A Chair For My Mother

AChairForMyMother

Image Credit: Greenwillow Books, Vera B. Williams

There are many people around the world who consider A Chair for My Mother a classic; perhaps they grew up with this book and special memories are associated with it. For me, this book is brand new. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for knowing it now and being able to share it here, with you.

What a sweet book this is. A young girl’s mother works hard every day at the Blue Tile Diner and all she wants to do is make her mother more comfortable. Their house was ruined in a big fire but their community came together to support them with a new home and beautiful items to fill it. Though they have many new things, they still don’t have a big comfy chair. So, they work together to fill a large glass jar with left over change, so that one day they can buy the most comfortable and beautiful chair to rest in. This story of family and community is diverse and relatable; the girl’s mother is a single mother and works hard to support her family.

Williams’ watercolor illustrations are warm and inviting. She uses bright colors and every scene is framed with a sweet border, as if the pictures are in a frame. The image below is my favorite; mother is tired but peaceful, resting on the table with her shoes off while Grandmother and her granddaughter smile and add coins to the jar. I’d say that A Chair for My Mother is perfect for Mother’s Day but since Mother’s Day is really every day, take time to enjoy this book with your family.

AChairformymother2

Image Credit: Greenwillow Books, Vera B. Williams

 

Recommended for: Kindergarten and up
Great for: We Need Diverse Books, Family, Community, Caldecott, Single Mothers, Reaching Goals
Book Info: A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams, 1982 Greenwillow Books, ISBN: 9780688009144

Advertisements

I Need a Lunch Box

INeedaLunchbox

HarperTrophy (HarperCollins), Pat Cummings/Jeannette Caines

Do you remember the feeling of getting a shiny new lunch box for school? Maybe you were pumped to take it to school and show it off; ready to whip it out when the lunch bell rang.  I mean, I’m still pretty excited about my Sailor Moon lunchbox… 😉

I Need A Lunchbox was one of my favorite books growing up because I thought the story was funny and I loved the funky, bright lunch boxes. The story starts out with a young boy who has a case of “lunchbox envy.” See, his older sister is about to start school and she gets a new lunch box but he can’t get one until he starts school. He’s tempted by all the awesome lunch boxes in the store and his sister definitely rubs in the fact that she has a ton of shiny, new school supplies. He’s quite envious and the poor boy starts to dream about a lunch box for every day of the week! I Need A Lunchbox is also great because it introduces some primary colors and days of the week to younger children.

Pat Cumming’s illustrations are delightful, bright and neon-colored fun. She has some GREAT lunchbox designs that I’d buy in a heartbeat; black and white cats on a bright green background? Yes, please! A Whale lunchbox? I’ll take that one as well. I Need a Lunchbox is a cute story about a determined little boy who has great taste in lunch boxes.

P.S. This book *may* be out of print so check online, at used bookstores and your local library!

Recommended for: Toddlers to 1st/2nd Grade
Great for: We Need Diverse Books, Family, Colors, Days of the Week, Siblings, African-American
Book Info: I Need a Lunchbox by Jeannette Caines/Illustrated by Pat Cummings, 1988 HarperTrophy (HarperCollins), ISBN: 9780064433419

Just a Minute

JustaMinute

Image Credit: Chronicle Books LLC, Yuyi Morales

Aye! I love a good trickster tale. Just A Minute is so clever and memorable and features the bony Señor Calavera. If you want to learn more about calaveras, check out the book Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh.

Just a Minute begins with Señor Calavera’s visit to Grandma Beetle’s doorstep. Her time for death has come BUT…she has other ideas! 😉  She tells him “Just a minute…” because she has one house to sweep and so, Señor Calavera, being the agreeable reaper that he is, waits patiently. And so the story continues. This book is also a counting book in English and Spanish and with each number, Grandma cleverly secures a little more time on this earth and Señor Calavera gets more impatient. She is preparing her house and cooking food for her birthday party with her grandchildren…Death can certainly wait! The format of the story is repetitive but this isn’t a bad thing; repetition can help children become comfortable with a story, and with reading as well.

