Comforting Picture Books + Giveaways


Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of all five of these books.

We are living in serious and uncertain times. I watch the news once my daughter goes to bed since I am trying to shield her from the disasters, most of which are not created by nature. Everything she knows about the current state of the world goes through a mom filter first. I know I cannot protect her from the harsh realities of the world, but it’s my hope to help her hold onto her childhood just a little longer. After all, she is only seven.

I may shield my daughter from threats of nuclear war with North Korea and the Russia probe, but I do not shield her from social issues. We read picture books where she sees characters dealing with poverty, same-sex couples, and loss. I don’t shy away from books with tough topics since they are the kinds of windows she needs so she can understand lives of people who are different than she is.

Last week, Matt de la Pena penned an article in Time Magazine entitled “Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children From Darkness.” De la Pena made the case that picture books are a safe place to help children see and feel the world.  He asserted:

Maybe instead of anxiously trying to protect our children from every little hurt and heartache, our job is to simply support them through such experiences.

A few days later, Kate DiCamillo responded, also in Time, with “Why Children’s Books Should Be a Little Sad.” DiCamillo penned an open letter to de la Pena where she asked:

So that’s the question, I guess, for you and for me and for all of us trying to do this sacred task of telling stories for the young: How do we tell the truth and make that truth bearable?

A couple of weeks ago, I sat on the floor of my home office reading through stacks of newly-released picture books for an upcoming presentation on mentor texts. A small, odd pile formed by the end of the night. This pile was filled with books that weren’t just beautifully written, they that felt like books that sought to nourish and comfort young souls. Because, to paraphrase from DiCamillo, this world is filled with sorrow, heartbreak, and devastating beauty. So, today I share with you a collection of five books I’ve grouped together that aren’t going to just help your students write better. These picture books will serve as springboards into conversations about social issues and will hopefully provide children with comfort amidst the darkness of today’s world.

9781524740917Love by Matt de la Pena and Loren Long (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018)

Publisher’s Summary: In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Pena and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.

Several Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: advice to the reader ending, compound adjectives, dialogue, precise words, sensory details, varied sentence lengths, vivid verbs

TH_Most PeopleMost People by Michael Leannah and Jennifer E. Morris (Tilbury House Publishers, 2017)

Publisher’s Summary: The world can be a scary place. Anxious adults want children to be aware of dangers, but shouldn’t kids be aware of kindness too?

Michael Leannah wrote Most People as an antidote to the scary words and images kids hear and see every day. Jennifer Morris’s emotive, diverting characters provide the perfect complement to Leannah’s words, leading us through the crowded streets of an urban day in the company of two pairs of siblings (one of color). We see what they see: the hulking dude with tattoos and chains assisting an elderly lady onto the bus; the Goth teenager with piercings and purple Mohawk returning a lost wallet to its owner; and the myriad interactions of daily existence, most of them well intended. Most People is a courageous, constructive response to the dystopian world of the news media.

Several Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: commas in lists, ellipses points, repetition (of a phrase), wraparound ending, speech bubbles, talking to the reader lead

9780763691547On the Night of the Shooting Star by Amy Hest and Jenni Desmond (Candlewick Press, 2017)

Publisher’s Summary: For solitary neighbors Bunny and Dog, reticence overcomes curiosity — until something extraordinary happens to nudge them into friendship. Bunny and Dog live on opposite sides of the fence. Every morning, first thing, Bunny looks through the fence and the tall grass at Dog. And every morning, first thing, Dog looks through the fence and the tall grass at Bunny. Yet neither one says hello. Or hi. Or nice to see you today. But then, one night, Bunny and Dog both see a shooting star zip through the sky. Could this shared moment be the start of a friendship? From storyteller Amy Hest and artist Jenni Desmond comes a lyrical, touching, and timely picture book about finding the courage to say “I could be your friend.”

Several Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: commas (i.e., for introductory phrases, in lists), internal thinking, meeting the characters + setting lead, sensory details, surprise ending, varied sentence lengths, turning point, vivid verbs


Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List by Katie Klise and M. Sarah Klise (Feiwel and Friends, 2017)

Publisher’s Summary: Eli the dog has been with Astrid since her parents brought her home from the hospital as a baby. Now Astrid is getting older, and so is Eli. Before he slows down too much, Astrid wants to make fun memories with him. So she makes a bucket list for Eli, which includes experiences such as eating with him in a restaurant, and taking him down a slide at the playground.

But in the end, what is most important to Eli is the time he spends with Astrid, whom he loves dearly. Sisters Kate and M. Sarah Klise have created a story that reminds readers of all ages that time with our loved ones is the most precious gift of all.

Several Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: commas (i.e., for introductory phrases, in lists), connecting with the reader ending, dialogue, internal thinking, meeting the characters lead, turning point, varied sentence lengths

THE PINK HATThe Pink Hat by Andrew Joyner (Schwartz & Wade, 2017)

Publisher’s Summary: Here is a clever story that follows the journey of a pink hat that is swiped out of a knitting basket by a pesky kitten, blown into a tree by a strong wind, and used as a cozy blanket for a new baby, then finally makes its way onto the head of a young girl marching for women’s equality.Inspired by the 5 million people (many of them children) in 82 countries who participated in the 2017 Women’s March, Andrew Joyner has given us a book that celebrates girls and women and equal rights for all. With themes of empathy, equality, and solidarity, The Pink Hat is a timeless and timely story that will empower readers and promote strength in the diverse and active feminist community.

Several Craft Moves You Can Teach Young Writers: compound adjectives, ellipsis points, repetition, surprise ending, varied sentence lengths, vivid verbs

{All of the craft moves listed above are explained in Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts.}

Another exquisite picture book that feels like it fits with the above-mentioned titles is Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee and Pascal LeMaitre. Click here to read an interview with author Holly McGhee, which was originally posted in August 2017.


  • This giveaway is for a copy of  each of the following books: Love, Most People, On the Night of the Shooting Star, Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List, and The Pink Hat. Many thanks to Candlewick Press, MacMillan, Penguin Random House, and Tilbury House Publishers, for donating a copy of each of these books for one lucky reader.
  • For a chance to win these five books, please leave a comment about this post by Wednesday, January 24th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Friday, January 26th.NOTE: You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter this giveaway.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contacts at each of the above-mentioned publishers will ship your books out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – COMFORTING PICTURE BOOKS. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

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Thank you to everyone who left a comment. Donna Franczek’s commenter number was pulled so she’ll receive these five books.