Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Books for giving thanks

Thanksgiving is next week, but this is the time of year when, no matter what you celebrate – or don’t – it’s a time to reflect and be thankful. This year has given us a lot to think about, and while we’ve definitely had our share of challenges, we can always find things to be thankful and appreciative for. Here are a couple of books that do just that.

Peppa Pig and the Day of Giving Thanks, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Entertainment), $12.99, ISBN: 9781536216608

Ages 2-6

Peppa is aces in my library. The kids adore her, and my books fly off the shelves, so I doubly miss reading them this book this year. In this latest Peppa story, Peppa, her younger brother George, and mother and father are taking a nature walk on a fall day, and are so happy with the beautiful day that they find themselves thankful for everything they see: the clouds, the sky, the apples in the trees, even the rain that pours down on them, because it leaves them a happy surprise. Never mentioning a holiday, this is lovely reading all year ’round, but especially kind and gentle for this time of year; it reminds us all to be thankful for the little moments around us that often get taken for granted. The digital illustrations are identical to the TV show, so kids will recognize this one right away. The inside cover is a coloring sheet, so librarians, do yourselves a favor and have coloring sheets available at checkout. This pack from Nickelodeon was always popular for me.


What I Like Most, by Mary Murphy/Illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang, (April 2020, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209402

Ages 3-6

A young girl talks about all the things she likes most: her window, where she can see the world; new people moving in and moving out; her grandmother’s apricot jam, her favorite shoes. Kids will see themselves and adults will see their kids in the constant idea of “this is my very favorite thing… except for this!”, but read further and see the girl’s wisdom in honoring change: she loves her window, acknowledging that “my window won’t change, but the things outside will”; “when our jar is nearly empty, I only put a tiny bit on my toast to make the jam last”; “one day the shoes will wear out, or my feet will grow too big for them”. She loves in the moment and understands that the moments change; she’s grateful for them all, regardless. And what she loves most in the world will never change: her love for her mother. Mary Murphy creates wonderful worlds when she writes, and this one just shines. Zhu Cheng-Liang’s watercolor and ink artwork is gentle, soft, with shifting permanence from spread to spread. Endpapers show three birds sitting in a tree with pink flowers in the front, and an empty tree, now red and gold, with falling leaves in the back. A beautiful tribute to autumn and celebrating change.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Blog Tour: Duck & Hippo Give Thanks – plus, a giveaway!

Duck & Hippo’s newest outing is here, just in time to bring to your Thanksgiving gatherings!

Duck & Hippo Give Thanks, by Jonathan London/Illustrated by Andrew Joyner,
(Aug. 2018, Two Lions), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1503900806
Ages 3-8

Duck and Hippo are having a Thanksgiving feast, and Hippo is so excited. He’s looking forward to spending time with his friends, Turtle, Elephant, Pig – and Duck, of course! – at an old-fashioned gathering; he makes meticulous plans and cooks wonderful meals, all in anticipation of a traditional holiday. But Duck has plans of her own, and when everyone shows up, Hippo is very upset – this isn’t an old-fashioned gathering at all! Thankfully, in the spirit of the season, Hippo realizes that he has so much to be thankful for: especially the friends around his table. Let’s celebrate!

Duck & Hippo Give Thanks has such a wonderful message about embracing tradition, but it also carries the important message about being thankful. When things don’t go our way, we have a tendency – kids and adults, alike! – to pout and carry on, which can really hurt the people around us. Instead of being upset at what we don’t have, Hippo teaches us to stop, take a moment, and celebrate all that we do. On a holiday like Thanksgiving, and as families get ready for Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa, these are messages that take on even greater importance. Family, friendship, and gratitude are the big concepts here.

I love Duck & Hippo’s “Friendsgiving”. For so many of us, our friends are an extension of our family, and “Friendsgiving” is a great way to celebrate a holiday where you’re grateful for all you have. My friends and I have had two separate celebrations – Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving – over the years, but they’ve all kind of morphed into one as we bring friends and family together for the season. Letting kids know that friends can be an extension of that family table is such a heartwarming and encouraging message, especially at this time of year. There’s also the message that long-standing traditions are something to look forward to and honor, but always leave space for the new and different. Keep expanding horizons. And be grateful for the opportunity to try something new.

