I love children’s books with messages that support our values, but a lot of those books seem to put the messages ahead of the storytelling. In other words, I’d like to own more books that are as engaging as Eloise but maybe aren’t how-to’s in achieving bratdom status before fifth grade? So I’m thrilled to have found a small publisher that does a beautiful job with kids’ books about topics like the environment, global citizenship, health and imagination–but your kids will just think they’re just good books.

Little Pickle Press is a small publisher with big ideas. I’ve recently gotten to know author/publisher Rana DiOrio and am blown away by her commitment to instilling smart values in children and living those values by donating a percentage of all the profits to The Starlight Children’s Foundation. Plus every book is printed on a kind of 30% recycled fiber paper that saves trees, energy, water, greenhouse emissions and more. Love that.

But hey, books are about more than the paper they’re printed on, and so are these.

I think my favorite of the titles may be Sofia’s Dream by Land Wilson. It’s a stunner of a book, and the most classically story-like, in which a lovely, dreamy moon teaches Sofia and a cast of multicultural kids how to take care of the Earth, all in rhyme that a second grader would enjoy reading to herself.

BIG | Little Pickle Press

Another standout is BIG, with fabulous collage illustrations by Clare Fennell and a nice story by author Colleen Paratore. It would be an excellent big sibling gift as you can imagine–or even a little sibling book, really. The idea is that “big” isn’t measured by how tall you are, but how bright, healthy and imaginative you are–“being the biggest YOU you can be.”

The takeaway: Every day we can choose to be little or we can choose to be big. That’s a great message for all of us, right?

What Does It Mean to Be Green? | Little Pickle Press
What Does It Mean to Be Global? | Little Pickle press
What Does It Mean to Be Present? | Little Pickle Press

The anchors of the collection are the What Does It Mean…books by DiOrio herself, and which are better for slightly younger kids. (My five year-old really loves them.) What Does It Mean to Be Global? And What Does It Mean to Be Green? are two great books to start with. My kids were instantly captivated by simple narratives, accompanied by Chris Hill’s sweet cartoony illustrations. But most of all I think they liked not being talked down to. Rather the opposite;
your kids will walk away feeling important and empowered, like they can make a difference in their own little worlds and beyond.

Another excellent option is What Does It Mean to Be Present? which sounds a little Oprah-touchy-feely than it is but is actually quite smart. Eliza Wheeler’s illustrations are quite pretty and artful, and they really bring to life the lessons about seizing moments, giving appreciation, accepting mistakes and enjoying each day. In fact, this would be a great gift right now, especially in the spirit of the Thanksgiving lessons you probably already discussed this week.

Be warned: you may be getting some good tips out of these books too. Just don’t tell your kids. –Liz

In honor of Small Business Saturday, save 30% off all books and gifts at Little Pickle Press with code AmEx30 through 11/30/12. PLUS 10% of the purchase of the books always goes to support The Starlight Foundation.

You can also order the books for Kindle and most for NOOK and there’s a four-book gift set that’s perfect for holiday giving.