Chicken in the Kitchen

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Image Credit: Lantana Publishing Ltd., Nnedi Okorafor/Mehrdokht Amini

A chicken in your kitchen is never a good thing. It can only lead to trouble, right? Anyaugo wakes up one night to a ruckus in her kitchen. ¬†She bravely gets out of bed and peeks around the kitchen door to find a massive chicken. Not only is the chicken making a mess, it’s getting awfully close to the food her mom & aunties made for The New Yam Festival the next day! Anyaugo seeks out her trickster friend Wood Wit, a nature spirit, who tells her to talk to the creature. She builds up her courage and discovers that the chicken is really a friendly Masquerade Spirit!! Masquerade Spirits come to town during festivals and this hungry one stopped by her kitchen for a snack. ūüėČ

What I love about this story is how it unabashedly celebrates Nigerian/Igbo culture. The chicken masquerade spirit and nature spirit are never referred to as “mythical creatures.” They are treated with respect, as they should be, and readers get a glimpse of the vibrant New Yam Festival on the last few pages of the book. Anyaugo protects the hard work of her mom and aunties by confronting the intimidating spirit. In the process, she makes a new friend. This #ownvoices book is magical, fun and refreshing. Nigerian American author Nnedi Okorafor’s storytelling is engaging and sweet. I hope to read more of her work soon!

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Image Credit: Lantana Publishing Ltd., Nnedi Okorafor/Mehrdokht Amini

Mehrdokht Amini’s mixed media illustrations are wonderfully detailed and rich. I’ve admired her work ever since I discovered¬†Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns in my bookstore.¬†She uses a palatte of reds, greens, blues and oranges for this book. Chicken masquerade spirit’s plummage is bright, majestic and eye-catching; the spirit easily blends into the other Yam Festival masquerades. Anyaugo has the rounded face and curious large almond eyes signature of Amini’s style. There are even clues in the illustrations to show readers how slippery Wood Wit really is!

This is a lovely book to share with your family and classroom. Enjoy! Now I really want some yams…

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Animals, Fear, Festivals, Spirits, Nigeria, Nigerian Culture, New Yam Festival, Problem Solving, Trickster Tales, OwnVoices, Diversity
Book Info: Chicken in the Kitchen by Nnedi Okorafor/Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini, 2015 Lantana Publishing Ltd., ISBN: 9780993225307

Drag Queen Story Hour for Pride Month

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On June 30th, I attended Cincinnati Library’s very first Drag Queen Story Hour at our Northside Branch! It was a fun way to end Pride Month in Cincinnati and was very well attended for being Cincinnati’s first go at this fast-growing library trend. If you want to learn more about Drag Queen Story Hours, click here.

After a bit of a wait (she was getting ready in the bathroom), Ms. Amaya made a glamorous appearance, read two stories and sang songs with everyone. After she put on her special reading glasses, she began with the Todd Parr classic,¬†It’s Okay to Be Different and later read A Peacock Among Pigeons. In between stories we got moving & shaking to songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “The Hips on the Drag Queen (Go Shake Shake Shake).” Northside Library did an great job with this event. They made sure to have a table with books available for check out. A few featured books were¬†I am Jazz, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress and George, three¬†books that discuss identity and trans youth. They even had a craft table at the back of the room where kids decorated and bedazzled crowns to take home.

The mood in the room was happy and vibrant. Everyone was smiling, dancing and having fun. I had a conversation with an author friend (who recently attended a Drag Queen Story Hour in her neighborhood) about whether or not Drag Queen Story Hours are as subversive as they’re advertised to be, especially if kids don’t understand what they’re experiencing. At our story hour, the kids ranged in age from infancy to 6 or 7 years old. There wasn’t any discussion, by library staff or Ms. Amaya, about what exactly a Drag Queen is or what Pride Month celebrates. Drag Queen Story Hours can be enhanced by parents having discussions with their kids about Drag Queens, performance, queerness, inclusivity, and identity. This might help fill in gaps of understanding, introduce new concepts and maybe even inspire questioning kids in attendance.

