right, and when you realized you were wrong…

When you tried to earn your worthiness, when you realized you couldn’t, and when you discovered you didn’t have to…


…even then, you were loved.
—Lindsay L. O’Connor

Thursday, July 1, 2021

all bodies are good bodies

 

Maybe instead of lamenting weight changes during traumatic seasons, we could practice saying, “This is the body that carried me through such a difficult time. Thank you.”

Self-love and self-compassion can extend to these miraculous bodies we inhabit. Our bodies carry the joys, trauma, and scars of surviving in a beautiful, painful world. 

When we struggle to offer ourselves compassion in this space, let us remember that it can be an uphill battle to fight against systems and cultural messages that abound everywhere we turn, telling us which bodies are beautiful, admirable, and worthy. There’s grace in the acknowledgment of the enormity of the task set before us.

I’m working to hold the tension in remembering that I’m not just my body, but I can marvel at this body I’ve been given. It is the dwelling place of the Holy—a place where the secular and sacred meet. 
Even when I have been unwell and felt that my body was betraying me, it paved the way for an intimacy with and dependence on God that I had never experienced before.

May you find peace with the Holy dwelling place you’ve been given in the body you inhabit.




Monday, June 28, 2021

24 Children's Books for Summer


 


These are some of our favorite picture books for summer time! They are beautifully illustrated and have lovely, engaging stories.


The Little Blue Cottage

By Kelly Jordan

Illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

Ages 4-8


This gentle, rhythmic story is reminiscent of The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. It has a vintage classic feel to it that I love, and my preschooler requested an immediate reread! The little blue cottage waits all throughout the seasons each year for summer to arrive and with it, the little girl who smells of syrup, sunscreen, and sea. One summer, she never comes, and year after year, the little blue cottage waits until one serendipitous day when the girl—a mother now!—arrives. This beautiful, nostalgic book has just the right tone for an end-of-summer read. It is filled with sensory language that makes it a rich read aloud experience. I love the representation of a multiracial family! 



Julián is a Mermaid

By Jessica Love

Ages 4-8


I have seen this book all over bookstagram since it came out and finally got my hands on it! Julián is captivated by some mermaids he sees on the subway coming home from going swimming with his abuela. While abuela leaves the room to take a bath, he finds the perfect items to transform himself into a mermaid. As I watched him let his imagination take over, I smiled to myself. This is a playful, whimsical book with gorgeous illustrations, to match. This is a perfect summer read!



Pond 

By Jim LaMarche

Ages 4-8


This is a celebration of nature, childhood, outdoor play, and the seasons! The setting is “drawn from the childhood of award-winning illustrator Jim LaMarche, who grew up in Wisconsin along the Milwaukee River.” After studying a dirt pit, Matt realizes a trickle of water has the potential to create a pond. He works with his sister and his friend throughout the seasons to clear out the pit and restore the pond that once was. I love that this showcases children working together with very little adult intervention to create something lovely in response to their own curiosity and observation. In today’s over-scheduled, fast-paced society, children so often lose out on slow, unstructured play days outside that lead to creativity, problem solving, teamwork, and appreciation for nature. These qualities build confidence as children test out and refine their ideas. Wonderful book to inspire and celebrate outdoor play!



By Abdul-Razak Zachariah
Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
Ages 3-7

“This last bit of silence and this last breeze touching your face:

They are yours.

They are your reward for being patient and thoughtful when the game seemed to not go your way.

They bring you peace the same way you bring me peace.”


What a beautiful, lyrical summer bed time book! From the same illustrator of the lovely book, “I Am Enough,” this is a story about Amani, who plays hide and seek with friends from the neighborhood. It is told with wonderful sensory language and celebrates community and self-acceptance subtly but powerfully.



Seashells by the Seashore

By Marianne Berkes

Illustrated by Robert Noreika

Ages 4-10


After two beach trips, I finally found the book I was looking for, hiding on a shelf. #booknerdproblems Anyway, this is a really lovely rhyming/counting book with a different type of seashell on each beautiful, glossy page. This is a great one to take along to the beach or look at afterward to identify shells. 12 shells are featured, but 14 additional ones are pictured and labeled at the back. This pairs beautifully with nature study and water coloring!



