How Do You Feel?: SEL Picture Books for All Ages

Managing emotions can be hard, whether you’re 4 or 44, but successful social emotional learning can help all of us learn how to identify and express our feelings, and support others in handling theirs. Fortunately, 2021 picture book authors are here to help with this roundup of titles just waiting for their chance to shine in an SEL themed story time or a lesson for older kids.

A Cat with No Name: A Story About Sadness
What a Feeling Series
Kochka, Illustrated by Marie Leghima
Parent notes by clinical psychologist Louison Neilman
Quarto/words & pictures
Ages 3-6

Olive cares for a lost kitten that she quickly comes to love. When he doesn’t return one day, a neighborhood search proves he’s been reunited with his owners. Olive’s dad helps her realize that it’s ok to be sad about missing him and how to find peace in remembering. Originally published in France, the line drawings limited color palette have a European sensibility. End notes from a psychologist provide information and tips on recognizing and supporting a child handling sadness.

Big Feelings
Alexandra Penrose, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman
Penguin Random House/Alfred A. Knopf
Ages 4-8

A diverse group of children have big plans for the day, but when things don’t go as planned, frustration, anger, and fights get in the way. As they work through their differences and work together on a new plan, respect, kindness, and excitement bring them together as a team. Bright mixed media illustrations and expressive little faces show a range of emotions and illustrate some great ways to express them in healthy and productive ways.

How to Apologize
David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Candlewick
Ages 3+

It’s not always easy to say “I’m sorry,” but this sweet instruction manual is a specific and silly how-to guide. Whether you’ve made a mistake, been mean to a friend, or had an accident, this step-by-step guide shows the do’s and don’ts of apologies. Hilarious illustrated oops-moments help soften the instructions on how, when, and why we should all learn to apologize.

It Could Be Worse
Einat Tsarfati, translated by Annette Appe
Candlewick
Ages 4-8

Albertini and George have been shipwrecked. Albertini is upset, but George keeps looking on the bright side and after each new misadventure (storms, flying fish, ghost pirates, and a hungry whale) declares “It could always be worse!” Vibrant digital illustrations and outrageous situations provide levity in this silly series of catastrophes, proving that attitude is everything and even a bad day can feel better when you face it with a friend.

The Power of Yet
Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Abrams/Appleseed
Ages 3-6

A small piglet knows the frustration that comes with being a kid. You’re not big enough, strong enough, experienced enough—yet. But trying and growing and practicing leads to learning and success. Pen and ink drawings with pastel watercolors gently follow piglet’s persistence and celebration as yet turns to now.

The Smile Shop
Satoshi Kitamura
Peachtree
Ages 3-6

The market is an exciting place when there is pocket money just waiting to be spent. When a sudden collision sends a small boy’s change down the drain, his hopes of a treat are dashed. But in the Smile Shop, the kindness of a shopkeeper proves that money can’t buy happiness, but human connection sure can. Soft-focus line and watercolor illustrations shift palettes as the boy goes from excited to despondent to hopeful and finally cheerful as he discovers all the smiling faces that surround him.

A Mini Mindfulness Lesson: A Review of Too Many Bubbles

Too Many Bubbles: A Story about Mindfulness
Christine Peck and Mags DeRoma,
Illustrated by Mags DeRoma
Sourcebooks
July 6, 2021
Ages 3-6

Chased through her day by one grumpy and persistent thought, Izzy isn’t bothered by it (too much). But when one grouchy thought becomes two and three and a whole cloud of the shadowy things; something must be done. This clever mouse escapes to her happy place at the beach where a polar bear with a bubble wand inspires an idea—just blow the thoughts away. A deceptively simple and strikingly perceptive illustration of how it feels for nagging and uncomfortable thoughts to take over, and one calming way to break free. Vividly colored digital illustrations and interactive text, reminiscent of Hervé Tullet’s Press Here, engage young listeners and caregivers alike in a breathing exercise that leads directly into back matter definitions of mindfulness and additional exercises. Too Many Bubbles is the first title in the Books of Great Character SEL series by Peck and DeRoma, founders of the Silly Street games and toys. A sweet and valuable addition to social emotional learning tools for the preschool to kindergarten years.

