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    20+ Multicultural Thanksgiving Books for Kids!

    Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of the year.  Yes, I am a true foodie at heart, but that’s not the only reason why I love Thanksgiving.  (Really, it’s not!)  To me, everything about the day provides a sense of comfort and gratitude.  Stuffing your face and eating until you’re comatose…well, that’s just an added bonus.

    I’m looking forward to enjoying family, good food, and of course reading some great books with the kids before the holiday arrives.  There are so many Thanksgiving-themed books available you may end up having a hard time deciding which ones to read.  To make it a little easier I’ve rounded up a collection of board and picture books that will teach kids the importance of gratitude, thankfulness, and kindness mixed in with a little fun and food…yum!  I’ve also added some culturally responsive/sensitive books to help teach children about the real story of Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective.

    Board Books

    Thank You God: From Kids Around the World by Allia Zobel Nolan

    As little readers turn the pages, they’ll travel to different countries and get a chance to discover what their friends in Egypt, Russia, Africa, China and other lands are grateful for–things like koala bears, northern lights, windmills, and more. And while they’re thrilling to exotic, new flora and fauna, they’ll get a lift-the-flap surprise on every spread. A great way to celebrate different cultures during Diversity Month (October), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all year around.

    My Thanksgiving Prayer by Crystal Bowman
    thanksgivingprayer
    This board book features a child thanking and praising God for the big and small joys of life. Children will delight in the colorful illustrations and the catchy rhyming text.

    Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon

    fivesillyturkeysToddlers will love the silly Thanksgiving turkeys in this fun counting book full of silly turkeys doing very silly things!  From twirling on a dance floor to being chased by a bee to tanning in the sun, these are no ordinary Thanksgiving turkeys. This shiny fabric–tabbed book is a holiday treat that is sure to be gobbled up quickly.

    Five Little Thank Yous by Cindy Jin

    This Thanksgiving book of five important thank yous is the perfect way for parents to celebrate and share the meaning of the holiday with their child.

    Picture Books (Includes Culturally Responsive Native American Books)

    We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell

    The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.

    May We Have Enough to Share by Richard van Camp Ages Birth to 3

    Award-winning author Richard Van Camp wrote this book to express his gratitude for all that surrounds him and his family. The strength of their connections, the nature that provides for them, the love that is endless. Complemented by photos from photographers who celebrate their own gratefulness on the collective blog Tea & Bannock, the simple verse in May We Have Enough to Share is the perfect way to start or end your little one’s days in gratitude.

    The Very First Native Americans by Cara Ashrose

    Long before Columbus landed in America, hundreds of groups of people had already made their homes here. You may have heard of some of them—like the Sioux, Hopi, and Seminole. But where did they live? What did they eat? How did they have fun? And where are they today? From coast to coast, learn all about these very first Americans!

    The People Shall Continue by Simon J. Ortiz

    A classic for 40 years, The People Shall continue is an absolute must for reading about the history of Indigenous people in America. This is such a beautiful, profound and important book. Every library should have a copy of it.

    Told in the rhythms of traditional oral narrative, this powerful telling of the history of the Native/Indigenous peoples of North America recounts their story from Creation to the invasion and usurpation of Native lands. As more and more people arrived, The People saw that the new men did not respect the land. The People witnessed the destruction of their Nations and the enslavement of their people. The People fought hard, but eventually agreed to stop fighting and signed treaties.

    Encounter by Jane Yolen

    When Christopher Columbus landed on the island of San Salvador in 1492, what he discovered were the Taino Indians. Told from a young Taino boy’s point of view, this is a story of how the boy tried to warn his people against welcoming the strangers, who seemed more interested in golden ornaments than friendship. Years later the boy, now an old man, looks back at the destruction of his people and their culture by the colonizers.

    1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace

    Countering the prevailing, traditional story of the first Thanksgiving, with its black-hatted, silver-buckled Pilgrims; blanket-clad, be-feathered Indians; cranberry sauce; pumpkin pie; and turkey, this lushly illustrated photo-essay presents a more measured, balanced, and historically accurate version of the three-day harvest celebration in 1621.

    Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp

    Giving Thanks is a special children’s version of the Thanksgiving Address, a message of gratitude that originated with the Native people of upstate New York and Canada and that is still spoken at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations.

    The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering by Gordon Regguinti

    Glen Jackson, Jr., an eleven-year-old Ojibway Indian in northern Minnesota, goes with his father to harvest wild rice, the sacred food of his people.

    The Circle of Thanks by Bruchac

    Fourteen poems with themes of thanksgiving and appreciation of nature, based in part on traditional Native American songs and prayers.

    Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas

    This entertaining and historical story shows that the actual hero of Thanksgiving was neither white nor Indian but God. In 1608, English traders came to Massachusetts and captured a twelve-year-old Indian, Squanto, and sold him into slavery. He was raised by Christians and taught faith in God. Ten years later he was sent home to America. Upon arrival, he learned an epidemic had wiped out his entire village. But God had plans for Squanto. God delivered a Thanksgiving miracle: an English-speaking Indian living in the exact place where the Pilgrims landed in a strange new world.

    Squanto Y El Primer Dia De Accion De Gracias/Squanto and the First Thanksgiving by Joyce K. Kessel

    An introduction to the life of the Massachusetts Indian Squanto, best known for befriending the Pilgrims of the New Plymouth Colony.

    Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith

    This collection of interrelated stories is heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny. Author Cynthia Leitich Smith writes with wit and candor about what it’s like to grow up as a Seminole-Cherokee boy who is just as happy pounding the pavement in windy Chicago as rowing on a take in rural Oklahoma.

    Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition by Sally M. Hunter

    Twelve-year-old Russell learns how to grow and dry corn from his Winnebago grandfather.

    Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson

    Born of Mohawk and Cayuga descent, musical icon Robbie Robertson learned the story of Hiawatha and his spiritual guide, the Peacemaker, as part of the Iroquois oral tradition. Now he shares the same gift of storytelling with a new generation.

    Hiawatha was a strong and articulate Mohawk who was chosen to translate the Peacemaker’s message of unity for the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century. This message not only succeeded in uniting the tribes but also forever changed how the Iroquois governed themselves—a blueprint for democracy that would later inspire the authors of the U.S. Constitution.

    Hungry Johnny by Cheryl Kay Minnema

    Johnny can hardly contain his excitement. In no time, he’ll be digging in with everyone else, filling his belly with all this good food.

    But wait. First there is the long drive to the community center. And then an even longer Ojibwe prayer. And then—well, young boys know to follow the rules: elders eat first, no matter how hungry the youngsters are. Johnny lingers with Grandma, worried that the tasty treats won’t last. Seats at the tables fill and refill; platters are emptied and then replaced. Will it ever be their turn? And will there be enough?

    A great introduction for children to learn about the Ojibwe culture.

    Many Hands: A Penobscot Indian Story by Angeli Perrow

    Why does everyone keep telling Lily that many hands make the basket? Didn’t she make the basket with her very own hands? It is the most beautiful basket of her 10-year-old life and no one will give her the credit she deserves. In the end, she learns a valuable lesson about pride and the spirit of community. Into the story is woven the process of basket making and a Wabanaki animal legend, as well as some words of the Penobscot language.

    Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

    Omu means queen in Igbo (spoken in Nigeria). It’s the name the author used used for her grandmother while growing up.  Omu generously gives her delicious stew away to everyone in the neighborhood until there’s none left for her to eat. What will Omu do?

    This book truly warmed my heart! It’s a beautiful and well-written story of family, love, sharing, community and good food. Perfect for sharing around the holidays or any time of the year.

    Fry Bread by Juana Martinez-Neal

    Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story is so much more than a story about food.  From the illustrations to the end papers to the back matter, this is a simple, yet phenomenal story about food, history, culture, diversity, resourcefulness, perseverance, family and community.

    The story is told in simple, lyrical text.  Readers learn that fry bread is a food, it’s a shape, it’s sound, it’s history and more.  In short, readers learn that fry bread is an important symbol of the Native American culture.  At the end of the book, readers are invited into the story with the simple phrases, “Fry bread is you.”, “Fry bread is us.”  The back matter has a recipe for fry bread, an author’s note and more detailed information about fry bread.

    Pies from Nowhere by Dee Romito

    Georgia Gilmore was a cook at the National Lunch Company in Montgomery, Alabama. When the bus boycotts broke out in Montgomery after Rosa Parks was arrested, Georgia knew just what to do. She organized a group of women who cooked and baked to fund-raise for gas and cars to help sustain the boycott. Called the Club from Nowhere, Georgia was the only person who knew who baked and bought the food, and she said the money came from “nowhere” to anyone who asked.

    When Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for his role in the boycott, Georgia testified on his behalf, and her home became a meeting place for civil rights leaders. This picture book highlights a hidden figure of the civil rights movement who fueled the bus boycotts and demonstrated that one person can make a real change in her community and beyond. It also includes one of her delicious recipes (homemade pound cake) for kids to try with the help of their parents!

    Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules

    It’s almost Thanksgiving, and Tuyet is excited about the holiday and the vacation from school. There’s just one problem: her Vietnamese American family is having duck for Thanksgiving dinner – not turkey! Nobody has duck for Thanksgiving – what will her teacher and the other kids think? To her surprise, Tuyet enjoys her yummy thanksgiving dinner anyhow – and an even bigger surprise is waiting for her at school on Monday. Dinners from roast beef to lamb to enchiladas adorned the Thanksgiving tables of her classmates, but they all had something in common – family! Kids from families with different traditions will enjoy this warm story about “the right way” to celebrate an American holiday.

    Over the River and Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure by Linda Ashman

    This rhyming book is so fun!  It features a multiracial family traveling by sleigh to get to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the holidays.  Each family faces an obstacle that delays their trip, but in the end they finally reach their destination.

    The Thankful Book by Todd Parr

    From everyday activities like reading and bath time to big family meals together and special alone time between parent and child, Todd inspires readers to be thankful for all of life’s special moments. The perfect book to treasure and share, around the holidays and throughout the year.

    Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes
    thanksamillion

    What makes you thankful? A book? Weekends? Your family? How do you say thanks? With a flower? With a chocolate bar? With a surprise?

    In sixteen extraordinary poems that range in form from a haiku to a rebus to a riddle, Nikki Grimes reminds us how wonderful it is to feel thankful, and how powerful a simple “thank you” can be.

    Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table by Vanessa Newton

    auntiemabelAuntie Mabel and her family and friends have gathered for their big Sunday dinner and can’t wait to dig into a delicious, mouthwatering meal. Before they can begin, Auntie Mabel starts—and doesn’t stop!—blessing everyone and everything she surveys: the yams and Brussels sprouts, the table and chairs—even the president of the United States!

    Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo

    Jinyi and her sister love visiting Auntie and Uncle Yang’s home, where they enjoy dumpling-eating contests and backyard adventures with their cousins. One weekend, on a Sunday drive among the cornfields near Chicago, Auntie Yang spots something she has never before seen in Illinois. Could it be one of their favorite Chinese foods—soybeans?!

    This book has many parallels to typical Thanksgiving traditions, including a family road trip, hoards of aunts, uncles and cousins, and a big family meal.

