Recently, I took a look at the news, and took a look at our bookshelves. One made me feel hopeless, and one filled me with hope. The books that we are reading, especially the read-aloud books, spark so many conversations, and become examples we can point to when a 7-year-old is trying to grasp big concepts, even when we shield him from the specifics of the front page headlines.

I used the Common Sense Media book reviews to gather books that share a wide range of experiences, so many of which overlap with our own lives, goals, struggles and dreams. A Different Pond shows what father-son time looks like for a refugee family trying to make ends meet in America. Harriet Gets Carried Away is the story of a wildy imaginative girl who has unexpected adventures from the grocery story to Antarctica, all while her two dads wait to place their order at the deli counter. El Chupacabras is a bilingual story that has us all shouting “una tortita de cabra” or, “a goat pancake!”

Common Sense Media book reviews go into detail about the occurences in the book. They measure content categories including: Educational Value, Positive Role Models & Representation, Violence & Scariness, Consumerism, Sexy Stuff, Language, and Drinking & Drugs. Additionally, they seem to seek out books that feature a wide range of characters, including sensitive boys, powerful girls, neurodivergent kids, gay parents, single-parent households, people of color, immigrants and many more. All that to say, the stories are amazing and it works a lot better than just looking at the library bookshelves and grabbing a few with interesting titles. Plus, if you get them on interlibrary loan, you can put them on hold at home and then just pick them up at the library desk a couple days later.

Here’s a sampling of books we got recently from the library (some coming via the Ramapo Catskill Library System):

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, age 3+

What if… by Samatha Bergner, illustrated by Mike Curato, age 4+

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima, illustrated by Jessie Sima, age 4+

El Chupacabras by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Crash McCreery, age 4+

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds, age 4+

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, age 4+

The Princess In Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, age 5+

A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui, age 6+

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers, age 6 +

Ruby Lu, Brave and True by Lenore Look, age 7+

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold, age 7+