We are in a time of serious anxiety.  This is now a perfect time to slow down and appreciate all that surrounds us – especially family.  Here are some outstanding books that showcase little things that we can do a little bit better to make life better.   All are picture books unless otherwise indicated and inspiring to all.

Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mr. Rogers, by Laura Renauld, is rich with gouache, colored pencil and Photoshop by Brigette Barrager, and is a brief biography of Fred Rogers’ life growing up.  When Fred was young and feeling sad his grandfather, McFeely, would tell him that “I happen to like you just the way you are.”  This nicely illustrated book with full double-page pictures emphasizes that everyone is special and that it’s ok to have feelings and to talk about and share those feelings.  This small statement couldn’t be more important than right now!

Everest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, by Alexandra Stewart, and wonderfully illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton, shows how two men who were very different climbed the highest peak in the world.  These two remarkable men achieved a feat in 1953 that seemed impossible.  Climbers had been attempting this glorious achievement for over thirty years.  Most had invested much time and money into the climb.  And many even died in the attempt.  To place into perspective how high this peak is: it is the height of twenty Empire State buildings on top of each other.  Hillary was from New Zealand and Norgay was born in Tibet.  They became strong friends who could trust each other during this very difficult climb.  The illustrations and drawings found throughout the book move the story along and invite all who open this over-sized biography to read from cover to cover.  The take-away from their achievement:  never give up, even in the face of very difficult challenges.

River, by Elisha Cooper, is a ride down the Hudson River.  However, it is much more than just a tour.  A young woman sets out at the beginning of this adventure in a canoe all by herself to travel all the way to the mouth of the river where it empties into the harbor of New York City.  It is a 315-mile journey and takes her past well-known edifices such as dams and some not so well-known attractions such as Bear Mountain Bridge and the railroad causeway.  The poetic-like descriptions of her journey weave like a loom between picture and prose.  The watercolor illustrations are magnificent and create a feeling of the reader going right along.  You can almost hear the ripple of the oars dipping into the water or the birds high overhead chirping or the trees rustling in the breeze.  Books like this over-size one permeate the love and appreciation of the beauty of nature and all that God has created!

Ruby’s Hope: A Story of How the Famous “Migrant Mother” Photograph Became the Face of the Great Depression, by Monica Kullng, and drawn with hues of yellows and browns by using graphite and colored digitally by Sarah Dvojack, displays a struggling family trying to survive the deep depression of the 1930’s. This picture book emotes the thick dust storms and horrible farming conditions that forced young Ruby and her family to leave Oklahoma for California looking for food, work and shelter.  The famous picture, taken by photographer Dorothea Lange, is of Ruby’s mother and can be found on the back cover. The story is told through the eyes of seven-year-old Ho and of her looking towards a hopeful future.

Almond, by Allen Say, celebrates the beauty and uniqueness found within each of us.  When young Almond meets a new girl in school who can play the violin better than ever, she feels inadequate.  She feels like the only particular thing she has is her long dark hair.  But that isn’t a talent or anything she learned so she feels discouraged.  But when she challenges herself and steps outside her comfort-zone, she finds something deep in herself that surprises even her.  Here is a book for all to consider the gifts God created just for you.  The gorgeous pictures of Almond were created using charcoal, pastels and photographs.

The Paper Kingdom, by Helena Ku Rhee, and brightly painted with endearing familial familiarity by Pascal Campion, celebrates ingenuity in the face of boredom.  When young Daniel must be taken to work with his parents he wishes his babysitter hadn’t cancelled.  His parents work as custodians in an office building during the nighttime and he must join them.  But these inventive parents create an imaginary kingdom for their little tyke to keep him entertained. Their brooms and mops become much more than cleaning equipment as their story evolves into dragons and kings in this paper kingdom.  The love and devotion of family, the power of imagination and the enchantment of language is at the heart of this beautiful book.

A Little Bit Brave, by Nicola Kinnear, is a sweet story about overcoming your fears and using your imagination.  Logan is a bunny who is content to always stay inside.  However, Luna is his friend who loves adventures.  When she can finally convince him to come with her and explore caves and deep underwater, he is amazed.  Ms. Kinnear has cleverly placed strategic items for Logan to take with him on this adventure that end up becoming very important.  The illustrations are voluminous and brilliant.  And the two friends are adorable which will bring smiles, and many rereads.