    Milly and the Macy’s Parade by Shana Corey
    millyandthemacysparade
    In the spirit of “Miracle on 34th Street” comes a heartwarming holiday story based on the true origins of the Macy’s Parade,endorsed by Macy’s. The Macy’s Parade is a treasured American pastime. But few people know that the first parade in 1924 was organized by immigrant employees at Macy’s eager to incorporate their old-world traditions into their new American heritage. With facility & flair, Shana Corey tells the fictional story of a Polish immigrant girl who helps envision this grand event.

    Rice & Rocks by Sandra L. Richards
    riceandrocks
    Tradition takes flight in Rice & Rocks, a picture book celebrating food, culture and diversity.

    Giovanni’s friends are coming over for Sunday dinner, and his grandmother is serving rice and beans. Giovanni is embarrassed he does not like ‘rice and rocks’ and worries his friends will think the traditional Jamaican dish is weird. But his favorite Auntie comes to the rescue. She and Giovanni’s pet parrot, Jasper, take him on a magical journey across the globe, visiting places where people eat rice and rocks. This exciting story celebrates the varied traditions of every culture while also highlighting the delicious similarities that bring us all together.

    Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore
    coracookspancit
    Cora loves being in the kitchen, but she always gets stuck doing the kid jobs like licking the spoon. One day, however, when her older sisters and brother head out, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama’s assistant chef. And of all the delicious Filipino dishes that dance through Cora’s head, she and Mama decide to make pancit, her favorite noodle dish.With Mama’s help, Cora does the grown-up jobs like shredding the chicken and soaking the noodles (perhaps Mama won’t notice if she takes a nibble of chicken or sloshes a little water on the floor). Cora even gets to stir the noodles in the pot carefully– while Mama supervises. When dinner is finally served, her siblings find out that Cora did all their grown-up tasks, and Cora waits anxiously to see what everyone thinks of her cooking.

    Rivka’s First Thanksgiving by Elsa Okon Rael
    rivkasfirstthanksgiving
    More than anything, Rivka wants to celebrate Thanksgiving. She has learned all about the holiday in school and knows her family has a lot to be thankful for in America. But Rivka’s parents are Jewish immigrants from Poland, and they wonder what Pilgrims and Indians have to do with them. Is Thanksgiving really a holiday for Jews?

    Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller

    sharingthebread
    Celebrate food and family with this heartwarming Thanksgiving picture book. We will share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread. / Grateful to be warm and fed. / We will share the bread. In this spirited ode to the holiday, set at the turn of the twentieth century, a large family works together to make their special meal. Mama prepares the turkey, Daddy tends the fire, Sister kneads, and Brother bastes. Everyone—from Grandma and Grandpa to the littlest baby—has a special job to do. Told in spare, rhythmic verse and lively illustrations, Sharing the Bread is a perfect read-aloud to celebrate the Thanksgiving tradition.

    The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing

    thanksgivingescapeIt’s another Thanksgiving at Grandma’s. Gavin expects a long day of boredom and being pestered by distantly related toddlers, but his cousin Rhonda has a different idea: make a break for it – out of the kids’ room to the swing set in the backyard! Gavin isn’t so sure, especially when they encounter vicious guard dogs (in homemade sweaters), a hallway full of overly affectionate aunts, and worse yet, the great wall of butts! Will they manage to avoid the obstacles and find some fun before turkey time? Or will they be captured before they’ve had a taste of freedom?

    The Memory Cupboard by Charlotte Herman
    thememorycupboard
    For Katie, nothing compares to Thanksgiving at Grandma’s. There are the aunts and uncles, whom Katie loves to see each year. But a cherished object is broken at dinner, and Katie blames herself for spoiling the day.

    Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley
    graciasthethanksgivingturkey
    In this warm holiday story, a young Puerto Rican boy saves the life of his pet turkey with help from his close-knit New York City family and neighborhood. Beginning Spanish vocabulary is woven into the text.

    Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
    feastfor10

    A counting book that features an African-American family shopping for food, preparing dinner, and sitting down to eat. Lively read-aloud text paired with bright collage illustrations.

    The Little Kids’ Table by Mary Ann McCabe

    thelittlekidstable
    Everyone knows that the little kids table is the place to be for any holiday or family gathering. They just know how to have fun! This silly, rhyming story follows a group of rambunctious cousins from table setting to dessert.

    Gracias Thanks by Pat Mora

    graciasthanksIn a series of poetic sentences, a young boy (biracial Mexican/Caucasian) tells about some of the everyday things for which he is thankful. Come share the joy, and think about all the things for which you can say, ¡Gracias! Thanks!

    The Firefighters’ Thanksgiving by Maribeth Boelts
    thefirefightersthanksgiving
    Station 1 is always a busy place. When there aren’t fires to put out there are plenty of chores to do. And on Thanksgiving Day there’s a big feast to prepare. Lou is in charge of dinner this year, but just as they finish shopping, a call comes in. They drop everything to get to the fire. Other calls interrupt Lou’s cooking throughout the day, and it looks like there may not be a Thanksgiving dinner for these firefighters.

    How Many Days to America: A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting
    howmanydaystoamerica
    After the police come, a family is forced to flee their Caribbean island and set sail for America in a small fishing boat.

    Sweet Potato Pie by Kathleen D. Lindsey
    sweetpotatopie
    During a drought in the early 1900s, a large loving African American family finds a delicious way to earn the money they need to save their family farm.

    Stone Soup by Jon J Muth
    stonesoup
    Set in China in Muth’s hauntingly beautiful watercolors.  Three strangers, hungry and tired, pass through a war-torn village. Embittered and suspicious from the war, the people hide their food and close their windows tight. That is, until the clever strangers suggest making a soup from stones. Intrigued by the idea, everyone brings what they have until– together, they have made a feast fit for a king!

    Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland

    Thanksgiving is about everything that we are thankful for. Cheerful, colorful illustrations accompany the simple text in this celebration of family, friends, and the holiday that brings them all together.

    Your turn:  What books will you and your little ones be reading for Thanksgiving?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's books, holiday books, read aloud

    What the Kids are Reading (for Thanksgiving)

    Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of the year.  Yes, I am a true foodie at heart, but that’s not the only reason why I love Thanksgiving.  (Really, it’s not!)  To me, everything about the day provides a sense of comfort.  Stuffing your face and eating until you’re comatose…well, that’s just an added bonus.

    16 Board & Picture Books for Thanksgiving (1)

    This will be my third time enjoying Thanksgiving as a parent with the kids.  I’m looking forward to enjoying family, good food, and of course reading some great books with the kids before the holiday arrives.  There are so many Thanksgiving-themed books available you may end up having a hard time deciding which ones to read.  To make it a little easier I’ve rounded up a collection of board and picture books that will teach your kids the importance of gratitude, thankfulness, and kindness mixed in with a little fun and food…yum!  Enjoy!

    Board Books
    Who’s Coming for Dinner, Little Hoo? by Brenda Ponnay
    whoscomingtodinner
    Whooo’s Ready for Thanksgiving? Little Hoo is hosting all of his friends for a Thanksgiving feast, but first they have to arrive. Toddlers will love guessing who will be at the door in this “Knock, Knock” book featuring a little owl and his friends and family.

    My Thanksgiving Prayer by Crystal Bowman
    thanksgivingprayer
    This oversized board book features a child thanking and praising God for the big and small joys of life. Children will delight in the colorful illustrations and the catchy rhyming text.

    Thanksgiving Parade by Kelly Asbury
    thanksgivingparade
    Through rhyming text, this shaped board book captures some of the best features of the parade, as seen through the eyes of a child.

    Turkey Time! by Price Stern Sloan
    turketyime
    Through rhyming text, this adorable book walks through Thanksgiving Day in the lead-up to the big meal.

    Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon
    fivesillyturkeys
    Toddlers will love the silly Thanksgiving turkeys in this fun counting book full of silly turkeys doing very silly things!  From twirling on a dance floor to being chased by a bee to tanning in the sun, these are no ordinary Thanksgiving turkeys. This shiny fabric–tabbed book is a holiday treat that is sure to be gobbled up quickly.

    10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston
    10fatturkeys
    Little readers will gobble up this silly story about ten goofy turkeys and their antics: swinging from a vine, strutting on a boar, doing a noodle dance, and more.

    Picture Books
    Turkey and Mr. Bear by Jessika Daly
    turkeybear
    When Turkey shares his enthusiasm for Thanksgiving with Mr. Bear, he learns that he has no idea what that holiday really means. With wild ideas about birthday cake, fireworks and stockings hung by Santa, he soon finds out what Thanksgiving is all about. What does that mean for Turkey?

    The Very Stuffed Turkey by Katharine Kenah and Binny Talib
    stuffedturkey

    A Thanksgiving story featuring a large turkey with a big problem.  He’s been invited to EVERYONE’S home for dinner!  With five homes to visit — Horse’s, Pig’s, Sheep and Goat’s, Cow’s, and Mouse’s –Turkey knows there’ll be a ton of food to eat. But there will also be friends and their families who can’t wait to celebrate the holiday with Turkey! Can this very plump bird make it through every meal without bursting?

    The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing
    thanksgivingescape
    It’s another Thanksgiving at Grandma’s. Gavin expects a long day of boredom and being pestered by distantly related toddlers, but his cousin Rhonda has a different idea: make a break for it – out of the kids’ room to the swing set in the backyard! Gavin isn’t so sure, especially when they encounter vicious guard dogs (in homemade sweaters), a hallway full of overly affectionate aunts, and worse yet, the great wall of butts! Will they manage to avoid the obstacles and find some fun before turkey time? Or will they be captured before they’ve had a taste of freedom?

    Turk and Runt: A Thanksgiving Comedy by Lisa Wheeler
    turkandrunt
    A Thanksgiving comedy story about two brother turkeys and how they save each other from being someone’s Thanksgiving dinner.  I’d recommend this one for kids ages 5 – 8.

    Thanksgiving for Emily Ann by Teresa Johnston
    thanksgivingforemilyann

    Celebrate Thanksgiving in this sweet, rhyming story all about family and togetherness!
    Emily Ann doesn’t like Thanksgiving, not one bit. With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday, she feels a little ignored…and just a little bit sad. But just as Emily Ann prepares to do her worst, her family comes together to show her what matters most about Thanksgiving: family.

    Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes
    thanksforthanksgiving

    From the turkey on the table to warm, cozy cuddles, life is full of small things and bigger pleasures. But what is most important is being able to share them with family.  This book reminds kids and adults alike about the little details that make each day enjoyable and the illustrations bring the thoughtful words to life.

    Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano and Lee Harper
    turkeytrouble
    Turkey is in trouble. Bad trouble. The kind of trouble where it’s almost Thanksgiving . . . and you’re the main
    course. But Turkey has an idea–what if he doesn’t look like a turkey? What if he looks like another animal instead?
    After many hilarious attempts, Turkey comes up with the perfect disguise to make this Thanksgiving the best ever that puts a nice twist on the story’s ending. Vegetarians rejoice! (No, I’m not a vegetarian, but I think they will enjoy the alternative ending.) This is a fun read aloud book to read with the kids.

    Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
    bearsaysthanks
    Bear has come up with the perfect way to say thanks—a nice big dinner! When Bear decides to throw a feast, his friends show up one by one with different platters of delicious food to share. There’s just one problem: Bear’s cupboards are bare! What is he to do?

    T is for Turkey: A True Thanksgiving Story by Tanya Lee Stone
    tisforturkey
    An ABC Thanksgiving book.  A group of children puts on a play using rhyming couplets, featuring each letter of the alphabet, to provide the facts about Thanksgiving Day.

    The Little Kids’ Table by Mary Ann McCabe

    thelittlekidstable
    Everyone knows that the little kids table is the place to be for any holiday or family gathering. They just know how to have fun! This silly, rhyming story follows a group of rambunctious cousins from table setting to dessert.

    But wait…there’s more!  I also included these three bonus books.

    Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table by Vanessa Newton
    auntiemabel

    Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller
    sharingthebread

    Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
    feastfor10

    Your turn:  What books will you and your little ones be reading for Thanksgiving?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews, children's books, holiday books

    Three Ways My Children Teach Me About the Joy of Giving

    Disclaimer: I’ve teamed up with Zonderkidz to share how my children taught me about the joy of giving with the Berenstain Bears.

    I enjoy the holidays for many reasons: family time, food, holiday parties, Christmas lights and cheesy Hallmark movies.  Although I’ve always liked the holidays, becoming a parent has reawakened my holiday spirit and the joy of giving in many ways.  I now look forward to the holidays with lots of anticipation and excitement in a way I never did before in my adult years.  Yes, my children have helped me fall in love with the true meaning of Christmas all over again.  They also taught me what it really means to give and to give with grace.

    Three Ways My Children Teach Me About the Joy of Giving

    Give to others without expecting anything in return

    If you feel like doing something for someone, then just do it and don’t think about what you might receive in return.  I find lessons like this can often be learned through your own life experiences as well as through reading books.  When I read books like The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, I am often reminded of some very important lessons like giving without expecting anything in return.  I have always like reading Berenstain Bears books and watching the cartoons on television when I was younger. I think these books teach great moral lessons and allow for further discussion and reflection with the discussion questions that are often found in the back of the book.

    I love how Brother and Sister Bear learn to give generously to others in the book The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of GivingThey gave their remaining money cheerfully to others instead of thinking of themselves.

    It is more blessed to give than receive.

    A valuable lesson to be learned for readers of all ages.  Being a parent is a constant reminder to me to give to others without expecting anything in return.  For everything I do for my children on a daily basis, I never say, “What’s in this for me?”

    When you learn to give freely without expecting anything in return, you are not burdened with the need for praise, thanks, or appreciation.  In a word you learn, grace–where you are recipient of the blessing.

    Give as much as you can year-round

    My children have taught me the importance of incorporating giving into my life all year long. During the holiday season, it’s easy to share our good fortune and blessings with others. We’re constantly reminded to give to fundraisers, food drives, bell ringers and charities.

    When I look at my children, I’m reminded daily to not only give my all to them, but to give as much as I can to others too.  It’s important to me my children see me model charity and giving from January through December.  I don’t want them to grow up thinking people are only in need, or happy to accept help, during the holidays.

    Each act of giving changes the world for the better

    Even the smallest act of giving makes a positive impact.  I witness this firsthand whenever I give to my children or treat them with kindness.  It makes them in turn want to give joyfully to others.  My children constantly teach me whether I’m asked or not, to seek opportunities to help others when you can.

    You never know when a simple act of helping someone will cause a long-lasting, positive ripple effect in the world. It might not be felt right away, but as the ripples spread outward and impact others, they’re likely to bounce back to you in surprising and wonderful ways.

    Your turn: How have your children taught you about the joy of giving?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    About The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving
    In The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, Brother and Sister Bear can’t wait for Christmas and all the presents they’ll open. But during the Christmas Eve pageant, something special happens! The Bear cubs learn a very valuable lesson about the joy of giving to others.

    Books referenced in this blog post:

    The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving
    By Jan & Mike Berenstain
    In Stores Now! (released September 2010)
    Recommended for ages 3-8

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    children's books, diverse books, holiday books

    The Mocha Express Reading Challenge: Download this Diverse & Inclusive Holiday Reading Challenge for Kids and Adults!

    Happy Holidays, friends! Y’all ready for another resource to use with your little readers, your students or on your own? If you’re an educator, it makes the perfect holiday gift for all of your students no matter what age they are!

    To create this printable, I collaborated with Briana James of Artish Reader, a talented Art student. If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember the first project Briana and I collaborated on for my 31 Days of Women’s History coloring sheet.

    I talked to Briana about my idea and concept and she used her creative genius to produce a high-quality reading chart. I couldn’t be more happier with it! Get in touch with Briana, give her a follow on Instagram, and support her as she continues to build up her art portfolio. It’s always such a pleasure to work with her and help support another Black woman at the same time.

    This coloring printable is a fun way to celebrate holiday reading. It features an array of books and other items beautifully stacked on a train which I’ve decided to call the Mocha Express. You can enjoy this coloring page printed in various sizes from 11 x 17 up to 24 X 36 if you’d like jumbo poster size.

    Each day during the holiday months, color in one book or object until the whole poster is complete. Also, be sure to use the checklist to check off books as you read or complete the challenges. I designed this printable to be used starting Thanksgiving Day (in the U.S.), but you can start using it any day throughout the year you choose.

    If you need book recommendations throughout the challenge, I have created several categorized lists in my online Bookshop and Amazon stores to assist you. Also, if purchasing new or used books isn’t in your budget, be sure to utilize your local library.

    Here are a few of my book lists to help get you started:

    Thanksgiving Books for Kids
    Hanukkah Books for Kids
    Multicultural/Diverse Christmas Books for Kids
    Latinx Book Recommendations
    Diverse & Inclusive Board Books for Infants and Preschoolers
    Diverse & Inclusive Picture Books for Kids
    African-American Picture Books Featuring Males
    African-American Picture Books Featuring Females
    Native/Indigenous Picture Books
    Asian & Pacific Islander Book Recommendations

    Happy Reading!

    CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THIS PRINTABLE! 

    CHECK OUT MORE OF MY RESOURCES (INCLUDING MY POPULAR PRINTABLE READING JOURNAL and 28 DAYS OF BLACK HISTORY) ON MY TEACHER’S PAY TEACHERS WEBSITE AND GIVE ME A FOLLOW OVER THERE TOO.

    AS ALWAYS, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

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    children's books, diverse books

    The Best 45 Diverse Children’s Books of 2019 to Read Over and Over Again

    Best children's books of 2019

    Whenever the last few weeks of the month roll around, I begin thinking about my favorite books of the year.  My absolute favorite self-help book I read in 2019 is Atomic Habits by James Clear.  I found myself returning to that book again and again throughout the year.  I also loved The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

    If you follow my blog, Instagram or Facebook pages, you may know how much I love reading on my own and with my two children. It makes my heart sing when I walk into a room and see my children reading on their own.  I also love giving books as gifts for kids, friends and family.

    Below I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of children’s books that I consider to be the “best of the best” that were published in 2019.  Rest assured, my children and I have read each of these books several times together the year.  I believe these are books children (and adults) will be excited to read again and again.  Let me know in the comments which of these you’ve read or are excited to read with the little readers in your life.

    Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you!

    A Boy Like You by Frank Murphy, illustrated by Kayla Harren

    What does it mean to a “boy” or “a man”? I think the answer to that question depends on who you ask. Today, the definitions of manhood and boyhood are being reconsidered as families aim to raise boys without toxic masculinity in this #metoo era.  A Boy Like You gives grown-ups and children a fresh perspective and ideas for raising boys without toxic masculinity.

    Readers are taught to ditch harmful phrases and language like “you throw like a girl.” Readers also learn that each of us has our own unique gifts and talents and the world is a better place when we are actively expressing them.

    A Boy Like You affirms the single most important thing parents/caregivers of boys can do to combat toxic masculinity is to teach them to show emotion and not close off their feelings. Boys don’t NEED to be strong every day. They don’t NEED to be in control. And if they aren’t in control, they don’t NEED to feel ashamed.

    If you are raising a boy let him be sad, disappointed and hurt sometimes. Let him cry when he falls down and tell him it’s going to be OK even if he isn’t hurt. Listen to him when he opens up and talks to you. Teach him empathy and how to love and treat people with kindness and respect. Model it in your everyday life.

    As author Frank Murphy states, “Being strong isn’t about muscles. Muscles are part of being strong on the “outside”. There’s “inside” strength too. The strength inside you guides the things that you do and say.” Such a profound perspective.  Ages 4-7 and up.

    A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison

    Katherine Johnson loved numbers from an early age. Her love of counting – steps, number of dishes she washed, and even the stars – primed her for starting high school as a 10 year old. She excelled in school, devouring knowledge and starting college at just 15 years old.

    Ever since seeing the Hidden Figures movie, I’ve loved seeing all of the books about the inspiring women from the movie. I’m thrilled all of their stories have finally been told and continue to inspire generations of men and women alike all over the world.

    A Computer Called Katherine is spectacular and beautifully captures the life of human-computer Katherine Johnson. Katherine Johnson knew that women could be anything and do the same things as men so she boldly set out to prove it. Ages 4-8 and up.

    An ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing, illustrated by Paulina Morgan

    This an ABC book I can get behind! It teaches readers about topics like social justice, equality, inclusion, consent, race, and privilege.

    A is for Ability
    B is for Belief
    C is for Class
    L is for LGBTQIA
    P is for Privilege
    T is for Transgender

    In addition to introducing readers to different vocabulary words, there are also brief definitions that are easy for young readers to understand. Although this is a board book aimed at kids ages 3-5, I think some of the content is more suitable for slightly older readers ages 6-7 and up.

    Instead of reading this in one sitting, we read it over the course of a few days focusing on 4-5 words at a time. This book served as a great conversation starter to talk about some tougher topics like privilege, xenophobia and racism.

    Around the Table That Grandad Built by Melanie Heuiser Hill, illustrated by Jaime Kim

    This is a wonderful book about family, gratitude, teamwork and food. It’s a cumulative story that features a diverse cast of characters and an array of diverse dishes like: tamales, samosas and rice pudding.  PERFECT for reading aloud with the four to eight year-old crowd.

    At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorrell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre

    At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorell (she’s a citizen of the Cherokee Nation) is a breathtaking work of art. Although sparse in text, each word in this book is so powerful and the illustrations (painted by a Native artist) are amazing.

    This book introduces readers to a Native family waiting for their relative, a female pilot, to come home from war. At the end of the book readers find out this book is meant to highlight the service of Native American women, which is all too often forgotten or left out of history books altogether.

    Babymoon by Hayley Barrett, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

    The term Babymoon was first coined in a 1996 book, The Year After Childbirth, by childbirth educator Sheila Kitzinger.

    Essentially, a babymoon is sort of like a honeymoon, only it happens after you confirm that you are pregnant and expecting a baby, and before (or after) the baby arrives.

    In this rhyming book, readers meet a sweet family (a biracial family of color) who decide to go on a secluded babymoon with their newborn baby.  The baby is gender neutral which was a purposeful decision.  I love that the family chose to take their babymoon AFTER baby arrived along with their pet cat and dog in tow as a way for them all to bond as a family.

