Sunday, August 10, 2014

10 for 10 Picture Books To Open Your Heart

It's August 10th, which means it's time to share some of our most beloved picture books of the year! Picture Book 10 for 10 is finally here!

The celebration is hosted by Cathy from Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  They do so much work to get the word out about this event and I just want to thank them for their commitment to books! 

I really struggled to choose my theme this year for the Picture Book 10 for 10 in 2014!  In 2011, the theme I choose for my top 10 list was Picture Books for Teacher Workshops.  My 10 for 10 list last February included Nonfiction Books for Kid Writers.  I knew I wanted this year's August theme to revolve around an area that I had really been immersing myself in over the last year.

The topics of mindfulness, love, compassion, forgiveness, community, listening and presence have really been heavy with me.  Professionally, devouring books like Educating From the Heart, The Heart of Learning, The Way of Mindful Education and The Soul of Education this summer have all given me so much thoughtful inspiration and I'm itching to weave this in to working with teachers and children this coming year.

After pondering for awhile, I realized that all of these themes overlap and are woven together with golden threads.  So, I'm naming my collection of 10 for 10 Picture Books in 2014 ~ Books to Open Your Heart.  If we can all live with an open and compassionate heart, we will be mindful, forgiving, build community and listen with presence.

So, here we go. . .

1.  Flight School by Lita Judge

This poor little penguin dreams to fly in the worst way so he attends flight school.  His teachers and friends practice with him as much as they can, but sadly, he is a penguin, and upon his first real flight, he sinks to the bottom of the sea like a rock.  Seeing how brokenhearted he is, his teachers come up with a plan to help him fly.  The entire crew and the instructors rejoice seeing him accomplish his goal - a true sense of community that it took for penguin to fly!  The book ends with penguin bringing back another friend that wishes to learn to take flight - and ostrich.

These friends and teachers could have shunned the penguin, but instead, they opened their hearts to him and treated him with respect and how they would want to be treated.  Because of this, the penguin now is wanting to give back and help more friends achieve their dreams.

2. Sparky by Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans

What attracted me to this book were the illustrations.  Colored pencil/water color with simple drawings hook me line and sinker with any picture book.

Told from a little girl's point of view, she shares her story of wanting a pet, but her mother says no every day for a month until her mother finally says she can have a pet as long as it doesn't need to be walked or bathed or fed (not thinking she'd find one.)  Well, she does.

So, she buys a sloth.

The sloth is named Sparky and frankly, he is a sloth.  He sleeps in a tree throughout the whole book. The little girl tries to get him to do things, but he fails.  She then tries to put on a talent show with Sparky to outshine her friend's pet who can do all kinds of tricks.  As predicted, the sloth does not perform any of the planned tricks and the audience walks away.

The ending is the heart warmer.  This dear little girl shows a love for this pet that you can feel, even though he is not the pet she wishes for.  If only we all loved each other even when they did not live up to our expectations.

3.  My Happy Life by Rose Lagercrantz

This little gem is actually a beginning chapter book, but it's filled with darling illustrations.  The main character, a five year old kindergarten girl, and she is just the happiest person in the world - her heart so full.  Starting kindergarten, meeting her best friend, and other happy memories are ones she remembers to recall whenever she feels sad.

Then hard things happen, losing her friend, not getting the pet she wants and losing her mom.  Dani's heart goes through many ups and downs in this treasure of a book and what it teaches is that we will have heartbreaks in our lives, but life goes on and there are still so many good things for us to rejoice in.  Always keep your heart happy.

Once you finish this book, you'll want to check out My Heart is Laughing, also by Rose Lagercrantz.

4.  Because Amelia Smiled by David Erza Stein

This is a story that demonstrates the ripple effect and how even a small act like smiling can spread kindness and love across the globe - and it just might even come back to you.  There is a ton of details in the illustrations for children to study and the book just radiates loving energy.

