Many of us have heard of Diwali or perhaps Holi, but there are actually many important festivals in India. And to add to the complexity, which festivals are celebrated (and how) depends on what part of India you are in. Today I’m thrilled to introduce a lovely picture book and crafts to help kids learn about Durga Puja, a fall festival related to Navrati. Kids will love learning about this holiday, which celebrates the triumph of good over evil!
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Learn About Durga Puja
As a member of a minority religion, I can sympathize with author Shoumi Sen, who wanted to make sure that her young daughter would come to appreciate about their beliefs even without the support a large community of co-believers. Sometimes it can be hard to keep a child’s interest in your own religion when they almost totally surrounded by another. So Sen started to tell her daughter stories at night, making sure to tell them in a way that was fun and accessible.
These stories evolved into the “From the Toddler Diaries” series, designed to help Indian parents living outside India pass on their beliefs and traditions to their children. The series now includes Celebrate Durga Puja With Me! as well as Celebrate Holi With Me!. One thing I love about these books is that are very much aimed at young children, showing the joys of these Indian festivals in language that they can easily understand.
In Celebrate Durga Puja With Me! children learn about the major aspects of Durga Puja through colorful illustrations and rhyming text. I really captures the excitement and joy of the holiday as seen through the eyes of a child. Younger readers will enjoy the book as is, whereas older children can use it as a jumping off point to explore the foods, dances, and other traditions mentioned in the book.
Encourage your young world changers with these incredible books that inspire kids to be leaders! From picture books to chapter books, these works showcase people overcoming obstacles to follow their dreams as well as real life heroes who made a difference in the world. What inspires you?
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Books that Inspire Kids to Be Leaders
Mayanito’s New Friends/ Los Nuevos Amigos De Mayanito is a beautiful allegory of a young prince who befriends children from distant lands and journeys far from his rainforest home to visit them. The animals of the jungle help him on his quest, until he is reunited with his friends and even brings them back to the his village to celebrate their global friendship. Prince Mayanito declares all the children of the hemisphere as his tribe and from his home at the equator can listen to music coming from his world map. A lovely story from the late poet and playwright Tato Laviera, with gorgeous illustrations of Mayanito’s lush rainforest home. I love stories like this that celebrate what unites us despite our differences and that recognize that children don’t have to wait to to grow up to become leaders.
One of the most famous Latin American leaders was José Martí, the Cuban poet who traveled the world to advocate for the oppressed and to speak out for Cuba’s independence from Spain. This wonderful picture book tells of the inspiration behind his convictions as well as the sacrifices he made for them, living in exile from his beloved island for so many years and later dying in battle in the war for its independence. I love that Martí’s Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertad uses Martí’s own verses to tell his story, inspiring another generation with the legendary words of this great freedom fighter. Includes historical notes at the end for even more information about this incredible figure.
Remember the Ladies (Ellis the Elephant) celebrates the often overlooked contributions of America’s first ladies, such as Abigail Fillmore, who helped build the collection of the national library, and Edith Wilson, who helped fulfill her husband’s duties when he became ill. These women are remarkable leaders in their own right, including one of my personal heroes, Eleanor Roosevelt. Written by a diplomat, this book keeps a steady hand even when discussing more recent first ladies, celebrating achievements from women from both sides of the political aisle. Featuring the adorable character Ellis the Elephant, it also includes more detailed biographies of all the featured women at the end of the book.
For most kids, reading about the history of the US Senate would seem incredibly dry, but the story of Dennis Chávez is completely the opposite. Dennis Chávez: The First Hispanic US Senator/ El Primer Senador Hispano De Los Estados Unidos is a beautifully done biography for older kids of the first US-born Hispanic Senator, one of the most remarkable leaders you’ve never heard of. Indeed, as I was reading, I found myself asking over and over, Why is this the first time I am reading about him? Born in rural New Mexico before it was even a state, Dionisio Chávez grew up speaking only Spanish, tending sheep, and living in a house with dirt floors and no indoor plumbing. But he was bright and motivated, and quickly learned English and excelled at his studies. Then in 7th grade, he had to drop out of school to work and was never able to complete high school or college.
Yet he went on to graduate from Georgetown Law School and serve as a US Senator for 27 years. Inspired by his own first hand experiences of injustice, he fought tirelessly for minorities and workers, even standing up to McCarthy at a time when speaking out against him was virtually unthinkable. Throughout it all he maintained his optimism and commitment to faith and family.
This gem is written by the Senator’s own granddaughter and puts Chávez’s accomplishments squarely within the context of history. She also brings out the warmth of his personality and sincerity of his convictions. A book that will inspire any child to stand up for what they believe in, no matter how great the obstacles.
