For young foodies and aspiring chefs, Ramen for Everyone by Pat Tanumihardja is a delightful picture book that tells the story of a young boy named Hiro who dreams of making the perfect bowl of ramen like his dad. With vibrant illustrations by Shiho Pate and a heartwarming message about creativity and individuality, this book is sure to be a hit with kids and parents alike.
Title: Ramen For Everyone Author: Pat Tanumihardj Illustrator: Shiho Pate Publisher: Atheneum Books For Young Readers Published: March 14, 2023 Format: Picture Book
Hiro’s dad makes the best ramen every Sunday with nori seaweed, nitamago egg, and chashu pork that melts in your mouth. Hiro is determined to make his own ramen, but when he tries, everything goes wrong. The seaweed crumbles, the eggs slip, and the pork falls apart. Hiro gets discouraged and thinks he’ll never be a real ramen chef.
But then, his dad gives him some great advice – that everyone’s perfect bowl of ramen is unique. This inspires Hiro to keep trying, and he experiments with different ingredients and techniques until he finally creates a unique bowl of ramen for each of his family members.
What’s great about this book is that it teaches kids about the importance of being creative and celebrating our unique differences. Hiro learns that it’s okay if his ramen doesn’t look or taste exactly like his dad’s, and that’s what makes it special.
The illustrations by Shiho Pate are adorable and full of personality. Kids will love the cute characters and detailed pictures of the ramen ingredients and process. They’ll probably even start craving ramen while they’re reading it!
If so, the back matter has you covered with a detailed recipe and a handy list of kitchen rules. This combination creates is a great opportunity to discuss kitchen safety and invite young ones in the kitchen to explore their creativity.
Ramen for Everyone officially releases next week, but you can preorder your copy wherever books are sold today, including Bookshop and Amazon.
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. However, all opinions and recommendations expressed in this post are our own and are not influenced by any affiliations or compensation received.
It’s time for one of my favorite (and most difficult) posts of the year! Today, I am sharing my favorite picture books of 2022 with you all. I’ve read SO MANY books this year and I’ve loved most of them, so it’s always hard to narrow down the list. This year it took me almost two weeks to decide on the tops, so if your book is not included, please know it was probably one I anguished over removing from the three-foot-tall stack of picture books in my office. So here they are in no particular order, my top 22 picture books of 2022!
As always, these titles will have inclusive characters (think racial and cultural diversity, LGBTQ+ representation, diverse family structures, disability representation, and more), and fall into a range of genres in both fiction and nonfiction categories.
Please Note: This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission from purchases made, at no additional cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you.
The Hair Book by Latonya Yvette, Illustrated by Amanda Jane Jones
With bold, colorful graphics and poetic rhyme, this is a stunning tribute to every kind of hair, perfect for fans of Hair Love.
Covered hair, Bun Hair, Party Hair… No matter your hair—YOU are welcome anywhere!
Author and lifestyle blogger, LaTonya Yvette makes her children’s book debut with a must-have gift purchase for any occasion alongside art from award-winning illustrator Amanda Jane Jones.
If You Were a City by Kyo Maclear, Illustrated by Sanna Francesca
A colorful celebration of cities and the people living in them.
Just like people, there are so many ways a city can be. And this lively picture book explores all of them. From quiet and dreamy to bright and buzzing, the magnificent diversity of our world is celebrated by connecting the uniqueness of its places with the people who live in them. Wild, gritty, bookish, or sheltering—if you were a city, how would YOU be?
You are here, and from here there are so many places you can go. But how will you know how to get there? In this warm and wise debut, Zach Manbeck gives readers a poetic roadmap to help us find our way in the world, while also reminding us all that right now, we are here—exactly where we are meant to be.
Both sweet and uplifting, this is a perfect book for a new baby, a new graduate, or anyone who could use a reminder that “all who wander are not lost.”
The Mother of a Movement: Jeanne Manford–Ally, Activist, and Founder of PFLAG by Rob Sanders, Illustrated by Sam Kalda
The Mother of a Movement is a true story of parental support and unconditional love.
The Mother of a Movementtells the story of Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). When her son Morty was beaten by New York City officials for handing out pro-gay leaflets, Manford wrote a powerful letter to the New York Post to complain about how Morty was treated. In the letter she came out as the mother of a gay son. The letter was published. Morty invited his mother to march with him in the June 1972 Christopher Street Parade. While marching, she had the idea to form a group to help parents and families of LGBTQ+ people. That was the beginning of PFLAG.
Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy, Illustrated by Janelle Washington
A picture book biography of the mother of Emmett Till, and how she channeled grief over her son’s death into a call to action for the civil rights movement.
Mamie Till-Mobley is the mother of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy who was brutally murdered while visiting the South in 1955. His death became a rallying point for the civil rights movement, but few know that it was his mother who was the catalyst for bringing his name to the forefront of history.
In Choosing Brave, Angela Joy and Janelle Washington offer a testament to the power of love, the bond of motherhood, and one woman’s unwavering advocacy for justice. It is a poised, moving work about a woman who refocused her unimaginable grief into action for the greater good. Mamie fearlessly refused to allow America to turn away from what happened to her only child. She turned pain into change that ensured her son’s life mattered.
Love, Violet by Charlotte Sullivan Wild, Illustrated by Charlene Chua
Perfect for Valentine’s Day, Love, Violet by Charlotte Sullivan Wild and Charlene Chua is a touching picture book about friendship and the courage it takes to share your feelings.
Of all the kids in Violet’s class, only one leaves her speechless: Mira, the girl with the cheery laugh who races like the wind. If only they could adventure together! But every time Violet tries to tell Mira how she feels, Violet goes shy. As Valentine’s Day approaches, Violet is determined to tell Mira just how special she is.
Leila Wayward is a little witch who excels at everything she does. She’s the fastest flier, the most cunning conjuror, and the most superb shape-shifter. She has won trophies for potions, herbology, and alchemy—and now she dreams of winning the Magnificent Witchy Cake-off! As the youngest in a long line of masters of the Dark Arts of Patisserie, Leila wants her entry to be perfect. But even with the most bewitching of recipes, she realizes a terrible truth: she’s a disaster in the kitchen. Luckily, Leila has three magical sisters who are happy to share their culinary secrets with her. What’s more, Leila discovers that baking with them is fun! Win or lose, she has already tasted the sweetest thing of all: acceptance—with a pinch of nightshade and a bit of mandrake. Filled with expressive and fancifully offbeat illustrations, Flavia Z. Drago’s enchanting story of trying your hardest despite your imperfections is sure to delight little witches and novice bakers alike.
Be a Good Ancestor by Leona Prince and Gabrielle Prince, Illustrated by Carla Joseph
Rooted in Indigenous teachings, this stunning picture book encourages readers of all ages to consider the ways in which they live in connection to the world around them and to think deeply about their behaviors.
Addressing environmental issues, animal welfare, self-esteem and self-respect, and the importance of community, the authors deliver a poignant and universal message in an accessible way: Be a good ancestor to the world around you. Thought-provoking stanzas offer a call to action for each one of us to consider how we affect future generations. Every decision we make ripples out, and we can affect the world around us by thinking deeply about those decisions.
Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Nina LaCour, Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
For one little girl, there’s no place she’d rather be than sitting between Mama and Mommy. So when Mommy goes away on a work trip, it’s tricky to find a good place at the table. As the days go by, Mama brings her to the library, they watch movies, and all of them talk on the phone, but she still misses Mommy as deep as the ocean and as high as an astronaut up in the stars. As they pass by a beautiful garden, the girl gets an idea . . . but when Mommy finally comes home, it takes a minute to shake off the empty feeling she felt all week before leaning in for a kiss. Michael L. Printz Award winner Nina LaCour thoughtfully renders a familiar, touching story of a child who misses a parent, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, whose distinctive style brings charm and playfulness to this delightful family of three.
Yes We Will: Asian Americans Who Shaped This Country by Kelly Yang, Illustrated by Nabi H. Ali, Fahmida Azim, Marcos Chin, Sally Deng, Shereya Gupta, Julia Kuo, Julie Kwon, Nhung Le, Kitkat Pecson, Dow Phumiruk, Sujean Rim, Dan Santat, Yuko Shimizu, Yuewei She, and Yao Xiao
From creating beautiful music like Yo-Yo Ma to flying to outer space like Franklin Chang-Díaz; from standing up to injustice like Fred Korematsu to becoming the first Asian American, Black and female vice president of the United States like Kamala Harris, this book illuminates the power of Asian Americans all over the country, in all sorts of fields.
Each spread is illustrated by a different renowned Asian American or Asian artist. Alongside the poetic main text, Yes We Will includes one-line biographies of the person or historical moment featured on the page, with extended biographies at the end. Readers of different ages and needs can use the book in different ways, from classroom discussions to bedtime readalouds and more.
Good Night, Little Bookstore by Amy Cherrix, Illustrated by E. B. Goodale
Part lullaby, part love song, this perfectly pitched bedtime book gives a nod to its classic predecessors as it champions the vibrant independent spirit of local bookstores.
Join the Little Bookstore’s friendly staff as they draw the curtain on another busy day of browsing and matchmaking. Choose a bedtime story, say your good nights, and pet the shop’s feline mascot on your way out. Snuggle up to a loved one for a read-aloud, then drift off to sweet dreams of adventure and enchantment to come.
Kind Like Marsha: Learning from LGBTQ+ Leaders by Sarah Prager, Illustrated by Cheryl Thuesday
For fans of Little Leaders and Pride comes a nonfiction picture book celebrating 14 incredible LGBTQ+ change makers and forward thinkers throughout history.
Kind Like Marsha celebrates 14 amazing and inspirational LGBTQ+ people throughout history. Fan favorites like Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, and Audre Lorde are joined by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Frida Kahlo, and more in this striking collection. With a focus on a positive personality attribute of each of the historical figures, readers will be encouraged to be brave like the Ugandan activist fighting for LGBTQ+ rights against all odds and to be kind like Marsha P. Johnson who took care of her trans community on the New York City streets.
Over and Under the Waves by Kate Messner, Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
Explore the wonders and beauties of the ocean’s kelp forests in this latest addition to the acclaimed Over and Under series.
Award-winning duo Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal return in this latest addition to the Over Over the waves, the sea lions bark and seagulls wheel and call. The bay is smooth and bright in the sun. But under the waves, there’s a whole hidden forest, full of whales and wolf eels, sardines and sea bass, leopard sharks and luminous jellies, as well as the waving kelp that shelters them all. Discover the magical depths of the kelp forest, and all the fascinating creatures living just a paddle’s length away—over and under the waves.
The Big Book of Pride Flags by Jessica Kingsley, Illustrated by Jem Milton
Celebrate and learn about the LGBTQIA+ community with this colourful book of Pride flags!
Featuring all the colours of the rainbow, this book teaches children about LGBTQIA+ identities through 17 different Pride flags. With fun facts, simple explanations and a short history of each flag accompanying beautiful illustrations, children will uncover the history of Pride and be introduced to different genders and sexual orientations. There’s also a blank Pride flag design at the back of the book so that children can create their very own Pride flag!
A Life of Service: The Story of Senator Tammy Duckworth by Christina Soontornvat, Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
Thai American creators portray the inspirational and barrier-breaking life of Senator Tammy Duckworth in a picture-book tribute to an extraordinary woman.
Senator Tammy Duckworth has logged a long list of “firsts” during her tenure as the first Thai American woman elected to Congress, including being the first woman with a disability to serve in the House and Senate. But while she dreamed of serving her country from a young age, Tammy’s path was not without its challenges. In this dramatic account, award-winning creators Christina Soontornvat and Dow Phumiruk chronicle Tammy’s journey. From her childhood fight to keep her family from homelessness, to her service in the US Army, to her recovery from grievous injuries sustained in the line of duty, Tammy never lost her determination to keep going against staggering odds.
The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, Illustrated by Nikkolas Smith
The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renée Watson.
A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders. But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived.
I Love You Like Yellow by Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Love comes in many forms. It can feel tart as lemonade, or sweet as sugar cookies. Slow as a lazy morning, or fast as a relay race. Love is there through it all: the large and small moments, the good times and bad. And at the end of the day, love settles us down to bed with a hug and kiss goodnight.
With charming, rhyming text from bestselling author Andrea Beaty and lush, heartwarming illustrations by bestselling illustrator Vashti Harrison, I Love You Like Yellow celebrates the unconditional love that pulses through life’s profound and everyday moments—and the people who make them so special.
Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Illustrated by Yas Imamura
Set in an incarceration camp where the United States cruelly detained Japanese Americans during WWII and based on true events, this moving love story finds hope in heartbreak.
To fall in love is already a gift. But to fall in love in a place like Minidoka, a place built to make people feel like they weren’t human—that was miraculous.
Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s beautifully illustrated, elegant love story features a photo of the real Tama and George—the author’s grandparents—along with an afterword and other back matter for readers to learn more about a time in our history that continues to resonate.
All from a Walnut by Ammi-Joan Paquette, Illustrated by Felicita Sala
A moving, multigenerational story about love, family roots, and the cycle of life
When Emilia finds a walnut one morning, Grandpa tells her the story behind it: of his journey across the ocean to a new home, with only one small bag and a nut in his pocket.
Step by step, Grandpa teaches Emilia how to cultivate her own seed. But as her little nut grows, Grandpa begins to slow down—until one sad day, Emilia has to say goodbye. Emilia’s sapling looks as droopy as she feels . . . but she knows just what to do.
Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Illustrated by Loveis Wise
Celebrate the life-changing power of art in this inspiring and stunningly illustrated picture book biography of American artist Alma Thomas.
Meet an incredible woman who broke down barriers throughout her whole life and is now known as one of the most preeminent painters of the 20th century. Told from the point of view of young Alma Thomas, readers can follow along as she grows into her discovery of the life-changing power of art.
Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers by Uma Mishra-Newbery and Lina Al-Hathloul, Illustrated by Rebecca Green
Loujain watches her beloved baba attach his feather wings and fly each morning, but her own dreams of flying face a big obstacle: only boys, not girls, are allowed to fly in her country. Yet despite the taunts of her classmates, she is determined to do it—especially because Loujain loves colors, and only by flying can she see the color-filled field of sunflowers her baba has told her about. Eventually, he agrees to teach her, and Loujain’s impossible dream becomes reality—and soon other girls dare to learn to fly.
