Teaching Cultural Compassion

September 19, 2023

Read Them More Fairy Tales

When I was a kid, a few authors took on new versions of fairy tales--but they pale in comparison to some of the latest.  From envisioning traditional fairy tales in a different culture... or totally out of this universe, these authors and illustrators have been up to the challenge!

My favorite authors/illustrators who have taken on multiple tales are:

Deborah Underwood and Meg Hunt who have created Interstellar Cinderella, Reading Beauty, and Jo Bright and the Seven Bots among others.  These not only take place in futuristic, interstellar space,  but they also challenge gender roles and the ideas of good and evil as a simple dichotomy.

Wallace West has also taken on the idea of specific gender roles and stereotypes in Cinda Meets Ella and Mighty Red Riding Hood.  He has decided this will be a series, so watch for more "fairly queer tales" in the future!

Corey Rosen Schwartz has taken on several fairy tales, including several featuring only animals, to update them to a sillier, more fun form with different power dynamics.  So if you want to see Ninja Red Riding Hood or Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears, check out Corey's books!

I also really appreciate retellings that show us non-European characters.  Why shouldn't The Little Mermaid or Little Red Riding Hood be Black girls?  Jerry Pinkney could certainly imagine them that way!

And what about bilingual versions?  Susan Middleton Elya has written La Princesa and the Pea, Little Roja Riding Hood, and Rubia and the Three Osos to help you have a good rhyming time with mixed Spanish and English.

And some of my favorites are the "Islamic Tale" settings by Fawzia Gilani-Williams .  These versions give us a main character who is good and kind, not simply because she's Cinderella or Snow White and that's how the story goes--but because she is a girl of faith.  Make sure to check out her versions of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel!

These and a few others that I just couldn't leave out can be found here on Teaching Cultural Compassion's Bookshop page.

Reminder that  a small commission for books purchased through TCC's bookshop.org list links go toward furthering the work of Teaching Cultural Compassion.

May 30, 2023

Teaching Cultural Compassion is Growing!

After some silence in the last month, you finally get to see the latest efforts... *drumroll*
You can now subscribe to Teaching Cultural Compassion via Patreon!  With different levels of support, you can give with no extras in return, get more book recommendations each month, or even receive a story time guide to help create conversation with kids while reading together!  It is ready and launched and you can see the details of how to subscribe by clicking this link!  (There are even pictures to walk you through, if it's your first experience of Patreon!)

On the subject of growing, I've picked four books to feature -- with more via Patreon if you subscribe!

I'm Growing Great by Mechal Renee Roe is a great reminder, especially to Black girls, that it's ok to still be growing.  One can be strong and smart and compassionate already, and still be "growing great!"

The Tree in Me by Corinna Luyken reminds us that much like trees, humans are strong and connected and always growing. 

The Wall and the Wild by Christina Dendy and Katie Rewse is a great reminder that we are not only the things we want to plant... but a much more complex and even more beautiful garden of life!

And for our littlest ones, I highly recommend Maple by Lori Nichols which comes in board book form.  It is the story of a little girl, and the tree planted for her when she was born.  (And watch for I'm Growing Great's board book release this winter!

Reminder that  a small commission for books purchased through TCC's bookshop.org list links go toward furthering the work of Teaching Cultural Compassion.

April 24, 2023

National Library Week!

I grew up loving my local library.  I was even a junior librarian, helping make sure everything looked good and learning the Dewey Decimal System!  I have loved books my whole life.  I see a reflection of myself in these books about libraries, and I hope you will, too.  (I've described my favorites below, but in the Bookshop.org links, you'll see there are many more!)

There are two beautiful books that have been released in the last couple of years that show the library as a second (or maybe first) home.  A Library by Nikki Giovanni and Erin K Robinson  and Dear Librarian by Lydia M. Sigwarth and Romina Galotta  both feature girls who see their local library as a place of solace and a place to be themselves.

Stacey's Remarkable Books by Stacey Abrams and Kitt Thomas  and Nour's Secret Library by Wafa' Tarnowska and Vali Mintzi are both about girls who start book clubs... very different book clubs.  However, in peacetime or war, kids who gather other kids around books find escape and belonging in the same place.

And what happens when your library disappears?  Does the town still need one?  In Nia and the New Free Library, Ian Lendler and Mark Pett show us a new version of the legend of Stone Soup and the building of a new library.

