By Ashly Moore Sheldon • December 15, 2022
Many of us remember the first time we heard O'Henry's classic story The Gift of the Magi. Perhaps it was in the form of a beautifully illustrated picture book like this one. Despairing over her meager funds, Della decides to sell her beautiful hair to buy her husband Jim a fancy watch chain for Christmas. Meanwhile, Jim has sold his watch to purchase an elegant comb to hold back Della's long hair. The artful symmetry of their joint sacrifice offers a gorgeous portrait of true generosity, a concept that can be difficult for youngsters to grasp. Here are ten more children's books that will inspire young readers to give generously.
Alfonzo the goat is terribly proud of his lovely new coat. But when he discovers some creatures in need of help, will Alfonzo give up his treasured possession to save the day? With jaunty rhyming prose by Tom Percival, this great big hug of a book features playful illustrations by Christine Pym. (Ages 3–6)
This Caldecott winner by Mac Barnett tells the story of a girl whose magical box of yarn never runs out even as she knits colorful gifts and decorations for the entire town. With whimsical illustrations by Jon Klassen, the tale offers a wonderful metaphor for the depth of generosity we can tap into. (Ages 3–7)
It's been a rough couple of months for James and his mother, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they're blessed. This picture book from the late great Patricia McKissack is a celebration of the joy of giving. With stunning illustrations by April Harrison. (Ages 4–8)
Inspired by the strong female role models in author-illustrator Oge Mora's life, this Caldecott winning book tells the story of a woman whose generosity knows no bounds. Omu's delicious stew attracts the entire neighborhood. One by one, Omu gives away portions of her meal until her pot is empty. (Ages 4–8)
Award-winning artist Jon J. Muth puts an altruistic twist on the classic tale of an unfriendly, selfish community of people who are tricked into creating a delicious soup from stones. It's an inspiring story about the wonderful things that happen when people come together for good. (Ages 4–8)
On market day, Adika invites everyone he sees to a pancake dinner. How will Mama Panya ever feed them all? By Richard and Mary Chamberlin, with illustrations by Julia Cairns, this clever and heartwarming story teaches the importance of sharing, even when you have little to give. (Ages 4–10)
Nobody in Brian's class seems to notice or include him. Then one day, a new boy comes to school. When Brian is the first to welcome him, he learns how to stop being invisible. By Trudy Ludwig with tender illustrations by Patrice Barton, this gentle story shows the power of small acts of kindness. (Ages 6–9)
In June of 2002, nine months after the September 11 attacks, an American diplomat visited a far-flung African village to accept an extraordinary gift from the Maasai people. With stunning paintings from Thomas Gonzalez, Carmen Agra Deedy conveys this emotional true story of giving. (Ages 7–10)
Jude Isabella's story traces the path of Big Red, a trusty bicycle as it travels from Leo, a boy in America, to a West African farming family to a young woman who uses it to transport critical medical supplies. With evocative illustrations by award-winning artist Simone Shin. (Ages 8–10)
For fans of Pax and A Dog's Way Home, this middle grade novel by Bobbie Pryon tells the story of Piper, a girl whose life is turned upside down when her family has to move into a homeless shelter. But when she gets the chance to help someone else, it helps her to stop feeling sorry for herself. (Ages 9–12)
Children may have a hard time understanding how good it can feel to give something up. Stories are a perfect way for kids to see the big picture of generosity and the benefits, not just to the receivers, but also to the givers. Please let us know if you have any titles to add to this list.