2 Picture Books about Welcoming All People (and Pets)

welcome-neighbors

Yard sign in Millersville, PA. Dec. 25, 2016

Is there room at the inn*? What about in your club? Your school? Your country?

Christmas 2016 seems like a pretty appropriate time to highlight two picture books about welcoming others. Please share your recommendations for similar titles in the comments!

Strictly No ElephantsStrictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s description: When the local Pet Club won’t admit a boy’s tiny pet elephant, he finds a solution—one that involves all kinds of unusual animals in this sweet and adorable picture book.

Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend.

Imaginative and lyrical, this sweet story captures the magic of friendship and the joy of having a pet.

My review: A picture book about a boy and his tiny pet elephant? I’m already sold, but what makes “Strictly No Elephants” worth telling everyone about is the timeless story about being excluded for being different and then finding the people (and pets) who will like and embrace you for who you are.
Published in 2015, the final message that “All are Welcome” feels particularly poignant and relevant in late 2016. Many adults could benefit from reading this as much as children will. It would be an especially great addition to classroom libraries in schools that have historically been homogeneous but are become more diverse.

My Two BlanketsMy Two Blankets by Irena Kobald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher’s description: Cartwheel has moved to a place that is so strange to her, she no longer feels like herself. This is a story about new ways of speaking, new ways of living, new ways of being.

My review: Told through the eyes of a Sudanese refugee, this is a universal story of loneliness transformed by a simple gesture of friendship. Anyone who’s ever felt like a stranger in a strange land will identify with the main character through her simple but evocative descriptions of her feelings. For example:
“Nobody spoke like I did.
When I went out, it was like standing under a waterfall of strange sounds.
The waterfall was cold.
It made me feel alone.
I felt like I wasn’t me anymore.”

The soft oil and water color illustrations subtly reinforce such passages by showing the main character dressed in orange amid scenes of blues, browns and grays. In the final scene at a park, other characters and features have taken on orange accents, just as the main character has become more comfortable under her blue “blanket” while still wearing her orange outfit. The author uses blankets as a symbol for the main character’s native language and her comfort with it, as well as for the process of learning a new language — woven together word by word, with the aid of a new friend.

 

*Did you know that the phrase “no room at the inn” in the story of Christ’s birth may be better translated as “no room in the guest room,” suggesting Mary and Joseph may actually have been staying with family? Shows the power of one little word to shape a story, right??