Picture Books About Kindness, Compassion and Peace in a Turbulent World

Loren Long’s illustrations for “Love,” collaged and painted monoprints, corroborate a child’s paradoxical, simultaneous confusion and clarity. A large family stands in the glow of the TV. Something horrific has happened, again. The adults are processing the bad event through the media and do not see that a child in pink pajamas has sneaked downstairs. “But when you ask what has happened, they answer with silence and shift between you and the screen.” Here is fear, but here is also love. Elsewhere an older brother makes burned toast for his sibling while their father rides the early bus to work. In the toast’s char, in the father’s absence, we find love even in places that hurt. I am even more moved by these unseen acts of care — char, breadwinning — than all the flowers, laughing uncles and buskers de la Peña and Long (the Otis series, “Little Tree”) also provide. Love that comes untested is perhaps not love strong enough for troubled times. This book looks into the darkness and still find stars twinkling overhead.


From “Love.”

“I Am Loved,” a collection for children from the distinguished poet Nikki Giovanni, tackles, among other things, the idea of self-love and social justice. One poem asks us to look in the provided mirror and see all the bravery that came before, the hope, the sweat, the suffering that made us. “And for that alone I am loved.” This ancestral pride is perfectly met in the book’s illustrations, by the renowned Ashley Bryan, now 94 and still making indelible art. They are a world of exuberance and color, swirling portraits that show off a fluency with art drawn from multiple eras: 1960s psychedelia, Tibetan mandalas, American quilts, Madhubani paintings. Gorgeous.

A clear favorite from Giovanni‘s collection is “Do the Rosa Parks,” a rhythm song both joyful and catchy. I heard my 7-year-olds singing it to one another days after we had read…

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