Posts Tagged ‘charity’

I don’t know about you, but lately my heart feels as though someone has been scouring it with steel wool.

Raw. Abraded. Grieving over violence and suffering, abuse of power and abuse of Earth, caustic tongues and acrimony, overwhelmingly loud day after day.  

As we move towards a series of holidays celebrating gratitude, light, and love, I want to share some powerful titles that console me with their messages of generosity, kindness, and working to alleviate suffering.

These books suit ages 2 through teens. Pick one or two, read them together, and dream of ways you can help mend the brokenness in our world.

At the end of the post, I have links to a couple of non-profits where your gifts can make a difference to people in extreme need.

You Hold Me Up, written by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Danielle Daniel
published in 2017 by Orca Books

Page through this gem and feel your heart glow with the warmth, strength, and richness of community, family, togetherness. 

You hold me up. I hold you up. That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Monique Gray Smith quietly illuminates humanity’s best self with her minimal, just-right words.

Daniel’s striking palette and touching scenes mean each page delivers a wallop of goodness, all with that beautiful First Nation’s flavor. A total delight from our good neighbors in Canada that’ll woo readers of all ages toward being holder-uppers.


Love the World, written and illustrated by Todd Parr
published in 2017 by Little, Brown and Company

Todd Parr’s jubilant colors and relentless optimism radiate from every page in this simple call to love for the very young.

Love yourself! Love the world! Mix and repeat. What a great recipe! A warm-as-a-hug book for ages 18 months and up that fills minds and imaginations with smiles, welcome, and kindness. 


Can We Help? Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities, by George Ancona
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

Children engaged in knitting hats for homeless families, harvesting vegetables for soup kitchens, delivering meals to the elderly, training assistance dogs, skiing down mountains with physically-disabled kids, picking up trash along highways, and more, briefly describe their activities…

…all accompanied by copious color photographs. No glitz. Just ordinary kids pitching in to help their neighbors. Heartening and inspiring. Ages 3 and up. What can you think of to do together?

It Takes a Village, written by Hillary Rodham Clinton, illustrated by Marla Frazee
published in 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

In her Author’s Note, Clinton says “this book is meant to spark a conversation with our youngest about what children can do to help make the world what they hope it will be.”

Short phrases comprise the text, some more meaningful than others. The main theme is almost completely borne out by Frazee’s ever-tender, inclusive illustrations… 

… a sequence of vignettes showing folks banding together to build a prime playground. A neighborhood gathering place. You can’t miss the vibe of hope, collaboration, and warm community shining through here, a lovely antidote to weariness and cynicism. Ages 3 and up.

Letters to a Prisoner, by Jacques Goldstyn
published in Canada in 2015 as Le prisonnier sans frontiéres; English edition 2017 by Owlkids Books

A powerful, wordless story unfolds when one man and his young daughter (could be a son) set off to protest a powerful regime. Soldiers attack and the father is thrown into prison. 

As his hope dwindles, a little bird flies through the prison window and delivers a letter. So cheering! But it’s confiscated by an angry guard. More letters come, only to be burned. The plight of this prisoner becomes known around the world, however, and all manner of individuals write letters — fortress-loads of letters. What is the result?

It’s a wordless story, vibrant, poignant, triumphant, taking its inspiration from Amnesty International’s letter-writing marathon and seeking to inspire participation in this annual event. What a wonderful movement to take part in! Ages 4 and up.

The Happy Prince: A Tale by Oscar Wilde, illustrated and adapted by Maisie Paradise Shearring
original edition 2016; published in 2017 by Thames & Hudson

Shearring retells Oscar Wilde’s famous short story featuring the ornate, bejewelled statue of a happy prince and a swallow who alights on it. 

The prince, so oblivious of others’ needs throughout his life of opulent wealth, sorrows now from his heights as a statue, for he can see the ugliness and misery of the world from this new vantage point. Both the prince and the swallow are thus moved to sacrifice themselves for the good of the destitute in this fairy tale-esque story.

Shearring’s masterful artwork won the prestigious Bologna International Award for Illustration and you will easily understand why. Her emotive color palette and stunning compositions are utterly captivating. Wherein does true happiness lie — in hoarding or in laying down one’s life for others? Compelling ideas for ages 5 and up.