I love Jonathan London’s storytelling. My kids grew up on his Froggy stories, and I hope that Duck & Hippo attains the same iconic status. Andrew Joyner’s artwork never disappoints: his vintage feel brings me back to stories I read as a kid, wehether he’s embracing the simple joys of jumping in a leaf pile or creating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Put this one on your holiday shelves, bring it to your Thanksgiving dinners, and after you’re done reading it to the kiddos, make sure to have some Duck & Hippo activity sheets ready for everyone to color. (You, too, grownups! You’ll be glad you did.)

Jonathan London is the author of more than one hundred children’s books, including the Froggy series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz, which has sold more than fifteen million copies. Jonathan lives in Graton, California. Learn more at

(Photo from Penguin Random House)

Andrew Joyner is an Australian illustrator and author whose work has been published in more than twenty-five countries. He has created the artwork for many picture books, and he is author and illustrator of a chapter book series about a warthog named Boris. Andrew lives in South Australia. Learn more at

(Photo from Andrew Joyner’s website.)

Duck and Hippo give thanks for good friends in this sweet book trailer.


Two Lions is offering a set of all three Duck and Hippo books–DUCK AND HIPPO IN THE RAINSTORM, DUCK AND HIPPO LOST AND FOUND, and DUCK AND HIPPO GIVE THANKS–to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses). Just check out the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Meditation, Gratitude, and Resilience – Books to help kids grow

Magination Press is the kids’ publishing arm of the American Pscyhological Association, and they cover some great topics for kids. These three books cover mindfulness, gratitude, and resilience: three traits that kids need now, seemingly more than ever.

Bee Still: An Invitation to Meditation, by Frank J. Sileo/Illustrated by Claire Keay, (Aug. 2018, Magination Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781433828706

Ages 4-7

Bentley is a lovable, calm honeybee who lives in a crowded hive. While the other bees are rushing around, Bentley takes a second to gather himself, then settles himself on a nice daffodil in the garden to meditate. He catches the attention of neighboring critters as he sits, eyes closed, centering himself. When Sammy Squirrel finally asks what he’s doing, Bentley happily explains that meditation helps quiet his mind and stay focused. This sounds great to the other animals! Bentley leads the group in a gentle guided meditation, to everyone’s benefit. The motto: “…when life is hard or you just need to chill, think of Bentley and try to bee still“.

This rhyming story about meditation and mindfulness is a great way to introduce preschoolers to the practice. Bentley guides his animal friends in a gentle meditation, and you can guide your storytime kids through a similar one, just by reading the book out loud. It’s a wonderful habit to develop, especially in kids. The muted watercolors and gentle rhyme scheme offer a meditative read; just invite the kids to close their eyes and listen. This is a great wrap-up story for a yoga storytime, or a calming bedtime – or anytime – read. A note to parents and caregivers provides further explanation about meditation, teaching kids to meditate, and how to create a family meditation time.


Grow Grateful, by Sage Foster-Lasser & Jon Lasser/Illustrated by Christopher Lyles, (Oct. 2018, Magination Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781433829031

Ages 5-8

This companion book to 2017’s Grow Happy brings back Kiko, the little girl who showed readers how to grow happiness. This time, she’s off on a camping trip with her class, and she’s a little bit nervous about going without her parents, but she’s happy, because her best friend, Jasmine is going on the trip, too. When Jasmine is put in a separate group, Kiko pairs with Camille, who’s also a little unsure about this whole camping and hiking business. At the end of an exciting day, their teacher gathers the kids around the fire and reflects on gratitude, inviting everyone to share what they are grateful for this evening. Kiko realizes she’s got so much to be grateful for, and can’t wait to get home and tell her family!

Grow Grateful teaches a simple but important lesson: gratitude. The entire story is a lesson in mindfulness – being aware of everything around you and your place within the world – and gratitude. Kiko is surrounded by beautiful nature, family, and friends. When she realizes that her parents won’t be on the trip, she still rises to the challenge, grateful for the chance to try something new; when Jasmine is put into another group, she doesn’t sulk or demand to go home, but joins up with another classmate who needs support and offers her own support. She takes in the beauty of nature and enjoys the new experience, filling her with gratitude. It’s a concept nicely explained by Kiko’s teacher, but perfectly summed up when Kiko drifts off to sleep and notes that she “feels happy in my heart”.

