Kids Find Inner Lion: the Strength of the Hero Within

The Lion Inside.51T3oKWEACL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_

Inside of each of us lives an Inner Lion. Sometimes he is dormant but he is always there waiting for  us to tap into our powerful potential. Even adults often struggle to remember this “hero within” so it is vital for us to help children discover and embrace their Inner Lion. This hero exists in all of us regardless of our stature or age. But he must compete with the other voices inside our heads-the ones who broadcast, fear, self-doubt, timidity and despair

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright and illustrated by Jim Field brilliantly demonstrates that the most powerful person in my life is me. It also hammers home the truism “Never judge a book by its cover.” So often the face we present to the world hides our genuine selves, the selves that our both brave and fearful, confident and cautious.

When we (both kids and adults) make judgments about others based on externals, we overlook the opportunity to connect with the whole person and all of us lose the chance to be genuine. Ironically, we often treat ourselves no better and criticize ourselves with the same harsh judgment!

Fields’ fabulous illustrations carry a lot of the story’s message. The difference in size between the tiny mouse and the huge lion reinforces the immensity of the mouse’s decision to confront the lion. By connecting to his Inner Lion he awoke the bravery needed to accomplish his goal. Taken from the lion’s perspective, the reader experiences the other side of the equation. Physical size doesn’t protect one from fear. Courage does. Courage acknowledges fear and still chooses to act.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: All kids strive to find their niche in school, their neighborhoods, etc. Adoptees also must learn to find their comfort spot in their new families. Sometimes they can feel as mismatched and powerless as this little mouse when he faced the roaring lion. This story invites readers to consider that beyond stature and externals, each of us has important skills and gifts to contribute, fears to overcome, and opportunities to grow. Each family member benefits from being part of the larger whole. Diversity enriches families. And classrooms, neighborhoods and communities.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles.51oUYa5gt8L._SY457_BO1,204,203,200_

All of us yearn to be included, to have friends and to be appreciated.  The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles  written by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Erin E. Stead tackles this idea from a nuanced perspective. Pastel images convey the watery context of both ocean and fantasy world and strike the perfect note of mystery and dreaminess.

Cuevas writes that the main character–the Uncorker of Ocean Bottles–“Had no name.” This choice is brilliant because his anonymity renders him as “Everyman” that part of all human beings, kids and adults, who crave recognition and validation. The Uncorker dedicates himself to his life task: ensuring that he locates the rightful recipient for every message in a bottle he discovers. Through his diligent efforts, he finds purpose, steps beyond his own loneliness and engages with others. His actions solve his “problem.” He is so pleased with the results of his efforts, he commits to repeating his efforts. Young readers will recognize the great model he sets.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: Action is key to overcoming fear, creating connection and displacing loneliness. This book helps adopted children to see the benefits of reaching out instead of waiting for others to reach out first. (This is not to shift the burden of creating family connection from the parents but rather to show kids how they can contribute to the process.)

Poor Little Guy.51A1ZTLGLWL._SX496_BO1,204,203,200_Poor Little Guy  written and illustrated by Elanna Allen also focuses on the relationship between stature, fear and, courage. Allen conveys a lot of information in her illustrations which include only two characters: an octopus and a tiny, tiny wide-eyed, bespectacled fish. Immense disparity in their size highlights why the fish feels threatened by the octopus.

At first glance readers might think the octopus is playing with the fish. The octopus’ immense arms transform into many things–a fish-sketball net, a complex maze, a bird-cage, etc. Soon it becomes clear that he is actually “toying” with the fish. Each transformation is intended to remind the fish of the octopus’ size, strength and power to control the little fish.

Until the octopus mentions how tasty he thinks the little guy will be. His threat awakens the Inner Lion of the fish. He draws on his courage and his ability to defend himself. The reader discovers that the little fish isn’t so helpless after all. He uses his special skill to successfully defeat the octopus’ evil intentions. Read the book to find out exactly how he accomplishes this! Don’t we all love it when the underdog–er, underfish– is victorious?

