The best picture books to read when you don’t have the answers

Who am I?

I’d been a preschool teacher and a children’s author for years before I decided to become a mom. I was pretty sure I’d kill it at motherhood, I mean, I knew all the songs and I had lots of books. I was always up for giving advice to the caregivers at my school, heck, I was the perfect parent before my son was born. I knew everything then. Not anymore. Thank goodness for books. Over the years, my child has asked some tough questions, read on…you’ll see. Do they sound familiar? If so, these books might help you find your footing as you go looking for answers. 


I wrote...

Stacey Abrams: Lift Every Voice

By Sarah Warren, Monica Mikai (illustrator),

Book cover of Stacey Abrams: Lift Every Voice

What is my book about?

Stacey Abrams: Lift Every Voice follows Stacey's life from her girlhood to the present, but it also portrays the ordinary people that Stacey fights for—the beautiful and diverse America that shows up to stand with one another. Backmatter includes a timeline of changes in US voting-rights law from the Constitution through the present day, demonstrating both how far the country has come and how far we have to go. With its spirited text and vivid illustrations, Stacey Abrams: Lift Every Voice will inspire readers to take their own steps forward.

The books I picked & why

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Each Kindness

By Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. Lewis (illustrator),

Book cover of Each Kindness

Why this book?

“Mommy, do I have to sit by her?”

My kid can be a real jerk. He picks a genre of child and decides they’re terrible. He’s been horrified by the existence of girls, boys, toddlers, big kids, and human babies. It’s straight-up bigotry, and it’s not okay with me. I’ve preached and preached on sharing space and being nice. Each Kindness doesn’t preach. We stand in the main character’s shoes as she decides who deserves kindness and who doesn’t. We feel the consequences.

Each Kindness

By Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. Lewis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Each Kindness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF A CORETTA SCOTT KING HONOR AND THE JANE ADDAMS PEACE AWARD!

Each kindness makes the world a little better

This unforgettable book is written and illustrated by the award-winning team that created The Other Side and the Caldecott Honor winner Coming On Home Soon. With its powerful anti-bullying message and striking art, it will resonate with readers long after they've put it down.

Chloe and her friends won't play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe's teacher gives a…

Sarah Rising

By Ty Chapman,

Book cover of Sarah Rising

Why this book?

“Mommy, is George Floyd going to be okay?”

My son knows George Floyd is not going to be okay, but he won’t stop asking. I think he’s just wondering if he’s safe…if his neighbors are safe…if the world is going to be okay. I don’t know the answers. I try to cover. I lecture. I complain. I blame. I confuse him. This book did what I never could. It’s about a protest. It’s also about family, love, power, community, and bugs. Sarah’s story engaged my child’s heart and mind so much better than any of my amazing lectures. The world is not okay, but Sarah showed us that we can do something about it, and that makes us feel a little safer.

Sarah Rising

By Ty Chapman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sarah starts her day like any other day: she eats her toast and feeds her bugs. But today isn't a day like any other day. Today, her dad brings her to a protest to speak out against police violence against Black people. The protesters are loud, and Sarah gets scared. When Sarah spots a beautiful monarch butterfly and follows it through the crowd, she finds herself inside the no-man's land between the line of police and protesters. In the moments that follow, Sarah is confronted with the cruelty of those who are supposed to protect her and learns what it…


Outside, Inside

By LeUyen Pham,

Book cover of Outside, Inside

Why this book?

“When we couldn’t go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, were they playing without me?”

It’s hard for me to put the last two years into context for my son. I was a little detached. I was busy thinking about the future, a “someday soon” when we could be around people, go to the movies, go to school, hug our friends…I feel like I missed nearly half of his life! This book is a reminder of what we’ve experienced, how we’ve changed, and how we got to the place we are now.

Outside, Inside

By LeUyen Pham,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Caldecott honoree LeUyen Pham, Outside, Inside is a moving picture book celebrating essential workers and the community coming together to face the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Something strange happened in 2020, just before the seasons changed. Everyone who was outside, went inside. Outside, it was quieter and different. Inside, we laughed, we cried, we baked, we exercised, we kept in touch... and we grew. We remembered to protect the ones we love and love the ones who protect us. We watched with admiration and respect as key workers risked their own wellbeing to help others. We knew…

It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity

By Theresa Thorn, Noah Grigni (illustrator),

Book cover of It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity

Why this book?

“Why is that dad wearing a dress?”

It wasn’t the first time my toddler commented on someone’s appearance in front of them, but I was convinced that his question sounded like a judgment. We have never left our grocery store so fast. I was angry. He was worried. Had he done something wrong? Yes! Maybe? I didn’t know. Had I? Yes. I wanted my family to be cool with all forms of gender expression, but I hadn’t built the common ground or the vocabulary to make that vision a reality. I’d projected my own fears, ignorance, and self-consciousness onto my child. I blew it. This book gave me words. We don’t assume anything about ourselves or other people anymore. I can see that my son’s curiosity comes from a place of sincerity and positivity. Now, I have the confidence to follow his lead.

It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book about Gender Identity

By Theresa Thorn, Noah Grigni (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked It Feels Good to Be Yourself as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between.

This sweet, straightforward exploration of gender identity will give children a fuller understanding of themselves and others. Written by the mother of a transgender child and illustrated by a non-binary transgender artist, It Feels Good to Be Yourself provides young readers and parents alike with the vocabulary to discuss this important topic with sensitivity.

The Rabbit Listened

By Cori Doerrfeld,

Book cover of The Rabbit Listened

Why this book?

Sometimes I don’t have the answers. Sometimes there is no right answer. This book reminds me that there are moments when I need to stop trying to control the narrative. Even if my chest feels as tight as a balloon, full of love and the need to fix everything, I keep my mouth shut. I silently root for my son as he finds his own way forward.

The Rabbit Listened

By Cori Doerrfeld,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Rabbit Listened as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With its spare, poignant text and irresistibly sweet illustrations, The Rabbit Listened is a tender meditation on loss. When something terrible happens, Taylor doesn't know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn't feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that's not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to process this loss, and one by one they fail. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen, which is just what Taylor needs. Whether…

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Interested in quarantines, school, and gender variance?

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