Tag Archives: positive message

Jerry Pinkney Gives Children Strong Role Models

Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Jerry Pinkney, award-winning author and illustrator of over 100 children’s books, is going to celebrate his 81st birthday this year and has no plans of slowing down. There are so many more stories to tell!

Pinkney’s books broadly cover two of his favorite subjects: African American history and culture and folk tales. He carefully researches the time period, people, and stories he portrays in pictures. His illustrations are detailed watercolors, sometimes with added colored pencil or oil pastel. Images are both powerful and humanizing, created with the intention of giving children strong, positive role models and showing them that anything is possible.

As an African American himself, Pinkney has also sought out and found opportunities to use his illustrations to portray people of African descent and help change perceptions and stereotypes at a national level. His illustrations of African American history and culture have been used in materials for the National Guard, National Geographic, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Postal Service.

In his children’s books Jerry Pinkney expresses his humanitarian values in words and pictures, a legacy which he has passed on to his family. His wife, Gloria Jean Pinkney, his son Brian Pinkney, and his son’s wife Andrea Davis Pinkney are also prolific authors and illustrators of children’s books with themes of compassion, love of life, and exploring history.

Here are just a few children’s books illustrated by Jerry Pinkney:

  • “A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation,” by Barry Wittenstein (2019) tells the inspiration for this famous speech and how it was written.
  • “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” (2017) is a retelling of an old story about bullying.
  • “A Starlit Snowfall” by Nancy Willard (2011), a rhyming poem that embraces the gentle beauty of winter.
  • “The Lion and the Mouse” (2009), an Aesop’s fable about the importance of kindness, retold entirely in vivid illustrations set in the Serengeti plains.
  • “Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman” by Alan Schroeder (2000) introduces the injustices of slavery through the eyes of a child.
  • “The Ugly Duckling” (1999), a classic tale by Hans Christian Andersen about bravery and patience.
  • “Black Cowboys, Wild Horses: a True Story” by Julius Lester (1998) shows in pictures a different and more accurate Wild West than Hollywood has shown us in film.

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Filed under African American culture, author study, family reading, folk tales, Jerry Pinkney

A Book for Every Child!

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

Every child responds to different types of stories. What does your little one love hearing you read the most? There is something for everyone.

Humorous. “Duck in the Fridge” written and illustrated by Jeff Mack. Mother Goose is one type of story to read at bedtime, but why? A little boy finds out that his dad has had some big experiences with ducks! Starting with one duck in his refrigerator, the boy’s dad tells about how it got worse and worse with more animals. Told with an abundance of puns!

Positive Self-Concept. “Thelma the Unicorn” written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey. A pony wishes she could be special. She wants to be a unicorn! When she finds out what it’s like to be a famous celebrity, she realizes that she misses her old life and likes herself just as she is–a pony.

True Tale. “Hero Cat” by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Jo Ellen McAllister Stammen. Realistic artwork rendered in pastels depicts a drama that really happened. In 1996, an abandoned warehouse began burning and a mama cat rescued her 5 kittens, one by one, from the smoke-filled building.

Concepts. “You are (Not) Small” by Anna Kang, illustrated by Christopher Weyant, Book 1 of 3 in the “Not” series and Winner of the 2015 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Two fuzzy creatures argue about who is small and who is big, but then even smaller and bigger creatures appear. Who is bigger and smaller now? The story is a great opportunity to talk about differences and if they matter.

Non-Fiction. “Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years” by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by David Litchfield.  “Hi, I’m Earth! But you can call me Planet Awesome.” This story, told from the point of view of The Earth, is both funny and filled with kid-friendly facts. The book includes back matter with more interesting bits of information.

Modern Classic. “Circus Train,” by Jennifer Cole Judd, illustrated by Melanie Matthews.  Circuses may be events of times past, but if you want to experience this American classic happening, “Circus Train” leads the reader through the circus train rolling into town and children and their parents waiting in line and going into the show. Clowns paint their own faces, lumbering elephants dance, and trapeze artists flip. Rhyming text and playful illustrations.

Classic. “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). Published in 1957, this timeless story embraces the premise that the 2 children in the book are home alone–all day–with no parents! The Cat in the Hat, with his red striped hat, finds many activities to fill up the day. This book was presented as a possible alternative to the debatably ineffectual “Dick and Jane” primers. Geisel used the most popular rhyming words (“cat” and “hat”) and created a story that eventually became an acceptable alternative to those primers of the past to help children learn to read.