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: It is important for kids to recognize how they can stand up for themselves and tap into their ability to be agents of their own success. For adopted children who sometimes encounter bias and bullying because they were adopted, this message of self-advocacy is an important one. Again, this point is not intended to invalidate their experiences. Rather it is meant to add a skill with which they can cope. Dismissing or trivializing bullying does not address the situation!

I wasn't Invited to the Birthday.51QhF7wiBOL._SX428_BO1,204,203,200_I Wasn’t Invited to the Birthday  written by Susanna Isern and illustrated by Adolfo Serra addresses the universal experience of being left out. No one enjoys feeling invisible, inferior or, unaccepted. Among children these slights often occur “publicly” when kids distribute invitations at school. Even in classrooms where that practice is forbidden, kids talk about upcoming events which can leave the uninvited kids feeling bleak and marginalized.

The gift of this book is how it shows kids a way to take control. They can choose to look beyond the ranks of the “in crowd” to find friendship.  (Commonly, a child’s first instinct is to shun others who are on the margins in the hope that they will be “tainted” by befriending an unpopular child. Unfortunately, fear drives them to collude in the ostracizing of other children.)

In this story, however, the uninvited kids band together. The story takes a fantasy vibe and the kids “enjoy an unforgettable afternoon.”

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: For kids wrestling with feelings of rejection–which almost all adoptees report at some time in their lives–reading a story of finding ones “group” is helpful. Perhaps that means befriending other adoptees, or kids who share the same passion for a common interest–sports, the arts, etc. Whatever that common ground is, it is important to reach out and search for it.

As mentioned in the previous review, this point is not intended to invalidate their experiences. Rather it is meant to add another coping skill. Dismissing or trivializing their experience does not fix the problem.

Our theme for #DiverseKidLit in February is Love. Please consider sharing diverse books and resources that support love and families. (As always, the theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

What Is #DiverseKidLit?  Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.


We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, February 18th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Theme

Our theme for the current month is Love. Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you’re interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes …

  • February 18th linkups: Love. Let’s continue to spread our love of diverse books by sharing diverse books about love, families, and relationships.
  • March 4th and 18th: Changing Seasons. As we eagerly await the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and Autumn in the Southern, let’s share favorite books and resources on the seasons.

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most-clicked post from last time was Marjorie’s review of IBBY Review: Roses Are Blue by Sally Murphy and Gabriel Evans on Mirrors Windows Doors. This novel in verse shares the struggles of a young girl trying to process her new life after her mother is severely injured in a car accident.

My DiverseKidLit Shout-Out

My DiverseKidLit Shout-Out

Now more than ever, we need to share and promote books by and about Muslims, and a great place to start is Kitaab World‘s new series on Countering Islamophobia through Stories. The first entry is a book list featuring Muslim Kids as Heroes.

I am also delighted to welcome Gauri, CEO and co-founder of Kitaab World, as a co-host!


#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Gayle Swift, Author of ABC, Adoption & Me   Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

Marjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors   Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestMia @ Pragmatic Mom Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram

Myra @ Gathering Books   Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list.

Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

Get #DiverseKidLit Recommendations on Pinterest!

Guest Hosts for February

Gauri @ Kitaab World   an online bookstore for South Asian children’s books, toys and games
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries   Blog / Twitter / Facebook


Our Pinterest board highlights a wide range of amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children’s Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

Thinking, Feeling & Persisting

The Thinking Book.41xZ9SWJpoL._SY375_BO1,204,203,200_The Thinking Book  by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, connected with me in a visceral way I had not anticipated. The story unfolds through two voices–parent and child. The adult’s words, in bold font, are straight forward, brief, e.g.,  “Good Morning,” and, “Time-to-get-upright-now.” The tone is no-nonsense and a response is clearly expected from the child.

The novelty of this book is that it immerses the reader in the child’s thoughts. As events are happening. His lack of response is not defiance or rudeness; it results from his being completely engaged in his own inner world.