Just Try It: A Review of No Reading Allowed: The WORST Read-Aloud Book Ever

No Reading Allowed: The WORST Read-Aloud Book Ever
Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter
Illustrated by Bryce Gladfelter
Sourcebooks Explore
Available November 10, 2020
Ages 4-7

Ptolemy the Pterodactyl (from 2018’s P Is for Pterodactyl) is back to help explain another quirk of the English language: homographs, homophones, and homonyms. As if learning to read isn’t confusing enough, we have words that are spelled the same but have different meaning or pronunciation (homographs), words that are pronounced the same but have different meaning or spelling (homophones), and words that are spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings (homonyms). Just try reading this book aloud and the listen to the madness! Clever word-play from rapper turned children’s book author Raj Haldar (also known as Lushlife), delivers pairs of sentences with hilariously different meanings. “The new deli clerk runs a pretty sorry store” full of rats and thieving gnomes vs. “The New Delhi clerk runs a pretty sari store” full of colorful dress fabrics. The absurd situations are each accompanied by their own wacky illustration, with opposing sentences on opposing pages or stacked on a page for easy comparison. Examples illustrated to dramatically silly effect showcase Gladfelter’s hand-drawn line work accented with vibrant digital color. Great vocabulary throughout is complemented by “the Worst Glossary Ever… Again!” to help those brave enough to read aloud parse the meaning of each wacky word pair.

A Bounty of Books: Picture Books to Celebrate Summer Gardens

In this season of farmer’s markets and garden harvests, my thoughts are often on homegrown tomatoes and plans for next year’s garden. But before we get there, 2020 provides a bountiful harvest of picture books to celebrate the growing season and all the benefits of time in the garden. Whether you’re looking for sweet, silly, or informational, there’s something here for every little gardener in your library.

What Grew in Larry’s Garden
Laura Alary, illustrated by Kass Reich
Kids Can Press
Age 4-7
April 7, 2020

Grace thinks Larry’s garden is one of the “wonders of the world” and spends each season helping him nurture it. They work together to solve problems like bugs, squirrels, and the shadow created by a neighbor’s new fence. But Larry also using his garden to teach his students, and Grace, about growing community. Based on a real-life teacher and garden, this sweet story, and its lovely gouache illustrations, is full of inspiration for friends, problem-solvers, and gardeners.

One Little Lot: The 1-2-3’s of an Urban Garden
Diane C. Mullen, illustrated by Oriol Vidal
Charlesbridge
Ages 3-7
March 3, 2020

This not-so-simple counting book tracks the progress of a diverse group of neighbors as they transform an empty neighborhood lot into a vibrant community garden. With imagination, teamwork, a few green thumbs, and some helpful honey bees, both the neighbors and readers will enjoy the journey and delicious harvest. A thorough author’s note provides insights into the author’s inspiration, facts about honey bees, and tips for making your garden more bee-friendly.

Feast of Peas
Kashmira Sheth, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler
Peachtree
Ages 4-8
March 1, 2020

Jiva diligently tends his small garden by weeding, watering, and waiting for his favorite veggies—the peas! But each time some are ready to pick, they disappear. Is it rabbits? Is it ghosts? Jiva sets a trap for the pea-thief and catches his friend Ruvji, who’s been admiring the peas all along. As punishment for his tricks, Ruvji is the one to cook a feast of peas, and he’s lucky Jiva is generous enough to share. Richly colored illustrations highlight the lush Indian setting and add to the silly humor in this delightful tale.

Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures
Tricia Springstubb, illustrated by Elaheh Taherian
Candlewick
Ages 4-8
May 26, 2020

Khalil loves to spend his days in the garden with his downstairs neighbor, Mr. Hagerty. When digging in the garden leads to disappointing results, they each find a way to make the other’s day. Their days in the garden grow into a sweet intergenerational friendship with plenty of chocolate cake! The simple story and charming collage art will inspire conversations about all the treasures to be found when we work together.

