Surfer of the Century

SurferoftheCentury

Image Credit: Lee & Low Books Inc., Ellie Crowe/Illustrated by Richard Waldrep

 

Ah, what a COOL guy. This excellent biography is about Hawaiian athlete Duke Kahanamoku who’s credited for spreading surfing all over the world with his passion for the sport and the waves.

Duke didn’t grow up with much but he grew up a boy of the island Oʻahu and its waters. He wasn’t the best at school work but he was a natural athlete and a powerfully fast and gifted swimmer. When he was a teen, he lucked upon a coach, started a “poor man’s swim club” and continued perfecting his swimming as well as the curve and design of his surfboards.

At a local AAU swim meet, Duke shattered the world record and AAU records but people on the mainland didn’t believe it! His community would raise money to send him to California to try out for the US Olympic Swim Team where he’d easily qualify and set off to the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. Duke faced a great deal of discrimination and racism on the mainland for being a person of color and Crowe addresses these issues in the book. Though he faced several challenges, he overcame them and and became a symbol of Hawaii. In his lifetime, he won multiple medals, gained adoring fans from all over the world and would share his love for surfing with the global community.

Duke Kahanamoku truly embodied the spirit of aloha (love/kindness) in everything he did! He rightfully deserves the title of Surfer of the Century and continues to be a role model to this day.

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Image Credit: Lee & Low Books Inc., Ellie Crowe/Illustrated by Richard Waldrep

[Jim Thorpe and Duke Kanahamoku on their way to the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden a.k.a. #IndigenousBadassery]

 

Now an excellent book about surfing needs excellent illustrations and luckily, Walrep comes through strong. The gouache illustrations are absolutely glowing and gorgeous. Blocks of color, excellent lighting, shining dark brown skin, confident smiles, and blue waves with wispy foam transport readers to Hawaii. Surfer of the Century is a worthy tribute to a great sportsman and human being.

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Community, Diversity, Surfing, Aloha, Hawaii, We Need Diverse Books, Biography, Discrimination, Segregation, Discussion, Social Issues, Family, History, Swimmers, Non-Fiction
Book Info: Surfer of the Century by Ellie Crowe/Illustrated by Richard Waldrep, 2007 Lee & Low Books Inc., ISBN: 9781584302766

Today is the Day

TodayistheDay

Image Credit: Tundra Books (Penguin Random House), Eric Walters/Eugenie Walters

This story is joy. 🙂

All the children in the orphanage are waiting for their special day, their birthday! Today is the Day is inspired by real life events at the Creation of Hope orphanage in Kikima, Kenya. The author notes at the end of the book that “birthday celebrations” in general are often not a big deal in several cultures around the world BUT this orphanage decided to make a yearly birthday celebration to remind the children that they are special. Many of the children at the orphanage’s parents died from HIV and AIDS and they don’t know their birthdays. So, once a year, they hold a special celebration to celebrate their existence and they also get a government-issued birth certificate!

In the story, Mutanu wakes up excited for the day because she knows it is their birthday! Her energy is contagious and she walks around their home, doing her chores and checking on the baby animals. She remembers their birthdays as well! Mutanu is at the orphanage because her parents died and she went to live with her grandma but when her grandma got too old to care for her, she had to take her to the orphanage. On this special day, she reunites with her beloved grandma and can hardly wait to hear her name called to get her gift bag and to sing Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday Mutanu! It’s truly your day.

Today is the Day features very cute acrylic illustrations that are joyful and full of energy. Fernandes bases Mutanu on an actual girl (her photo is in the back) and she is happy with eyes full of love and kindness. This book is a great way to introduce important social issues to your child; issues of HIV and AIDS in Kenya, homelessness, orphans, building community and self-confidence. If you enjoy this story, Eric Walters and Eugenie Fernandes have two more books in this series called My Name is Blessing and Hope Springs.

P.S. The cover of the book opens to a beautiful poster!

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Community, Friendship, Birthdays, Orphans, Social Issues, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Kenya, Joy
Book Info: Today is the Day by Eric Walters/Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, 2015 Tundra Books (Penguin Random House), ISBN: 9781770496484

 

If You Plant a Seed

IfYouPlantaSeed

Image Credit: Balzar + Bray (HarperCollins), Kadir Nelson

 

If You Plant a Seed is gorgeous. Kadir Nelson is a master painter and in this book, he combines his paintings with a memorable story about the importance of sharing and kindness.