Do you ever wish you could teach bullies a lesson? The Shameless Shenanigans of Mister Malo/ Las Terribles Travesuras De Mister Malo is a wonderful bilingual chapter book about a boy who does just that, on a regular basis. Through his secret persona Mister Malo, Lance takes assignments from other fourth graders – with payment in fruit snacks – to take care of kids who are making their lives miserable. But when his payback to one playground bully backfires, Mister Malo is forced to look deeper to try and discover why bullies act like they do. Lance also faces a bully of his own and must learn to stand up for himself, without the comforting mask of Mister Malo.
This book not only teaches important lessons, it’s incredibly funny as well – but parents should be warned that there is plenty of bathroom humor, though of course young readers will love this! Let’s just say that the climax of the book is when Lance and his buddies create a school project all about why people fart! This, um, unique project is not just for laughs – it actually resolves a bully problem for a young girl who has been teased mercilessly for tooting on the playground.
Really fun bilingual chapter book for young readers about how to deal with bullies in unconventional ways.
Among the great inspirational figures of the twentieth century is the groundbreaking Jackie Robinson. The Hero Two Doors Down: Based on the True Story of Friendship Between a Boy and a Baseball Legend is written by none other than Jackie Robinson’s daughter! An accomplished author, Ms. Robinson tells the charming tale of a young white boy and his incredible friendship with the legendary baseball player during the beginning of his career in the major leagues. It was common at that time for Dodgers players and their families to rent rooms in Brooklyn neighborhoods during the season, so when 8 year old Steve finds out his hero is moving to his street, he feels like he’s just won the lottery!
But Jackie Robinson teaches Steve about more than just baseball. He shows Steve how to deal with bullies and inspires him to do well in school and follow his dreams. Even more than that, during a time of deep racial and religious divides, this African American legend showed a young Jewish boy how to reach across lines and build bridges instead. The Robinson and Satlow families remain close to this day, and their story gives a wonderful glimpse of the remarkable man behind the myth.
Baseball is also center stage in Out of Left Field, a wonderful new chapter book about a girl determined to bring the real history of baseball to light. The year is 1957, and Katy Gordon loves nothing more than standing on the mound and throwing one of her famous pitches, shocking the boys who never expect a girl to be able to play ball like she can. But when she is barred from Little League because baseball has supposedly always been a man’s sport, she turns her frustration into a zeal for digging up the forgotten history of women in baseball in order to prove them wrong.
Young readers will easily relate to Katy, an ordinary girl driven to do extraordinary things because of a passion for justice and her beloved baseball. They will also enjoy getting to know her unconventional family – the professor mom who encourages Katy in her quest, and her sisters, an engineer and an artist, who inspire Katy to follow her passion. I love that throughout Katy’s mom takes her seriously, offering support and advice without condescending or doing the work for her. And being from California, of course I enjoyed the detailed portrait of life in San Francisco during the era of Sputnik and the Little Rock Nine.
While the story is fictional, many of the women showcased in the story – such as Maud Nelson, Jackie Mitchell, and Toni Stone – are not. Generations before Mo’ne Davis pitched a shutout in the Little League World Series, girls and women fought simply to have a place on the field. This book brings well deserved attention to their struggle and their incredible talent.
Ridván is the most holy time of year for Bahá’ís, and it can be a magical time for children. This year, help kids “journey” back to Baghdad in 1863 with these Ridvan printable train tickets! Great to use for prayer time at home or for children’s classes. Scroll down to print your free copy.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Last year, I created this Ridvan printable for my kids – pretend train tickets to help them “journey” back to Baghdad in 1863! Just like on real old-fashioned train tickets, you can punch these tickets on each day you use them. So for example, you can punch “1” on the first day of Ridván, “2” on the second day, etc.
I’m planning on putting together some activities for the kids each day on our “train trip,” but you could also just punch the tickets each morning before saying prayers together and reading some of the history behind Ridván from a book like the beautiful The Life of Baha’u’llah. To really set the mood, many families have an indoor tent or canopy like this one. We’ve also simply hung a white sheet between two sofas as our “tent” and made tissue paper roses to decorate it.
However, you choose to use the tickets, have a magical celebration!
One of my goals is to create a calm, loving environment for my children to grow up in. In the daily struggle to complete chores and schoolwork, this can sometimes get lost, but I try to keep this goal in front of me to remind me to focus on the bigger picture, rather than what has just gotten spilled or broken or who pushed whom. Here are 5 tips that have worked for me to create a peaceful home. Share yours in the comments!
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the albums below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commissions at no extra charge to you.
Creating a Peaceful Home: 5 Tips for Families
1. Focus on Yourself
There is no way you can create a peaceful home if you do not have peace within yourself. Find out what helps you keep balance: whether it’s getting up a few minutes earlier than your kids or staying up a little later in the evening to have some time for yourself, practicing meditation or yoga, or making sure to have a coffee date with your best friend once a week. When you have a calm center, you can more easily keep your cool when things go wrong during the day, as they inevitably will.