Yuyi Morales is one of my favorite author/illustrators because her stories have so much life! You can taste the food she draws and you can feel the energy. The family she creates in this story, with their warm brown skin, expressive faces and smiling eyes, is beautiful. The big body of Grandma Beetle reminds me of my Grandma Eva who also loved to cook and spend time with her grandchildren. Morales uses acrylic and mixed media to create her illustrations and her color palate is warm and vivid; the colors on the pages remind me of rows of papel picado. If you’re charmed by Grandma Beetle and Señor Calavera, check out the sequel to this book, Just in Case!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Trickster Tales, Cultural Diversity, Mexican Culture, Spanish Language, Mexican Food, Food Culture, Calaveras, Counting, Family, We Need Diverse Books, Grandmothers
Book Info: Just a Minute by Yuyi Morales, 2003 Chronicle Books LLC, ISBN: 9780811837583

Jingle Dancer

JingleDancer

Image Credit: HarperCollins, Cynthia Leitich Smith/Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

The next book to celebrate Native American Heritage Month is this gorgeously illustrated one called Jingle Dancer. In college I planned our annual powwow and I LOVE a good powwow so I was very excited to finally sit down and read this book. Jingle Dress also happens to be one of my favorite dances and powwow regalia. Maybe it’s the quiet confidence of the steps and the swish-swishswish of the metal cones moving across the floor in beat with the drum. It’s a beauty!

Jingle Dress Dance at Gathering of Nations. Watch Willow Jack in the Black and Neon Green! She’s my favorite. Her footwork and grace! 🙂

Cynthia Leitich Smith is Muscogee Creek and Jingle Dancer is about a little Muscogee Creek/ Ojibway girl who loves to dance. From the moment Jenna wakes up she hears the metal cones clink as she thinks about her grandma’s bounce-step. She’s ready to try dancing at the next powwow but her dress isn’t ready; she needs four rows of jingles for her dress to be able to sing. And so, she sets out to visit various family members and friends throughout the day, hears their stories and asks to borrow a row of jingles. With all her jingles in place, she remembers the people who helped her, as she proudly dances at the powwow. The Jingle Dress dance originated as a dance of healing, so like Jenna, dancers often dance for someone special or sick. Make sure to read the Author’s Note in the back of the book because there’s a lot of great information.

Leitich Smith is Native and the illustrators Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu are African American and Chinese. What a diverse team of authors and illustrators! This is SO nice to see! Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations glow; the watercolor paintings carry the rhythm of the dance and show the love between Jenna and her grandmother. Leitich Smith’s rich storytelling and the realistic illustrations make me feel like I’m back at a powwow. I love how this book shows a contemporary, loving Native family; many people think Native people are only in the past so representation is important.

I hope this picture book encourages you to learn more about powwows (the dances, the regalia, the food and the fun) and to maybe even seek one out when spring season comes!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Native American Heritage Month, Powwow, Girl Power, Dance, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Family, Community
Book Info: Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith/Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, 2000 HarperCollins, ISBN: 9780688162412

 

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans

MarvelousCornelius

Image Credit: Chronicle Books LLC, Phil Bildner/John Parra

 

A good teacher encourages you to learn more on your own. One of the things I like most about Marvelous Cornelius is that Bildner shares Cornelius’ story in the form of a folk tale, then in the author’s note, encourages readers to learn more about him. This is important.

Marvelous Cornelius tells the story of Cornelius Washington from New Orleans who was a pillar of his community. Was he a politician? A Policeman? A Teacher? No. He was a jaunty, show-stopping garbage man in the French Quarter who took pride in his job. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Cornelius found the spirit within himself to continue doing his job well; he worked to make his home beautiful again and with help pouring in from near and far, he swept the streets. Bildner incorporates sound and rhythm elements into the story, which gives it energy and makes it fun to read aloud.

I’ve never been to New Orleans but like many Americans, I grew up learning a bit about the music, the food, the history, and the energy of the place. Especially after the hurricane, our eyes and hearts were once again turned down there. Bildner writes a story that honors a man who was very much a part of his city and the illustrator, John Parra, transports us to NOLA with his illustrations. He uses lots of earthy, rich tones and the paint is scratchy on the canvas. People with beautiful hues of skin color fill the streets in celebration and Cornelius stands tall, lanky and strong with his dark brown skin, orange gloves and gray earring. I really like Parra’s style; Green is a Chile Pepper is another one to check out if you like his style as well.

