In These Divisive Times, Give Holiday Gifts That Inspire ‘Kindness, Empathy and Joy’ National Louis University prof compiles suggestions to give children and teens this holiday


Polls suggest Americans are more divided than they have been at any time since the Vietnam War. A National Louis University professor suggests that individuals can put positive energy toward healing that divide, even in something as simple as the gifts they give this holiday.

Toby Rajput, assistant professor and Children’s and Young Adult Literature Librarian at National Louis University, believes in the power of ideas­ to plant the seeds of kindness, empathy and joy in young minds.

Her list of suggested books to give children this holiday range from moral tales to friendship stories, appreciations of joy and gratitude, and examinations of what’s really important in life, positive growth and accepting ourselves and others for who we really are.

These books are perfect for anyone who wishes to give a gift this holiday season that will inspire a child or teen to find kindness, empathy and joy even in this divisive atmosphere, and be a source for radiating those qualities out to the world.

Please find a partial list below. The entire list is available by clicking here.



Every Little Thing by Cedella Marley

Every Little Thing brings Bob Marley’s song to life for a new generation. Every family will relate to this universal story of a boy who won’t let anything get him down, as long as he has the help of three little birds. Includes all the lyrics of the original song plus new verses.

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
Willems’ beloved odd couple returns in this giggle-inducing conclusion to the Elephant and Piggie series. This time, Piggie is struck by the need to say thank you to everyone important to her. From the start, readers will pick up that Gerald suspects Piggie will forget him. Kids will get a kick out of seeing Gerald appear as the unthanked “elephant in the living room,” until Piggie realizes she has forgotten her best friend. This sweetly silly introduction to expressing gratitude is a fitting send-off to one of children’s literature’s favorite duos.



After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat

Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened after? Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat’s poignant tale follows Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most. Will he summon the courage to face his fear? (This) masterful picture book will remind readers that life begins when you get back up.


Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins
2016 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award – New Illustrator Honor
Who knew that cakes were so rude?! In this deliciously entertaining book, a not-so-sweet cake–who never says please or thank you or listens to its parents–gets its just desserts. Mixing hilarious text and pictures, Watkins has cooked up a laugh-out- loud story that can also be served up as a delectable discussion starter about manners or bullying.




Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class. Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani-American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together.


Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
In Ban This Book, a fourth grader fights back when From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is challenged by a well-meaning parent and taken off the shelves of her school library. Amy Anne is shy, but she and her lieutenants wage a battle for the books that will make you laugh and pump your fists as they start a secret banned books locker library, make up ridiculous reasons to ban every single book in the library to make a point, and take a stand against censorship.




Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Counting by 7s is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents. Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. Her journey to find a fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.


First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez
Twelve-year-old Maria Luisa O’Neill-Morales (who really prefers to be called Malu) reluctantly moves with her Mexican-American mother to Chicago and starts seventh grade with a bang–violating the dress code with her punk rock aesthetic and spurning the middle school’s most popular girl in favor of starting a band with a group of like-minded weirdos.



Ghost by Jason Reynolds

National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.
Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. Ghost has a crazy natural talent. If he can stay on track, he could be the best sprinter in the city. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons. it all started with running away from his father, who chased him and his mother down the street with a loaded gun. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—until he meets Coach.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

2017 Boston Globe Horn Book Award

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does – or does not – say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

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