Based on the experiences of co-author Lina AlHathloul’s sister, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Loujain AlHathloul, who led the successful campaign to lift Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving, this moving and gorgeously illustrated story reminds us to strive for the changes we want to see—and to never take for granted women’s and girls’ freedoms.
I’ll Go and Come Back by Rajani LaRocca, Illustrated by Sara Palacios
A tender, beautifully illustrated story about a girl in America and her grandmother in India, whose love stretches between languages and cultures—and across the world.
When Jyoti visits her grandmother halfway around the world, she is overwhelmed by the differences between India and home. At first she feels lonely and out of place, but soon, despite a language barrier, she and Sita Pati are able to understand each other. They form a bond—looking at books together, making designs with colored sand, shopping at the market, playing games, eating chapatis, and sipping warm milk with saffron to bring sweet dreams. When it’s time to part, Jyoti doesn’t want to leave, but then she remembers that in Tamil, people don’t say goodbye, they say “I’ll go and come back.” Sure enough, the two reunite the next summer when Pati visits Jyoti in America, and it’s Jyoti’s turn to make her grandmother feel welcome. Can they create some special memories that will last until the next time they see each other?
Despite its many challenges, 2022 was a great year for Mutually Inclusive and myself. I want to thank every single one of you; from readers and educators to publishers and my fellow reviewers and authors for making this year so amazing. This continues to be my favorite corner of the internet and it wouldn’t be the same without you all.
Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid by Katherine Mazeika is an inspiring picture book biography of a woman who is often overlooked despite her trailblazing accomplishments in sports, dance, film, and design.
Author/Illustrator: Katie Mazeika Publisher: Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster) Published: September 13, 2022 Format: Picture Book
Following Annette Kellerman’s fascinating life, from her childhood in Australia to her many globe-trotting careers, Annette Feels Free provides young readers with a wonderful role model of an independent and determined young woman.
When Annette fell ill as a child, her legs became weak and she required braces to walk. Annette could no longer dance with her braces until she found swimming. In the water, Annette was free to kick, swim, and dance. She became a strong swimmer, and eventually, her legs were strong enough to walk without braces. But Annette would not stop swimming.
She competed across the globe, even racing against men. She performed dives and dances in the water in front of hundreds of people. She even swam in the English Channel!
Annette was free in the water, except that she couldn’t wear the same streamlined swimming suits as the men she raced against. The full skirt and pantaloons she swam in were restricting, so Annette made her own swimsuit. Everyone took notice, and Annette was even brought to court, but she won. Because of Annette, women and girls everywhere are allowed to swim in whatever makes them feel comfortable!
Annette Kellerman’s story is absolutely fascinating, and Katie Mazeika has paired it with wonderful illustrations. I love the way the water is captured on every page, allowing readers to feel the freedom it brought Annette.
Educators, don’t miss out on the free curriculum guide provided on Katie Mazeika’s website at katiemazeika.com. With discussion questions and multiple activities for students, this free resource makes this a fabulous addition to any classroom library.
Annette Feels Free officially releases tomorrow (September 13, 2022) but you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
I’m so sorry to say that I had never heard of Annette Kellerman before reading Annette Feels Free, but I won’t be forgetting her story anytime soon. Thank you so much to Beach Lane Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a review copy of Annette Feels Free with me. I’m so thrilled to be able to share Annette’s inspiring story with you all today!
About The Author/Illustrator:
Katherine Mazeika is an author, illustrator, and designer with a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design. When she isn’t in the studio, she likes to spend time at the theater, in her garden, or getting lost in a good book. She lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids (Lillian and Jack), and two dogs.
Today I want to share the latest addition to one of my favorite non-fiction series! Over and Under the Waves by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal is a stunning picture book that shares the biodiversity of California’s kelp forests through a story about one family’s day on the waves.
Title: Over and Under The Waves Author: Kate Messner Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal Published: September 13, 2022 Publisher: Chronicle Books Format: Picture Book
Following one family as they spend the afternoon kayaking in Monterey Bay, Over and Under The Waves introduces young readers to the wide range of animals that call the kelp forests home, from the smallest acorn barnacles to huge humpback whales.
Like the rest of the Over and Under series, Over and Under the Waves seamlessly transports readers into another environment. Kate Messner’s text pairs perfectly with Christopher Silas Neal’s illustrations, drawing the reader deeper into the story and the kelp forest. With the perfect combination of education and entertainment, I can’t recommend this one enough!
With backmatter including an Author’s Note, additional facts about the variety of species mentioned, and suggestions for further reading, Over and Under the Waves is a must-have for classroom and school libraries.
Over and Under the Waves officially releases next week (September 13, 2022) but you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Chronicle Books for providing me with a review copy of Over and Under the Waves! I know my own little one will be fascinated with this book for years to come!
About The Author:
Kate Messner is the award-winning author of Over and Under the Snow, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, Over and Under the Pond, Over and Under the Rainforest, Over and Under the Canyon, How to Read a Story, and The Brilliant Deep, as well as more than a dozen other books for young readers. Kate lives on Lake Champlain with her family. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time outside—cross-country skiing, hiking, swimming, and digging in her gardens.
About The Illustrator:
Christopher Silas Neal is the award-winning artist of Over and Under the Snow, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, Over and Under the Pond, Over and Under the Rainforest, and Over and Under the Canyon. His work has been published in a variety of books and magazines and featured on television. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn.
Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy and Janelle Washington is a stunning picture book biography that captures a difficult lesson in American history for young readers in a remarkably age-appropriate way. Choosing Brave follows the life of Mamie Till-Mobley, who was the mother of Emmett Till. Emmett Till was a young Black boy who was murdered after he allegedly whistled at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955. Mamie Till-Mobley’s response to this tragedy ignited the Civil Rights Movement and caused her to become The Mother of The Movement.
Title: Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement Author: Angela Joy Illustrator: Janelle Washington Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan Kids) Published: September 6, 2022 Format: Picture Book
Choosing Brave documents Mamie’s childhood in which her family moved from Mississippi to Illinois during the Great Migration and follows along as she excels at school and graduates at the top of her class. Mamie becomes what many considered an “old maid” when she is unmarried at 18, so she is pressured to marry Louis Till. They have a little boy named Emmett shortly before Louis joins the army and leaves Mamie a widow at the age of 23.
Emmett is raised by Mamie and her mother, who cares for him while Mamie works. When he contracted polio as a child, Emmett recovered but developed a stutter. Mamie taught him a trick to help – by whistling, Emmett could take a moment to stop and get the words out. When he was 14, Emmett Till traveled to visit family in Mississippi, where his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River a little over a week after he arrived.
Since 1955, there have been many versions of the events that lead to the murder of Emmett Till. As someone who writes non-fiction, I know the challenges this kind of historical ambiguity can create for authors, but Angela Joy handles it flawlessly. She addresses the shifting story, but holds fast to the facts.
Even more impressive to me is the way that Choosing Brave handles the murder of Emmett Till in an age-appropriate way. When I say age-appropriate, I don’t mean that it is skipped over or minimized in any way. Angela Joy does not shy away from the brutality and injustice of Emmett Till’s murder, but directly addresses horrible truths that are too often left out of history books with poetic text. The juxtaposition of the beautiful lyrical language with the horrible act of violence is absolutely haunting.
The illustrations by debut illustrator Janelle Washington are absolute perfection. The paper-cut illustrations are so unique and incredibly moving on every single spread.