I would love for you to buy these books to have them for the future, but I would also like to remind you of WorldCat.  WorldCat.org is a largely inclusive catalog of public (and some private) libraries!  If you go to the Book Search page, you'll notice that there's a little blue library logo to the left of each title.  That link will take you to WorldCat where you can enter your zip code and find the nearest library with that title!  And remember, be kind and appreciative of your librarians.

Reminder that  a small commission for books purchased through TCC's bookshop.org list links go toward furthering the work of Teaching Cultural Compassion.

June 8, 2021

Picture books aren't just for kids!!!

It's getting really warm outside, but our insides are maybe not feeling the warm feelings right now.  As grownups, it's easy to watch the news and talk to people and feel a bit depressed about what's going on in the world.  In my opinion, this is exactly where picture books can help.

In a very short period of time, a picture book can make you laugh, smile, cry a little, feel hope and joy and remind you of a lot of the things you have forgotten--or never were taught in the first place: that most people are good, that you can do a lot as one person, that you are in charge of your own heart, that you matter, that you can indeed be fierce and take on the world.... and that's just my top five!!

So here are my top 10 picture book recommendations for adults to bring back some hope and do some self-care:

Most People by Michael Leannah and Jennifer E. Morris is a reminder that MOST PEOPLE want to be good and happy and loving.  When we watch the news, we really need this reminder.

The Power of One: Every Act of Kindness Counts by Trudy Ludwig and Mike Curato needs few words to convey its beautiful reminder that it only takes one person to harm, but sometimes, it only takes one person to begin healing.

my heart by Corinna Luyken is a powerful poem reminding all of us that our hearts can be all kinds of ways, but ultimately are our own.  We can share or guard or grow how we choose, and it's ok.  It is our choice how to use our hearts.

You Matter by Christian Robinson reminds kids (and us) that no matter how big or small we are or what we look like or where we are, we matter to the world.   Sometimes we just need that reminder.  

I Will Be Fierce! by Bea Birdsong and Nidhi Chanani is the perfect book to have by your bed and read first thing every morning.  If this book doesn't get you moving and motivated, I'm not sure what will!

Love is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer and LeUyen Pham is based on the true story of a girl's first march.  She's not sure how she can make a difference in such a big crowd... but her mom keeps reminding her: love is powerful.

What Do You Do With A Chance? like the other books by the duo of Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom proposes a question--and reminds you the endless possibilities if you believe in yourself and follow through.

Ish is a book about never thinking you're good enough.... until you can start to see yourself through someone else's eyes.  Peter Reynolds has an amazing talent for helping us see our own inner child--and give it a pep talk!

I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah Bobo is a love song to your inner child--a reminder that you ARE enough.  If you want to hear the author read it herself, she's featured on Bookmarks by Netflix!

What's My Superpower? by Aviaq Johnston and Tim Mack tells us about a girl who sees how wonderful everyone else is... but what is her superpower?  Maybe you have the same one she does.  Look in the mirror!

And because there are just too many good books out there, I'll add a couple extras as honorable mentions.  Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story is a true story of Arun Gandhi's childhood and learning hard, but valuable lessons from his grandfather about how he could be the change he wished to see in the world.  If you need a little help with mindfulness practice, Breathe and Be by Kate Coombs and Anna Emilia Laitinen is just as good for adults as for kids!!

(And a new highlight--I have long wanted to support small, independent bookstores but wasn't sure how to do that.  Then I was pointed to bookshop.org which supports independent stores across the US.  By purchasing a book from the title links above, you can choose to support your local store or simply from bookshop itself and the proceeds of your purchase will benefit all of the bookstores who share in the group.  If you choose to purchase by using a link above, I will also be compensated a tiny amount for my referral.  As always, I will also try to link to any author or illustrator's personal website so that you can see all of the other remarkable things they are doing.)

Happy reading and take care of yourselves.  You are enough.


April 10, 2023

International Day of Human Space Flight!

I was not aware until this week that April 12 is the United Nations' International Day of Human Space Flight.  But now that I know, I want to help all of you celebrate with biographies and training books and fun stories about humans and our relationship to space.

Most people who have heard of Nichelle Nichols know about her time acting on Star Trek, but fewer know that she was also heavily involved in diversity recruitment at NASA.  To Boldly Go by Angela Dalton and Lauren Semmer tells her story, from her youth performances, her groundbreaking performances on Star Trek, and through her work with NASA.  One of the astronauts encouraged by Nichelle was Mae Jemison.  Mae Among the Stars  by Roda Ahmed and Stasia Burrington is an imagining of her early life. 