Maker Comics: Grow a Garden!
Alexis Frederick-Frost
Roaring Brook Press/First Second
Ages 9-13
February 25, 2020 (Paperback)

The new students at Garden Gnome Academy have a lot to learn about gardening, but Mr. Butternut and the school staff have a lot to teach them (and you) about how to get started. With lessons on selecting seeds, making paper seed pots, composting, and sprouting the seeds, the gnomes are getting a hands-on education. This bright and funny graphic novel contains step-by-step instructions for many of the tasks needed to start a garden, all tucked within a story full of friendship and adventure.

Who’s Ready for School to Start?

Back-to-school butterflies? First day jitters? The newest academics among us will appreciate these sweet, silly, and giggle-worthy introductions to just who and what awaits them in the classroom. This brand new class of back-to-school picture books to will ease the way for the little humans in your library, classroom, or living room as all get ready for the first day of school.

 

Bunnys book clubBunny’s Book Club Goes to School
By Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Penguin Random House, June 2019

Josie is worried about making friends at school, but her book-club buddy Bunny can help—he’ll just be her school friend too. As the book club animals search the school for Josie, they’ll introduce kids to all the fun places waiting for them at school. Sweet illustrations complement this gentle story of friendship, empathy, and support.

 

clothes line cluesClothesline Clues to the First Day of School
By Katheryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies
Charlesbridge, June 2019

It’s a laundry basket inspired guessing game in this guide to all the new people excited to meet you at school. A silly rhyme will help set expectations and turn anxiety to anticipation about the first day of school.

 

i will be fierceI Will Be Fierce
By Bea Birdsong, illustrated by Nidhi Chanani
MacMillan, April 2019

While not strictly a back-to-school-themed book, it follows this fierce little girl to school and back and through all the adventures in between. Brightly colored and boldly written, this is a great illustration of how a little confidence can go a long way on a big (first) day at school.

 

 

if animals went to schoolIf Animals Went to School
By Ann Whitford Paul, Illustrated by David Walker
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 2019

Beaver might not want to go to school, but after a day of music, learning, and his fun with his friends, he doesn’t want to go home. A perfectly inspirational story for the tiny human determined NOT to go to school!

 

king of kindergartenThe King of Kindergarten
By Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
Penguin Random House, July 2019

An exuberant and imaginative walkthrough of the first day of school! Barnes’ pacing is just right for introducing a new routine and finding the fun in what could be a scary first day.

 

The smell of freshly sharpened pencils is in the air—Happy Back-to-School season, friends!

 

 

 

 

Own Story Narratives: African American and Multiracial Authors Give Their Perspectives in 2019 Children’s Literature

In 2019, we hope to see an increase of stories told by diverse authors that offer their perspectives and speak to their experiences. From our current collection, here are four children’s books written and illustrated by African American and multiracial authors. These stories tell the tale of a mother’s love, recognize the persistence, bravery, and excellence of African American heroes, show the journey of finding your identity and your color in the world, and inspire readers with the story of a brave and talented African American women who blazed trails for others.

 

mommy medicineMy Mommy Medicine
Written by Edwidge Danticat
Illustrated by Shannon Wright
Macmillan, 2019

When our narrator, a young African American girl, wakes up feeling sick, gloomy, or sad, her mother gives her a good dose of “mommy medicine” to make her feel better. This medicine is always different from day to day. Sometimes, it’s a kiss on the cheek and a tight hug, or it’s her favorite squash soup, or a big, delicious mug of hot chocolate. Through fun games, a little magic and imagination, and lots of quality time with mom, our narrator starts to feel better. Mommy medicine can make her feel great even on the worst days!

Edwidge Danticat, the mother of two daughters, tells a beautiful tale of how love and comfort can heal. She speaks from her own experience taking care of her daughters, nieces, and nephews. While the story is about a mother and daughter, Edwidge feels that mommy medicine can come from anyone trying to make someone they love feel better.