Choosing Brave captures the bravery, resilience, and grace of Mamie Till-Mobley, who shared her unimaginable grief and pain with the world. She bared her soul to the country and turned a tragedy into a movement for change. I have a feeling this book is going to win a lot of awards this year, and I cannot recommend it enough.
With extensive backmatter, including an author’s note, illustrator’s note, soundtrack, glossary, and timeline of the events of Emmett Till’s death (including the passing of The Emmett Till Antilynching Act in 2022) Choosing Brave is an absolute must-have for classrooms. I believe this is especially true for the classrooms of white children whose ancestors’ brutality and hatred are so often hidden from them “for their own good”.
It will be officially released next week (September 6, 2022), but you can preorder today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Roaring Brooks Press and Macmillan Kids for sending me a review copy of Choosing Brave. I am honored to share Mamie Till-Mobley’s and Emmett Till’s stories today.
About The Author:
Before graduating from the University of Minnesota, Angela Joy attended NYU and Spelman College. Angela then traveled as a background vocalist, also working in television and movie soundtracks. She lives in southern California with her family. To learn more about Angela and her work please visit her website at angelajoyblog.com.
About The Illustrator:
Janelle Washington is a self-taught paper-cut artist from Virginia. She has permanent silhouettes housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and Downing-Gross Community Arts Center in Newport News, Virginia. Please visit Jannelle’s website washingtoncuts.com for more information about her and her work.
For all our U.S. readers, Grandparents Day is quickly approaching! So I thought I’d share some fantastic picture book titles for all the parents and grandparents looking for the perfect gift or story for the occasion.
As always, these titles all feature inclusive characters and themes (think racial and cultural diversity, LGBTQ+ representation, diverse family structures, disability representation, and more), falling into a range of genres in both fiction and nonfiction categories.
Please Note: This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission from purchases made, with no additional cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you.
Something About Grandma by Tania de Regil
“On a first solo visit to her grandmother’s home outside Mexico City, a young girl discovers what makes Grandma so special in this enchanting and personal picture book.
At Grandma’s house, where Julia is staying without her parents for the first time, the breeze is sweet like jasmine. Mornings begin with sugared bread, and the most magnificent hot chocolate cures all homesickness. There’s something about this place . . . and about Grandma. Like how she can tell when Julia has been quietly picking limes from the garden. Or that she can see the future—and knows when Julia is about to fall off her bike. Or how she can journey back in time through the stories she tells. In the room where Julia’s mother grew up, her grandmother holds her in a warm embrace—an embrace that Julia will pass on to her family when her parents arrive with her new baby brother. With Tania de Regil’s heartfelt illustrations, incorporating poems by her great-grandfather that were handwritten by her grandmother, Something About Grandma offers a tender and playful exploration of the magic of intergenerational love and wisdom.”
All from a Walnut by Ammi-Joan Paquette, Illustrated by Felicita Sala
“A moving, multigenerational story about love, family roots, and the cycle of life When Emilia finds a walnut one morning, Grandpa tells her the story behind it: of his journey across the ocean to a new home, with only one small bag and a nut in his pocket.
“I planted my little tree in good brown soil, so it would grow strong here forever.” “In this house? In this yard?” “Shall we go see?”
Step by step, Grandpa teaches Emilia how to cultivate her own seed. But as her little nut grows, Grandpa begins to slow down—until one sad day, Emilia has to say goodbye. Emilia’s sapling looks as droopy as she feels . . . but she knows just what to do.”
Tofu Takes Time by Helen H. Wu, Illustrated by Julie Jarema
“Homemade tofu is good, and good things take time.
CLICK CLACK WHIRRRR . . . Lin and her grandma, NaiNai, are making tofu from scratch! When NaiNai goes through each step, from blending soybeans with water to molding curd into shape, Lin gradually becomes impatient. But she soon discovers that making tofu not only takes time, but also takes the whole universe! It takes the seed from soil and sunshine, the cloth from thread and fiber, weight and space, books of words and pictures. And most of all, it takes spending lovely time with her beloved grandmother.
In this charming tale by Helen H. Wu, readers will marvel at how patience brings a whole universe together in a simple dish made by a modern Chinese American family. Perfect for fans of Fry Bread, Drawn Together and Thank You, Omu.“
“Discover a wonderful grandfather-granddaughter relationship, as a little girl hatches the perfect plan to get her Grandad adventuring again.
Gramps and Grandad were adventurers. They would surf, climb mountains, and tour the country in their amazing camper. Gramps just made everything extra special. But after Gramps died, granddad hasn’t felt like traveling anymore. So, their amazing granddaughter comes up with a clever plan to fix up the old camper and get Grandad excited to explore again.
This beautiful picture book honors love and reminds us not only to remember those we have lost, but to celebrate them.”
When Lola Visits by Michelle Sterling, Illustrated Aaron Asis
“For one young girl, summer is the season of no school, of days spent at the pool, and of picking golden limes off the trees. But summer doesn’t start until her lola—her grandmother from the Philippines—comes for her annual visit.
Summer is special. For her lola fills the house with the aroma of mango jam, funny stories of baking mishaps, and her quiet sweet singing in Tagalog. And in turn, her granddaughter brings Lola to the beach, to view fireworks at the park, and to catch fish at their lake.
When Lola visits, the whole family gathers to cook and eat and share in their happiness of another season spent together. Yet as summer transitions to fall, her lola must return home—but not without a surprise for her granddaughter to preserve their special summer a bit longer.”
Brand-New Bubbe by Sarah Aronson, Illustrated Ariel Landy
“Jillian isn’t so sure she needs a third grandma now that her stepdad is joining the family, but can her brand-new Bubbe win her over?
When Jillian joins Bubbe for some mom-mandated matzo ball soup making, she realizes she has room in her heart (and stomach!) for one more grandmother. But how can she convince Noni and Gram she still loves them just as much? A super soup celebration, of course! Chaos in the kitchen leads to matzo ball soup, spicy gazpacho, meatball soup, and a trio of grandmas united in their love for their family.
Complete with all three soup recipes, Brand-New Bubbe captures the warmth of blended family and honors the joys of cooking with the ones you love.”
“Where do poems come from? This beautiful picture book about a young aspiring poet and his grandfather shows that the answer lies all around us–if we take the time to look.
After Kiyoshi watches his grandfather, Eto, compose his delicate haiku, he wonders out loud: “Where do poems come from?” His grandfather answers by taking him on a walk through their city, where they see a cat perched on a hill of oranges; hear the fluttering of wings; imagine what’s behind a tall wall; and discuss their walk, with each incident inspiring a wonderful new haiku from Eto. As Kiyoshi discovers that poems come from the way the world outside of us meets the world within each of us, he also finds the courage to write a haiku of his own.
This lovely book will speak to any reader who treasures poetry, city life, grandparents, or the beauty of the everyday.”
I’ll Go and Come Back by Rajani LaRocca, Illustrated Sara Palacios
“A tender, beautifully illustrated story about a girl in America and her grandmother in India, whose love stretches between languages and cultures—and across the world.
