Celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month with #ELKReads

By Elkridge Branch Staff

For the past 50 years, June has been celebrated as LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The celebrations began with the first Pride march in New York City, on June 28, 1970. That date celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, a six-day period of unrest, sparked by a police raid of a gay bar. Though not an uncommon occurrence, this particular raid did not go as planned and led the queer community to fight back against the targeting and tactics being used against them. As queer communities around the world continue to seek recognition, respect, and equal rights, we invite you to explore the books suggested below – and on our social media – for all ages. You can also learn more about the history of Pride Month on the Library of Congress website.

For Little Kids:

The image says "Pride! Picks for Little Kids" and has a collage of six book covers. The cover of And Tango Makes Three shows two penguin parents huddling with their chick. The cover of Pride Colors shows a toddler in striped shirt, jeans, and fisherman's sandals, standing next to a table with rainbow-colored legs. The cover of Love Makes a Family shows a variety of families of different genders, races, and ages, with rainbows, hearts, doves, and arrows among the symbols in the turquoise background. The cover of They, She, He, Me: Free to Be! has the title lettered in stylized fonts with geometric patterns in shades of turquoise, green, and yellow. The cover or Prince & Knight shows the prince surrounded by young maidens all giving him attention, while he gazes with head turned toward the knight, who leans against his horse and waves at the prince. The cover of My Rainbow shows a transgender girl wearing a rainbow-colored wig of leaves and flowers against a yellow background.

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer

This book celebrates the thing that all families have in common, which is love. All types of families are represented in this book. Families are shown engaging in happy activities together.

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack

In this beautifully illustrated modern LGBTQ+ fairy tale, a Prince Charming and a Knight in Shining Armor find true love in each other. The young men are celebrated as heroes for saving the kingdom from a dragon together, and their love is affirmed and embraced with a royal wedding in a delightful happily-ever-after. Be sure to also check out Daniel Haack’s Maiden & Princess

Pride Colors by Robin Stevenson

Celebrate Pride Month with your little one by enjoying this photographic concept book filled with the colors of the Pride flag. Artist & activist Gilbert Baker created the original Pride flag and each color in the flag has a special meaning, so be sure to turn to the end of the book to find out what each one represents!

For Big Kids:

The image says "Pride! Picks for Big Kids" and has a collage of six book covers. Better Nate than Ever shows the title character leaping into the air in front of a stylized New York City skyline which includes the Statue of Liberty, with the name "Nate" lit up with light bulbs resembling a theatre marquee. Be Amazing shows a character in drag, posing with hand on hip and one arm in the air as if on a catwalk, wearing a dress and hat in gold, orange, and black, with a blurry rainbow-colored background resembling butterfly wings. The cover of Witch Boy shows the purple silhouette of a dragon looking over the title character, who is reading by candlelight against a pink background. The cover of Queer Heroes depicts famous queer celebrities and artists, including Freddie Mercury, Frida Kahlo, Josephine Baker, and Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. The cover of Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World shows the backs of two girls as they face a whirlwind rising up to the sky with words in cursive, presumably the contents of Ivy's letter, swirling within. The cover of Rick shows the title character with his back to the reader, wearing a grey shirt and a lavender backpack covered in stickers, including an alien, a spaceship, a smiley face, and a rainbow. The title is in rainbow letters against a white background.

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (also available as an audiobook on CD,  an ebook and eaudiobook on Libby/OverDrive, and an eaudiobook on CloudLibrary)

Nate Foster has always dreamed of starring in a Broadway show, but he worries about how he’ll ever reach his dream while living in a small town in Pennsylvania. With the help of his best friend, Libby, Nate plans a daring escape to New York City when he hears of an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical. Nate knows this could be his big break, and he won’t let this chance at stardom slip away.

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

Aster’s family is magic: boys grow up to be shapeshifters, and girls grow up to be witches. But at age 13, Aster still hasn’t shifted, and he is captivated by the witchery that his family members who are girls get to learn. This beautiful graphic novel follows Aster as he makes a new friend, works to protect his family from a mysterious threat, and finds the courage to be true to himself.

Queer Heroes: Meet 52 LGBTQ+ Heroes from Past & Present! by Arabelle Sicardi 

From the heartfelt introduction by the author to the inclusive glossary at the end, this diverse collection of biographical snapshots is a great starting place to learn about real-life LGBTQ+ heroes from around the world. Vibrantly colorful portraits illustrate the incredible life stories and contributions of LGBTQ+ artists, athletes, inventors, activists, and more.

For Teens:

The image says "Pride! Picks for Teens" and has a collage of six book covers. The cover of When the Moon Was Ours shows the two main characters, Sam and Miel, silhouetted against the dark backdrop of a starlit water tower, with arms outstretched towards one another, and one climbing a ladder as if on a stage. The cover of The Best at It shows the main character in glasses and sports gear, with arm outstretched, against a teal background with scattered books, calculator, camera, football, pencil, triangle, photographs, and other school-related items scattered about. The cover of Cemetery Boys shows two boys back-to-back, one wearing a collared shirt and one wearing a hoodie, in front of a ghostly skeleton figure in red robes and a flowered crown silhouetted by the full moon. The cover of Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens shows the title extending from the top to the bottom of the book, in rainbow letters, with the subtitle in smaller white letters across the middle from left to right, all against a black background. The cover of The Great American Whatever has the title and author's name in black and red letters against a white theatre marquee background, The last "a" in "American" is missing and the first "E" in "Whatever" is crooked, as is the "D" in the author's last name (Federle). The final "E" in his name is substituted with the mathematical epsilon symbol. The cover of I'll Give You the Sun has the title in dark teal lettering with dashes radiating out from the center in rainbow colors.

Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke

This comprehensive guide supports teens who are – or think they might be – queer, as they navigate everything from coming out to standing up for their rights. Background about queer figures throughout history and personal stories from the authors’ lives are interspersed with guidance throughout. While the information included is general enough to cover a broad range of topics within the single volume, a list of resources can direct readers to more details about specific areas of interest.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Miel and Sam live in a small town where magic isn’t so out of the ordinary. But when the Bonner Girls decide they want the roses that grow from Miel’s wrist, and they threaten to tell the secret they know about Sam to get her to cooperate, Miel has to face her past and try to find the path forward. The lush, evocative language in this novel brings a lyrical beauty to this story of friendship, family, love, magic, and finding your true self.

The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy (also available in ebook and eaudiobook format on Libby/OverDrive)

Rahul Kapoor is an Indian American boy just entering seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. To help soothe his worries, his grandfather gives Rahul the advice to find one thing he does well and become the BEST at it! As Rahul searches for the special thing he can be the best at, he also confronts his anxieties and finds that he can count on his friends and family for the support he needs.

