December Reviews: Picture Books that Help
A holiday season full of social distancing and pandemic worries comes with unique challenges and safety concerns for us all. While the holidays can be a joyful time, we all know they can also be stressful. These books are great options to help children cope with what’s going on in the world right now, with their own uncertainties and feelings, and to remind them that even though everything is a little different right now, they are still loved, still important, and still connected to those people who matter most.
After a worrisome news report, adults start behaving strangely and the whole world seems bleak–Mom stares at the TV, Dad falls asleep during a bedtime story, and even kids on the school bus seem worried. At school, the teacher suggests looking for “helpers” and the narrator, a little girl, decides that she’s going to be a helper, too. Children will identify with her need for control and desire to make everything go back to normal and will discover that they can do things to help others and themselves. This is a great book for any child feeling the effects of the pandemic, and only only made more relatable thanks to the generic nature of the “bad news” and the multiracial community of characters. Find the helpers, be a helper–even the smallest action can brighten the world. Ages 4 – 9
Sunny isn’t like other kids. She doesn’t get upset when it rains – she sees rain as an opportunity to use her bright yellow umbrella! She doesn’t get scared if she’s blown into the sky by the wind; instead she enjoys the view. Sunny has a knack for seeing the bright side of unpleasant situations, but, as readers will learn, also understands it’s okay to cry or to need help. The optimistic tone and bright illustrations with lots of blues and pops of cheery yellow make the book appealing to read together, and the message delivered will help children understand that, like Sunny, they can look on the bright side, they can feel their feelings, and that someone will always be there to help them. Ages 4 – 8
When children are frightened by a thunderstorm, mom tells them they don’t have to be scared to be in a different room from her—or even a different place entirely. There is, she explains, an invisible string that connects those who love each other. This invisible string can stretch all the way across the world, even into heaven, and is created by love. This sweet, gentle story serves as a timely reminder that, even if we are physically apart, we are never truly separated from those we love! During a holiday season full of social distancing, The Invisible String will help remind little ones (and adults, too) that though they may not be able to physically be with family and friends, they are still connected. Ages 4-8
Sometimes we all feel worried. Sometimes our thoughts are scary, and the world around us is overwhelming. That’s when the narrator of this book knows it’s time to take a deep breath and help themselves feel better. Watercolor style illustrations accompany the gentle text so children can watch as the narrator uses mindfulness techniques to find peace. Readers can even join in, breathing deeply, using all their senses, and letting worries float away. Afterward, the author has provided a guided meditation to try out at home. This gentle book is a great choice to read with any children who seem a little overwhelmed this holiday season; peace isn’t so far away.
Ages 3 – 9
Did you know that you matter? You do, and that’s exactly what this gentle book, with beautiful paint brush stroke illustrations, is here to remind us all. No matter if you’re big or small, young or old, first or last . . . a dinosaur or a mosquito, you matter! During a holiday with so many changes, children will be reassured that they are important even if they feel confused, isolated, or just unsure. No matter what, they are loved. Don’t forget to look closely at the illustrations in this title, too; the pictures have their own story to tell. Readers will learn about an astronaut mom in space and a child left at home, a little girl in a pink hijab who lost her dog, and even go back in time–all the while being reminded that everyone matters. Ages 4-8
The pandemic has caused a lot of changes in 2020, but it has not changed that children are capable, important, and loved – even if they might be feeling a little more blue than usual this time of year. We hope that these books will remind kids of all ages that, even when the world seems upside down, challenges can be navigated together and that they are not alone or without hope this holiday season.
Kelsey Blackburn is the Circulation Assistant at the North Park Library. In addition to her written reviews, you can catch her “Read This” video book talks on the Alamance County Public Libraries’ YouTube page. Kelsey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.