When Jyoti visits her grandmother halfway around the world, she is overwhelmed by the differences between India and home. At first she feels lonely and out of place, but soon, despite a language barrier, she and Sita Pati are able to understand each other. They form a bond—looking at books together, making designs with colored sand, shopping at the market, playing games, eating chapatis, and sipping warm milk with saffron to bring sweet dreams. When it’s time to part, Jyoti doesn’t want to leave, but then she remembers that in Tamil, people don’t say goodbye, they say “I’ll go and come back.” Sure enough, the two reunite the next summer when Pati visits Jyoti in America, and it’s Jyoti’s turn to make her grandmother feel welcome. Can they create some special memories that will last until the next time they see each other?”
Soul Food Sunday by Winsome Bingham, Illustrated by C. G. Esperanza
“Granny teaches her grandson to cook the family meal in this loving celebration of food, traditions, and gathering together at the table.
On Sundays, everyone gathers at Granny’s for Soul Food. But today, I don’t go to the backyard or the great room. I follow Granny instead. “You’re a big boy now,” Granny says. “Time for you to learn.”
At Granny’s, Sunday isn’t Sunday without a big family gathering over a lovingly prepared meal. Old enough now, our narrator is finally invited to help cook the dishes for the first time: He joins Granny in grating the cheese, cleaning the greens, and priming the meat for Roscoe Ray’s grill. But just when Granny says they’re finished, her grandson makes his own contribution, sweetening this Sunday gathering—and the many more to come. Evocatively written and vividly illustrated, this mouthwatering story is a warm celebration of tradition and coming together at a table filled with love and delicious food.”
Grandpa Grumps by Katrina Moore, Illustrated by Xindi Yan
“Daisy’s Yeh-Yeh is visiting from China, and try as she might, Daisy can’t get her grumpy grandpa to smile!
Daisy’s Yeh-Yeh is visiting for the first time from China, and Daisy is so excited to meet him! She has big plans for all the fun they’ll have together, like tea parties and snow angels, but when Yeh-Yeh arrives, Daisy finds him less jolly than she imagined. Throughout the week, she tries all sorts of things to get him past his grumpiness. Will she be able to make him smile before he goes home?
Kids will love this funny and heartwarming story about overcoming cultural differences and connecting across generations!”
Abuelita and I Make Flan by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom
“Anita loves to bake with her abuela, especially when they are using her grandmother’s special recipes for Cuban desserts like flan!
Anita is making flan for Abuelo’s birthday, but when she accidentally breaks Abuelita’s treasured flan serving plate from Cuba, she struggles with what to do. Anita knows it’s right to tell the truth, but what if Abuelita gets upset? Worried that she has already ruined the day, Anita tries to be the best helper. After cooking the flan, they need a serving dish! Anita comes up with a wonderful solution.
Complete with a glossary of Spanish terms and a traditional recipe for flan, Abuelita and I Make Flan is a delicious celebration of food, culture, and family.”
Holding On by Sophia N. Lee, Illustrated by Isabel Roxas
“A young girl in the Philippines uses music to connect with her grandmother as her memory fades in this warm and moving picture book perfect for fans of Pixar’s Coco.
There is always singing in Lola’s house. Sammy Davis Jr. in the morning, Dean Martin in the afternoon, and all throughout the evening, old Tagalog love songs from Nora Aunor, Basil Valdez, and more. Lola always says: “If you want to hold on, you gotta sing your songs.”
Her granddaughter tucks these sounds and Lola’s wisdom deep within her heart. And when Lola starts slipping into silence and stillness, she helps Lola hold on, piece by piece, with the joy and music that Lola taught her.”
A Plan For Pops by Heather Smith, Illustrated Brooke Kerrigan
“Lou spends every Saturday with Grandad and Pops. They walk to the library hand in hand, like a chain of paper dolls. Grandad reads books about science and design, Pops listens to rock and roll, and Lou bounces from lap to lap. But everything changes one Saturday. Pops has a fall. That night there is terrible news: Pops will need to use a wheelchair, not just for now, but for always. Unable to cope with his new circumstances, he becomes withdrawn and shuts himself in his room. Hearing Grandad trying to cheer up Pops inspires Lou to make a plan. Using skills learned from Grandad, and with a little help from their neighbors, Lou comes up with a plan for Pops.”
Amah Faraway by Margaret Chiu Greanias, Illustrated Tracy Subisak
“A delightful story of a child’s visit to a grandmother and home far away, and of how families connect and love across distance, language, and cultures.
Kylie is nervous about visiting her grandmother-her Amah-who lives SO FAR AWAY. When she and Mama finally go to Taipei, Kylie is shy with Amah. Even though they have spent time together in video chats, those aren’t the same as real life. And in Taiwan, Kylie is at first uncomfortable with the less-familiar language, customs, culture, and food. However, after she is invited by Amah-Lái kàn kàn! Come see!-to play and splash in the hot springs (which aren’t that different from the pools at home), Kylie begins to see this place through her grandmother’s eyes and sees a new side of the things that used to scare her. Soon, Kylie is leading her Amah-Come see! Lái kàn kàn!-back through all her favorite parts of this place and having SO MUCH FUN! And when it is time to go home, the video chats will be extra special until they can visit faraway again.”
“Meet Punky Aloha: a girl who uses the power of saying “aloha” to experience exciting and unexpected adventures!
Punky loves to do a lot of things—except meeting new friends. She doesn’t feel brave enough.
So when her grandmother asks her to go out and grab butter for her famous banana bread, Punky hesitates. But with the help of her grandmother’s magical sunglasses, and with a lot of aloha in her heart, Punky sets off on a BIG adventure for the very first time.
Will she be able to get the butter for grandma?
Punky Aloha is a Polynesian girl who carries her culture in her heart and in everything she does. Kids will love to follow this fun character all over the island of O’ahu.”
Over the Shop by Jonarno Lawson, Illustrated by Qin Leng
“In a beautifully detailed wordless picture book, a tumbledown building becomes home sweet home for a found family.
A lonely little girl and her grandparent need to fill the run-down apartment in their building. But taking over the quarters above their store will mean major renovations for the new occupants, and none of the potential renters can envision the possibilities of the space—until one special couple shows up. With their ingenuity, the little girl’s big heart, and heaps of hard work, the desperate fixer-upper begins to change in lovely and surprising ways. In this bustling wordless picture book, JonArno Lawson’s touching story and Qin Leng’s gentle illustrations capture all angles of the building’s transformation, as well as the evolving perspectives of the girl and her grandparent. A warm and subtly nuanced tale, Over the Shop throws open the doors to what it means to accept people for who they are and to fill your home with love and joy.”
“Nina loves visiting her two faraway grandmas—one in Malaysia and one in England. Spot the similarities and differences between their homes in this cozy and beautifully illustrated picture book!
Nina lives in San Francisco with her parents, and she loves visiting her two grandmas across the world. Follow Nina as her two trips unfold side by side: Young readers will love poring over the details of what is the same and what is different at Nana’s home in England and at Nenek’s home in Malaysia. In each place, Nina wears different clothes, plays different games, and eats different food. But so much about visiting Nana and Nenek is the same, from warm hugs at the airport to beach days and bedtime snuggles. Nina is equally at home across the world in Malaysia or England, and both of her grandmas love her to California and back.”
Bindu’s Bindis by Supriya Kelkar, Illustrated by Parvati Pillai
“A companion to Kelkar’s The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh, this picture book features a little girl named Bindu whose bindis connect her to family and help her find courage to compete in the school talent show.