For Adults:

The image says "Pride! Picks for Adults" and has a collage of six book covers. The cover for Lot: Stories shows a silver fire hydrant emitting a rainbow of colored water against a white background, with the title in stark black lettering. The cover of Cantoras shows a setting on the shore, with a blue sky and ocean, and white waves crashing against a rocky beach. The cover for Untamed has the title in white lettering against a background of swirly colors: pink, red, turquoise, blue, and glittery silver and gold. The cover for Written in the Stars shows two women, one blonde and one with long red hair, embracing in front of a silhouetted cityscape and sky in shades of blue, lit up by white stars and constellations. The cover of Good Boy shows a brown retriever with a pink collar, seated against a white background, with the title in rainbow colors beneath his feet. The cover of Fun Home shows a pen and ink drawing of one adult and three children, framed as if in a traditional portrait, with a teal background.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

“Sometimes, when things were going well, I think my father actually enjoyed having a family.” As you might guess, Alison Bechdel had a fraught relationship with her father, a high school English teacher who ran their small town’s funeral home out of their Victorian-era home that he restored himself. During college, when Alison came out as a lesbian, she learned that her own father was a closeted gay man, but his death soon after left her searching for answers that he could not provide. Check out this critically-acclaimed graphic memoir that has also been adapted into a Tony-award-winning musical!

Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan (also available in large print format and as an ebook and eaudiobook from Libby/OverDrive)

In a 2017 New York Times opinion column on rescue animals, Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote: “When you lose a dog, you not only lose the animal that has been your friend, you also lose a connection to the person you have been.” Here Boylan uses the memories of her beloved dogs to reconnect with, or at least fondly remember the many people she has been- a son, a father, a mother, a wife. Good Boy is at once a deeply personal reflection on Boylan’s unique journey as a trans woman and a celebration of the changes in identity we all experience as we grow up and grow older and the animals who we love along the way.

Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington (also available as an ebook from Libby/OverDrive)

Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington affords readers a front row seat to several aspects of life in a Houston, Texas neighborhood. The burdens and exhilarations of family dynamics, race, sexuality, economics, friendships, and societal influence all feature prominently in short stories connected through common characters.

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. Our staff are always happy to help you with your questions about books, tools, technology, and more!

Spring is for Gardening

The cover depicts a garden of flowers, vines, and strawberries in bright primary and secondary colors, with birds, a butterfly, a frog, a ladybug, and a bee enjoying the vegetation.

By Laci R.

Spring is here once again – and you know what that means? It’s the perfect time to share these wonderful gardening books with the children in your life. Gardening is a passion of mine for many reasons. It’s become a reliable place of peace and comfort, I get to see a variety of pollinator friends, and I have a permanent seat in a never-ending classroom. I like to encourage others not only to find a way to connect to nature but to look into all the methods and styles of gardening. My garden started with two or three potted plants. Over the past couple of years, my container deck garden has transformed into a whimsical fairytale oasis.

The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen
This story reminds us that our imagination can bring just as much wonder into our lives as anything we experience in the physical world. Join this adorable grandfather and granddaughter as they bring life into the most beautiful imaginary garden. As they paint- brick walls are built for vining plants to climb, crocuses are popping up as the first sight of Spring, and a robin eats a worm for lunch. Later, the granddaughter is left to care for the garden while her grandfather is away on vacation, and she’s determined to make him proud. Imaginary or not, gardens require hard work and a whole lot of love.

Pair With: My Garden by Kevin Henkes (also available as an audiobook on CD)
This book reminds me of Alice in Wonderland as she sits amongst the flowers and describes her perfect world. While the flowers in this book won’t talk with you for hours, they do change colors just by thinking about it. Join an imaginative little girl as she tells you all about her dream garden – including a jellybean bush, invisible carrots, and glowing lantern strawberries.

A Peaceful Garden by Lucy London
Join these two feline friends as they prepare, plant, and tend to their peaceful garden. This book is a great introduction to the joys of gardening through a simple yet sweet story that walks you through what the process might look like to get ready for your own garden. Throughout, you’ll see garden dwellers making an appearance, some that a lot of people try to deter from their space. This peaceful garden is all about making sure everyone knows they’re welcome and cared for. What will you grow in your peaceful garden?

The cover depicts a rooftop garden with a diverse group of people working to plant in the soil. The cityscape is in the background against a sky of oranges and yellows.



Thank You, Garden by Liz Scanlon
The illustrations show a diverse community of children and neighbors working together on a city garden. Through rhyme, you learn about what goes into making a garden so lovely – including the times that call for being silly and playing in water from the hose. This book does a great job of showing the rewards of hard work. While the text isn’t abundant in this story, the artwork tells you more than words ever could.

Pair with: Fox’s Garden by Princesse Camcam
This wordless picture book utilizes mixed media in a dreamy way that will certainly spark a fulfilling discussion. It’s Winter, and Fox is looking for a safe and cozy place to have her pups after being chased out of a village. She comes across a greenhouse and nestles in. Soon, Fox and her pups are greeted by a young boy who gently places a basket of food on the ground before leaving them be. Fox and her pups repay the favor with a beautiful “thank you” waiting to be found in the boy’s bedroom when he wakes the next morning.

The cover depicts a boy and a black cat in a dense garden of flowers and tropical plants, in shades of blue, green, yellow, and mauve.


Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano
Tokyo lives in a small house between giant buildings. Skyscrapers and highways hold the space where hills and trees used to be. Tokyo is determined to help his grandfather have a garden despite the city “eating up the land” years ago. He meets an old woman who gifts him three beans that will become whatever is imagined of them during planting time. What happens next is a beautiful and fast-paced adventure showing how nature behaves in a city. Animals replace cars on the roads and streets become rivers. Will city life and wildlife be able to co-exist? This book is a thoughtful portrait of environmentalism and imagination. At first, this story might seem familiar – beans that you can wish on. I promise you’re in for a treat with this modern story that feels classic.

Florette by Anna Walker
Mae moves to a new home in the city and is forced to leave her beloved garden behind. Once there, Mae starts to realize just how empty this new house feels without a garden to play in and butterflies to chase. She tries to recreate the wonder by drawing and painting flowers on the stacks of boxes filling every room. Realizing she has to search a bit further, Mae sets out on an adventure and finds a lush green botanical shop… but it’s closed. She waits, but the door never opens. In the distance, there’s a small green sprout in a crack between the building and sidewalk where Mae rescues her very own piece of the forest. Is there room for a garden in the city, after all?

Gardening for Beginners by Emily Bone
Learning any new skill can be intimidating at first. This book is an excellent resource for any age and especially perfect for developing a new skill alongside the children in your life. I learned a great deal from this book when I first started gardening and was overwhelmed by information. This book has an easy-to-follow page design, and there is also a breakdown of how to interpret each section of the page in the beginning of the book. The visual appeal of this book makes the information more digestible and easier to retain.

Pair with: Flowers by Gail Gibbons
Gail Gibbons is a favorite for a reason. This book is no exception for anyone interested in learning about flowers. It covers the basics of flower parts, growth, seed travel, pollination, and the various ways flowers are categorized.

