Children absorb stress. They know about political uneasiness, weather tragedies and racial issues. One of the best ways to combat their stress is for parents to read empowering, positive, thoughtful books to them. Here are a few.
"Salam Alaikum: A Message of Peace" by Harris J.; pictures by Ward Jenkins; Simon & Schuster; 32 pages; $17.99.
Young British Muslim artist and musician Harris J. aims to spread his message of peace and love to youngsters in this joyous picture book. "Salam Alaikum" means "peace be upon you" and is a greeting Muslims use to say hello and goodbye. He couples the lyrics from the hit song of the same name with energetic, happy illustrations that depict people paying it forward.
Kindness and community are focal points in this book. In a call to action, he writes: "Spread peace on earth ... Treasure the love, let it surround us. Always be kind, always remind one another. Peace on earth every day."
"Salam Alaikum" is a multicultural ode to the best in humanity, a loving, fun way to fight stereotypes and promote kindness.
"Sing, Don't Cry" by Angela Dominguez; Henry Holt & Co.; 32 pages; $17.99.
Angela Dominguez's grandfather, Apolinar Navarrete Diaz, lost his leg in a bus accident as a child, but he learned to play guitar and grew up to be a popular Mexican musician. Dominguez wanted to share his optimism and songs with others, so she penned this lovely picture book tale about him. With liner pages full of photos of Navarette in the 1940s, his band and his guitar stills, and Diaz's message of "Sing, don't cry," this optimistic book is a testimonial to resilience.
Dominguez' charming, muted illustrations show a loving family adoring their patriarch. His uplifting advice is to sing because it makes distances seem smaller, allows lost things to make room for new ones and "can attract someone to sing with you."
Everybody can sing -- and should, "Because singing gladdens the heart," especially in times like these.
"The Bad Mood and the Stick" by Lemony Snicket; illustrated by Mathew Forsythe; Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 40 pages; $17.99.
I had no idea how much I would love this book, and it's truly cooler the more I read it. Author Lemony Snicket is known for his chapter books, but he does wonderfully here with the offbeat tale of a bad-mood cloud and how it affects Curly, her mother and a man who falls in mud. Though the mood passes on to others, the stick remains a part of the tale until an ice cream scooper sees its beauty and turns it into a work of art. The bad mood gets thwarted as well, when mud-soaked Lou meets dry-cleaner Mrs. Durham, who finds him charming and sends the mood out the window.
Retro-cool illustrations from Matthew Forsythe make every page look like it's out of a 1960s reader. The entire tale reminds me of an original "Mr. Men" or "Little Miss" book. It's a surefire way to turn a frown upside down.
It will be released Oct. 3, 2017.
"This Beautiful Day" by Richard Jackson; illustrated by Suzy Lee; Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books; 34 pages; $15.99.
"This beautiful day ... has everyone dancing and spinning and swinging around," writes Richard Jackson, but not because it's sunny outside. No, it's pretty darn rainy and miserable, but these happy kids don't see it that way. They skip and sing and call aloud in puddles, and they release their umbrellas to the sky once it stops raining. Then they climb trees "high-fiving and yes, we're-alive-ing" in the marigold sun.
Suzy Lee's beautiful, flowing sketches evoke the pure joy the characters have no matter the weather. Jackson's sparse text is singsongy and positive and will remind young kids to take joy in every day.
"Everywhere, Wonder" by Matthew Swanson; illustrated by Robbi Behr; Imprint/Macmillan; 42 pages; $17.99.
A little boy takes a journey and reminds himself and others that "the world is full of people and places, all of them interesting" and beautiful if you keep your eyes wide open as you go. He visits the pyramids in Egypt, the rainforest in Brazil, the Grand Canyon, the moon and more.
The boy acknowledges that there are other wonders "not so far from where you are now" and tells us, "Stop to look, and you will see them." He finds a dime at the bottom of a pool, a balloon in a tree and one noodle unlike the others in his soup. He reminds us to open our eyes and our window and let our story into the world.
"Everywhere, Wonder" is a real gem, a truly vivid, empowering, colorful, adventurous tale that's perfect for kids who need a reminder of how joyous life is.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.