Drag Queen Story Hours are perfect events for libraries because libraries are community centers & welcoming spaces for all types of people. They’ve always been centers for learning and growth. These story hours are a welcome addition to more inclusive programming for children & families nationwide!

Maybe find a Drag Queen Story Hour in your area?

I hope you had a great Pride Month 2017! ūüôā

Cradle Me

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Image Credit: Star Bright Books, Inc., Debby Slier

Parents and caregivers know that babies like to look at all kinds of diverse faces. Faces that express different ranges of emotion are best. The vibrant baby photographs in this board book are great for developing little brains and sparking curiosity.

Cradle Me¬†celebrates Native American babies from eleven different tribes tucked sweetly in their cradle boards. What a GORGEOUS book! Babies are “peeking,” “crying” and “yawning” all while looking very cute. I love that Slier includes a blank spot on every page for readers to fill in matching words from languages other than English; that’s so important for literacy & language survival.

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Image Credit: Star Bright Books, Inc., Debby Slier

At the end of the book, there’s a short note about the history and continued use of cradle boards by Native mothers. Here, readers will also learn the names of the eleven tribes the babies are from. This is a sweet book to give to the babies in your life. Not only is it a “mirror” book for Native babies, it’s a simple and effective way to introduce Native cultures to non-Native children…and introduce them SUPER early. Every beautiful cradle board has the same basic shape but each one is a little different; there are various blanket patterns, frame designs and beadwork patterns.

Enjoy!

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Baby Faces, New Baby, Native American, Family, Emotions, Vocabulary, Diversity, OwnVoices, Early Childhood Development
Book Info: Cradle Me by Debby Slier, 2012 Star Bright Books, Inc., ISBN: 9781595722744

A Bike Like Sergio’s

 

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Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Maribeth Boelts/Noah Z. Jones

In A Bike Like Sergio‘s, Ruben’s family has trouble making ends meet and money is always tight. His best friend Sergio has a slick new bike and doesn’t understand why Ruben can’t just ask his parents to buy him one too. Ruben, like many children around the world, already understands the necessity of being choosy about every purchase in order for his family to survive.

One day at the grocery store, a lady drops “just a dollar” that turns out to be a hundred and Ruben’s thoughts go straight to buying a new bike!! But when he sees his mother crossing items off their grocery list (they can’t afford all of it), he starts to feel guilty; the bill suddenly weighs heavy in his pocket. After Ruben scares himself by thinking he’s lost the money, and his dream bike, he develops empathy for the woman when he sees her again in the store…What’s the right decision to make when you’re so close to having something you desire, and maybe even deserve?

Continue reading

Town Is by the Sea

 

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Image Credit: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, Joanne Schwartz/Sydney Smith

Coal. Here in the United States, we have a long history with the fossil fuel. Americans have been burning coal for hundreds of years and mined it heavily¬†from the late 19th century until the mid 20th. Towns developed¬†around coal, generations of families (of various ethnicities) mined it &¬†depended on it. Though we don’t mine and burn coal like we used to (due to mechanization of mining & increasing natural gas usage), we still have deep, emotional¬†ties to it.

Town Is By the Sea¬†is a story of the Canadian coal town Cape Breton in the 1950s and a boy’s connection to coal, to the sea and to his family. This story has multiple layers; on the surface level, it’s a boy’s account of his daily life. But on a deeper level, Joanne Schwartz paints an intimate portrait of a coal mining town and a boy’s understanding of his role as a miner’s son. Continue reading

Classics, Colonization and a Call for Change by Padma Venkatraman

No brainer re-blog. I’ve talked before about pushing against a white canon of children’s literature. Why are our “classics” our classics? Excellent piece that educators, librarians and parents should read.

Nerdy Book Club

Last year, I gave in to horribly un-American behavior. Confident that my citizenship would not be revoked if indulged in censorship, I picked up a thick sharpie and blackened out offensive words in A Child’s Garden of Verse on my daughter’s shelf.

