During these uncertain times, I’ve been clinging to gratitude. Gratitude for the privileges that I have - both earned and not. Gratitude for the beauty of autumn, the changing of seasons, and the upcoming holiday season. Gratitude for the family and friends that surround me. We’ve all made sacrifices these past few months, careful to minimize socializing and reduce the number of people we physically see and spend time with. That has left me feeling even more thankful for the people in my “bubble,” as my daughter calls it.
In that spirit, I’d like to highlight some of our favorite books about gratitude and family - the people we hold close, related or otherwise.
This board book is an all-time favorite in our family. My daughter loved it when she was very small and now we read it nightly to my son, who is one. Our copy is weathered and well-loved and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Feast for 10 is a simple counting book. It features a family doing their grocery shopping in preparation for a large meal. Five children help their mother pick out “six bunches of greens” and “nine plump potatoes.” Then, they go home and cook together. It’s a beautiful celebration of togetherness, and preparing and sharing meals. The illustrations are bright and engaging, and reading this book together is a great way to introduce numbers and counting.
When I was small, Amazing Grace was one of my favorite books. I remember the first time I took my daughter to the library and found a copy; I was so excited to share the story with her and hoped that she would be as enchanted by Grace as I was. Luckily, it’s not hard to be inspired by Grace. She’s a girl who loves stories, acting them out and creating elaborate worlds of make believe. When her school decides to stage Peter Pan, she knows that she wants to be Peter, but her classmates tell her she cannot play the part of the lead boy since she is a Black girl. When she takes this news home to her mother and grandmother, they tell her not to listen to them - that she can do anything. After her grandmother takes her on a special trip, Grace is more determined than ever. The strong women in Grace’s life rally around her, ensuring that she’ll always know how capable, special, and amazing she is.
Oge Mora’s beautiful book, Thank You, Omu!, is a story inspired by the author’s grandmother, a woman who loved to cook and held her door open for anyone who happened to stop by. In the book, Omu, the Igbo word for “Queen” and Mora's name for her grandmother, is making a delicious pot of thick, red stew. The stew smells so good that her entire neighborhood parades through her door. She shares bowls of stew with everyone: a little boy, a police officer, the mayor, and so many others. Then, when night falls and she sits down to eat, there is no stew left. But Omu’s spirit of giving has impacted her neighbors, and they want to give back to her to show their appreciation. The diverse members of her neighborhood all come together to share what they have with the woman who shared with them.
Our family fell in love with this book when it was featured on the podcast, Julie’s Library. Oge Mora reads her book and also talks about her beautiful illustrations. I highly recommend sharing the episode with your family. If you enjoy it, make sure you check out all of the other episodes - so many wonderful stories to be told!
Mia Tang is back! If you loved Front Desk as much as I did, do not miss the next episode in Mia’s story, Three Keys. Kelly Yang boldly takes on the passing of Proposition 187 in California in 1994. In her Author’s Note, she explains that she was ten years old when the proposition passed and, as an immigrant, it dramatically impacted her life and the lives of those around her. She beautifully and sensitively tells this story through Mia, Lupe, and Jason, three kids with different statuses as citizens. While Mia and Jason are both citizens of the United States, Lupe and her family are undocumented. As the election of an anti-immigration governor nears, the kids’ lives are thrown into uncertainty when Lupe’s father is arrested and detained for his citizenship status. So many of the issues the characters in the book face are more prescient than ever. This book is a great way to talk with your kids about the election and the hateful rhetoric that continues to be used by politicians running for all levels of office. Words are powerful, and they matter, and Yang beautifully demonstrates the importance of thinking of the perspectives of others. I can’t recommend these books enough.
This blog was originally published on Northerly.