Teaching Cultural Compassion

We're excited you want to learn about Cultural Compassion!  Read below for the latest recommendations, but be sure to check out our book search (which now includes over 1800 titles) and our archived blog entries!  Happy reading!

December 16, 2022

The Age Old Question: How do you spell Hanukkah?

As The Leevees say in their song of that name, "Is it with a C or H? I am confused..."  And that's what happens in transilteration from a non-Roman alphabet!  Either way, there are some great Hanukkah books out there, whether you're Jewish or not!  Before the holiday of lights begins on Sunday, here are my top five (and bonus 2):

Little Red Ruthie by Gloria Koster and Sue Eastland is by far my favorite--because it  takes a story with which most people are familiar and fills it with a sweet filling of the Hanukkah story!  As usual for this story, we have a girl in a red hood who is met by the wolf in the forest.  However, in this telling, she talks the wolf out of eating her by promising him latkes that will be MUCH TASTIER at her Bubbe's house.  While she cooks, she has the time to also teach him about the Maccabees!

The Eight Knights of Hanukkah by Leslie Kimmelman and Galia Bernstein is a newer addition to the Hanukkah picture book canon, but will be a joy for both Jewish and non-Jewish children alike.  When a dragon endangers the kingdom's Hanukkah celebrations, the eight knights have to save it, each by doing something that represents a tradition.

Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon with illustrations by Mark Siegel reaches back for some historical fiction about a Jewish boy, new to New York, a refugee after Kristallnacht.   As he attempts to find family from only a picture, he finds kindness in eight strangers.  Beautifully illustrated and a lovely way to begin a discussion on such a difficult subject.

The Ninth Night of Hanukkah by Erica S. Perl and Shahar Kober brings in a little interfaith/diverse celebration of the Jewish holiday.  When Rachel and Max move to their new apartment during Hanukkah, their parents can't find the box with the decorations ANYWHERE.  But they're creative and resourceful and invite all of their new neighbors to help in one way or another to create a wonderful, even if late, Hanukkah celebration!

Red and Green and Blue and White by Lee Wind and Paul O. Zelinsky is based on an actual event that happened in 1993, but is just as relevant today.  When anti-Semitic vandalism ruins a family's holiday, their Christian neighbors respond by decorating in solidarity.  This book about how kindness can help overcome hate is a good lesson all year round, but especially at this time of year, for all of us.

Unfortunately, two of my interreligious favorites are much harder to find to buy (so the links are for worldcat so you can find them at your local library).

Jackie’s Gift by Sharon Robinson, Jackie Robinson's daughter, and illustrated by Earl B. Lewis, is actually a true story.  When baseball star Jackie Robinson moves his family to a new neighborhood, one neighbor kid is excited to meet him.  When Jackie hears that this kid's family doesn't have a Christmas tree, he takes it upon himself to rectify that awful situation.... not realizing they don't have a tree because they're Jewish.  This heart-warming story about miscommunication and kindness is sure to make you laugh.

Another holiday that sometimes coincides with Hanukkah is Diwali.  In Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg and  Anjan Sarkar, adventure begins for a half Indian/half Jewish family when they get locked out of the house!  The youngest, smallest, usually getting into trouble kid will have to become the hero of both holidays.  It is very rare to see this combination in a picture book, so I am very grateful that it's also a great story with fun illustrations!

I don't usually write about videos, but I recently came upon Amazon Prime Video's Snowy Day.  Created in 2016 (about the same time as A Poem for Peter, which is a great read if you haven't found it yet) with cameos from major Hollywood stars and even Boyz II Men, this 40 minute special elaborates on the book we all know so well.  It shows the full diversity of a New York neighborhood with shopkeepers and neighbors, including a Jewish mom and daughter with a bit of a lesson about Hanukkah traditions!  If you have Prime, I highly recommend it (even if you're not watching with kids).

Happy (C)Hanuk(k)a(h) and happy any other holiday you are celebrating this month.  May these books be a blessing to you and yours!!

Reminder that I will receive a small commission for books purchased through my  bookshop.org list links. 

If you haven't bought gifts for your holidays yet--or if you're planning to donate books, please read my guide for buying gifts.

October 11, 2022

Hispanic Heritage Month

Last month when I posted, I wanted to link to "if you're looking for books that celebrate Hispanic Heritage, click here!"  I realized as much as I've celebrated Latinx main characters in other posts, I don't have one focused post!! So here are some of my favorites:

Bravo!: Poems about Amazing Hispanics gives us a great overview of several historical figures you may or may not have realized have Hispanic Heritage.  Check out these poems and their portraits by the team of Margarita Engle and Rafael López, both of whom have several other amazing books.

Alma and How She Got Her Name tells the story of heritage and family history simply through a child's name.  Juana Martinez-Neal  writes and illustrates this book available in English and Spanish editions.  (She has several other gorgeous books, too!)

What Will You Be? is a lovely book about a grandparent/grandchild relationship.  In the book, Abuela tells her granddaughter some of their family history and visions of the future.  Yamile Saied Méndez's words are beautifully accompanied by illustrations from Kate Alizadeh. (Yamile's companion book Where Are You From? is a conversation between child and Abuelo about their heritage after the child has been asked that question too many times.)

One Is a Piñata: A Book of Numbers by Roseanne Greenfield Thong with wonderful art by John Parra is a great book for our littlest friends.  A celebration of culture while learning to count in two languages.  (This pair also has a book about shapes and a book about colors and both authors have lots of other great books apart from one another!)

I also want to bring attention to the books of Duncan Tonatiuh, a "Mexican and American" author and illustrator who has a special way of depicting moments Latinx history and, as in the case of Dear Primo, the life of those living in the current reality!

Happy Reading!

This month's list on Bookshop has WAY more books than usual, partly because today and tomorrow (Oct 11&12) Bookshop is offering free shipping.  In order to support Teaching Cultural Compassion and get the free shipping, you can buy from any of my lists by clicking here!!

September 20, 2022

Banned and Challenged Books

You may know, you may not, that September 18-24 is Banned Books Week.  I thought I'd bring your attention to a few of my favorite picture books that have been banned and/or challenged--some a while ago, some recently, some currently.  The biggest thing all banned books have in common is someone (usually someone in power) attempting to silence a voice (usually someone in the margins).  I have been most horrified with recent cases of memoirs or books based on peoples' experiences being banned.  By banning that book, those in power are saying that the author's life is not "appropriate" for general consumption.  How would you feel if it was your experience being judged that way?  Does that give you a different outlook on banned books?

I'm not going to go into details about each book this month, but here is a list of my favorites and the link to buy them.  Here is a list of middle grade/young adult books (fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels) that you can buy with an extra 10% off from bookshop.org so that you can help stock local charities and Little Libraries with these books.  And lastly, some resources that I have found to be helpful, if you have more interest in the subject:

Banned Books Week

Simon & Schuster's Banned & Challenged Book List

American Library Association's Banned Books List

Happy Reading!

Reminder that I will receive a small commission for books purchased through my  bookshop.org list links.