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Filed under classics, family reading, imagination, non-fiction

Patrick McDonnell’s Books Teach Love and Kindness

by Katrina Morse for Family Reading Partnership

How about starting the New Year off with more love and kindness? Treat your family to some books by award winning author and illustrator Patrick McDonnell. His stories show the many ways we can cultivate kindness toward one another and accept others for who they are, especially if different from us. McDonnell’s picture books are written for young children, but his stories touch on big life messages that will resonate with adults.

McDonnell is widely known for his comic strip “MUTTS” that premiered in 1994 and stars a cat named Mooch and a dog named Earl (coincidently McDonnell’s real dog’s name). One of the author’s passions is in helping facilitate pet ownership and kindness toward animals. 5% of all sales of printouts of his comic strips (www.mutts.com) go to The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team.

McDonnell’s work is strongly influenced by George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” comic strip (1913-1944, New York Evening Journal). He uses the same bulbous noses, black eyes with no whites of the eyes showing, and loosely rendered black ink lines to define his characters. He does everything without computer technology and hand paints each image with watercolor. In the style of Harriman he also uses tender-hearted colloquial dialog between characters. “Yesh!” says Mooch, quite often.

But an even bigger influence on his artwork was Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comics, and a mentor to McDonnell. Schulz was also profoundly influenced by Harriman, the defining comic strip artist in his time. Learning from Harriman, Schulz added depth of meaning and personal feeling into his “cute” characters and passed the value of incorporating sentiment into comics, on to McDonnell.

In 2005, McDonnell broke into the children’s book world with the book “The Little Gift of Nothing” about the significance of giving your presence and companionship to someone instead of a physical gift. Since then he has written and illustrated 12 children’s books and collaborated with Eckhart Tolle (author of “The Power of Now”) on a book for adults, “Guardians of Our Being, Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats.”

Here are some favorite Patrick McDonnell books to read with your young children. Talk about what happens in each story and see if love and kindness grow this year!

  • “Hug Time.” Little orange-striped kitten Jules is so filled with love that he wants to hug the whole world. Jules makes a Hug-To-Do List and visits places around the earth, hugging many endangered species and getting many hugs in return.
  • “Wag!” “Fwip, fwip, fwip!” wags Earl’s tail. Mooch wants to know what makes Earl’s tail wag. After much observation, Mooch finds out. It’s love!
  • “Thank You and Good Night.” How many fun things can you do at a pajama party? These 3 friends have an evening packed with togetherness. They stage a funny-face contest, learn a chicken dance, play hide-and-seek, practice yoga, eat, watch for shooting stars—and they are thankful for it all.
  • “Art.” Art is a boy and art is a thing to do. McDonnell uses this homonym pair to play with the idea that unbridled creation in squiggles, wiggles, and zigzags can be a person’s identity. Can you tell Art and art apart?
  • “The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the hard way)” Great for a child who already knows his or her alphabet, this wordless book is a continuously flowing story that needs the reader to identify what word is represented in each illustration of the alphabet. Here’s the trailer for the book on Youtube.

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Filed under alphabet book, art, author spotlight, creativity, empathy, Feelings, kindness, love, opportunities for conversation, wordless picturebooks

Yoga for Children Is More Than Just Movement

My-Daddy-is-a-PretzelStretch and bend, cross over and reach! With spring  on the way it’s time to get limbered up for outdoor activities. Children can have fun while forming their bodies into the shapes of animals, letters, and geometric shapes with kid-friendly yoga.

Along with getting the blood flowing, yoga also helps clear the mind and is a way to work out feelings. If your child is happy, sad, mad, or sleepy, ask him how he can show that in the way he holds his body. Working out feelings through movement is a great life skill to carry into adulthood!

Here are some movement books that show children yoga positions you can do at home. Most books also tell a little about how yoga can help children with concentration and patience.

“The Happiest Tree, a Yoga Story” by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Ruth Jeyaveeran. Meena was worried about how she would perform in the school play. She felt like she was clumsy and would trip and stumble on stage. But, when Meena started taking a yoga class especially for children, she learned how to quite her mind and feel in control of her body. What she really learned was how to have peace of mind no matter what happened.

“Alef-Bet Yoga for Kids” by Ruth Goldeen, photos by Bill Goldeen. Photos of children superimposed onto Hebrew letters show how each letter can be made by bending this way or that. Learn the Hebrew alphabet in a very experiential way, while stretching, bending, and lengthening the body.