    As first-time parents, they have so much to learn about caring for a new baby.  From changing diapers to nursing to building trust.  If you are a parent then you know having a child changes the family dynamic dramatically.  The baby becomes the center of attention from the moment he/she arrives.

    I like how the parents in this book are investing time and space to be together as a family unit away from home.  It gives me hope these parents will walk into parenthood more connected than ever.

    The illustrations in Babymoon will take your breath away and make you feel the love these parents have for their baby.  I think this is some of Juana Martinez-Neal’s best work to date.  Each illustration is so tranquil infused with gentle and loving tenderness.  A definite must-have for newborn parents or parents-to-be.  Add this one to your baby shower gift giving list!

    Bedtime Classics: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Carly Gledhill

    Because fairy tales can be re-imagined and retold many ways. All kids deserve to see themselves reflected back to them in the pages of a book.  We are absolutely LOVING these re-imagined Penguin Classic board book fairy tales.

    Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed

    Six-year-old Bilal is excited to help his dad make his favorite food of all-time: daal! The slow-cooked lentil dish from South Asia requires lots of ingredients and a whole lot of waiting. Bilal wants to introduce his friends to daal. They’ve never tried it! As the day goes on, the daal continues to simmer, and more kids join Bilal and his family, waiting to try the tasty dish. And as time passes, Bilal begins to wonder: Will his friends like it as much as he does?

    This picture book uses food as a means of bringing a community together to share in each other’s family traditions.  Ages 4 – 8 and up.

    Birdsong by Julie Flett

    When a young girl moves from the country to a small town, she feels lonely and out of place. But soon she meets an elderly woman next door, who shares her love of arts and crafts. Can the girl navigate the changing seasons and failing health of her new friend?

    A brief glossary and pronunciation guide to Cree-Métis words that appear in the text is provided.

    Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Ebony Glenn

    In 1951 Janet Collins became the first Black prima ballerina to perform with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York City, New York.

    This rhyming picture book biography tells the story of Janet Collins who wanted to be a ballerina in the 1930’s and 1940’s when racial segregation was widespread in the United States. When she couldn’t enroll in ballet school due to discrimination, Janet sought private lessons.

    Janet also had many other artistic talents including painting and choreography. She died in 2003 at the age of eighty-six.

    Brave Ballerina is perfect for aspiring dancers or kids interested in the arts. The back matter includes an author’s note and additional resources and websites for further reading. Ages 4-8.

    Freedom Soup by Tami Charles

    Join the celebration in the kitchen as a family makes their traditional New Year’s soup — and shares the story of how Haitian independence came to be.  Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution.

    Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Boble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

    Fry bread.  Of all the foods most commonly associated with Native American culture, fry bread has long been at the center of the table.  It is a food that was born out of desperation and survival that no one could have predicted it would be the become a touchstone of Native American culture.  I think in order to truly understand and appreciate the beauty of the book Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, you must first learn about the complicated history of fry bread.

    Fry bread is a flat dough bread, fried or deep-fried in oil, shortening, or lard. It is tradition to the Navajo people, who are the largest federally recognized Native American Indian tribe in the United States.  Frybread was first used in 1864 using the flour, sugar, salt and lard that was given to the Navajo tribe by the United States government when the Navajo, who were living in Arizona, were forced to make the 300 mile journey known as the “Long Walk” and move to Bosque Redondo, in New Mexico, onto land that could not be farmed with their traditional foods, which were vegetables and beans.

    Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story is so much more than a story about food.  From the illustrations to the end papers to the back matter, this is a simple, yet phenomenal story about food, history, culture, diversity, resourcefulness, perseverance, family and community.

    As soon as you open up the book,  you are immediately drawn in with the mesmerizing end papers.  The end papers list the 573 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States.  This is so powerful to me as I honestly had no idea there were so many tribes in the United States.

    The story is told in simple, lyrical text.  Readers learn that fry bread is a food, it’s a shape, it’s sound, it’s history and more.  In short, readers learn that fry bread is an important symbol of the Native American culture.  At the end of the book, readers are invited into the story with the simple phrases, “Fry bread is you.”, “Fry bread is us.”  The back matter has a recipe for fry bread, an author’s note and more detailed information about fry bread.

    After reading this book, I learned some modern Native Americans have a troubled relationship with fry bread.  While it is symbolic of their people’s darkest time, it is also viewed as their ingenuity and ability to survive despite the odds.  Whatever the larger cultural agreement is, among Native Americans I still think this is an amazing story that should be be on children’s bookshelves’ in homes and schools worldwide.  Ages 4 – 8 and up.

    Going Down Home With Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter

    As long as there have been families, there have been reunions of sorts – annual summer barbecues, holiday gatherings, get-togethers for weddings and funerals.

    But these days with families living far and wide, it’s the latter — weddings and funerals — that tend to draw the largest number of family members together in the same space. At least that’s true for our family. We’ve often tried and talked about organizing family reunions, but life always gets in the way and it never comes to fruition.

    When our family finally does have a family reunion, I hope it will be as beautiful and meaningful as the reunion that takes place in Going Down Home With Daddy.

    This book shows readers family reunions are a way for families to reconnect with their roots, find a sense of belonging and honor their elders.

    Lil Alan, his sister and their family prepare to go “down home” for their annual family reunion. As with every year, the family gathers together to learn about more about their family history, traditions and more family stories than they can count.

    I love how proud this family is of all the land they own, how they honor and pay tribute to their ancestors, and how each child shares a special talent, song, poem or written passage with the family. In the end, each family member leaves feeling a renewed sense of the family bond and a re-attachment to the land where the family in America began.

    This is a feel good story that will warm your heart and show readers the importance of family.  Ages 4-8 and up.

    Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

    Twist outs. Braid outs. Wash and Gos. Bantu knots. Locs. Afros. Braids. Top Knots. Ponytails.  Today’s natural haired beauties are embracing their kinks, coils and curls more than ever before to express their style.  Just ask little Zuri.  She wants to have the perfect hairstyle to welcome her mother home.  Armed with an iPad, hair products and her dad, she ends up finding the perfect look.

    I adore this book for so many reasons.  First, it showcases a Black father in a positive light bonding with his daughter doing her hair.  We don’t see this enough, especially in the Black community.  I personally think a father caring for his daughter’s hair isn’t a loss of masculinity.  In fact, I think women admire men even more who take the initiative to learn how to do hair.  I love how Zuri’s dad steps up to the plate and figures out what needs to be done to do his daughter’s hair in his wife’s absence.

    With the help of social media, Zuri’s father learns how to comb, part, oil, twist, and style Zuri’s hair.  This experience allowed Zuri to bond with her dad in an entirely new way, and likely instilled a deep pride about the heritage in her hair.

    One thing I notice with my husband is he likes to bond with our kids by playing, roughhousing, teaching them a skill or a sport.  But Hair Love shows that fathers talking to their daughters about their hair is an entirely new way to bond. Just like my daughter, many girls love to see and spend time with their dad.  So when a father actually does a good job on his daughter’s hair she’ll likely respond with, “Yeah, my daddy did my hair!”…now that’s bonding.

    I also think Hair Love does a great job showing readers that being a father is much more than being able to provide for a family financially.  Fatherhood sometimes encompasses: cooking, cleaning, AND doing hair.  It may also involve showing your daughter how to love herself completely inside and out, how to appreciate her natural beauty, and love everything about herself. Those are things that sometimes men (and women) really don’t think about as being a father.

    Lastly, the adorable illustrations by Vashti Harrison make this book a ten on the cuteness scale.  Just look at how adorable the front cover is!  As always, Vashti does an outstanding job telling the story through her stunning illustrations.  A winner!

    Ho’onani: Hula Warrior by Heather Gale and Mika Song

    An outstanding narrative (based on a true story documentary) about Ho’onani and her quest to perform in the boys’ hula troupe.

    Ho’onani really wants to be part of the hula troupe, but it’s traditionally only for boys. Ho’onani decides to audition for the part anyway and she get it!  Ho’onani’s sister is beyond embarrassed that her sister will be playing the role that’s supposed to be for “boys”.

    Ho’onani’s confidence in herself and her ability to lead the troupe is amazing.  She doesn’t care about the traditional gender rules; she simply wants to dance in the troupe because it’s something she enjoys doing. Even Ho’onani’s teacher tries to talk her out of leading the troupe by telling her that some parents might not want a girl leading their boys in the hula.  Ho’onani sticks with her convictions and goes on to do a fabulous job.  This one is perfect for teaching kids about gender stereotypes and Hawaiian culture and tradition.  Ages 4 – 8 and up.

    I Can Write the World by Joshunda Sanders, illustrated by Charly Palmer

    Results from a recent study claim it’s scarcity, not abundance, that promotes creativity. The more stuff we have, the less creative we are. I wholeheartedly believe this to be true. I aspire to always be in a position to give my kids experiences over things.

    When she was my age, there were no art classes at school. Black and Brown kids taught themselves to move, sketch, rap, and made hip-hop culture cool. This quote taken from the book is so true. Kids today have access to every type of activity and resource you can imagine which is awesome. But sometimes I wonder….is it all too much? Are we teaching our kids to just Google and YouTube everything or ask Siri or Alexa if they can’t figure it out within one minute? Anyway, I digress.

    I Can Write the World is a true gem and one you’ll definitely want to add to your bookshelves.  Let me tell you why.

    First, the illustrations by Charly Palmer are captivating and really help capture the true essence of the overall messages. Next, the words will pierce your soul. Here’s an example:

    “Creativity is using what you have to make a map of your dreams. What you see in your mind or feel in your heart can come out in dance, colors, or beats.”

    Finally, the overall inspirational messages. Kids will learn in order to be creative they can use the little resources that they have. Kids will also learn about having pride in where they come from and some kids may even be inspired to become a journalist and “write the world” just like little Ava Murray from the Bronx did.  Ages 4-8 and up.

    It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way by Kyo Maclear

    Wham, bam! Harper Kids has knocked it out of the park with this picture book biography about the life of Japanese artist Gyo Fujikawa.  Gyo (pronounced ghee-o) loved drawing since the age of five when her parents came to California looking for a better life. Gyo often felt invisible in school as she was surrounded by mostly White students.

    Her family was too poor to afford to send Gyo to art school, but one of her school teachers found the money to pay her way. Gyo eventually goes on to become a children’s book illustrator and publishes the book Babies, one of the earliest children’s books to use multicultural characters.

    This is such a beautifully written story that celebrates the life of an amazing artist.

    Let ‘Er Buck! by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by Gordon C. James

    George Fletcher lived in Pendleton, Oregon, a place where there weren’t a lot of African-Americans. He made friends with the children from the Umatilla Indian Reservation and learned how to train horses with kindness and gentleness.   George started riding in competitions at age 16, but he wasn’t allowed to compete because of the color of his skin. In 1911, George got his big break at the Pendleton Round-Up, the biggest rodeo in the Northwest. He made the top three finalists for the Saddle Bronc Championship.

    A beautifully written and illustrated picture book that has themes of: racism, horses, rodeos and heroism. Recommended for ages 4-8.

