Children trust the messages imparted in books. These new gems offer gentle advice and reassurance for today’s occasionally confusing times. They also help open eyes to tolerance, kindness and hope.

Marwan’s Journey

By Patricia de Arias; illustrated by Laura Borras; minedition; 32 pages; $17.99

In Marwan’s Journey, a young boy named Marwan walks across the desert and remembers his mother’s advice: “keep going, walk, and walk, and walk.” So he keeps going, with thousands of others, and with his mended clothes, notebook, pencil and photograph of his mommy.

As he walks on, Marwan remembers a garden, a cat and his parents, before the night “they came ... and swallowed up everything: my house, my garden, my homeland.” For now, he keeps going, to “another country, another house, another language,” but vows to someday return to his hometown and plant a garden full of flowers and hope.

Young readers will understand that refugee children have the same hopes and dreams they do — of rays of sunlight and walls painted with happiness.

Beautiful and heartfelt, Patricia de Arias’ thoughtful words have an air of faith and determination, while Laura Borràs’ desert watercolors are gentle and kind.

Marwan’s Journey is an important one, and should help young children summon empathy and understanding for those less fortunate.

Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship

By Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes; illustrated by Scott Magoon; Candlewick Press; 32 pages; $16.99

In Rescue & Jessica, Rescue the pup is sad and afraid he’ll let others down when he realizes he’s not cut out to be a guide dog. On the other side of town, a girl named Jessica loses part of her leg and becomes an amputee, and she doesn’t want to let anyone down by not being able to walk.

Rescue works hard to learn to be a service dog, while Jessica struggles with the changes of trying to walk with crutches. But when the girl meets another person’s rescue dog, she begins to see hope, applies for her own dog and meets Rescue, and the two become best friends.

Realistic illustrations from Scott Magoon showcase the love between the girl and dog, the setbacks they tackle and the accomplishments they share. The pair learns to play Frisbee in the park, swim together and, most of all, snuggle and appreciate each other.

Penned clearly and in a matter-of-fact, uplifting manner, Rescue & Jessica is based on the real story of a girl injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and her black Labrador retriever, named after a downed firefighter. An author’s note at the back explains more, including information on the service dog organization NEADS.

Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing

By Hiawyn Oram; illustrated by Birgitta Sif; Candlewick Press; 32 pages; 16.99

In Snowboy and the Last Tree Standing, Greedy Greenbackboy explains a game to Snowboy: If they cut down all the trees in the forest and snatch up all the fish in the seas, they’ll construct items and sell things and make the all mighty “Ka-Ching.”

Snowboy, a wee blond lad with a pointed hat, knows “we can’t breathe without trees,” and that fish without a sea is a dead fish, so he quickly saves one tree and two fish. He leaves Greenbackboy with his chest of “Ka-Ching” and journeys with his Ice Troopers (two pigs) and the Polar Bear King to nurse the tree back to life and check on the fish, who soon have little fish of their own.

Wouldn’t you know, the greedy, now starving boy comes back, having realized he can’t eat the money, and Snowboy feeds him with honey from a hive of bees in the tree. Soon, Snowboy naps upon his polar bear pal knowing he’s saved the world from the fantasy of “Ka-Ching” — “for now at least.”

A whimsical but powerful tale of hope, Hiawyn Oram’s latest picture book reaffirms that in the face of devastation, one person’s actions can turn the tide — a message everyone needs. Birgitta Sif’s glowing illustrations have the feel of a classic storybook, beaming with determination and love.

Be Kind

By Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Jen Hill; Roaring Brook Press; 32 pages; $17.99

Though the title of the thoughtful book, Be Kind, seems plain, the lessons about how to be kind make it appropriate and to the point.

It begins when a girl named Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, and though her friend tells her that purple is her favorite color, the rest of the class laughs, and Tanisha runs into the hall. Meanwhile, her friend wonders whether she should’ve done more, and sets about on a quest to find out what it means to be kind.

Is it kind to make cookies for Mr. Rinaldi, who lives alone? Or how about cleaning up after the class guinea pig? She finally realizes kindness comes in so many forms, from paying attention and telling someone you like her boots, to sticking up for someone when other kids aren’t kind (though that’s “really hard”).

In the end, there are so many ways to be kind, and the child in the book acknowledges some kindness movements can even travel across the country and around the world. Her solution, however? To paint a purple picture for Tanisha, who hangs it happily on her bedroom wall.

Pat Zietlow Miller weaves a lovely, kid-friendly tale with valuable reminders. She’s a contributor of Picture Book Builders, a blog that highlights exemplary picture books. Jen Hill’s illustrations are modern and adorable, with lots of personality.

— Lee Littlewood writes the Kids’ Home Library column for Creators. The San Diego wife and mom’s pure love of children’s literature helps her stay interested in words and pictures meant for tots to teens. Click here to contact her, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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