 

undefeatedThe Undefeated
Written by Kwame Alexander
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019

In Kwame Alexander’s powerful poem turned children’s book, readers hear the stories of many African Americans who have done unbelievable things. They have overcome hurdles and stood strong in the face of unspeakable tragedy, coming out undefeated. Featuring athletes like Jesse Owens, Serena Williams, and Muhammad Ali, musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald and Thelonious Monk, the activists of the civil rights movements, and many more, Alexander shines a light on many heroes that are too often left out of our history books. Recognizing the bravery of the slaves who fought for freedom and those who continue to fight for black lives today, Alexander writes a moving tribute to African Americans who remain undefeated.

Kwame Alexander is a New York Times best-selling author that often tells the stories of African Americans. He has won both a Newberry Medal and a Coretta Scott King Book Award for his own story narratives. Alexander began writing the poem that inspired The Undefeated as a tribute to his daughters and as a response to the election of President Obama—he wanted to show the world how African American heroes paved the way to that historic moment.

 

honeysmokeHoneysmoke: A Story of Finding Your Color
Written by Monique Fields
Illustrated by Yesenia Moises
Imprint Publishing, 2019

Simone, a multiracial child, wants to know what her color is. When she asks her mama if she is black or white, she says that color is just a word. But Simone wants her own word. When she asks her daddy, he says she’s a little bit of both. But Simone wants a color to call her own. In the world around her, Simone cannot find a color that matches her and reflects who she is inside and out. When thinking about colors, Simone notices that her mama reminds her of golden honey, and her daddy reminds her of white smoke. This makes her honeysmoke, a color all her own! Simone now sees her color in the world around her every day and is proud of her own skin.

Monique Fields, author, journalist, and mother of two daughters, is dedicated to helping multiracial children feel seen in the world of children’s literature. She is the founder of honeysmoke.com, a site with resources for parents raising multiracial children. She hopes that all children will see the beauty in their own color as Simone did!

 

brave ballerinaBrave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins
Written by Michelle Meadows
Illustrated by Ebony Glenn
Henry Holt, 2019

This is the story of Janet Collins, an African American dancer full of grace, who dreamed of becoming a ballerina during segregation in the 1930s and 1940s. Collins worked hard and persisted, taking private lessons when dance classes would not accept her, and refusing to lighten her skin to blend in with other ballerinas, giving up her chance to dance with a ballet company. Janet never gave up on her dream. Her talent, grace, and bravery finally paid off when Janet got the chance to shine on stage as a Prima Ballerina in 1951.

Michelle Meadows, a childhood ballerina who fell in love with dance again in adulthood, crafts a lyrical tribute to Janet’s journey. Beautifully written and illustrated, Meadows and Glenn’s work sets out to inspire the next generation of persistent prima ballerinas and brave trailblazers.

Today’s guest poster is Abby Sauer, a senior in studying Corporate Communications at Dominican University. Abby utilized the BCLC collections and resources for her Capstone project on diversity in picture books. Keep an eye out for the rest of her series of Butler’s Pantry posts on the topic. Thanks, Abby!

Flashback Friday: Recognizing Diverse Children’s Literature of the Past Few Years

The shelves in the Butler Children’s Literature Center are quickly filling up with our 2019 collection, and there are many wonderful stories ready to be read. With all our new books finding their home on our shelves, we wanted to take the time to recognize some noteworthy tales from the recent past. Today, we are throwing it back a few years to 2017 to highlight three books that tell great multicultural stories. All three, which have been featured on Booklist’s Top 10 Diverse Picture Books from 2017, feature diverse characters and cultural themes, empowering children to learn more about other cultures and to be proud of their own.

estabanEsteban De Luna, Baby Rescuer! Or Esteban de Luna, ¡Rescatador de Bebẻs!
By Larissa M. Mercado-López
Illustrated by Alex Pardo DeLange
Piñata Books, 2017

Dreaming of being a superhero, Esteban, a young Latino boy, wears his favorite green cape every day. There’s only one problem—his cape can’t do anything! Since Esteban’s cape does not give him any superpowers, he wants to give up both his cape and his dream. Until one day, when Esteban finds a lost baby doll in the park! Just as it’s begins to rain, Esteban scoops up the doll in his cape, protecting her from the storm. Esteban realizes that he does not need a power to be a hero, he is one all on his own!

