Brittany Sky

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Based on author Baptiste Paul’s childhood experiences in St. Lucia, Patchwork Prince is a moving story about familial love and pride despite hardship. One night, a mother and her son collect fabric scraps discarded by a wealthy factory owner. Over the course of their adventure, the boy transforms figuratively into a prince. Princes must be patient, fast, alert and brave. After the duo escapes with piles of vibrant fabric scraps, his mother—queen of this “modest kingdom”—must get to work creating her prince’s royal attire.

Illustrations by Kitt Thomas, a fellow St. Lucian, thrum with color and movement. Readers will be awed by tiny details on each page: glimmering stars, the many fabric patterns and the glow of the candlelight. As in previous picture books such as My Fade is Fresh and Stacey’s Remarkable Books, Thomas’ artwork is distinct for its softness, vibrancy and texture, making the characters and settings burst to life.

Patchwork Prince invokes in readers both the fear and hope felt by the prince. As the prince bravely wears his mosaic garment around his friends, his expression of pride reminds readers to find joy in the beautiful gifts we receive throughout life. The young prince’s admiration toward his mother’s creative process will delight caregivers who read this book to their charges. The love between mother and son, shown most of all through their cuddle in the last illustration, will drive readers to snuggle up closer during storytime and imagine ways they might also transform into royalty.

Paul and Thomas have created a marvelous book that depicts the regal beauty of their homeland for all to admire.

Baptiste Paul and Kitt Thomas have created a marvelous book that depicts the regal beauty of their homeland, St. Lucia, for all to admire.
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In her first picture book as author and illustrator, Qing Zhuang invites readers on a colorful, immersive shopping trip in New York City’s Chinatown neighborhood.

As Rainbow Shopping opens, a young girl is feeling as gloomy as the gray, rainy weather outside her window. She has nestled herself under a blanket on her bed, a tin of crayons by her side as she draws in a notebook. The girl’s family recently emigrated from China, and her parents and grandmother always seem to be working, as busy as the city itself. But her mom has a plan for today, one that involves both comfort and connection.

Mom’s remedy is a journey to Chinatown to buy ingredients for a family dinner. When the pair arrive at the market, Zhuang’s palette brightens visibly as mother and daughter shop and enjoy their time together. As Mom selects fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, she shares wisdom and tenderness with her daughter. “Bamboo plants are flexible and strong, surviving the toughest storms,” she says as she shops for produce. The girl’s responses are often feisty, as when she tries to convince her mom to let her buy an armful of candy. (“Mom says I only get to keep one bag,” the girl reveals. “I think she must have eaten too many bitter melons in her life.”)

When the two return home, Dad makes a delicious meal for the family and reveals secrets of his “kitchen kung fu,” such as cutting bitter melon thinly to reduce its bitterness. Everyone gathers around the table after a long week, sharing not only the food but also the girl’s drawings and stories of their family’s past. As the rain continues to pour and the girl slips into sleep, she dreams of walking with her family “in rainbow rain.”

Zhuang’s artwork is as warm and inviting as her story. Her watercolor, crayon and colored pencil illustrations burst with detail, allowing for new discoveries with each read. A wordless spread of the subway ride home reveals a small dog strapped to its owner’s chest, a brown paper bag labeled Trader Moe’s and a commuter in lime-green Crocs.

Sweet, fun and spunky, Rainbow Shopping is a beautiful, touching portrait of a family’s love for one another.

A grocery-shopping trip and a shared meal provide moments of comfort and connection in this touching portrait of a family’s love for one another.
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The Lives We Actually Have

Book jacket image for The Lives We Actually Have by Kate Bowler

Like the psalmists, authors Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie (Good Enough) examine and affirm the multifaceted human experience in The Lives We Actually Have. In 100 entries written in verse, Bowler and Richie celebrate the beautiful, lament the ugly and recognize the mundane alongside the blindsiding. This book is not the shallow expression of prayer most of us are used to. Instead, these pages hold blessings that make every human experience, even a “garbage day,” worthy of noting and appreciating.

The authors include blessings for every kind of day, including ordinary life, tired life, lovely life, grief-stricken life, overwhelming life, painful life and holy life. Along the way, they do an incredible job of reclaiming blessings from social media’s “#blessed” culture, speaking truthfully about the range of experiences inherent to being human instead of offering blessings for the pristine, uncomplicated lives we wish we had.

Bowler and Richie go where most Christian authors won’t: right to all the messy truths of being alive. Their willingness to meet us where we are makes life feel a little more manageable and a little more worthy of love. Through their words of blessing, readers will find courage, rest, hope to carry on—and maybe even a laugh.