Manjhi Moves a Mountain, written by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Danny Popovici
published in 2017 by Creston Books

As I read this story, I found myself thinking the author might have toned down the preposterously-inhuman task she relates — that of one poor Indian man digging, spadeful by spadeful, a gap through an actual mountain — if she wanted it to be at all believable.

Then, I turned to the back of the book and discovered that the story is true! Oh! 

Dashrath Manjhi lived in a small, impoverished village in India, separated by a mountain from a village equipped with “running water, doctors, a school, and jobs.” Manjhi keenly felt that if only a roadway could be opened up between these two communities, his own neighbors would be so much better off. Thus, with chisel and hammer, he spent 22 years (!) cutting a road through the mountain.

Read this astonishing story of perseverance with children ages 4 or 5 and up, then ask as Churnin does in her Author’s Note: What kind of “mountain” can you move to make things better in your community? 

Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank, written by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Jamel Akib
published in 2014 by Lee & Low Books

In 2006, Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for demonstrating that “even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development.”

This is the story of Yunus’ life, from his childhood in India when he was awakened to the distress of poverty, to his encounter with a woman named Sufiya who needed just twenty-two cents for bamboo to build the stools she sold for a living. Forced to borrow these small sums from lenders who took unfair advantage, Sufiya and thousands of women like her could never escape grinding poverty.

Yunus dedicated his life to re-thinking money, banking, and lending, and in 1977 launched the first of his village banks which give microcredit to groups of women. His story and the fruits of his work for millions of women around the world are encouraging and inspiring to say the least. This bio is accessible to children ages 9 and up.

Philanthroparites!: A Party-Planning Guide for Kids Who Want to Give Back, by Lulu Cerone
published in 2017 by Aladdin and Beyond Words, Simon & Schuster

I believe there are tens of thousands of middle-grade and high-school kids whose heartbeat is to make a positive difference in the world. Sometimes, though, it’s really hard to figure out just how to do that.

Then, there are the born organizers of the world, God bless them. Lulu Cerone is one of them. As a ten year old, hearing the news of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, she organized lemonade stand wars with kids from her school who wound up raising thousands of dollars for charity. 

This book is a solid collection of 36 great party ideas whose purpose is to raise money for charity or directly infuse kindness into communities. Organized by month to correlate with nationally observed days, Lulu’s creative, fun party plans include tips for success, decorations, themed food ideas, and more. She also includes planning-ahead checklists for a smooth, successful philanthroparty, and lists of organizations she supports in case you need a place to start.

I can easily see how this book would have inspired and instigated my kids to host philanthroparties. Do you know anyone ages 10 and up who would love to be a changemaker? Check out this book!

Inspired to help but don’t know where to start? I have two funds I’d love to see Orange Marmalade readers support:



To help provide fresh fruits and vegetables to malnourished Syrian and Iraqi refugees sheltering in a neighboring country, click here.

Just $25 provides enough fresh produce for one family for one month. This is a faith-based program in great need of donations to continue this feeding program, and I can vouch for the integrity of those administering it.

For those who prefer to donate to a non faith-based fund, I suggest Save the Children’s fund for Rohingya refugees, which you can access here.  These children have fled horrific violence and need water, food, shelter, and protection in Bangladesh.


Thanks for spreading kindness! 


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The devastation of Harvey is overwhelmingly present both for those on site and those helplessly watching from afar.

That’s not the only bad news that might be greying your spirit these days. Here’s a brief selection of some of my favorite books that swell our hearts with hope.

Each is linked to my original review.

Spirit of Hope

When a young family is forced out of their home, another most surprising place becomes available.

A Chair for My Mother

The classic story of a terrible house fire and the pluck, love, and community that bring about restoration.

Boxes for Katje

An American girl rallies her friends to ship boxes of needed supplies to a devastated community in post-war Holland.

My Heart Will Not Sit Down

A Cameroonian girl hears of the Great Depression in America and raises money to send from her impoverished community.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

One gentle zookeeper falls ill and the dear animals he’s cared for so well return the favor. 

The Friend

An African-American maid acts as true companion, dear friend, and life saver to her small white charge.

The Promise

A broken city and broken soul are transformed by beauty.

The Family Under the Bridge

One of my all-time favorite chapter books, about a homeless young family, a homeless old man, and the power of love.