The artwork appears to be mixed media, providing a nice mix of texture and color for readers to catch. The characters in the story are multicultural, including Kiko, who has Caucasian parents and a sibling, but appears Asian. A note to parents offers advice for encouraging gratitude. This one’s a good add to storytimes and booktalks.


Yes I Can! A Girl and Her Wheelchair, by Kendra J. Barrett, Jacqueline B. Toner, & Claire A. B. Freeland/Illustrated by Violet Lemay, (Nov. 2018, Magination Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781433828690

Ages 4-8

Carolyn is a young girl with a lot of interests: she likes building with blocks, she helps around the house and with her baby brother, and she loves animals and castles. At school, she can do a lot of things her friends can: she gets onto the floor for circle time with the class, she joins in during reading time, and she hands out papers for the teacher. She may be in a wheelchair, but Carolyn isn’t slowed down at all! But when her friend invites her to a trampoline birthday party, Carolyn feels a little uncomfortable. All she can do is watch, while everyone else is bouncing around her – or can she? And when her friends decide to run a race at recess, a boy from another class jeers that she can’t run so she can’t play! Carolyn’s friends rally around her and tell her that she can be part of things – she can be a referee! – even if she isn’t a direct participant.

Yes I Can! is a book that teaches kids empathy. The text reaffirms that Carolyn, a girl in a wheelchair, is an active member of her class and her community. Using Carolyn’s “Yes I Can!” statement illustrates how much Carolyn can do – things that maybe kids didn’t realize using a wheelchair allowed one to do, like scooting across a carpet to join in circle time or feeding a class pet. But the book also examines how kids may feel when they’re left out of an activity, like being at a trampoline party, or being told they can’t take part in an activity because they can’t walk. It engenders a feeling of empathy by letting us ask kids, “How do you think Carolyn feels right now? How would this make you feel?” By having Carolyn’s friends rally around her, the author models positive behavior that lets readers know the right way to be a supportive, empathetic friend.

The group of kids is multicultural, and the artwork is animated with a more realistic bent. An author’s note offers talking points about disabilities, and how to be sensitive when interacting with people with physical disabilities. A solid addition to collections. The Measured Mom blog has a good list of additional children’s books about disabilities.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Attitudes of Gratitude: The Thank You Dish

The Thank You Dish, by Trace Balla, (March 2017, Kane Miller), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-61067-644-1

Recommended for readers 3-8

Grace, a young girl, and her mother sit down to dinner. Mama thanks the rain, soil, and sunshine; Grace is thankful to the kangaroos. Why the kangaroos? For not eating the carrots! From there, Grace goes on to thank a multitude of people and animals that made Grace and her mother’s dinner possible, leading up to thanking Mom for making her such a yummy dinner. With a comfortable repetition – Grace is thankful, Mama asks why, Grace explains – The Thank You Dish is a sweet exploration of gratitude and of community. We don’t live in a vacuum; The Thank You Dish takes an amusing look at everyone and everything responsible for getting one family’s dinner on the table, from alpacas whose yarn went into the scarf that kept Uncle Fred warm while fishing, to a flower tree responsible for a fortuitous meeting. Grace and her mother eat dinner together at a dining table, emphasizing the family connection. Grace is a child of color; her mother is lighter-skinned.

I adore this book. This is a great storytime selection – see if kids can think of all the contributions made to their dinner tables! – and a great classroom circle time book. Remembering to say thank you when someone is directly interacting with you is one thing; being grateful for the unseen is just as important and essential to mindful living. A good book for classroom discussions!

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction

Say Gracias-Thanks! every day!

graciasGracias ~ Thanks, by Pat Mora/Illustrated by John Parra. Translated by Adriana Dominguez, (2005, Lee & Low Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781600602580

Recommended for ages 4-8

Told in English and Spanish, a biracial boy gives thanks for everyday things, from the bee that didn’t turn him into a pincushion to his brother making him laugh so hard he fell off his chair; for his friend, who showed him a book with a great idea about what to do with troublesome parents, to his abuelita, who always has a dollar to give him. It’s a sweet, lyrical look at the little things we encounter daily, but may not remember to be grateful for. A note from the author asks readers what they’re thankful for and notes that making a list helps keep track of all the little things to be thankful for.

