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In These Divisive Times, Give Holiday Gifts That Inspire Kindness, Empathy and Joy

National Louis University prof compiles suggestions to give children and teens this holiday

 

Polls suggest that in 2017, Americans are more divided than they have been at any time since the Vietnam War. A National Louis University professor suggests that individuals can put positive energy toward healing that divide, even in something as simple as the gifts they give this holiday.

Toby Rajput, assistant professor and Children’s and Young Adult Literature Librarian at National Louis University, believes in the power of books to plant the seeds of kindness, empathy and joy in young minds.

Her list of suggested books to give children this holiday range from moral tales to friendship stories, appreciations of joy and gratitude, and examinations of what’s really important in life, positive growth and accepting ourselves and others for who we really are.

These books are perfect for anyone who wishes to give a gift this holiday season that will inspire a child or teen to find kindness, empathy and joy even in this divisive atmosphere, and be a source for radiating those qualities out to the world.

Find the list, grouped by age categories, below.

 

FOR YOUNG CHILDREN:


Every Little Thing by Cedella Marley

            Every Little Thing brings Bob Marley's song to life for a new generation. Every family will relate to this universal story of a boy who won't let anything get him down, as long as he has the help of three little birds. Includes all the lyrics of the original song plus new verses.

My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith

            The sun on your face. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness? This beautiful board book, with illustrations from celebrated artist Julie Flett, serves as a reminder to cherish the moments in life that bring us joy.

The Nice Book by David Ezra Stein

            From cuddling koalas to friendly penguins, an array of animals illustrates fun, sweet, and silly examples of 'how to be nice,' showing simple ways young children can show they care for those around them. The lyrical text, funny illustrations and upbeat friendship message make this a great gift and a wonderful introduction to manners.

Say Zoop! by Herve Tullet

            Make some noise! Shout "OH!" Whisper "oh!" Say "Zoop"? Yes! "Zoop!" The newest book from Herve Tullet magically responds with bursts of color and moving shapes, empowering children by letting their imaginations liberate and direct each page's reaction. Tullet's books define the genre of participatory bookmaking, encouraging readers to explore and interact with the physical book in all its dimensions. The reward is tremendous.

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
            Willems’ beloved odd couple returns in this giggle-inducing conclusion to the Elephant and Piggie series. This time, Piggie is struck by the need to say thank you to everyone important to her. From the start, readers will pick up that Gerald suspects Piggie will forget him. Kids will get a kick out of seeing Gerald appear as the unthanked “elephant in the living room,” until Piggie realizes she has forgotten her best friend. This sweetly silly introduction to expressing gratitude is a fitting send-off to one of children’s literature’s favorite duos.

 

FOR CHILDREN AGES 5-8:

 

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat

            Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened after? Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat's poignant tale follows Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can no longer do many of the things he loves most. Will he summon the courage to face his fear? (This) masterful picture book will remind readers that life begins when you get back up.

 Book of Gold by Bob Staake

            Award-winning illustrator Bob Staake brings us an emotionally rich picture book. Young Isaac meets an old shopkeeper who tells him about The Book of Gold. This special book, hidden somewhere in the world, holds all the answers to every question and turns to solid gold when opened. Isaac is determined to find the book--it will make him rich! He opens many books in his search, but quickly closes them when they don't turn to gold. That changes one day when he opens a book, looks at the page, and a question pops into his mind. From then on, he reads every word. This sweeping picture book asks important questions: Is searching for knowledge better than having it? How important is curiosity? And what makes a life meaningful?

The Happy Owls by Celestino Piatti 

            This is a classic about enjoying the miracle of everyday life.  Originally published in 1964, it is being reissued, a testament to Piatti's distinctive artwork...Why are these owls so happy? That’s just what the chickens, ducks, and geese want to know. But when they send a peacock over to find out why, they’re incredulous at the reply. How could anyone be happy simply to see the rain and sunshine? It’s a powerful testimony to standing apart from the crowd. 