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Because it’s pool time!

swimming-swimming cover image

Swimming, Swimming, lyrics from an old song, illustrated by Gary Clement
published in 2015 by Groundwood Books

Big, bold, sunny-day illustrations carry us along an energetic run-through of this classic children’s song.

swimming swimming illustration gary clements

If you don’t know the actions and the take-away-a-line-at-a-time part, I believe you can find them at groundwoodbooks.com/swimalong. Your kids will be singing it all summer long. Ages 2 and up.

Brand new and jazzy for beginning readers

what this story needs is a pig in a wig cover image

What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig, written and illustrated by Emma J. Virján
published in 2015 by Harper

If your child can read the title, he’s proficient enough to read this snappy new story featuring…a pig in a wig.

what this story needs is a pig in a wig illustration virjan

Sonic-boom colors. Mo Willem-esque illustrations. Friendly, happy story. A watery winner!

For fans and non-fans of creepy-crawlies

some bugs cover image

Some Bugs, written by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
published in 2014 by Beach Lane Books

Let’s face it: summer is a buggy time. 

some bugs interior diterlizzi and wenzel

This upbeat catalogue of bugs is just the ticket to make them seem intriguing instead of irritating. Minimal words. Bold-as-brass pictures. Colorful and catchy…plus you learn the names of lots of exciting insects. Ages 2 and up.

A curious blast of poetry

beastly verse cover image

Beastly Verse, various poets, illustrated by JooHee Yoon
published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books

 Yoon’s cheerful, playful illustrations completely dominate these pages, some of which fold out to accommodate her weirdly-wonderful, capacious creatures.

This is a Spangled Pandemonium

This is a Spangled Pandemonium

Unconventional art, paired with classic animal-poems from the likes of Lewis Carroll, William Blake, and Christina Rossetti. A smashing success to share with ages 3 to 100.

Tea and crumpets, anyone?

london calls cover image

London Calls!, by Gabby Dawnay, illustrated by Alex Barrow
published in 2014 by Tate Publishing

Dash along with Pearl and Granny Rose on a whirlwind tour of London.

london calls interior dawnay and barrow

The rhyming text merrily skips along, zigging and zagging among charming illustrations of everything from the London Eye to the Tube to Kensington Gardens. If you love London, I promise you will like this little book. Ages 4 and up.

Completely clever way-more-than-an-alphabet book

take away the a cover image

Take Away the A: An Alphabeast of a Book!, written by Michaël Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
published in 2014 by Enchanted Lion Books

What happens when letters up and go missing?

Well, without the D, the dice are ice!

take away the a interior2 escoffier and digiacomo

Without the C, a chair has hair!

take away the a interior escoffier and digiacomo

26 extremely clever pages, especially fun for newish readers.

Calling Sherlock!

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Where’s the Pair?: A Spotting Book, written and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
published in 2015 by Big Picture Press

Can you spot which two are precisely a pair?

where's the pair illustration britta teckentrup

That’s the game on every page of this tricky, tantalizing book. These puzzlers are not for amateur sleuths! Try them with ages 5 and up, with maybe a bit of help to get started.

Classic Scandinavian lore

the terrible troll-bird cover image

The Terrible Troll-Bird, written and illustrated by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire
originally published in 1976; reissued by The New York Review  Children’s Collection in 2007

I could write a whole post on this one. 

the terrible troll bird illustration d'aulaire

The glorious troll-ish landscape of Scandinavian folklore, combined with the d’Aulaires magic touch at retelling and illustrating. Find out how Ola, Lina, Sina and Trina cope with the immense Troll Bird! Ages 6 and up.

Because it’s simply the best to sleep in a tent 

eddie's tent cover image

Eddie’s Tent and How to Go Camping, written and illustrated by Sarah Garland
published in 2015 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Coming from one of my favorite UK author/illustrators, this charming story about a family camping trip.

eddie's tent illustration sarah garland

Tents. Hot Chocolate. Starry Skies. Snug Sleeping Bags. Roasted chocolate-stuffed bananas. Really, does it get any better?! Rev up for your camping trip or start dreaming of one when you read this gem. Ages 3 and up.

Of Bicycles and Neighborliness

the red bicycle cover image

The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle, written by Jude Isabella, illustrated by Simone Shin
published in 2015 by Citizen Kid/Kids Can Press

Another winner coming out of the Canadian Citizen Kid line. This time, we see how the donation of a bicycle changes the lives of people across the world.

the red bicycle interior jude isabella and simone shin

Follow the bike as it changes hands and see the kind of good you can do when you act like a good neighbor to people you never even meet. A lengthy account for ages 5 or 6 and up, that could be read in installments if necessary.