The Book of Nature

Book jacket image for The Book of Nature by Barbara Mahany

Born out of author Barbara Mahany’s curiosity, The Book of Nature: The Astonishing Beauty of God’s First Sacred Text weaves together theology, nature, science, liturgy and poetry. Instead of losing readers in so many captivating details, she brings all these seemingly different mediums together to create a compelling argument that the natural world is the key to understanding God. To Mahany, and the countless theologians, authors and scientists she references, nature is what makes sense of scripture.

Mahany opens her book by sharing how she came to write about the Book of Nature, which is an ancient name for the practice of “reading” nature like a sacred text, “the text of all of creation, inscribed and unfurled by a God present always and everywhere.” Her initial spark of interest led her down a rabbit hole, finding references to the Book of Nature throughout Christian history. She then explains how the separation of religion and nature—that is, science—came about during the Enlightenment and reminds readers that it doesn’t have to be that way now. Through her essays on the earthly, the liminal and the heavenly, Mahany reveals the divine’s presence in our world.

For those in the Christian faith who grew up learning about God only from Bible lessons, The Book of Nature provides permission to wonder, get curious and find God in the tiny details of a sprouting garden, a forest glade, birds in flight or the moon. By showing readers how many respected theologians, seminarians, desert mothers and fathers, tribal leaders and saints found God in nature, Mahany reminds us that there are different ways to encounter God all around us, beyond just in scripture.

 Dancing in the Darkness

Rev. Otis Moss III is the senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, and his ministry is steeped in a theological tradition of liberation, love and justice. Dancing in the Darkness: Spiritual Lessons for Thriving in Turbulent Times, his latest collection of essay-sermons, lays out the need for Americans to use the tools of “Just Love” (love linked to justice) to overcome despair and denial. Because of our country’s racialized history, Moss writes that we are doomed to stay in a state of “political midnight” if we don’t reckon with injustice while holding onto agape love.

Moss weaves personal stories, history and prophecy together in a fast-paced, faith-filled way. Readers will breeze through these essays and feel energized to hold onto hope despite the challenges we face as a society. With practical calls to prayer, meditation and authenticity, Moss leads readers into Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for a “beloved community.”

Dancing in the Darkness is a wonderful soul-reviver. Readers will come away feeling spiritually buoyed, just like they might if they attended worship at Moss’ church. The effect is empowering without giving into unrealistic visions of utopia. It’s like a spoonful of sugar that will help us fight for the world our children deserve to inherit.

All My Knotted-Up Life

Book jacket image for All My Knotted-Up Life by Beth Moore

Many readers have been anticipating the release of All My Knotted-Up Life, author and minister Beth Moore’s memoir. After decades as a women’s Bible study teacher in the Southern Baptist Church, a denomination that only allows men in leadership roles, Moore finally shares her story. She reveals a few surprising secrets here, but her trademark belief in the goodness of Jesus is the memoir’s main draw.

Beginning with her childhood, Moore tells her story of living in a home fraught with mental illness and sexual abuse and the safety she felt going to the Baptist church in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. As Moore moves chronologically through her life, we see her family fall apart and come back together, and we see Moore get married and have children all while feeling called to ministry. Moore struggled to figure out what that would look like in the Southern Baptist Church, but she found a way—first by working around the Southern Baptist Convention’s gendered leadership rules and then by leaving the organization completely—and became one of the most well-known leaders in evangelical Christianity. 

All My Knotted-Up Life will leave some readers wishing they knew more of Moore’s story. Because of her ability to see the humanity in all people, including her abusers, I was personally left wanting to see more of her process of forgiveness. But for Moore, true forgiveness is up to Jesus, who is at the heart of this tender memoir.

These Christian nonfiction books will make readers feel a little bit better about being human.
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In a society that elevates white people and heteronormative relationships, the word family has come to suggest a white dad, a white mom and their two white children living in the suburbs. In Choosing Family: A Memoir of Queer Motherhood and Black Resistance, however, DePaul University professor Francesca Royster provides a look at what family really means. It’s an expansive word that encapsulates what folks from all backgrounds have always done, especially within systems that can separate biological family members: blending both blood relatives and those chosen through adoption, marriage or simple affection. 

Royster brings readers along for her journey into motherhood as a queer woman fashioning a family. This includes not only the story of adopting a daughter with her wife, Annie, but also research about and with Black and queer chosen families. By artfully interweaving her own story with the work of scholars of African American and queer studies, Royster adds weight to her lived experience without distracting from the narrative. This approach also provides fuller context about the history of these marginalized identities for readers who do not share them.