I hope this assortment of gardening books brings some green, inspiration, and curiosity into your home.  Gardening is for everyone and doesn’t have one look or motivating factor. I challenge you to grow something this year – whether it’s your family’s favorite tomato or melon, flowers for our pollinator friends, or your imagination.

Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books.

Celebrate Women’s History Month with #ELKReads

By HCLS Elkridge Branch staff

Every March, we celebrate Women’s History Month in the United States. March 8 has been honored as International Women’s Day since 1911, with nations around the world celebrating the movement toward women’s rights. This annual celebration gives us the opportunity to honor women past and present who have paved the way for continued progress for all. This includes trailblazers in politics, arts, sports, science, and more. Look back at those who have come before and be inspired to soar to new heights with these reads for all ages about amazing women. 

For Little Ones: 

The collage has the descriptors "Women's History Month" and "Picks for Little Kids." The book cover for Mae Among the Stars" depicts the title character in a space helmet with a starry background sky. The book cover of "The Girl Who Thought in Pictures" is a cartoon drawing of Dr. Temple Grandin, with thought bubbles depicting her thoughts about animals, rockets, and scientific concepts. The book cover for "Think Big, Little One" depicts three women role models: architect Zaha Hadid, artist Frida Kahlo, and musician Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The book cover of "Like a Girl" depicts the faces of three girls, and famous women participating in a collage of activities beneath them. The book cover of "Dreamers" depicts a mother and baby in a colorful natural environment, with teal and pink flowers and a bright orange monarch butterfly. The book cover of "Good Job, Athena" depicts the goddess Athena as a young child, with her hair in pigtails and an orange bow around the waist of her blue outfit.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julie Finley Mosca – also available as an ebook through Libby/OverDrive

Little ones will love the delightful pictures and rhyming verse in this true American shero story. Diagnosed with autism as a girl, Temple Grandin embraced her unique way of thinking to help her invent revolutionary new ways to take better care of farm animals. A special note from Temple Grandin to readers is also included, along with a timeline and fun facts. 

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington 

Join your little one in reading this picture book inspired by the real-life story of Dr. Mae Jemison. Mae starts off with a dream to see the earth and later becomes the first African American woman in space. Burrington’s illustrations bring this story to life and will inspire your little one to reach for the stars! 

Like a Girl by Lori Degman, illustrated by Mara Penny

In this beautifully illustrated tribute to girl power, readers are introduced to 24 women who blazed trails in their respective fields. The author highlights all the wonderful things you can do “like a girl” and invites her audience to think about the ways they can change the world. More details about each subject are included in the back of the book.

For Big Kids: 

The collage has the descriptors, "Women's History Month" and "Picks for Big Kids." The book cover of Coraline depicts the title character against a dark Gothic background, with ghostly figures in pale grey reaching out for her. The book cover of "Hooray for Women!" depicts a cartoon parade of women in different costumes, contemporary and historical, with eight famous women depicted in boxes around the perimeter of the center picture: The book cover of "Not One Damsel in Distress" depicts two women fighting off dragons and a wild boar with a sword and bow and arrow. The book cover of "The Mighty Miss Malone" depicts the title character in a tan shirt looking over her shoulder. The book cover of "The Eagle Huntress" depicts the title character with a tethered eagle mounted on her arm. The book cover of "Herstory" depicts a group of women role models in a colorful collage.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman – also available as an ebook and an eaudiobook through Libby/OverDrive, as an ebook through CloudLibrary, as a book on CD, and in a graphic novel adaptation by P. Craig Russell

Coraline, a curious and adventurous young girl, moves into a new flat with her parents. While exploring her new home, she discovers a door to another world where she finds another mother and another father who want her to stay and be their daughter forever. At first, Coraline thinks this world is better than her own, but she soon realizes things are not as they seem in this other world and something terrible lurks behind its perfect facade. 

Not One Damsel in Distress: Heroic Girls from World Folklore and Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls by Jane Yolen

Forget about a princess needing a knight (or anyone else) to save her. These collections of folk tales from a wide range of countries showcase smart, strong, brave women. Learn about heroes who overcame harsh conditions, rescued their people, and fought for what was right as you explore cultures from around the world. The first title is an updated version of the second, with two additional stories.

The Eagle Huntress: The True Story of the Girl Who Soared Beyond Expectations by Aĭsholpan Nurgaĭvyn  – also available as an ebook on Libby/OverDrive

At 13 years old, Aĭsholpan Nurgaĭvyn became the first woman – and youngest person – to ever win Mongolia’s famous Golden Eagle Festival. In her inspiring memoir that will resonate especially with tweens and young teens, Aĭsholpan takes pride in sharing about her legendary Kazakh heritage, while also challenging traditional gender customs to train and compete with her beloved eagles. To learn more about Aĭsholpan’s amazing experiences, you can also check out the award-winning subtitled Kazakh-language documentary of her story – available on DVD.

For Teens: 

The collage has the descriptors "Women's History Month" and "Picks for Teens." The cover of "Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word" shows a clenched fist with red fingernail polish on the thumb. The cover of "Make Trouble" depicts diverse female faces against a pastel backdrop. The cover of "Votes for Women!" depicts a suffragette holding a copy of "Women's Journal and Suffrage News." The cover of Lumberjanes depicts a group of teens standing in front of a summer camp cabin, with animal trophies above their heads. The cover of Ms. Marvel depicts the title character, wearing a black shirt emblazoned with her lightning bolt logo, and a colorful scarf. The cover of Golden Compass depicts the compass itself against a teal sky and snowy ground, with a polar bear running with a rider astride his shoulders.

Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word by Nadia Higgins

The word feminism makes some uncomfortable, and many people define it in different ways. This book introduces readers to pioneers of feminism in the United States along with modern leaders who continue to fight to empower women in every arena. Explore what feminism is and what it means to you as you read the range of ideas and perspectives presented in Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word

Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead (Young Readers Edition) by Cecile Richards with Lauren Peterson, adapted by Ruby Shamir –  also available as an ebook on OverDrive 

Cecile Richards grew up in Texas, where her parents, one of whom was the first woman governor of the state, taught her the importance of working for change, including making trouble. This young reader’s edition of her biography shares the lessons Richards learned along the way and highlights the people who have supported her in her journey. Read Make Trouble to feel inspired to push for progress and empowered to fight for what is important to you. 

Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling – also available as an “always available” eaudiobook from Libby/Overdrive

Last year celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote in the United States. The fight to reach that goal encompassed decades of passionate work, including marches, protests, and even lawbreaking, on the part of many women working together. Votes for Women! provides a glimpse into the lives and experiences of many suffragists, including the uglier moments in the battle for women’s right to vote. 

For Adults: 

The collage descriptors are "Women's History Month" and "Picks for Adults." The cover of "She Caused a Riot has pink script on a yellow background. The cover of "The Left Hand of Darkness" depicts a lunar-like surface with two opposite-facing profiles carved out of rock, against a dark sky. The cover of "Difficult Women" has a stylized pink heart against a black background. The cover of "That's What She Said" has the title in black against a white background, surrounded by a gold vine. The cover of "We Should All Be Feminists" has three half-circles each at the top and the bottom, half-black and half-white, against an orange background. The cover of "Dear Ijeawele" has a dark purple silhouette of a woman with dark purple paint slashes against a paler lavender background, with the lettering in mauve.