Written in Spanish, with English translations on each page, Mercado-López tells an adorable story of bravery and confidence. Esteban’s character allows all children, particularly Latino kids like him, to feel like they can save the day and be a hero too!

 

nina simone

Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil Rights Activist Nina Simone
Written by Alice Briẻre-Haquet
Illustrated by Bruno Liance
Charlesbridge, 2017

Narrated by jazz musician and activist Nina Simone herself, this book tells the story of Simone’s childhood, her love of music, and her work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Nina Simone dreams of a world where people of all races can dance together, like the notes made by the black and white keys on a piano come together to make beautiful music. She talks about how her dream and Dr. King’s dream have to be taken care of and how we must accept one another.

Beautifully written and accompanied by stunning black and white illustrations, Briẻre-Haquet teaches young readers about the incredible Nina Simone’s work at the piano and in the civil rights movement. This book teaches children about the past and helps them be accepting enough to create a kinder future.

 

halmoniWhere’s Halmoni?
Written and illustrated by Julie Kim
Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch, 2017

Siblings Noona and Joon cannot seem to find their Halmoni, or grandmother, anywhere! When searching for her, they find a door to a mysterious world. Their search takes them on an incredible journey where they encounter hungry rabbits, clever trolls, a wily fox, and a cheating tiger (oh my!). Through teamwork, and a little help from their new friends, Noona and Joon are able to outsmart the tricky tiger and return home safe and sound to find Halmoni waiting for them.

Kim calls on her Korean culture in her debut book, using characters from Korean folk tales to inspire the group of magical friends Noona and Joon meet on their journey. Through these tales and the use of many Korean phrases that children can learn how to write and say in the tutorial provided at the end, young readers can learn more about a new culture or see their own cultural tales told with a new twist.

All three of these books are great examples of diverse children’s literature. They teach about different cultures and about history while representing and empowering children from different cultural backgrounds. They, and many more multicultural stories, will always have a place in our hearts and on our shelves.

 

Today’s guest poster is Abby Sauer, a senior in Dominican University’s Communication Studies program. Abby utilized the BCLC collections and resources for her Capstone project on diversity in picture books. Keep an eye out for the rest of her series of Butler’s Pantry posts on the topic. Thanks, Abby!

Raising Readers: A Review of Mousie, I Will Read to You

mousie

Mousie, I Will Read to You
Rachael Cole & Melissa Crowton
Schwartz & Wade Books, November 2018

Young Mousie grows up a reader in this new picture book written by Rachael Cole and illustrated by Melissa Crowton. Mama Mouse takes every opportunity to read to Mousie, from “Long before the words make sense,” to “In the middle of the night,” and “When morning comes.” In this way, Mousie goes from avid listener to a reader himself, choosing his own books and reading them by flashlight after bedtime. The cycle of reading continues as Mousie begins a family of his own.

Digital artwork in soft, primary colors centers on Mousie growing up with his mother and their life together. Small details like background art, book covers, and Mousie’s own toys add to the enjoyment of turning the page. Mousie, I Will Read to You ends with a page of tips for “Raising a Reader,” from Dr. Pamela High of the American Academy of Pediatrics, including ways to make reading together enjoyable and beneficial.

A Review of Mabel and Sam at Home by Linda Urban

Mabel and Sam at Home: One Brave Journey in Three Adventures                                           

Mabal and Sam cover art

By Linda Urban, Illustrated by Hadley Hooper, Chronicle Books  (2018)

It’s moving day for Mabel and Sam! How do two creative kids stay out of the way while the grown-ups work? Why a cardboard box and a vivid imagination, of course. In the grand tradition of bossy big sisters everywhere, Mabel leads little brother Sam on a brave adventure; part sea voyage, part museum tour, part space odyssey, and all fun.

