By Karen Williams
Award-winning author Toni Morrison is well known for her powerful writing that examines the black experience in America, with a particular focus on women and girls. Both a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winner, she is best remembered for her classic novels The Bluest Eye (1970) and Beloved (1987), which was later adapted into a movie with Oprah Winfrey’s support. Her vast and impressive body of work includes 11 novels, nine non-fiction books, two short stories, and two plays.
What many people don’t know about Morrison is that her works also include eight children’s books that she wrote along with her son, Slade Morrison. These delightful and whimsical stories explore a variety of themes that will make excellent conversation starters during family read-alouds. You can use them to spark reflection, and ask your children how they relate to the stories. Check out our post on read-aloud styles to learn about the importance of interaction during story time. In addition to engaging your child in discussion around the books’ themes, and building on their questions about the stories, you can also point to sight words or letters your child may recognize as you go through the pages. This develops their print awareness, a key pre-reading skill.
Children’s Books by Toni and Slade Morrison
This is a reimagining of the famous Aesop fable, modernized to offer a deeper insight into a work-centric culture and to examine the appreciation of art. How do the antics of Ant and Grasshopper translate to today’s world?
This picture book celebrates the bond between grandparents and grandchildren. Nana is put in charge and given instructions on how to take care of the kids. Will Nana stick to the instructions, or will she decide to put her own spin on things?
In another riff on Aesop’s Fables, Poppy tells his grandfather about the time he drove over Snake. Poppy tried to help Snake, but things took a turn for the worse. You and your child will learn the importance of paying attention in this revised version of the story.
In this story, a bunny explains how people can be mean. From general statements to more specific examples, it identifies and validates many feelings children experience about their peers and adults. This title is also a good read to help explain how feelings manifest in your children and how to explore them.
In a third reinterpretation of a classic tale, Lion, also known by his preferred nickname, the “baddest in the land,” is humbled after getting a thorn stuck in his paw. Mouse helps him remove it, but demands respect and power in return. Will the forest go along with it? You might be surprised!
A library card unlocks a new life for a young girl in this picture book about the power of imagination. Louise is a bit lonely and sometimes she gets scared at things in the world around her. With the help of a new library card, and through the transformative power of books, what started as a dull day turns into one of surprises, ideas, and imagination.
Little Cloud likes to be by herself, far away from the other clouds who “terrify the earth with storm and thunder.” She loves the earth and wants to stay here. Lady Wind swoops in and teaches her the value of being with others.
Three children are sent to live in a box for not fitting into the expectations of the adults close to them. They receive gifts and items to keep them motivated, but they crave something more. What could it be, though? This thoughtful story was conceived by Slade, and Toni helped turn it into a lyrical masterpiece.
Let us know if you’ve read these books with your child and which are your favorites!