Having a child inspires many parents to reflect on their own ancestral histories and families of origin, and this is certainly true for Royster. Throughout Choosing Family, she introduces the many mothers who came before her in her family line: her great-grandmothers, grandmothers, mother and stepmother, each of whom formed families from both blood and choice. For example, when her parents divorced, Royster’s mother created a family from deep friendships with strong, nurturing women. These relationships set the foundation for Royster to one day create the family she wanted, one that didn’t necessarily match the traditional image of family.

Parenthood is complex, and readers will feel Royster’s anticipation, joy and deep love, along with her fear. Her writing style has a smooth cadence and makes you feel like you’re with her every step of the way as she raises her daughter in a family that is Black, queer and chosen.

In her artful memoir, Francesca T. Royster brings readers along for her journey into motherhood as a queer woman fashioning a family.


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In the poem “Book of Genesis” from his 2007 poetry collection, There Is an Anger That Moves, Kei Miller considers the famous declarations—”Let there be . . .”—uttered in the creation story from the Hebrew Bible’s book of Genesis. Miller asks: What is it about the word let that allows a whole world to be made? Let: A Poem About Wonder and Possibility adapts “Book of Genesis” into picture book form, continuing Miller’s exercise in allowing the open possibility of let to fashion and shape from each reader’s imagination a brand-new world “in which everyone has the freedom to realize one’s dreams.”

The Nigerian Italian artist Diana Ejaita’s beautiful, intricate and bright illustrations immediately stand out when one picks up Let. Inspired by her Nigerian heritage, Ejaita’s art incorporates movement, texture and rich colors. Each image features the silhouette of a child, whom we follow through Ejaita’s imagined world full of suns, rabbits, stars, birds and endless beauty. These spreads suggest a sense of motion that will keep readers mesmerized.

Miller’s poem encourages ongoing creativity and reminds us that the act of creation is a daily practice of leaning into the wonder and awe all around us. Making a world requires attention, optimism and curiosity. Let invites each reader to embrace the gifts of the children in our midst and allow the power of let to make our world a better place.

The combined efforts of Kei Miller and Diana Ejaita will leave readers uplifted and ready to see the beauty and joy all around them.

The power of the combined efforts of Kei Miller and Diana Ejaita will leave readers uplifted and ready to see the beauty and joy all around them.
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Fat Talk 

With the rise of the body positivity movement, many parents have asked, “How do I raise my child to love their body, eat healthy foods without demonizing sweets and navigate all of the negative talk about the sizes of bodies?” Most parents don’t know, because they’ve also grown up in a fatphobic society swarming with confusing advice and thin privilege. That’s where journalist Virginia Sole-Smith’s new book, Fat Talk comes in.

‘Fat Talk’ gives tons of helpful advice for navigating food and provides conversation starters to help unpack fatphobia with your child, no matter their size.

Sole-Smith presents research about how diet culture is promoted by Instagram influencers, doctors and pharmaceutical companies, all seeking to make a dollar. She also uncovers ample evidence that proves dieting doesn’t work, except as a strategy to blame the individual instead of society’s marginalization of larger, fat bodies. Rebalancing the narrative, she argues, will target the real problems, instead of shaming and harming children. It even helps the parent resolve complications they have with their own bodies.

In addition to its science-based debunking of diet culture, Fat Talk gives tons of helpful advice for navigating food and provides conversation starters to help unpack fatphobia with your child, no matter their size. It also includes a list of resources for parents including picture and middle-grade books, memoirs, podcasts, newsletters, movies and television shows and other resources.

Calm the Chaos

Pulling from her own experiences as both a mother of a child who doesn’t quite fit the mold and a teacher, Dayna Abraham’s book, Calm the Chaos is about empowering parents of children who need extra emotional, physical and developmental support. Abraham presents a five-stage framework that helps parents navigate and quell the storm. Each stage has been broken down into manageable chunks, often with illustrations; Abraham knows the parents who need her help do not have a lot of free time.

In a conversational and relatable way, Abraham helps families create safety through love for their high-needs child so each member can move from surviving to thriving. Every chapter includes lists of questions that help assess your current needs, actionable steps to put into practice based on where you are with your child and notes that relieve any shame that may come up as you assess your family’s needs.

Abraham knows the parents who need her help do not have a lot of free time.

Abraham provides real stories about real children who have benefited from her approach, giving the reader examples to draw from as they begin implementing the strategies in the book. Calm the Chaos will be a fabulous tool for anyone seeking to give their child the power to be who they were born to be.