Other ‚Äúclassics‚ÄĚ just plain aren‚Äôt on her shelf. I‚Äôm confident her childhood can be quite complete even if she isn‚Äôt exposed to every classic. After all, there are many brilliant authors influenced by modern sensibilities who write equally marvelous books. Instead of Laura Ingalls Wilder‚Äôs Little House series, she‚Äôs read Louise Erdich‚Äôs Birchbark House series. Has she missed something? Sure. Yes. But our time as children is limited, and really, aren‚Äôt those children who haven‚Äôt visited the Birchbark House because they‚Äôve been so busy following Laura from one Little House to another, also missing something? Or, worse, perhaps they‚Äôre unquestioningly absorbing age-old prejudices‚Ķ

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Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

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Image Credit: Farrar Strauss Giroux Books for Young Readers, Debbi Michiko Florence/Elizabet Vukovińá

Whew! It’s been a while, yeah? Today’s review celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! Let’s go!!

The first in a delightful new beginning chapter book series, Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen is¬†a great addition to your bookshelves. I’m so excited to welcome this¬†new series about a Japanese American girl &¬†her family.¬†Two areas of children’s literature¬†that are lacking in diverse/#ownvoices stories¬†are Beginning Chapter Book Series &¬†Board Books, so it’s encouraging to see this new series *hopefully* flourish.

Every year, Jasmine’s family hosts a¬†mochi-tsuki; they make sweet rice cakes to celebrate the New Year. But this year, OH THIS YEAR, Jasmine is determined to help make the mochi (even though she’s too young). Her bossy big sister Sophie is finally old enough to help the women roll the¬†mochi…but she can’t! She thinks up a clever plan though; she’ll help the men of¬†the family pound the mochi! In order to lift the big wooden hammer, she has to build up her strength first. Jasmine pushes against traditional gender roles¬†in order to accomplish her goal of joining the men in¬†the physical work.

I like how Florence invites¬†the reader inside of Jasmine’s home; we’re placed right in the middle of the drama, love and mochi-tsuki. In addition to dealing¬†with a bossy big sister, Jasmine¬†battles a visiting cousin who’s a bully!¬†Jasmine is eager, as most young children are, to do the same thing her big¬†sister does. She’s also eager to show everyone how capable she is. Readers follow¬†her ups and downs and by the end of the book, will admire and respect her¬†fortitude. Jasmine is one determined kid!

I love Elisabet Vukovińá’s ink and watercolor illustrations; they really enhance the story. She’s great¬†at characterization; Jasmine has confident body language and her spunky facial expressions are hilarious.

I hope your child will enjoy Jasmine’s story as much as I did! Don’t miss this one; libraries &¬†bookstores, please add this one to your beginning chapter book sections!

 

P.S. Coming July 11th, 2017,¬†Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen includes an easy mochi recipe at the back of the book! How fun! Also, the second book in the series, Jasmine Toguchi: Super Sleuth, releases the same day!! Say, what? ¬†ūüėČ

 

Recommended for: 2nd Grade and up
Great for: Family, Friendship, Siblings, Determination, Humor, Girl Power, Diversity, Japanese American Culture, Japanese Food, #Ownvoices
Book Info: Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen¬†by¬†Debbi Michiko Florence/Illustrated by Elizabet Vukovińá, 2017¬†Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780374304102

 

 

Finding Community at the 2017 Kweli Conference in NYC

 

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This Cincinnati girl hopped on a plane and became a New Yorker for a few days!

On April 8th, I woke¬†up bright and early and took the train to downtown Manhattan for the Kweli: Color of Children’s Literature Conference. As I walked down the massive hallway of The New York Times building and rounded the corner, I saw¬†conference organizer, Laura Pegram’s smiling face and I knew I was at home. I felt immediately welcome and energized¬†for a day of connecting with authors, illustrators and publishing industry professionals. My friend/debut author¬†Traci Sorell found me right away and gave me a huge¬†hug;¬†it was so great to finally meet her in person!¬† Continue reading

New York is My Playground

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Image Credit: POW! (powerHouse Packaging & Supply, Inc.), Jane Goodrich/Bob Raczka

City life. Movement. Happy kids.