Marvelous Cornelius is a very special biography picture book so be sure to check it out. 🙂

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Biography, We Need Diverse Books, Cultural Diversity, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Community, Local Hero, African-American, Non-Fiction
Book Info: Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner/Illustrated by John Parra, 2015 Chronicle Books LLC, ISBN: 9781452125787

Exclamation Mark

exclamation-mark

Image Credit: Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc.), Amy Krouse Rosenthal/Tom Lichtenheld

 

Calling All English Teachers! Do you know about this book? If not, check it out!

Exclamation Mark is my favorite book from the clever Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I recently reviewed her newest book, Awake Beautiful Child, which is also very good.

This is a funny story about Exclamation Mark who’s on a journey of self-discovery. Maybe you’re thinking “You expect me to trust you that a book about a punctuation mark is gold?!?” Yes, you should…and it’s more yellow than gold anyway, but back to my point…if you value unique stories like I do, you will love this one. Exclamation Mark is quite unlike his peers and tries his best to fit in with the Periods but it just doesn’t work…period. One day, super inquisitive Question Mark comes along and gets Exclamation Mark to reveal his true potential!!! Rosenthal is such a clever writer; there are puns galore.

Lichtenheld’s illustrations are incorporated into the story; I love books that do this. The text and drawings are dependent on each other to successfully tell the story. His scratchy pen stroke punctuation mark characters are comfortable on the “lined paper” backgrounds of each page. Their expressions are adorable. The book also uses several fonts which is quite cool. Exclamation Mark is a great story about confidence and it just so happens to also be a great book for teaching punctuation!

P.S. Make sure to read the conversation on the last page!

 

Recommended for: 1st/2nd grade and up
Great for: Punctuation, Friendship, Confidence, Puns, Humor
Book Info: Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal/Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, 2013 Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc.), ISBN: 9780545436793

 

The Only Child

TheOnlyChild

Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House Children’s Books), Guojing

 

Sweet and reflective. I must say that 2015 is producing some AMAZING wordless picture books and this one is no exception.

In the Author’s Note, Guojing tells us that this book is a reflection of her feelings of loneliness while growing up in China in the 80s under the one-child policy. A generation of lonely children, she says, was created by this policy and The Only Child definitely has a note of melancholy to it.

In this wordless story, a very young girl is left alone while her parents go to work. She finds a photo album, is reminded of her grandmother and sets out to visit her. Unfortunately, she falls asleep on the bus and wanders the woods alone, lost, afraid and crying. From behind a tree in the snowy woods comes a majestic stag who comforts her then whisks her away to the skies. In the sky world, she discovers more wonderful creatures that assuage her loneliness.

TheOnlyChild2

Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade (Random House Children’s Books), Guojing

Guojing is a great storyteller. This is a rather long and complicated wordless book/graphic novel; each panel is well executed and the story flows effortlessly. Her pencil drawings are lovely. The young girl’s emotions are so well drawn and the stag has beauty, quiet power and strength. There is a magical feeling to her drawings and the gray of the pencil adds to the cold wintry mood of the book. This is a great one for a cold, winter evening with a cup of cocoa or tea. Enjoy!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Emotions, Friendship, Family, Whimsy, Winter, Storyboarding, Storytelling, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, China, One Child Policy
Book Info: The Only Child by Guojing, 2015 Schwartz & Wade (Random House Children’s Books), ISBN: 9780553497045

The Honest Truth

TheHonestTruth

Image Credit: Scholastic Press, Dan Gemeinhart

“Here’s what I don’t get: why anyone would try to stop me. All I wanted to do was die. That’s the truth.”

This is a tough book.

Mark, a twelve year old boy, takes his trusty dog Beau on the last adventure of his lifetime and on the way, discovers his inner strength. He’s been battling cancer for years and is emotionally and physically worn out. He finally decides that he’s had enough and runs away to climb Mt. Rainier to die.

The story is told from two perspectives; he tells his story in first person and then the story regularly switches to third person to tell the reader about the person who holds Mark’s biggest secret, his best friend Jess. The Honest Truth is as much about his journey as it is about her struggles, anguish and doubt. Ultimately though, we follow Mark’s emotions most closely, as we watch him switch between sadness, regret, determination, bitterness, love and relief.

