taking pride in a job well done…a list for Labor Day

This year marks the 120th anniversary of Labor Day as an American holiday.

I love that we set apart a day to honor the dignity of work. Draw your kids’ attention, respect, and gratitude towards the multitudes of makers, cultivators, researchers, peacekeepers, caretakers, thinkers, restorers… with these titles:

before we eat cover imageBefore We Eat: From Farm to Table, by Pat Brisson, illustrated by Mary Azarian
published in 2014 by Tilbury House Publishers

Being thankful for those who provide our food is perhaps one of the most natural ways to raise awareness of the industrious folks that serve us. Plowers and planters, harvesters and milkers and fishers. Crate-packers. Truckers. The friendly lady who checks us out at the grocery store. And oh yes, the ones who buy our food and make a family meal. 

before we eat interior brisson and azarian

Mary Azarian’s gorgeous woodblock prints anchor every page of this brief, lyrical text in strength, dignity, and beauty. Her Vermont roots give it a distinctly New England vibe. It’s a warm, peaceful, deeply-satisfying read for ages 2 and up.

Along these same lines, you might try a few other gems:

who put the cookies in the cookie jar cover image

Who Put the Cookies in the Cookie Jar, reviewed here.

to market to market cover image

To Market To Market, reviewed here.

on the farm at the market cover image

On the Farm, At the Market, reviewed here.

migrant cover imageMigrant, by Maxine Trottier, pictures by Isabelle Arsenault
published in 2011 by Groundwood Books

Little Anna and her family are migrant workers, a way of life that makes her feel a bit like a migratory bird or a rabbit that lives in an abandoned burrow. 

Anna wonders what it might feel like to be stationary. Like a tree, perhaps, “with roots sunk deeply into the earth.” Watching others come and go, but remaining, season after season, in one, comforting home.

migrant interior trottier and arsenault

This remarkable book exploring the life of a migrant-worker’s child is deeply reflective and thought-provoking. Isabelle Arsenault’s inventive, dreamlike images escort us into Anna’s realistically-sophisticated mindspace: children really do process such profound ideas. An Author’s Note tells more about the community of Mexican Mennonites  from which Anna’s family comes. 

It’s a fantastic window into another’s world, for ages 4 and up.

If you’d like to read about campaigns for the just treatment of migrant workers, try:

harvesting hope cover image
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

dolores huerta cover image
Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers

mr. cookie baker cover imageMy Cookie Baker, written and illustrated by Monica Wellington
published in 1992 by Dutton Children’s Books

Some people have jobs just so plum full of kid appeal. The Cookie Bakers of the world have to be right up near the top!

Watch Mr. Cookie Baker mix, roll, bake, frost, and dole out hop-skippety-doo cookies for all the children swarming  his adorable shop!

mr. cookie baker interior monica wellington

There is so much jolly good cheer on every one of these pages, I dare you not to smile! Deliciously-charming fare for little ones ages 15 months and up, with four scrumptious recipes to try for yourselves. You can be a cookie baker, too!

who will i be lord cover imageWho Will I Be, Lord? by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by Sean Qualls
published in 2009 by Random House

Here’s another deeply-contemplative child, observing the callings of those around her and pondering what her own future holds.

Her strong, multiracial family and community engage in salt-of-the-earth occupations — preaching, teaching, and making music, as well as homemaking and mothering. I am so grateful for the dignified portrayal of these monumentally-important undertakings. Even her uncle, a rascal of a pool shark, gets his moment under her gaze, and a gracious conclusion. 

who will i be lord interior nelson and qualls

Who will I be, Lord? What will I be? is the repeating question lurking in her mind, just as it weaves itself through the thoughts of every child. Sean Qualls’ mixed media work is, as always, warmly-human with a jazzy, contemporary vibe. A really lovely read for ages 4 and up.

mary smith cover imageMary Smith, written and illustrated by Andrea U’Ren
published in 2003 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Some jobs grow obsolete. Mary Smith’s job, sadly, is one of them. Sadly, I say, because it is an enormously-intriguing job which I would guess would have great appeal to some members of your household!

There really was a Mary Smith who lived in the East End of London

The real Mary Smith!

The real Mary Smith!

at the outset of the Industrial Revolution, a time when folks had to report for work at the factory on time, but might not own one of those new-fangled alarm clocks. 

Enter the “knocker-up” who would, for a few pennies, come to your window at the right time of daybreak, and shoot dried peas — ping! — at your window until you appeared, frowsy-haired. Mission accomplished, and on to the next window. This short, delightful story about Mary’s pea-shooting prowess will tickle the fancy of you and listeners ages 3 and up!

ella takes the cake cover imageElla Takes the Cake, by Carmela and Steven D’Amico
published in 2005 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Finally, this enthusiastic little elephant named Ella! Such an earnest desire she has to be helpful to her mother in their bakery by the sea. But hot ovens and sharp knives do not mix well with small elephants, much to Ella’s dismay.

Ella comes up with a brilliant idea, however, which is very helpful and which requires tremendous perseverance! Cheer her along the way in this exuberant story, cram-jammed with charm.

ella takes the cake interior d'amico

There’s a bit of a Babar feel to the vintage, European-look illustrations, to my mind. Ages 3 and up. There are a bunch more Ella books if you like this one.