The charming and funny text explores a new house as well as some of the anxieties that can come along with a move. Structured as three mini-chapters, each adventure gently delves into one of the possible causes of moving day jitters: the moving crew, finding your familiar things in a new place, and sleeping in a new bedroom. The printmaking techniques used in the illustrations, and the fluidity of the lines in Hooper’s drawings, create a soft and magical backdrop that complements the sweet relationship between the siblings and the emotion behind their adventure.

A fun and reassuring way to help kids process the emotions and uncertainty that can come with a move to a new house.

2018 Picture Book Poetry

April is National Poetry Month – celebrate with us by checking out new collections and illustrated poems. You can find these titles, novels in verse for older readers, and other lyrical picture books for children here at Butler Children’s Literature Center!

blackgirlmagic

Black Girl Magic (Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press, January 2018)
Written by Mahogany Browne
Illustrated by Jess X. Snow

With a dedication stating “This book is for you,” this spirited poem of strength and finding beauty in yourself despite what the world expects of you lifts up black women, acknowledging their accomplishments and struggles, and gives young black girls an anthem of support. The text is accompanied by striking black, white, and red illustrations that amplify the empowering message of the poem.

 

In the Past (Candlewick Press, March 2018)
inthepastWritten by David Elliott
Illustrated by Matthew Trueman

This collection of poems about ancient creatures ranges from the humble Trilobite to the mighty Quetzacoatlus and proves that anything can be poetic. Perfect for dinosaur fans of any age, In the Past includes a geologic timeline and notes for each ancient creature along with realistic mixed media images. The poetry is light-hearted and informative and plays on the illustrations on each page.

 

martinrisingMartin Rising: Requiem for a King (Scholastic Press, January 2018)
Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

In this collection of “docu-poems,” author Andrea Davis Pinkney presents the final months of Dr. King’s life. With a musicality of language and along with Brian Pinkney’s illuminating and spiritual paintings, each poem carries a different emotional tone and honors multiple facets of King’s life – his work, his family, and his ministry. This selection works on its own as a memorial of Dr. King’s life, but would also be a powerful read aloud in a classroom or theater setting, or as a part of a larger program for students at any age.

 

The Horse’s Haiku (Candlewick Press, March 2018)horseshaiku
Written by Michael J. Rosen
Illustrated by Stan Fellows

This collection of haiku about horses is organized into three sections: In the Field, At the Barn, and Under Saddle. Watercolor illustrations on each page allow the reader’s eye to graze while the mind contemplates the sparse verse. A note on haiku concludes the collection and teaches the reader how to enjoy haiku in everyday life. The Horse’s Haiku would be suitable for a read aloud for younger children, or as a read along as part of a larger poetry unit for older elementary students.

 

withmyhandsWith My Hands: Poems About Making Things (HMH/Clarion Books, March 2018)
Written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Illustrated by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson

This collection celebrates the “joy of making” with over 20 poems about different creative activities, each written in unique styles. The illustrations are also varied, ranging from crayon and colored pencil sketches to mixed media collages and paintings. With My Hands would pair well with an arts and crafts session, or as inspiration for creative pursuits of all types.

 

Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up (Candlewick Press, February 2018)earthverse
Written by Sally M. Walker
Illustrated by William Grill

Geographical concepts and natural events like minerals, fossils, earthquakes, and volcanoes are explored in this collection of haiku, accompanied by impressionistic and muted colored pencil illustrations. Each concept is explained in further detail at the end of the book, and a suggested reading list is also included, making this a perfect poetic tie-in or an added “layer” of a geology curriculum.

 

didyouhear

Did You Hear What I Heard? Poems About School (Penguin Random House/Dial Books, February 2018)
Written by Kay Winters
Illustrated by Patrice Barton

Over 30 poems fill this colorful collection – all about bus rides, fire drills, recess, field trips, tests, and teachers. Stylistically, the poems range from structured stanzas to free verse to singsong rhymes. Bright and playful illustrations make this collection suitable for younger students and perfect for classroom read-alouds or as a starting point for students to write their own school-themed poems.