2. Focus on the Big Picture
Know that things will go wrong, especially if you have young children. I once saw a program for new parents that stated, “If you want to be efficient, don’t have kids.” In other words, children help you focus on the journey rather than on accomplishing tasks quickly and efficiently. This was a big mind-shift for me coming from the workplace, where the emphasis was on achieving concrete goals.
With children you have to look at the big picture – for example, it may take you longer to teach your child to clean up his own mess, but you are helping to raise a responsible adult. If you stop and look at the dandelions and ladybugs with your toddler, chances are you won’t get all of your errands done before dinner, but you are making a heart connection with your child and nurturing her budding interest in the natural world. Often our frustration comes from the clash between reality and our expectations, so if you often find yourself frustrated, it may be time to look at your expectations.
3. Stay Organized – to a Point
While we do have to be realistic about how much we can get done and how well, we can also look at systemic problems that can be corrected to help our day flow more smoothly. If you are constantly rushing to get out the door in the morning, step back and think about how you might organize your household to alleviate this constant stress. Perhaps your children can take on more of the responsibility to make their own lunches, for example, or to pick out their clothes the night before. I have a snack box always stocked that I can just grab as we head out the door rather than having to put something together each time we leave the house.
Again, keep your expectations realistic, and know that you may still be late – the baby always seems to know to poop just as you are ready to get in the car – but at least you can eliminate some of your stress to have a more peaceful morning as you get ready.
4. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation with Your Children
Whatever your religious beliefs, all children benefit from some sort of mindfulness or meditation practice. Whether it’s prayer, yoga, or simply breathing exercises, it is such a gift for children to learn to slow down and clear their minds. In today’s often frenetic world, we can help give them a calm center to return to, to relieve anxiety or simply help them unwind at the end of an exciting day. A mindfulness practice is a wonderful tool in teaching kids to handle big emotions or to deal with difficult subjects like bullying or the loss of a loved one.
In our family, we do some deep breathing exercises and say prayers together in the morning as well as at bedtime. At least once a week we also do yoga together before starting schoolwork. I keep it short as my children are still very young, though I try to push their attention spans a bit to challenge them to work on their lengthening their focus.
5. Create a Relaxing Atmosphere
An easy way to nurture a peaceful home is to play relaxing music. Music is such a great way to set the mood, and I know for myself that it can really help calm my nerves. Which is why I was so happy to receive two incredible new children’s albums that really do create a warm, relaxing atmosphere.
The first is The Land of Yangalele. Yangalele means “happiness” in Kikongo, a language spoken in Congo, the home of one half of the dynamic duo behind this wonderful music collection for children. “Papa Siama” and “Auntie Dallas” wanted to capture the feeling of a family gathering like those from Siama’s childhood, where everyone would sit outside under the stars to share songs and stories together.
And this warm, easygoing atmosphere is exactly what their music creates. As soon as I hit play the very first time we listened to this album, I could feel an instant change in the air. Suddenly I was more relaxed, and the kids were, too. The rhythms are so gentle and fun, and you feel as though you were gathered at the musicians’ feet, creating and enjoying music together. We often find ourselves singing the tunes throughout the day – my personal favorite is Monkey Games! – and it’s impossible to do so without a smile on your face.
Featuring traditional instruments (listen for the mbira on most songs and the shaker on the beautiful lullaby Nalingi Bosembo) and lyrics in English, Swahili, Lingala and Kikongo, these songs are also an opportunity to learn more about the Congo and make a heart connection with what can seem like a very remote place. The liner notes even include a map, a quiz, and a seek-and-find game. Highly recommended.
Who doesn’t love Ladysmith Black Mambazo? I grew up listening to Graceland and so was thrilled to find out that this world-renowned music group has recently put out a children’s album, Songs of Peace & Love for Kids & Parents Around the World, which was nominated for a Grammy last year. Just as you’d expect, the music is incredible, and I love the focus on themes important to children, such as the trouble of communicating with parents (Everything’s So Stupid!). They also sing about important social issues, like racism, homelessness, and respecting women. My personal favorite is Old MacDonald – sung in Zulu! Great to put on when you want to relax and enjoy beautiful music together.
It’s that time of year again! As Ayyám-i-Há approaches, party planners in communities everywhere scramble to come up with fun, meaningful activities that will appeal to a wide range of ages. Here are our best tips from veteran party planners on how to throw a community Ayyam-i-Ha party to remember! And don’t miss out on our giveaway of a wonderful new coloring book for kids for Ayyám-i-Há!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Throw a Community Ayyam-i-Ha Party Like a Boss
Looking for great ideas for your community Ayyam-i-Ha party? Here are suggestions from experienced party planners from around the world. Be sure to share yours in the comments!
