Am always pleased to acquire new picture books, especially one’s that support teaching of identity and inclusion. The following 11 titles provide exploration of a number of topics.

EASTER MORNING, EASTER SUN by Rosanna Battigelli; Illus. Tara Anderson

A family of cats celebrate secular Easter traditions through rhythmic poetry. Easter springtime, Easter buzz/ Easter chirping, Easter fuzz. Full page illustrations add to the charm of this seasonal book.

HARLEY THE HERO by Peggy Collins

Harley is a service dog who accompanies Ms Prichard to school each day to ensure she feels safe. Children love Harley and send him letters of appreciation. One day, the old stage curtains catch fire and when the fire alarm blasts, chaos erupts. Fire safety and drill practice is an important part of school life but when a real fire breaks out, how does that safety practice get realized? Harley comes to the rescue and is a true hero. 


by Matt de la Pena; illus. Christian Robinson

The Last Stop on Market Street by author de la Pena and illustrator Robinson won the won both the 2016 Newbery Medal and a Caldecott Honor and the dynamic duo have come together again for another gem of a picture book. The Setting: a subway/ The main character: Milo The plot: a boy imagines the lives of the people he encounters on the ride (a man with a crossword puzzle, a woman in a wedding dress, a boy in a suit).  The creates visions and narratives for these strangers in his sketchbook. But these pictures are drawn from Milo’s imagination and speculations. Can these stories be true? Can we ever know the truth about someone just by looking at them?  Not all young people can share in the urban experience of riding on subways or buses or street cars, but this story has universal appeal by helping to activate narratives about the strangers we meet, while travelling in the community, while visiting a park, while shopping, These stories may or may not be accurate but when re-reading Milo Imagines The World I was enthralled to have words and pictures that helps us to story and question  and imagine those we meet in our world. Perhaps these are only guesses, perhaps the ‘real’ story can be discovered over conversations and time.  I’m sure this is ‘game’ of making-up stories most grown ups play in their lives. This book lets children into the game of  “I wonder if…” about people they stop to think about. There is a powerful ending that helps to punctuate one of the themes of this wonderful wonderful picture book. 

“These monthly Sunday subway rides are never ending, and as usual Milo is a shook-up soda.

Excitement stacked on top of worry

on top of confusion

on top of love. 

WHEN ELEPHANTS LISTEN WITH THEIR FEET: Discover Extraordinary Animal Senses by Emmanuelle Grundmann; illus. Clemence Dupont

This is a fine specimen of a nonfiction picture book exploring the different ways that animals around the world, see, hear, feel, and taste. I admire the way that information is presented in succinctly presented in text boxes. that give enough detail and surprising facts about different animals. Did you know: That in proportion to its body, a bear’s brain is thee times smaller than a humans?; A Gambian pouched rat has an incredible sense of smell that is 300 times great than a human’s; a crab has no tongue but it still can taste? This book provides an abundance of facts (and illustrations) about all God’s creatures great and small. An index of animals, a glossary, diagrams, recording-breaking facts and an index to the book are bonus text features of this Canadian picture book, translated from the French.

EYES THAT KISS IN THE CORNERS by Joanna Ho; illus. Dung Ho

A young Asian girl notices that her eyes are different from her friends. Her eyes, like her mother’s and Amah’s (grandmother)) “kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons” This is a wonderful book that help many young readers thing about their own identity, their own beauty and their family heritage. IT is a book that should give many children confidence in who they are, no matter what their eyes look like.

SUNNY DAYS by Deborah Kerbel; illus. Miki Sato

A celebration of sunny weather that welcomes readers into the world of play and investigations  on days when “Shining sun, beaming bright / Makes a cozy patch of light.” The appealing rhyming couplets and the textured collage art help shine a light on spring and summer activities (i.e. planting seeds; mud cookies; ocean swims; icy treats; outdoor reading; stretching shadows.) Hooray for sunny days! 

HAVE I EVER TOLD YOU BLACK LIVES MATTER by Shani Mahiri King; illus. Bobby C. Martin Jr.

This is a powerful poem that honours and ignites recognition of Black role models and how their their achievements have inspired, taught us. 116 names from sports, th arts, literature, politics, science etc are highlighted throughout thus building awareness of the names confirming that Black lives have mattered and do matte. This is not a typical verbal text and illustrated book. The text is presented in bold graphic style, with different coloured fonts and sizes. An appendix at the back provides autobiographical sketches of the names that have appeared throughout (e.g. Aretha Franklin, August Wilson, Chadwick Boseman, Jean-Michel Basquiat,  Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Marcus Garvey, Ta-Nehesi Coates, Thurgood Marshall).  The names are presented in order alphabetically by first name and may be easily recognizable, others invite further contemplation and inquiry. The poem is addressed to Black youth who ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’. Moreover, it is a book that is a litany of Black excellence that can help students in our classroom  appreciate and celebrate Blacks who mattered as they deepen understanding of social justice, equity and anti-racism.

                SHOUT OUT: FROM ARCHIE TO ZACK by Vincent X. Kirsch

“Archie loves Zack. Zack loves Archie.Everyone said it was so.” These two boys, one Black, one white, spend all their time doing things together. They love each other but haven’t found a way to tell each other about their feelings. A book with simple text, delightful illustrations, attention to diverse characters, I think there’s more to this title than a simple love story Love isn’t always simple, especially between two young (and older boys). I love Archie. I love Zach. I love this book.

THE TALE OF THE MANDARIN DUCK:  A Modern Fable  by Bette Midler, photographs by Michiko Kakutani; illus. Joana Avillez

I’m not fond of celebrity authored picture books but heck, I’m a Bette Midler fan, and a fan of  New York and any story about an animal that brings people together, and helps citizens to think about the natural beauty around them, seems to be worth reading.  The tale of this Mandarin Duck is based on the arrival of this brightly-coloured duck who arrived one October day in Central Park to swim alongside mallards and Canadian geese and found himself to be the centre of attention from her new Manhattan friends. Friends.. you gotta have ’em!. 

THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha; illus. Yuko Shimizu

“This is a story about cats and war and people. But most of all, it is a story about love.”
(Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel)

What a beautiful, heartwarming picture book. Based on a.true story, readers learn the good deeds of Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, an ambulance driver from Aleppo who took it upon himself to care for the animals who were left behind when Syrian refugees fled towards safety. Alaa took i what little money he had to boy food for the hundreds of hungry cats wandering through his beloved city. News of Alaa’s compassion and generosity spread through out the world and help was soon offered to the man who came to be known The Cat Man of Aleppo. This story of compassion and good deeds brings a narrative that can help young readers look courage and kindness that can help to overcome adversity. The art work by Yuko Shimizu, recognized by the New York Times  as one the best illustrated picture books of 2020 and is a Caldecott Honor winner.    is as powerful as the story depicting landscapes and humanity (and animals) in a war-torn country.

MY VERY FAVORITE BOOK IN THE WHOLE WORLD by Malcom Mitchell; illus. Michael Robertson.

If. you were asked to talk about your favorite book in the whole world, what title comes to mind? Would you be challenged to choose from many titles? For Henley, the assigned homework to find and share a favourite book is problematic. Harley does not like to read. Some books are too hard, some books are too boring, and most books aren’t any fun! Based on the author’s experiences as a struggling reader, this title acknowledges and respects those who don’t love books and reminds us, as J.K, Rowling says, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book!” (spoiler alert: Harley does discover a very important, very favourite book.)