She Stitched the Stars by Jennifer Harris and Louise Pigott is the biography of a woman named Ellen Harding Baker.  In the late 1800s, women were not encouraged (or sometimes even allowed) to study science, but that didn't stop Ellen from studying the stars!  Because she wasn't allowed to express her knowledge in a "masculine" way in academia, she chose to embroider the solar system on a quilt.

If you already know you want to go to space someday, you'll need some guidance.  Check out Go for Liftoff  by Dr. Dave Williams and Loredana Cunti, with fun photos and some encouraging illustrations by Theo Krynauw.

Counting on Katherine  by Helaine Becker and Dow Phumiruk and Counting the Stars by Lesa Cline-Ransome and Raúl Colón are two retellings of the now-much-more-famous story of Katherine Johnson, the female, Black, NASA "calculator" who saved the Apollo 13 mission!

And two of my favorites that might aid in pretending while space camp is still far away are Astronaut Training by Aneta Cruz and Olivia Aserr and Love, Sophia on the Moon by Anica Mrose Rissi and Mika Song.

Hope this reading helps you blast off!!

Reminder that  a small commission for books purchased through TCC's bookshop.org list links go toward furthering the work of Teaching Cultural Compassion.

March 27, 2023

National Craft Month

If you didn't know it, March has also been National Craft Month--don't worry, there's still time to add some crafting to your life--you can implement that at any time!  For inspiration, here area few of my favorite books about crafting and crafters:

As an avid knitter myself, I have to start with two great books about knitting and intergenerational love.  A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards and  G. Brian Karas is a story of two neighbors, young Sophia who thinks knitting is hard and Mrs. Goldman who knits for everyone she knows.  Sophia learns about taking care of others from her older neighbor... and knows just what to do when Mrs. Goldman gives her own hat away.  Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo tells the story of a loving grandmother who lives in the city, the grandkid who is wary of the city, and the knitted cape that gives them the bravery to explore together!

Crafting can also be part of one's heritage and tell a family story, the next two recommendations include family quilts and family visits to school.  In both The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story by Aya Khalil and  Anait Semirdzhyan and Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker and April Harrison, kids are able to teach their classmates about their heritage through the beauty of  their family's quilts.

Crafting doesn't just have to be knitting, crocheting, quilting, etc, but envelops many forms of creative expression.  The last two recommendations are less traditional crafting stories.  Ari Arranges Everything by Katie Vernon is about a kid who loves to arrange things (and animals and even people!) to create a different vision.  Unbound by Joyce Scott (Judith's sister), Brie Spangler, and Melissa Sweet tells the true story of mixed media artist Judith Scott who was born deaf and with Down Syndrome, and didn't let that stop her from creating inspired art!  You can see a little more detail about her art here.

There are a few more titles I couldn't leave out on the list at bookshop.org, check them out, too.  March may be almost over, but let your creative juices flow and find a craft to try!

Reminder that  a small commission for books purchased through TCC's bookshop.org list links go toward furthering the work of Teaching Cultural Compassion.

July 27, 2021

I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream.... ICE CREAM!

I don't know about you, but where I am, it's HOT.  Being hot makes me think of eating something COLD.  Which made me want to read about eating something cold. :)


My first two suggestions today might be unfamiliar to you if you're used to a standard middle-American ice cream, but I promise, these books will make you want to seek out these treats to try them for yourself!

Saffron Ice Cream by Rashin Kheiriyeh is the story of an Iranian immigrant family's first visit to an American beach--and what the protagonist misses about the beaches in Iran--mostly, SAFFRON ICE CREAM!!

Paletero Man by Latin Grammy Winner Lucky Diaz is accompanied by excellent illustrations by Micah Player.  The story of a boy in LA running through his neighborhood to find his favorite Paletero for a cool treat.  It even has a very catchy song version!

What Can You Do With a Paleta? is another ode to the cold treat, this one by the team of Carmen Tafolla and Magaly Morales.  When that paleta wagon comes around, you never know what you can do.  This beautiful book comes in English, Spanish, and bilingual editions!

The Little Ice Cream Truck is a great edition for any little people library.  Margery Cuyler and Bob Kolar team up for another classic--this time following the route and effects of an ice cream truck on a diversely represented neighborhood!

For the non-fiction crowd, I'd like to recommend Ice Cream: The Full Scoop by Gail Gibbons and Millions, Billions, & Trillions by David A. Adler and Edward MillerIce Cream: The Full Scoop will take readers all the way back to the beginning of ice cream and then take a tour through what production looks like today--with lots of answers to lots of questions!  Millions, Billions, & Trillions will aid readers in thinking about giant numbers by giving fun facts, like how many ice cream sundaes you could buy with a BILLION dollars!!