Inviting the Wider Community
Invite those already involved in core activities, like children’s classes.
Send out an invitation (hard copy or digital, even on Facebook) to set the tone about the party so that friends and neighbours who are not Bahá’í learn about it before hand.
Have an open house, so friends don’t feel the need to commit and can just drop by when they’re able. Makes it easier if you have a small house, too!
Make invitations with pictures and a quote with a little explanation about Ayyám-i-Há.
If possible, try handing out invitations in person so you can explain more if anyone has questions.
White elephant exchanges are very popular! “It’s hilarious to watch 50 something adults picking presents and exchanging them.”
Have everyone bring a simple gift then a gift under each person’s chair.
Treat bags for kids
Have every child bring an inexpensive, wrapped present. Then each gets to pick one of the presents out of the basket.
Have all the children bring simple inexpensive presents like pencils, stickers, or erasers then pass out one to each child. Every child leaves with new treasures, plus they get the experience of giving.
Hang up a sheet on a doorway, going only half way up, and decorate with pictures of fish. Make a fishing rod with a small basket on the end of the string to “fish for presents.” Each child then gets to “fish” for a small gift.
Skits about history
Live music & dancing
Puppet show that shares the concepts of Ayyám-i-Há (such as hospitality, service, kindness and gift giving).
Break children into age groups for active games
Have kids make picture frames for their favorite Bahá’í quote
Have different stations where people can make gifts (potting plants, card marking, candle rolling, making lavender sachets) for others.
Sing songs from children’s classes together
Performances from the children’s classes
Picnic in the park
Candy, but set up in a different part of the house. Each family went in as a unit, and the parents decided how much the kids could have. (There were also toothbrushes!) Then they put the candy in the fabric goodie bags.
Ice cream sundae bar
Cupcake/cookie decoration station
Progressive dinner (appetizers at one home, main course at another, dessert at another)
Collect items for a local homeless shelter
Do a food drive for a local food bank
Help a local family in need
Donate supplies to a Bahá’í school
Collect winter jackets
Make no-sew blankets for children in foster care
Host the party at a park then do a park clean up afterwards
Collect books and toys for the local children’s hospital
Assemble lunches for homeless youth
Have a station to make bird feeders (with pine cones and seeds), cat toys and dog treats to take to the SPCA
Make toiletry bags to give to the domestic crisis center or “blessings bags” for the homeless, with items like travel size shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, soap, toothbrush and washcloth
5 million people are throwing a party, and you’re invited! Here’s why the Bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah matters to you – even if you’ve never heard of the Bahá’í Faith before. (There is a children’s book giveaway at the bottom, so be sure to scroll all the way down!)
Friends, this is a very different post than you have read here before, but I decided I needed to share with you something straight from my heart.
The world is in travail, and its agitation waxeth day by day….
These days I’m afraid to turn on the news when I wake up. It seems like every day there is a fresh tragedy – another shooting, another natural disaster, another day when I’m feeling heartsick to see more people suffering.
What’s worse is that our own disunity and lack of coordinated vision prevent us from truly helping those in need.
Some days, I look at my own beautiful children and wonder about the world they are going to inherit. Sure, we can do our cute unity crafts and learn about peace and love, but sometimes there feels like a disconnect between that Kumbayah world I’m teaching them about and the one I see on the news.
And it’s not just me. Social media is full of friends in despair – people bitter, disheartened, and finding it difficult to muster the energy to wage another battle for justice or to raise the standard yet again for common decency and understanding.
Yet what if I were to tell you that a Prisoner who lived half a world away and more than a century ago foretold our sufferings and laid out a formula to heal humanity’s wounds and bind it together again as one human family?
Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship… So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.
In a matter of days, Bahá’ís around the world will celebrate the Bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. But wait, you might be saying, what does this have to do with me?
He Who is your Lord, the All-Merciful, cherisheth in His heart the desire of beholding the entire human race as one soul and one body.
The Bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah
The Bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah is not so much one event as a series of activities that have been happening in local communities around the globe for the past several months, all culminating in big celebrations in every city and town marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of a spiritual Teacher whose Writings have spread around the world, inspiring and transforming families and communities in virtually every country on the globe.
The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.
Yet His words are not mere platitudes. Baha’u’llah – who spent 40 years of His life in imprisoment and exile because of His teachings – laid out a practical plan to bring about structural change in our society and create a framework for global governance that recognizes:
– the importance of both spiritual and material development
– the equality of men and women
– the underlying unity of the beautifully diverse human family
– the common spiritual foundation of all the major world religions
– the essential harmony of science and religion
– the centrality of justice to all endeavors
– the importance of education
– the need for the abolition of all forms of prejudice
And it’s already working.
