A Different Kind of Comfort Read

Elizabeth Bluemle -- September 11th, 2018

Seventeen years ago, when the horrific events of September 11 unfolded in front of us, we were at first speechless. We gathered loved ones close and tried to make sense of what had just happened. In the weeks following that tremendous tragedy and loss, people came to the bookstore looking for comfort. They weren’t even necessarily seeking a book; they simply wanted to be surrounded by books, by calm, quiet, familiar and beloved books depicting a world they thought they understood. Parents asked us for recommendations for books to help them talk with their children, and children found comfort in returning to happy, safe, gentle books like Ramona the Pest and Ginger Pye and Understood Betsy.

Today, our nation is in a very different place than it was nearly two decades ago, and yet our national stress levels are at another high. People are once again seeking refuge in bookstores. This time, their comfort reading—though it really can’t be called that—is entirely different.

These days, our bookstore visitors are finding solace in information, in hard truths and hope, in ideas and strategies, and in books featuring the voices of fellow Americans who have up to this point been largely un- or under-represented in literature. These readers don’t want comfort; they want action, change, progress, and to challenge themselves to be better humans. It’s a fascinating time to be a bookseller.

While adults across the country today will be flying through Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White Houseyoung readers in the Flying Pig Bookstore will be engaged by our front counter copies of We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson of Just Us Press, with a foreword by Ashley Bryan (published by Crown in partnership with Just Us). If you haven’t yet seen this amazing treasure trove of a book, it features 50 of our finest authors and artists (see list below) addressing young readers, helping them navigate our divided world, encouraging them to dream, to hope, and to act on behalf of themselves and others. Filled with art, essays, poems, letters, and stories, this slim volume packs a powerful punch.

Look at this line-up of stars: Arnold Adoff, Kwame Alexander, Jabari Asim, Stephanie Berger, Tonya Bolden, Roy Boney, Jr., Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Tameka Fryer Brown, Joseph Bruchac, Ashley Bryan, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Evelyn Coleman, Floyd Cooper, Nina Crews, Pat Cummings, Nancy Devard, Sharon M. Draper, Zetta Elliott, Margarita Engle, Zamani Feelings, Sharon G. Flake, Bernette G. Ford, George Ford, Laura Freeman, Chester Higgins, Jr., Ekua Holmes, Cheryl Willis Hudson, Curtis Hudson, Stephan J. Hudson, Wade Hudson, Hena Khan, Rafael Lopez, Kelly Starling Lyons, Tony Medina, Mansa K. Mussa, Innosanto Nagara, Marilyn Nelson, Ellen Oh, Denise Lewis Patrick, Andrea Pippins, James E. Ransome, Jason Reynolds, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Edel Rodriguez, Charles R. Smith, Jr., Javaka Steptoe, Eleanora E. Tate, Eric Velasquez, Carole Boston Weatherford, Jeffery B. Weatherford, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Jacqueline Woodson.

I can’t resist quoting the reviews:

“When it seems like all around us there is bad news, tension, injustice, and racism, children now have an additional source of inspiration in their search for peace, strength, equality, and hope in this vibrant and heartfelt anthology.” —Booklist

“Wade and Cheryl Willis Hudson, founders of Just Us Books, offer this empowering anthology to counter today’s often-unsettling political climate for children of varying ethnicities, faiths, identities, and abilities”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A love song from children’s literature’s brightest stars to America’s Indigenous children and children of color, encouraging them to be brave and kind.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Addressing complex topics with sensitivity and candor, this is a necessary purchase for all libraries serving children.”—School Library Journal, starred review


In 2018, it seems that the caring, loving words we need most right now are the ones that acknowledge honestly where we are, who we are, and who we want to be. It’s a different kind of comfort, one that invites active participation and deep thoughtfulness.

Readers, what books are you and your children finding inspiring and comforting these days?

One thought on “A Different Kind of Comfort Read

  1. Laura

    I have noticed a sharp increase in the number of what I call “comfort” book requests in my store (B&N). Parents, grandparents etc. are requesting classics such as Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes, All of a Kind Family (series) by Sydney Taylor, Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards, Homer Price by Robert McCloskey, Misty of Chincoteague (series) by Marguerite Henry, The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill, The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, The Best Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill, Rascal by Sterling North and Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson. A frequent yet sadly out of print request is for Junket by Anne H. White. Truly hoping for a reprint of that beautifully illustrated classic. I should mention a new title by Kristin O’Donnell called The Story Collector (A New York Public Library Book) is getting much interest. Adults are looking for reassuring themes and their own childhood favorites. I anticipate many classics will be purchased as gifts this holiday season.

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