Saturday, August 11, 2018

#PB10for10: Feeling Welcomed and Included - Picture Books That Celebrate Friendship, Love and Human Kindness

This collection of picture books highlights possibilities and inclusion.  Given the tenor of the country, I wanted to forward recent picture books that are aesthetic, welcoming, and inclusive. These are books that I am currently including a newly design units of study for grades K-2.

from  Calef Brown, We Go Together: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse

 We Go Together: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse

Brown, Calef. (2013). We Go Together: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

A collection of brief verse and bold illustrations that highlight situations where being together is a cause for celebration. This poetry collection celebrates friendship by highlighting small, concrete ways friends act. From removing splinters to remembering how one likes tea--the actions of friendship are displayed.

I include poems from this collection from a shared reading unit in grade 2. Vocabulary is very quirky (well it is a poetry text after all), precise, playful, and inspiring. What a jewel this collection is.

 We Go Together: A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse

hooks, bell.  (2004). Skin Again. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. New York: Jump at the Sun.

I have long loved this collaboration between intellectual, feminist bell hooks and children's book illustrator Chris Raschka. The book they make here is bold, brief, language-rich and image grand.

The text opens across two double-page spreads with these words:

The skin
I'm in

is just a
It cannot
tell my story.

The next character we meet expands on initial thought by explaining that "you have to come inside/and open your heart way wide" in order to know the other person. hooks tells us and Raschka shows us that we are comprised of hopes, dreams, histories, stories, and possibilities. The skin we're in? It's one small way to see us, but it isn't all of us. To know the me?  You need to come inside.

A wild rush of color, movement, song, and praise. I open a new unit for grade 2, Celebrating One Another: Seeing Within with this joyful book.

Hill, Margaret Bateson. (1998). Shota and the Star Quilt. Illustrated by Christine Fowler.  Consulting by Gloria Runs Close to Lodge and Lakota Text by Philomine Lakota. Slough, England: Zero To Ten.

In this contemporary story about a young girl, Shota and her friend and neighbor, Esther, we learn how members of a community take action when their home, an apartment building where they and their families and others live, is being threatened by redevelopment. Shota's family shares Lakota traditions and this helps her to begin to change the outcome through a quilt she and the neighbors make.

A unusual story that blends quilt making, Lakota traditions and inclusion as ways to make change. This book is included in a grade 2 unit about Community

Leannah, Michael. (2017). Most People. Illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris. Thomaston, ME: Tilbury House Publishers.
from Most People.

This lovely picture book counters the odd narrative that there are bad people lurking to harm us.  Rather it forwards the narrative that most people are very, very, very good people. Through concrete situations, the writer and illustrator convey how the average person is really very good.

The authors don't simply repeat that most people are good. Rather, they also explain that there are people in the world who may do "bad" things, but even then there is a seed within each of those that wants to be nurtured and to become good. This book is not about being perfect. Rather, it's about being vulnerable.

This book lends itself to emulation. I can easily imagine an oversized book young children make, Most Students or Most Children. Books to help remind us on those days that feel a bit too grey, that most everyone wants to be loved and to love.

The text is circular in that we begin in the morning in the kitchen of a family and we end on the roof of their apartment where we can now see the whole city at night where most people are very very kind.

from Most People.
This text is also included in the new kindergarten unit, Starting the School Year: Being Welcomed at School.

Mora, Pat and Libby Martinez. (2014). I Pledge Allegiance. Illustrated by Patrice Barton. New York: Alfred K. Knopf.

This narrative picture book tells the story of the authors' aunt and great aunt who became a naturalized citizen. Two complimentary narratives happen in the text: the narrator, Libby, is asked to lead her class in the Pledge of Allegiance. Meanwhile, Lobo, Libby's great aunt, along with her mom go to the swearing in ceremony where Lobo will also recite the Pledge on her way to becoming a United States citizen.

The authors' note is very moving. It explains that Ygnacia Delgado came to El Paso, Texas during the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Hard working, Lobo became a US citizen in her 70s. In the story, Libby asks Lobo why she wants to become a citizen. She answers,
"Mi querida, I was born in Mexico and went to school there, but the United States has been my home for many years. I am proud to be from Mexico and to speak Spanish and English. Many people are proud of the places where they were born or where they grew up. But a long time ago, when I was a young girl, my father wanted a safer place for us to grow up, and we came to the United States. The American flag--red, white, and blue--wrapped itself around me to protect me...The flag made me feel like this. Safe and warm."
I include this text in a new grade1 unit, American Cultures.

