Books for children in a troubling time

Posted: February 24th, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment, Featured, La Mesa Reads | No Comments

By Heather Pisani-Kristl

Political demonstrations, refugees detained at airports, city sidewalks lined with tents, and people displaced by far-away wars are common images right now. Adults have some familiarity with these scenes from other points in history, but young children are experiencing the chaos of the world for the first time.

Scenes of disruption can feel immediately threatening to kids; they may worry about family or friends, act out aggressively, or ask difficult questions.

Books are a gentle way of addressing big topics like cultural differences, homelessness, and having a positive influence on the world. When a parent or loved one shares a book with a serious undercurrent, even when the message is not baldly stated, the child is invited to compare the story with their own experiences and ask questions to understand the world better. This is the therapeutic effect of books in a troubling time.

Below are several picture books from the children’s collection at La Mesa Library, annotated with the subjects that they address.

“My Two Blankets” by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood

A refugee from war moves to a new country and weaves a comforting blanket for herself out of shared language and friendship. [refugees, cultural differences]






“Bag in the Wind” by Ted Kooser, illustrated by Barry Root

A plastic grocery bag, blowing through a Midwestern city, helps many different humans along the way, some of whom have homes and some who sleep outside. This is a respectful portrayal of people on the economic edge, and of the value of conservation in the natural world. [homelessness, recycling, economics]


“Because Amelia Smiled” by David Ezra Stein

Because Amelia smiled, her neighbor smiled back… which leads to dance recitals, performances in Paris, high-wire acts and declarations of love, most of them many miles from Amelia. A zany exploration of how small acts of kindness can blossom into life-changing generosity. [giving to others]




“Chik Chak Shabbat” by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Kyrsten Brookner

When Goldie Simcha is too sick to make her famous cholent (long-simmered stew), her neighbors from many countries come to the rescue with potato curry, barley tea, and pizza to share with each other. [cultural differences]





“Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Former National City resident de la Peña writes a Caldecott Medal-winning story of CJ and his grandmother, who find grace among the faces in the crowded inner city, as well as in church. As Nana reminds us, “sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.” [poverty, economics]




Food for Thought

The third annual Food for Thought Festival returns to La Mesa Library on Saturday, March 4, with cooking demonstrations and food tastings for all who attend. At 1 p.m., the Healthy Adventures Foundation will show you how to cook fast and healthy meals for La Mesans’ busy lifestyles.

At 2:30 p.m., Madhu Velji invites you to explore the world of spices with her Indian cooking demonstration. If you’ve wondered about the uses of black mustard seed, fenugreek, and ghee, this is your opportunity to find out. The Food for Thought Festival is free and no sign-up is required.

Second Saturday concerts

The Friends of La Mesa Library and San Diego County Library are offering a series of free music concerts at La Mesa Library during January through June 2017.

Enjoy Celtic music for St. Patrick’s Day with the very popular Adrienne Nims and Lady of the Loch on Saturday, March 11 at 1 p.m. Concerts take place on the second Saturday of each month and feature local talent in a family-friendly environment.

—Heather Pisani-Kristl is managing librarian of the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151, visit in person at 8074 Alison Ave., or get information online at

Leave a Comment