    M is for Melanin: A Celebration of The Black Child by Tiffany Rose

    M Is for Melanin is an empowering alphabet book that teaches kids their ABCs and celebrates Black children.

    M is for Melanin
    shining in every inch of your skin.
    Every shade, every hue.
    All beautiful and unique.

    Each letter of the alphabet contains affirming, Black-positive messages, from A is for Afro, to F is for Fresh, to W is for Worthy. This book teaches children their ABCs while encouraging them to love the skin that they’re in. Ages 3-6.

    Magic Ramen: The Story of Momofuku Ando by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Kana Urbanowicz

    Inspiration struck when Momofuku Ando spotted the long lines for a simple bowl of ramen following World War II. Magic Ramen tells the true story behind the creation of one of the world’s most popular foods.

    Every day, Momofuku Ando would retire to his lab–a little shed in his backyard. For years, he’d dreamed about making a new kind of ramen noodle soup that was quick, convenient, and tasty for the hungry people he’d seen in line for a bowl on the black market following World War II. Peace follows from a full stomach, he believed.

    Day after day, Ando experimented. Night after night, he failed. But Ando kept experimenting.  With persistence, creativity, and a little inspiration, Ando succeeded. This is the true story behind one of the world’s most popular foods.

    Muslim Girls Rise: Inspirational Champions of Our Time by Saira Mir, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel

    From the introduction: People may tell you that you can’t do something because of the way you look, dress, or pray. Your name may sound different. Never forget that you are extraordinary. You are powerful, brave, and clever. Great things come from people like you.

    What a powerful introduction, right? These are the types of messages kids need to be reminded of time and time again through great books like this one.  Muslim Girls Rose introduces readers to nineteen contemporary Muslim women who followed their passions and rose up to make significant contributions in science, activism, fashion, film, sports, education and more.

    Little readers will no doubt be inspired and empowered to rise up and follow their dreams after reading this gem.  Ages 6 and up.

    My Mommy Medicine by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Shannon Wright

    When my kids are sick or not feeling well, all they want is to cuddle with me. There’s just something about the instinctive nurturing of some mothers that seems to make everything feel better.

    I adore this book that showcases the unconditional love between a mother and daughter. This is now be my go to book to read with my kids when they’re sick. It’s a true winner with the most beautiful illustrations! Ages 4-8 and up.

    My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña

    When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she’s always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her.  But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there. Ages 4-8.

    Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin, illustrated by Ebony Glenn

    Many fairy tales depict a world of predominantly blonde heroines with twinkling blue eyes and a fair complexion. This is problematic and an unrealistic view of the world we live in today.

    Seeing oneself is an affirming moment, but for little girls of color, this mirror image is as rare as Cinderella’s glass slipper fitting properly. We all crave representation and deserve access to reflections of ourselves, and that is why I’m excited by this book: Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin illustrated by Ebony Glenn.

    When little Tameika auditions for the role of Snow White, she overhears kids saying she’s “too chubby” and making comments about her having brown skin. They whisper and giggle and stare at her which in turn causes Tameika to second guess her decision about playing the lead role.

    I adore this book for so many reasons. It shows all marginalized kids that everything is possible. Tameika auditioning for the role of Snow White is powerful not only for readers of color, but for everyone, enabling us to see beyond the dominant images of White protagonists in childhood stories and fairy tales.

    It is revolutionary that fairy tales and stories represent children of all colors. With her brown skin, and kinky hair, Tameika is the furthest from classic Disney fantasies—but closest to my reality.

    Hopefully all children (and adults) reading this book will realize that we can become our wishes and dreams, and that we’re worthy of being seen despite what others may think or say.

    I think this book is a winner! It has great read aloud appeal, beautiful illustrations that inspire, and messages about body positivity, acceptance, self-love, bravery, diversity and inclusion. Ages 4-8 and up.

    Nya’s Long Walk: A Step at a Time by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

    Young Nya takes little sister Akeer along on the two-hour walk to fetch water for the family. But Akeer becomes too ill to walk, and Nya faces the impossible: her sister and the full water vessel together are too heavy to carry. As she struggles, she discovers that if she manages to take one step, then another, she can reach home and Mama’s care.   Ages 4 – 7.

    Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons: An Enslaved Woman Fights for Freedom by Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Simone Agoussoye

    George and Martha Washington valued Ona as one of their most skilled and trustworthy slaves, but she would risk everything to achieve complete freedom. Born into slavery at Mount Vernon, Ona seized the opportunity to escape when she was brought to live in the President’s Mansion in Philadelphia. Ona fled to New Hampshire and started a new life. But the Washingtons wouldn’t give up easily. After her escape, Ona became the focus of a years-long manhunt, led by America’s first president. Gwendolyn Hooks’ vivid and detailed prose captures the danger, uncertainty, and persistence Ona Judge experienced during and after her heroic escape.  Ages 9 and up.

    Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist by Julie Leung, illustrated by Chris Sasaki

    I am fascinated by the story of Tyrus Wong. Born Wong Gen Yeo in southern China’s Guangdong Province in 1910, Wong landed in the United States as a 9-year-old; traveling with his father, he reportedly never saw his mother and sister again.  Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, young Tyrus and his father were separated and interrogated during the long immigration process. Once reunited with his father and cleared by immigration, Tyrus and his father began their life in America living in the state of California.

    Tyrus was naturally gifted at drawing, painting and art. His talent was evident to his teachers, who along with his father encouraged him to pursue art. He received a full-time scholarship to Otis Art Institute, working while pursuing his education. After graduating, Wong put his gifts and training to use in Hollywood, designing sets and storyboards for Warner Bros.

    Tyrus is best known for animating scenes from the Disney movie Bambi in 1942 although he never received the recognition he deserved until the 1990’s nearly 50 decades later. Due to discrimination and racism against Asian Americans, Tyrus spent years enduring poverty and chronic lack of recognition. In the movie Bambi, Mr. Wong’s name appears, quite far down in the credits, as a mere “background” artist.

    Wong lived a long life and died at age 106. His artistic career also saw him designing Hallmark greeting cards. He was also an accomplished painter, muralist, lithographer, ceramicist and kite maker.  Ages 4-8 and up.

    Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker & Jessica Curry, illustrated by Brittany Jackson

    When little Parker Curry saw Michelle Obama’s painting last year at the National Portrait Gallery she was awestruck. Her photo quickly went viral and later landed her a book deal.  Now Parker hopes to inspire other children to go after their dreams in her picture book Parker Looks Up.

    Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar

    Pura Belpre was the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City.  She helped bring story times and computer classes in Spanish at public libraries. Now, every year the American Library Association gives out an award in Belpré’s name. It recognizes books for kids and young adults by Latino writers and illustrators.  Ages 4-8 and up.

    Priya Dreams of Marigolds and Masala by Meena Patel

    Priya lives in the United Stated and her family is from India. She learns about India through her Babi Ba’s (grandma’s) descriptions of it and in the way that their Indian culture is woven through their lives every day. Priya is the hero in this book – her curiosity about her family’s heritage and the kindness and love that she shows to her Ba help to carry her family’s traditions forward. It’s a story about having pride for all of the pieces that come together to make you who you are and feeling the magic of a place without having been there. Ages 4-8.

    Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus and Tonya Engel

    Writer, activist, trolley car conductor, dancer, mother, and humanitarian–Maya Angelou’s life was marked by transformation and perseverance. In this comprehensive picture-book biography geared towards older readers, Bethany Hegedus lyrically traces Maya’s life from her early days in Stamps, Arkansas through her work as a freedom fighter to her triumphant rise as a poet of the people. A foreword by Angelou’s grandson, Colin A. Johnson, describes how a love of literature and poetry helped young Maya overcome childhood trauma and turn adversity into triumph. Coupled with Tonya Engel’s metaphorical and emotive illustrations, this biography beautifully conveys the heartaches and successes of this truly phenomenal woman, and is a powerful tribute to the written word.  Recommended for ages 7-10 and up.

    Saturday by Oge Mora

    Saturdays are for…(you fill in the blank). Little Ava loves Saturdays because it’s the one day of the week when her mother doesn’t have to work. This Saturday is an extra special one because Ava and her mother are going to a one-night only puppet show. But first, they have plans to attend story time at the library, get their hair done at a salon and have a picnic in the park.

    Their special day doesn’t turn out as well as they hoped it would at all, but does it end well? You’ll have to read it to find out.

    This is another winner from author Oge Mora! It’s a wonderful story about bonding, family, and how to handle situations when things don’t go as planned. Kids will love the repetition, the vibrant collage illustrations and seeing how the story ends. Ages 4-8 and up.

    Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

    Meet Sofia Valdez, the newest character from the bestselling creators who brought you Ada Twist, Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck.

    Every morning, Abuelo walks Sofia to school . . . until one day, when Abuelo hurts his ankle at a local landfill and he can no longer do so. Sofia (aka Sofi) misses her Abuelo and wonders what she can do about the dangerous Mount Trashmore. Then she gets an idea—the town can turn the slimy mess into a park! She brainstorms and plans and finally works up the courage to go to City Hall—only to be told by a clerk that she can’t build a park because she’s just a kid! Sofia is down but not out, and she sets out to prove what one kid can do.  Ages 5 – 7 and up.

    Sulwe by Lupita N, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

    Having lighter skin has long been a status symbol and is still seen as “superior” by many people around the world. However, thanks to the introduction of affirming songs like Beyonce’s “Brown Skin Girl” and books like Lupita Nyong’o’s Sulwe; Black girls and women everywhere are unapologetically adoring themselves for who they are inside and out.

    Sulwe, which means “star” in the Kenyan language Luo, introduces readers to a young girl named Sulwe who is the darkest person in her family. Sulwe wished she had light skin like her sister Mich who is the color of high noon. In an effort to try and lighten her skin, Sulwe uses a big eraser to try and rub off layers of her skin and she only eats the lightest, brightest foods like: bananas, white bread, and crackers. As a last effort, Sulwe decides to turn to God and pray for a miracle. She prays to wake up and have light skin and lots of friends just like her sister. When she wakes up the next morning and sees her prayer wasn’t answered she breaks down and tells her mother everything.

    Her mother gives her sage advice and reassures her she’s beautiful just the way she is. Later that night, Sulwe is visited by a shooting star who takes her on a quest which helps her learn to love and appreciate herself.

    Based on Lupita’s childhood, Sulwe will pull at your heartstrings and make you cheer at the end when Sulwe gains the strength to see the beauty and power in her own dark skin. The book may also spark some excellent conversations about colorism and the pressures women of color face to obtain Eurocentric standards of beauty. In a world where women and young girls still grow up with constant reminders that only light/fair skin is beautiful, I’m so glad books like this exist.

    The overall message of inspiring children to see their own unique beauty is powerful. Sulwe will undoubtedly plant seeds of sufficiency and adequacy in little Black girls’ minds and empower them to proudly say, “I Am Enough.”

    The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

    My son started kindergarten this school year so this book was a must-have for our home library. It introduces readers to a little boy preparing for the first day of kindergarten.  The boy imagines himself as being a king living in the far off village of Osh and Kosh preparing to make the big transition to school.  The illustrations are so well done and really help to bring the story to life and relatable for small children.  Ages 4 – 8 and up.