This story is powerful; Gemeinhart really explores what it means to be human, to be alive, to look death in the eye and live fully. The relationship between Mark and Jess is amazing but the relationship between Mark and his dog Beau is also extremely remarkable; that little dog loves him to the end of the world! If you’re looking for a great read about the strength of the human spirit, try this one. You’ll be moved. That’s the honest truth.

P.S. Grab some tissues…ㅠ ㅠ

P.S.S. In celebration of a year since the release of his book, Dan Gemeinhart gave us Beau’s voice in a special “lost” chapter. Click here to enjoy! ❤

 

Recommended for: Ages 12 and up
Great for: Emotions, Inner Strength, Friendship, Determination, Growing Up, Cancer, Dogs, Love, Family, Power of Photography, Hope, Grab the Tissues
Book Info: The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, 2015 Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc.), ISBN: 9780545665735

 

Wild Berries

WildBerries

Image Credit: Simply Read Books, Julie Flett

 

Guess what? It’s still Native American Heritage Month! Yippee!  If you didn’t see my first post celebrating this month, please check out my review for Hiawatha and the Peacemaker!

Wild Berries is a sweet little book. Julie Flett is Cree-Metis and lives in Vancouver, BC. Wild Berries is written in English with words translated into the n-dialect (Swampy Cree) of Cree. This particular dialect of Cree is from the Cumberland House area of Saskatchewan. As you enjoy the story, you can also pick up a few Cree words. Flett includes more information about the various dialects of Cree and a pronunciation guide at the back of the book.

In this book, Little Clarence and his grandmother set out for the day, exploring nature and picking all types of berries. Clarence starts out on her back but grows into a boy who is curious about his surroundings. He especially loves big, sour ininimina (blueberries). There are many animals in the woodlands and when his bucket is full of sweet berries, he is sure to leave a few as a gift for the animals…and they are thankful. The readers get a gift as well, Flett includes a recipe for Wild Blueberry Jam at the end of the story.

Flett’s style reminds me of cut paper though it looks to be watercolor and digital illustration. She uses basic shapes to make eyes, arms, animals and trees. The bright red orange sun follows the grandma and her grandson as they enjoy the day together. Maybe you’ll want to go berry picking after reading this book, I know I sure want to!  Come on spring.  🙂

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Diversity, Native American Heritage Month, Cree, Language, Colors, Food Culture, Family, Animals, We Need Diverse Books
Book Info: Wild Berries by Julie Flett, 2013 Simply Read Books, ISBN: 9781897476895

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors

GoldenDomesSilverLanterns

Image Credit: Chronicle Books LLC, Hena Khan/Mehrdokht Amini

 

Islam. Let’s celebrate it through a picture book, shall we?  🙂

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns is a gorgeously vibrant rhyming picture book. Henna Khan shares her culture and religion with readers in a beautiful way; through teaching colors and showing daily life. The book begins with an intricate red rug that the young girl’s father uses to kneel on and pray to Mecca five times each day. Her mother’s hijab or head scarf is blue. The dates her family eats during Ramadan look so plump and delicious. Each page is a new color and a new aspect of Muslim culture.

DatesRamadanGoldenDomes

Image Credit: Chronicle Books LLC, Hena Khan/Mehrdokht Amini

 

Sometimes we judge others and their beliefs before taking the time to learn; Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns introduces children to a culture and religion that might be different from their own and aims (and succeeds) to teach. Cultural relativism, understanding and education are important and essential to being a respectful global citizen and this book is a great one for your family’s diverse collection.

Amini’s illustrations are bold. She is inspired by islamic art and her style incorporates collage; real life photographs seamlessly blend into her scenes. I love the large almond shaped brown eyes, the strong noses and lips of the family members. The colorful images in the book will stay with you and after reading, perhaps your family or class will be more interested in learning more about the very old religion that is Islam.

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Colors, Family, Rhyme, Cultural Diversity, Cultural Relativism, Religion, Islam, Community, Vocabulary
Book Info: Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan/Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini, 2012 Chronicle Book LLC, ISBN: 9780811879057