Lines by Suzy Lee

            The magic flows from the pencil and imagination of internationally acclaimed artist Suzy Lee. With the lightest of touches, this masterwork blurs the lines between real and imagined, reminding us why Lee's books have been lauded around the world, and nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest international honor given to children's book creators. This seemingly simple story about a young skater on a frozen pond will charm the youngest of readers while simultaneously astounding book enthusiasts of any age.

Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau, illustrated by Gail deMarcken

            A quiltmaker helps a selfish king learn that giving is the true secret to happiness. The heartwarming, strongly moral tale supports important values, and the detailed illustrations, featuring dozens of lovingly rendered quilt patterns, offer hours of delight.

Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins – 2016 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award - New Illustrator Honor

            Who knew that cakes were so rude?! In this deliciously entertaining book, a not-so-sweet cake--who never says please or thank you or listens to its parents--gets its just desserts. Mixing hilarious text and pictures, Watkins has cooked up a laugh-out- loud story that can also be served up as a delectable discussion starter about manners or bullying.

Sidewalk Flowers by Jon Arno Lawson, Illustrated by Sydney Smith

              In this wordless picture book, a little girl collects wildflowers while her distracted father pays her little attention. Each flower becomes a gift, and whether the gift is noticed or ignored, both giver and recipient are transformed by their encounter. "Written" by award-winning poet Jon Arno Lawson and brought to life by illustrator Sydney Smith, Sidewalk Flowers is an ode to the importance of small things, small people, and small gestures.

Tokyo Digs A Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano, Illustrated by Kellen Hatanaka

            Tokyo lives in a small house between giant buildings with his family. For years, highways and skyscrapers have been built up around the family's house where once there were hills and trees. Will they ever experience the natural world again? One day, an old woman offers Tokyo seeds, telling him they will grow into whatever he wishes. Tokyo and his grandfather are astonished when the seeds grow into a forest so lush that it takes over the entire city. Soon the city has gone wild, with animals roaming where cars once drove. Is this a problem to be surmounted, or a new way of living to be embraced?

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell – 2017 Boston Globe Horn Book Award

A girl is lost in a snowstorm. A wolf cub is lost, too. How will they find their way home? Paintings rich with feeling tell this satisfying story of friendship and trust. Here is a book set on a wintry night that will spark imaginations and warm hearts.

Yo Soy Muslim: A Father's Letter to His Daughter by Mark Gonzales, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

            Written as a letter from a father to his daughter, Yo Soy Muslim is a celebration of social harmony and multicultural identities. The vivid and elegant verse, accompanied by magical and vibrant illustrations, highlights the diversity of the Muslim community as well as Indigenous identity. A literary journey of discovery and wonder, Yo Soy Muslim is sure to inspire adults and children alike.

 

FOR CHILDREN AGES 9-11

 

Amina's Voice by Hena Khan

            Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she's in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the "cool" girls in the class. Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
            Amina's Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani-American and highlights the many ways in which one girl's voice can help bring a diverse community together.

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

            In Ban This Book, a fourth grader fights back when From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is challenged by a well-meaning parent and taken off the shelves of her school library. Amy Anne is shy, but she and her lieutenants wage a battle for the books that will make you laugh and pump your fists as they start a secret banned books locker library, make up ridiculous reasons to ban every single book in the library to make a point, and take a stand against censorship.

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswai

            Every day, nine-year-old Yasmin borrows a book from Book Uncle, a retired teacher who has set up a free lending library next to her apartment building. But when the mayor tries to shut down the rickety bookstand, Yasmin has to take her nose out of her book and do something. But what? The local elections are coming up but she's just a kid.
            Still, Yasmin has friends, and she has grownup family and neighbors who, no matter how preoccupied they are, care about what goes on in their community. Then Yasmin remembers a story that Book Uncle selected for her. It's an old folktale about a flock of doves trapped in a hunter's net. The birds realize that if they all flap their wings at the same time, they can lift the net and fly to safety. And so the children get to work. An energetic, funny and quirky story that explores the themes of community activism, friendship, and the love of books.

