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Mendo Lake Family Life

8 Books You Won’t Be Able to Read to Your Kid Without Crying

By Pam Moore

As the holidays approach, you might be wondering what you can give your children that doesn’t have a million pieces, make annoying noises, or take up a ton of space. It’s...wait for it—books! In this roundup, I share eight selections that will engage hearts and minds. (I know because I’ve tested each and every one).

1. That’s Me Loving You by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Random House, 2016). A soft breeze, a clap of thunder, a rainbow… These are the ways a child will feel his mother’s love when she’s not there to hug. This book would have been sweet enough if it hadn’t been published months shy of the author’s untimely death. I double-dog dare any parent to read this with a kid in your lap without a box of tissues in arm’s reach.

2. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch (Firefly Books, 1995). A roundup of books that make parents bawl would be incomplete without this story of the enduring bond between parent and child. This book is so sweet that readers young and old alike overlook the creepiness of the mom sneaking into her son’s room just to sing him the special lullaby she’s sung him since he was born. And if reading this story doesn’t completely destroy you, it probably will once you understand its genesis: Munsch was inspired to write it after he and his wife had two stillborn babies.

3. Yo Soy Muslim by Mark Gonzales (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2017). This is a father’s letter to his daughter, but it’s also a tale of identity, strength, love, and hope. With stunning illustrations by Mehrdocht Amini, this book is a pep talk, love note, and family history rolled into one:

And there will come a day when some people in the world will not smile at you… No matter what they say, know you are wondrous. A child of crescent moons, a builder of mosques, a descendant of brilliance, an ancestor in training. Say it with me: Our prayers were here before any borders were.

4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Knopf, 2012). This is the heartwarming story of Auggie and his quest for belonging. He’s your typical 10-year-old boy—except for the fact that he’s been homeschooled his whole life and is entering public school for the first time as he starts the fifth grade. And he has a significant facial deformity. As parents, we’d take our kids’ pain a thousand times if it meant we wouldn’t have to watch them suffer. Auggie’s loving parents watch as he takes on more than his fair share of heartache as he navigates the social dynamics of his new prep school. Which is why it is pretty much impossible to read this book without tearing up.

5. All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan (HarperCollins, 1994). A family welcomes a baby boy, and later, his little sister. Woven into the fabric of the family’s lives are the beautiful places they love. Together, in these places, they play, explore, and make memories. The only thing more touching (read: tear-jerking) than the big brother showing his little sister his favorite place is the fact that the grandfather cries when each child is born.

6. I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel & Friends, 2015). This tender story uses rhyme and humor to show the deep ocean of love a mother feels for her child. No matter where he goes or what form he takes, be it a snowy owl or a grinning camel, his mom promises she’ll recognize him. “I know you by heart, so my heart never misses.”

7. Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola (Puffin Books, 2000). This is for anyone who has ever felt the love of a grandparent. Four-year-old Tommy has a special bond with his great-grandmother. Basing the story on events from his own life, dePaola uses vivid language and pictures to illustrate Tommy’s joy in his connection to his beloved “Nana Upstairs” as well as the pain he feels when she passes away.

8. Just the Two of Us by Will Smith (Scholastic, 2001). I’ve bopped my head while listening to the lyrics of Will Smith’s remake “Just the Two of Us” many a time, but there’s something special about seeing those words in print alongside Kadir Nelson’s colorful illustrations. All parents will relate to Smith’s love for his child. 

This article was originally published on Motherly.

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