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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.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I Am Mixed

I Am Mixed by Garcelle Beauvais and Sebastian A. Jones, illustrated by James C. Webster (Strangers Comics, 2013). 

This is a great book about a brother and sister who are of mixed race and whose parents have different cultural backgrounds, and how the siblings are the best of both. The book has some impressive blurbs from celebrities like Halle Berry and Heidi Klum, and was written by two actor/authors. 

I found the story to be imaginative and fun; I think it would really help mixed kids with seeing themselves represented in a book and to feel proud of who they are. My only reservation is one aspect of the illustrations. There is something unsettling about the characters' eyes in many of the pictures; they remind me of dolls', but more in a creepy than cute way. Maybe kids wouldn't notice, or just it's me, I don't know. But it's too bad because I do feel that it detracts from my love of the story itself. 




Sunday, July 16, 2017

Captain Cat

Captain Cat by Inga Moore (Candwick Press, 2013). 

This is the story of Captain Cat, who is a trader, although not a very good one because all he wants is cats. He travels to an island and meets a queen who has never seen cats before. Turns out the island has a rat problem that the cats are the perfect solution.  This is a nice summer read. 






Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Secret River

The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (2009). 


This is actually a revised and reillustrated edition of the book that was originally published in 1955 and received a Newbery Honor Award. At that time it was illustrated by the great Leonard Weisgard. As you may know, Rawlings is the Pulitizer Prize winning author of The Yearling. While many now consider that novel to be for children or young adults, it wasn't written with that in mind. This story is actually the only one that Rawlings wrote specifically for children. 

 A summary from Kirkus: "There are no fish left in the rivers and streams; hard times have come to the forest, and everyone is poor and hungry. Calpurnia is determined to find fish for her father to sell in his shop. Mother Albirtha, the wisewoman, advises her to follow her nose to a secret river teeming with fish. She finds this amazing river and politely asks the fishes’ permission to catch some of them. On her long journey home she shares her catch with several animals and, of course, Mother Albirtha. Father sells the fish for promises of payment, which are all fulfilled, and soft times come to the entire community."

Rawlings wanted the story to be about an African American girl and purposely didn't use the stereotypical "Negro dialect" that was often used in books at that time.  However, the book wasn't published until after her death, so she wasn't able to have a say in the illustrations, given that she never actually makes mention of race in the story. At that time in children's publishing, portraying children of color was almost non-existent. But Weisgard wanted his illustrations to be true to Rawling's intentions and do his small part in contributing to breaking down the color barrier, so he used brown paper to subtly suggest the characters' race. (Source)  You can see examples below. 



This newer edition is one of the most beautifully illustrated books I've seen. I always love Leo and Diane Dillon's work, but think it particularly shines here. The imaginative illustrations perfectly accompany Rawlings' beautiful fable. 


Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Green Ladybug

The Green Ladybug by Zachariah Rippe (2017). 

The author/illustrator contacted me about his latest book.  He wrote: "I grew up HATING reading. I graduated with a lower than average reading level. I didn't read my first chapter book from cover to cover until I was 22 years old...and I read that book so that I could talk to a girl...who is now my wife of 11 years. He wrote his first children's book when he found out he was going to be a father. 

I love that story.  And this picture book is cute with a good message. It's a familiar story... in particular, it reminded me of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but I still found it charming.  It tells of red ladybugs who love playing in the sun, but when a green ladybug tries to join them, they shoo her away because she looks different from them. But when a bug catcher starts scooping up the ladybugs in a jar, it's the green ladybug who saves the day.  The pictures are cute and simple, although somewhat repetitive, but I think kids will enjoy the rhyming story. Overall a nice little read.





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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Children's Book Week

Happy Children's Book Week! 



There are lots of events and activities going on this week. You can find an event near you on this map.  You can also find bookmarks and other cool things on Every Child a Reader's website.  

I love this poster by Christian Robinson. 





Thursday, April 27, 2017

Smudge, the Little Lost Lamb

Smudge, the Little Lost Lamb by James Herriot, illustrated by Ruth Brown (Macmillan, 1991). 

This is a sweet book about a little lamb who, one spring day, decides to venture out from his farmyard to explore the world. However, he soon becomes lost and is unable to find his way home. Luckily he meets some nice people along the way who eventually help return him to his mother. The story is text-heavy so probably best for ages 5 and up. I really like the watercolor illustrations. A nice read for springtime.