Tag Archives: emotion

Why Do We Cry? [released 4/7]

Written by: Fran Pintadera

Illustrated by: Ana Sender

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social-Emotional Learning, Emotions, Growth, Family, STEM.


This is a very sweet story centered around a young boy named Mario asking his mother why people cry.  Why, we cry for all sorts of reasons.  Expressing emotions, such as crying, is a very natural thing.  Unfortunately, sometimes it’s dictated who is allowed to cry (girls) and who isn’t (boys).  Accompanied by illustrations that are at times whimsical (like critters in the forest or human clouds of anger raining tears),  Mario’s mother talks about all of the emotions that can be associated with tears.  Loneliness, sadness, anger, and happiness are just a few addressed in this stunning book.

We’re in an unprecedented and emotional time right now, and a book such as this can open the door for conversations and self-refection.  In the back of the book, the reader can learn more about what tears are, and how they even look different depending on the emotions associated with the tears.  Why Do We Cry? is truly a gorgeous book that brings many salient points to the forefront, particularly right now.

This book was kindly sent to us by Kids Can Press, but all opinions are our own!  It will be available on April 7th, but was previously published in Spain in 2018.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

unnamed-5Fran Pintadera is a storyteller, theater director and an award-winning author of more than a dozen books for children. He lives in Spain.




Sender_Ana_sz_sRGBAna Sender was born in Terrassa (Barcelona), Spain in 1978. She studied Fine Arts and illustration at the Massana Art School in Barcelona, and completed her studies at the Francesca Bonemaisson school. She draws, writes, and imagines all sorts of stories. Her works have appeared both in many books and newspapers. Ana lives near the forest. Many of her illustrations are inspired by her dreams. She likes werewolves, wild things, and green swampy places.

Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too)

Written & Illustrated by: Keith Negley

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social-Emotional Learning, Gender, Gender Stereotypes, Toxic Masculinity, Friendship, Family, Tenderness, Sadness, Love. 

Summary: This is an adorable book that helps to dispel myths that create toxic masculinity.  Focusing on “tough guys” like superheroes, ninjas, and bikers, the book talks about how everyone feels feelings and it’s ok to show them.

The book’s wording is simple and assuring, the bright illustrations giving plethora of examples when a person might be feeling strong emotions like frustration or sadness.  This book is also great for decoding emotions on others’ faces, and provides rich opportunities for discussion about social-emotion skills that can branch off to brainstorming about how to problem-solve or make a sad friend feel better.

There are so many distressing stereotypes that people feel pressure to fulfill.  This includes the ultra-masculine sports enthusiast and the delicate flowery ballerina, none of escape unscathed.  We as educators and caregivers have the power to take some of the pressure off to conform, and we are obligated to do as such.  Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) is great because of it’s simplicity, it can be read to young audiences and begin to counteract the negative effects of forced toughness.

This book was sent to us by Flying Eye, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & Illustrator:

Keith’s work has appeared on book covers, children’s books, t-shirts, album covers, posters, skateboard decks, and even a watch. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and New Yorker in addition to many other national publications. He received his BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2000, and his MFA from The School of Visual Arts in New York City in 2013 and doesn’t regret the student debt one bit. He’s won 4 medals from the Society of Illustrators, a medal from the Society of Illustrators West, and 2 medals from the 3×3 International Illustration annual. His book Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) received a Kate Greenaway Medal nomination in 2016. His most recent book Mary Wears What She Wants was released in January 2019 with Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins). Keith resides in the mountains of Bellingham Washington with his wife and two boys surrounded by giant spiders and teaches illustration at Western Washington University.

Sweetest Kulu

Written by: Celina Kalluk

Illustrated by: Alexandria Neonakis

For Ages: Infant and up

Language: Bilingual: Inuktitut and English; English.

Topics Covered: Love, Family, First Nations People, Indigenous Voices, Inuit Culture.