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gus and grandpa and the christmas cookies cover imageGus and Grandpa and the Christmas Cookies, by Claudia Mills, pictures by Catherine Stock

Gus and Grandpa are good buddies. Today they’re in Grandpa’s charming old kitchen baking Christmas cookies together. It’s a quintessential holiday scene, with snowflakes sifting down outside and a warm batch of gingerbread stars and bells and reindeer inside. Mmmmm.

These two guys are putting out jazzy cookies like nobody’s business, when ding-dong! Grandpa’s neighbor is at the door delivering a large platter of her cookies. ReindeerCookies (1 of 1) from buddingbaketress dot comShe thinks that “a man alone would like some home baking.” A sweet gesture, though Grandpa has six dozen of his own confections covering his countertops. As the afternoon wears on, more neighbors arrive bearing more cookies. So kind, but Grandpa’s kitchen is now simply overflowing with goodies. Thanks to Gus’ warm heart, though, the two of them have a wonderful plan for easing the cookie congestion.

The Gus and Grandpa series is a more tender, thoughtful set of easy readers than most. Geared for perhaps a slightly older beginning reader, these are quiet stories about the dearest Grandpa on the planet and his pleasant, sensitive grandson. This story with its emphasis on the spirit of giving is a favorite of mine. Catherine Stock is also a favorite illustrator. Her graceful, friendly watercolors are full of warmth. In actual fact, I want Grandpa’s vintage kitchen in my house!

mr. putter and tabby bake the cake cover imageMr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Speaking of baking…it’s definitely a holiday theme!

Dear Mr. Putter loves to give Christmas presents, but it’s quite tricky to come up with the perfect gift for his best friend and neighbor,

Fruitcake is making Mr. Putter worried.

Fruitcake is making Mr. Putter worried.

Mrs.Teaberry. She has such unusual tastes. For one thing, she loves fruitcake. Simply gobbles the stuff every December. Mr. Putter thinks this is a bit concerning. He is a little suspicious of fruitcake, it seems. So, he decides to bake her an out-of-this-world, delectable cake. One that’s light and airy and delicious. Not heavy as a brick.

Of course, things do not always go as planned, and the hilarious misadventures of Mr. Putter’s baking project are one of those things! Happily, though, Mrs. Teaberry is as good a friend as anyone could hope for, and between the two of them, Christmas turns out very merry.

The Mr. Putter books are an A+ easy reader series which my kids devoured. Cynthia Rylant knows how to spin a story, and these characters she has created are as amiable as they come. Arthur Howard’s humorous, loving illustrations tango across the pages with jolly colors and energetic line. A sure fire hit!

zelda and ivy one christmas cover imageZelda and Ivy One Christmas, written and illustrated by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

Well lookee here — the Fox sisters are also baking Christmas cookies! It’s positively epidemic!

Zelda and Ivy are baking with their delightful neighbor, Mrs. Brownlie. While they roll out dough and cut out shapes, they chat together about what the girls want for Christmas. Zelda spies a “dreamy velvet gown” in a catalog and declares that would be the ideal thing for a Christmas Ball.

This sets Mrs. Brownlie to reminiscing about the last time she and her dear zelda and ivy one christmas illustration laura kvasnoskyMr. B danced at just such a Ball. This is the first Christmas she’ll celebrate without him, and she and the Fox sisters all feel a pang of heartache as they think about that. Zelda and Ivy decide to make a special present for Mrs. Brownlie to cheer her up, even as they anticipate their own wishes coming true. When Christmas arrives, there are plenty of happy surprises for everyone.

Christmas Elves and the Amazing Zeldarina with her bath towel turban pop into this cheery, kind-hearted story which brushes up against the sadness which holidays bring to some while maintaining a vibrant, happy tone. Kvasnosky’s bright, snappy gouache resist artwork bubbles with enthusiasm as well. A nice, uncommon angle for a holiday story.

nate the great and the crunchy christmas cover imageNate the Great and the Crunchy Christmas, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Craig Sharmat, illustrated by Marc Simont

Ah — no cookies this time. Instead, it’s potato pancakes and crunchy dog bones in this snowy puzzler from your favorite detective, Nate the Great.

