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