Summary: “Kulu” is an Inuktitut term of endearment, akin to “Mija” in Spanish.  This book’s narrator is a mother speaking to their own Kulu.  The narrator is speaking to the animals of the Arctic, asking them to endow her Kulu with gifts.  This book is lyrical and shows the deep reverence for nature that Inuit culture values.  Narwhal and Beluga gift little Kulu with spontaneity, Arctic Hare gifts the ability to love easily, and Polar Bear gifts the lesson to treat all animals with respect.  The illustrations by Neonakis show the most adorable baby sleeping peacefully in the arms of a polar bear, swimming with whales, and laying in the grass.  A great book to read when the message is the full embodiment of loving your child.

Reflection Questions:

  • What animal do you think gave Kulu the best gift?
  • Why do you think it’s an important gift?
  • What would you like to give a new baby that isn’t a physical object?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Make a list of traits you think is important in a person.  Which ones do you have now?  How can you develop more of them?
  • Write a book for a new baby.  What do you think important for them to know? How could your book help them while they are growing up?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

celina kallukCelina Kalluk was born and raised in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, to Zipporah Kalluk and Leonard Thibodeau. Celina has two brothers and five sisters, one sister-niece, and many more beautiful nieces and nephews. She also has four daughters of her own, Jazlin, Aulaja, Saima, and Ramata. She dedicates this book to all the mothers and fathers of this earth and to our wonderful children. Celina is also a visual artist and has illustrated several book covers and other literacy materials. Currently, she is the Inuktitut Language Specialist and Cultural Arts teacher for grades seven through twelve at Qarmartalik School in Resolute Bay. Sweetest Kulu is her first book for children.

alex neonakis

Originally from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, Alexandria Neonakis currently lives with her fiancee and two cats in Los Angeles. She works full time as a Concept artist at the game development company, Naughty Dog. She also does freelance children’s book illustration, and is represented by Bright Group. Recently she has shipped Uncharted Lost Legacy, Uncharted 4, The Last of Us and its DLC Left Behind. She also illustrated the bedtime story Sweetest Kulu,  written by Celina Kalluk. She is currently working on The Last of Us Part 2, and various unreleased children’s book projects.

Grandad Mandela

Written by: Zazi, Ziwalene & Zindzi Mandela

Illustrated by: Sean Qualls

For ages: 4-10 years

Language: English 

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Historical Figures, Activism, 

Summary: This book is written from the perspective of Mandela’s great-grandkids asking questions about their great-grandfather Mandela to their grandmother Zindzi. He went to jail when his daughter was just a toddler, for fighting against apartheid. Details of life during apartheid are described, such as being forced to live apart from white people and endure police brutality. Because of this, Zindzi and her siblings couldn’t go to school. They were sent to boarding school in Swaziland to receive education. Zindzi tells her grandchildren that you must be strong in the face of hardship, because the enemy will be happy if they see you cry and be sad. Zindzi goes through their family tribal history, and how that lifestyle shaped Grandad Mandela to be the man he was. He grew up and studied law, wanting to bring justice to his home country of South Africa. When imprisoned, the government hoped he would give up his activist lifestyle. Instead, the opposite happened and people all over the world began to join the fight to end apartheid. When Mandela was finally released, thousands of people celebrated his release by dancing in the streets! Mandela became the president of South Africa and continued to fight for justice. Zindzi tells her grandchildren that she honors his memory by volunteering and helping others.

This book is a unique narrative frame, with gorgeous artwork! It honors the social-justice legend of Nelson Mandela and links his past work to current day. Such an important part of global history is immortalized with this conversation between family members, and this book should be in every classroom library.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever heard of apartheid or Nelson Mandela?
  • How has he helped people all over the world?
  • What can you do to help people in your community?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about Mandela and his contributions to history. What can you do to volunteer in your community? What is something you care about?

About the Author & the Illustrator:


Ambassador Zindzi Mandela is a South African freedom fighter, diplomat, writer, speaker, cultural advocate and favorite Grandma. She is the last born child of Mrs Winnie Madikizela- Mandela and President Nelson Mandela, and was only 18 months old when her father went to prison. In 1985, when she was 25 years old, she read Nelson Mandela’s famous refusal to accept the offer of conditional release from President P. W. Botha to a packed football stadium in Soweto, saying his words, ‘I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free.’ The Ambassador lives in Copenhagen where she serves as South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark.