Fireflies

By Julie Brinckloe

Ages 5-8


This is such a cozy book to read on a summer night! It’s a simple but lovely story of a little boy rushing outside to catch fireflies with friends. Once he brings them home in a jar, he realizes he can’t bear to keep them from freedom. This made me feel so nostalgic and reminded me of the glorious first half of my childhood out in the country in western Pennsylvania. I have such fond memories of the soft grass beneath my bare feet as I ran about with my brother and sister catching fireflies, our dog running loops around us. The language in the book captures the gentle magic of a perfect summer evening. Such a sweet bed time read!



By Jill Barklem
Ages 5 and up

By Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrated by Wendell Minor
Ages 3-5

By Robert McCloskey
Ages 3-7

Some of our favorite beauty summer reads! Sea Story is one story out of the Brambly Hedge collection of charming animal stories, which we adore! The Seashore Book and Time of Wonder both have gorgeous, rich language. Time of Wonder is from the author of Blueberries for Sal and tells about summer on an island in Maine. See below for the review of The Seashore Book!



Boats on the Bay

By Jeanne Walker Harvey

Illustrated by Grady McFerrin

Ages 4-8


In just one sentence per page, this fun book tells about the many different boats that come and go on the bay throughout the course of the day. The illustrations have a vintage feel to them that grabbed my attention as soon as I saw the cover at the library. This is a great summertime read for preschoolers!


The Honeybee

By Kirsten Hall

Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Ages 4-8


Between the brilliant illustrations, rhyming text, onomatopoeia, and action-oriented words, this book provides such a fun, multi-sensory experience! It tells in lyrical text about a bee’s process of finding and choosing a flower, getting pollen, communicating with the other bees, and making honey. I’m so impressed with how the author gave so much information in an exciting, poetic way. 



Dragonfly Kites

By Thomson Highway

Illustrated by Julie Flett

Ages 4-8


“Joe and Cody live in the far north. Their summer home was a tent near a lake. There are hundreds of lakes in northern Manitoba, so they never stayed on the same one twice. The lakes had beautiful islands and and forests and beaches and clear water. But no people.” 


So begins this serene, playful story of two brothers who explore and connect with nature. They catch dragonflies and tie string around the middle to make dragonfly kites. Each page has the text translated into the Indigenous language of Cree.This is another stunner with the signature style I’m always love from Julie Flett. The illustrations are bold, beautiful, high-contrast pictures that make you want to jump into the story. This would be a wonderful book to read before a nature study lesson or a nature walk. 



Wild Berries

By Julie Flett

Ages 4-8


This is another gem by Julie Flett. It’s a gentle story about a little boy going on a walk with his grandmother to pick blueberries. They come across an ant, a spider, and a fox and feed the birds. Each page has a word in the #firstnations language of Cree. At the end is a recipe for wild blueberry jam. The story is accompanied by beautiful high-contrast illustrations. Reading it feels like taking a leisurely stroll on a pleasant summer day. Just lovely!



The First Strawberries: a Cherokee Story

Retold by Joseph Bruchac

Illustrated by Anna Vojtech

Ages 3-5


“To this day, when the Cherokee people eat strawberries, they are reminded to always be kind to each other; to remember that friendship and respect are as sweet as the taste of ripe, red berries.”


This is the Cherokee story of how strawberries came into the world. It begins with the creation of the first man and woman who live together happily until one day, when they have a quarrel. The woman leaves in anger, unable to hear her husband’s apology. The remainder of the story is about how the sun helps the husband catch up with his wife to make amends. First, Sun sends raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, to no avail. Finally, the gift of strawberries gives the woman pause and leads to the couple’s reconciliation. This is such a sweet story about repentance and forgiveness and has lovely water color illustrations. 



Enemy Pie

By Derek Munson

Illustrated by Tara Callahan King

Ages preschool - 7


I brought Enemy Pie to read when I was the mystery reader for my daughter's second grade class and it was a crowd pleaser! It’s about a boy who doesn’t get along with another little boy and asks his dad what to do about it. His dad pulls out a recipe for enemy pie and proceeds to make it, but there’s a caveat— for the pie to work, the boy has to spend a whole day with his enemy and be nice to him. The two boys end up having fun together and become friends, so the main character panics when his dad brings out the pie. He can only imagine what it will do to his new friend until the boys notice that the dad has already started eating a piece of pie. I love how this book is told from the child’s point of views. The second graders I read to debated whether the pie was magic and didn’t harm anyone because the boys were no longer enemies or the dad tricked them into spending time together. Such a great book about friendship and getting along with others!



