2018 Mid-Year Round Up: Social Emotional Stories

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What’s the latest and greatest and not so good in 2018 stories that encourage empathy and conversation about feelings? Read on to find out!

Did I miss a great book? Have you tried one of these titles yet? Was it a smashing success or a flop? Please share!

Please note I’m leaving out a horde of back to school books! There’s some really fantastic new releases this year all about first day feelings and creating a classroom culture of kindness. Check ’em out on my teacher blog!

⭐️= favorite

👎= nope

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⭐️Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Long

Jim the Chimpanzee is having a rough day, despite the best efforts of his fellow savannah animals. Jim just doesn’t feel like doing anything- not swinging, not singing, not stomping, and definitely not eating old meat. Why can’t everyone just leave Jim be? This hilarious story packs a powerful message: sometimes, it’s okay to just feel grumpy. Feelings don’t have to be fixed… they just are.

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⭐️How to Be a Lion by Ed Vere

I am loving all the books published this year about celebrating different ways to be! Leonard isn’t like the other lions. He’s gentle, and kind, and likes to look up at the stars, and makes up poems with his friend Marianne. When the other fierce lions find out that Leonard is friends with a duck, they decide he’s gone too far. Will Leonard give in to peer pressure and chomp his friend? Will he resort to force in her defense? Or is there another way to be? Sometimes standing our ground and using our words can take the most courage of all.

I’m not crying, you’re crying. 😭
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How Are You? / ¿Cómo Estás? by Angela Dominguez

Super excited to see another bilingual book by Angela Dominguez this year! My storytime families loved How Do You Say? / ¿Cómo Se Dice? and they were equally enchanted by this follow-up. The illustrations and text are equally charming and appealing. Great toddler title!

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That Fruit is Mine! by Anuska Allepuz

Five little mice teach five-fruit loving elephants all about the power of teamwork in this fun jungle tale! When they spot a new yellow fruit high in a tall tree, each elephant dreams of claiming the fruit for themselves… but while they squabble and scramble, five mice work together and show them how it’s done. I love the silly ending and what’s going on with the typography- great opportunities for print awareness in this one!

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⭐️Bear’s Scare by Jacob Grant

This fastidious bear is in for a fright when he spies a spiderweb in his house! Determined to tidy the mess, Bear hunts for his unwelcome guest with the aid of Ursa, his beloved teddy bear. When Ursa gets injured in the search, Bear learns to look beyond appearances and discovers an unlikely new friend.

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⭐️I’m Sad by Michael Ian Black

Despite their best efforts, a young girl and a spunky spud can’t cheer up their friend Flamingo. Not even ice cream (or DIRT!) can chase away Flamingo’s blues. Is it okay sometimes to just be sad? With bright and bold illustrations and layers of humor that will appeal to all, this book packs a powerful social emotional message!

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👎Neither by Airlie Anderson

Born in a world of polar opposites, a bright green creature that’s not quite Bird and not quite Bunny struggles to find acceptance. The subtext is a little too close to the surface for my taste and there’s not a lot else going on with the story. It’s a worthy subtext- I’d just rather kids read about embracing differences with characters who look like them, with relatable experiences, like in…

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⭐️Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

(aka the most beautiful moving book of the year)

Julian is enchanted by mermaids. He dreams of the sea, of a swirling tail and long flowing hair. After encountering three such beautiful creatures on the subway, Julian heads home and improvises his own costume, complete with a lace curtain and potted fern. What will his Abuela say? OH MY GOSH THAT MOMENT WHEN ABUELA AND JULIAN ARE JUST LOOKING AT EACH OTHER. Of course it’s all fine and she loves him just the way he is, but damn that moment was suspenseful. My heart leaped to my throat. What a beautifully illustrated/written celebration of the self, but what really stands out is that this story is also about finding your people.

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Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival

Another beautiful book with a beautiful message about being yourself. Love the use of color in the illustrations! When Norman hides his wings, his world turns grey… but when he realizes there’s no such thing as perfectly normal, his world becomes a bright colorful place once more. I love how Norman encourages his peers to also shed their coats and be their true selves.

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Goodbye Brings Hello by Dianne White

For each thing left behind, a new adventure awaits. What a gentle and empowering read to help young ones navigate changes and try something new, from swinging solo to the first day of school! Love the diverse representation and pictures of resilience.

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The Sandcastle that Lola Built by Megan Maynor

This year saw a lot of great beach books bounce onto the scene! It’s not easy building the perfect mermaid sandcastle on a busy beach. Every time a frisbee or foot passes by, Lola has to start over. Good thing Lola’s not a quitter! I love how Lola pulls in Frisbee Dude, Minnesota Girl and Little Guy to help fix and add to the sandcastle. I also love the everyday diversity. This lovely quasi-cumulative book packs a powerful message about resilience and being stronger together.

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The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates

Come big, come small, come hairy legs, come all! There’s room for everyone under this umbrella. A sweet, simple and beautiful exploration of acceptance.

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👎Bully by Jennifer Sattler

Bully the Bullfrog lives in a beautiful pond full of fragrant, delicious lilies… and he’s not about to share! The other pond pals must band together to rescue the last poor lily from being squashed and reclaim their space. You’d think Billy would learn his lesson when he ends up all alone in a barren, muddy pond… but as they say, a leopard (or in this case, a bullfrog) can’t change his spots.

A good message about the power of standing up together I guess, but it’s a little too overtly didactic for my taste. I also think a real opportunity was lost with the refrain- a little more repetition with the “MINE!” would have gone a long way.

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⭐️The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Kuefler

It’s business as usual on the construction site, until one day Digger discovers something beautiful in the rubble… a lone blue flower! Digger learns what love and loss mean as he cultivates and cares for his new fragile friend. Perfect read-aloud for Earth Day (and any day). I love the rich vocabulary (like hoist, rubble, tucked, shielded), the moving illustrations, and the lasting message of hope. Haven’t been brave enough to read this in storytime yet because I’m pretty sure I will bawl my eyes out.

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Petra by Marianna Coppo

Petra is as strong and immovable as a mighty mountain… at least until a dog comes along and significantly changes her perspective. Not content to be a mere pebble, Petra sets out to find her new place in the world. A super funny story about being yourself and rolling with the flow! LOVE the illustrations and multiple layers of humor for adults and kids.

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