Erasing the Finish Line

Most parents have worried about how to prepare their children for leaving the nest and finding a successful life of their own. In Erasing the Finish Line by early career development expert Ana Homayoun, parents are encouraged to let go of the made-up finish line at high school graduation and college admissions. As an academic advisor, Homayoun has helped countless young people figure out a new blueprint for success by building core competencies that will benefit them throughout their lives. Though they may lead to academic success, these core competencies aren’t structured around test scores and GPAs. Instead, Homayoun’s method crafts a blueprint based on the individual child’s goals. She encourages parents to instead teach their children how to organize, plan, prioritize, adapt, start and complete tasks. These skills will get older children through young adulthood and are important for long term success in any job or role.

Young people in their teens and early twenties are experiencing anxiety, depression and adjustment disorders at alarming rates, a fact that Homayoun says is contributed to by the intense focus on admissions to the “right” school. Erasing the Finish Line is a delightful read that functions as a handbook for loving and accepting your child just as they are. Only when our children feel an unconditional sense of acceptance can they find real success.

Growing Up in Public 

Many parents struggle to have healthy boundaries around technology, let alone help their children navigate the complex landscape of social media, texting and access to potentially harmful content. Growing Up in Public by Devorah Heitner, Ph.D. offers a wealth of relatable information, and will steer parents away from simply monitoring the ways children use technology, arguing instead for a mentorship approach that will guide children through the many landmines it can create for us.

Readers will walk away with a wealth of proactive strategies to prevent potential harm for their children who are engaging in the digital world.

From strategies rooted in trust versus surveillance, character building versus shaming and consent versus boundary crossing, Growing Up in Public gives parents a gentle guide on how to keep lines of communication open between them and their child.

Heitner’s gentleness shines in her writing. Her style puts the reader at ease, while also giving them permission to support tweens and teens through compassionate care. Readers will walk away with a wealth of proactive strategies to prevent potential harm for their children who are engaging in the digital world, as well as gentle guidance on what to do when the worst happens. This is an important guidebook for all parents as they seek to give their children the skills they need to navigate our brave new world.

Four parenting books on body positivity, neurodivergence and responsible social media use will ensure this remains the case.
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“Finn was in a horrible mood. Grandpa wanted to talk about it. Finn did not.” So begins author-illustrator Cori Doerrfeld’s picture book that captures what we truly need when we’re not ready to talk about what is happening underneath the surface. 

When we first see Finn, the child is little more than a lump, sitting on a bed and covered by a patchwork quilt. To the left of the bed is a sewing machine, and hanging on the wall above is a wedding portrait of Grandpa and Grandma. Instead of pushing his grandchild into a conversation, Grandpa suggests a walk, and Finn reluctantly agrees. The two set off with Finn still wrapped tightly in the quilt, their nose peeking out from its folds.

As the pair walk into a dense forest that teems with life, Grandpa notes the many things happening that can’t be seen: root systems of trees growing underground, fish swimming under the surface of the water, eggs staying warm in a nest beneath a bird and more. In each spread, Finn emerges a little bit more from beneath the quilt. First we see Finn’s face, then a puff of reddish hair, then the sleeves of a blue sweater. 

Doerrfeld’s digital paint illustrations are richly colored and detailed, featuring the soft, crayonlike textures that have become her signature. Scenes that reveal secrets hidden within hollow trees and underground burrows feel cozy and safe, evoking the way Finn must feel under the quilt. Especially moving is a scene in which Grandpa and Finn come across several other groups of walkers: an older person with a dog, an adult and a crying child, and a person using a wheelchair sharing headphones with a companion. Doerrfeld’s X-ray vision artwork shows readers the different thoughts and emotions of each person, a testimony to how varying our experiences can be even amid a shared moment.

Beneath is a rare picture book that truly meets both young readers and adults where they are. Its tenderness and sense of wonder will appeal to children. They’ll relate to Finn’s initial conviction that some things feel too hard for anyone else to understand, as well as the deeper longing to have such feelings validated. Meanwhile, Grandpa’s desire to offer Finn comfort and validation will resonate with adults. 

As Grandpa seeks to care for Finn, he also creates an opportunity for Finn to care for him, and it’s this depiction of mutual care that makes Beneath so extraordinary. Witnessing the love between these two characters gives readers of all ages a beautiful model of how we can truly support one another when we need it most.

This extraordinary picture book captures what we truly need when we’re not ready to talk about what is happening underneath the surface.
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The Civil War of Amos Abernathy

Thirteen-year-old Amos Abernathy loves history. He and his best friend, Chloe Thompson, volunteer as reenactors at the living history park in their small town of Apple Grove, Illinois. When Ben Oglevie begins volunteering at the park, Amos is instantly impressed with his knowledge of Abraham Lincoln, who is Amos’ favorite Illinois historical figure. It takes a little longer for Amos to realize he’s also got a serious crush on Ben.

