Books About Growing Up and Giving Back 10 Empowering Tales for Kids and Teens

Introduce your children to preschool and charitable giving with this month’s selections — Conni L. Strittmatter/Baltimore County Public Library Youth & Family Engagement Manager

Board Books


“Sad, Sad Bear”
by Kimberly Gee

Do you have little ones who are sad about going to day care for the first time? Then this book is perfect for them! Little Bear’s Momma is going back to work, and he has started Cub Care. He is incredibly sad when she leaves and starts to cry. The teachers are very warm and comforting, allowing Bear to have his feelings. We see Momma Bear leaving, and she is sad too. But soon Bear makes friends and finds himself enjoying so many wonderful activities. When his Momma arrives to pick him up, he can’t wait to tell her about his day, and he can’t wait to go back tomorrow. This lovely book can help families adjust to a new situation and help kids understand their feelings.

“Sad, Sad Bear” by Kimberly Gee
“Sad, Sad Bear” by Kimberly Gee


“New Friends for Zaza”
by Mylo Freeman

Zaza is going to day care for the very first time. She’s very nervous even though Mommy explains to her that it is a place for her to have fun playing and to make new friends. Zara takes one of her toys with her for emotional support.

The day care is noisy and full of other children. At first, she hangs back with her Mommy. But then she decides that she wants to join in the fun. She asks a group of children if she can play with them. Of course, she’s welcomed to the group, and Zaza quickly learns how much fun it is to make new friends.

Time flies by, and soon Mommy arrives to take her home. She’s happy to be back home again but is looking forward to going back to day care tomorrow!

With clear, vibrant illustrations and lots of diversity, the book has a very positive message and is perfect for the little ones starting day care for the very first time.


“New Friends for Zaza” by Mylo Freeman
“New Friends for Zaza” by Mylo Freeman


Picture Books


“Preschool, Here I Come”
by D.J. Steinberg, illustrated by John Joven

This collection of short poems about preschool is accompanied by bright and lively illustrations.

“Preschool, Here I Come” by D.J. Steinberg, illustrated by John Joven
“Preschool, Here I Come” by D.J. Steinberg, illustrated by John Joven

The poems follow the day-to-day activities of preschoolers and ongoing events throughout the year. This book would be excellent for a parent reading with a child.

Kids and adults will find plenty of new things to discover on each page and lots of  opportunities for discussions about what to expect in preschool, including preschool rules, mixing colors and how to behave when you are angry.



“My Panda Sweater”
by Gillies Baum, illustrated by Barroux

A little girl has a favorite lucky panda sweater that she wears all the time. It makes her feel safe and secure. One day, her mother tells her that the sweater is too small and that it’s time to donate her sweater to someone else. A deep thinker, she ponders the stories behind what we wear and why we love certain clothes more than others. Some things might be a gift or remind you of a special time or place or person. One day, the child sees another girl wearing her old lucky panda sweater, and the two become friends. This book was originally published in France, and the words and illustrations have a lovely and simple elegance. The story is sweet and thoughtful, an excellent way to start a discussion about charitable giving.


“My Panda Sweater” by Gillies Baum, illustrated by Barroux
“My Panda Sweater” by Gillies Baum, illustrated by Barroux


Early Elementary


“Give It!”
by Cinders McLeod

Chummy’s grandma has given him 10 carrots to spend on anything he wants. Carrots are money in Bunny Land. Chummy wants a superhero outfit so he can save the world from dragons. His intentions are so good because he wants to do good! But his Gran helps him to think things through a little more carefully. Maybe he can give some of the carrots away to someone or something else. Does the world really need to be saved by dragons? Maybe he could help the bees in their community who are hungry. What will Chummy decide to do?

Whether read around the holidays or another time of year, this great read will inspire compassion in K-2 readers and get them started thinking about how to share what they have. *Bonus: Simple math problems complement the text.


“Give It!” by Cinders McLeod
“Give It!” by Cinders McLeod


“What is Given from the Heart”
by Patricia C. McKissack and April Harrison

This powerful, heartbreaking story touches on several difficult issues, from the loss of a loved one to the realities of poverty. But it also looks at uplifting themes such as generosity, love and creativity. James Otis has lost his father, and he and his mother are left in poverty. But that doesn’t stop them from finding a way to help someone else. What is extra lovely about this book is that it shows that giving doesn’t have to be money. Giving can be something you make that is given from your heart. The illustrations are lovely and evocative, and young readers will have no trouble figuring out what the characters are feeling. This sweet, poignant story conveys compassion, empathy and love well beyond the holiday season.


“What is Given from the Heart” by Patricia C. McKissack and April Harrison
“What is Given from the Heart” by Patricia C. McKissack and April Harrison


Middle Grade


“Rumple Buttercup”
by Matthew Gray Gubler

Rumple Buttercup, an endearing little monster with five crooked teeth, three strands of hair, green skin and a slightly bigger left foot is convinced that he’s weird. Rumple hides in the sewers under the city, only coming above ground during the Annual Pajama Jam Cotton Candy Pancake Parade disguised by a banana peel on his head. When he can’t find a banana peel, he decides to forgo the festivities rather than frighten the townspeople. But it seems that the townspeople have known about Rumple all along and convince him to join the parade. After all, aren’t we all a bit weird?


“Rumple Buttercup” by Matthew Gray Gubler
“Rumple Buttercup”by Matthew Gray Gubler


“The Truth As Told By Mason Buttle”
by Leslie Connor

Mason Buttle is the largest and sweatiest kid in seventh grade. But that’s not his only problem. His mother passed away years ago, and he now lives with his grandmother and uncle on the family’s struggling apple orchard. His best and only friend Benny died in a tree house accident 15 months ago. The detective investigating Benny’s death is convinced Mason had something to do with the accident and makes routine visits to the Buttle home to ask Mason questions. On top of it all, he has learning differences that cause him to struggle to express himself. When Mason least expects it, a new friend enters his life in the form of his exact opposite: the small and encyclopedically brained Calvin Chumsky. But when Calvin goes missing, Mason is a suspect yet again. This realistic novel is an underdog tale that will resonate with readers in grades 5-7.


High School


“Aurora Rising”
by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Starting with “Aurora Rising,” the newer Aurora Cycle series has appeal for a range of teen readers. Teens who prefer quickly paced stories will love all the action; teens who prefer character-driven stories get a wealth of different characters and perspectives. Need a funny read? The quick wit and sarcasm of the characters will keep readers laughing. The audio version makes for a great listen as well with a full cast of narrators.


“The House in the Cerulean Sea” by T.J. Klune


“The House in the Cerulean Sea”
by T.J. Klune

When Linus Baker is tasked with investigating an unusual home for children, he thinks it’ll be business as usual for his job as a case worker for government orphanages, but the Marsyas Island Orphanage is anything but usual. This book is full of kindness, magic, wonder and beautiful friendships and relationships. It’s a big hug that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

About Conni Strittmatter

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