More than 5 million Baha’is around the world have been putting His teachings into practice for more than a century, slowly building up institutions on the local, national, and international level that use consultation as a form of decision-making, that put the unity and well-being of the group ahead of individual egos, and that seek to carry forward “an ever-advancing civilization.”
Bahá’ís live in virtually every country on the globe and reside in well over 100,000 localities. Bahá’ís come from all walks of life, and members come from roughly 2,100 indigenous tribes, races, and ethnic groups. 188 national councils oversee the work of the Bahá’í communities, and more than 300 formal programs of Bahá’í education can be found around the world.
Bahá’ís are at the forefront of social and economic development, with several thousand projects worldwide, more than 900 of which are large-scale, sustained projects, including more than 600 schools and over 70 development agencies. Bahá’í writings and other literature have been translated into more than 800 languages.
So whether you are a despairing mother wondering about the world her children will grow up in, a grassroots activist looking for a model to create unity of action, or a leader wanting to inspire real change, you can find inspiration and hope in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and the example of the Bahá’í community.
Join the Bahá’ís this month as we celebrate 200 years since the birth of Bahá’u’lláh. Celebrations are being held in communities around the globe and you are invited. For those in Sacramento, you can find out about our local celebration, or search in your own area for the celebration nearest you.
All quotations above are excerpts from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh
Life of Bahá’u’lláh Children’s Book Giveaway
To commemorate the Bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, I am also thrilled to be giving away TWO COPIES of a brand new children’s book about the life of Bahá’u’lláh! In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that the author is a good friend (and hero!) of mine, and that I helped edit the book – however, I am being sincere when I tell you this is a fabulous book and a must have if you would like to teach your children about the life of Bahá’u’lláh!
I have been reading an advance copy with my 7 year old, and it’s really engaged him and sparked great conversations. He especially loves the family tree and full color maps. As his teacher, I really love the timeline and glossary as well. Until this point, I really hadn’t found a book for older children that gives such an in-depth view of Bahá’u’lláh’s life. I love that I can pick up this one book and know it will cover all of the major events of His life, all within the context of their spiritual and historical significance.
Written in honor of the Bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, this 72 page book intends to share with children the story of His majestic life, through the exploration of spiritual concepts and the stages and milestones of the life of Bahá’u’lláh.
While children of all ages will enjoy the gorgeous full color illustrations, the 30 stories included in this book are aimed principally at ages 8-12.
You can find it on Etsy and Amazon (affiliate link).
We are giving away two copies of The Life of Bahá’u’lláhby Melissa López Chaperoo. One copy is available for US winners, while the other is available to ship worldwide! Enter to win by simply commenting below: Tell us 1) What gives you hope, 2) What country you live in.
Giveaway goes through midnight PT on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. Winners shown by random selection.
Learning about other religions is an important of a world cultures curriculum, but one religion I did not know much about growing up was Sikhism. That is why I was so pleased to receive some beautiful books on Sikhism for kids, which prompted me to deepen my own understanding of this egalitarian, inclusive religion.
When my oldest son was very young, some friends and I had a chance to visit a local Sikh temple with our little ones. It is was an experience I’ll never forget! We were shown such kindness from everyone we met, and I was impressed with their dedication to serving others, as exemplified in the meal that was provided to everyone who attended. Since I was there with a three year old, I didn’t have a chance to really ask questions, and so was left wondering exactly what Sikhs believed and where their traditions had come from. Why do the men wear turbans, and why do they keep their hair so long? Do they believe in one god or many? Why do they all seem to have the same last names?
If you or your children have similar questions, here are great resources on Sikhism for kids that you can share.
Sikhism: Learning Resources for Kids
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
A great place to start is this overview which outlines 10 things everyone should know about Sikhism, including the fact that it is an inclusive, pluralistic religion whose members have a long history of fighting for social justice. You can also get a good overview from the Sikhism Guide online or from the BBC website.
I really love the Khalsa Kids website. (Khalsa is the word for the Sikh community). This site is geared towards Sikh kids, but has one section devoted to explaining Sikhism and another just for teachers. These even include lesson plans and aids for classroom discussions. You really get the sense that Sikhs spend a lot of their time having to answer questions about themselves!
Your kids will enjoy this brief video introduction to Sikhism from Little Sikhs (be sure to check out their other resources as well!)