In this simple tale, Rabbit and Mouse nurture their seeds, wait patiently and finally have the most beautiful tomato, carrot and cabbage plants. They nibble them and smile at the fruits of their labor. But soon, their bounty attracts curious visitors; the birds take notice of their beautiful vegetables. But Rabbit and Mouse are selfish, and so, chaos happens and a major argument ensues. Slowly they realize that it’s much better to be kind and to share, because when you’re kind, that kindness grows and grows and maybe you’ll get more than you ever imagined.

This book is one of my favorites because the story is so simple yet so powerful. There’s nothing more powerful than a message of love and kindness and this book teaches that message to little ones in a beautiful way. Nelson’s oil paintings are beautifully vibrant and alive. Lush vegetables and realistic animals fill the pages. Your children will love pointing out all the animals! This is a great book to add to your collection.

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Animals, Lessons, Friendship, Gardening, Teamwork, Community, Kindness, Sharing, Springtime
Book Info: If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson, 2015 Balzar + Bray (HarperCollins), ISBN: 9780062298898

Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, Naomi Howland

 

Happy Chanukah!

I recently discovered this lovely book about Chanukah and latkes. Who doesn’t like latkes?? So delicious.

In this folktale, Sadie lives in a drafty house with her four little brothers and they’re so poor that they always worry about their next meal.  On the first night of Chanukah, as Sadie collects firewood, she meets an old woman and kindly offers the wood to her. For her kindness, the old woman gives her a magical frying pan and tells her the words to use it but she must remember to keep them a secret! When Sadie puts the pan on the stove and whispers the words, a feast of latkes appear in the pan. On the last day of Chanukah, her naughty brothers wait for her to leave the house then try to use the pan. But of course they didn’t hear the words correctly and soon the entire village is overflowing with tender, salty, delicious latkes!!

Howland’s gouache and colored pencil illustrations are folksy and beautiful. The story takes place in Russia and she includes colorful folk art flower borders in the illustrations. The character of Sadie is based on an old photograph of her grandmother and the story itself is inspired by The Magic Porridge Pot by The Brothers Grimm. Howland is also kind enough to include a recipe for latkes at the end of the book and there’s a note about Chanukah/Chanukah traditions for readers who aren’t familiar with the holiday.

Happy Chanukah! I hope you’ll seek out this cute story about family, culture and sharing with community. I’m off to find some latkes…

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Chanukah, We Need Diverse Books, Cultural Diversity, Holidays, Food Culture, Religions, Family, Folktale, Morals, Magic, Kindness, Family, Community, Celebration, Storytelling, Russia, Latkes
Book Info: Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat:  A Chanukah Story by Naomi Howland, 2004 (Reprint) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780618492954

Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same!

LingandTing

Image Credit: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), Grace Lin

I have a thing for Grace Lin’s art. Let me just get that off my chest. I already love her book Dim Sum for Everyone! and this one doesn’t disappoint.

Ling and Ting want everyone to know that they are not the same. They may be “identical” but they really aren’t the same. In this beginning chapter book, each chapter is a different episode in their lives. Ling can’t really sit still but Ting can. At the barber, Ting has a big sneeze and he snips her hair a little too much! Ting is a little forgetful but she’s also very imaginative. They’re both very caring towards each other and they like to tell good stories.

Grace Lin includes cultural details like making dumplings but the book doesn’t focus on “Being Chinese” The girls are simply girls who are silly and…happen to be Chinese. This is refreshing because children’s books that feature children of color are often historical stories or ones that pointedly focus on ethnicity. Those books definitely have their place but it sure is nice to simply read a great story featuring diverse characters!

Lin’s art style is beautiful; it’s obvious she spends a lot of time painting each illustration. Her paintings are full of bold lines and blocks of color and Ling and Ting’s expressions are very cute and funny. This is a great beginning chapter book series and if you enjoy this one, Ling and Ting have several more adventures!

 

Recommended for: Kindergarten- 2nd Grade
Great for: Twins, Siblings, Sisterhood, Family, Diversity, Cultural Diversity We Need Diverse Books, Chinese Americans, Chinese Food, Food Culture, Friendship, Individuality, Girl Power, Beginning Readers
Book Info: Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin, 2010 Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ISBN: 9780316024525

The World in a Second

TheWorldinaSecond

Image Credit: Enchanted Lion Books, Isabel Minhós Martins, Bernardo P. Carvalho

The World in a Second is very high concept and I love it! This is how I describe this book: Bam…BAM…bam…bam…Bammity BAM BAM…oooooh…Bam. The end?