By Paul Fleischman
Ages 4-8

This is one of my favorite picture books ever. It's a magical story about Wesley, a curious, intelligent boy who has unique interests and has trouble fitting in with his peers. He decides to put all of his book knowledge to good use one summer by creating his own civilization in his backyard. He uses a special crop for food, clothing, and entertainment and even creates his own language. His classmates begin to see the value in someone who isn’t afraid to do things differently, and Wesley learns the value of doing things in community instead of only relying on himself. I love how Wesley learns to use his gifts without compromising who he is but still learns to connect with others.



By Sid Fleischman
Illustrated by Quentin Blake
Ages 6-10

"There has been so much tomfool nonsense told about McBroom's wonderful one acre farm that I had better set matters straight. I’m McBroom. Josh McBroom. I’ll explain about the watermelons in a minute." *


Thus begins one of the best read aloud books ever! The McBroom books have hilariously imaginative tall tales that will entertain the whole family. The language is so rich and full of wordplay and imagery, and the storytelling is superb. They are perfect for reading together and then for children to enjoy independently over and over. These stories will make your kiddos laugh aloud. We love these stories, and I think you will, too!



By Marjorie Flack
Illustrated by Jay Hyde Barnum
Ages 6-8

By Ryan Anne Martin
Ages 4-8

Two fun and informative books for summer! The Boats on the River is about different types of boats and has wonderful vintage illustrations. Cross a Bridge describes various types of bridges, how they are constructed, and what they’re used for. It has bright illustrations that are perfect for young children! 



By Susan Middleton Elya
Illustrated by Steven Salerna
Ages 3-5

When I was a brand new mom, our beloved pediatrician said that one of the best things we could do for our daughter would be to give her the gift of a second language. He has since passed away, but we remembered his advice and enrolled our firstborn in a Spanish immersion preschool. That is when we discovered Susan Middleton Elya’s books, which are not exactly bilingual but have mostly English with one or two Spanish words in each sentence. These are perfect for us since my daughter was learning Spanish and I know very little Spanish, myself. They are written such that the meaning of the Spanish word is usually fairly easy to determine from the context clues. They have a pleasant rhythm and rhyme, as well. It’s such a unique concept, at least among books I’ve seen, that we have bought or checked out many of her books multiple times and still enjoy them several years later. This is one we love for summer, but we enjoy her others, as well!



By Charlotte Zolotow
Illustrated by Wendell Minor
Ages 3-5


This lyrical story begins with a little boy asking his mother, “What is the seashore like?” The poetic text and illustrations for the remainder of the book describe the sights, sounds, and textures of an imagined day at the seashore. This would be a wonderful mentor text for teaching about figurative language, descriptive writing, or poetry. It would be a good one to read aloud and have children close their eyes, imagine being at the seashore, and then write or draw about the experience. Beautiful book for summer!



By Yukihisa Tokuda
Illustrated by Kiyoshi Takahashi
Ages 6-8

A perfect book for a beautiful sunny spring day! If your children are as obsessed with pillbugs as mine are, they will love this one. Great nonfiction for K-3rd grade. This book has a lot of information presented in a casual, engaging tone. 



By Sally Llloyd-Jones
Illustrated by Leo Espinosa
Ages 4-8

“Sometimes it’s hard being a goldfish. You dream of growing fat and exploring coral reefs. But instead here you are in a bowl. Going round and round in circles...”


We had the pleasure of hearing Sally Lloyd Jones read the introduction to this when it first came out. What a treat! It's one of our new favorites. The illustrations are beautiful and the masterful storytelling draws you right in to the story, as Sally Lloyd Jones always does. It’s a fun, sweet story based on true events in NYC, where a man decided to clean and fix up an old fountain that had fallen into disrepair. The children in the neighborhood are invited to put their goldfish in the fountain for the summer, and they make friends with one another in the process. This is a wonderful book for kids of all ages! Tinies will enjoy the pictures and the story about the fish, and older children can see a real life example of community building.



By Alice McLerran
Illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Roxaboxen is one of our very favorite books, and I can’t believe we read it for the first time just a few years ago. It’s an enchanting celebration of imagination and free play in the outdoors and chronicles the adventures of a group of children who create their own world. This is a wonderful book to inspire children to play, imagine, and create. 