The book is a gentle reminder to be thankful for things all year long – we don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to say “thank you” for things that make us happy! This can be a jumping-off point for a discussion about being grateful and saying thank you more often. Have the kids contribute with three things that they are grateful for today.

Gracias ~ Thanks received starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus Reviews, and is a Pura Belpre Honor Book (2010). It has received numerous awards and honors, including the 2010/2011 Gelett Burgess Award – Children’s Book of the Year and the 2009 Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Illustration.

Pat Mora’s author website includes some ideas and activities to use when reading Gracias, and a page dedicated to the book lists its multiple awards and honors, includes a video from the author.

I love anything by Pat Mora – she writes instant classics that draw focus to small moments, as with Gracias, folklore (Doña Flor), and love for our families (so, so many books). Her books, by virtue of being bilingual, invite all readers to sit down and enjoy a story. Together.


Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads, Uncategorized

Book Review: Thank You Bear, by Greg Foley (Viking, 2007)

thank-you-bearRecommended for ages 2-4

Bear finds a box that he cannot wait to share with his best friend, Mouse. On his way to Mouse, he meets other friends – a Monkey, an Owl, a Fox, an Elephant, a Squirrel and a Bunny – who criticize Bear’s gift as being too small, too ordinary, or even a better gift for someone else. Dejected, Bear is unsure whether or not his gift is worth giving, until Mouse shows him that friendship is all about gratitude. Preschoolers will appreciate this simple book on friendship and gratitude, and the joy that even the simplest gifts can bring to another. The font is a spare, typewriter-like print, and the pastel watercolor artwork, outlined with strong black lines, bring simplicity to a story that may diverge from more brightly colored books, but will stand out because of it.


This would be a great addition to a storytime on friendship and gratitude. There is the potential for a wonderful discussion about friends and giving – Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree would be a great companion story to this book – and the importance of saying “thank you”. Friendship is a popular storytime theme, with many songs available on children’s CDs. DLTK’s website has a friendship wreath craft made with traced handprints that can be prepared in advance and ready for attendees to assemble with help from their parents/guardians.

The author’s website has downloadable designs for Bear stationery and computer wallpaper, in addition to links to other books. Mr. Foley’s “Bear” series includes Make a Wish Bear; I Miss You Mouse; Good Luck Bear and Don’t Worry Bear, which also features his friend, Mouse.

The book received the Charlotte Zolotow Award in 2008 and was a nominee for Iowa’s Goldfinch Book Award (2011).

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Tween Reads

Book Review: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press, 2009)

Recommended for ages 9-12
I normally try to stay away from reading multiple books by the same author in a row, but after coming off of The Tale of Desperaux, I really wanted more, so I picked up The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Edward Tulane is a stunning china rabbit with real fur ears and wires enabling movement in his arms and legs, and a fashionable silk wardrobe. He is the apple of his owner’s eye, 10-year old Abilene. Abilene changes his outfits daily annd dotes on him. He lives a comfortable life and knows it, but he’s cold and keeps Abilene at a distance, never allowing himself to love her as she loves him; her purpose in his life is to take care of him and coddle him.

Abilene and her family go on a cruise where Edward, as a cruel prank by two boys on the ship, is tossed overboard; thus begins a journey where he finds himself in the company of an old woman, a homeless man, and a dying little girl and her older brother. Each of these people teaches Edward a little more about love, loss and longing.
The reader journeys with Edward, experiencing his growth and heartache through each subsequent companion’s story. Despite the affection – even love – he feels with each new owner, his thoughts always stray back to Abilene, finally understanding what love is and he regrets not reciprocating her affection.
The them of second chances is a dominant theme in the book, leaving the reader with the message that there’s always a chance for redemption – it just make take some time. It is a powerful and relevant theme for middle grade children, who need to understand at this delicate age that their actions can and do have consequences, but that almost nothing is unforgiveable, and reconciliation is always down the road.