When the park invites volunteers to submit proposals for a new exhibit, Amos struggles to come up with an idea until Ben sees a gay couple visiting the park and wonders whether LGBTQ people are part of the park’s history. Amos sets out to find answers and discovers Albert D.J. Cashier, a transgender man who fought in the Civil War and lived out the rest of his life in a town near Apple Grove. Amos knows that Albert’s story should be told at the living history park, but not everyone—including Ben’s conservative, religious parents—agrees.

Michael Leali’s debut novel, The Civil War of Amos Abernathy, is an inspiring portrait of determined young people helping their community become more inclusive. Told through diary-style letters that Amos writes to Albert, the book’s first-person narration is conversational and authentic, and Amos’ self-deprecating earnestness is quickly endearing.

The Civil War of Amos Abernathy is thoughtfully intersectional: A notable subplot depicts the racist and sexist resistance that Chloe faces when she applies for an apprenticeship in the park’s blacksmith shop. As Amos, Chloe and Ben work on their proposal, Amos becomes determined to change the way that “only some identities matter” in the story that the park tells about the past.

This tale of tweens who teach the adults in their lives important truths about justice, equity and the power of history shines with respect for its impassioned young protagonists.

★ Different Kinds of Fruit

Sixth grader Annabelle Blake is bored. She’s been attending the same small school since kindergarten, and it seems like nothing new or interesting ever happens in her small town. She often wishes that her family would move to the nearby big city of Seattle, just for some excitement.

Then Bailey, a nonbinary kid, moves to town. Bailey’s fashion is impeccable and their whole vibe is electrifying, so Annabelle is confused when her parents discourage her from getting close to them. If Annabelle’s parents don’t accept Bailey for who they are, then maybe she won’t be accepted either as she tries to determine which of the LGBTQIAP+ letters fit her best.

The actual reason is a secret that Annabelle’s parents have concealed her entire life: Annabelle’s father is a transgender man and is the person who gave birth to her. He was rejected by his trans community for his decision to become a birthing parent, and his pain has kept him in hiding ever since.

Kyle Lukoff’s remarkable Different Kinds of Fruit juxtaposes two generations of gender-nonconforming people’s experiences. It honors the trauma that Annabelle’s dad went through but, as in The Civil War of Amos Abernathy, shows how much adults have to gain by listening to and learning from young people.

Annabelle also has a lot to learn—about herself, her family and her community. Her eager, openhearted spirit makes her story especially accessible to readers who are also beginning to understand the spectrum of gender identities but who may not have ever met a nonbinary or transgender person. Different Kinds of Fruit will be as meaningful to young people today as Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was for earlier generations of readers.

The Rainbow Parade

Emily Neilson draws on childhood memories to offer young readers a front-row seat to San Francisco’s Pride celebration in The Rainbow Parade.

On the day of the Rainbow Parade, Emily loves to take the train with Mama and Mommy and meet family friends in the city. As they walk down the sidewalk together, Emily sees people “wearing whatever makes them feel most like themselves,” whether it’s swishy dresses, casual clothing, leather outfits or nearly nothing.

When the parade begins, Emily enjoys the loud motorcycles and the bright colors. But when the rainbow fairy queen invites Emily’s family to join the parade, Emily wonders, “Maybe I’m not loud enough or proud enough” to join the festivities. Emily’s moms offer reassurance that the parade is a place where everyone belongs and that “sometimes finding your pride takes a little practice.”

The Rainbow Parade is a dazzling celebration of queer families that captures how empowering it is to be accepted for who we are. Neilson’s digital illustrations convey the joyful fun of marching in the parade as well as watching it from the sidelines. They expertly communicate Emily’s emotions via facial expressions and body language, whether the child is grinning and striding toward the train, hand-in-hand with Mama and Mommy, or gazing wide-eyed at the people marching and pondering the possibility of joining them..

The final page of The Rainbow Parade includes photos of Neilson as a child attending Pride celebrations with their family, as well as a moving note in which Neilson pays tribute to their moms for teaching them “how powerful it can be when we love and accept ourselves.”

Correction, May 26, 2022: A shortened version of this article that appeared in print used pronouns when referring to the protagonist of The Rainbow Parade. This character’s pronouns are not specified in the text of the book.

The past is present in these books that powerfully remind us how young people will one day lead us all into the future.

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