"Choose to Matter" helps kids be "courageously and fabulously" themselves. Other new children's books offer a few anti-bullying tips and aim to strengthen and empower youngsters in every realm.
"Choose to Matter" by Julie Foudy; espnW/Disney Publishing; 300 pages; $17.99.
Julie Foudy, a 13-year captain of the U.S. women's national soccer team, was guided during that time by this basic principle: Leadership is personal, not positional. She means "all you need is the confidence to be yourself," and she aims to nudge readers toward unleashing their own authentic selves, finding their inner voices, thinking differently and empowering others.
This is a supercool guide book with lots of fun guidance from other incredible leaders (Sheryl Sandberg, Robin Roberts, teen scientist Sophie Healy-Thow and many other women). It is more a scrapbook-like, zesty, user-friendly guide than a straightforward read. She offers worksheets and short interviews and quick exercises, and even a "Mojo Manual" and the importance of fun socks. One entry invites readers to be like ducks — cool and collected on top of the water but kicking to stay afloat underwater — and reminds us to "Quack, don't crack!"
Everything about this empowering but relaxing book screams "You've got this!" Though it focuses on girls and women, I think boys would also benefit. Fantastic!
"Super Manny Stands Up!" by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Stephanie Graegin; Simon & Schuster; 32 pages; $17.99.
Best-selling author Kelly DiPucchio's new picture book is an invigorating plea to kids to "put on their invisible capes" and speak up against bullying. It gently explores the topic from the observer's point of view. Superhero-loving raccoon Manny wears an invisible cape and summons it when he encounters a real-life nemesis in the school cafeteria. Charming and uplifting, DiPucchio's tale meshes the fun of superhero stories with a powerful anti-bullying message, resulting in a shy character remembering that he's fearless, strong, powerful and invincible. It also reminds kids of the importance of sticking up for those hurting or being attacked.
"Super Manny Stands Up!" is an important picture book for home and school libraries; it is also vividly decorated with bold, colorful illustrations from Stephanie Graegin.
"Our Story Begins" edited by Elissa Brent Weissman; Atheneum/Simon & Schuster; 195 pages; $17.99.
Kids who want to be writers and artists often feel self-doubt, as their passions aren't always as lauded as those with interests that lie in math and science. This lovely collection of inspiring and "occasionally ridiculous" things some favorite authors and artists created as kids should prove that success begins anywhere. For Kwame Alexander, it was a poem for Mother's Day perfected draft after draft. For Linda Sue Park, a trip to the ocean and a new typewriter were her inspiration to be a writer.
Other authors and illustrators developed their love for writing and art with the help of teachers, parents, beloved books or words of encouragement. This helpful book reveals that trying, failing and trying again, plus a love for words, pictures and stories, are what makes a good storyteller.
"Journeys: Young Readers' Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives" edited by Catherine Gourley; Candlewick Press; 226 pages; $18.99.
The 52 heartfelt letters in this collection were written by students in grades four through 12 and reveal how deeply books and poetry changed their lives. For 25 years, the Library of Congress Center for the Book has challenged young readers to explore how books have changed their views of the world or themselves.
This is a must-read for wannabe writers and anyone who values stories and books; it is refreshingly and deeply moving.
"The Fix-It Friends" by Nicole C. Kear; illustrated by Tracy Dockray; Imprint/MacKids.com; 120 pages and $16.99 each.
Nicole C. Kear's new series for young readers ages 7 to 10 tackles bullying and other friendship issues with step-by-step help and humor. In "Sticks and Stones," quiet Noah is teased and his friend Veronica decides to speak up for him. In "Have No Fear!" Veronica decides to enlist the Fix-It Friends to help Maya get over her fear of bugs.
Each easy-to-read chapter book includes the Fix-It Friends Toolbox with suggestions for kids to empower themselves, resources for parents and suggested books for kids. With illustrations and a fun setup, the Fix-It Friends books are spunky and full of heart.
To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.