She Caused a Riot: 100 Unknown Women Who Built Cities, Sparked Revolutions, and Massively Crushed It by Hannah Jewell – also available as an eaudiobook on Libby/OverDrive

In a witty, conversational, and occasionally sarcastic tone, Hannah Jewell explores the extraordinary lives of 100 women throughout history from all over the world. Sorted into chapters like Wonderful Ancient Weirdos, Women Who Wrote Dangerous Things, and Women Who Punched Nazis, the stories of these women range from triumphant to tragic, but never fail to inspire, and Jewell’s humor and enthusiasm for her subjects never fails to entertain. 

That’s What She Said: Wise Words from Influential Women by Kimothy Joy

That’s What She Said offers a brief introduction to over thirty influential women from various areas of life – some well-known and some women with whom readers may not be familiar.  Author and artist Kimothy Joy’s beautiful watercolor illustrations add to the enjoyment of this informational book. This is a great place to start for an overview of women’s history, or to find women or subjects that inspire deeper investigation. 

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin  – also available as an ebook, an eaudiobook, and an eaudiobook dramatization from the BBC on Libby/OverDrive

Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic The Left Hand of Darkness is a book about political intrigue and a forced epic journey across an icy planet (probably the fodder for a good miniseries). The book has the drama and action of an arduous journey as well as a personal journey of the protagonist to appreciate those different from him through the relationship he builds. The protagonist, an envoy from another planet, struggles to understand a gender-neutral people using the social constructs of his own culture. 

If you want to explore more exhibits and offerings in honor of Women’s History Month, take a look at the Library of Congress’s Women’s History Month page.

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. All our staff wish that we could see you in person, but we are happy to help you discover new reads while we are apart.

The Solace of Children’s Picture Books on Death and Grieving

A collage of eight books. All Around Us depicts a woman's face, eyes closed, with a rainbow in the background. One Wave at a Time depicts a child with a sad expression on a beach with waves crashing in the background. A Map into the World shows a girl crouching to draw a house on the sidewalk. The Rabbit Listened shows a toddler clutching a toy rabbit. The Tenth Good Thing About Barney depicts a family of four looking out over a lake in the sunshine. Cry, Heart, But Never Break depicts the figure of Death having tea with a child who appears to be asking a question or imploring, with her hand on his arm. The Goodbye Book shows a fish in a bowl with a sad expression, and a picture of another fish, presumably a deceased friend, in a thought bubble over its head. Something Very Sad Happened shows a mother and child walking in the woods, with leaves falling all around. The child is clutching a robot toy.

by Emily T.

Sometimes there are just no words.  

For families talking with children about death and grieving, the words we want can be especially hard to find. But we are not alone. Heartfelt picture books are one of my favorite sources of solace. In aiming to speak clearly to children, the best ones are both simple and profound. They can help us open doors to deeply meaningful conversations. When we invite a child to read these stories together, we offer a special comfort.  

Fred Rogers described it this way:  

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.” 

Maybe a child is grieving the death of a pet, friend, or family member. Maybe they are struggling to understand the tragedy of the current pandemic. Even if death is not on the doorstep right now, the following books can help a child understand what death means, the emotions that can come with it, and how they can process it all with someone they trust.  

Read through these books before inviting your child to share them. See how they suit you and if they are appropriate for your child’s age and experience. Don’t be afraid to change up the stories to personalize them to your child’s circumstances. Or, simply look through the pictures while your child tells a story or talks about their own experience. Sometimes a child just needs someone to listen. 

Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding Death by Bonnie Zucker 

Simple, direct language tells this story for the littlest ones. Notes to parents and caregivers are included to help guide the reading. (Ages 2-4) 

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld 

A tumbled tower of blocks represents loss in this sweet story of a grieving child searching for comfort. (Ages 3+) 

The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr  

A grieving goldfish demonstrates the various physical and emotional ways we might process the death of someone special to us. (Ages 3+) 

One Wave at a Time: A Story About Grief and Healing by Holly Thompson 

Poignant and beautiful, a young boy describes the waves of many different feelings he experiences after his father dies. (Ages 4+) 

The book cover depicts a grandfather and grandchild holding hands and walking outdoors in a colorful scene, with a tiger, peacock, kite, and assorted flowers in yellow, blue, and orange tones.

Grandpa’s Stories by Joseph Coelho 

When her beloved grandfather dies, a young girl’s cherished memories of all their seasons together help her grieve and honor their forever bond. (Ages 4+) 

A Map Into the World by Kao Kalia Yang  

When a child wishes to comfort a grieving neighbor, her own grieving process comes to include creative and supportive expressions of condolences and connection. (Ages 5+) 

All Around Us by Xelena González  

A young girl and her grandfather honor the many circles of life they see, placing birth and death in a bigger picture of nature’s cycles and family traditions. (Ages 5+) 

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst 

Through a backyard funeral ceremony for his cat, a young boy finds comfort in memories and the circle of life. Questions of the afterlife are raised and left open. (Ages 5+) 

Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved 

Death itself takes the personified form of a compassionate cloaked visitor in this gentle story of four siblings coming to terms with their grandmother’s imminent death. (Ages 5+) 

For further support for your child, please be sure to reach out to your child’s physician, school, religious or spiritual community, or a mental health professional.  

Additional resources 

Sesame Street in Communities | Helping Kids Grieve

The Dougy Center: The National Grief Center for Children & Families 

National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC) – GriefTalk Resource Guides (Birth – High School) 

Actividades del NAGC – Respondiendo al Cambio & Pérdida (Español) 

Emily is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She enjoys reading, knitting, and sunshine on her shoulders.

Valentine’s Day – Let’s Celebrate Love!

The cover shows the titular rabbit, Mirabel, walking across a field, not noticing as valentines fly out of her bag behind her. The picture is surrounded with a frame of red and green flowers, red hearts, and more valentines.

By Laci R.

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love in its many forms. This list of favorites includes a chronic hugger, a snowy adventure, a wedding, and more! There are so many kinds of love, ways to express love, and forms of celebrating love. I hope these stories highlight just how special love is and that you share them with the children in your life.

Never Too Little to Love by Jeanne Willis
Love has no boundaries for our tiny mouse friend. Tiny Too-Little finds creative ways to try and reach his valentine, who’s high in the sky. He balances on his tip-toes on top of all sorts of stuff! A cabbage, teacup, thimble, clock, and many other items, but they just don’t seem to be working and then… CRASH! Tiny Too-Little is back on the ground and Topsy Too-Tall takes notice. She leans down to give him a kiss, proving that you’re never too little to love. This story is unique in page design with different sized flaps for each item Tiny Too-Little climbs. It helps practice repetition, and has an adorable pop-up book feature at the very end.