New York is My Playground is a joyful romp though New York City. Goodrich’s vibrant photographs accompany Raczka’s playful words in this simple and beautiful book. It’s more of a collection of photographs with text than a story; one huge spread shows a little boy “holding up” a large¬†red sculpture and he says “I feel like I can do anything in New York.”

This book showcases¬†the¬†hustle & bustle of New York but also explores the fact that you can¬†find a quiet, restful spot when you need it. Curious kids¬†twist, run, jump and play on every page. I¬†love the diversity of the kids and the energy of the photography. Goodrich’s shots are dynamic! The typography, with its vibrant colors, is fun; it looks like¬†graffiti covering¬†the city landscape. Instead of sitting in straight lines on the page, the typography is blended & bended into the city landscape. It’s really visually interesting.

This is a fun one!¬†Kids in New York¬†might recognize¬†familiar spots and kids not in New York¬†have the opportunity to check out a new city. New York is My Playground, with words like “running,” “dancing,” and “jumping,” is great¬†for getting kids up and moving during story time!

Enjoy!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: City Life, New York, Movement, Diversity, Read Aloud, Friendship, Family, Photography, Exploration, Feelings, Colors
Book Info: New York is My Playground photographs by Jane Goodrich/Text by Bob Raczka, 2016 POW! (powerHouse Packaging & Supply, Inc.), ISBN: 9781576877890

Ghost: Track #1

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Image Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), Jason Reynolds

Three things I love about this book are:

1) The voice

2) The careful and thorough characterization

3) How Reynolds depicts black male love

Ghost is a character you won’t forget because he’s very honest about everything. He messes up, you feel for him. He does something right, you cheer for him. As he explains, he has¬†“scream inside.” Many people would quickly¬†label Ghost a “bad kid” but what Reynolds does so well is remind readers that behind every person, behind every relationship, there’s a story. Usually the¬†“bad kids” have experienced heavy things and could benefit from real, caring relationships.

Ghost likes sunflower seeds & world records and takes a lot of crap from kids at school. After his dad tries to shoot him and his mom, the harrowing experience leaves him even more shaken up. He learns to run that night (“…running ain’t nothing I ever had to practice. It’s just something I knew how to do.”) and later earns¬†a spot on a track team without even trying. Tough as nails (not really) “Coach” takes Ghost under his wing and they become¬†closer as Ghost learns more about himself. He leaves it all out on the track; pushing himself to be better, in every way. He becomes more disciplined, he¬†finds community in his team, and though he continues to make stupid mistakes, he grows as a young man.

Reynolds does an amazing job of¬†creating voice for this book. Ghost’s AAVE is prominent and used unabashedly,¬†he’s silly and makes interesting connections in his head. I love it; it feels fresh. Reynold’s characters are all very interesting people; he includes little memorable details like…Ghost’s mom hates studying and pretends to study while they watch her favorite love stories. Though this is a slim book, there’s a great amount of character development that’ll keep you interested and excited about the next book in the series.

I love Coach!! He’s the father-figure Ghost needs and deserves in his life.¬†Though he’s kind enough to bail Ghost out of sticky situations, he makes sure to teach him important lessons too. It not just about Ghost’s track potential for him; he recognizes early¬†that Ghost needs guidance and love. He comes from the same rough place as Ghost and is committed to shaping him. This entire book is about connections and relationships but Ghost and Coach’s relationship is what shines¬†the most.

I really enjoyed this book! I’m curious about how children of color are reading/enjoying it too. This is my first book by Jason Reynolds and I can’t wait to read more.

On your mark…set…go!!

P.S. OMG I reviewed a chapter book (it’s been a while)…lol.

Recommended for: 6th Grade and up
Great for: Family, Diversity, Role Models, African American, Sports, Track and Field, Middle School Life, Bullying, Friendship, Determination, Black Boys, Love, Relationships
Book Info: Ghost by Jason Reynolds/Jacket Illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton, 2016 Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9781481450157