“Babar’s Yoga for Elephants,” based on the characters by Laurent de Brunhoff. This is a silly book for mid-elementary aged children. According to this story, elephants invented yoga! Here are 15 positions that you can do as a family or that children can do on their own. After giving instruction on the poses, the book shows all the places that an elephant (or human) could practice yoga during a regular day such as a department store, the subway, a park, or in Times Square, and at any number of world tourist destinations.

“My Daddy is a Pretzel: Yoga for Parents and Kids” by Baron Baptiste, illustrated by Sophie Fatus. Written by a world-famous yoga instructor, this is an introduction to yoga positions that will resonate with children. The name of each position in English is related to a real-life object so children can pretend and imagine as they contort their bodies into different shapes. Diagrammed step-by-step instructions show how to form “Tree,” “Dog,” “Triangle,” and 6 other poses.

“Can You Move Like an Elephant?” by Judy Hindley, illustrated by Manya Stojic. Although this isn’t specifically a yoga book, it is a wonderful introduction to yoga-like positions for young children. The book suggests movements that are similar to different animals, like slithering like a snake or scratching like a monkey. Slide slow like a snail, spring in one bound like a tiger. Do the motions with your child and both of you will benefit.

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“So! How are the Children?”

Among East African Masai people, the traditional greeting is “So! How are the children?” This greeting is much more than just a custom; it is a question that defines their culture. When the Masai ask this of each other, they expect an honest answer and are prepared to drop what they are doing to provide what’s needed. When the children are well, the community is well! Child wellness includes both physical and mental health. A good night’s sleep, nutritious food, and regular exercise help children’s bodies stay strong. Good mental health begins with your loving support and guidance that builds your child’s self esteem and resiliency–the ability to bounce back from the little and big bumps in life. Reading books that have characters that work through problems a child may face such as disappointment, fear, and loss teach the words your child needs to talk about his or her feelings. Learning to talk about a situation can make your child feel better by acknowledging the emotions that arise and thinking of solutions together. May is Children’s Mental Health Awareness month, a great time to read books that encourage your child to develop a positive self-awareness and learn about all the feelings that are a normal part of growing up. For more information about child wellness and resources available in Ithaca, NY, visit the Collaborative Solutions Network website at http://www.mentalhealthconnect.org and Family and Children’s Services of Ithaca at http://www.fcsith.org. Here are some books about SometimesBambalooemotions that may interest your young child:

Books about anger: “When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry…” by Molly Bang; “Mean Soup” by Betsy Everitt; “Sometimes I’m Bombaloo” by Rachel Vail, illustrated by Yumi Heo

Books about fears: “Wemberly Worried” by Kevin Henkes; “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn; “Sheila Rae the Brave” by Kevin Henkes

Books about all kinds of emotions: “How are you Peeling? Foods with Moods” by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers; “Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods that Make My Day,” by Jamie Lee Curtis; “Quick as a Cricket” by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood “I Like Me!” by Nancy Carlson

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Filed under family reading, Feelings

Life Lessons in Children’s Books

Growing up isn’t easy; there are so many emotional lessons to face. A child has to learn how to make friends, try new things, and accept others while standing up for him or herself. There are times to be brave, angry, kind, sad, generous and forgiving.

For every life lesson your child encounters, there is a children’s book about that feeling that you can read aloud. When a character in a book is going through tough decisions, talk about the conflicts or messages in the story and the resolution. The stories you read can be a springboard for discussion and with your guidance can give your child the confidence to make good choices in life.

Try these children’s books about life lessons:

Accepting differences:


  • “Luka’s Quilt” by Georgia Guback. A Hawaiian grandmother and her granddaughter have a disagreement about the pattern in a quilt, but find a compromise together.
  • “Chester’s Way” by Kevin Henkes. Chester Mouse and his friend Wilson struggle to let newcomer Lilly into their everyday play.
  • “Tutus Aren’t My Style” by Linda Skeers, pictures by Anne Wilsdorf. Emma gets a package in the mail from Uncle Leo and is surprised to find a ballerina costume. She is more the jungle explorer type! Emma finds out that her uncle accepts her for being just the way she is.

Being brave:


  • “Corduroy” by Don Freeman. The lovable bear Corduroy has to be very brave to wait in a toy store until someone finally chooses him to take home.
  • “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak. A baby raccoon finds that going to school for the first time is much easier when you know you are loved.
  • “One Dark Night” by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Ivan Bates. A mouse and a mole meet up with a very large bear in this rhyming tale.
  • “Daisy and the Beastie” by Jane Simmons. When you don’t know what something is, it can be frightening! Two ducklings go on adventure to confront the beastie and are pleasantly surprised.


