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Grit in Kid Lit -- Picture Books that Encourage Resilience

by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)

Collage of Book Covers - Picture Books that Encourage grit and resilience in kids

As we find our way through this challenging time in our world, I've been thinking a lot about how books can help us and our kids as we navigate hard times. In this compilation, I share a few favorite authors, including Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, and Peter H. Reynolds, but I also pull in some authors who are new to me, including Troy Cummings and Ashley Franklin. I also include picture books by Chelsea Clinton, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Isabel Quintero.

Kwame Alexander's The Undefeated, illustrated by Kadir Nelson - On this list, I wanted to share books I haven't talked about in other places on the blog, but I couldn't write a post about grit without including this phenomenal book. Alexander celebrates Black lives but also explores the mistreatment of Black people throughout American history. I talked about this book on our episode about great books for the classroom by Black authors and also on this bookish fave post.

Chelsea Clinton's She Persisted around the World: 13 Women who Changed History, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger - This book is one of my oldest daughter's most favorite books. This one has profiles of courageous women and girls around the world who persist and who bring about meaningful change. This is a great entry point for learning about some important women, and it demonstrates the role of grit in those accomplishments.

Troy Cummings' Can I Be Your Dog? - This is a sweet story about a dog who is determined to find an owner. He writes lots of letters and faces many rejections. However, the mail carrier who delivers all of the letters (and the rejections in reply) writes a letter of her own, inviting him to be her dog. It's a lovely story about found family and about how things can get better despite hard times.

Ashley Franklin's Not Quite Snow White, illustrated by Ebony Glenn - In this sweet story, Tameika loves to sing, dance, and act. She wants to be Snow White in a school play, but some of the kids at her school say hurtful things about her size and skin color during auditions, making her doubt whether she is the right person for the part. She talks through this with her parents and comes to discover that she is "just enough of all the right stuff." I love the way that this story celebrates Tameika and also the way that Franklin models talking through hard things with loved ones to find confidence and resolution.

Juan Felipe Herrera's Imagine, illustrated by Lauren Castillo - In this story, Herrara explores his own journey from his childhood with his migrant family in California, through his experiences in school, and all the way to the moment he is named Poet Laureate of the United States in 2015. (Read more about Herrera and see some of his poems here.) Through the beautiful journey in the picture book, Herrera speaks to overcoming adversity and invites young readers to "imagine what [they] can do" with their lives.

Isabel Quintero's My Papi Has a Motorcycle, illustrated by Zeke Peña - At its heart, this lovely book is about the love between a daughter and her dad through their daily ritual of riding on his motorcycle together through their town. But Quintero also encourages resilience by showing that though things change and sometimes people struggle, they can find a way to carry on and to support each other. (I'm here for anything Quintero writes! Her YA novel, Gabi: A Girl in Pieces, is one of my favorites!)

Peter H. Reynolds's Be You! - It's well established on here that I love Peter H. Reynolds's books! They always center on promotion of character traits that make kids into kinder, more compassionate people. I share about three of Reynolds's other books on this post about good picture books for hard times. Be You! celebrates each child's individuality but also encourages kids to cultivate their resilience and their compassion for others.

Jaqueline Woodson's The Day You Begin, illustrated by Rafael Lopez - I've talked about my love for this amazing book before (including in this bookish fave). I love it so much! The illustrations are gorgeous, and the reader sees the struggles of multiple characters as they try to find their place. Woodson encourages resilience in kids by showing that through opening up to others and being compassionate, we can find our place and support each other.

What are books that you recommend that encourage grit and resilience in kids? Let us know in the comments!

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