The best hope-filled children’s books

Who am I?

I am a word gatherer. I can sweet-talk a phrase here and surprise a pun there—finding the words to hold a feeling. I revel in playing with words for the sheer joy of writing. My passion is cultivating the heart-to-heart writer/reader connection. A joy-bringer, my glass is always half-full. A former Poetry Day Liaison for OCTELA (Ohio Teachers of English Language Arts), a Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project, educator, author, and poet, I share hope-filled stories and poems.

I wrote...

When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children

By Janie Reinart, Morgan Taylor (illustrator),

Book cover of When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children

What is my book about?

When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children is a tribute to the resourcefulness of children who have no toys but continue to play. Play is the work of a child. You will be inspired by the refugee children's use of critical thinking, problem-solving, design, and engineering skills. 

The exquisite pictures in a National Geographic article started the picture book story for me. Nora Lorek, the photographer graciously gave me her email and became my inspiration and resource. This picture book is dedicated to the 200,000 refugee children living at the Bidibidi settlement in Uganda. These refugee children come with nothing but their hopes and dreams. Their hope becomes our hope. Publisher’s profits from this book are being donated to UNICEF Uganda.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

A Flood of Kindness

By Ellen Leventhal, Blythe Russo (illustrator),

Book cover of A Flood of Kindness

Why this book?

I appreciate the gentle way Ellen Leventhal empowers children in this picture book—showing even the youngest child can do small things to help others. Charlotte, the main character, her parents, and her toy bear arrive at the shelter after evacuating their home because of flooding. Charlotte watches people at the shelter and in the community share acts of kindness with the flood victims. Even though she is sad and upset, she follows their example. When Charlotte sees a younger child crying because his teddy was lost in the flood, she gives her stuffie to the little boy. It reminds me of how attached my two-year-old grandson is to his teddy bear. These small gestures shine a light of healing and hope during a natural disaster. 

Mimic Makers: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature

By Kristen Nordstrom, Paul Boston (illustrator),

Book cover of Mimic Makers: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature

Why this book?

I purchased this book for my own little inventor—my second-grade granddaughter. She pores over the pages of this book soaking in the stories of the biomimicry inventors who solved problems by observing the natural world. Kristen Nordstrom’s stories encourage her to wonder. Her favorite invention stories come from activities she pursues herself outside—watching birds and chasing propeller maple seeds. I particularly like the resources and suggestions for how children can be mimic makers in the book. Mimic makers are our hope for finding solutions to problems.

A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela's Hope for His Nation

By Lindsey McDivitt, Charly Palmer (illustrator),

Book cover of A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela's Hope for His Nation

Why this book?

Lindsey McDivitt’s lyrical language and Charly Palmer’s powerful illustrations go hand in hand drawing me into the storytelling of this picture book biography. I need to read books and be inspired by ordinary people who do extraordinary things. The story tells us how Nelson Mandela missed his wife and five children after being unjustly imprisoned for 27 years but continued his education during his years in prison. Nelson Mandela is an example for all of us showing the characteristics of leadership—courage, love, understanding, patience, sacrifice, hard work, and a passion for freedom from an unjust apartheid system for non-white citizens. His desire was for unity and freedom for everyone. Nelson Mandela’s example gives us hope for the world.

Branches of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

By Ann Magee, Nicole Wong (illustrator),

Book cover of Branches of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Why this book?

The true story of the survivor tree—the pear tree that survived the 9/11 attack—is tenderly told by Ann Magee. As a mom of a veteran, it takes me back to that time. After this tragedy, my youngest son enlisted in the National Guard and was eventually deployed. His motivation? “There’s all the more reason now,” he replied. The tree’s resilience represents the strength of our nation and its helpers. This picture book is a beautiful tribute to all first responders and gives us hope for the future.

Outside in

By Deborah Underwood, Cindy Derby (illustrator),

Book cover of Outside in

Why this book?

During the pandemic, I seek refuge outdoors. I walk from my home to a metro park in my neighborhood. The woods are soothing in their peacefulness and beauty. When I read Deborah Underwood’s Outside In, that same peacefulness surrounds me. Cindy Derby’s watercolor illustrations are stunning. The lyrical language and illustrations in the book are comforting and exhilarating at the same time. The beauty of nature is our hope for healing.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in September 11th, South Africa, and mindfulness?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about September 11th, South Africa, and mindfulness.

September 11th Explore 45 books about September 11th
South Africa Explore 74 books about South Africa
Mindfulness Explore 67 books about mindfulness

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like 102 Minutes, The Eleventh Day, and I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001 if you like this list.