And now for those beautiful books I mentioned! I am grateful to the lovely Saffron Press for sharing them with me. All three are from author Navjot Kaur but with different illustrators, all of whose paintings compliment the text of each book in wonderfully distinct ways. (Side note: the author’s last name of Kaur is the female equivalent of the last name Singh. All Sikhs have one of these two last names – Singh for males, Kaur for females – to demonstrate their belief in total equality, a revolutionary idea when it was founded in 15th century India, steeped in the hierarchical caste system. Traditionally, last names were an easy way to find out what caste a person belonged to).
As of this writing none of the books below is readily available from Amazon; however, you can find them all on the Saffron Press website.
The Garden of Peace is a lushly illustrated book about the origins of Sikhism, using the allegory of planting a garden from seeds that no one thought would sprout. Each seed represents a central tenet of the Sikh faith, such as kindness or determination. Despite the opposition of the evil emperor and his warriors, the little seeds grow into a beautiful garden of peace, tended by a growing number of faithful followers who come from all walks of life. At the back of the book are instructions to grow your own garden of peace by, for example, planting kindness and believing in yourself. I also appreciated the extended author’s note, which gives a detailed history of the origins of Sikhism and how Sikhs today carry on this tradition of peace and service to all.
The award-winning book A Lion’s Mane focuses on the most visible marker of a follower of the Sikh faith – the turban. It explores the meanings of this “lion’s mane” by traveling around the world to connect this Sikh tradition to beliefs about lions in different cultures. For example, Richard the Lionheart of England had many brave knights, and being a Sikh also means having courage. The underlying theme of the book is that although the boy in the book may look different, the turban that looks so “strange” is precisely what connects him to others around the world, and, more to the point, each of us has something that makes us special: “I have a lion’s mane and I am different, just like you!” Don’t miss the curriculum guide that the author has created to accompany this conversation-sparking book.
Dreams of Hope is a gentle bedtime story told by a father to his young daughter. “Where will our dream journey begin tonight, Little One?” His words travel with her as she flies through dreams to visit the nighttime creatures settling down to sleep in the meadow, on the mountaintop, and in the ocean. The text is sprinkled throughout with Panjabi words, explained in a glossary at the back, including the mantra Vaa hey guroo, which is used by Sikhs as “an expression of awe or wonder.” This gorgeous book is clearly meant to be a keepsake, as it contains space for you to write down your dreams and wishes for your child. It also includes a Dreams of Hope Travel Guide with drawings of peace monuments around the world.
We all want our children to go off and have adventures, to live life to the fullest. An essential component of this is, of course, teach them to be brave, so they are not daunted when faced with a difficult situation or a new experience. As the beginning of the school year approaches, it can be an especially important time to remind children of the courage they have inside them. Here are some wonderful books for all ages that teach by example how to be brave when faced with challenges large and small.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Children’s Books About Being Brave
Poor little baby bird can think of all kinds of reasons why attempting to fly out of the nest is a bad idea. Each time he peers over the edge of his safe, warm nest, the shadows twist into the menacing shapes of his fears. NOPE! is his response whenever his mother tries to prod him to try to fly. Then just when it looks like he might never leave, his mother gives him some gentle, um, encouragement but pushing him out of the nest. A very funny story with extremely simple text but incredibly expressive illustrations.
Jabari Jumps is actually one that several of us that review books have been chatting about because we all love it so much! (You can read another review from one of them). So many kids (and adults) can relate to wanting to jump off the high dive at the pool but then chickening out when the time comes and we see how far down it is to the water. I love the character of Jabari but also his dad, who is there to offer him encouragement. He recognizes when Jabari needs a little more time but also knows just what to say when the moment is right. I am going to remember his advice myself, that instead of being scared about something we can think of it like a little surprise – because who doesn’t like surprises?
My 4 year old requests Jabari Jumps every night at bedtime, and after he was brave enough to jump into the pool recently, he told me that he was just like Jabari!
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Hello Kitty Storybook) is part of a gentle series of fairy tale adventures for very young readers. It also includes Thumbelina (Hello Kitty Storybook). If you have a Hello Kitty fan in your house, you won’t want to miss these – and if you don’t, you might after you read these books! While they present somewhat scary situations (falling through a rabbit hole, being kidnapped by a toad), here the scary factor is toned down and the emphasis is on the adventure and the happy ending.
The Road Home is a beautiful book about finding safety and comfort in a big world. “This road is hard, this road is long, this road that leads us home” is the echoing refrain as woodland creatures and their children begin to prepare for the coming winter. What I love about this book, in addition to the gorgeous illustrations, is the idea that whenever we are with our loved ones, we are already home. A great book to snuggle up and read with your little ones, to remind them that they are never alone.