Pair with: Lilly’s Chocolate Heart by Kevin Henkes. As Lilly gets ready for bedtime, she tries to find the perfect spot to save her last chocolate heart wrapped in red foil.  She searches for somewhere special, but under the bed is too dusty, and there wasn’t any space between the books on the bookshelf. Finally, Lilly thinks of the best plan and enjoys the tasty treat!

The cover depicts to rabbits holding hands, dressed in red, pink, and yellow winter clothing, walking across a snowy field with the snow falling around them and the rising sun in the background.

Snowy Valentine by David Petersen
Jasper wants to find a special gift for his wife, Lilly. He visits his neighbors to help spark ideas by seeing what gifts they have in mind for their own loved ones. Chocolate flies and wilted flowers weren’t for Lilly, though. Jasper confides in Spalding, the cardinal, as he sits atop a tree. He expresses his disappointment in not finding Lilly the perfect gift. What he couldn’t see is that the tracks he made on his journey left the shape of a heart in the snow. In the end, Jasper found the perfect way to say “I love you.” This story highlights how special all sorts of gifts can be. Pair with: The Secret Life of Squirrels: A Love Story by Nancy Rose. See Mr. Peanuts try and impress his crush in this book told through words and photographs of real squirrels in adorable scenes.

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines by Janet Lawler
Mirabel is shy and nervous about trading valentines at school. After building up the courage, she’s on a mission to get to class and deliver her valentines to each of her classmates. Along the way, some slip away through a hole in her bag and end up in the hands of others. These cards bring such delight to Mirabel’s neighbors, but they all know the cards weren’t originally intended for them. After spreading more cheer and love than she could’ve ever imagined, Mirabel goes home with her own valentines overflowing from her sack. This book shows just how easy it is to spread love and joy, even in ways you least expect.

Pair with: The Runaway Valentine by Tina Casey. This story is told from the perspective of a valentine named Victor who is the fanciest in the shop. After being swept up in a pile, he heads out on his own journey where several people pick apart pieces of Victor to help with their needs. With just a tiny piece of himself left, he’s exactly what our last artist needs to make their valentine card complete. Victor ends up being the best valentine once again.

The cover depicts Frankenstein and his Bride in a heart-shaped cutout window in a wooden fence, holding a pink valentine heart between them as they look at each other affectionately.


Valensteins by Ethan Long
Fran K Stein is distracted and the other members of Fright Club can’t help but take notice. Normally, the fright club members are preparing for a night of scaring, but Fran is busy making something and everyone wants to know what it is. A mask with fangs? A big pink nose? A paper butt?! Phew! It’s just a valentine! However, that means Fran must be in love, and that causes the monsters to have even more questions. This book is sure to make you laugh with its silly explanations for love and clever side remarks. As a lover of all things spooky, this book always stands out to me in February as I long for October to be back. Pair with: A Crankenstein Valentine by Samantha Berger. See how things change for this crankenstein when he meets a new like-minded best friend who shares his distaste for the lovey, red and pink holiday.

Julián At the Wedding by Jessica Love
A wedding is one of the biggest celebrations of love and Julián can’t wait to be part of it. Julián makes a new friend named Marisol and they hit it off immediately. When the grown-ups aren’t looking, they sneak off together to play and use their imagination. Marisol gets messy after rolling on the ground with a sweet dog she met. Due to Julián’s quick thinking and excellent fashion sense, they’re able to put together a new outfit before returning to the party where they dance the night away. I especially love this book because so much of the story is told through body language and facial expressions. There’s love shown in a single look between friends, when a new outfit brings instant euphoria, and in the glowing faces of two beautiful brides celebrating their special day. Be sure to get a proper introduction to Julián by reading Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love.

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
The Hug Machine is here to give everyone and everything a hug. Yes, even a spiky porcupine… with proper hugging equipment on, of course! There truly is nothing that the hug machine will not hug. Have you ever wondered how to hug a whale? The hug machine can show you exactly what to do! How does the hug machine keep his energy? Pizza – his favorite. This book shows the power of both giving and receiving hugs… and rest. Even hug machines need their rest.

Love Is My Favorite Thing by Emma Chichester Clark  
Plum is ready to take you on an adventure to show you her daily life and why love is her favorite thing. Snow, sticks, and treats are just a few of the things Plum loves. She also loves her family, but when she gets in trouble, Plum questions if her family still loves her back. This story does a great job at showing that love is always there, even when we make mistakes or get reprimanded.

Pair with: Here Comes Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood. Cat is no fan of Valentine’s Day, but has a change of heart when they make an unexpected friend. This story is a great read-aloud as it’s meant to sound like you’re talking with Cat, with plenty of opportunities to ask for predictions of what might happen next.

I hope these books help make your Valentine’s Day special and open up a conversation about love in its many forms. Make cards for your loved ones, go on a walk, make special treats together, and enjoy all the warm snuggles and hugs. Love is always there, even if we have to look a little harder to find it at times.

Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books.

A Time to Give Thanks

The cover depicts a group of Native Americans in a circle around a fire, with hills and trees in fall colors against a sunset.

By Laci R.

I truly believe in the importance of taking time to reflect on what makes us feel thankful – what fills our hearts with joy. I’ve compiled some of my favorite picture books for the Thanksgiving holiday, traditions that accompany it, and thankfulness in general that I hope you enjoy sharing with the children in your life.

Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules
Tuyet is worried her family isn’t celebrating Thanksgiving properly because they’re serving duck instead of the popular turkey option. Her worries melt away as she learns that holidays don’t look exactly the same in every household and that those differences make for no less of a beautiful celebration. Culture, personal preference, and loved ones are all part of the formula for a successful Thanksgiving, and this book does a great job at showing the real diversity that fills family traditions.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard (also available as an audiobook on CD)
Fry bread comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. It unites family and friends and is a form of art and history that has been passed on for generations, a delicious staple in hundreds of tribes and celebrated in this book by a modern Native American family. Fry Bread beautifully represents the culture and legacy that lives on today in many of our own Thanksgiving celebrations. Pair this story with We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell – a vibrant and detailed book full of cultural and historical information earned an impressive list of awards. “Otsaliheliga” is a Cherokee word that means gratitude. Learn how the Cherokee Nation celebrates a year, starting in the Fall.

Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story! By JaNay Brown-Wood (also available as an audiobook on CD and an audio Wonderbook) is a quick and adorable read. Grandma is hosting a feast and pretty much everyone is invited. The only problem is that her tiny house quickly runs out of space for the eight uncles, fifteen hungry grandkids, and many other wonderful guests. Through counting (1-15) and rhyme, this story effortlessly builds an experience where you feel like you, too, are about to walk down Grandma’s back stairs into a glorious, warm-hearted, welcoming outdoor celebration. Pair this story with another classic counting story told through rhyme; Feast For 10 by Cathryn Falwell.

