These books have engaged my kids after a long day in quarantine (and on screens)

THE WASHINGTON POST – It’s getting harder and harder to keep my little kids – ages five and six – interested in a bedtime story. In quarantine, screens have become an integral part of their everyday lives. Even school is done on an iPad! Forget about one 28-minute episode of TV at the end of the day.

Now, I just try to make sure they’re off screens as much as they’re on them. At night, my youngest two (I also have teenage twins!) are so hopped up on pixels, it’s hard to get them to calm down. Here are a few new releases that have passed the test in my home – if only I could get the kids to stop asking when these stories will also be on Netflix.

PRINCESS ZARA’S BIRTHDAY TRADITION BY CASANDRA HENRIQUEZ, ILLUSTRATED BY MUDASSIR M ABID

My daughter liked the illustrations in this book so much that she asked me to photocopy the picture of the unicorn pulling the royal carriage so she could trace it and then draw a unicorn herself. This story about Princess Zara has a wonderful message: that we should all give back something we love on our birthdays – and that giving books is the greatest gift there is. Princess Zara is an African American princess, something the real “Zara,” the author’s daughter, longed for in her picture books.

THE MAGICAL YET, BY ANGELA DITERLIZZI, ILLUSTRATED BY LORENA ALVAREZ

“I can’t do that,” your child says. You’re supposed to add, “yet. You can’t do that. . . . yet.” This book reminds all of us that just because we can’t achieve something right now, if we keep trying, we’ll get there. With fantastic illustrations by Lorena Alvarez and rhyming reminiscent of all the old classics, The Magical Yet teaches resilience and delights all of us.

THE ONE AND ONLY DYLAN ST CLAIRE, BY KAMEN EDWARDS, ILLUSTRATED BY JEFFREY EBBELER

This book highlights boys who don’t typically star as main characters in children’s books: those who confidently toe the line between masculine and feminine. With hilarious characters, this book shows every type of child what it means to shine – even if you do get cast as a squirrel in the school musical instead of the star.

THE MOSQUITO BITE THAT CHANGED OLU’S LIFE, BY UCHECHI MBA-UZOUKWU, ILLUSTRATED BY MUDASSIR M ABID

This story, about a boy who gets bitten on the nose and has to learn to be giving and selfless to have the welt diminish, helps kids see that the world is bigger than their iPad oyster. It also shows them that no matter how far apart we all may be geographically, we’re all in this together. (Note: I did an Instagram Live with Uchechi, who is in Nigeria, where her family was in quarantine. They were all going just as crazy as we were.)

KAMALA AND MAYA’S BIG IDEA BY MEENA HARRIS, ILLUSTRATED BY ANA RAMÍREZ GONZÁLEZ

Two sisters decide they need a playground in the back of their building. They won’t take the landlord’s “no” as an answer and rally all the kids who live in the building to find a way. At the end of the book, they call themselves the “per-sisters,” because they didn’t give up; they recruited all the “maybes” in the neighbourhood to become “yeses,” and wouldn’t let the adults’ negativity get in the way. (Available June 2)

I AM LEONARDO DA VINCI BY BRAD MELTZER, ILLUSTRATED BY CHRISTOPHER ELIOPOULOS

I had no idea that Vinci was the name of the town Leonardo grew up in. His name really means “Leonardo from Vinci.”

That’s just one of many fun facts in Brad Meltzer’s latest installment in his I Am series. I bet you didn’t know that Leonardo also invented a helicopter and a parachute. This book is really an ode to the saying: Timing is everything.