Black Belt Bunny is a cute, funny book your children will love! Black Belt Bunny has all kinds of super cool moves to face any challenge – but he wasn’t expecting to have to face salad! What will Black Belt Bunny do when he is asked to prepare his own salad? Mind you, Black Belt Bunny actually loves his vegetables (as all bunnies do), but he’s never had to make one before, and he’s not sure he can! Luckily this fierce little bunny summons his skills to invent his own creative way to make a salad! My favorite part, though, is the end, where the grown up, who has been encouraging him all the while, has the tables turned on him – he has to be brave enough to try something new, too!
We love Harriet the Hamster Princess! In fact, I just finished re-reading the first book in the series (Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible) with my boys. So we were all excited to learn that there was a new adventure out: as with all of the Harriet books, Hamster Princess: Giant Trouble is a re-telling of a classic fairy tale (this time Jack and the Beanstalk), but with a spunky heroine who loves to battle with the bad guys. Harriet and her friends are back in another hilarious book that blends the graphic novel and storybook formats. Great for reluctant and early readers. These books also make great read-louds!
RELATED POST: Hybrid Graphic Novels for Kids
I’m also happy to share the latest installment from another beloved series: Mystery of the Min Min Lights is the ninth book from Pack-n-Go Girls, the chapter books that take girls around the world on incredible adventures! (I should add that my son adores these books, so they aren’t just for girls!) Wendy Lee isn’t sure about having to spend a year in the Australian outback when her mom is on assignment for work, but at least she makes friends with Chloe, who invites her to stay at her family’s sheep station. Yet soon she discovers that someone is stealing the sheep – and what does this have to do with the spooky lights that can be seen at night? To solve the mystery and help her new friend, Wendy must dig deep to be brave and do what it takes to catch the thief.
As always, readers will learn about a new part of the world, as facts are woven naturally into the story. I love that the main character (the non-Australian character who is having an adventure in Australia) is Chinese American. Usually the “normal” character is a white Westerner, so this is a great change and adds another layer of complexity and richness to this wonderful tale.
In a time when immigration is constantly in the news, Evangelina Takes Flight gives middle grade readers a fresh look at the challenges faced by Mexican immigrants to the US over a century ago. At the time, most fled their homes because of war, rather than economic hardship. Evangelina is a young girl on the cusp of womanhood when rumors of wars and marauding soldiers reach their small ranch in the Mexican countryside. Though they are not wealthy, her family knows they will still be targets because they own their own land. Evangelina is forced to leave the only home she has ever known and travel with her family to the United States, where she struggles to find her voice in a new language and confront the many Americans who are hostile to the new arrivals.
As a history buff, I loved the detail about life in revolutionary Mexico, as well as what the long journey to the US would have been like. But young readers will identify with Evangelina’s painful transition to her new school and admire her being brave enough to finally confront those who would fight against immigrants rather than giving them a chance. Would be a great book to pair with Esperanza Rising, about another young woman who immigrants from Mexico several decades later.
Looking for a fun, relatively healthy dessert your whole family will enjoy? Here is a dairy-free version of a traditional Indian treat for Eid, sheer khurma. It is a unique vegan dessert that is easy to make and delicious!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Let me begin by saying that this is NOT a traditional Indian dessert. It is my own reworking of sheer khurma, a dessert that usually has a milk base, because I wanted a version I could serve to my son with a milk allergy. If you search for “vegan sheer khurma” or “dairy-free sheer khurma” online, you are unlikely to find any real results. In the original Persian, sheer khurma literally means “dates with milk,” so not a recipe you would think of making without the milk!
But when we read Let’s Celebrate Ramadan & Eid! (see my review below), we became curious about this traditional dessert mentioned several times as a delicious treat for Eid. When I discovered it was made with milk, I decided I had to make a non-dairy version, a vegan dessert we could all enjoy. It may not be traditional, but it is still delicious! And it is so different from the desserts that we’re used to that it did give us a flavor of what celebrating Eid would be like in places like India.
I just love the creaminess of sheer khurma, combined with the crunch of the roasted nuts. And the cooked dates add even more body as well as natural sweetness. I must admit for my kids at first it was hard to get past the idea of having pasta in a dessert, but once they tried it, they loved it!
Sheer khurma (or sheer khorma) is a traditional dessert served for Eid, the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. I adapted my recipe from this version from the Veggie Indian. The main change I made was to substitute coconut milk for regular milk and coconut oil for ghee. I also reduced the amount of sugar from 1 & 1/4 cups to 1/3 cup, since it already has a lot of natural sweetness from the dates.
4 cups of full fat coconut milk (this is slightly more than 2 cans)
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup vermicelli, broken into 2 inch pieces
3/4 cup mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, etc) chopped fine or crushed with mortar and pestle
1/2 cup dates, seeded and chopped (about 8-10 dates)
Golden raisins, handful
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 to 1 tsp rose water
Extra nuts for garnish (I used sliced almonds)
Heat a tbsp of coconut oil in a skillet, and roast the vermicelli on a low flame till golden. Set aside to drain on a paper towel. In the same skillet, heat a tbsp of the coconut oil and roast the mixed nuts for 1-2 minutes on low heat. Remove from heat and keep aside.
