Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret

BalletCatSecret

Image Credit: Disney Hyperion, Bob Shea

I’m sitting in a coffee shop cracking up while reading this book. How’d it take me this long to read it?? I really don’t know. Bob Shea is a special, random guy. So special.

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret captures the adorable hilarity of friendship, expectations, and childhood. You know how sometimes you worry too much about what someone you care about is going to think if you “let them down?” That’s what Sparkles the Pony feels like. The story starts out with Sparkles asking Ballet Cat what she wants to play, to which she replies “You pick, Sparkles.” Haha, but not really.  -_-  Sparkles wants to do something other than play ballet. He suggests doing crafts, playing checkers, making lemonade but Ballet Cat always has a reason why that’s not a good idea…

BalletCatSecret2

Image Credit: Disney Hyperion, Bob Shea

As they twirl and dance and play ballet (like they do EVERY DAY), Ballet Cat can tell that something’s wrong but Sparkles doesn’t want to tell her his secret secret! Maybe they won’t be friends anymore if he does! Little does he know, Ballet Cat has her own secret secret too (psssst it has something to do with friendship!).

Bob Shea’s writing is relaxed and reads like a real conversation between friends. His art is loose, sketchy, bright and fun. He only uses a few colors in the entire book but they pop so well (and there’s GLITTER on the cover!!). He’s also great at drawing expressions! You can clearly see Sparkles’ agony and Ballet Cat’s surprise. I really enjoyed this book and I hope your beginning reader will enjoy it too. It’s also a great read-aloud!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Friendship, Best Friends, Secrets, Worry, Love, Play, Ballet, Trust, Animals, Humor, Read-Aloud, Beginning Readers, Relationships
Book Info: Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea, 2015 Disney Hyperion, ISBN: 9781484713785

Too Many Mangos

TooManyMangos

Image Credit: Island Heritage Publishing (Madden Corporation), Tammy Paikai/Don Robinson

Hawaiian Author. Hawaiian Illustrator. Hawaiian Press. Woooo Boy! What a beautiful thing to see a completely Hawaiian product come to fruition and be shared with the world. This little book made it to my library system in Ohio and I’m glad. ❤

Too Many Mangos is gorgeous. Just look at the illustrations! Kama and his little sister Nani learn the power of kindness and sharing. Whenever they visit their grandpa’s house, they like to climb the big mango tree in the back. Grandpa tells them to pick the ripe ones and hand them down to him. There are just too many mangos for them to eat alone so he sends them to the neighbors to share. Kama and Nani head out with a wagon full of lovely mangoes and at every house, they’re given a gift in exchange for the mangos! Aunty Pua gives them fresh banana macadamia nut muffins, their friends Momi and Kawai give them golden papayas and on and on. When they finally get home, grandpa prepares a feast with all their “mahalo (thank you) gifts.” Sharing can be very sweet.

TooManyMangos2

Image Credit: Island Heritage Publishing (Madden Corporation), Tammy Paikai/Don Robinson

Robinson’s illustrations are GORGEOUS. Look at those soft pastel colors and how beautifully he blends them. His human figures are chubby and remind me of Peanuts characters. While reading this book, you’ll feel like you’re on the island in the warm sun. This is a feel good story in both content and the brightness of the illustrations. Hope you have a copy of Too Many Mangos near you so you can enjoy this delightful book! 🙂

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Community, Sharing, Kindness, Relationships, Food Culture, Hawaiian Food, Hawaii, Cultural Diversity, Family, Friends, We Need Diverse Books, Ripe Mangos, Love, Grandfathers, Grandfathers-Grandchildren
Book Info: Too Many Mangos by Tammy Paikai/Illustrated by Don Robinson, 2009 Island Heritage Publishing (Madden Corporation), ISBN: 9781597007580

 

 

 

A Chat With Duncan Tonatiuh

Duncan Tonatiuh’s work is some of the most important work in children’s literature right now. His books speak truth, teach our realities and his art isn’t too bad. 😉 He creates picture books that cover topics like immigration, city vs. rural life, friendship, art history, discrimination, prejudice, determination and history. You can read my reviews for Funny Bones and Salsa here.

Funny Bones was the very first book I reviewed for my blog, so it holds an important place in my blogging life. Through reading and experiencing his books, I became more interested in learning about him. He’s a very cool person! Let’s get on to the interview…

 

AliaQ1. What are three words to describe yourself?

Duncan: Thats a tough one. One would be responsible or dependable.

