Google+ Followers

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. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Emma's Easter

Emma's Easter by Lisa Bullard, illustrated by Constanza Basaluzzo (Millbrook Press, 2012).

This is a very cute book about a little girl celebrating Easter with her family.  It's unique in that Emma's parents are interracial; she and her little brother are mixed. The story itself is standard; they dye eggs, go on an egg hunt, attend church, and have dinner with family. The problem is that Emma can't find the egg with her name on it. Of course she eventually finds it... but that bunny sure is sneaky!

There are little blurbs with facts about Easter throughout, which I like because I always enjoyed learning about the origins and traditions of holidays and how different cultures celebrate them. I also appreciated, as someone who is secular, that on the page that explains the Christian story of Easter and shows the family at church, there is a blurb saying that Easter is also a special day for people who aren't Christian and that the day also celebrates spring and new life. There is also a glossary and some activities and resources in the back. 

All in all, I thought the book was very cute and will have to check out the other holiday books from Cloverleaf. 

You can see more Easter books on my Pinterest board here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh

The St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh by Janet Nolan, illustrated by Ben F. Stahl (Albert Whitman & Company, 2002). 

This is a lovely book about a family heirloom that gets passed down from generation to generation.  It starts with Fergus, a boy in Ireland during the potato famine who must immigrate to America with his family. He cuts a branch from a blackthorn tree to bring a piece of his country with him and whittles it into a shillelagh, or walking stick. Every St. Patrick's Day he tells his son his story of leaving Ireland. This tradition gets passed down through the generations until we see young Kayleigh being told the story by her grandfather. This is a great book to use for teaching about family history.

For more St. Patrick's Day children's books, you can check out my Pinterest board here

Also, if you need some good Celtic music, I recommend AccuRadio.  They have several different stations, such "Songs of the Sea," "Celtic Legends," "First Fiddle," and "St. Paddy's Party." I swear I'm not being paid, I just really love their options! I think Irish music is so beautiful and whenever I hear it, I feel connected to my Irish roots. (Although only 16% according to AncestryDNA.) 

Hope everyone has a great St. Patrick's Day with some good craic!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House, 1989).

For more Valentine's Day books, see my Pinterest board.

Friday, February 3, 2017


Minou by Mindy Bingham, illustrated by Itoko Maeno (Advocacy Press, 1987).  

Growing up, we had a dog. Despite not having a cat of my own until I was a teenager, I have always been a cat lover. "Kitty" was one of my very first words. So I loved this book about a Siamese cat in Paris. 

Minou is a loved, pampered kitty.  But when her elderly owner becomes ill, she is left to fend for herself on the streets of Paris, something she doesn't know how to do. Luckily another cat teaches her how to survive and she becomes a mouser at Notre Dame Cathedral. Written by the then-Executive Director of the Girls Club of Santa Barbara, this book promotes independence and self-reliance to girls. Adults (and kids familiar with Paris) will also enjoy seeing the famous landmarks in the pictures. However, as a kid, I just knew I loved the story of the sweet Minou. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Rice and Rocks: Multicultural Children's Book Day

Rice and Rocks by Sandra L. Richards, illustrated by Megan Kayleigh Sullivan (Wise Ink Creative Publishing, 2016.)

It's that time again!  This is my third year participating in Multicultural Children's Book Day, which is January 27. Thank you to the author for providing me with this book to review.  It actually had been on my "to read" list for a while, so I was so happy when we were matched. Also, just an interesting coincidence... I saw that she is from a town in Long Island five minutes from where I used to live before moving back to my home state of Connecticut earlier this year. 

This is a fun book about a boy named Giovanni who is embarrassed to have his friends come over for dinner because his grandmother will be serving rice and beans, or "rice and rocks" as he calls them. He thinks his family's traditional Jamaican dish will be seen as weird to his friends. But with the help of his aunt and a magical talking parrot, he learns how rice and beans is a staple in all different countries around the world, just prepared in different ways. I really enjoyed the creative story, fun illustrations, and important message. 

For more information, see the author's website here.

This book also provides a great excuse to cook with kids! For a good place to start, here is a website with 24 different rice and beans dishes from around the world.

About MCBD:

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site:

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents:

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use their official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Happy Birthday to Me...

Tomorrow is a big day for me... it's my 30th birthday!  I can't believe it.  I'm looking forward to celebrating with family and then next week taking a mini-vacation to Miami with friends. 

I always loved my birthday parties as a kid because my mom threw me some great ones.  I always had a theme and fun, creative activities.  Here is a photo from my 7th birthday when I was obsessed with Aladdin.  We had a magician perform also, so it was sort of a combo theme.  

Another one of my favorite parties was themed "The Birthday Lady Vanishes" when I was turning nine. It was a mystery party where all my guests had to make up a character and come in costume with a name and some facts about their alias. We made a short movie with cheesy camcorder tricks to make it look like various items and then finally the birthday girl "disappeared." I played two parts, the detective there to solve the case and the disappearing wealthy socialite birthday lady. I still have the VHS tape. I remember another fun decorating detail was that my mom and I made "Wanted" posters of all my friends.  

Anyway, to tie in this birthday post with children's literature, I will share one of my favorite birthday books. It's Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch (1982).  I loved the Weston Woods video, and luckily it's available on Youtube, so I will share it with you below. (The film is actually only 6 minutes, the video here repeats for some reason.)
You can find more birthday books on my Pinterest here.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Minnie Saves the Day

Minnie Saves the Day by Melodye Benson Rosales (Little, Brown, 2001). 

One day recently when I was walking around my neighborhood, I came across a Little Free Library.  

The rules stated were simple: take a book and either return it or replace it with a different book.  Looking through, an illustrated children's book stood out to me. I knew the author/illustrator from her other books, including the original three Addy books for American Girl. I decided to borrow it and I'm glad I did.


Taking place in Chicago during the Great Depression, it's about an African-American girl named Hester who receives a rag doll made by her grandmother.  She's excited because it's the first doll she owns that looks like her. She names her Minnie. We soon learn that all toys come to life when people aren't around.  When Hester's mother thinks her butter pound cake for an upcoming party is ruined, Minnie decides to help save the day. 

The book it set up as part one of a series, "The Adventures of Minnie," although unfortunately it doesn't appear that there were any other stories published. It's formatted similarly to American Girl in that it's historical fiction with a family tree of the characters in the front and some true historical facts in the back, as well as a recipe for the butter pound cake featured in the book. It's a shame there aren't more books in the series.

For more information on black dolls, read this wonderful article titled "Black is Beautiful: Why Black Dolls Matter."