This charming picture book is about a little girl who loves her bindis (and the many creative shapes they come in!). The bindis are also a connection to her Nani who lives in India. When Nani comes to visit Bindu and brings the bindis to her, it is just in time to wear something new to the school talent show. Bindu and Nani work together to shine their brightest and embrace their sparkle, even when they stand out from the crowd.”
“Though separated by language, age, and an ocean, a child and grandparent find common ground in this warm, witty picture book
Grandpa lives on the other side of the ocean. He takes naps all the time. He eats different foods. He speaks an unfamiliar language. His house is the most boring place on Earth! Or is it? A little time together just might reveal that Grandpa is also a great singer, an energetic sandcastle builder, and a troublemaker . . . just like his grandson! With her signature warmth and humor, award-winning author-illustrator Hyewon Yum shares the challenges and joys of having a relative who lives far away—proving that even from across the ocean, the grandparent-grandchild relationship is a very special one.”
I Dream of Popo by Livia Blackburne, Illustrated by Julia Kuo
“From New York Times bestselling author Livia Blackburne and illustrator Julia Kuo, here is I Dream of Popo. This delicate, emotionally rich picture book celebrates a special connection that crosses time zones and oceans as Popo and her granddaughter hold each other in their hearts forever.
I dream with Popo as she rocks me in her arms. I wave at Popo before I board my flight. I talk to Popo from across the sea. I tell Popo about my adventures.
When a young girl and her family emigrate from Taiwan to America, she leaves behind her beloved popo, her grandmother. She misses her popo every day, but even if their visits are fleeting, their love is ever true and strong.”
“A picture book celebrating Indigenous culture and traditions. The Governor General Award–winning team behind When We Were Alone shares a story that honors our connections to our past and our grandfathers and fathers.
A boy and Moshom, his grandpa, take a trip together to visit a place of great meaning to Moshom. A trapline is where people hunt and live off the land, and it was where Moshom grew up. As they embark on their northern journey, the child repeatedly asks his grandfather, “Is this your trapline?” Along the way, the boy finds himself imagining what life was like two generations ago — a life that appears to be both different from and similar to his life now. This is a heartfelt story about memory, imagination and intergenerational connection that perfectly captures the experience of a young child’s wonder as he is introduced to places and stories that hold meaning for his family.”
Hundred Years of Happiness by Thanhhà Lai, Illustrated by Nguyen Quang and Kim Lien
On a first solo visit to her grandmother’s home outside Mexico City, a young girl discovers what makes Grandma so special in this enchanting and personal picture book.
“At Grandma’s house, where Julia is staying without her parents for the first time, the breeze is sweet like jasmine. Mornings begin with sugared bread, and the most magnificent hot chocolate cures all homesickness. There’s something about this place . . . and about Grandma. Like how she can tell when Julia has been quietly picking limes from the garden. Or that she can see the future—and knows when Julia is about to fall off her bike. Or how she can journey back in time through the stories she tells. In the room where Julia’s mother grew up, her grandmother holds her in a warm embrace—an embrace that Julia will pass on to her family when her parents arrive with her new baby brother. With Tania de Regil’s heartfelt illustrations, incorporating poems by her great-grandfather that were handwritten by her grandmother, Something About Grandma offers a tender and playful exploration of the magic of intergenerational love and wisdom.”
“A grandmother and grandchild nurse an injured bird together in this touching story about caring for all creatures, the wonder of nature, and letting go.
On a snowy day, a grandmother and grandchild find an injured bird. They take it home and care for it until it can fly around the living room. It is fantastic—just like everything at Abuela’s house! But a fantastic moment is also bittersweet, for the little bird’s recovery means that it’s time to let it fly free. Drawing inspiration from a formative childhood experience, Blanca Gómez crafts a deceptively simple story that is morally and emotionally resonant and is brimming with love, wonder, and a deep respect for the natural world.”
We Wait for the Sun by Katie McCabe and Dovey Johnson Roundtree, Illustrated by Raissa Figueroa
“A beautiful and uplifting non-fiction picture book from Katie McCabe and trailblazing civil rights lawyer and activist Dovey Johnson Roundtree, We Wait for the Sun.
In the hour before dawn, Dovey Mae and Grandma Rachel step into the cool, damp night on a secret mission: to find the sweetest, ripest blackberries that grow deep in the woods.
But the nighttime holds a thousand sounds―and a thousand shadows―and Dovey Mae is frightened of the dark. But with the fierce and fearless Grandma Rachel at her side, the woods turn magical, and berry picking becomes an enchanting adventure that ends with the beauty and power of the sunrise.”
Today I’m sharing a book that I’m certain will be on my list of favorites for 2022. Kind Like Marsha: Learning From LGBTQ+ Leaders by Sarah Prager and Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday is a fantastic book that fills a huge hole in the picture book market.
Title: Kind Like Marsha: Learning From LGBTQ+ Leaders Author: Sarah Prager Illustrator: Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday Publisher: Running Press Kids Published: August 2, 2022 Format: Picture Book
Kind Like Marsha is a picture book biography collection that shares the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ leaders throughout history for readers ages 4-8. I’ve seen lots of picture book biography collections with biographical information in the backmatter, but Kind Like Marsha is the first one I’ve seen that presents biographical information upfront in an approachable way for the youngest readers.
Beginning with Marsha P. Johnson, a trans woman whose activism supported LGBTQ+ youth in her community in New York, each spread has a portrait on the left and a biography on the right. The biography includes the subject’s name, dates, one sentence explaining their accomplishment, a quote from the subject, and the lesson we can all learn from them. I absolutely adore this format because it is SO approachable. Nonfiction can feel intimidating for so many young readers, but Sarah Prager has laid the information out in a way that invites young readers in.
The illustrations by Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday pair perfectly with the biographies, not just giving the reader a face to put with each name, but capturing each leader’s work in such a beautiful way.
Kind Like Marsha officially releases on August 2nd, and I can’t recommend it enough! You can pick up a copy wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Running Press Kids for sharing this amazing book with me. I can’t wait to read this one over and over to my little one.
About The Author:
Sarah Prager is the author of Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World and Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBTQ+ People Who Made History. She came out as lesbian when she was fourteen and feels grateful for her extended LGBTQ+ family and loves telling the stories of our shared history. She’s written for the New York Times, National Geographic, The Atlantic, and many other publications about LGBTQ+ topics. Sarah lives with her wife and two children in Massachusetts.
About The Illustrator:
Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday is an illustrator originally from London and who grew up in New Jersey. Her illustrations are heavily influenced by her Caribbean and Asian heritage and she’s created artwork for various worldwide publications and companies. Cheryl lives in the Tri State area.
In the last year, the US has seen a dramatic rise in book banning. Schools and libraries across the country are removing books about gender, race, sexual health, sexual orientation, and even the holocaust. It’s hard to discuss the rise in book bans without discussing the introduction of bills restricting schools from holding classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity. HB 1557 or the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” and others like it are being introduced in 22 different states.
These bills are said to, “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner”. In other words, these bills were written to allow parents to decide when their children should learn about the existence of LGBTQ+ people.
While some may believe these laws will protect their children, I’m here to tell you that they are dangerous for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they strip access from children who need these books. For many children, these books represent them, their families, and their community. What message are adults sending these children when they say those books don’t belong in school?