The reader sees how the boy’s thoughts leap-frog from one idea to another. The outer world cannot intrude because  he’s so totally engaged by his own thoughts. (At least for the moment!)

Those of us who spend time on the internet have experienced a similar journey from one attention-grabbing link to another.

This book cast me back to times when I sat through Individual Education Plan meetings to help tailor school expectations to an ADHD student’s learning style. In my opinion, it captured the thought processes of attention-challenged kiddos. My daughter who teaches second grade made the identical observation, “I wish I could share this with every teacher instructing kids with an ADHD or ADD diagnosis or parents  who are raising them. It could help everyone.”

This gem of a book has the potential to build bridges of understanding and empathy. More importantly, it might help people appreciate the potential gift of this child’s ability to think deeply and uniquely. We need thinkers that can leapfrog beyond rote channels of accepted thinking to create new approaches and solutions! (Think Steve Jobs, for example.)

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: This book offers a fun way to discuss “trigger,” how conversations, events and actions can activate thoughts, memories, and behaviors. For children touched by trauma, this can be a way to explore a sensitive issue without actually discussing specific associations or memories. The discussion can focus on generalizations about triggers instead of specific ones. (Although, if a child wants to talk about specifics, follow their lead and talk about them. Be particularly sensitive to any overt or non-verbal cues to end the conversation.


Stickley Sticks to It.51h8bZUFQXL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_

Stickley Sticks to It: A Frog’s Guide to Getting Things Done by Brenda S. Miles and illustrated by Steve Mack. Hilarious illustrations depict a charming bow-tie wearing frog of infectious optimism. Like other frogs, Stickley’s sticky feet allow him to hang on–often in the most unusual places.

A delightful two-page spread shows Stickley proudly dangling from the underside of a bowl of soup–much to the shock of a hungry lion and elephant. Another picture shows how being sticky has some challenges too, like when a soccer ball won’t launch to other players.

Stickley learns to manage his stickiness and to be “sticky” in other non-physical ways that require a stick-to-it-attitude. He develops ways to nurture and use this kind of persistence. The story outlines the exact steps he has to take to be sticky in attitude and accomplishes this in a way that engages and entertains. This itemized strategy demonstrates that the process is simple yet not easy. It takes practice, patience and stick-to-it-iveness!

The book also includes a useful “Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers.” This helps parents to identify the specific steps to teach kids that, like Stickley, they too, can have sticky-ness and become masters of persistence. These include:

  • Make a plan and gather supplies
  • Take a break
  • Go back to work after a break
  • Stop and think about the problem in a different way
  • Make a new plan
  • Ask for help

Stickley Sticks to It: A Frog’s Guide to Getting Things Done is a fun, useful book.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: The strategies outlined in this book can also serve purposes other than stick-to-it-iveness. For example, for kids who have difficult histories, some suggestions like taking a break or looking at it from another angle, and/or asking for help–are all excellent.

As crucial as taking a break is, it is equally important to go back and handle things and not be tempted to “stuff” it out of consciousness. Denial tends to create an environment where things can fester and cause more damage. This book can help kids develop both the skill and the mindset that encourages them to speak up, speak out, and hang on.

The Feelings Book.51bzLk0dG9L._SX473_BO1,204,203,200_

The Feelings Book by Todd Parr features his signature boldly colorful, zany artwork and effectively captures an array of emotions. Books like this help provide kids with a broad vocabulary for the multitude of feelings that people experience. This helps them convey, share, and deal with their emotions and is an essential part of emotional literacy.

This book concludes with a reminder to share feelings and not keep them bottled up inside, something which is important for to remember whether one is a child or an adult.


magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: Emotional literacy is a vital skill for all of us. It is especially important that adoptive families become well-practiced in exploring, sharing and talking about feelings, especially those connected to adoption. These emotions are complex and intense and enmeshed in the experience and feelings of other family members. This can make it difficult to discuss because one might fear upsetting other family members. Kids sometimes choose to protect others at the expense of their own emotional and mental health.

