The best children’s books that create a sense of belonging

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve published many books for children, but this one is truly special. The Everybody Club is a collaboration with my dear friend Linda Hayen in memory of her daughter, Carissa. As a child, Carissa started a real-life Everybody Club. The first members were toys, dolls, the family cat, and her brothers, one of whom had severe disabilities. Carissa died in a car accident at the age of 16, and this book is Linda’s way of sharing her daughter’s generous spirit with the world. A note for adults at the end of the book shares this backstory.


I wrote...

The Everybody Club

By Nancy Loewen, Linda Hayen, Yana Zybina (illustrator)

Book cover of The Everybody Club

What is my book about?

The Everybody Club is a feel-good rhyming read-aloud. It's a book with plenty of heart and a powerful message: We belong. Every one of us. Join in the fun and see what the Everybody Club is up to in this catchy, joyful romp for young readers!

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness

Nancy Loewen Why did I love this book?

Kindness multiplies. These words (from the endnotes) come to life in the stirring story portrayed in I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness. The new girl in school is bullied, but another girl’s decision to walk her to school creates a community outpouring of empathy—and joy. The story itself has no words, but the illustrations offer many opportunities for discovery and discussion. One of my all-time favorites!

By Kerascoët,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked I Walk with Vanessa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This simple yet powerful picture book--from a New York Times bestselling husband-and-wife team--tells the story of one girl who inspires a community to stand up to bullying. The perfect back-to-school read for every kid, family and classroom!

Don't miss the companion book, I Forgive Alex, about the importance of compassion and forgiveness.

Inspired by real events, I Walk with Vanessa explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise in the wake of seeing a classmate treated badly, and shows how a single act of kindness can lead to an entire community joining in to help. By choosing only pictures…


Book cover of Ways to Welcome

Nancy Loewen Why did I love this book?

So often we address the “what” and “why” but not the “how.” Ways to Welcome is all about the “how.” Just how can we make others feel included? I love the specific examples in this book—from waves, smiles, and “hellos” to cups of tea, bouquets of flowers, and retrieving a lost hat. We even see ways we can welcome dogs, bees, and birds. The rhyming text is buoyant, and the illustrations are bold and bright. This book positively exudes warmth!

By Linda Ashman, Joey Chou (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ways to Welcome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A welcome can be warm
Or cold,
Shy and quiet,
Big and bold.
An offering,
A smiling face
That warms a cold and lonely place.
There's lots of ways to show we care
and welcome friends from everywhere!

When everyone knows they're welcome, the world is a better place - and you might just make a new friend. This timeless picture book about small acts of kindness in a big world is one that kids and grown-ups will reach for again and again.


Book cover of Circle Round

Nancy Loewen Why did I love this book?

What can a circle be? It can be a ball, a bike tire, a bubble, a cookie, a balloon… A circle can also be people joined together in the spirit of love and acceptance. Circle Round has few words, but the illustrations pull readers into a world full of activity and fun. It’s a counting book that is both playful and profound. 

At the end of the book, I felt I was part of the circle myself.

By Anne Sibley O'Brien, Hanna Cha (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Circle Round as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A circle of children ask others to join in their play and soon find out that inclusion is irresistible!

From the author of I'm New Here and Someone New comes an inspiring new story of inclusion. One child in a park waves over a second child. Two children then wave over a third. Counting from one to ten, a growing circle of children see new faces outside the group and invite them over. Children of different abilities, ages, genders, and races demonstrate how easy it can be to expand your group, extend yourself, and welcome new friends.


Book cover of Lovely

Nancy Loewen Why did I love this book?

“Different, weird, and wonderful”—this is how the author describes “lovely,” and I think that’s a great description of the book itself. Lovely is quirky and bold and puts a different spin on the usual tropes. For example, “black” shows a fair-skinned woman in a black ensemble, holding a black umbrella (a goth Mary Poppins!) and “white” shows a black woman with flowing white hair and striking white eyebrows. I especially loved the hairy leg with fancy, pearl-draped shoes and the prosthetic leg with sporty shoes. There’s even a character with a monobrow that spells “lovely.” And bonus points for using the fun word “stompy”!

By Jess Hong,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lovely as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly. Lovely explores a world of differences that all add up to the same thing: we are all lovely!


Book cover of Change Sings: A Children's Anthem

Nancy Loewen Why did I love this book?

Written by Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, the text of Change Sings is particularly dense with poetic devices such as assonance and rhyme. The story is in the illustrations, and it’s a powerful one. A girl with a guitar meets a boy with a tuba, and gradually they are joined by others, who are given instruments as well. As the band grows, the characters do all sorts of community-building tasks, such as picking up garbage, building a wheelchair ramp, and painting a mural. The illustrations are rich and deep. Many books with the theme of inclusion are meant for younger readers, but I think Change Sings would be an especially good choice for sharing this theme with older readers.

By Amanda Gorman, Loren Long (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Change Sings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A lyrical picture book debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author and presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman and #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long
 
"I can hear change humming
In its loudest, proudest song.
I don't fear change coming,
And so I sing along."
 
In this stirring, much-anticipated picture book by presidential inaugural poet and activist Amanda Gorman, anything is possible when our voices join together. As a young girl leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, they learn that they have the power to make changes—big or small—in the world, in their communities, and…


You might also like...

We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

By Amy T. Waldman, Peter Jest,

Book cover of We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

Amy T. Waldman

New book alert!

What is my book about?

This irreverent biography provides a rare window into the music industry from a promoter’s perspective. From a young age, Peter Jest was determined to make a career in live music, and despite naysayers and obstacles, he did just that, bringing national acts to his college campus atUW-Milwaukee, booking thousands of concerts across Wisconsin and the Midwest, and opening Shank Hall, the beloved Milwaukee venue named after a club in the cult film This Is Spinal Tap.

Jest established lasting friendships with John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, and others, but ultimately, this book tells a universal story of love and hope…

We Had Fun and Nobody Died: Adventures of a Milwaukee Music Promoter

By Amy T. Waldman, Peter Jest,

What is this book about?

The entertaining and inspiring story of a stubbornly independent promoter and club owner 

This irreverent biography provides a rare window into the music industry from a promoter’s perspective. From a young age, Peter Jest was determined to make a career in live music, and despite naysayers and obstacles, he did just that, bringing national acts to his college campus at UW–Milwaukee, booking thousands of concerts across Wisconsin and the Midwest, and opening Shank Hall, the beloved Milwaukee venue named after a club in the cult film This Is Spinal Tap.

This funny, nostalgia-inducing book details the lasting friendships Jest established…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in change, play and playing, and prejudices?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about change, play and playing, and prejudices.

Change Explore 39 books about change
Play And Playing Explore 16 books about play and playing
Prejudices Explore 29 books about prejudices