It’s Annie’s large and somewhat-terrifying dog, Fang, who has lost something this time, and although Nate the Great doesn’t harbor a lot of warm feelings for Fang, he agrees to take the case in order to keep that outsized dog from undue unhappiness.nate the great and the crunchy christmas illustration marc simont For three-and-a-half hours Nate sleuths — examining clues, visiting the eccentric Rosamond and her odd cats, munching on potato pancakes to help himself think better, and finally — bingo! — he’s got it!

Nate is a cool detective, and armed with pancakes, he always gets his man. Marc Simont’s believable, personality-filled, watercolors are, as always, a treat. This particular edition is jam-packed with Fun Activities in addition to the story — recipes for potato pancakes, applesauce, and even dog biscuits; mini-lessons on snow, and directions for fun snow activities and greeting card making. Double the fun!

aunt eater's mystery christmas cover imageAunt Eater’s Mystery Christmas, written and illustrated by Doug Cushman

One last book, and those Christmas cookies are back again!

Aunt Eater, the mystery-solving anteater, is getting ready for Christmas and a visit from her sister, Eliza. Shopping, house cleaning, and cookie-delivering are what’s on her to-do list, but taking tea, searching for a new whodunit to read, and solving a series of mysteries also crowd their way into Aunt Eater’s day. Even at bedtime, strange noises crop up which need investigating. How exhausting!

Savvy Aunt Eater easily unravels all the mysterious happenings around her, but

No one in any of these stories eats scones and tea, which I would like best!

No one in any of these stories eats scones and tea, which I would like best!

she may need a little help sorting out the final tantalizing clues!

Aunt Eater is a friendly busybody and this series of easy readers offers pleasant detective stories with a different flavor than Nate the Great. Perhaps there’s a bit of Miss Marple in these lively plots for beginning readers, illustrated in cheerful, bright watercolors. Check it out, then look for the others in the series. 

There are lots and lots of Christmas books in the Marmalade Archives. Here are a few links to some of them:

God Jul!…five Swedish Christmas stories sprinkled with ginger cookies and tomtes

a list of…five tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago

a list of…five oh, christmas tree! stories

a list of…five merry christmas stories from around the world

a list of…five worthy versions of the nativity story

a list of…five glimpses of the Nativity Story

a list of…five more delectable Christmas stories!

a list of…five favorite Christmas stories

ho!ho!ho!…a list of…five jolly books about good ol’ St. Nick

a list of…five poetic versions of the Nativity

Find more in the Subject Index under Christmas or by searching the Marmalade Archives for December

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martin de porres cover imageMartin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert, by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by David Diaz

Martin de Porres, the child of a wealthy Spanish father and an enslaved African mother, was born in Lima, Peru, in 1579.  His early years, lived in abject poverty with his mother, held little promise of anything but an anonymous life and death.

Yet, at the age of 8, his father brought him to Ecuador and educated him, returning him to Peru as a doctor’s apprentice.  And here, despite suffering deep prejudices and discrimination, Martin’s gifts of healing blossomed.  Against opposition due to his bi-racial birth, Martin humbly served others, healing those who would allow him to bless them — animals, to begin with, then slaves and the desperately poor; finally his fellow monastery brothers, and eventually, Spanish royalty.

While he could have been an embittered person, exacting vengeance on those martin de porres illustration david diaz 001who had scorned him; or a proud person, mistreating the poor after he’d risen above them; Martin chose a life of uncommon charity and compassion for all.  He was canonized in 1962, the first black saint in the Americas, as the patron saint of universal brotherhood.

Gary Schmidt tells Martin de Porres’ story in quiet, beautiful prose, drawing us along the pathway of his life with well-told, gentle anecdotes, studded with rich detail.  Allowing us to view Martin’s oppressors from a bit of a distance, Schmidt conveys their bigotry steadily, yet quietly, while maintaining a distinct focus on Martin’s generous kindness.

David Diaz, an award-winning illustrator, provides stunning mixed media illustrations which swirl us into this medieval, Latino world. Using line and color reminiscent of medieval painters and stained glass artists, Diaz transports us with the clothing, architecture, and tools of this era, flooding the pages with rich, bold images.

A thought-provoking book about a man who lived with charity towards all, for ages 5 and up.

Here’s the Amazon link:  Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert

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