Stories to Share on Sweetest Day
By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Services Manager
Today is Sweetest Day, a little-known holiday reportedly started by the candy industry more than 100 years ago, and celebrated similarly to Valentine’s Day in some spots of the Midwest. But Sweetest Day has the added impact of encouraging other sweet actions as well, such as helping your neighbors, doing acts of kindness, and giving gifts to friends and people in need. These themes show up in many children’s books, I think because children have a big heart for people who need some uplifting, and children are excellent purveyors of love and kindness with the ability to melt the hearts of others. Here are some sweet books to share with children to celebrate the holiday.
“Still This Love Goes On” by Buffy Sainte-Marie and illustrated by Julie Flett just came out this fall. If you recognize the author’s name, you may know of Buffy Sainte-Marie as a singer and songwriter. She’s been around since the days of Janis Joplin, singing and advocating for Indigenous rights, and she now adds author to her list of accomplishments. “Still This Love Goes On” is a beautifully-illustrated picture book that is a love song to “the people and our Cree ways, precious like the fragrance of sweetgrass,” Sainte-Marie says in her author’s note. The earth-toned pictures focus on the land and seasons, and on song and dance, sharing positive vibes of love, strength, and beauty. For an added bonus, search the title on YouTube to hear Sainte-Marie sing the book’s sweet lyrics as you flip through the pages.
“Can Sophie Change the World?” by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace and illustrated by Aura Lewis is a sweet story about the power of kindness. Sophie adores her grandpop but doesn’t know what to get him for his birthday. When she asks him, he tells her to change the world “by doing kind deeds! Give me a mitzvah, a kind deed! More than anything, that’s what I want.” Sophie spends the week trying to find ways to change the world, but her kind actions don’t seem to amount to anything that big. That’s when Grandpop listens to her and explains that kindness can be big or small, but it always changes the world. This story shows us how we can be agents of change throughout our daily lives, a concept children can get on board with.
A similar message is illustrated in Marta Bartolj’s wordless picture book, “Every Little Kindness.” It begins with a woman leaving her home, looking sad, and putting up a poster for her lost dog. She sees a street musician and decides to give him her apple, which in turn makes both of them feel better, and it is witnessed by another a man passing by. Every small act of kindness inspires another person to do a kind deed as they go along their ways. Eventually the kindness returns to the first woman when her dog is found and returned to her. With no words to guide the story, “Every Little Kindness” must be interpreted by the readers, sparking conversation and attention to details. Bartolj’s story helps children practice empathy as they recognize the emotions characters are feeling and interpret how their actions affect others.
Giving gifts to those we love is a fun part of Sweetest Day. In Lane Smith’s newest picture book, “A Gift for Nana,” a little bunny goes on a long quest to find the perfect gift for his Nana. It isn’t her birthday, or even “a major hare holiday,” but Rabbit knows his Nana deserves a wonderful gift. On his journey, he talks to the moon, a “stickler” (a multi-eyed creature made of sticks), and a volcano, but none have the perfect gift. When he finally finds the perfect thing, he heads to Nana’s house, where she has the perfect, sweetest reply. Nanas really are the best.
Other sweet stories to try from the library’s new books display shelves include “The World’s Longest Licorice Rope” by Matt Myers, “Always with You, Always with Me” by Rowland Kelly, and “Mister Rogers’ Gift of Music” by Donna Cangelosi. Give a hug, plant some kindness, and enjoy your Sweetest Day together.