Gracias Thanks by Pat Mora (also available as an audio Wonderbook)
This bilingual read is sure to delight and make you reflect on the many things to be thankful for. Maybe it’s a ladybug landing on your fingertip, a new favorite book suggested by a friend, bursting with laughter from a pea fight with your sister, or the cricket serenading you to sleep. Pair this story with Apple Cake by Dawn Casey, where special thanks are given to the bees, sun, earth, farmers, and everything and everyone else that makes this simple pleasure possible – apple cake! This story includes a recipe on the last few pages so you can make your very own apple cake to share with loved ones. Don’t forget The Thankful Book by Todd Parr; I couldn’t write about this topic without mentioning a favorite of many. Gardening, hugs, friends, pets, and music are all things I’m incredibly thankful for and these are mentioned on pages bursting with color in Parr’s book.

 
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet (also available as an eAudiobook) is one of the most interesting biographies I’ve seen for children. Pages are filled with multimedia collage art that draws you into the world of Tony Sarg, a self-taught immigrant with a creative dream. From his love of marionettes at a young age to the invention of his whimsical and enchanting floating balloons, you go along for every part of the journey! Learn how he avoided his chore of feeding the chickens at a young age. Pair this book with Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson where Sarah fights for many things she believes in, including Thanksgiving to become a national holiday. If it weren’t for her, there would be no distinct day to celebrate or reason to make parade floats!

The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing
Want a story that’s silly and a guaranteed laugh? Cousins Gavin and Rhonda are stuck in the kids’ room with slobbering babies upon arrival to Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s. They soon make a plan to escape outside to play. Quickly realizing there are a few obstacles to get past – including vicious guard dogs, the hall of aunts, and teenage zombies – the cousins must resort to a new plan, fast.

In November by Cynthia Rylant offers a look into the entire month and all the changes that happen in nature. The weather is getting colder, trees are becoming bare, and birds and animals are going on a journey or preparing for the season right where they are. November is also a time for enjoying delicious food and gathering for Thanksgiving, sitting by a crackling fire, and allowing ourselves to rest.

While the holidays may look very different this year, one thing remains the same – there’s always a reason to be thankful. Sharing these stories with you and knowing you will share them with the children in your life, is just one of the many things I’m thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books.

October 12th is Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

The photograph shows an indigenous person in native dress at an outdoor gathering.

By Claudia J.

Mark your calendars on October 12th! Beginning this year, Howard County will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. On WJZ-13 CBS, County Executive Calvin Ball released a statement on the decision. “Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day does not absolve us from our history, but we hope that it sets a tone and opens up discussions on the importance of restorative practices throughout our government and our community.”

Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an exciting opportunity to explore the incredible history and culture of Indigenous communities that have often been underrepresented in our celebrations.  Of course, what better way to observe this holiday than to curl up with a new book? I know I will! Here are ten books for you and your family to read and learn about Indigenous culture by authors of Indigenous descent: 

For the Little Ones: 

The book cover depicts a mother holding a child who is eating fry bread from the bowl the mother holds in her other hand.

Fry Bread: a Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard; Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Do you know what fry bread is? This colorful and touching picture book by Maillard answers this question and provides a kinship to the Native tradition of communal food preparation. In addition, Maillard provides a personal background to the narrative as he is an enrolled citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. Coupled with the illuminating illustrations by Martinez-Neal, children and adults will enjoy reading Fry Bread together. 

The book cover depicts a young woman holding a feather, with blue-green water swirling around her.  In the background are people on a hill, hands joined together, in front of a starry night sky with a moon.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom; Illustrated by Michaela Goade

“Water is the first medicine, It affects and connects us all…” Earth is made up of 71% of water and it provides its inhabitants with nourishment and hydration. What would you do to protect it? Inspired by the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, We Are Water Protectors is an incredibly accessible picture book for children to learn more about water and its importance to the health of the Earth. Lindstrom provides readers with a piece of her culture, as she is Anishinabe/Metis and is tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. She also calls Maryland her home!

For the Big Kids:

The book cover depicts a young woman holding a letter along the shore of a lake at sunrise.  There are mountains in the distance and a dog with a stick is approaching her.

I Can Make this Promise by Christine Day

With her debut middle grade novel, Day tells the semi-autobiographical story of a 12-year-old girl’s search for her true identity. Adopted at a young age by a white couple, Edie has always been curious about her Native American heritage. When she and her friends find a box of letters and photos of a woman who shares her name, Edie begins to question her parents and the secrets they kept from her. Powerful and important, Day weaves a storyline together that draws from her own Native heritage as an enrolled citizen of the Upper Skagit tribe. I am very excited about this novel and will be adding it to my reading list. 

The book cover depicts a young woman in front of a landscape background that progresses from rural, with animals, trees, and a log cabin, to urban, with a car, palm trees, and a cityscape in silhouette.

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManus with Traci Sorell

Straight from our 2020 Summer Reading list, Indian No More tells the heartbreaking story of 8-year-old Regina and the erasure of her Native American identity. It’s 1954 and her family is told all tribes in their state of Oregon no longer exist. Much like the other selections on the list so far, this novel is based on McManus’s own experiences when her tribe, the Umpqua, was terminated in 1954. Sadly, McManus passed away in 2018, unable to complete the revisions to her novel. Her friend and fellow author, Traci Sorell, completed the revisions as she wished. 

For the Teens: 

The book cover depicts a young woman wearing a white shirt and black pants, with a black and white checkered shirt tied around her waist.

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Told from the perspective of young Native American/Indigenous women, #NotYourPrincess weaves together a traditional narrative with artwork, poetry, photography, and interviews to present a well-rounded depiction of issues affect Indigenous communities. While parts of the stories can be tough to read, this anthology is a great conversation starter for teens, especially young women, who could relate to the issues depicted in these stories. 

The book cover depicts half the face of a young woman, with a stripe of white makeup on her cheek.  There are also several stickers indicating awards the book was won.

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Imagine a dystopian world where a majority of the world’s inhabitants have lost the ability to dream. Set in the future, The Marrow Thieves tells of a world such as this and how the lack of dreams has caused intense madness among society. The only people still able to dream are North America’s Indigenous communities. Their bone marrow is the cure for all mankind for the world to return to prosperity, but this means the certain death of the marrow holders. This sets the stage for Frenchie – a 15-year-old Indigenous teen, trying his best to survive, protect his companions, and flee from “recruiters” who hope to steal his marrow.  Written by Canadian writer Cherie Dimaline, who is a member of the Georgian Bay Metis Community, The Marrow Thieves is an action-packed novel for fans of dystopian societies. It also packs a moral punch as to how we, as a society, view Indigenous communities and resources. 

For the Graphic Novel Fans: 

The book cover depicts three young women and one senior woman against the background of an immense cityscape that rises behind them.