By Joanne Schwartz
Illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
Ages 4-7

"Pinny stepped outside. Summer was almost over. Days and weeks of sunshine had passed slowly by. This morning the sun was shining again, making everything as warm as toast. Pinny was happy."

I love the Pinny books! The writing is beautiful and rich, and I believe Charlotte Mason aficionados would call this a living book. It has short chapters with different parts of Pinny's summer day watching clouds, interacting with a seagull, and having a blueberry cake party with friends. Though the ages listed are 4-7, the sentences are a bit complex for preschoolers, so this might work better for early elementary kiddos, depending on attention spans. It could also be read a chapter at a time with younger readers. The events are so simple but are explored in an almost meditative, ambling way that has the feel of a lazy summer day. 



Saturday, June 26, 2021

transformation

 

Image text: It can be hard to empathize with someone else’s story when you’re drowning in your own.

If you’re in survival mode, don’t let shame be piled on top of it all.

Let go of the need to perform and instead, try to allow. The lessons of transformation will present themselves.

Sometimes the best gift you can give the world is to take care of yourself first. Transformed people transform the world.

I’m praying for people in this place to have moments to rest in their belovedness.

I struggled with 2 rounds of postpartum depression. The second time, I was frustrated with myself. I thought that if I had “learned the lessons” the first time, I wouldn’t be back in the same place again. On top of the energy it took to take care of my basic needs and my children’s while battling sleep deprivation, anxiety, & depression, I was scrambling frantically to try to hurry up and learn whatever lesson God was trying to teach me so that I could move on.

One of the best encouragements I received was when my dad said to me with deep compassion, “It’s not a performance. Sometimes God wants to walk through this with you.”

Great suffering presents us with lessons, to be sure, but they occur as we give ourselves over to transformation by allowing and resting in God’s love and getting the help that we need. We get out of bed, feed ourselves, drink some water, make the doctor appointment, take the medicine, breathe in and out, ask for help, and stop trying to perform. We count on others to pray for us and stand in the gap when we just can’t. We wait for God to bring us back to ourselves.

Then, one day, I looked back and could see that while I thought I was just surviving, I was experiencing some of the most painful parts of transformation. I didn’t like it and wouldn’t ask for it, but I also know that I’ll never be the same.


If you are in survival mode, may God help you to let go of the need to perform and achieve and instead, to rest in your unshakable, unconditional belovedness. Then, one day, when you look back, may you see how you were held as you were being beautifully, painfully transformed. Transformed people transform the world.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

liminal space

 


“Much of the work of authentic spirituality and human development is to get people into liminal space and to keep them there long enough that they can learn something essential and new.”
-Fr. Richard Rohr

“Liminal space” derives from the Latin for “threshold.” It is the space where we are no longer where we were but still not yet where we will be. We have all been in liminal space during the pandemic, on top of other forms of “in-between” people have been experiencing…loss of loved ones, changes in life seasons, or a crisis of faith, to name a few. Rohr says, “The very vulnerability and openness of liminal space allows room for something genuinely new to happen.” It opens us up for transformation.

I find comfort in predictability and deal with anxiety by making plans. Liminal space pulls the rug out from under us so that we can’t prepare with even a shred of illusory certainty. I’ve watched myself vacillate between bustling about, preparing for the unknown (which really can’t be prepared for), then carrying on like nothing has changed though I know deep down I’ve left something and there is No Going Back.

When I’m in liminal space, I’m vulnerable to anything that promises a concrete plan or certainty. I’m likely to grasp for something that puts me at ease. There is a time for taking a leap of faith, but we can discern more clearly if we are willing to tolerate the not-knowing. Am I choosing the next step because it alleviates my anxiety, or is it the next right thing?

Eventually, I face reality and see that the only real response is surrender. Centering prayer—when we sit silently and open ourselves to God’s work in us while we practice letting go of each thought and feeling—helps us practice the art of surrender. We find the world doesn’t stop spinning if we pull out of the hustle and bustle, God is at work in us even when we don’t see it, and we can let go and find ourselves held in perfect Love. In this space, we earn no points for good behavior; we are simply allowed to be, and we find that that is enough. The perfect Love that holds us transforms us beyond what we could have achieved in all of our striving.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

20 Children's Books for Father's Day

These are 20 of our favorite children's books for Father's Day! They are silly and serious, tender and fun, and written by diverse authors with representation diverse dads, grandfathers, and families.


Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

By Barack Obama

Illustrated by Loren Long


Barack Obama wrote this gorgeous, inspiring book as a letter to his daughters. He tells the girls that they have each of many admirable character traits (brave, strong, kind, inspiring, etc.) and then gives a brief description of a famous person who exemplifies that quality. At the end, he celebrates the diversity of people who make up the USA. This book is so endearing and gives enough information about many different people to spark interest in lengthier biographies. Ages 4-8




By Jamie L. B. Deenihan
Illustrated by Lorraine Rocha

“You wanted a special house for your dolls. But, surprise! It’s a... toolbox.”
“Do not launch it into outer space, feed it to a T. Rex, or tie it to a wrecking ball.”
“With guidance and lots of practice, you’ll discover that you’re actually quite handy.”

What should you do when Grandpa gives you a toolbox instead of the dollhouse you wanted? Perhaps you will find some uses for it that end up surprising you and helping your neighbors! This is such a delight! The cadence of the text reminds me of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” but this is a really sweet book about family, community, and being open-minded to new things. Ages 3-7




“‘Our people were stolen from Africa and shipped to this continent in chains,’ Daddy says. ‘But no one could lock away their dreams. They dreamed on this land during slavery. They dreamed on this land as they made a way out of no way and fought Jim Crow. Seventy-five years ago, a farmer and a teacher bought this land.’ Daddy gazes at Granny. ‘And look at us now.’”

By Kelly Starling Lyons 
Illustrated by Daniel Minter

Dreamy watercolors and geometric patterns blend the past with the present in this story of multigenerational family members coming together to celebrate and remember. Lil Alan loves the annual family reunion with his great grandmother and extended family, but he doesn’t have an idea for his contribution to the celebration time when everyone will offer a tribute to his late great grandfather. As he spends time with his dad, who reminisces about his childhood and then tells the story of their ancestors, Lil Alan finally has an idea about how to honor his family. I am amazed at how much meaning is packed into this one little book. An important criterion to look for in diverse children’s books is that stories tell the truth about what happened to oppressed people while still showing that they had agency. This book fits the bill. It so warm and filled with love and family pride. I can’t recommend this enough! Ages 4-8




Drawn Together

By Minh Lê

Illustrated by Dan Santat


What a stunning, unique, and powerful book! With very few words, this tells about a little boy and his grandfather learning to communicate when they don’t speak the same language. Through art, they connect and say the things that could never be said with words. The soul of this book is as beautiful as the artwork. Ages 3-5




Hair Love

By Matthew A. Cherry

Illustrated by Vasti Harrison


If you’ve been following me for a minute, you know that we love books illustrated by Vashti Harrison. This another beauty! Matthew A. Cherry has written a sweet, endearing story about a father helping his daughter with her beautiful, natural hair for the first time. Her hair can do so many things, but she must find the perfect style for a special occasion. Cherry gives us a glimpse into an intimate, warm moment between a father and daughter while celebrating black beauty. At the end, Mommy comes home and the family is happy to be reunited. Beautiful book! Check out the short film that goes with it but grab a Kleenex before you watch the film! Ages 3-5




Stolen Words

By Melanie Florence

Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard


“Will you teach me your words?

His heart danced as he nodded,

holding the book against his chest.”


This is one of the most powerful children’s books I have read! A little girl asks her grandpa how to say “grandfather” in Cree, his native language. Greatly saddened, he explains how his language was stolen from him as a child. At the end, the granddaughter finds a way to get the stolen words back. So much is expressed through simple text... the power of language, culture, and family. I love the introduction to a few words in the Cree language. I was so touched by this story and appreciated the combination of hard truth-telling with inspiration and hope. The author, who is of Cree/Scottish heritage, wanted to honor her own grandfather with a story of how she wishes things could have been between the two of them. Such a special story! Ages 6-9



A Morning with Grandpa

By Sylvia Liu 

Illustrated by Christina Forshay 


This is such a fun, playful book about Mei Mei and her grandpa, or Gong Gong. First he teaches her some slow, gentle movements from tai chi, and she puts her own spunky spin on them. Then she teaches him some yoga poses she learned at school. At the end, an author’s note tells more about tai chi and yoga. This is a celebration of the grandfather/granddaughter relationship as well as a light, fun introduction to these two types of movement. This is cute as can be! Ages 4-8





Grandfather Ghandi

By Arun Ghandi and Bethany Hegedus

Illustrated by Evan Turk


“‘Arun, we can all work to use our anger, instead of letting it use us.’”