Zazi Mandela (8) and Ziwelene Mandela (6) are the great-grandchildren of Mrs. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and President Nelson Mandela. Zazi is a storyteller and an aspiring performer. Ziwelene is a storyteller and a maverick.

sean-quallsSean Qualls finds inspiration everywhere. Growing up in the 70’s in central New Jersey, his family didn’t have much money for art supplies but he made the best of what was available; discarded paper, blank end pages from old books and sometimes walls much to his mother’s chagrin. Some of his earliest inspirations were the crayons and coloring books his mom would buy for him and his older sister, drawing and handwriting competitions with classmates and an illustrated bible he received for Christmas in the 2nd grade. He moved to Brooklyn to attend art school at Pratt Institute. After only a year and a half he dropped out but continued to educate himself while working full-time at the Brooklyn Museum. Sean’s books and illustrations often explore history and non-fiction subjects. His fine art focuses on race & identity and the intersection of history & mythology, ultimately examining how we create our own identities or allow them to be scripted to for us.  Together his paintings and illustrations reveal  simultaneously unique and universal moments that reveal the human spirit. Sean’s most recent books include Why Am I Me?The Case for Loving and Two Friends all of which he illustrated with his wife, illustrator/author Selina Alko. He has also illustrated Emmanuel’s Dream (Schneider Award recipient) written by Laurie Ann Thompson, Giant Steps to Change the World written by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee and Before John Was a Jazz Giant (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor) written by Carole Boston Weatherford. He lives in Brooklyn (where you can find him DJing on occasion) with his wife and their two children.

You Hold Me Up

Written by: Monique Gray Smith

Illustrated by: Danielle Daniel

For Ages: 3-6 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social-Emotional Learning, Family, Kindness, Community.

Summary: This book uses the title phrase “you hold me up” to speak about kind acts loved ones do for one another.  This book is great for young children to learn acts of kindness, and become introduced to what a caring community does for one another.  These tender illustrations by Daniel accompany sweet words about the importance respect, listening, comforting, and laughing.  The unique illustration style is simple and Daniel uses the cutest heart shapes for mouths, reinforcing the idea that love and holding others up can be done with kind words.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do your loved ones hold you up?
  • How do you hold others up?
  • What can we hold others up in our community every day?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Draw a picture of a time when someone held you up.  What were they doing?  How can we do that for others?
  • Write a list as a class of ways to help and hold others up that you don’t see very often.  No answer is too small!
  • What are some community members that may need some extra support?  Think about some ways you could hold them up, or some ways you could help that part of the community as a whole.

About the Author & the Illustrator:


Monique Gray Smith is a mixed heritage woman of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish descent and is the proud Mom of twelve year old twins. She is an award winning author, international speaker and sought after consultant. Her career has focused on fostering paradigm shifts that emphasize the strength and resiliency of the First Peoples in Canada. She is well known for her storytelling, spirit of generosity and focus on resilience.


danielle danielDanielle Daniel was born and raised in a mining town where nickel is golden. She wishes she could live in the depths of the forest— Swiss Family Robinson style, but winterized. She is haunted by the stories of her ancestors; the ones that exist within her DNA.  She was once an elementary school teacher but now she writes, paints and illustrates stories in her tiny studio. She wrote and illustrated a children’s book called: Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox (Groundwood Books), winner of the 2016 Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award (CCBC), finalist for the First Nation Communities Read Award, the 2017 Blue Spruce Award and one of NY Public Library’s Most Notable Titles in 2015. Her second children’s book, Once in a Blue Moonwas released fall 2017 (Groundwood Books). Her book, The Dependent A Memoir of Marriage & the Military  was published fall 2016,  (Latitude 46 Publishing)  shortlisted for the 2017 Louise de Kiriline Lawrence Award. She is currently working on two novels; one for adults and one for children. She has a B.A Arts, B.A.Ed, and she is currently an MFA candidate in creative writing at the University of British Columbia. She is Métis and she lives in Sudbury Ontario Canada, the traditional territory of the Atikameksheng Anishnaabeg, with her husband Steve, son Owen and their dogs Frodo and Suzie.




