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15 Special Children’s Books and 7 Special People –A Cornucopia of Gratitude and Thankfulness

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow” — Melody Beattie

This time of year, we tend to find ourselves looking more inward to the things in our lives for which we are thankful. This year, these thoughts and feelings are more intense as we reflect on the roles and influence of others in our lives. It is with joy that Lawley Publishing spotlights special individuals who exemplify a cornucopia of traits for which we are grateful. We whole-heartedly thank these individuals, and others in similar lines of work, for their impact now and always. Thank you for sharing in our lives, contributing to our well-being, and inspiring us to be the best versions of ourselves.

What led us to spotlight these individuals, you may ask?

Adam the Ant! Adam the Ant, by Julie Awerkamp and Holly Andreason, is a children’s story where Adam is the Hero of Insectum Academy. Adam the Ant shows us that we all are different, yet essential to our families, friends, and communities. Lawley Publishing recommends this book for teaching about individual strengths. This fabulous book, with lovely illustrations by Jesi Yap, would be a PERFECT book to read before fire and lockdown drills.

Jessica Chavez

VP of Innovative Learning Strategies

Arizona Science Center

“Working at Arizona Science Center, we see STEM in everything we do! At the Center, I work in the learning department, focusing on Educator Professional Learning.  We offer training on integrating STEM, and meeting educators where they are at, even if it’s starting with a book you love!”

Book Choice #1- What Floats in a Moat

The first book I have selected is What Floats in a Moat, written by Lynne Berry and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. This book is about a very silly goat named Archie and his friend Skinny the Hen, who are on a mission to cross a moat to deliver buttermilk to the queen. What I love about this book is it is a perfect example of the Engineering Design Process! Archie and Skinny Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve a solution to their problem, not accepting failure! It’s such an easy way to get students to think about their thinking, all while having fun and using a great book as a hook!

Book Choice #2- Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing

Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing, written by April Jones Prince and illustrated by Francois Roca, is a book based on real events involving the Brooklyn Bridge and twenty-one elephants. The bridge took fourteen years to build, and in a stunt to test the strength of the bridge, they had twenty-one grown elephants cross at once! After reading this book, we like to ask participants to Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, and Improve a solution to creating their own bridge using items provided creatively.

Val Gale

Assistant Chief over Operations

Chandler Fire Departments

“Under the guidance and direction of the Fire Chief, I am responsible for all of the firefighters and crisis response personnel at the Chandler Fire Department. Gratefully, I have seven Battalion Chiefs that report to me and certainly do the majority of the work and coordination required to keep the Engines, Ladders, and Crisis Team responding to incidents. They ensure everything runs smoothly, from staffing to response reports to making sure vehicles and equipment are checked off regularly. They are the first line when something is not working correctly, and they are excellent at finding solutions to problems and situations as they arise. I love my job, and being a part of such an amazing organization, it makes coming to work worthwhile and fulfilling.”

Book Choice #1- Summer of the Monkeys

I have chosen two books that stand out to me from my youth because I have read them both many times and found myself, as a child, drawn back to them over and over again. The first is one that I read as an older child, Summer of the Monkeys, by Wilson Rawls. This book details some challenges that most young boys of my era faced: the dream of purchasing a couple of personal “wish” items and the planning and working to earn money to purchase them. The young boy in the book, Jay Lee, moved with his family to Oklahoma. He has the dream of buying his very own pony and .22 rifle. One day, he happens on a bunch of circus monkeys that had escaped and learns of a reward for catching and returning them. The rest of the book details his adventures in trying and failing to capture the monkeys and, finally, his success. This book was very relatable to me and my hopes and challenges.

Book Choice #2- Drummer Hoff

The second book I thought of was Drummer Hoff, by Barbara Emberley. I’m not sure what the draw of this book was for me, maybe the fact that the main character was a drummer and I loved the drums, maybe that there was a cannon involved, maybe just the rhyming of the entire book. Regardless, I probably read this book 500 times as a child, going through the steps of building and firing a cannon as described by the author.

Tanner Gibson

Swim Instructor / Life Guard

“I always had a dream of being a lifeguard when I grew up. Finally, my dream became a reality as I was hired by Gilbert Parks and Rec to be a Swim Instructor as well as a lifeguard at the Mesquite Pool. In the morning, I was able to teach children of varying ages to swim. In the afternoon, I had the opportunity to keep everyone safe. It was a wonderful summer job.”