    The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Alea Marley

    In this story, little readers are introduced to a boy named Harpreet Singh who loves colors. He likes to express his love of colors by wearing brightly colored patkas (turbans) to match his outfit and his mood.

    One day, Harpreet’s mother announces their family is moving to a snowy town across the country because she found a new job. Hearing this news makes Harpreet sad and he begins wearing turbans in darker colors like blue and gray. He also began wearing white turbans often because he wanted to appear invisible in his new school.  Will Harpreet find happiness again and start wearing his bright and cheerful colored turbans? You’ll have to read it to find out how the story ends.

    The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh is a beautiful diverse story that has themes of: colors, cultural traditions/beliefs, family, friendship, dealing with emotions, and moving to a new place.

    The Nutcracker by E. T. A. Hoffmann, illustrated by Carly Gledhill

    On Christmas Eve, Clara is given a special gift from her Godfather–a beautiful nutcracker doll. But when Clara awakes in the middle of the night, she finds her beloved nutcracker has transformed into a handsome prince, and together, they set off for the Land of Sweets.  Ages 3 – 5 and up.

    The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad, illustrated by S. K. Ali Hatem Aly

    The black hair that once fell down Asiya’s back and across her face is no longer in view. It is covered now, whenever she is in public, by an oversized scarf called a hijab.  Today, a neatly pressed, bright blue hijab frames Asiya’s pretty face. It’s her first-day hijab which also happens to be the first day of school. Asiya is the same young girl underneath that she was a few days ago. The only difference is she must now wear a hijab, a tradition for Muslim women once they reach puberty.

    Unfortunately, not everyone thinks Asiya’s ocean blue hijab is as beautiful as she and her family do. Asiya’s little sister Faizah is confused when she overhears a mean boy saying hurtful words and laughing about her sister.

    Remembering the sage advice her mother told her, Asiya turns away and continues to play tag with her friends.  The Proudest Blue is an inspiring #ownvoices story about self-acceptance, confidence, family, courage and being proud of who you are despite what others think or say. Ages 4-8 and up. Written by Olympic Medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad.

    The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

    I think this book is pure perfection. Let me tell you why.

    First off, it’s written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. I adore both of these men, their artistry and talent. Have you ever heard Kwame speak in person at one of his events? He’s a natural storyteller and oratory genius. Prepare to be blown away if you ever hear him speak in person. And Kadir Nelson? He can do no wrong in my opinion. Everything he illustrates is pure gold…EVERYTHING!

    Second. This book is a love letter to America. To Black America. It’s dedicated to everyday working people, artists, athletes, and activists. In the afterword, Kwame explains he wrote this poem in 2008, the same year his second daughter was born and Barack Obama became the first African American president of the U.S.

    Kwame also states he wrote this poem to remind himself and all Black Americans to never give up and keep on rising. The words in this book pierced me to my soul and made me shed tears of joy. It made me reflect on the harsh history my ancestors before me must have endured, but also made me proud to see how far we’ve come. This is exactly the type of book we need in the world right now.

    And yes, there is still so much work to be done in America and all over the world with regards to race, prejudice, etc. However, this book is a great reminder for me to keep on pushing against all odds. After reading this you will likely declare, “I Am Undefeated”, just like I did.  Add this one to your “must buy” list for 2019. Ages 4-7 and up.

    The Women Who Caught the Babies by Eloise Greenfield

    This book opens with a beautiful and informative five-page introduction by author Eloise Greenfield.  There are also a series of poems about African American midwives from the days of slavery to the early 2000s. The book closes with a poem about the midwife Miss Rovenia Mayo who caught Eloise Greenfield herself on the evening of May 17, 1929.

    The amazing illustrations in the book are done by illustrator Daniel Minter who was also caught by a midwife during his birth.  Minter said in a recent interview with Press Herald, “In those rural areas, you just did not have access to a hospital, for one thing,” Minter said in an interview. “And if there was one, hospitals didn’t accept black patients until recently. You didn’t have that as an easy option, so you had midwives.”

    The Women Who Caught the Babies traces the history of Black midwives and the critical role they played in improving the care and outcomes for Black families.  Midwives are prominent members of the community. They do more than just deliver babies, they are spiritual healers, family counselors, nutritionists, and postpartum doulas.  I think it’s wonderful books like this exist to teach readers about this rich tradition of African American midwives.  It has been carried across the Atlantic, kept alive and passed down from healer to healer, continuing through slavery and spread throughout the African diaspora.  Ages 9 – 12 and up.

    Titan and the Wild Boars: The True Rescue of the Thai Soccer Team by Susan Hood & Pathana Sornhiran, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

    Remember the 13 boys and soccer coach trapped in a cave in Thailand for 18 days? Well now, there’s a picture book about them.

    On June 23, 2018 Titan and eleven of his teammates entered the Tham Luang Nang Non Caves along with their soccer coach in search of adventure. The storied “hidden city” within the cave excited the boys so they went in search of it. Little did they know they’d be spending 18 days trapped (June 23 – July 10) there underground surrounded by stone cold water and little oxygen with no food.  Ages 5 – 9 and up.

    Under My Hijab by Hena Khan, illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel

    I absolutely adore this rhyming picture book that empowers Muslim girls and shows the versatility of the hijab.  Hijabs are often worn to reflect a person’s faith, to feel closer to God, or to keep certain body parts like hair private due to religion.  This book shows readers hijabs can be worn at work, school, and even while playing sports or doing other public activities. A beautiful book to be enjoyed by readers ages 4-8 and up.

    What is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by April Harrison

    It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service– the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can give to the Temple family.

    A touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.

    This is likely the final picture book from the late author Patricia McKissack. She passed away in 2017 from cardio respiratory arrest. Patricia and her husband championed Black exemplars and prided themselves on using books to build bridges. “When children don’t see themselves in books, they aren’t motivated to read. If children don’t read often they usually don’t read well. And soon that translates into failure. I don’t want that to happen, so I try to create characters children enjoy reading about.” -Patricia McKissack

    Recommended for ages 4-8.

    When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

    When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of his life that didn’t fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life.

    Then Mom and Dad announce that they’re going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning–from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does “making things right” actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.

    When Aidan Became a Brother is a heartwarming book that will resonate with transgender children, reassure any child concerned about becoming an older sibling, and celebrate the many transitions a family can experience.  Ages 4 – 8 and up.

    When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L.B. Deenihan, illustrated by Lorraine Rocha

    After receiving a lemon tree from her grandmother as a birthday gift, a little girl is disappointed and confused. I mean, what is she supposed to do with a lemon tree? She wanted a new electronic device.

    I absolutely adore everything about this book. Grandma’s humor, the sage advice Grandma gives her granddaughter, and of course the overall lesson. It’s brilliant! Bonus points for the recipe in the back, a lesson on financial literacy/entrepreneurship and for having another lesson about limiting the use of electronic devices. Everything about this book is amazing.

    A sensational debut picture book from Jamie L.B. Dennihan. It’s no surprise why this has a nearly perfect rating on Amazon. A gem!

    Did you enjoy this list?  Feel free to subscribe to my mailing list if you’re not already.  Let’s stay in touch so you can stay up-to-date on all of the exciting content I have planned!

    Your turn: How do our recommendations stack up against yours?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's books, diverse books, holiday books, holiday gift guide series

    The Ultimate List of Diverse Christmas Children’s Books to Read this Holiday Season

    It’s the “most wonderful time of the year” again and the holidays are here.  One of our family’s favorite ways to celebrate the holiday season is to cuddle up and read lots of wonderful Christmas and holiday themed picture books.

    Each year as soon as the holidays start to roll around, people often ask me for children’s holiday book recommendations – specifically Christmas books for children of color.  As I’ve often said, I don’t discriminate when it comes to reading books on my own or with my kids.  However, I do know the power of children seeing themselves reflected in literature especially around Christmas when they are bombarded with images of a White Santa Claus from the media to retail stores.

    From the story of the nutcracker to the significance of the poinsettia, the multicultural/diverse books on this list include not only some traditional favorites, but also a few great modern additions too.  Check out the list below, complete with publishers’ descriptions included.

    Native American Night Before Christmas by Gary Robinson, Jesse T. Hummingbird Ages 4 – 8

    An innovative retelling of the classic Christmas tale, this full-color book takes a whimsical look at what Christmas Eve might be like for a Native American family when Old Red Shirt (the Native American Santa Claus) comes a-calling with his team of flying white buffalo to deliver fry bread, commodities and other goodies.

    Waiting for Christmas by Monica Greenfield, Jan Spivey Gilchrist Ages 5 – 6

    Sharing a sense of wonder and excitement in the time just before Christmas, two African-American children enjoy decorating the tree, visiting with relatives, and checking for presents one last time.

    Christmas in Lagos by Ages 4 – 8
    Christmas in Lagos
    A delightful and charming story celebrating Christmas in Lagos, a modern West African city. This picture book explores the sights and sounds of Lagos at Christmas through the eyes and words of a little Nigerian girl writing a Christmas journal.

    Damon and the Magic Christmas Tree by Tash Creates, Ebony Glenn Ages 4 – 8

    Damon is a seven-year-old from Seattle, Washington. He wants a Superman action figure for Christmas, and he wants to spend the holidays with his family at their home in Seattle. Instead, his parents tell him that they’re all flying to New York City to visit Damon’s grandmother.

    All the Colors of Christmas by Matthew Paul Turner, Gillian Gamble Ages 4 – 8

    In his trademark style, Matthew Paul Turner celebrates the Christmas season, particularly the colors that infuse the holiday and all the memorable sensations and experiences—including a festive market, sledding, and nativity scene—connected to those bright hues. Matthew draws his readers into a whirling ribbon of the familiar reds and greens of Christmas, as well as other festive hues, including white, gold, blue, and brown.

    Amazing Peace a Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou (Author), Steve Johnson (Illustrator), Lou Fancher (Illustrator) Ages 6 and up

    Angelou’s beautiful, moving, and beloved poem, which she first read at the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony, now comes alive as a fully illustrated children’s book, celebrating the promise of peace in the holiday season. In this simple story, a family joins with their community—rich and poor, black and white, Christian, Muslim, and Jew—to celebrate the holidays.

    Christmas Soul: African American Holiday Stories by Allison Samuels, Michele Wood Ages 4 – 8 and up

    With original stories by Debbie Allen, Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Whitney Houston, D.L. Hughley, Monica, and more. In this collection of poignant and witty original stories, African American celebrities recount their favorite childhood Christmas memories.

    The Cajun Nutcracker by Chara Mock, Jean Cassels

    As Merrae dances with her friends and family to the sound of washboards and banjos, her excitement only grows when she receives a Nutcracker from Perrain for Christmas. But later that night, she awakes to find herself surrounded by nutrias and the evil Alligator King. Soon toy soldiers and the heroic Nutcracker come to life and begin to battle the creatures. After Merrae is saved by the Nutcracker, they sail through the swamp to see the Sugar Cane Fairy, where the air smells sweet with magnolias.