Heat coconut milk in a sauce pan and let it come to a boil. Lower the flame and let simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the milk thickens slightly.
Add the roasted vermicelli, and let it cook in the coconut milk for 5-7 minutes, until the pasta becomes soft.
Add the sugar, nuts, dates, and raisins and mix well. Continue to simmer for another 15-20 minutes, until the dates grow soft and the amount of coconut milk reduces by nearly half. The vermicelli should be fully cooked.
Adjust the sweetness and consistency, if needed, by adding more sugar or coconut milk. Keep in mind that the mixture will thicken even more with time.
Finally, add the cardamom powder and rosewater, stir, and remove from heat.
If desired, garnish with additional nuts and serve warm. Enjoy!
In addition to sampling a tasty vegan dessert inspired by a traditional treat, I also wanted to teach the kids more about Eid and Ramadan. A great way to introduce them to this special time is with the wonderful new book Let’s Celebrate Ramadan & Eid! (Maya & Neel’s India Adventure Series, Book 4). It is part of a series of books exploring Indian culture. What is surprising to most Westerners is that there is a large number of Muslims in India, though we tend to associate that country with Hinduism or Sikhism.
Let’s Celebrate Ramadan & Eid! (Maya & Neel’s India Adventure Series, Book 4) gives an easy to understand overview of Ramadan and Eid as it is celebrated in India, in addition to highlighting traditions from other countries. One thing I love about this book is that it shows children at different stages in their participation in Ramadan, from an older child who is practicing fasting to younger children who give up toys or sweets in lieu of fasting. This book is perfect for the classroom or home setting, as a way to help children understand why Muslims observe Ramadan and Eid and what it would be like as a child to experience them (such as by eating sheer khurma!).
Whenever my four year old wants to do something he knows he is not supposed to, he looks at me very intently and says, “Mommy, don’t see me.” It makes me laugh every time (and I do appreciate the red flag that mischief is afoot!) but on a more serious note, it reminds me that it is a work in progress to teach children to do the right thing even if no one is watching or, more importantly, even if it is difficult or they may not get an obvious reward.
There is no magic formula, but here are some ways I’ve discovered that help raise children who do the right thing.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
Raising Kids Who Do the Right Thing
Lead by Example
Nothing will make a bigger impact on your kids than how you act, even in situations where it may not seem like a “big deal.” For example, do you hold the door for others? Are you gracious when someone holds the door for you? Do you go back inside the store if you notice the cashier forgot to ring up one of your items? Do you step in when you see someone is being bullied? Kids take notice, and quickly learn to mimic your actions.
Inspire Them with Role Models
Of course, we as parents are far from perfect, which is why it is wonderful to be able to show them some examples of truly extraordinary people who can inspire us. I must confess that I didn’t really know much about Pete Seegar until I read the remarkable new children’s biography Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice, and then I realized how much I had already been influenced by him without even knowing it! For example, I never knew that he was the one who popularized the anthem “We Shall Overcome,” even introducing it to Martin Luther King, Jr.
This beautiful book gives us an intimate look at this pivotal figure, focusing not just on his musical legacy but on his legacy of change and fighting for justice. It is hard to read this book without wanting to get up and do something to make the world a better place – and to sing while you do it! I love the illustrations and how highlights from Seegar’s life are woven together to give the reader a cohesive message of hope and the power of one person to make a difference.
A key element in teaching kids to do the right thing is to help them care about others. Developing empathy is key, because without it, they lack the will to take action to help others. Pass It On is a very sweet book for very young readers about sharing joy with others. It is also about recognizing the wonder of the world around you then passing that excitement on to others. Pass It On is a perfect way to teach children that sharing isn’t just about toys, it’s also about sharing a smile or a laugh with someone else.
A child who only seeks instant gratification will not understand the more satisfying rewards of doing the right thing, since these usually are slower in coming. Sometimes you immediately get a smile or a thank you when you help someone, but oftentimes there is no immediate reward or it may not be obvious. By helping children understand that good things come to those who wait, you will set the stage for them to do what is right, even if there is no immediate benefit to themselves.
Give Them Concrete Tools
Most children are concrete thinkers and understand better through specific examples of what behavior you expect from them. Set them up for success by giving them concrete tools of how to handle situations like bullying. For example, in our character building classes, we read stories, brainstormed how we might react in different scenarios, and did lots of role playing. These activities help build children’s confidence and give them concrete actions they can take when confronted with a difficult situation. Doing it as a group activity also helps build a community of peers that are all striving to help others and do what’s right.