Growing up in the 1980’s was fantastic. Seeking adventure and silliness, we’d take off on our bikes after breakfast and our only worry that we made it back by sunset. I used to arrive home with dirty cheeks, twigs in my hair, the odd skinned knee, and grinning ear to ear.
Of course, I need to be mindful I’m not looking backwards through rose-colored glasses. It was probably not the brightest idea to cram as many neighborhood kids as we could into the backseat of the Buick for beach trips. And even as a child I recall being puzzled at how the non-smoking section, only one-aisle away from the smoking section, was somehow different. I’ll never forget watching the stewardess emerge out of the cloud filled back of the airplane like a rock star, her tray held just as high as her hair sprayed bangs. Although I’m appreciative for many social, health, and technological advances over the last 30 years; I’m still really grateful I got to grow up during a simpler time.
Our modern life is much more complex and nuanced than I remember, and many of the students I work with talk about being anxious and feeling unsure of themselves. Although today’s students have access to more technological resources, it appears to me that inner resourcefulness and self reliance is on a decline.
Unless you’ve been in a coma these past few years, (and if that’s the case, yikes! what a time to wake up, perhaps best to hit the snooze button) you know there’s multiple reasons for this. Children are becoming more and more aware of what’s happening around the globe. Directly or indirectly; there’s an impact on them, and just like us adults, children are trying to navigate the changing world too. The influence of these more chaotic times are playing out in homes, classrooms, playgrounds, and of course the minds and hearts of our little ones.
However, topics around loss, anxiety, and challenges should not be avoided. According to the American Psychological Association “As much as adults may try to avoid difficult topics, children often learn or know when something sad or scary happens. If adults don’t talk to them about it, a child may overestimate what is wrong or misunderstand adults’ silence. So, be the first to bring up the difficult topic”.
As a dear friend and mother of two recently shared with me, “Having the full range of emotions is part of the human experience we all share. My children have the same emotions I do- and that connects us. However, at times, their experiences with emotions can seem more intense. My role is to help them understand that all emotions are allowed, and to help guide them to find healthy ways to express them.”
I’ve wanted to create a Children’s book recommendation list for some time, but I also feel called to highlight books which are doing some of the heavy lifting around denser topics through beautiful narratives which help to shed light. I’m really excited to present this list, as I had the opportunity to interview two of the authors personally.
Books can be so much more than a means for escape; they can be instrumental for providing a safe narrative and framework from which difficult topics can be explored and understood. Reading these types of books with your children or students can lead to awareness, discussions of self-esteem, resiliency, emotional intelligence, self-discovery, and how to create healthy boundaries at a young age.
From Head to Heart is a transformation story of hope. Gwen is a young girl who, driven by bullying, builds a wall around her heart. To protect herself, she decides to live in her head—but the barrier around her heart prevents her from experiencing the vibrancy of life. When she sees someone else being bullied and helps them, she realizes the importance of opening up. With help from caring people she trusts, she learns to take the wall down. (www.wandadavis.com)
Author Davis shared with me that the creation of this book came from her own healing journey from being bullied as a young child. “The purpose of the book is so that others (no matter what age) understand that it is okay to ask for help so that no walls are needed or ask for help to take down their own walls.” From Head to Heart encourages children to speak up and to reach out for the help they need to gain better mental health. Davis contintued, “My intention is to inspire people of all generations to open their hearts so they can fully enjoy life. From Head to Heart encourages all readers to reflect on their past experiences and empower themselves to celebrate being alive.”
For Davis, writing this book is the first step of a larger impactful plan. “A lot of the book bio information talks about bullying, but from a spiritual perspective this book is so much more about living through the heart (or what living in your head looks like). My plan is to start holding workshops in the new year for both families and adults; only to talk more about the spiritual side of things”. Gwen’s journey from being in the mind to living through the heart is written for 7–9-year-olds, but it has powerful potential to reach a broader audience.