Book Choice #1- Treasure Island

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. I loved this book as a kid for many reasons. First, it was an adventure. I couldn’t put the book down. I also enjoyed it because it told a fantastic story.

Book Choice #2- King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub

King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, by Audrey and Don Wood. I enjoyed this book because it had very clever rhymes. The pictures could also fascinate me for hours. There was so much detail, and you could find something new to look at every time you read the book.

Debbie Naragon

Kindergarten Teacher

“Hello! My name is Debbie, and I teach Kindergarten. I have been teaching Kindergarten for twenty-one years at the same school. I absolutely love it—to see students grow so much in a school year is, by far, the most rewarding aspect of teaching. Being at the same school, I then get to watch my students grow up. I have an Elementary Education degree from Ottawa University and a Masters in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University. In my spare time, I love scrapbooking, making cards, and spending time with my grandson. My other two grandchildren, I FaceTime as much as I can.”

Book Choice #1- Put Me in the Zoo

Put Me in the Zoo, by Robert Lopshire. I had this book as a child. It is nice to see a book stand the test of time and be relative and enjoyed by children now. I love the element of surprise on each page, and the tone and language catch the children’s attention.

Book Choice #2- After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again), by Dan Santat. WOW! This book is quite powerful! It talks about fears and how to overcome being afraid. But most of all, keep trying and the power of YET! To have an extension of the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme was exciting!

Robert Ramos, MSW, MPA

School Social Worker

“My name is Robert Ramos, and I am a School Social Worker at Sonoma Ranch Elementary in Gilbert, Arizona. I focus on the social and emotional well-being of our students who are in grade kindergarten to 6th grade.”

Book Choice #1- The Good Egg

My two favorite books are by author Jory John and illustrator Pete Oswald. The Good Egg is a creative and fun way of teaching kids that it’s important to help and care for others, but it’s just as important to take care of ourselves. I find that students connect well with the fun illustrations and colors, as well as the theme of the story.

Book Choice #2- The Cool Bean

The Cool Bean, written and illustrated by the same team, is also another favorite. The book talks about how the cool beans do small acts of kindness with no expectations of anything in return. It connects well with kids because it takes place in a school with real-life events. It’s a great book to start a discussion of kindness and empathy with people of any age.

Breanna Sperry


“I specialize in haircuts, all hair color services, and specialty styling, whether it’s for special occasions or just everyday lifestyle hair. I work at a Gilbert, Arizona hair salon called Olive + Elm. I’ve been doing hair for eight years now and still loving every minute of it. It’s something I’m very passionate about. I love making others’ day and building their confidence; it’s so rewarding.”

Book Choice #1- Charlotte’s Web

Growing up, I had two favorite books. Charlotte’s Web was my favorite because it built a sense of imagination for me and my love for animals.

Book Choice #2- The Series of Unfortunate Events

Series of Unfortunate Events was also my favorite because of the adventure and the clever inventions they made. It also taught me to be appreciative of what I have in my life; things could always be worse.

Steven Winsor

Registered Nurse

“As an infusion nurse at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, I help people who need medication they aren’t able to give themselves. I also assist other nurses in the hospital put IV lines in patients when the nurse is unable to do it alone.”

Book Choice #1- Bartholomew and the Oobleck

My favorite book as a kid was Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss. I like this book because Bartholomew chooses to do the right thing even when he stands up to the king. Although the king is tired of the weather and wants something else to come down from the sky instead of the normal things like rain and sunshine, he gets terrified when the oobleck starts to stick to everything, even the king! That is when Bartholomew talks to the king and tells him to apologize to the sky. When the king does say he’s sorry, the oobleck disappears.

Book Choice #2- Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb is one of my favorite books because it has a good rhythm to it. The faster you read it, the more fun you have. You can also get really loud and then end really quietly, to make it even more interesting. As a kid, I enjoyed my brothers reading it to me. Now that I am a father, my own children enjoy it when we read this book together. It’s definitely one you can reread over and over again.

We are so grateful for all the wonderful people that contribute to our lives in so many ways and the incredible books that help us grow and enjoy time together. We hope you have a bountiful season full of thanksgiving and love.

-Shawna Della Cerra

Lawley Publishing Educational Consultant

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