This is such a cool book! Ghandi’s grandson Arun collaborated with the author in the writing of this book about what it was like for Arun to live in Ghandi’s village as a young boy. Arun worries that his emotions are too out of control and will keep him from making his grandfather proud. Ghandi patiently explains that everyone gets angry and that anger is like electricity. It has the power to destroy, like lightening. It can also be channeled into positive action and has the power to illuminate, like a lamp. This is a powerful story about emotions and the choices we make in determining what to do with them. Such a helpful message for children as they learn to navigate big feelings! Ages 4-8



Ojiichan’s Gift

By Chieri Uegaki

Illustrated by Genevieve Simms


I loved this book! It tells the story of Mayumi, a little girl who goes to Japan to visit her grandfather each summer. When she was born, he made her a garden of stones that they enjoy tending together for many years. When her grandfather must move away, she comes up with a creative idea about how to remember their treasured garden and feel connected to each other. She makes a tiny portable rock garden for her grandfather and another one for herself. I love this story about family, nature, and making memories. Ages 3-7



I Love You More Than…

By Taye Diggs

Illustrated by Shane W. Evans


“I love you more than I love dancing….

But I love making up moves and moonwalking with you”


I have never seen a book quite like this one! A father describes how much he misses his son whenever they can’t be together. He expresses his love for his son through recollections of all of their favorite things to do together. This book is tender, simple, and oh-so-endearing. This is a powerful counter-narrative to the media-perpetuated stereotype of absent or uninvolved black fathers. Though all children can enjoy it, it is especially perfect for kids who live separately from a parent or have a parent who is away from home for extended periods of time. Ages 4-8



Enemy Pie

By Derek Munson

Illustrated by Tara Callahan King 


I got to be the “mystery reader” for my daughter’s second grade class. I brought Enemy Pie to read, and the kids loved it! It’s about a boy who doesn’t get along with another little boy and asks his dad what to do about it. His dad pulls out a recipe for enemy pie and proceeds to make it, but there’s a caveat— for the pie to work, the boy has to spend a whole day with his enemy and be nice to him. The two boys end up having fun together and become friends, so the main character panics when his dad brings out the pie. He can only imagine what it will do to his new friend until the boys notice that the dad has already started eating a piece of pie. This is such a great book told from the child’s point of view. The second graders I read to debated whether the pie was magic and didn’t harm anyone because the boys were no longer enemies or the dad tricked them into spending time together. It's a book about friendship and getting along with others, as well as fatherly advice passed down to his child.



Tiny, Perfect Things

By M. H. Clark

Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper


I am just thrilled to share this one--one of my very favorite picture books! It’s the story of a grandfather and his granddaughter going on a walk, looking for tiny, perfect things: a spider web, a crow, a yellow leaf, a snail, and other simple treasures. In our busy, entertainment-centered culture, this book is a breath of fresh air. It’s a celebration of slowing down, observing and finding joy in the small beauties around us. There’s a quiet intimacy between the grandfather and the little girl, and I love the representation of a multi-racial family. It would be the perfect introduction to a nature studies lesson. Ages 5-8



My Dad’s Jokes Are Very (Terribly, Awfully, Painfully) Bad!

By Jacob Eckeberger 

Illustrated by Keith Zarraga


“‘How does Moses make his coffee?’

‘Just run! Leave!’

‘Hebrews it!’

‘We were too late. I knew it.’”


Who doesn’t love a good, punny dad joke? This brand new book is so much fun for parents and littles, alike. A young son tries to warn readers about his dad’s horrible jokes, but his dad keeps right on telling them, one after another. Can you get to the end of the book without laughing? With rhyming text that will make kids chuckle, this is the perfect book for kids who are just getting to the stage where they love word play. It would make a great Father’s Day gift for dads to enjoy with their kiddos.



These Hands

By Margaret H. Mason

Illustrated by Floyd Cooper


This book is so full of tenderness and meaning. Little Joseph’s grandfather tells about all the things “these hands” used to be able to do, can still do in teaching his grandson, and some of the things “these hands” were not allowed to do when the law upheld discrimination. I love how this book introduces the idea of racism couched in a story about the love and tenderness between a grandfather and grandson. The love serves as a cushion to the hard parts, eliciting empathy infused with hope. Grandfather tells specific ways he was affected by racism based on real-life discriminatory policies that existed at the Detroit Wonder Bread factory in the 1950’s and ‘60s. However, he is not portrayed as a victim of his circumstances; instead, he is an active participant in the fight to make things better so that his grandson can enjoy a more just world. I’m always amazed when one short children’s book can include so many profound themes! This one packs in love, justice, hope, pride, family, and community. We adore this one and hope you will check it out! Ages 4-7



Our Favorite Day

By Joowon Oh


"Thursdays are my favorite days."