    The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora

    A gorgeous re-imagining of the beloved Christmas poem, set in Africa.  Since Clement Clarke Moore penned this Christmas classic in 1825, it has been beloved by children around the world. Now, Caldecott Honor winner Rachel Isadora sets the poem in Africa, capturing the anticipation and excitement of Christmas in her stunning collages.

    My Baby Loves Christmas by Jabari Asim (Author), Tara Nicole Whitaker (Illustrator) Ages 2 – 4

    Celebrate all the lovely things that Baby discovers about Christmas. This board book, the perfect gift for a new baby, features rhythmic poetry.

    10 Trim-The-Tree’ers by Janet Schulman and Linda Davick Ages Birth – 3

    Help your children count down to Christmas with ten little neighbors trimming the tree in their building’s lobby.

    A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas by Pat Mora (Author), Magaly Morales (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 7

    In this version a little girl receives gifts from a secret amiga, whose identity is a sweet surprise at the book’s conclusion. There are things to find and count in Spanish on every page, with pronunciations provided right in the pictures and a glossary and music following the story.

    The Nutcracker in Harlem by T. E. McMorrow (Author), James Ransome (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

    This jazz-inspired reinvention of The Nutcracker is a worthy tribute to the dreamlike wonder and magic of the Christmas season.  In this original retelling, set in New York City during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, one little girl finds her voice as a musician thanks to her enchanting adventures with a magical toy.

    Under the Christmas Tree by Nikki Giovanni, Kadir Nelson Ages 6 – 8

    Presented from an African-American perspective by a Coretta Scott King Award-winning author, a holiday tale provides readers with twenty-three charming poems that capture the joy and happiness of one family’s Christmas celebration.

    Walk This World at Christmastime by Big Picture Press (Author), Debbie Powell (Illustrator) Ages 5 – 8

    A collection of global cultures, Walk This World at Christmastime illustrates the ways people around the world celebrate Christmas. Travel to a new set of countries with every turn of the page. Lift the numbered flaps for all the fun of an Advent calendar in a format to be read again and again.

    Tree of Cranes by Allen Say Ages 4 – 7

    As a young Japanese boy recovers from a bad chill, his mother busily folds origami paper into delicate silver cranes in preparation for the boy’s very first Christmas.

    A Stork in a Baobab Tree: An African 12 Days of Christmas by Catherine House (Author), Polly Alakija (Illustrator) Ages 5 – 8

    Set in Africa during the Christmas season, this is the story of a village preparing for a celebration – the birth of a child. The story is told in verse inspired by the traditional carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, but in this version the gifts are: 1 stork in a baobab tree, 2 thatched huts, 3 woven baskets, 4 market traders, 5 bright khangas, 6 women pounding, 7 children playing, 8 wooden carvings, 9 grazing goats, 10 drummers drumming, 11 dancers dancing and 12 storytellers.

    Nine Days to Christmas: A Story of Mexico by Marie Hall Ets (Author), Aurora Labastida (Author) Ages 6 -10

    Ceci eagerly awaits Las Posadas, the traditional nine-day series of yuletide celebrations. This year she’ll lead the candlelight procession that reenacts Mary and Joseph’s trek to Bethlehem. Meanwhile, Mother takes her to the old marketplace to choose her very first piñata. Ceci is dazzled by the colorful array of options, and after making her choice has second thoughts about the fate of her piñata once the posada takes place.

    I Got the Christmas Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison (Author), Frank Morrison (Illustrator) Ages 3 – 6

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and a mother and daughter are enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday season. The little girl hears sleigh bells ringing and carolers singing. She smells chestnuts roasting–CRUNCH! CRUNCH! CRUNCH!–and sees the flashing lights of the department store windows–BLING! BLING! BLING! She spreads the spirit of giving wherever she goes. And when she reaches Santa, she tells him her Christmas wish–for peace and love everywhere, all the days of the year.

    Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits (Author), Gabi Swiatkowska (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

    When Yoon’s teacher lends her a book about Santa Claus, Yoon can’t wait to show it to her parents. To Yoon’s disappointment, though, her mother responds, “We are not a Christmas family.” As Christmas Eve approaches, Yoon learns more and more about this exciting holiday. But no matter how hard she tries to convince her parents to sing Christmas songs or put up Christmas stockings, they always say no. A determined Yoon soon realizes that she must use her own “Shining Wisdom” to persuade her parents that they can indeed be a Christmas family.

    Arturo and the Navidad Birds by Anne Broyles (Author), KE Lewis (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 7

    It’s time for Arturo and his Central American grandmother, Abue Rosa, to decorate their Christmas tree. Abue Rosa shares with him the family history of each ornament as it is hung. But what happens when Arturo plays with—and breaks—a glass bird? Young readers will find out in this touching, bilingual picture book.

    N Is for Navidad by Susan Middleton Elya (Author), Merry Banks (Author), Joe Cepeda (Illustrator) Ages 5 – 6

    Bienvenidos! to a celebration of Christmas, Latino-style! From the ngel (angel) hung above the door to the zapatos (shoes) filled with grass for the wise men s camels, each letter in this festive alphabet introduces children to a Spanish word, and each colorful page takes them through another joyous aspect of the 22 days of the traditional holiday.

    An Angel Just Like Me by Mary Hoffman (Author), Ying-Hwa Hu, Cornelius Van Wright Ages 5 – 6

    An inspiring text and festive illustrations highlight the story of Tyler’s quest to find a Christmas tree angel who does not have golden hair and pink skin, but rather looks like him and his family, is a unique Christmas story that celebrates ethnic diversity.

    ‘Twas Nochebuena by Roseanne Greenfield Thong (Author), Sara Palacios (Illustrator)

    It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re invited to a Nochebuena celebration! Follow a family as they prepare to host a night filled with laughter, love, and Latino tradition. Make tasty tamales and hang colorful adornos (decorations) on the walls. Gather to sing festive canciones (songs) while sipping champurrado (hot chocolate). After the midnight feast has been served and the last gifts have been unwrapped, it’s time to cheer, “Feliz Navidad and to all a good night!”

    Grace at Christmas by Mary Hoffman Ages 6 – 9

    When her grandmother takes in a stranded family at Christmas, Grace is reluctant to share her favorite holiday with strangers, even though the visiting family includes a “real live ballerina.”

    Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, Ed Martinez

    This is the story of a treasure thought to be lost in a batch of tamales; of a desperate adn funny attempt by Maria and her cousins to eat their way out of trouble; and the warm way a family pulls together to make it a perfect Christmas after all.

    Christmas Soup by Alice Faye Duncan, Phyllis Dooley Ages 4 – 7

    While Mama is making the traditional Christmas soup her children wish for more. When Baby Fannie prays ‘Bless our home with something more’— and that ‘more’ turns out to be two hungry strangers to feed, it seems as if things can’t get much worse. But the soup—a true feast for the hungry pair—is shared, and the Beene children learn a lesson about giving they won’t soon forget.

    Hold Christmas in Your Heart by Cheryl Willis Hudson

    A collection of traditional and contemporary African American Christmas songs, stories, and poems for the very young, illustrated by a selection of respected African American artists.  Works from legends such as Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, and Nikki Grimes (just to name a few) are perfectly complimented by rich illustrations from a number of renowned illustrators including, George Ford, Cal Massey, and Sylvia Walker.

    A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World by M.E. Furman (Author), Susan Gal (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 7

    A World of Cookies for Santa takes readers across the globe to see all the treats that await Santa on Christmas Eve. Head to the Philippines, where children leave out puto seko cookies and ginger tea for Santa; jet to Russia for a honey-spice cookie; then set out for Malawi for a sweet potato cookie! When you’ve returned home, the journey’s still not over—M. E. Furman provides recipes for children to bake some of Santa’s cookies for themselves. A World of Cookies for Santa is a multicultural celebration that families will return to year after year.

    The Miracle of the First Poinsettia by Joanne Oppenheim (Author), Fabian Negrin (Illustrator) Ages 4 and up

    Originally native to Mexico, beautiful poinsettia plants decorate homes around the world every holiday season. But few people who love the plant s deep red tones know the traditional Mexican tale about how the poinsettia first came to be. In this extraordinary collaboration, Fabian Negrin brings his warm, glowing scenes to Joanne Oppenheim s thoughtful narrative, transporting readers to Old-World Mexico and into the arms of a young girl as her trust leads her straight into a miracle. A beautiful alternative to the traditional nativity story, this book is a wonderful evocation of Mexican customs and culture.

    La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story by Antonio Sacre (Author), Angela Dominguez (Illustrator) Ages 5 – 7
    Nina is visiting her grandmother in Miami for Christmas. Usually she spends it in snowy New England with her mother and her family, but this year is different. She isn’t certain what to make of a hot and humid holiday, until she learns the traditions of her father’s side of the family from her Cuban grandmother. She helps prepare for the evening and takes part in all their traditions—the intricate cooking for the feast, the dancing, the music, and the gathering of relatives and neighbors. It all comes together for a Noche Buena that Nina will never forget.

    Silent Night by Lara Hawthorne Ages 5 – 6

    Celebrate the magic of Christmas with this beautifully illustrated book, based on the world’s best-loved carol. Rediscover the Nativity Story in all its glory—from quaking shepherds to heaven-sent angels—as the song lyrics are brought to life on every spread. The world’s diversity is reflected in a cast of characters with a range of skin tones.

    Baby Jesus Like My Brother by Margery W. Brown Ages 5 – 6

    When Keisha explains the meaning of Christmas to her brother Tony, the young boy finds many similarities between Jesus’ family and his own African American family.

    The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (Author), Ellen Beier (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

    Virginia’s old coat is too small. The cold South Dakota wind blows across the Rosebud Indian Reservation, making her shiver as she walks to school. Virginia dreams of a new coat arriving in the Theast boxes–parcels of clothing from churches in The East. But, she knows she may not have a chance for a coat this year. Her father is the village Episcopal priest, so her family chooses last, and as Mama always says, The others need it more than we do. Generosity and unexpected joy remind Virginia of the importance of community within this story from the author s childhood.

    Christmas Soul: African American Holiday Stories by Allison Samuels (Author), Michele Wood

    With original stories by Debbie Allen, Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Whitney Houston, D.L. Hughley, Monica, and more. In this collection of poignant and witty original stories, African American celebrities recount their favorite childhood Christmas memories. Accompanied by evocative oil pintings, these stories will illuminate the holidays for years to come.

    A Child is Born by Margaret Wise Brown, Floyd Cooper Ages 2 – 4

    This lyrical celebration of the miracle of Christmas is now just the right size for little hands! Margaret Wise Brown’s simple, poetic language brought to life by Floyd Cooper’s spectacular paintings offer a fresh perspective on the Holy Family and the miraculous birth of Christ.

    Who Built the Stable?: A Nativity Poem by Ashley Bryan Ages 4 – 8

    Told in gentle rhyme and illustrated with Ashley Bryan’s enormous talent, this is a picture book that captures the reason for the season in all its wonder and beauty. Who Built the Stable? is a celebration of Christmas, of the kindness of children, and of the new hope born with each new baby.

    12 Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora

    Set in Africa, this beautiful rendition of the classic Christmas carol has a unique twist: colorful icons illustrate the various gifts repeated in each verse of this cumulative song, creating a rebus-style text that gives young children a fun way to follow along and chime in with the lyrics.

    Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano (Author), Marjorie Priceman (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

    It’s Christmas Eve and Mami has bought a delicious roast for a Christmas feast. But, oh no! It’s too big to fit in the oven. Jose and Papa need to find an oven big enough to cook Mami’s roast. As they walk from door to door through their apartment building, no one seems to be in the Christmas spirit. So they head down the street to find someone willing to help, and only when they do, lo and behold, the scent—the itself magical smell—of dinner begins to spread, and holiday cheer manifests in ways most unexpected.

    Jackie’s Gift by Sharon Robinson, E.B. Lewis Ages 4 – 8

    Young Steve Satlow is thrilled when his hero Jackie Robinson moves onto his block. After the famed second baseman invites Steve to a Dodgers game, the two become friends. So when Jackie hears that the Satlows don’t have a Christmas tree, he decides to give them one, not realizing the Satlows are Jewish. But Jackie’s gift helps these two different families discover how much they have in common.

    Christmas for 10 by Cathryn Falwell Ages 2-4

    A simple counting format frames a family’s cheerful preparation for Christmas, from one star on top of the tree and one wreath, to ten hands stringing popcorn and ten people wishing peace for all.

    Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina, Chandra Cox Ages 5 – 6

    While thinking about all the wonderful things that come with the arrival of Christmas, an African-American boy begins to think about the less fortunate people in the world and vows to make a difference this year by sharing his gifts with others that are more in need.

    An Island Christmas by Lynn Joseph, Catherine Stock Ages 6 – 8

    As Christmas approaches, Rosie helps her mother and Tantie prepare black-currant cake, sorrel drink, and soursoup ice cream; finishes making her gifts for everyone; and decorates the tree.

    O Christmas Tree by Vashanti Rahaman, Frané Lessac (Goodreads Author) (Illustrator) Ages 2 – 5

    This Christmas, Anslem wants a Christmas tree more than anything else in the world. He wants “to touch it and smell it and get a feel and a smell of real Christmas.”

    But there are no Christmas trees in the West Indies where Anslem lives. He must depend on the boat that brings evergreens from the north. In past years, the trees arrived fresh and green. But this year, the first year his family can afford a tree, the evergreens are so dry that not a single tree has a single needle on it. Anslem is deeply disappointed, until his neighbor Miss Mary shows him that the West Indies have a beautiful Christmas tree of their own.

    Poppa’s Itchy Christmas by Angela Shelf Medearis (Author), John Ward (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

    After spending weeks guessing what is in the packages under the Christmas tree, George is unhappy to receive a homemade muffler and itchy long underwear, but they come in handy when he has an accident while ice skating.

    Snowflake Kisses and Gingerbread Smiles by Tori Trent Parker, Earl Anderson Ages 2 – 3

    A sparkling holiday picture book with a soft, padded cover featuring striking photos of young African-American children celebrating Christmas, one of the most popular holidays of the year.

    Messy Bessey’s Holidays by Patricia McKissack (Author), Fredrick McKissack (Author), Dana Regan (Illustrator) Ages 5 – 7

    Bessey and her mother bake cookies for Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah, and after cleaning up the kitchen, they distribute the treats to their neighbors.

    Chita’s Christmas Tree by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard (Author) Ages 4 – 8

    Papa and Chita leave downtown Baltimore in a buggy to find a Christmas tree in the deep woods.

    A Doll For Navidades by Esmeralda Santiago (Author), Enrique O. Sanchez (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

    Las Navidades are coming. The house smells of cinnamon and coconut, crepe paper festoons the yard, and best of all, the Three Magi will soon bring presents to all the children. Esmeralda hopes they will bring her a baby doll. But instead, she receives something far more precious: she experiences firsthand the magic of giving and the power of her family’s love for her.

    Mim’s Christmas Jam by Andrea Davis Pinkney (Author), Brian Pinkney (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

    The best part of Christmas is the whole family savoring Mim’s belly-hum jam together. But this Christmas, Pap is far away in New York City, digging a hole for something called the subway, and his family is missing him something awful. Pap aches to be home, but the heartless foremen of his dig site have decided there will be no break, not even for Christmas. It looks like it’s going to be one lonely holiday for everyone . . . until young Saraleen and Royce send their pap a gift that may just inspire a Christmas miracle.

    Christmas in the Time of Billy Lee by Jerdine Nolen, Barry Moser Ages 4 – 7

    One holiday season Ellie makes three wishes: that her parents will see that her friend Billy Lee is not imaginary; that snow will fall on Septon’s Creek for the first time in fifty years; and that joy will return–especially to her parents, who always seem worried lately. Billy Lee always says, “There is magic in believing something good with all your heart.” When Ellie begins to believe, all kinds of miracles occur, from broken tree lights twinkling again, to angel shapes appearing in snow, to the biggest one of all: a baby brother arriving soon.

    Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko (Author) Ages 5 – 8

    Holiday time at Sadie’s house means golden gelt sparkling under the Christmas tree, candy canes hanging on eight menorah branches, voices uniting to sing carols about Macabees and the manger, and latkes on the mantel awaiting Santa’s arrival.  A great book for blended families who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.

    The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen (Author), Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator) Ages 5 – 8

    The luminous art of three-time Caldecott Honor recipient Jerry Pinkney transforms the nineteenth-century Danish girl of Andersen’s tale into a child plucked straight from America’s melting pot, shedding new light on the invisibility of the poor among the prosperous-a circumstance as familiar in Andersen’s day as it is in our own.

    Your turn: Which books on this list are your favorites?  Did you discover some new books to read with your little readers?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    family fun, parenting

    First Day of School Prayers for Children and Parents + 5 Day Prayer Challenge

    Tomorrow my children start their first day of school in a brand new environment.  Although I’m excited for them to start this new journey in a new school, I am also filled with a bit of anxiety and I just feel like praying—and I thought you might pray with me—for our children as they start a new year of school.

    I believe the best gift we give our kids as they head back to school is our prayers.  Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten, middle school, high school, or college, children need our prayers.  If you believe this too, I hope you’ll join me in a 5-day prayer challenge you can do on your own.

    In order to participate, all you need to do is recite the prayers below each morning for the first five days of school.  If you don’t like any of the prayers I’ve chosen, feel free to come up with your own prayers.  And of course, if you’re not the religious type then this challenge isn’t for you and that’s okay.  If your children already started their first day of school, no worries you can still participate.  Just recite the prayers each morning for five consecutive days with your children or on your own.

    I hope you find this prayer challenge to be helpful and will help spread the word if it’s something that resonates with you.

    Day One

    Dear God, Father of heavenly lights, Giver of perfect gifts,

    I give my child(ren) to you today and everyday.  Keep him/her and his/her schoolmates safe and protected, Father God.  I ask that this school year you would use every person, every experience and every lesson to shape him/her into Your image, to grow in his/her fruit of Your spirit.  God, grow in his/her heart.   Teach him/her to sacrifice like You did, giving up what he/she values for the good of others. Bless the teachers and administrators, God.  Keep them safe.  These men and women who have committed to invest in the next generation. Give them discernment and wisdom to see each student’s unique abilities and gifts. Multiply their preparation and may their plans be fruitful. Fill the day with moments of wonder. Remind them of their special place in the lives of their students and give them confidence in their abilities.  And for all the parents/grandparents, Lord, I pray for peace. Give us plenty to do so we don’t have time to fret. Let us be extraordinarily grateful for the privilege of parenting. Fill us with wisdom as we watch our babies grow. Grant us patience and kindness as they stretch their wings. Hold us close to You as we learn to let them go.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Two

    Dear Father God,

    Today, I ask You for godly, loyal friends for my child(ren). Friends who love purity, who are pure in heart, and gracious in speech, friends that will sharpen them and love them at all times.  Please give my child(ren) a heart of compassion. Help him/her/them to see situations from every perspective and to treat others like they would want to be treated. Give him/her/them a friendly and kind spirit. May he/she/they welcome friends with a smile.  God I pray my child(ren) would be wise when choosing friends. Give him/her/them discernment to find true friends and help them to build each other up. Give them the ability to say no when necessary and bravery to stand up for what is right. In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Three

    Dear Father God,

    Today I pray for Your care and protection throughout the school year. 
    Cover the schools in our area and across the nation with Your covering and protection.  I/we pray for vigilance among administrators and teachers as well as security personnel. Lord I/we pray that would-be perpetrators will be turned from their intentions and receive the corrective influences that are needed in their lives.  Lord, I/we pray that the school year will be successfully completed without incident. It is so.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Four

    Dear God,

    Today I come to you in prayer Lord, asking you to help my child(ren) experience peace this year. I pray he/she/they will not worry about things they cannot control, but that You will guard his/her/their hearts and minds and keep him/her/them trusting in You. I pray he/she/they will not only enjoy the peace of God, but peace with God. I pray he/she/they will develop a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving as they look to You daily for their needs.  Grant him/her/them Your peace in their hearts and minds in great measure.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Five

    Dear Heavenly Father,

    Let this school year be their best year ever with excellent grades, favor with teachers and classmates and good behavior all covered by Your protection. Enable our children to continue growing in wisdom and stature all the days of their lives.  Let Your peace and understanding envelope them at all times.  Let your joy be their strength. Help them to trust You as their refuge and fortress.  Guard their minds from bad counsel and peer pressure. Bless them with Your Spirit of discernment to know and do what is right at all times.  Strengthen their heart and spirit to resist the devil, so that he/she will flee from them.  Teach them to cast all their anxiety upon You, trusting and genuinely knowing that You care for them.  Let Your light shine in their lives and cause all forms of darkness around them to flee. Make them strong and courageous in the presence of danger. Let them be assured You will never leave nor forsake them as they remain strong in You and Your mighty power.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Below I’ve also included a few short prayers for parents or kids to recite daily.  Source: Living Prayers.

    First Day of School Prayer
    (a parent’s prayer poem for their child starting school)

    Dear Lord,

    Fill her (his) heart with peace,
    Hold her (his) hand today,
    Help him/her feel secure and loved,
    Be with him/her we pray.
    May him/her smile and make new friends
    Paint and learn and play,
    Bless the teaching staff who care
    For little ones today.
    Lift my heart to trust that he’ll/she’ll
    Be overseen by you,
    Father God cover us
    On his/her first day at school.

    Amen.

    Prayer for a child starting a new school year
    (a simple prayer for a child of any age to say)

    Father God,

    Thank you for being beside me,
    Thank you for this new school year.
    Please be there to hold my hand,
    Please help me to relax and enjoy the day.
    Bring new friendships into my life,
    Bring new possibilities to learn and grow.
    Help me to pray in my heart to you if I am anxious,
    Help me to remember that you are always with me.

    Amen.

    School Morning Prayer
    (a simple prayer for primary school aged children to say)

    Father God,

    Be with us today
    Fill our hearts with joy
    Fill our minds with learning
    Fill our classrooms with peace
    Fill our lessons with fun
    Fill our friendships with kindness
    Fill our school with love

    Amen.

    If you’re looking for a few religious picture book recommendations for children, you might enjoy this post.

    Your turn: What will you pray for your children (grandchildren) as they go back to school? Feel free to share in the comments.

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