The conversation around these bills also implies that adults are harming children, and that children must be protected from the influence of queer adults. We see the lie that queer people are predatory repeated more and more with every bill that’s introduced. It’s a very old rhetoric gaining steam in the mainstream again. Rhetoric that I know to be false as a queer person who writes picture books.
I can’t speak for all queer writers, but I know that I write queer books because I know the pain of feeling “different”, “wrong”, or even just “other”. Growing up in rural Alabama (the same state that just passed their own “Don’t Say Gay Bill” with Bill 322), teachers didn’t read books about bisexuality. Not because it was illegal, but because we didn’t talk about identity at all in my community. In fact, no one said the word “bisexual” to me at a young age at all. I didn’t even have the words for what I was until I was a teenager. But that silence didn’t stop me from becoming who I am today. It didn’t stop my queerness. It just made me feel alone and broken. Today I write the books that I needed in my childhood, because there are still children who need them.
So, understandably, this whole topic has been hard for me to wrap my arms around lately. I knew I wanted to talk about it here, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach it. To my luck and delight, one of my favorite publicity contacts who works at Simon & Schuster reached out to me with the perfect idea. He asked if I would like to interview Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, the authors of one of the American Library Association’s most frequently banned books, And Tango Makes Three.
Title: And Tango Makes Three Authors: Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell Illustrator: Henry Cole Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Published: June 1, 2015 Format: Picture Book
This delightful picture book is based on the true story of two male chinstrap penguins who paired themselves up and tried to hatch an egg in their nest. When another penguin couple laid two eggs, a zookeeper stepped in to save the abandoned egg by giving it to the penguins. They hatched that egg and made their family grow by one. This wholesome book provides readers ages 4-8 with an approachable introduction to the concept of diverse family structures and creates “representation” for kids who might have two moms or two dads (who are obviously humans and not penguins).
Though it was originally published seventeen years ago, And Tango Makes Three continues to be included in the American Library Association’s list of most frequently challenged books.
Justin Richardson, MD, is the coauthor, with Peter Parnell, of the award-winning picture book And Tango Makes Three. Dr. Richardson is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia and Cornell and the coauthor of Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask). Dr. Richardson and his advice have been featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post, on the Today show and NPR’s Morning Edition, and in numerous magazines. Dr. Richardson lectures to parents and teachers on parenting and the sexual development of children.
Peter Parnell is the coauthor, with Justin Richardson, of And Tango Makes Three. He is a playwright whose plays have been produced at the Public Theater and Playwrights Horizons in New York City, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and the Seattle Repertory Company, among others. His play QED was produced on Broadway. He has written extensively for television as a producer for both The West Wing and The Guardian; he has also written episodes of Maurice Sendak’s series Little Bear. He lives in New York City.
Justin, Peter, thank you both for joining me today. I’m going to start with the question I always ask. What inspired you to write And Tango Makes Three?
Justin had a longstanding interest in parenting and in children’s sexual development. Around the writing of his book with pediatrician Mark Schuster, Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know about Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask), he’d spoken widely with parents across the country about their challenges in talking to children about a range of issues related to kids and sex. One of the things that impressed him was the way parents, even those who wanted to raise their children with progressive ideas about sexual orientation, were haunted by the fear of speaking them about topics or with language that wasn’t “age-appropriate.” When we read the new coverage of Tango and her two dads, it was instantly clear that telling this story would give many parents the way in they were looking for to talk about the diversity of families in the world.
More personally, we were working on having a child of our own at the time. We so wanted to be able to share literature that depicted a family like ours with our little one.
This title has been in ALA’s annual top 10 banned book list 9 times since it was originally published back in 2005. Did you ever imagine your adorable story about gay penguins would get this much backlash when you wrote it back then?
We thought there might be some resistance to Tango from conservative parents. But we never imagined the scale it would reach, nor could we have predicted how broadly the book would be celebrated and defended around the world. At first, there was nothing. The conservative press was almost eerily quiet. Then the documentary March of the Penguins came out. It was a huge hit, and conservative writers pointed to the movie as proof that monogamy was right and abortion wrong. Others countered, pointing to our book and arguing that by the same token, penguins also proved that homosexuality was natural. Michael Medved called Tango propaganda in USA Today, Frank Rich rebutted him in the Times, and the challenges began to roll in. Did we ever imagine that it would become the single most banned book in the United States or that the government of Singapore would decide to pulp every copy in its library system? Some things you just don’t anticipate.
As both a writer and reviewer, I generally try to stay focused on the target audience of children. Because that’s really who these books are for, right? When you interact with your audience, what kinds of reactions do you get from children? Have you ever had a child get as upset about the book as the adults around them seem to be?
If Tango works as a picture book, it’s because it offers children a story they understand and enjoy returning to. Two little birds, different from the others, deeply want something they probably can’t have. They try and fail. Then a kindly grownup gives them just what they need. And their dream comes true. When we turn the page and children see Tango burst out of her shell with her silly beak and feathers, there is always such joy in the room! Most of the questions we get from children are about penguins. Some about how you make a book. Occasionally a child will make the connection to their own family structure, or a friend’s. With older children, starting in the fourth grade, we may mention that the book has been banned. The looks of incomprehension are the most powerful rebuttal to the rhetoric we’re hearing from Florida legislators and their defenders.
What would you say you learn from your readers? Have any of the children who read the book taught you something?
One of the most moving experiences we had was receiving an award from three schools in New York City where the 5th graders spent a year reading books and together selecting a recipient for award to honor one book they felt honored the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.. We all sat in the gym of one of the schools and listened as students from each school stood up and read aloud their essays about TANGO, of the lessons of tolerance and understanding towards members of the LGBTQ community that it gave them. They were extraordinarily sensitive essays. For us, it was a lesson in how the proper kind of teaching can engender the most sophisticated thinking from young readers.
If you could say anything to the lawmakers who are writing and passing these laws, what would you say?
Please read our book. Just sit quietly and read it. Then meet a child with two moms or two dads and read it to them. And allow yourself to reconsider the effect on this child of eliminating our book from their classroom.
I saw your article for The Washington Post mentioning other classics that should be reconsidered under the vague terminology of the Don’t Say Gay Bill and I just have to say the rule follower in me loves this idea of fighting back with malicious compliance. It’s brilliant! Do you think this could be a tactic teachers in Florida who are opposed to the bill could use in their classrooms to highlight the vague language of the bill?
Absolutely. The dead serious joke of our piece was that, since the law prohibits discussion and instruction about “sexual orientation,” countless books, including Make Way for Ducklings, which depict heterosexual animals forming and raising a family are just as impermissible as Tango. The law empowers parents to sue if these books are taught. Countless frivolous lawsuits over the reading of Ferdinand (“gender identity”) and Make Way for Ducklings seem very much in order. Have at it!
What other banned books would you recommend to parents who want to support the titles that are being challenged and banned in schools across America?
We are big fans of anything written by Robie Harris!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with Mutually Inclusive’s readers?
Thank you all for caring about literary freedom and standing up, in small ways or large, for books like ours!
Thank you so much to Justin and Peter for their thoughtful answers to all my questions. I also want to thank my friend, Alex, for making this interview possible and giving me a productive outlet for all my complicated feelings about these dangerous bills and the book banning they are encouraging.