I hope these recommendations cool you off and get you excited for more summer!


December 14, 2020

Do you REALLY know Little Red Riding Hood?

Firstly, Happy Hanukkah for those who celebrate.  Hanukkah is actually why I thought about writing this article!  One of my very favorite versions of Little Red Riding Hood is Little Red Ruthie  by Gloria Koster and Sue Eastland.  I love this book because it envelops the story of Hanukkah as part of Little Red's way of escaping the wolf! (SPOILER: Latkes taste WAY better than little girls.  It even includes Ruthie's recipe for those much tastier latkes!!)   Ruthie is able to outsmart the wolf in kindness, love, a good story, and lots of great fried food!

Another wintery take on the old tale is Little Red Gliding Hood by Tara Lazar and Troy Cummings.  In this version of the story, Little Red desperately needs a new pair of ice skates and there is a contest to win them--but she needs a partner!! Again, she figures out how to deal with the "Big Bad" Wolf with kindness and an open mind.  I won't tell you the ending. 

If you're looking for other less-traditional Little Red stories, my other favorites are Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya and Susan Guevara which adds a Latina twist to the story (mixing Spanish and English as well as coming from a Latinx cultural setting) and Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Dan Santat in which the Wolf decides to have ninja training because all of the kids are too hard to trick.  But So has Little Red.  So if you like fairy tales, but are looking for an update, I hope I gave you some good ideas.  If you haven't taken the step into updated fairy tales before, I hope these are a good introduction for you---there are lots more out there.

Again, Happy Hanukkah, and remember, latkes definitely taste better. 

March 5, 2021

Triple Threat?

The end of Black History Month is not the end of appreciation of black excellence for the year.  You’ve seen their movies, heard their music, watched them win championships, but did you know they wrote children’s books?  There are many black celebrities who have tried their hand at writing books, but here are my new favorites.

Possibly the most beautiful book I've read in the last year is a collaboration between Lupita Nyong'o and Vashti HarrisonSulwe is a little sister with dark skin always comparing herself to her older, lighter sister... until she experiences a magical journey that shows her she is beautiful just the way she is.

LeBron James has established that he's a king on the court.  Did you know he has also started a program through his foundation based on empowering kids of all backgrounds.  Using the words of their creed and illustrations from Nina Mata, you can now empower your kids to do their best through their book I Promise .

In Corduroy Takes a Bow, Viola Davis and Jody Wheeler bring you back to one of your childhood favorites, giving him a new adventure in theatre!

Lots of families had Old Town Road on repeat over the last year.  C is for Country is an homage to the Georgia upbringing of country star Lil Nas X.  With the lovely illustrations of Theodore Taylor III, this will surely become an alphabetic favorite for many!

Timbaland is usually known for his "Shock Value," but in 2019 he partnered with veteran author and illustrator Christopher Myers to create Nighttime Symphony, a book about nighttime sounds in the city.  The illustrations and words will transport the reader to the heart of the sounds of the city!

Firebird features another celebrity collaboration with Christopher Myers, this time with ballerina Misty Copeland.  Through a bit of her own story, Misty encourages all children to believe they can be great someday, even a firebird.

If you’re looking for more, music lends itself to illustration in Pharrell’s Happy.  Ziggy Marley has also had a song illustrated and his sister Cedella Marley worked to put pictures to their father’s lyrics.  Taye Diggs and Spike Lee (along with his wife, Tonya Lewis Lee) have both penned multiple.  Karamo Brown and his child Jason "Rachel" Brown wrote I am Perfectly Designed  which speaks to gender as well as race in a beautiful empowering way.

If you want to see these books and more read by your favorite black celebrities, I highly recommend Bookmarks on Netflix Jr!

January 22, 2021

January and Other New Beginnings

The new year has begun and this country has just transitioned into the beginning of a new government administration.  If you're looking for books on transition and change, I have a few recommendations.

It might not be a new school year, but with all of the changes going on, school stories might be comforting.  In The Name Jar, Yangsook Choi tells the story of a Korean girl who moves to the United States and faces a decision about whether or not she should change her name to fit in better.   In another story about being the only one like you in a classroom, I recommend Jacqueline Woodson's book The Day  You Begin.  Feeling like you don't fit in is hard, but illustrations by Rafael López will help you see the empathy in this beautiful story.