Who are you? the kid’s guide to gender identity

Written by: Brook Pessin-Whedbee

Illustrated by: Naomi Bardoff

For Ages: 3 years and above

Language: English

Topics Covered: Gender Identity, Self Expression, Acceptance.

Summary: This book is written in a conversational format with the reader, letting them know that whatever they like and however they feel is ok and even celebrated!  The reader has some terminology explained to them-such as sex assigned at birth, and the fact that gender is “much more than the body you were born with”.  More vocabulary covered are terms like cisgender, non-binary, two-spirit, and gender neutral.  The book introduces the idea of gender as a spectrum rather that the binary system of “boy” one one end and “girl” on the other.  The reader is given the opportunity to look at pages filled with options of toys and clothes to choose the ones they like to wear and play with.  The book then explains that things a person likes can change from when you’re a kid to an adult, or even the next day!  There is emphasis on the reader knowing themselves the best, because they know how they feel inside.  This is a beautiful reinforcement of the message, and because sometimes children’s feelings are discounted or told “it’s just a phase” that they’re going through.  The book ends by explaining there are lots of ways to be a boy, a girl, and a kid, and the reader should be who they are.  In the back of the book there is also a Guide for Grown-Ups with several book and song recommendations for further exploration, and a page by page guide to key concepts and discussion points.  There are example reflection questions and more information to point out on topics such as: Body, Expression, Identity, and Gender Diversity.  There are a myriad of additional resources that range from books to films to organizations individuals can work with.  Lastly, there is an interactive wheel broken into three categories of body, identity, and expression.  An individual can turn the wheel and look at different options in an effort to help define their personal identity.

Reflection Questions:

  • What do you like to tell people about yourself, what is important that people know about you?
  • What do you feel most comfortable wearing and playing with?
  • Do you think anyone can play with anything they want?
  • How can you show respect to someone that likes different things than you do?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • This book has an amazing resource section, including lessons for varying ages.  They are on page 24!
  • Have a Special Share Day, where everyone brings in something that’s important to them.  The object could be a book that a loved one reads with them, an article of clothing that makes them feel comfortable, or a photograph.
  • Learn about kids that are changing the world!  Find a role model that believes in equality, or does work to help immigrants in our country.  Maybe there is a new hero to look up to that lives in your community that could come visit and talk about how they live their lives and work to help people.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

brook pessin-whedbeeBrook Pessin-Whedbee is an educator, family advocate, and author of the new book, Who Are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity. She is the founder of the Gender Inclusive Schools Alliance in Berkeley, where she works as an elementary Reading Specialist and as a supervisor in UC Berkeley’s Developmental Teacher Education program. Brook is also an active member of the Gender Spectrum community and proud mama to three little ones who joyfully bend and break the gender boxes.


naomi bardoffNaomi Bardoff lives, works, blogs, and draws in the San Francisco Bay Area. Born in Oakland, Naomi considers herself a Bay Area native despite a hiatus in Dallas for adolescence and one in the Hudson Valley for college. Other than drawing, painting, (and otherwise getting pigment under her fingernails), Naomi spends her time making handmade books, experimenting with vegan baking, thinking about manatees, and hanging out with her dog. Visit her portfolioblog, and Instagram to see more of her illustration work.

I Am Jazz

Written by: Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

Illustrated by: Shelagh McNicholas

For Ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Trans youth experience, gender identity, self-acceptance, self-love, courage.

Summary: Jazz is just a regular girl!  She loves dancing, the color pink, and mermaids.  Jazz also has a “girl brain but a boy body”.  Jazz explains that she is transgender, and she has always felt like a girl (even if her family was confused and thought she was a boy).  Jazz explains that when she was young, she would feel sad when her parents would make her wear “boy clothes” outside of the house.  Jazz tells us that one day her parents took her to meet a new doctor that asked lots of questions, and then told her parents that Jazz was transgender.  Jazz then tells the reader how happy she was that her parents supported her, and let her start wearing “girl clothes” to school.  She says that she feels good when she does things like play on the girls soccer team, and ignores kids in her school that make fun of her.  The book closes with Jazz saying she doesn’t mind being different, because she is special and proud to be who she is.