David has a problem. His teacher says everyone has a light inside, but he can’t find his. When Grandpa notices David’s tears, they explore things that make David feel good—his own brown eyes and smile, the way the flowers smell, and a cozy bedtime story with his mom. Suddenly, David feels his light. But back at school, his friend Elsie is sad and needs his help. Here, he uncovers the greatest truth of all: the more he shines his light, the more light there is. Little David’s Big Light explores a universally-appealing message of how gratitude can lead to more mindfulness, kindness, and love. (www.laurawilkinsbooks.com)
Author Wilkins explained that she feels it’s important for kids to know that sharing your light actually increases their light in themselves as well as others around them, and ultimately, the world. “The more everybody shares their light, the nicer the world will be.”
The idea for this book came to Wilkins after being faced with sudden changes and endings in her life. Embracing the awesome power of surrender and trust, she prayed for a new direction in her life. In what can only be described as “an answer from the universe”, and sudden creative inspiration, Wilkins shared with me “This story came to me fully formed within hours” and without any doubt, she knew exactly what to do. Considering how stunning this little book is, I’m so glad she listened to her heart. Little David’s Big Light is inviting, heartwarming, beautifully illustrated, and would make a wonderful holiday gift for a little one in your life.
Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, she is uncertain, and it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.
In an interview with bookandlatte.com, O’Conner shares that her inspiration for this book came from her roots “I grew up in South Carolina at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains and have many happy memories of day trips up the winding roads. I have recently moved back and am happily settled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I drive up those winding mountain roads and become ten years old again. So I knew I wanted my next book to be set in those mountains that are my heart’s home and that the setting would be a vital part of the story.”
Wish is delightful novel about a girl who, with the help of a true-blue friend, a big-hearted aunt and uncle, in a breathtaking environment, and with the dog of her dreams, unexpectedly learns the true meaning of family in the least likely of places.
Twelve-year-old Adela “Addie” Ramírez has a big decision to make when her stepfather proposes adoption. Addie loves Alex, the only father figure she’s ever known, but with a new half brother due in a few months and a big school theater performance on her mind, everything suddenly feels like it’s moving too fast. She has a million questions, and the first is about the young man in the photo she found hidden away in her mother’s things.
Addie’s sleuthing takes her to a New Mexico ranch, and her world expands to include the legendary Bravos: Rosie and Pancho, her paternal grandparents and former professional wrestlers; Eva and Maggie, her older identical twin cousins who love to spar in and out of the ring; Uncle Mateo, whose lucha couture and advice are unmatched; and Manny, her biological father, who’s in the midst of a career comeback. As luchadores, the Bravos’s legacy is strong. But being part of a family is so much harder—it’s about showing up, taking off your mask, and working through challenges together.
The Angel with the Golden Glow is about a little child who’s on a mission from God. Chosen to come to earth and to be born into a human, this little angel has an important mission, although a short one. “You will be born in this special earthly body. It will not work in the same way that most do.”
This lovely book offers hope and healing to families who have experienced loss. “Don’t be sad, for there will be a day when we will be together again. And remember, I’ll always love you, whether we are together or apart.”
I’d like to share how impactful this book was in my personal life. Obviously a book on the topic of grief is not a traditional holiday present, however when a good friend suddenly passed away, leaving behind two young grandchildren, The Angel with the Golden Glow was a perfect choice for me to give her adult daughter. Funerals are often confusing for children, especially young ones. So when the time is right, my friend will have a lovely book to curl up with her little ones and read should she wish to do so. My hope is that this book will offer them another way to talk about what happen to their grandmother who’s no longer there, as well perhaps give them a new avenue to remember and honor an amazing woman.
Based on the true story about a special little boy & his family, this book is for special children who are perhaps feel a bit different than others, and for families whom have loved and lost. With its wide-sized pages, stunning artwork, and simple yet powerful narrative, it invokes the deep innate knowledge that “everyone has a purpose.”
“It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars.” – Richard Evans