Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic

AuntieYangSoybeanPicnic

Image Credit: Lee & Low Books Inc., Ginnie Lo/Beth Lo

 

There’s nothing like finding a little bit of home in a new place.

Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic tells a story that may be familiar to many immigrant families in the US; a story about finding comfort with like minded people and forming community in a new country. Jinyi lives a little far away from her Auntie Yang but her family makes sure to visit often and stay close. She grows up with Chinese lessons, art lessons, cooking Chinese food and lots of playtime with her cousins.

One day on a lazy Sunday drive, Auntie Yang spots soybeans growing in a field! At this time, soybeans aren’t commonly eaten in the US. The farmer thinks the Chinese family wants the beans to feed their pig, but no, they will boil them to eat! And so begins the yearly tradition of The Great Soybean Picnic. Each year it gets bigger and bigger and more Chinese families in the Chicago area join in with lots of delicious Chinese dishes. Auntie Yang and her sister become less homesick because the happy discovery of soybeans brings them a new large and loving Chinese community in the US.

This is a sweet story of family, food and finding place…in a new place. It’s inspired by real events and in the back of the book, Ginnie and Beth Lo share family photos, more information about the Soybean Picnic, information about soybeans and a glossary of the Chinese words used in the book. We even get to see photos of the dynamic Auntie Yang!

Beth Lo’s paintings have a vintage mid-century Chinese art vibe to them that I like. I didn’t realize that the illustrations are actually painted on porcelain plates until I read the back of the book. I’ll repeat that, each “illustration” is a plate! How cool is that?? Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic is a great story to share with your family. I’m off to get some edamame! 😉

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Chinese American Culture, Chinese Food, Friendship, Family, Food Culture, Community, Immigration, Soybeans, Cousins, Siblings, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Home Sickness, Discussion, New Traditions in a New Place, Chinese Language, Cultural Relativism
Book Info: Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo/Illustrated by Beth Lo, 2012 Lee & Low Books Inc., ISBN: 9781600604423

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Two Mice

TwoMice

Image Credit: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Sergio Ruzzier

 

Two Mice.
One (awesome) Friendship.

Two Friends.
One (big) Adventure.

Two Mice is a nice little mouse-sized adventure book. I imagine in the mouse world, if Roger Cheesebert rated books, he’d give it four cheddars and I suspect this book is already legend. I’m imagining little mice children sitting around the fire while Grandma Mouse reads this tale.

This little book has a big heart. The simple text focuses on numbers and counting; younger readers can read this book and feel confident that they know all the words in front of them! It also shows that sometimes you don’t need many words to tell a great story. In this story, two mice live together in one house and after a meal of three cookies (one mouse looks a little annoyed!) they set out for the day. Three boats with two oars…what adventures await?

I’m a big fan of Sergio Ruzzier’s storytelling and art. I recently reviewed his book A Letter for Leo which is one of my favorites! I love how he creates complete little worlds on each spread. His attention to detail is wonderful and the watercolor paintings are lovely (I always love his skies!). You’ll love all the funny expressions of his characters. Teachers, this book would be perfect for lessons about travel, adventure, storytelling (beginning/middle/end) and “best travel stories.” Hope you will enjoy Two Mice!

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Animals, Friendship, Action/Adventure, Counting, Determination, Vocabulary, Humor, Read-Aloud, Discussion
Book Info: Two Mice by Sergio Ruzzier, 2015 Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), ISBN: 9780544302099

 

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

TheAmazingAgeofJohnRoyLynch

Image Credit: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Chris Barton/Don Tate

John Roy Lynch. A child of slavery and reborn during Reconstruction, he is a true example of hard work and determination. This biography gives us a glimpse into his amazing life during a very important but overlooked part of American history, Reconstruction.

John was a half Irish boy born into slavery. Soon the Civil War came and though slaves were eventually emancipated, John wasn’t really free until he set off on his own as a teen. He took several jobs in Natchez, Mississippi; just being able to make his own way, as a free man, was liberating! He taught himself to read and write and started to speak out in local politics on the issue of Blacks and voting. Before he knew it, he was Justice of the Peace and would eventually be elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. He became the Speaker of the House and would rise on to the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington D.C. He did all this in just ten years time from being a slave and would live his life striving for equal rights.

John Roy Lynch accomplished quite a great deal but he was frustrated with the slow speed of progress for people of color. Though Blacks were legally liberated, Whites started to push back against the progress Free Blacks were making in American society though processes like voting to make changes, owning property, and gaining government positions. Some of this push back was done with violence. The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is an important historical biography that not only tells us the story of a great man but also reminds us of the importance of Reconstruction.

The illustrations for this book are great! Don Tate brings John’s life to life though soft ink and gouache paintings. From his early days in the cotton field, to my favorite spread of John Roy Lynch standing in front of the flag with determination in his eyes, his life is honored though skillful illustration. Here’s to making your own amazing age and living with purpose!

 

Recommended for: 3rd Grade and up
Great for: Non-Fiction, Biography, Leader, Role-Model, Determination, Government, Slavery, Reconstruction, Community, Family, We Need Diverse Books, Diversity, Discussion, History, Social Issues, African-American
Book Info: The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton/Illustrated by Don Tate, 2015 Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780802853790

2016 Medal Predictions

2015 is coming to a close and new book releases are trickling down so it’s time to start thinking about Medal Season! Woo. 2015 produced some amazing books. If you look at the bottom of my blog, I have a word cloud for most frequently used “tags”. Click “2015” to see the books from this year that I enjoyed. I also highly recommend taking a look at this excellent book list.

In case you don’t already know, the Caldecott is a medal for the best illustrations by an author/illustrator with an American citizenship or residence for the year. The Newbery is a medal for the best work of children’s literature by an author with an American citizenship or residence for the year. There’s only one “Medal Winner” (gold) for each award though “Honor Medals” (silver) can be given. All medal and honor recipients are selected by fancy schmancy committees.

I’m still deciding on my Newbery pick because I have a few books to read/re-read but I’m certain about my Caldecott pick. I’m partial to the Caldecott anyway because I love picture books, art and illustration SO much!  Without further ado…

My 2016 Caldecott pick is:

Float

Image Credit: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Daniel Miyares

Float by Daniel Miyares

It’s simple and powerful all at the same time. Float is excellence in illustration and storytelling and is perfect for children, exactly what the Caldecott is awarded for. It’s a gorgeous story conveyed through gorgeous illustrations that deserves to win it all! Win it all I say! You can read my full review for Float here. Good luck, Daniel!