This book is great for readers of any age, introducing the real-life experiences of of trans youth in a thoughtful, understandable way.  The prevailing notion of living your own personal truth has been a very strong narrative most recently, and Jazz’s story adds her valuable experience.  The idea of hormone blockers or surgery is not addressed.  The last page of the book also includes information about the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation as well as photos of Jazz as a young child.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Jazz feels in the beginning of the book when she can’t wear the clothes she wants to?
  • How do you think you would feel if you parents insisted you were something that in your heart and brain you knew you weren’t?
  • Have you ever had to fight to make people believe something about yourself?
  • What could you say to a friend that tells you something about themselves that they might be nervous about or afraid that you wouldn’t believe them?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Talk about what it means to be “normal”and “different”.  Why do you think people tease others that seem different?
  • How do you deal with people that aren’t kind to you?  How could you help a friend that was feeling frustrated that people were making fun of them?
  • Write a plan as a classroom or group of how everyone treats each other.  Have everyone sign the pledge, and post it in the classroom.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

jessica herthelJessica Herthel is the co-author of the critically acclaimed children’s picture book about a transgender girl, entitled I Am Jazz. The American Library Association recently ranked I Am Jazz number 3 on its list of the country’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2015, and it is consistently named a Best Seller in Amazon’s children’s sections. Today, Jessica travels around the country speaking to students, parents, teachers, politicians, and non-profit groups about how to use the book as a teaching tool, and why it is imperative to make schools and communities a safer place for all children. Her mix of booksmarts and humor can put even the most reluctant audiences at ease. And because Jessica comes to this work as a straight ally, no question is off-limits or too personal. A session with Jessica provides audiences with a better understanding of what it means to be transgender or a transgender ally in today’s rapidly changing world; and how to support unconditionally the friends, students, coworkers, or family members in our lives our lives who, for whatever reason, need to be reminded that “different is special.”

jazz jenningsJazz Jennings is an American YouTube personality, spokesmodel, television personality, and LGBT rights activist.  Jennings, a transgender teenage girl, is notable for being one of the youngest publicly documented people to be identified as transgender, and for being the youngest person to become a national transgender figure. Jennings received national attention in 2007 when an interview with Barbara Walters aired on 20/20, which led to other high-profile interviews and appearances. Christine Connelly, a member of the board of directors for the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, stated, “She was the first young person who picked up the national spotlight, went on TV and was able to articulate her perspective and point of view with such innocence.” Her parents noted that Jennings was clear on being female as soon as she could speak. Jennings is an honorary co-founder of the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, which she and her parents founded in 2007 to assist transgender youth. In 2013, she founded Purple Rainbow Tails, a company in which she fashions rubber mermaid tails to raise money for transgender children. Jennings hosts a series of YouTube videos about her life, titled “I Am Jazz”, making her one of the youngest trans women in history to speak out on issues publicly. Jennings stars in the TLC reality TV series, I Am Jazz, which focuses on her life with her family as a teenager and as a transgender youth. The series premiered on July 15, 2015.

Shelagh McNicholasShelagh McNicholas studied Illustration at Kingston Polytechnic and now lives in Liverpool with her daughter Molly…her constant inspiration, and their cat ‘Jelli’. She specializes in Children’s Book illustration including picture book, educational and special needs work. She is passionate about drawing and painting, always having a sketch book in her pocket to capture the moment. These include sketching behind the scenes at Wimbledon Theatre, ballet classes and farm yards. Shelagh is happiest when surrounded by children in their own little worlds, sketching them just being themselves, never spending more than seconds on catching the pose or scenario. Returning to the peace and quiet of her studio to draw and paint where she develops the characters to fit a specific brief. Most of her picture book artwork is created using a 3b soft pencil and watercolors. She is currently illustrating picture books for the USA and Australia working with publishers such as Scholastic USA, Random House, Tiger Tales and Hinkler and I am working on a few stories of my own!