What did you get from that? I’m odd? Why yes, I am but what I attempted to express is how fast-paced this book is. The pace of the book suits the title well because it’s about the passage of time, specifically one second, consecutively, in 23 places around the world with each page showing one second, across every time zone, in no particular order. The world is a flurry of activity and inactivity.

This book is mysterious and it may leave you with several…questions. There are many things to think about and discuss within each page second. I’ve reviewed a similar book called At The Same Moment, Around the World and although it’s also about world time, it’s much slower, makes more an effort to create a narrative and actively teaches children about the concept of “the time zone.” This book does not. It does teach, just in a different way. The scenes are more open to interpretation and reflection and this book is generally more abstract. Also, it’s so beautifully diverse! Lots of people to look at from all over the world!

TheWorldinaMinute2

Image Credit: Enchanted Lion Books, Isabel Minhós Martins/Bernardo P. Carvalho

Carvalho’s illustrations are very confident, blocky, detailed and vague. He invites us inside of a busy car in traffic, takes us inside the branches of an orange tree just as an orange falls and we get to observe a man resting quietly. I think children will enjoy the illustrations because they’re so bold and there’s a lot to discover which is great for inquisitive minds.

The World in a Second was originally published in Portugal in 2008. Thank you Enchanted Lion Books for translating and bringing this book to the US for us to enjoy!

P.S. Pay close attention to the last page! 😉

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Discussion, Storyboarding, Imagination, Time Zones, Family, Community, Read-Aloud, Portugal, Animals, Mystery, Colors
Book InfoThe World in a Second by Isabel Minhós Martins/Illustrated by Bernardo P. Carvalho, 2015 Enchanted Lion Books, ISBN: 9781592701575

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

LittleMelbaBigTrombone

Image Credit: Lee and Low Books Inc., Katheryn Russell-Brown/Frank Morrison

 

A little girl picked up a big instrument and made a big sound that would rock the jazz world.

In recent years, there’s been a surge in excellent music biographies about women; I’ve already reviewed great books about Leontyne Price and Millo Castro Zaldarriaga. What attracted me to this biography of Melba Doretta Liston is that she is a Black female musician. Sure history remembers and celebrates many great Black female singers but musicians? Not really. I’d never heard of this woman until this book. Jazz fans, is she well known? I certainly hope so…

Melba Doretta Liston grew up with music in her blood and luckily she lived in the thriving, jazz town of Kansas City in the 20s when it was a mecca of #BlackCreativity. Like Millo and Leontyne, she dreamed and lived music and when she was seven years old, her mama bought her a shiny new trombone. Her grandpa helped build her confidence and skill and in no time, she was blowing and making waves on the radio. Her family moved to LA and Melba continued to shine. She began touring the country with a band in the 40s, arranging music and throwing down. Her sound and skill was glorious. Unfortunately she and her band faced segregation and racism on their trips down South but Melba didn’t let that stop her. She’d continue to make music for years to come, touring the world, writing music and being true to her craft.

Morrison’s art is so dynamic. Limber bodies sway to the beat, round smiling brown cheeks, energetic musicians and Melba, the star, takes full control of that huge yellow trombone. His oil paintings embody jazz. Be sure to check out this awesome biography; Melba is someone to know and remember.

P.S. What a great cover, right? 😉 She’s sttrreeettchhing from edge to edge.

Recommended for: All Ages, especially 1st grade and up
Great for: Girl Power, Diversity, Music, Music History, Girls in Music, We Need Diverse Books, Determination, Family, Jazz, Dreams, Segregation, Community, Biography, African-American, BlackGirlsRock, Non-Fiction
Book Info: Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown/Illustrated by Frank Morrison, 2014 Lee and Low Books Inc., ISBN: 9781600608988

Sidewalk Flowers

Groundwood Logos Spine

Image Credit: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press), JonArno Lawson/Sydney Smith

 

I love seeing books about dads and their daughters. This relationship isn’t common to see in picture books but when its done right, it’s something special. Check out Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang for another great one.

