In response to the thousands of people who use our children’s book lists, we periodically add titles that make wonderful gifts for the holidays or for any occasion. These books, chosen to help develop the next generation of global citizens, are arranged by age appropriateness.
Mama Miti, Donna Jo Napoli (Illustrated by Kadir Nelson) Ages 4-8 (2010)
There are many biographies written for children about Wangari Maathai (Mama Miti), the Nobel Prize-winning founder of the Greenbelt Movement in Kenya. What makes this one special, in addition to the powerful story, are the beautiful illustrations by Kadir Nelson. Reading this book aloud is as much a treat for adults as for children.
Gracie’s Night, A Hanukkah Story, Lynn Taylor Gordon, Ages 3-8 (2013)
There’s lots of love in Gracie’s and Papa’s lives, but not much money. Gracie finds a resourceful way to buy Papa some well deserved Hanukkah gifts, but an encounter on a bitterly cold night opens her eyes and alters her plans.” (Publisher’s description) This book about generosity speaks to everyone.
Nelson Mandela, Kadir Nelson Ages 5-9 (2011)
The strength and of Kadir Nelson’s emotionally packed illustrations perfectly match the importance of Nelson Mandela’s as a change-maker. Told in a simple and truthful voice that is accessible to children as young as age 5.
I Will Aways Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives, Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka, Ages 12 and up (2015)
This best-selling book is a “dual memoir” told alternately from the perspectives of the two writers who were assigned to each other as pen pals when they were young teenagers. “The remarkable tenacity of these two souls pulled like magnets across the world by their opposite polarities – one committed to helping, the other to surviving – is deeply affecting…It’s quite a little miracle of unexpected genuineness.”―New York Times Book Review
Last Stop on Market Street, Matt de la Pena, Ages 3-6 (2015)
In this Newberry Medal winner, we meet CJ and his grandmother waiting for a bus after going to church. He has many questions and she answers them with patience and wisdom. Through their conversation, it is clear that their family has little income but is rich in many other ways. We don’t know where they are going until the last stop on Market Street, where they get out of the bus to volunteer at a soup kitchen. The relationship between this African-American grandma and her grandson is a model for all of us who want to help raise the next generation of global citizens.
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, Miranda Paul, Ages 5-9 (2015)
”The simple format of this picture book belies the strength of its content, a story lovingly supported by charming collage illustrations. As a girl, Ceesay realized that the goats on which her village relied were dying because they were eating plastic bags. She also saw that people were tossing the used bags on the ground just as they had always thrown away their baskets when no longer useful except the plastic bags, unlike the baskets, weren’t biodegradable. So Ceesay figured out how to use crochet, a skill with which the villagers were already familiar, to make purses out of the plastic bags. The simple but lyrical text conveys this beautiful, thought-provoking tale of ecological awareness and recycling.” (–starred, School Library Journal)
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote; a Migrant’s Tale, Duncan Tonatiuh Ages 6-9 (2013)
When Pancho Rabbit’s father, who has been picking carrots and lettuce in the North to support his family, fails to come home when expected, Poncho sets out to find him. He meets a Coyote—literally and figuratively—who helps him but at too great a price. Luckily, Poncho Rabbit’s father finds him just in time. This award-winning picture book rings true, and the animal characters make it less scary than human characters would. Duncan Tonatiuh is the author of many excellent books that focus on Latino families.
Wonder, R.J. Palacio Ages 8 and up (2012)
In addition to making numerous best book lists, this book about a child born with a facial deformity and the response of others to him, is the #4 bestselling children’s book on Amazon, with over 11,000 reviews averaging 5 stars! (It has also been made into a movie). The potential for discussion at any age from about 8 up is so powerful that it is hard to assign an age range. “Wonder is essentially … a wonder. It’s well-written, engaging, and so much fun to read that the pages almost turn themselves. More than that, Wonder touches the heart in the most life-affirming, unexpected ways… Do yourself a favor and read this book – your life will be better for it.” – Nicholas Sparks
Wonder Girls: Changing our World, Paola Gianturco and Alex Sangster, Ages 8 and up (2017)
This amazing book, written collaboratively by photojournalist Paola Gianturco and her 11-year-old granddaughter, documents the work of fifteen activist groups worldwide lead by girls under the age of 18. These girls are working on equal rights, education, ending child marriage, domestic violence, and other urgent issues in their communities. The work of these young activists is inspiring, as is the quality of the photographs and the writing. All royalties from the book go to The Global Fund for Women which in turn makes grants to activist women and girls in 177 countries.
Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhha Lai, Ages 13- 18 (2011)
This story of a family fleeing Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and moving to Alabama as refugees is based on the author’s own experience and told in verse. This New York Times bestseller has won a National Book Award and a Newberry Honor Medal.
Refugee, Alan Gatz Ages 9-12 and up (2017)
What could be more timely than the story of refugees? This highly acclaimed book intertwines the stories of three teenage refugees and their families from WW2 to the current Syrian crisis. . One is fleeing Nazi Germany for Cuba in 1930, another is fleeing Cuba in 1994 for the US, and the third is fleeing Syria in 2015. “Filled with both tragic loss and ample evidence of resilience, these memorable and tightly plotted stories contextualize and give voice to current refugee crises, underscoring that these journeys are born out of a desperate need for security and safety.” Publishers Weekly” Warning— Some content may be emotionally difficult for readers at the younger end of the age range, especially if they are reading this book independently.
A Long Walk to Water, Linda Sue Park, Ages 10 and up (2013)
This bestselling novel is based on true stories of Sudanese children whose lives ultimately intersect. Salva is one of the “lost boys” of Sudan. Nya, the girl in the story, must walk miles every day to fetch water. This story is one of great hardship and endurance, with a bit of good luck. Salva is ultimately adopted by an American family and later goes back to Sudan to build a well.