O'Brien, Anne Sibley. (2018).  I'm New Here.  Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

In this brief narrative, three children hailing from Guatemala, Korea and Somalia arrive at the same school. Each child helps the reader to better understand how challenging it is to not only be new to school but to also be new to the customs, language, and traditions of a place. Early in the story, Maria, from Guatemala, says:

"Back home I knew the language. My friends and I talked all day long. Our voices flowed like water between us like birds. Here there are new words. I can't understand them. The sounds are strange to my ears."

Each of the three children explain in delicate and yet somehow very precise language how wide the gulf is between home and here.

This text is one to read aloud early in the year to help build empathy. I include it as the first text in a unit, Newcomers, for first graders and pair it with O'Brien's new release, Someone New.

O'Brien, Anne Sibley. (2018). Someone New. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

Someone New is a companion picture book to I'm New Here as it focuses on the children who are receiving the new children into their class and shows us how to welcome newcomers. It provides the reader with insights into how children approach newcomers and some of the fears they have doing so.

One child noticing Jin sitting by himself thinks, "The new boy looks frustrated. I remember what it was like when I first got here. Everyone else was connected like pieces in a puzzle. I was the different piece that didn't fit in. I want to share my comic, but he can't read or write. I don't know how to figure out this puzzle. I wish I had a superpower to help him."

 The children feel uncomfortable:

Through play, writing, comic drawing, and art-making the children connect. I suspect there's a lesson in that for all us as we think about what we privilege at school an what most constitutes learning.

Penfold, Alexadra. (2018). All Are Welcome. Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufmann. New York: Knopf.

At this school, all are welcome to come in and learn and be part of the community. Simple text and complicated illustrations  show how the school is comprised by those who live in the neighborhood. This neighborhood is diverse and we see that exemplified in the illustrations and the written text.

No melting pot metaphor here. Rather this is a mosaic. The book closes with five words: You have a place here.

This text is included in the kindergarten unit, Starting the School Year: Being Welcomed at School.

Here's an exclusive peek at Jacqueline Woodson's new book "The Day You Begin."

   To make sure that readers don't feel left out, the book is also getting a Spanish-language edition, released in tandem to the English version.
Woodson, Jacqueline. (2018). The Day You Begin. Illustrated by Rafael López. New York: Penguin.

Note: Spanish version of the text, El Día En Que Descubres Quién Eres, will be released August 28, 2018, as well.

Full disclosure: I haven't read this book yet. I have read all that I can via previews and reviews of the text. It will be published at the end of this month (August 28, 2018).  Told through a letter, the language I have been able to read is rich and the illustrations created by Rafael López are inviting.  Is there anything that Woodson writes that isn't superb?

Here are a few of the opening pages.

The book opens with a somber reflection that many of us can relate to: "There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you."

Woodson has crafted a beautiful letter of encouragement for anybody who feels misunderstood and alone with The Day You Begin.

López's art has a magical realism feel to it. Stunning,

Depending on how complex the language and images are, I plan to include it in the grade 1 unit, Newcomers or a grade 2 unit. This line: “No one understands the way words curl from your mouth," seems to fit in well with the unit I have designed for Newcomers.

Woodson, Jacqueline. (2012). Each Kindness. Illustrated E. B. Lewis. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books.

This picture book tells the story of a young girl, Chloe and what she learns about the power of kindness when she is mean to a poor, newcomer to school, Maya.  Not surprising, the language sings as it makes the reader hurt in places by revealing vulnerabilities and truths. Haven't we all been Chloe who regrets her actions and realizes there is nothing she can now do to change what she has done?

E.B. Lewis's watercolors are brilliant and extend the story so that we feel the ripple of kindness and its absence.

This text is included in a grade 2 unit, Kindness.


  1. What a lovely and important list! I need to put several of these on my TBR shelf. Thanks!

  2. Such an amazing and important list. I know most but excited to see the follow up to I’m New Here. Thanks for your detailed descriptions and reflections!

  3. Most People is wonderful as is All Are Welcome Here. I adore Chris Raschka, and Skin Again is new to me. I'll find it! Thanks for a terrific list of books we need right now!

  4. Really important and special list MAry Ann

  5. Thank you for this timely list full of beautiful books that deserve to be shared widely. I'm especially intrigued by Most People and We Go Together.

  6. Some are reminders, others are new to me. Thanks for a great list that will help me plan for the first weeks of school!

  7. Terrific list. I'm glad to know about We Go Together and Most People. I'm ordering them for my library. Thank you.
    Apples with Many Seeds

  8. Mary Ann, I just love your list. I checked out several of these titles from our library. I'm going to have to work to find Shota and the Star Quilt. It wasn't at my library. Looks like a great story. Thank you for joining the conversation again this year. I always look forward to your posts.