Teaching Cultural Compassion
November begins with All Saints Day and Dia de los Muertos, so it's only appropriate that it has also been named National Children's Grief Awareness Month. We have all been dealing with more loss and more grief than a usual year. As yet another colleague asked me what books I could suggest to the children in their community experiencing loss, I thought I should write it in a more public way.
My very favorite book about grieving comes from a Buddhist story retold and illustrated by Jon J. Muth. Like the other Stillwater Stories, Addy's Cup of Sugar is about the interaction of a child (Addy) and Stillwater the zen panda. Addy, dealing with the death of her kitten, seeks help and healing from her wise friend. She learns through his round-about-teaching that she is not the only one who has been touched by death--that she is indeed not alone in her grief.
I wrote about Saturdays Are for Stella by Candy Wellins and Charlie Eve Ryan for Grandparent's Day, but it is worth reminding you here. When Stella is a very special person and dies, George has to figure out what to do with his grief and how to celebrate the wonderful memories he mad with his grandmother.
You'll Find Me by Amanda Rawson Hill and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff is less specific about loss, but helps the reader remember that death is not the end of memories or feelings associated with someone special.
Though these are my suggestions, as usual I would also like to point you to resources from actual experts. In this particular situation, I'll point you to a resource created by First Book and the New York Life Foundation that will give even more suggestions of books and other grief resources broken up by age group.
You can find these three books and a few more on my bookshop.org affiliate page by clicking here. Reminder that I will receive a small commission for books purchased through my list links.
Alzheimer's Disease isn't easy to talk about at any age, but two authors in particular have done a great job working with the feelings of young kids and their grandparents.
In The Remember Balloons, Jessie Oliveros and Dana Wulfekotte take on how memories are passed from generation to generation. They find ways to console young ones in knowing that even if a grandparent forgets their stories, the next generations can keep them alive.
Pat Mora and Alyssa Bermudez give us another aspect of memory loss in a story about the little things that ARE remembered. Billy helps his grandmother remember through song and even for just a little while, she's his regular Nana again.
If you're looking for a book to help a child understand a grandparent needing to move to a Memory Care Facility, I recommend forget me not by Nancy Van Laan and Stephanie Graegin or Still My Grandma by Veronique Van den Abeele and Claude K. Dubois.
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:
Simon & Schuster's Banned & Challenged Book List
American Library Association's Banned Books List
Reminder that I will receive a small commission for books purchased through my bookshop.org list links.
How do you talk to kids about war and refugees?
The ongoing war in Ukraine has brought a spotlight again to how war affects children--both those in the middle of it, and those in our homes far, far away from the fighting. If kids see some of what's going on in the world, they often have a lot of questions, and might even be scared.
Today's selections should help you have better informed, more compassionate discussions with the kids in your life about what it might be like to be in that situation and how we, even from here, can help out.
How War Changed Rondo is a book by Ukranian author/illustrator team Romana Romanyshyn and Andriy Lesiv and we are blessed to have it translated into English by Oksana Lushchevska. Written during one of the last times Russia invaded Ukraine, we get a first hand account using feeling words about what being a child in this situation might be like.
Wishes by Mượn Thị Văn is beautifully illustrated by Victo Ngai and tells the story of a family leaving a home they love in order to live through a conflict in their country.
Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming and Sarah Dressen-McQueen is a book that talks about helping. After World War II, there were multiple organizations that helped kids in the US send boxes of helpful things to kids in Europe who had been effected by the War. There are many organizations today that serve refugee communities and many have ways kids can help! Check through your church or school for ideas.
Two more books sharing the stories of child refugees are My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood and Four Feet, Two Sandals by Khadra Mohammed and Karen Lynn Williams, the first about a girl in her new country, the second about two girls living in a camp. These stories through the eyes of children always bring more empathy and understanding to a story alongside the natural hope of children.
When Bad News Happens
I don't know about all of you, but I'm guessing if you found this site, you are someone who cares deeply about others. So, like me, you've probably been reeling from the constant barrage of tragic and terrifying news from the last few months. If we as adults feel this way, we can only imagine how our kids are digesting what they see: in the media but also in how we react. Here are a few books about exactly that and how to talk to kids about when bad things happen.
Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee and Pascal Lemaître is about what we can do when we feel helpless and hopeless. There's always something small we can do to help the world be a better place. (This book is a little more specific than, but reminds me of, the message of Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein. Be sure to check that one out, especially for the youngest of us.)
The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul gets even more specific than Come with Me, but still is just about a kid noticing that the adults around are reacting badly to whatever the news people are saying. Another good reminder of the little things we can do when we feel helpless.
Something Happened in Our Town and Something Happened in Our Park by a group of psychologists from Emory University get very specific. These two books are specifically about racial injustice and gun violence, respectively. For older kids who need a little more context but you're not sure what to say, these professionals have it covered for you.
And with hurricane season only just starting, three books about storms:
A Flood of Kindness by Ellen Leventhal and Blythe Russo, When the Storm Comes by Linda Ashman and Taeeun Yoo, and The Longest Storm by Dan Yaccarino will help kids understand a little more about the experience of kids caught in storms...and the aftermath thereof--without losing hope.
And books that are always good when any general bad things happen: Most People by Michael Leannah and Jennifer E. Morris and When Sadness Is at Your Door by Eva Eland.
If you know you/the kid in your life is dealing with grief, make sure you check out this list, too.
I hope this helps you. Honestly, reading these books helped me restore a little hope as well.
Reminder that I will receive a small commission for books purchased through my list links.
Holocaust Remembrance Day
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which happens this week is the yearly remembrance of those who suffered (and especially those who died) during the Holocaust. As survivors get older and older and there are fewer and fewer, the charge to Always Remember, Never Forget relies on our next generations. In order to help you start talking about the Holocaust with kids, here are some picture books to read together.
One of the newest additions to this topic of books is Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued by Peter Sís. The story of a young man from England who helped resettle over 700 children in his native country. Not many words per page makes this a good choice for young readers.
Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki and Dom Lee is an award winning book of the true story of a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania who helped thousands of Jews escape through Japan.
Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust by Loïc Dauvillier is a graphic novel about a fictional French-Jewish girl whose story is like many told, hiding with neighbors until the end of the war. A graphic novel based on a true story of a family who was able to leave is Maurice and His Dictionary by Cary Fagan. It is his father's story of running from the Nazis from Belgium, through France, Spain, Portugal, and eventually Jamaica before being allowed to go to university in Canada. And if you like graphic novels, be sure to preorder Hour of Need: The Daring Escape of the Danish Jews During World War II: A Graphic Novel by Ralph Shayne and Tatiana Goldberg coming later this year.
If you have older children at home who would like to read personal accounts on their own, I would always recommend Night by Elie Wiesel and The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition by Anne Frank. Also recommended for older kids are Parallel Journeys by Eleanor H. Ayer, I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson, and Tutti's Promise by K. Heidi Fishman.
I realize there are several others in the bookshop.org list that are on backorder currently and even more that are no longer in print. I have created a longer suggested list with library links here.
Special thanks for the recommendations in this post that came from Amanda Friedeman, Associate Director of Education at Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.
On this day may we remember, and may these stories and the memories of those who inspired them be a blessing.
Reminder that a small commission for books purchased through TCC's bookshop.org list links go toward furthering the work of Teaching Cultural Compassion.