  • “Making the Team” by Nancy Carlson. Louanne Pig wants to be a cheerleader for the football team, but finds that she is better playing the game than being on the sidelines.
  • “Farmer Duck” by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. A barnyard full of animals decides to take over all the farm work and run the place on their own.
  • “Ruby in Her Own Time” by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Rebecca Harry. Ruby the young duck is slower in learning duck things than her siblings, but she catches up when she is ready.

Managing anger:

  • “Mean Soup” by Betsy Everitt. When everything goes wrong for the whole day, Horace’s mom helps him let off some steam by making Mean Soup.
  • “When Sofie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry” by Molly Bang. Sofie has a bad day, but cools off by taking a run, then a walk in the woods. When she comes back she is civil again.
  • “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Voirst, illustrated by Ray Cruz. A humorous telling of grumpy Alexander and his out-of-control life.

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I Love You!

KoalaLouEvery child needs to hear the words “I love you!” To know from the earliest age that you are unconditionally accepted and that someone is taking care of you, that someone loves you, gives you the confidence to learn and grow. Love is the foundation for a child to build a healthy self-esteem and feel like the world is waiting to be explored and enjoyed.

Tell your children “I love you” and teach your children to say “I love you” too, so that it is a natural part of the way your children express their gratitude for the other people in their life. If you need ideas on how to say to say you care, read some children’s books to find the words.

“I’ll Always Love You” by Paeony Lewis, illustrated by Penny Ives. Alex’s mom assures him that she will love him no matter what, but Alex is worried when he accidently breaks her favorite bowl. Will his mom still love him now? Gentle text shows the unconditional love of a mother for her child. This is a very reassuring story for young children with softly sweet illustrations.

“How Kind!” by Mary Murphy. The animals on the farm prove that one good turn deserves another as each of them does something kind for the next animal, proving that “what goes around, comes around.” Young children will understand the idea that sometimes love is expressed as kindness to others.

“The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. This may not immediately come to mind as a love story, but the main character, Ferdinand the bull, has a very loving mother! The message of this classic tale is “accept yourself for just who you are.” Ferdinand was not like the other bulls in the pasture. He was peaceful and quiet as a young bull and then also as a large, full-grown bull. His mother, a cow with a big bell strapped to her neck, was completely understanding of Ferdinand being happiest when alone smelling the flowers, which helped Ferdinand feel fine about being different than the other bulls. What a nice mom!

“Koala Lou” by Mem Fox, illustrated by Pamela Lofts. Being the first born in the family, Koala Lou was used to getting lots of attention and hearing her mother tell her “Koala Lou, I DO love you,” every day. After her brothers and sisters were born, Koala Lou’s mom was too busy to say “I love you” any more. Koala Lou started feeling unloved and concocted an elaborate scheme so her mother would say those words to her again. In the end, as we would hope, Koala Lou finds out that her mother DOES love her, no matter what!

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Filed under children's books, family reading

Decision-Making Skills Develop Over Time

3BearsandGoldilocksYoung children are at the very beginning of learning decision-making skills. Our society assumes that children become “adults” and can make good decisions at age 18, but science shows that our brains haven’t fully matured until at least 25 years old. It’s no wonder that it is difficult for little children to see different sides of a situation and decide what is right or wrong. Their brains are just still young and growing.

When children can imagine multiple perspectives they start realizing how their actions affect themselves and others. They see how there are many ways to solve one problem. They see that there is not always one right way or one wrong way.

Many children’s books are based on the main character making big assumptions about how someone is going to act or what is going to happen. This can make a very funny story and give you the chance to talk about how we all see things little bit differently, which is what we all need to respect in each other.

“The 3 Bears and Goldilocks” by Margaret Willey and Heather M. Solomon. Oh Goldilocks! She finds the bear’s house messy, so cleans it. She finds the porridge full of beetles and she picks them out. She finally falls asleep on Baby Bear’s bed and then meets the whole bear family. Needless to say, she runs all the way home, very fast! Goldilocks can’t believe how the bear family lives, and the bears wonder why Goldilocks want to change the way they like things!

“Dandelion” by Don Freeman, author and illustrator of “Corduroy.” A lion is invited to a fancy party and decides to totally change his appearance by getting a haircut and new clothes. He doesn’t have a good time at the party though because none of his friends recognize him! This book, published in 1977, brings up a social dilemma we still face today. Should I change myself to be what other people want me to be? Or maybe true friends accept us just the way we are.