Adoptive families must encourage conversations about emotions and ensure that all feelings are valid. Specifically discuss how something that makes one family member happy can make another sad or angry. For example, parents can be overjoyed that they were able to adopt a child while the child may have a range of feelings about it. These feelings most certainly will include loss, grief and probably some anger as well. Accept that these feelings can coexist; they do not void each other.

Memories: Powerful, Evocative and Revealing

Memory.517sG+s3OzL._SX382_BO1,204,203,200_Even very young children recognize the signal phrase, Once upon a time so when they read Nina Laden’s evocative picture book Once upon a Memory they will intuitively prepare for a magical story. The gorgeous illustrations by Renata Liwska have a soft-focus, watercolor-type glow that perfectly serve the story and capture a dreamy, time-traveling mood. Detailed drawings expand the spare text and invite further exploration of the thematic ideas.

Simple rhymes lilt softly on the ear, enhance the dreamy mood and encourage young readers to explore beyond the obvious into their own personal experiences. Colored font highlights key words and further spotlights the connection between the item in its current state  back through time to a former state. For example,

“Does a feather remember it once was … a bird?”

Each page offers a chance to delve deeper into the questions and discuss how change occurs in people, places and things. One could simply enjoy this wonderful chance to ride the magic carpet of imagination and fantasy. Or one could use it as a path to some simple STEM activities—science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: For adopted children this book can offer a path to conversations about their past. For example, the final pairing, “Will you remember you once were … a child?” could naturally evolve into discussing their thoughts about their life story before they were adopted. Older children might wish to express any what-if thoughts  about how their lives might have been different had they never been adopted, or if they’d been adopted by other parents.

(Many adult adoptees say they had these thoughts but felt afraid or unwelcome to share these somewhat scary and unsettling thoughts with their adoptive families because they did not want to hurt their adoptive parents and/or seem disloyal.}

Parents can nudge children towards a conversation like this through indirect questions like, “Some kids (note the absence of reference to adoption,) wonder how events in their lives might be different, for example, if they didn’t have their family pet…” Kids can then decide if they want to make the conversation real personal or keep it general.

Sharing a book like Once upon a Memory, reassures a child that his thoughts are safe to share and allows parents to comfort and reassure their child with unconditional love and acceptance. While it can be awkward to have such Difficult Conversations, it is important to do so. And to offer the possibility on a regular basis.

We never want to force  a child to talk but it is essential that we sincerely convey are willingness to do so as well as our ability to be strong enough to hear our children’s thoughts. Don’t mistake a child’s resistance as disinterest. (And please do not breathe an audible sigh of relief when they decline to talk about adoption “stuff”. Parent and child both need courage, empathy, and compassion.) Use your best adoption-attuned intuition to identify what is behind their reluctance. They may simply need more convincing that our invitation is genuine or may not be ready at that moment. Children are interested–and probably a bit wary and uncomfortable–but they still benefit from such conversations.

“Out of the Blue”

Out of the Blue.51c4z0qMIuL._SX495_BO1,204,203,200_Out of the Blue illustrated by Allison Jay offers a unique reading experience. The story opens with an aerial view of a lighthouse which immediately arouses curiosity. Who lives there? And what is their story? There’s no text; this allows the reader’s imagination to soar.

We all know how kids love to spin a tale. This brilliant book provides an awesome vehicle for them to do so.

The next page turn reveals a boy and his dog peering from the window of the lighthouse tower.  Again, there is no text, only the opportunity for the reader to conjure a story.

The magic of this book is the unexpected and total absence of text. The story is revealed solely through exquisitely detailed illustrations which invite the reader to wonder a story line for each element. The main characters who are lucky enough to reside at the lighthouse are apparently brother and sister. We see their island adventures through sunny as well as stormy days.

In one dramatic sequence of illustrations they discover a giant octopus marooned on the beach after a raging storm. A closeup view centers on the octopus’ eye; a single tear falls… The balance of the book depicts the children’s efforts to rescue it and to encourage others to help in the effort. With heroic effort , the children and the unlikely team succeed in rescuing the giant creature.