Alia: Yeah I know! I like to ask people this though…

Duncan: Creative maybe? Smart sounds conceited but something to do with being a thinker. Thoughtful?  That is what I can think of for now.

Alia: That’s great. Thank you.

Duncan: Calm maybe?

Alia: 🙂

Duncan: No problem.

AliaQ2. Congratulations on your baby daughter! Has having a child influenced how you see yourself as a storyteller?

Duncan: I’m sure it has. But I’m not quite sure how yet. It’s definitely had a huge impact in my life. My world does not revolve around me anymore by any means. And I feel an enormous and unconditional love for my daughter. It’s a wonderful feeling.

AliaQ3. The first time I saw your books, your art made me cheer. It’s such a beautiful display of indigeneity. The Mixtec codex influence. Do you mind discussing your style and how it developed?

Duncan: I went to design school in New York City. There is a large Mixtec community there. I became friends with a Mixtec guy named Sergio. For my senior thesis I decided to make a small comic book about his journey from his small village in the south of Mexico to working as a busboy in a restaurant in New York.

One of the first things I did when I began that project was go to the library to look up Mixtec artwork. I found images of Mixtec codex from the 15th century. I was blown away by them. I grew up in Mexico, so I was familiar with Pre-Columbian art but never paid much attention to it. When I saw images of the codex at the library I decided I would make a modern day codex of Sergio’s story.

I began emulating the drawings from the codex. I drew every one in profile. I stylized their ears to look like a number 3. I drew the character’s entire bodies, etc. I collaged my drawings digitally though to make them feel more modern.

Alia: That’s awesome! You kind of touch on that modern day application of art in your book about Diego Rivera. How he’d view the world now and create it in his style. I love how you take ancient art from your culture and make it modern for today’s children. I really really like how you use digital collage too! It makes the images pop.

Duncan: Thanks!

Alia: No problem!

DuncanTonatiuhInterview2

Image Credit: Dear Primo, Abrams Books for Young Readers, Duncan Tonatiuh

Q4. What was your favorite food growing up?

Duncan: Hmmm. Maybe enchiladas or pozole. When I was a kid I asked my mom why my Dad always got to pick what we were having for lunch. She said it was because he gave her the money to buy the food. At some point I got a job after school helping out a jewellery maker. When I got paid I gave the money to my mom and asked her to make enchiladas.

Alia: Hahaha. That sounds like something my mom would say. 🙂

Duncan: lol

AliaQ5. Your books are very powerful and full of history and perspective. They also have the ability to reach any child in the world. What do you hope children take away from your books?

Duncan: Thanks! Well, first and foremost I hope they find my books entertaining and interesting to look at. I make books about things that interest me. Hopefully young readers will find those things interesting and important too. I try to have a message in my books but I hope they don’t feel preachy or didactic.

When it comes to Latino children I hope they see themselves, their family and their community in the books. Hopefully they feel pride and realize that their voices and stories are important. For non-Latino children, I hope they learn about a different culture. With books like Pancho Rabbit or Separate Is Never Equal, I hope that they feel empathy and understanding of the struggles Latino children and people have to face sometimes.

One of the most rewarding moments I’ve had as an author is when a group of 4th graders from an Elementary in Texas wrote a multi-voice poem about their border crossing experiences after they read Pancho Rabbit. I feel my book encouraged them to speak and realize that their voices and stories are important. Let me find the link:

 

Alia: Thank you for sharing and that is amazing. I’m glad for your books because it is so important to not only share stories, but to create stories that children can relate to. Children of color sometimes need that boost, that representation. That’s why diverse books are so important. For teaching and learning, and inspiring as in the case of those 4th graders! 🙂

Duncan: 🙂

AliaQ6. Congratulations on all the recent honors (Sibert Award/Pura Belpré Honor/NCTE Honor) for Funny Bones! Have you received any feedback from kids on that book?

Duncan: Thank you! I’ve received a few calavera drawings from students. And I’ve seen projects that they’ve created at school for the Day of the Dead. I look forward to receiving more feedback from kids and seeing how they respond to the book and what resonates with them.

Alia: How cool! When I was a teacher in Korea, I learned about Day of the Dead to share with my students. In Korea, they have a holiday called Chuseok where they also honor ancestors, make an altar of food, and clean graves. They seemed to connect with it, especially since they saw some cultural similarities. They were a little surprised about the calaveras though. But when I showed them the sugar skulls, they wanted to taste them. lol!