Surviving the City by Tasha Spillett, Illustrations by Natasha Donovan

As if to speak entirely from its title, Surviving the City is based in an urban environment in Canada, where readers are introduced to Miikwan and Dez. Miikwan is Anishinaabe; Dez is Inniew. They are best friends trying their best to navigate the normal struggles that come with being teens as well as being faced with the challenges of being a part of a small, Indigenous minority in an urban landscape. When Dez’s grandmother falls ill and is unable to take care of Dez anymore, Dez is faced with the possibility of going into a group home. Unable to deal with that solution, Dez leaves home and disappears. Will Dez’s community find her before it’s too late? Tasha Spillett’s debut graphic novel series at first seems simple in telling Dez’s mysterious disappearance, but it also sets the tone for providing information about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls in Canada. 

The book cover depicts a young woman i profile, wearing a jacket with patches on the shoulder, putting earbuds into her ears.

A Girl Called Echo by Katherena Vermette, Illustrations by Scott B. Henderson, colored by Donovan Yaciuk

Time travel fans will enjoy the story of Echo Desjardins, a 13-year-old Metis girl adjusting to a new home and school, separated from her mother. During one of her first lectures with a new teacher, Echo transports to the past in several different environments: a fur-trade route, the Pemmican Wars, and a bison hunt, to name a few. Selected for our 2020 Summer Reading list, teens and adults alike will enjoy this refreshing take on Indigenous history, written by Katherena Vermette, a Metis Canadian author. 

For the Adults: 

The book cover depicts two feathers facing in opposite directions, against a background of orange with the title in yellow lettering.

There There by Tommy Orange 

An instant hit upon its release, Cheyenne and Arapaho author Tommy Orange provides readers with an intense narrative of the urban Native American. This novel follows the journeys of 12 characters from Native communities, all en route to the Big Oakland Powwow. Each character has endured their own unique struggles, and the interwoven narratives provide a larger, deeper story of the contemporary Native American struggle while grappling with a painful history. A very popular book club choice, There There will definitely provide some complex conversation and will pique your interest in Indigenous history. 

The book cover depicts the title and author in white against colorful background stripes in blues, mauves, and greens.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

I thought I would end with a recent release from this year. Highly acclaimed author Louise Erdrich writes a fictionalized version of her grandfather’s life as a night watchman in the 1950’s. Set on her family’s home reservation (in what is now North Dakota), night watchman Thomas Wazhashk is a Chippewa Council member who is grappling with the new “emancipation” bill proposed by U.S. Congress. Despite “emancipation” as a synonym for freedom in previous events, this bill presents the term more like a “termination” of Native American culture, land, and identity. His story is coupled with that of Patrice Paranteau, a young adult who makes jewel barrings at the plant and is saving to search for her sister, Vera. Poverty, violence, exploitation: Louise Erdrich combines these intense themes and crafts a novel based on her Ojibwe roots and current Anishinaabe membership. I am definitely adding The Night Watchman to my to-read list. 

No matter what age, we can all celebrate Indigenous voices this year and for many years to come on Indigenous Peoples Day. I hope there are some selections you will explore this fall, and all are available at HCLS! Add these books to your holds queue and enjoy these amazing stories. 

Claudia J. is an instructor and research specialist and has worked for Howard County Library System for a little over four years. She enjoys writing on rainy days and drinking iced coffee on sunny days.

Let’s Celebrate! Birthday Books

The book cover shows the title with a tabby kitten, Bernice, beneath. She is wearing a blouse and a peach jumper and has her hands on her hips. A green party hat lies on the floor next to her.

 By Laci R.
 
A favorite class of mine to conduct at the library is called The Unbirthday Party. Everyone has one birthday, but all the other days of the year are reason enough to commemorate your unbirthday! The class is a place for everyone to celebrate by enjoying themed books, songs, and party games/activities. The world might observe birthdays a little differently right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate at all. These two picture books, personal favorites of mine, can even become part of the celebration when given as gifts to be enjoyed for years to come. 
 
Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah Harrison
It’s a dreary day, and the weather suits Bernice’s mood just fine. This cat gets even grumpier as the forest birthday party festivities begin. Waiting for your slice of cake is like wondering whether you’ve hit the lottery. Will you get a corner piece? A frosting rose?… or a plain white square from the middle, like Bernice? When the drinks are distributed, everyone gets ice cold strawberry-melon soda. Too bad all that’s left for Bernice is prune-grapefruit… and it’s warm. Bernice doesn’t even get a turn hitting the pinata before someone else breaks it open and candy flies everywhere. Even then, all that Bernice can find is a gumball that someone stepped on. Bernice decides enough is enough and takes matters into her own hands. When the balloons are brought out, Bernice grabs them all and gets lifted into the sky. She reaches a brooding rain cloud and decides to share some of her vibrant balloon bouquet. Everything immediately starts to look and feel brighter for Bernice and those around her. Giving balloons away one by one to friends who need them along the way, Bernice makes it back down to the ground. With an improved mood and lots of sharing, the party ends in the sunshine with friends. This story is a favorite due to the relatability of getting the undesired cake slice, the expressive faces of all the animal partygoers, the stunning color palette, and the opportunity to talk about feelings and emotions in a natural way.  

The book cover shows a little boy, his animal guests in party hats, his birthday cake, and multicolored balloons and pennants.

The Backwards Birthday Party by Tom Chapin 
At the backwards birthday party, everything is out of whack. A wild pack of guests arrive and say “Good-bye,” with the cake served soon after. Clothes are on inside out, someone is heating up the ice cream, and the donkey is the one pinning the tail today. The longer the party goes, the earlier it gets: with time running backwards, the party ends before it starts. The birthday boy says “Hello,” pushes the guests out the door, and returns to his room once more. The silliness in this book is wholesome and delightful. There’s never a shortage of cheer throughout this unconventional day as friends all come together and have a blast. The story is told in a rhyming melodic tone because the words are lyrics to a song! Sheet music can be found on the inside of the front and back cover.   

Want to have a backwards-themed birthday celebration for the child in your life? Try writing the letters or words on the cake backwards, hang non-helium balloons with ribbon from the ceiling, and invite guests to dress with their clothes inside out.
 
Birthdays (and unbirthdays) are cause for festivity. The great thing about any celebration is that it can look however you like; I just wouldn’t suggest heating up the ice cream! I hope these stories make it into your reading routine, as they’re sure to be favorites enjoyed any day of the year.   

Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books. 
 

Rainbow Reads for Children, Part Two

The cover shows two pairs, each with a rabbit and a chick. The chick in the most prominent pair is vocalizing the word "Neither" in a speech bubble, referring to the baby animal in the foreground, who is "neither" rabbit nor chick. but a blend of both, with the legs, beak, and wings of a chick and the ears and tail of a rabbit.

 Reviews by Laci R.

Welcome back! It may be July but I’m still thrilled to share some more of my favorite LGBTQ+ picture books with you. Please be sure to check out Part One of my suggestions so you can enjoy the full list.  

