I am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer
Every kid should know about and be inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. This picture book biography from the fantastic “Ordinary People Change the World” series is one of our favorites. Since reading it, our almost-7-year olds have been talking about “nonviolent resistance” — changing the world with peace and love. (And to keep it going, check out the Rosa Parks and Gandhi books from the same series.) There’s no better way to encourage kids to dream big.
This Bridge Will Not Be Gray, by Dave Eggers
When my kids let me choose the book to read at bedtime, this is my pick. It’s a history book about how the Golden Gate Bridge — the most famous bridge in the world — ended up being bright orange. It wasn’t easy. Some people wanted it to be red and white. Or yellow and black. (Yep, seriously.) Most people wanted it to be gray. It was a really small group of people, raising their voices, that made the difference. From the publisher McSweeney’s, "Sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in, even if it’s just a color.” Every kid (and adult) needs to hear that message.
Presto Change-o: A Book of Magical Animals by Edouardo Manceau
This is a book you need to play with to appreciate. It’s simple, but so clever and addictive. Readers move the shapes in each bold, graphic illustration to transform it into something else. A hot air balloon becomes a rabbit, a teapot becomes an elephant, a rocket becomes a penguin. Our kids love the magic of creating something new. (We just wish it was a bit sturdier to stand up to crazy little hands.)
Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl
This book honors 26 of America's well-known and lesser-known heroes — from Angela Davis “who never backs down from the fight for justice,” to Carol Burnett “who showed us that funny women can make it big,” to Virginia Apgar “whose invention saves lives every single day.” We’re all for getting our kids excited about feminists who made a positive impact on our country, and are an important part of our history. The book ends with a list of things that young readers can do to be rad, and make a difference in their own communities. Yes!
At the Same Moment Around the World by Clotilde Perrin
Our preschoolers are fascinated with time zones, and no picture book better illustrates the concept. Gorgeous pictures depict scenarios occurring at the same moment. Benedict drinking his morning hot chocolate in Paris, France; Mitko chasing the school bus in Sofia, Bulgaria; Pablo having magical dreams in Mexico City. The stories are lovely and beautiful and warm. There’s a fold-out world map in the back that highlights the scenarios. And in case you’re asked, Why were time zones created? or How many time zones are there in the world?, there’s a page of facts that covers kids’ toughest questions.
Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman
In her gorgeously illustrated book about our third President, Maira Kalman brings history to life for kids. Not only did Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of Independence, he was curious about pretty much everything. He was a violinist, architect, scientist, mathematician, botanist. He spoke seven languages. Jefferson once wrote to John Adams, “I cannot live without books.” Kalman celebrates Jefferson’s extraordinary contributions, and also addresses his monumental flaw. Jefferson said about slavery, “This abomination must end.” But he was part of the abomination, owning 150 slaves. It’s an inspiring look at a complicated man who was learning his whole life.
In honor World Whale Day this Saturday, check out some of our favorite whale tales: If You Want to See a Whale, Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem, or The Snail and the Whale.
Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola
Based on a classic folktale, Strega Nona ("Grandma Witch") provides her Calabrian village with potions and magical cures. The story involves a magic pasta pot, a warning, a disaster, and a fix that makes our kids giggle. But mostly, it illustrates the importance of following rules — even when the temptation involves delicious noodles.