An exceptional book, Out of the Blue provides a clear message of empowerment, teamwork, empathy and respect for animals. The back matter of the book includes fascinating information about giant octopuses and lighthouses.

Five Stars




Kids Click To Tweet


AQ Lens:  While all kids can enjoy the story-telling potential of this stellar book, Out of the Blue offers a powerful opportunity for parents to listen to their children’s invented stories. The illustrations provide a wonderful channel  for kid’s to reveal their private thoughts in a non-threatening way. For example, where the waves assault the tower, kids can tap into their own concerns about the “storms” in their lives, their fears, and how they cope. Parents will be amazed what they can discern between the lines of their children’s narrative.

Along the same line, the panels which depict the octopus’ struggle and need to depend on others for help will tap into similar deep emotions connected to the child’s own history of struggle, etc. Each “reading” of this book has the potential to generate conversations between child and parent. Some will be deep; others might be silly or light-hearted. All will be a chance for the child/ren to have the stage and to experience being “heard,” an all too rare occurrence in our hectic lives.

Life’s Path: One Heart, One Compass

Heart-shaped pond in a tropical forest

More than any other month, February focuses our attention on affairs of the heart. Usually this conjures thoughts of romance or affection. Let’s consider instead, another vital role our hearts play: they help us to connect with our core Purpose and values. Our hearts have an inner knowing that recognizes the what and why of our lives. Of course, children are not consciously aware of such conceptual thoughts. Yet they have an intuitive ability to understand metaphor and the way it can explain big ideas.

North Star.border.3The North Star
written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds, is a gem of a book that explores the notion of a guiding purpose, a compass to follow throughout our lives. As the boy travels through life, he recognizes that he is on a journey. He comes to understand that everyone must  follow the inner knowing of one’s heart to carve out a life.

Sometimes one is content to follow a well-trodden path commonly pursued by many. Blindly “following the well-worn path, he had a growing feeling that he was lost.” He discovers the importance of taking the path less traveled, the one that only he can blaze. He comes to appreciate that each of us journeys on our own path.

Beautiful illustrations in ink and watercolor perfectly capture the dreamy and magical quality of the story. Five Stars






AQ Lens:  In an effort to “fit in,” adopted children often find it easier to follow the traditional patterns of their adoptive family. They may  do this for many reasons: to “please” parents; to avoid looking different; because they believe they aren’t “allowed” to be different; or for another reason.

The North Star opens an easy opportunity to talk about remaining true to oneself, of listening to that quiet inner voice that frames the core of who one is. Parents might want to directly reinforce their desire to nurture their child’s talents, both those they have in common as well as those that stem from the child’s biology.

Adoptive families must constantly convey that both/and attitude that emphasizes love, acceptance and appreciation of their child’s dual heritage and reassure children that they need not surrender or suppress part of themselves in a mistaken notion that it is unwelcome.

You Be You.51zzPRl18oL._SY439_BO1,204,203,200_
You Be You
 by Linda Kranz is a riotous fest of color and whimsy with a big message. It celebrates individuality and commonality in equal measure. Some “fish” are big, some little; some swim with the group; some swim on a solitary journey. Each is following their compass. “We all have something special that only we can share.” There’s a place for all.

Graffitti-style messages decorate the end papers. Each one invites discussion.

Five Stars





AQ Lens:  Adoptive families will want to frequently explore concepts like individuality, commonality and difference. Each stands as an important part of the dynamics in adoption. Conversations can, in age-appropriate language explore the idea of being genuine–often a “hot” topic for adoptive families.

Questions worth exploring are: What is a “real” family? “Real parent” “Real” sibling? How is each family member both unique and different? Why do both have value? How does difference/similarity enrich families?

Readers might want to check out, Only One You also by Linda Kranz which also focuses on the importance of being one’s best self.

Only One You.51799cG5plL._SY426_BO1,204,203,200_