5.  The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

In this story many children will see themselves.  A boy who feels invisible in his classroom shares what it's like to not be noticed by his teacher and others in the class.  So, he eats by himself and spends time by himself at recess doing what he loves most - drawing.  The illustrator even depicted the feelings of being invisible by creating the drawings with Brian, the main character, in black and white and the rest of the story in color.

One day, a new boy, Justin, joins the class.  Because of his compassion for Brian, others begin to recognize his talents as an artist and he eventually is included by his peers.  

This book makes me think of the power just one person can make in someone else's life.

6.  Boot and Shoe by Marla Frazee

Two small pups sharing a home perform many of their daily tasks together.  During the day, one retreats to the front porch and the other to the back porch.  Eventually, a squirrels shakes up their routine and after chasing this critter, both dogs end up exhausted and at a loss of each other.  They search through rain, hunger and cold trying to find each other and finally, in the dark of night, they meet at their favorite tree to pee.  Joy unfolds.  

This is a story about how friends hold a piece of our hearts and when separated, we are broken, shaken and not ourselves.  Again, a joyful homecoming at the end.

7.  Love is Forever by Casey Rislov

A heartful story of Little Owl who has recently lost her grandfather.  All wise owls, her parents and brother owl attempt to make sense of the loss and face the reality of death.  Little Owl learns that the love of her family and friends (dragonfly, butterfly and snail) strengthen and heal each other when faced with loss.  Little Owl also learns a big lesson in that love is all around us in spirit and that her grandfather will always be with her, even after he is gone.

8.  The Grudge Keeper by Mara Rockliff

This sweet story reminds me of the days I used to have my 3rd graders write down their grievances and put them in a box.  A little ploy to reduce tattling. :-)

In this story, the villagers of Bonnieripple never hold grudges.  Instead they write them all down on snippets of paper and give them Cornelius, the Grudgekeeper.  How would you like that job?  Soon, Cornelius' house is filled to the roof with grudges!  A wind overtakes them and Cornelius is buried in the paper mountain.  As the villagers search for Cornelius in the mighty mess, they come together and renew friendships as their grudges seem to be forgotten.

A true example of loving thy neighbor.

9.  Gaston by Kelly DePucchio

This is one of those ugly ducklings accidentally switched at birth stories.  Two dog families, the Poodle family and the Bull dog family have new litters of pups.  Both families have one pup who does not quite fit in with the others.  One day, the families meet and it's obvious that there has been a mix up, so, with much apprehension, they decide to switch the pups back to their real families.  After much unhappiness in both families, they re-exchange them to their original families.  The families become friends and continue to meet up and teach each other the skills they each have - the poodles teach the bull dogs how to be tender and the bull dogs give the poodles some lessons on being tough.

This is a perfect story of how love grows in nurturing the ones we're with.

10.  Maple by Lori Nichols

This is a darling story of a little girl named Maple, whose parents planted a small Maple sapling, in her honor, when Maple was still in her mother's belly.  As Maple grew, so did the sapling, passing through the ups and downs of the seasons of life.  Maple found comfort in the tree by calling it her friend, singing to it, swayed around it and loved the tree. Although the tree was her dearest friend, she longed for a human friend to play with.  Soon, another sapling appeared and Maple learns that a sibling is coming soon as well.

This story shows the love of nature and how all things living are our friends and companions.

There are so many heart filled and compassion stories written to share with our children.  We need to continue to read literature that models this as well as be a model for compassion and love ourselves if we hope to create a loving and safe classroom and a world where love prevails.

Shari :-)


  1. Shari I love your collection some great books in there. I collect picture books that inspire me. I will keep an eye out for some of these. Great post.

  2. I really adore this list. I know these books well or I want to know them well, #7 though is brand new to me. A very special list. Sparky is just the most wonderful isn't it? In the mood to read it again after reading your write up.

  3. Shari,
    You have several books on your list that are new to me. There are so many #heartprint books here to use in professional development or any type of community building. You had several professional titles that caught my attention too. Thanks for sharing your selections.


  4. Great choices! I haven't read any of them yet but just looking at the cover art makes want to run to the bookstore right away :).

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.