Sidewalk Flowers features wordless comic strip-like panels that show inner city life. The pages are gray, black and white save for a bright streak of red for the girl’s cloak and oh, if you look closely…is that a flower growing quietly? A young curious girl explores her city while holding her father’s hand on a walk to run errands. He’s often on his phone but she’s tuned into the bustle, the people and the flowers. They are still connected though and she’s busy collecting her flower prizes. As they walk through the park, she gives a small gift for a fallen friend, a dozing friend and hairy friend. She brings color to what she touches and the pages slowly bloom.

Initially Smith’s illustrations highlight contrasting black and white lines, but he throws in moments of color as the story progresses. His watercolor illustrations are great and vibrant; it’s not a busy kind of vibrant but rather a comfortable vibrancy. The father and daughter enjoy each other’s company and its easy to see how much the girl is a part of her community and how much she is loved.

***P.S. UPDATE! This book was chosen to be given as a gift to every Syrian refugee family in Canada! Wow. It’s the perfect book for welcoming. ❤

Read about it here!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Community, Discussion, Wordless, Animals, Family, Quiet Moments, Father-Daughter
Book Info: Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson/Illustrated by Sydney Smith, 2015 Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press), ISBN: 9781554984312

 

A Letter for Leo

ALetterforLeo

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

Leo the Mailman is a proud member of his community. Without fail he delivers the mail and is an all around nice guy. But Leo wishes for one thing more than anything; someone to send a letter to him! One morning he opens the mailbox to find a peculiar little package, a baby blue bird. The little bird was left behind by his flock and Leo takes him in without hesitation. They quickly become family but soon little bird grows up and has to return to his flock. After a tearful goodbye, Leo goes back to his daily routine but…what’s that in the mailbox for him??

A Letter for Leo is excellent because it’s a simple, sweet, feel good story about friendship. Ruzzier’s storytelling and illustrations are well matched; the soft watercolor illustrations are reflective and cute. The cover is beautifully composed with swirls of color, Leo confidently delivering the mail and little bird looking up with admiration at his friend. Just look at Leo in his hat! He’s adorable. This book shines in its quiet confidence. It is a great story about the importance of love, friendship and how little changes in our lives can make the biggest difference!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Community, Discussion, Animals, Family, Read-Aloud
Book Info: A Letter for Leo by Sergio Ruzzier, 2014 Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), ISBN: 9780544223608

Drum Dream Girl

DrumDreamGirl

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Margarita Engle/Rafael López

Do you feel the beat? Have a desire to make music and feel rhythm in everything around you? Cuban-American poet Margarita Engle’s new picture book is about the Cuban drummer Millo Castro Zaldarriaga who dared to drum when it was taboo for a girl to do so.

Drum Dream Girl dreams of drums; she can’t help it because the music is a part of her but on her island of Cuba in the 30s, only boys can drum and even her father discourages her drumming. She continues to dream in drumbeats and every sound is a rhythm. Despite what everyone thinks, she drums and drums and even joins an all girl dance band formed by her sisters. Though he tells her once again that she shouldn’t play the drums, her father finally comes around and takes her to a teacher who nurtures her talent and helps her grow into a gifted drummer. Millo Castro Zaldarriaga would go on to be a world famous musician and her music, her defiance and passion, would inspire female musicians in her home and no doubt, around the world.

DrumDreamGirl

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Margarita Engle/Rafael López

Passion, color, music and hope fill the pages through Raphael López’s glowing illustrations. He uses acrylic paint to create warm brown skin, large hands, wide expressive eyes, colorful flowers and birds and these details bring the island of Cuba to life. There’s often a smiling sun or moon shining down on Millo as she drum-dreams. Similar to Raul Colón’s illustrations in Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century, López draws a whirling strand of colorful ribbons to depict music. Engle’s poetry is beautifully descriptive and great for reading aloud. Drum Dream Girl will inspire you to learn more about Millo and it will make you feel like you’re in Cuba, sitting in a café on a hot summer night, sipping a drink and enjoying the sound of drums.

P.S. If you’re looking for more info about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, check out the book Anacaona: The Amazing Adventures of Cuba’s First All-Girl Dance Band by Alicia Castro, published by Atlantic Books, London, 2007. Thanks for the info Margarita Engle and Tony Koehler!  🙂

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Defiance, Non-Fiction, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Read-Aloud, Rhythm, Family, Poetry, Gender Non Conformity, Girl Power, Music, Music History, Cuba, Dreams, Drums, Biography, Jazz, Girls in Music, Black History Month, Black History Month Children’s Books
Book Info: Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle/Illustrated by Rafael López, 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780544102293