If you would like to learn more about bills like these being passed in your state, check out openstates.org to track and follow your local legislation. You can also find your local representatives at commoncause.org and speak out about any bills you think will be harmful to your community.
As we all celebrate Earth Day today, I wanted to share a few books that are perfectly paired with activities to bring some fun to everyone’s Earth Day celebrations.
Big Ideas For Little Environmentalists Series by Maureen McQuerry, Illustrated by Robin Rosenthal
Up first is a fantastic new board book series from Putnam Books For Young Readers called Big Ideas For Little Environmentalists. Perfect for fans of the Baby Scientist series, the BabyLit series, and the Feminist Baby series, Big Ideas For Little Environmentalists encourages small children to make a big impact. The series includes four titles written by Maureen McQuerry and illustrated by Robin Rosenthal, each highlighting a real life environmentalist and the impacts they made.
Inspired by each of the iconic environmentalists covered in the BIG IDEAS series, here arefour Earth Day Activities from Maureen perfect for every Little Environmentalist!
Explore an All-Senses Scavenger Hunt with Aldo Leopold
Aldo Leopold’s childhood love for nature led to a life dedicated to protecting and preserving the environment, encouraging others to appreciate nature with all senses and without harmful activity.
Create an Earth Day bingo card with written prompts of things for your child to find around the neighborhood. When they find something that fits a description, have them draw a picture in the correct box. Make sure to include all senses, encouraging your child to touch, smell, see, and listen to the world around them. For example: find something that feels rough; find three things that are blue; identify an animal by its sound; describe three different scents from nature. Decide on a reward for completing the scavenger hunt.
Some of Rachel Carson’s earliest observations of nature were of the birds in her yard. In the spring, birds look for material to build their nests.
For this activity, find a kitchen whisk and a piece of string or yarn to hang it from a tree. With your child, fill the wires in the whisk with sticks, leaves, moss, pet hair, and small strips of string, cotton fabric, or yarn. Hang it where birds can find it. Then watch and see which birds come. What do they look like? What materials do they like best? Draw a picture or tell a story about the birds that visit.
Realizing trees are important for the health of the land and all who live on it, Wangari Maathai worked to plant millions of trees to make the land healthy again.
To watch how seeds grow, you’ll need a small sealable plastic bag, some dry beans, tape, and a damp paper towel. Soak the beans in water overnight to get them ready to grow. The next day, dampen a paper towel, fold it, and place it in the bag. Add a few beans and seal the bag. Then tape it to a window that gets plenty of light. In three days to a week, the seed should split and begin to sprout. Every day the seed will grow and change. Soon there will be leaf buds and it will be time to plant it in the ground or in a flowerpot! Encourage your child to draw and journal changes in the plant and share with friends.
Jane Goodall taught others how to enjoy nature while also making sure the homes of animals aren’t suffering, saying “A naturalist looks for the wonder of nature.”
To create your child’s Wonder Box, find a box to hold small treasures, and decorate or label it with your child. Then, take a walk around your neighborhood, guiding your child to collect five special things; a feather, rock, piece of bark, flower petal, seed, etc. For objects that are too big or fragile to collect (a spiderweb, sunset, mountain peak), draw pictures or snap photos to put in the box. Continue to add to your child’s Wonder Box with each new nature adventure!
Apple and Magnolia by Laura Gehl, Illustrated by Patricia Metola
The second title I want to share is a beautiful picture book that celebrates unlikely friendships, and introduces young readers to the fact that trees can communicate with one another. Apple and Magnolia by Laura Gehl and Patricia Metola follows a young girl named Britta and her two favorite trees, Apple and Magnolia. I won’t spoil the story on this one, so I’ll just say Britta notices Magnolia’s branches drooping one day so she comes up with a creative way for Apple to help Magnolia make it through the winter.
The publisher, Flyaway Books, has kindly provided a free discussion and activity guide on their website with more information about tree communication. Flyaway Books and Laura Gehl have also provided this entertaining storytime for young readers to enjoy for Earth Day.
You can learn more about Laura Gehl and her other work by visiting her website lauragehl.com.
One Little Lot: The 1-2-3s of an Urban Garden by Diane C. Mullen, Illustrated by Oriol Vidal
Last but certainly not least is One Little Lot: The 1-2-3s of an Urban Garden by Diane C. Mullen and Oriol Vidal. This sweet counting book chronicles the transformation of an empty lot in an urban neighborhood as it becomes a beautiful community garden. Loosely based on the author’s experiences with her neighbors and their community garden in Minneapolis, One Little Lot celebrates community and the way we can come together and care for nature, even in a bustling city.
The backmatter contains an Author’s Note with information about honeybees and the ways they help plants grow, breed, and produce food. You can also visit Charlesbridge’s website at charlesbridge.com for a free activity kit including a discussion guide and four unique activities.
What activities are you taking part in for your Earth Day celebrations? Be sure to share in the comments below!
As for me and mine, we will be attending a local plant sale to support Teacher Appreciation Day at a school in our neighborhood. My little one got a cute gardening set as an Easter present last weekend, and we will be putting it to good use in the backyard of our new home.
However you choose to spend Earth Day, I hope you have a good one!
I’m so thrilled to be sharing another one of my Most Anticipated Picture Books of 2022 with you all today! I’ll Go and Come Back by Rajani LaRocca and Sara Palacios is a beautiful picture book that highlights the way love can overcome language barriers and culture differences.
Title: I’ll Go and Come Back Author: Rajani LaRocca Illustrator: Sara Palacios Publisher: Candlewick Press Published: March 29, 2022 Format: Picture Book
I’ll Go and Come Back follows a young girl named Jyoti as she visits her family in India for the first time. Jyoti feels out of place and is overwhelmed by the differences between her home and her surroundings in India. But she spends her days with her grandmother, and though they only know a few words in each other’s languages, Sita Pati helps Jyoti feel at home. When it’s time to say goodbye, Jyoti doesn’t want to. She remembers that in Tamil (her grandmother’s language), they don’t say goodbye, but “I’ll go and come back”.
When Sita Pati comes to visit America, it’s Jyoti’s turn to comfort her grandmother as she feels out of place in her new surroundings. They spend their days together and Jyoti shows Sita Pati all her favorite things. When it’s time for her grandmother to leave, Jyoti doesn’t want her to, but Sita Pati says “I’ll go and come back”.
I’m a huge fan of Rajani LaRocca’s, so I had a feeling I would love this book, and I did. The structure is genius, with each half of the story mirroring the other. There is so much love and joy in this book, it feels like a warm hug! The illustrations by Sara Palacios perfectly capture the love Jyothi and her grandmother have for one another, and bring both characters to life.
You can pick up your own copy of I’ll Go and Come Back wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Candlewick Press for providing me with a review copy of this wonderful book! I know I will be reading this one to my little one for years to come.
About the Author:
Rajani LaRocca is the author of many books for young readers, including the Newbery Honor Book Red, White, and Whole. She was born in Bangalore, India, and immigrated to the US when she was a baby. She grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, graduated from Harvard with both a BA and an MD, and has worked as a primary care physician since 2001. Rajani LaRocca lives in eastern Massachusetts with her family.
About the Illustrator:
Sara Palacios is the illustrator of many picture books, including My Day with the Panye, written by Tami Charles. She divides her time between San Francisco and Mexico City.