Picture books filled with love: the love of a friend, a parent, or oneself

Books about love are perfect read-aloud books for children at any time of the year, but what better gift of love than to bring a child (or parent) a lovely picture book about the many kinds of love we share and need. There are books that celebrate a mother’s love for her child and picture books that celebrate the love of a friend and how important that love can be, and also picture books that celebrate appreciating — and loving — our differences and our uniquenesses. Here are some exemplary choices for reading and gifting to your own loved ones.

Friendship can make a difference.

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‘The Hand on the Wall’ is the last novel in the ‘Truly Devious’ trilogy by the truly devious Maureen Johnson

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“The Hand on the Wall” is the last book in the trilogy of “Truly Devious” novels by Maureen Johnson. Once begun, this series of mysteries is addictive. The setting, a prep school in the mountains of Vermont, is perfect for a murder mystery, and in this brilliant trilogy, there are multiple murders taking place over almost a century.

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‘Aurora Rising’ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a thrilling and entertaining YA scifi adventure

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In “Aurora Rising,” authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff take readers into the future, the year 2380, and into an adventure that spans centuries. From the first chapter, readers know that Tyler, one of the main characters, is a worthy leader. He rescues Aurora from a ship that has lain rotting for two centuries and takes her to safety. Unfortunately, by doing so, he has jeopardized his number one standing as a cadet and forfeited his first draft choice for his team. Instead, he gets the leftovers whom nobody wanted in addition to his twin sister Scarlett and their best friend, Cat.

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‘Because of the Rabbit’ by Cynthia Lord; a student review

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In “Because of the Rabbit,” by Cynthia Lord, fifth grade is about to begin, and Emma is really nervous. Emma feels as if  the emotions Excited and Scared are in a race, and they are about tied right now. But her fears are not just about the first day back to school; it’s also going to be her first time ever at a public school. Emma was homeschooled with her older brother Owen until a year ago when Owen wanted to try public high school. Emma was sad because she would not be able to go kayaking and play around with Owen after they finished their lessons, but she did not want to stop Owen from going to public school by telling him how she felt.

It is the night before school begins when Emma’s dad, a game warden, gets a call that a wild rabbit is stuck in someone’s fence. Emma goes with her dad to help the rabbit. Instead of finding a wild rabbit, Emma is surprised when they find a little honey-colored bunny, maybe someone’s pet. They decide to take him home for the night and take him to the animal shelter the next day. Continue reading

‘Stay’ by Catherine Ryan Hyde

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How important are the decisions we make almost thoughtlessly on a day-to-day basis? Sometimes they can have life-altering implications, and in this carefully crafted story about flawed characters, Catherine Ryan Hyde shows that sometimes, heroism isn’t made up of bold, brave actions but rather of listening and sharing small moments.

The story is about fourteen-year-old Lucas Painter. He explains, from some point in the future, that during the summer of 1969, his brother was in Viet Nam, and he was trying to help his best friend, Connor. Both Connor and Lucas have less-than-ideal family lives.

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‘The Athena Protocol’ by Shamim Sarif is pure thriller for YA readers

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With “The Athena Protocol,” author Shamim Sarif creates a female version of James Bond, except that instead of working for British Intelligence, Jessie Archer works for a non-govermental, private, female group bent on saving women and children around the world who are in need of help, but whom the governments of the world are ignoring. At the start of the book, we watch this elite team in action while they save a group of 50 girls kidnapped by a terrorist militia and held in servitude. While they wait for night to fall, they are forced to watch what the young men and boys do to their female prisoners while they pass the time.  The leader has two hostages, and when he shoots one of them in cold blood, Jessie loses control. Before they leave with the prisoners, Ahmed, the evil leader, is dead. Jessie is kicked out of Athena.

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‘Starsight’ the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s new series is brilliant

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“Starsight” is the sequel to “Skyward!” by Brandon Sanderson, an author who really understands not only about creating complex characters but also about writing a plot that boasts gripping nonstop action. At the start of this series, Spensa, the main character, is not a very likable person. She’s a teenager who has grown up determined to be a pilot like her father, and after he died in combat, allegedly running away from battle, a coward, she has had to defend his name.

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‘A Heart so Fierce and Broken’ by Brigid Kemmerer is everything YA fantasy should be

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“A Heart So Fierce and Broken” is Brigid Kemmerer’s second book, following “A Curse So Dark and Lonely,” a tale of Beauty and the Beast reimagined with lots of violence and a heartstopping ending. It was the story of Rhen, the prince cursed to turn into a beast, and Harper, the tough young girl who is determined to save Rhen and his kingdom, Emberfall. Grey is the loyal Guardsman who risks his life repeatedly to save them.

In this second story, Grey becomes the pivotal character with a new character, Lia Mara, the daughter of the cruel queen of Syhl Shallow, Karis Luran. Lia Mara is not destined to be queen; her sister is. Her sister can be cruel and harsh while Lia Mara prefers to use intellect and persuasion instead of brute strength and fear to create alliances.

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‘All the Days Past, All the Days to Come’ by Mildred D. Taylor is the culmination of her incredible body of children’s fiction about a family with integrity and grit and the history of racial discrimination in this country

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“All the Days Past, All the Days to Come” is Mildred D. Taylor’s tenth book about the Logan family of Mississippi and their struggle from the 1930s on trying to protect their land and their family from the bigotry, prejudice and violence that they endured living in the Deep South. Readers who know Taylor’s body of work will be thrilled to read about what happens to the family, especially Cassie, as they grow up. New readers will get the pleasure of learning about life in the Logan family. The Logan family, really Taylor’s family, consists of a special group of people. They are raised to be people of integrity with an ingrained sense of their self-worth. Yet they are also taught to be smart in how they behave in their home in the South during times when a simple statement or wrong move could invite harsh retaliation from whites.

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‘Freeing Finch’ by Ginny Rorby is a middle grade novel about love and what makes a family

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In “Freeing Finch,” author Ginny Rorby does what she excels at — the creation of a main character who is in need of love, understanding, and a place where she feels safe. Part of Finch’s problem is that she was born Morgan, the son of two loving parents. But since she was old enough to articulate the thought, Finch has insisted that she’s a girl. Her mother didn’t mind how she dressed or wore her hair, although it was a source of tension with her father.

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‘The Family Upstairs’ is a taut psychological thriller by Lisa Jewell

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Lisa Jewell is no stranger to bestseller lists, and with this new chilling novel, “The Family Upstairs,” her bestselling streak will surely continue unabated. This mystery features several narrators, but only Henry, the son of the wealthy Lamb family, is a first person narrator. Libby Jones, the main character, was adopted as a child and finds out when she turns twenty-five that she is the sole heir to a huge mansion in a posh part of London where horrible events took place when she was a baby. Continue reading

‘Maybe He Just Likes You’ by Barbara Dee is a middle grade book about harassment that should be required reading

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With “Maybe He Just Likes You,” author Barbara Dee creates a plot and a main character that will cause readers to get angry. We get angry at both the situation and the main character, even though we can sympathize with her.

Mila is a seventh-grader being harassed at school. It seems to start innocently with a group hug, but then a group of boys, basketball players, all touch her, bump into her, smirk at her, and when she tells them to stop they act like they don’t know what she is talking about.

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