"Mine, too."


This is just about the sweetest book I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s simple, like many of the best and truest things are. Every morning, Papa wakes up, drinks tea, waters the plants and tidies up before going into town. But on Thursdays, he buys special craft supplies and two orders of his favorite dumplings to go. The anticipation builds until finally his granddaughter arrives. They share a meal and make a kite together, both agreeing that Thursday is their favorite day. I’m not an overly sentimental reader, but this one had me teary. The mutual love and affection is just so touching, and the watercolor with paper collage illustrations are interesting and inviting. We all loved this one! It’s simple enough for the littlest readers, but even my big kid enjoyed it. Ages 3-7



I Talk Like a River 

By Jordan Scott

Illustrated by Sydney Smith


“When the words around me are hard to say, I think of the proud river, bubbling, churning, whirling, and crashing. And I also think of the calm river behind the rapids where the street is smooth and glistening. This is how my mouth moves. This is how I speak. Even the river stutters. Like I do.”


Based on the author’s own experience, this is a gorgeous book about a little boy who feels frustrated when he can’t get the words out that he wants to say. His dad takes him to a river and tells him that he talks like a river. This becomes a helpful, calming, empowering revelation to the little boy in this beautifully poetic book. As I’ve talked to my daughters about people who have/have had a speech impediment (President Biden and Amanda Gorman), I really appreciated being able to read this with them to give them a window into the experience and build understanding.



By Miriam B. Schiffer; Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

When the teacher announces that the class will have a Mother’s Day party, Stella is worried because she doesn’t have a mother to bring. When her classmates find out she doesn’t have a mother, they ask her who packs her lunch and reads her bedtime stories? She tells them that Daddy and Papa do. When they ask who kisses her when she gets hurt, she says, “Well, that’s a long answer. I get lots of kisses when I’m hurt. Either from Papa or Daddy or Nonna or Aunt Gloria or Uncle Bruno or Cousin Lucy.” One of her friends has the perfect solution— she should bring them all! This is a helpful exploration from children’s perspectives about what defines a family. We all have different people who take care of us. Such a sweet story! Ages 5-8



Harriet Gets Carried Away

By Jessie Sima

 

I got carried away right along with Harriet in this playful, imaginative book! Harriet loves costumes and wears them every day, year round. She decides to be a penguin for her dress-up birthday party. When she accompanies her dads to the store to pick up items for the party, she wanders off and finds a group of penguins. They lead her on an adventure and she has quite a lot of excitement on her way back to find her dads at the store—she is helped by an iceberg, a parachute, an orca, and some bird friends. This is a magical, whimsical celebration of imagination. Young children will be carried away right along with Harriet and find satisfaction in her return to the safety of her home base. We loved this book! Ages 4-8




Papa, Daddy, & Riley

By Seamus Kirst; Illustrated by Devon Holzwarth 


This beauty is a feast for the eyes! Check out @devonholzwarth’s Instagram profile for a peek at some of the incredible illustrations. The illustrator’s “work is inspired by childhood memories growing up in Panama and her collection of vintage children’s books.” I love finding contemporary books with artwork that has a vintage feel! 


When Olive’s classmate asks her which of her 2 dads is her real dad, she is distressed at the prospect of having to choose between Daddy and Papa. She loves them both so much and sees parts of each of them, as well as her “belly mom,” in herself. When her dads pick her up and ask why she is distraught, they have a conversation about all the many different types of families and concludes with, “Love makes a family.” Ages 4-8



A Different Pond

By Bao Phi

Illustrated by Thi Bui 


Author Bao Phi gives us a glimpse into his childhood experience as a refugee from Vietnam in this simple-but-not-so-simple story about a boy going fishing with his father in order to find enough food for the family. Though they go their separate ways during the day, they all come together for dinner and eat the fish caught that morning. The story is a quiet and intimate look at a family in which both parents work multiple jobs to make ends meet and the older siblings help take care of the little boy. Ages 6-8