El Deafo by Cece BellNewbery Honor Book

            Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear. It gives Cece the ability to hear but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend. She is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become "El Deafo, Listener for All." And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham Parents Magazine Best Graphic Novel of 2017, School Library Journal Best Book of 2017

            Newbery Honor author Shannon Hale and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham join forces in this graphic memoir about how hard it is to find your real friends--and why it's worth the journey.
Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen's #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others. Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group--or out?

 

FOR UPPER ELEMENTARY/MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS:


All's Faire in Middle School
by Victoria Jamieson

            The Newbery Honor-winning author is back with a heartwarming graphic novel about starting middle school and surviving your embarrassing family.
            Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy) has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she's eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she'll need to prove her bravery. Luckily Impy has just the quest in mind--she'll go to public school after a life of being homeschooled! Impy falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice (until they don't) and starts to be embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel. Impy has always thought of herself as a heroic knight, but when she does something really mean in order to fit in, she begins to wonder whether she might be more of a dragon after all.

Angel in My Pocket by Ilene Cooper

            "Eighth-grader Bette is struggling with the recent death of her mother and has become either unwilling or unable to continue singing in her performing-arts school. After she finds a little angel coin, she meets a wise woman, who, through kindness and empathy, helps her find her voice again. The coin is passed to three of Bette’s classmates, each of whom is struggling with a rough patch, and they all get help moving forward. In her latest middle-grade novel, Cooper explores the different guises that guardian angels can wear and shows how a little understanding and support can have a profound impact."

- Booklist review

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

            Counting by 7s is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.
            Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents. Suddenly Willow's world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. Her journey to find a fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez

            Twelve-year-old Maria Luisa O'Neill-Morales (who really prefers to be called Malu) reluctantly moves with her Mexican-American mother to Chicago and starts seventh grade with a bang--violating the dress code with her punk rock aesthetic and spurning the middle school's most popular girl in favor of starting a band with a group of like-minded weirdos.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

            Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"--people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals, this wishtree watches over the neighborhood. When a new family moves in, not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.
            Funny, deep, warm, and nuanced, Wishtree is Newbery Medalist and New York Times-bestselling author Katherine Applegate at her very best--writing from the heart, and from a completely unexpected point of view.

 

FOR YOUNG ADULTS:

 

Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever, edited by Betsy Bird

              Funny Girl is a collection of uproarious stories, rollicking comics, rib-tickling wit, and more, from 25 of today's funniest female writers for kids.With clever contributions from award-winning and bestselling authors, it will make you laugh until you cry. Funny Girl isn't just an anthology: it's a cause, a mission, a movement. Girls are funny. Now it's time for the world to know it.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds – National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.

            Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. Ghost has a crazy natural talent. If he can stay on track, he could be the best sprinter in the city. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons. it all started with running away from his father, who chased him and his mother down the street, with a loaded gun. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—until he meets Coach.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – 2017 Boston Globe Horn Book Award

            Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does – or does not – say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.  

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes  2017 Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Book

            In this collection of poetry, Nikki Grimes looks afresh at the poets of the Harlem Renaissance -- including voices like Langston Hughes – by combining their work with her own original poetry. Using "The Golden Shovel" poetic method, This special book also includes original artwork in full-color from some of today's most exciting African American illustrators.

The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot and Score in this Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander

            You gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life. Take it to the hoop. Soar. What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life? Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander’s inspirational book is just right for anyone needing a little encouragement.

(*Annotations from Titlewave.com)

 

 

 

 

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    Opened in the summer of 2006, NLU North Shore at Skokie is a state-of-the-art modern campus located just off the Edens Expressway near the Old Orchard Shopping Center. The campus includes 44 wireless classrooms equipped with high-tech media equipment; four computer labs with high-speed Internet access, including a walk-in lab in the library; six conference rooms; a public café for beverages and snacks; a student welcome center; a library for research and study; and multiple, comfortable student lounge areas.

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