Extra Yarn, written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (2012).
One dreary winter day, Annabelle comes upon a box of yarn. She knits colorful sweaters for her friends, her grumpy teacher, and even the trees! Mysteriously, there is always extra yarn. Even an evil archduke can’t thwart Annabelle’s generosity in this modern fable that features Klassen’s trademark deadpan style. A Caldecott Honor Book.
Mama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya, written by Mary and Rich Chamberlin, illustrated by Julia Cairns (2005).
While visiting the village market, Adika invites everyone to share in the pancake meal that his mother has planned. Mama Panya is worried that there won’t be enough to feed everyone, but their guests repay Adika’s generosity.
Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, written by Amanda Gorman, illustrated by Loren Long (2021).
“I’m the change I want to see.” The young narrator of this rhyming picture book describes how she makes a difference in her community. Loren Long’s expansive illustrations show our narrator and her friends picking up trash in a playground, delivering groceries to an elderly woman, and many other acts of generosity.
The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle, written by Jude Isabella, illustrated by Simone Shin (2015).
Follow the journey of a bicycle from a donation center to several new owners, told through the eyes of young donors and receivers. Great for older readers; includes information about how to get involved in bicycle donation programs.
Dumplings for Lili, written and illustrated by Melissa Iwai (2021).
Lili is helping Nai Nai make baos, but they are missing a key ingredient for the flavorful dumplings. When she asks Babcia on the sixth floor for cabbage, she finds herself going all over their apartment building, delivering missing ingredients for pierogi, tamales, fatayer, and other delicious dumplings. Recipe included.
The Power of One, written by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Mike Curato (2020).
All it takes is one person— to notice a friend’s tears, to plant seeds, to apologize— and change can happen. Includes recommended resources for spreading kindness.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written by Philip Stead, illustrated by Erin Stead (2010).
Amos McGee loves his job at the zoo and makes sure that he takes care of the animals in the way they need. One day, Amos is too sick to go to work, so the animals decide to take care of him. Erin Stead’s delicate woodblock and pencil illustrations match the mood of this quiet, caring story. Winner of the Caldecott Medal.
Because Amelia Smiled, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein (2012).
Amelia’s smile is contagious and starts a lighted-hearted chain reaction that travels around the globe, with humorous and surprising results. Stein’s buoyant illustrations mirror the joy of a shared smile.
Shelter, written by Céline Claire and illustrated by Qin Leng (2016).
The woodland animals are busy preparing for a winter storm when two strangers arrive, asking for warmth by the fire in exchange for tea. No one will welcome them, but as the storm intensifies, the tables are turned.
Snow In Jerusalem, written by Deborah Da Costa, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu (2001).
Unknowingly, Avi and Hamudi each take care of the same stray cat in different sections of Jerusalem’s Old City. Sparks fly when they finally meet, but concern for “their” cat ultimately brings them together. An excellent choice to share with upper elementary students.
Big Red Lollipop, written by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (2010).
Rubina is excited about going to a birthday party with her friends, but her younger sister insists on tagging along, and creates awkward moments at the party. This frustrating experience gives Rubina an important perspective and helps her advocate for others.
Zen Ties, written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth (2008).
Stillwater the panda convinces Michael, Karl, and Addy to help their grouchy neighbor, Miss Whitaker. As they spend time with her, the children start to understand and appreciate her more.
If You Plant a Seed, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson (2015).
Using gardening as a metaphor, Nelson demonstrates what happens in a garden where the animal gardeners are selfish or kind. The luscious oil paintings show beautifully to a group.
Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis (2012).
Chloe and her classmates think that Maya, the new girl, is strange. No one will play with her, even when she tries to make friends. One day, she is gone and Chloe must wrestle with the impact of their cruelty. A thought-provoking choice to recommend to upper elementary classroom teachers. A Coretta Scott King Honor book.
Can We Help? Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities, written and illustrated by George Ancona (2015).
Engaging photos and short text show children volunteering in a wide array of settings.
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré, written by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paula Escobar (2019).
Share this influential librarian’s story with students, and tuck in a mini-lesson about the importance of books as windows and mirrors. A Pura Belpré Honor book.
Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Eric-Shabazz Larkin (2013).
A true story about an urban farmer. Will Allen believes that everyone has the right to good food, so he transformed a city lot in Milwaukee into a thriving urban garden, and founded Growing Power, Inc., an organization that teaches others how to farm in cities.
Sparrow Girl, written by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka (2009).
Sparrows have been declared the enemy in 1950s China because they eat too much valuable grain. Watching the tiny birds fall to the ground, Ming-Li knows she must do all she can to help them - even if it is forbidden. The somber illustrations by Yoko Tanaka show the small girl’s strength and highlight the sparrows’ plight.
That’s Not Fair! Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice, written by Carmen Tafolla and Sharyll Teneyuca, illustrated by Terry Ybáñez (2008).
At a young age, Emma became aware of injustice against Mexican-American workers. Throughout the 20th century, she led protests and worked to improve many lives. Presented in English and in Spanish.
Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom, written by Tim Tingle, illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges (2006).
Based on true events from the early 1800s, this picture book for older readers is the story of how people of the Choctaw Indian nation helped slaves cross the “Big Water” river to freedom. A great choice to hand to social studies or history teachers. Tingle has also expanded this story into a novel entitled Stone River Crossing (2019).