Sometimes we need a reminder that change can be good.  Rafael López also lends his art Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell.   It is the story of how one idea of how to renew a community came to life through beautiful colors and empowering art!  For another community empowering story about creating beauty, you should check out Kamala and Maya's  Big Idea by Meena Harris and illustrated by Ana Ramírez González.  The true story of Vice President Kamala Harris and her sister as children organizing the community to create a beautiful space in their neighborhood.

And if you want more about the new Vice President, I can't say enough good things about Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice.  (And not to leave out the new President, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden wrote a book about her husband as a kid.  Joey: The Story of Joe Biden walks us through a day of the new President's childhood, dealing with bullies and finding strength in the love of his mother.)

January 8, 2021

Snowy Tales

Hopefully any reader seeking diverse books knows the 1962 classic Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  If you haven't read it in a while, I highly recommend it for a snowy day.  If you don't have a copy, the EJK Foundation did a lovely animated version you can find here.  But as the snow swirls here, I thought I would introduce you to a few more of my diverse snowy favorites!

If you want to build on your love of Snowy Day,  I want to make sure you know about A Poem for Peter, Andrea Davis Pinkney's retelling of the story of how Snowy Day came to be.  Illustrated by the artistic team of Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher it is a beautiful ode to the original.  It's a sweet true story and you can't help but be moved by it.

For a great story about the northern lights, Jan Borurdeau Waboose and Brian Deines share their talent with us in SkySisters.  It is the story of two Ojibway sisters exploring the winter night to see the SkySpirits.  The art is captivating and the story of two sisters getting along to see the beauty around them is inspiring.

My Footprints by Bao Phi and illustrated by Basia Tran is a story about a little girl who, after being bullied, finds herself and her strength in replicating other creatures' footprints in the snow.  Her loving family helps her remember that she is loved!

Other top picks include Little Red Gliding Hood (recommended in December) and Lemonade in Winter: A Book about Two Kids Counting Money, by Emily Jenkins and G. Brian Karas. And then, I'm tempted to go into a tangent of penguin themed books... but I think those are stories for another day!  I hope you all have a wonderful day and get to see snow, if only in your reading!

February 14, 2020

Will You Be My Valentine?

Though Valentine’s Day commercializes itself as a holiday celebrating romantic love, I want to suggest some books that remind us of other kinds of love!  

I have to plug ONE romantic love book.  Though it seems silly, Worm Loves Worm by J. J. Austrian is a poignant story about loving someone for who they are and not letting anyone else change that love.  Love is love.

After romantic love, the first love one might think of is the love of family.  While there are a lot of amazing Mom books out there; Dad books are harder to find.  Dad by My Side by Soosh is one of the most beautiful books that fits that bill.  Written and illustrated by a father daughter team, it exemplifies the best moments of love between a father and daughter.

The love of a grandparent is a special thing. Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love shares this love in a tentative way at first, not knowing if it can stand the test of Grandma knowing the truth.  But (SPOILER) Grandma comes through! Another lovely Grandma book is Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. (This link even has a read-out-loud link right there on the author’s site!)  A granddaughter sharing Grandma’s history and life through the items in the purse show this unique bond in a fun, colorful way!

Kids also certainly understand the love of animals, as beautifully illustrated by Claire Keane in Love is by Diane Adams.  Knowing that love can be caring for something you know isn’t yours and will someday have to leave is an integral part of growing up.  This book says it perfectly.

Kids also love other people without asking too many questions-- My Best Friend by Julie Fogliano & Jillian Tamaki shares a story of exactly that.  These two kids ARE best friends, aren’t they?  (SPOILER) Even if they just met today and don’t know each other’s names?  A story about love in perhaps its purest form, My Best Friend is a new joy to add to any bookshelf!

Lastly, even if there is no specific contact, a kid can still show love through a wave or a smile.  Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein is a great story about how one simple gesture can change the world.  In the world today, we need more smiles!

So, I hope you’ll be my valentine and read some of these books with your kids!


Hardwired to Help

Whether you're a Kiwanian and saw the print version of Kiwanis Magazine's summer edition, or you're just interested in some other things I'm doing to promote compassion, you might be interested in this article.  Hardwired to Help was the feature story for which I was interviewed to talk about how important it is to instill the value of compassion in our kids so that they can grow to be compassionate adults.  There are also wonderful contributions from Dr. James Doty of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University and Thupten Jinpa, president of the Compassion Institute in Half Moon Bay, California.  Lots of great insights into how we can become a more compassionate society!