Maiden & Princess by Daniel Haack is a modern fairy tale about a strong and brave maiden invited to attend the Prince’s royal ball. She isn’t terribly excited about attending, but with a little nudging from her mother, she decides to go. The maiden makes quite the impression on the guests and even finds love when she meets the Princess. One of my favorite things about this book how it truly celebrates lesbian love, as none of the characters respond with “it’s forbidden” rhetoric. This bedtime favorite offers a lovely alternative to the predictable royal courting fairy tales. Pair with Prince & Knight by the same author.

We Love Someone We Sing to Them / Cuando Amamos Cantamos by Ernesto Martinez offers a heartwarming, bilingual story of a young boy who loves another boy. He shares this with his father and together they write the young boy’s crush a traditional serenata. The lyrical prose and whimsical art made me cry with beautiful depictions of supportive family relationships, cultural traditions, and falling in love for the first time. The lyrics to the songs are words you feel deep in your soul, as they solidify the undeniable power associated with expressing love through music (a personal safe haven of mine). “He says that gardens like mine, even through droughts, have persisted. He says that gardens like mine have always existed.” 

I’m always drawn to stories that celebrate not fitting into a certain mold based on societal views and perceived norms. A few great examples include: 

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall tells about a crayon who was labeled incorrectly at the factory and so is mistaken for the wrong color. This label confuses the crayon in question as he clearly draws every picture in blue. Many other crayons try to help him be red, but no matter how creative a suggestion, it doesn’t work. After a new friend arrives, things start to feel different for Red as he realizes he’s been blue all along and can live a fulfilling life just the way he is. A life where he doesn’t have to force himself to be something he’s not, just because of the packaging he was given. A great look at gender identity.  
 
Neither by Airlie Anderson takes places in the land of This and That, where the only two things that exist are blue bunnies and yellow birds. What happens when a green egg hatches revealing a new friend who isn’t quite a bunny or a bird? After struggling to fit in with each group, Neither decides to journey to find a new home and happens upon the Land of All – a place with many colors and shapes representing creatures of all kinds. This book does a great job at promoting diversity and teaching that differences can unite us. It’s also a wonderful way to introduce the topic of being non-binary.  

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian features two worms who are in love and excited to get married. As they plan the wedding, all the other bugs and insects in town are ready to help and give their opinions. They offer endless suggestions based on tradition. Who will wear the dress? What about the tux? It’s quickly decided that those details don’t matter. All that matters is that worm loves worm and, in their love, they create a new way of having a wedding that is right for them. Seeing a child cheering for these worms through the light in their eyes, alone, makes it worth reading aloud.  
 
I hope these titles help to introduce or continue the conversation about the LGBTQ+ community and all the reasons they should celebrate and be celebrated this month and always. Books that show LGBTQ+ characters in everyday settings diversify your reading collection while teaching compassion and love. I certainly wish more books like this were around when I was a kid, but I’m thankful to report that some of the mentioned books have helped me, as an adult, solidify layers of my own queerness. I’m learning every day how to embrace who I am and what it means to be me. I see myself in these books, and that is invaluable. There is so much joy to be found in being true to oneself, which is always something worth celebrating.  

Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books.

Rainbow Reads for Children, Part One

The book cover shows a multicultural, multiracial group of adults and children holding up a rainbow sign with the title.

By Laci R.

June is LGBTQ+ Pride month, and it’s a time to celebrate all the beautiful identities and colors of the rainbow. Luckily, many vibrant books and stories can help you do so. Representation is incredibly important. Aside from the sheer joy and pleasure of getting to see yourself in books and stories, it promotes inclusivity and begins vital conversations with the children in your life about the history of the LGBTQ+ community and queer characters. Reading books with queer mention needs to be paired with open, safe, and informative conversation so compassion can flourish and curiosities can be sparked.  
 
I have chosen several books to share with you. It was difficult to narrow my list, but having many more resources available that feature characters in the LGBTQ+ community is such an amazing and liberating phenomenon.
 
I’ll start with some of my favorite non-fiction books:  

Stonewall: A Building, an Uprising, a Revolution by Rob Sanders (picture book) gives us a unique perspective on an essential civil rights story. The building itself narrates the story of how the police raided the Stonewall Inn located in New York City early in the morning on June 28, 1969. This wasn’t the first raid that took place, but things were different this time. A protest occurred full of members of the LGBTQ+ community in and around Stonewall Inn as demands of equal rights and justice filled the air. This movement continues even now, as I type these words.

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders (picture book) tells about social activist Harvey Milk and how the gay pride flag, designed by Gilbert Baker, came to be created. It shows Milk as he is elected as one of the first openly gay people in political office and follows his fight for LGBTQ+ rights and freedom. Together, Milk and Baker create a symbol of hope- the rainbow flag. It’s a symbol you still see today proudly displayed all over the world. 

Pair this story with Sewing the Rainbow by Gayle Pitman to see a different perspective and learn other details about the rainbow flag’s creation. Need a follow up activity? Ask the child in your life to make their own flag! One that represents them and what makes them special. Encourage them to share with you and be sure to do the same. 
 
Please note: These books should be shared with the understanding that they offer an introduction to these major events and should be supplemented with additional information and conversation around the topics.  
 
Be sure to also check out Gay & Lesbian History For Kids: The Century Long Struggle for LGBT Rights by Jerome Pohlen, A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities by Mady G and They, She, He, Me: Free To Be by Maya Gonzalez. These books contain excellent information and guidance for understanding a wide variety of identities. 
 
When it comes to picture books, I wish I could write about every single one. I decided to share a sampling of those that are well loved and ones that became unforgettable from the moment I read them. Here are a couple for you to look into, with more coming in Part Two of my LGBTQ+ recommendations for children and families.

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman became an instant favorite. This rhyming story invites you to attend a Pride parade and meet all the wonderful people. Every page exudes joy and pure love. I absolutely adore the illustrations by Kristyana Litten. They are brimming with color and depict an undeniable energy bursting with flair. A note to parents and caregivers is included that provides information on how to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity with children in age-appropriate ways. You’ll also find a reading guide full of facts about LGBTQ+ history and culture.  

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff covers a lot of ground and will surely resonate with transgender children. It offers reassurance about becoming an older sibling all while celebrating some of the many transitions experienced by a family. When born, everyone thought Aidan was a girl. He was given a pretty name and his room and clothes looked like that of girls he knew. However, none of this felt right to him and changes were needed. Aidan’s parents offer endless support as he transitions to living in a way that allows him to flourish and thrive. In doing so, Aidan learns what it takes to be the best older brother he can be: the ability to love with your whole self. I also feel the need to mention that I wish I could share a wardrobe with Aidan because that little guy sure is stylin’.  

I hope these titles will make it into your home, classroom, gift list, or anywhere else that needs a bright rainbow. I invite you to continue learning about LGBTQ+ materials for children by joining me for Part Two, where we’ll take a look at more of my favorite picture books. Let’s keep this celebration going!

Laci is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at HCLS. They love a wide variety of music, spending time in the garden, Halloween, cats, and crafting. Their “to read” list is always full of graphic novels and picture books.