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Sunday, September 24, 2017

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! by Alva Sachs, illustrated by Patricia Krebs (Three Wishes Publishing, 2009). 

This is the story of a day in the life of three best friends. Marcus, Justin, and Mario start their Saturday playing videos and making lunch. When they're not sure what to do next, Justin's dad suggests enjoying the nice weather outdoors, and helps them spruce up their old skateboards. They invite the other dads to come and watch them race in the park. While it's a simple story, it's nice to see diverse friendships and father-son relationships. I really love the illustrations by the Argentinean artist. 

The author and and illustrator have collaborated on several picture books. More information can be found here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mad Libs

Disclaimer: I received this gift bag from the publisher in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

I was fortunate to recently receive a bag from Brightly filled with Mad Lib books and other little goodies. I absolutely loved Mad Libs as a kid; they were so fun to play alone or with friends and family. 

If you don't yet know about Brightly, it's an online resource from Penguin Random House that helps parents, educators, and anyone with kids in their lives grow lifelong readers. Brightly offers book recommendations from all publishers for every age and stage, reading tips, author essays, and much more. It's a great site and they have lots of fun giveaways; in fact, I randomly won a copy of the new Jerry Spinelli book from them a little while back.

Since I don't have kids yet, I plan on donating these to a local children's literacy charity organization. I know some kids will have a lot of fun with them while also practicing vocabulary and grammar skills!

And the best part is that Brightly is offering a downloadable 15 pack of Mad Libs for FREE on their site here! So be sure to check that out.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

I Just Kept Spinning

I Just Kept Spinning by Destini Berry, illustrated by April Foxx (Kifani Press, 2017). 

This is a wonderful book based on the experiences of the author, who is only eighteen. 
I especially love the rich, soulful acrylic illustrations. Kifani Press (which is co-owned by sisters April and Ashley Foxx) raised $15,000 on Kickstarter to publish the book. 

All seven-year-old Destini wants is to dance, but she's banned from her first recital because her natural locs go against the "rules" for a ballerina. But Destini won't back down, and her mother promises her they'll be able to conquer the problem, because "small people can do big things." Her mother starts calling newspapers and TV stations and soon lawyers start wanting to help them. The whole town gets talking about how it's an unfair rule, and Destini is allowed to dance in her first recital just the way she is, with her beautiful locs.

I'm pleased to be able to offer a discount on this book to my followers. You can just go to the website and use discount code SYS15 to receive 15% off your order through September 15. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Anything But Pink

Anything But Pink by Adelina Winfield (self-published, 2016). 

This is a cute book about a little girl named Starri whose parents don't get her anything pink when she's a baby because they don't want to feed into the stereotype. Of course, as Starri grows up, all she wants is pink. Pink clothes, pink toys, pink room... everything pink! Finally her parents tell her, that while pink is great, there are so many other wonderful colors out there, and variety is the spice of life.

I liked both the message and the cute illustrations for this book. My only complaint is that all the characters' mouths are always puckered into O's like dolls, which is a little odd, and doesn't allow for variety of expression in their faces. But otherwise, I enjoyed this book. I also liked that the parents seem to be an interracial couple, or at least they could be seen that way, so that little mixed girls can see themselves in Starri as well. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Mermaid

The Mermaid by Jan Brett (Penguin, 2017). 

Jan Brett has been a favorite author/illustrator of mine since I was a kid. If you have never read her books, you really should. Her illustrations are beautifully detailed, usually drawing from Scandinavian motifs. Here she departs from that and instead creates a Japanese underwater world in this original retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Instead of three bears there are three octopuses, and instead of a little golden-haired girl there is a mermaid. This is a wonderful book that I am happy to add to my collection.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Muhiima's Quest

Muhiima's Quest by Rahma Rodaah, illustrated by Daria Horb (self-published, 2017). 

I really enjoyed this book. It's Muhiima's birthday, but she isn't expecting much because her family doesn't celebrate birthdays, so she's surprised when her mother hands her a map with no other instructions than to follow it. She takes off on her bicycle as the map leads her to visit family and friends around town who each give her a small wrapped box, along with some words of wisdom. At the end, Muhiima comes home to discover all her family and friends waiting to have a big dinner with her. All of the boxes contain a pearl to string together to make a necklace, which her mother explains represents the pearls of wisdom the whole village has given her and helped to shape her into the wonderful girl she has become. 

While I think Muslim families will really enjoy this book, it's a universal story. It would be great for non-Muslim kids to read and learn about other religious and cultural traditions, and to realize how similar Muhiima and her community are to the rest of us. It was hard to pick just a few illustrations to share, as I really loved them all. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Momma, Did You Hear the News?

Momma, Did You Hear the News? by Sanya Whittaker Gregg, MSW, illustrated by Kim Holt (self-published, 2017).

This book deals with a difficult topic, but an important one. A young boy is upset after hearing about another police shooting, so his parents talk to him and his brother about it. They teach them a mnemonic chant that spells out "alive" so they will remember what to do if approached by a cop. They also assure the kids that most cops aren't bad.

I admit it made me uncomfortable to think about having to read this to young children, but I think the author, who is a social worker with kids of her own, does a good job of keeping it age-appropriate. The book is told in rhyming verse, which I found off-putting at first because it feels so incongruous with the serious topic, but I could see how it might be comforting to kids who may be afraid. Unfortunately, this is a much-needed book.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.