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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Hats of Faith

Hats of Faith by Medeia Cohan, illustrated by Sarah Walsh (Shade 7 Publishing, 2017). 

This little board book is a great way to introduce children to hats and head coverings from various religions and faiths. Each page has a different person and head covering. I love all the bright, colorful clothing. Young children may not be able to fully grasp the concept of faith-based head coverings, but they will at least be exposed to different types of people and dress. I could see this being a great conversation starter for older kids. There are also lots of great resources and teaching tools on the book website.

I had fun with the coloring pages below, which you can find on their website.

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

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.

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.