“Minerva Louise at School” by Janet Morgan Stoeke. Minerva Louise is a hen who bases all of her adventures on what she knows from living on a farm. On this excursion she goes to an elementary school and thinks the building is a big fancy barn. Cubbies are nesting boxes, pencils are hay, and rooms are stalls for animals. She innocently explores and likes this new place! This book is one in a series that is now out of print, but you can find used copies online or check out a Minerva Louise book at the library.

“Hooray for You! a Celebration of You-ness’” by Marianne Richmond. The colorful, bright, textured paintings of children celebrate individuality. The text is a rhyming message that each of us is unique with our own smile, hair, skin color, and way that we think. It’s okay to be different.

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by | January 25, 2013 · 11:35 am

Possibilities in Books

TheSevenChineseSistersWhen you are just a little boy or a little girl, the world is full of possibilities. You may know that you can’t do some things yet, but you can imagine that will be able to some day. You have hope and ambition!

Foster that positive outlook in your children by reading books that give them ideas of what they could become or do. Spark their imagination so your children want to learn more and start dreaming!

“I Can Be Anything” by Jerry Spinelli, illustrated by Jimmy Liao. This is a great book for young children because it honors all those little skills that kids have to learn that adults take for granted. This is not about dreaming of being a lawyer, doctor, or accountant! These are jobs a child can relate to: “paper-plane folder, puppy-dog holder, deep-hole digger, and lemonade-swigger.” The book ends with: “They’re all such fun; I’m going to choose every one!” Illustrations are fun, bouncy, bright, and full of motion.  The short phrases rhyme.

“When I Grow Up” by Al Yankovic, illustrated by Wes Hargis. Some of you may know the author, “Weird Al,” as a comedian specializing in song parody. This is his first of two children’s books. His story is set in an elementary school classroom as a boy, Billy, gives the long, rhyming answer to his teacher’s question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Some of the text will twist your tongue it’s so full of adjectives, but it’s also quite humorous!

“The Seven Chinese Sisters” by Kathy Tucker, illustrated by Grace Lin. This is a story of girl power and teamwork. Each sister has a special skill that comes in handy when they have to rescue their baby sister, Seventh Sister, from a hungry dragon. Lin’s clean and colorful illustration style is a great match to the story.

“The Everything Machine” by Mat Novak.  No one in the whole town of Quirk has any ambition at all because there is a machine that does everything for everybody. It mows the lawns, cooks food, even colors in coloring books! One day the Everything Machine breaks and the people in the town have to learn how to do things on their own. Then something amazing happens–the townspeople learn that they like to work!

Louanne Pig in “Making the Team” by Nancy Carlson. This is one of many books by Carlson that promote positive self-esteem in children. Try, try again, and you will be rewarded, but not always in the way you expect! Carlson’s stories teach children to see the best in all situations.

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Filed under can do, children's books, family reading

Peace, Hope, and Love

AlikiHeartRedPeace. Hope. Love. When our society seems like it’s forgotten these fundamental principles, it’s comforting to know that as a parent or caregiver, you can help in your own way by honoring these values in your home. Give your children peace by showing them that problems can be solved without violence. Give your children hope by giving them the opportunity to give to others and develop a generous spirit. Give your children love. Hugs, kind words, time spent together reading, playing, and enjoying each other’s company show that you care.

Raise your children in peace, hope, and love, and you will be giving them, and our society, a great gift. Here are some family traditions that may inspire you. They all use books as a way to spend more quality time together.

• Pick one favorite book and read it aloud on a special day each year. It could be a birthday book, or one book you only read on a holiday. You could even record the date and place where the book was read each year on the inside cover; then take a photo of the family with the book and slip it in the book to look at next year.

• “A Book On Every Bed.” Amy Dickinson, syndicated advice columnist, just described this family tradition in her column, “Ask Amy,” this week. This is what you do: Get a book–new or used. Wrap it. Place it at the foot of each child’s bed one night before a holiday or other special day so the children wake up with a gift to open. Repeat next year (or next special occasion)!

• Listen to a favorite audio book while you are baking cookies or driving to visit family and friends. Going on vacation? Bring books to read together on the way and while there.

• Plan meals or decide on baked treats to make by reading cookbooks together. Show your child how the words in the book give the directions about what to do.

• If you find a children’s book that you especially like, donate a copy to your child’s classroom or school library. Or volunteer at a nursing home to read your favorite books to the elders there.

Wishing you a peaceful year’s end filled with the joy of books and love of family!


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Filed under family book traditions, family reading