Duncan: lol

Alia: Yeah my students were cute.

DuncanSalsa1

Image Credit: Salsa, Groundwood Books, Duncan Tonatiuh

Q7. For the book Salsa, you illustrated words that weren’t your own. What was it like working with Jorge Argueta?

Duncan: The majority of picture books are written by one person and illustrated by another one. The publishing company pairs the two together. I did not meet Jorge until after I had illustrated the book. That is often the case with picture book authors and illustrators. I enjoyed illustrating Jorge’s book and we have become friends, but we didn’t work on that book together; at least not at the same time.

I finished illustrating a book recently for another author, a woman named Susan Wood. We’ve only met once very briefly. I enjoy illustrating other people’s stories but I like writing and illustrating my own books the best because I have a little more control. I can change the text or the illustrations as I need and hopefully that makes the book flow more smoothly.

Alia: That’s really interesting. I’ve also noticed that for some smaller publishers, the author can have some say in who they’d like to work with and there’s more dialogue during the creative process. I think the book came out really nicely.

Maybe also, like any piece of art, a book that is written and illustrated by you is your complete piece and like you said, you can tweak and bend the product to be exactly what you like and want to say.

Duncan: Definitely. And I’m not sure but I think the publisher asked Jorge if he thought I would be a good fit for the manuscript he wrote. He didn’t give me comments on my illustrations and sketches but he had the opportunity to look at some of my work first I believe.

Alia: Thanks for the insight!

Q8. You touched on it a bit above but are there any upcoming projects you can share with the public yet?

Duncan: I have two picture books coming out this fall. One will be called The Princess and the Warrior; A Tale of Two Volcanoes. I wrote and illustrated it. It’ll be published by Abrams. The book is my own version of the origin legend of two volcanoes that are outside of Mexico City: Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl. The story is set in Pre-Columbian times and it has some similarities to Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet.

The second book is called Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist. It’s written by Susan Wood and illustrated by yours truly. It’ll be published by Charlesbridge. The book is about a Mexican composer who is considered the creator of lounge music. It was fun to illustrate. It’s a groovy and swanky book with a lot of hand-drawn text in it.

Alia: Oh man, I’m looking forward to both!!

Duncan: Thanks! Me too!

AliaSide note: While studying your books for this interview, it was fun to see how your art style has evolved over time. In Dear Primo compared to Funny Bones, your lines now are a little cleaner, the hands of the people are smaller and they have necks! So interesting to see.

Duncan: Yeah. That is true. Sometimes I miss some of the rawness of Dear Primo. I am hoping to experiment a little more with upcoming projects. I want them to still be in my style but I also want them to evolve or change a little depending on the project.

Alia: Looking forward to how your style grows.

Q9. Any place or food you really recommend during a visit to your hometown of San Miguel de Allende?

Duncan: San Miguel is a great place to visit. A few years ago it was voted “Best City in the World” by Traveler’s Magazine. I think one of the things that visitors like about it is that there is nice combination of high-end and cheap options. There are some really good fancy restaurants but also great cheap street tacos.

My favorite place in town is probably the library. It has a wonderful courtyard. I love going there to write, draw and read. Some good places for visitors are the crafts market, the botanical garden, the Fábrica la Aurora -an old factory that was converted into art galleries- and the hot springs.

Alia: Fábrica la Aurora sounds sweet! A great space for creativity. Thanks for sharing!

 

Thank you Duncan for taking time to talk with me. I really enjoyed our conversation and I’m excited for all the books coming from you (this year and years to come!). Yay!

Be sure to check out his:

Website, http://www.duncantonatiuh.com/

Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/DuncanTonatiuharte/?fref=ts

Blog, https://duncantonatiuh.wordpress.com/ 


 

Thanks for reading! ❤

Joelito’s Big Decision

Joelito'sBigDecision

Image Credit: Hard Ball Press, Ann Berlak, Daniel Camacho, José Antonio Galloso

This book discusses making change and social justice in an easy way for children to understand. They can connect to Joelito, his friend and his struggle to make a big decision. It’ll get your children thinking about what they can do to improve our world and to ensure that everyone makes a living wage.

In Joelito’s Big Decision, Joelito wakes up Friday morning thinking about his family’s weekly trip to MacMann’s for burgers! At school, when his sister’s best friend’s backpack is stolen, he makes a comment that she can just go buy another one; he doesn’t get that his family is economically in a better place than his friend’s. Excited to finally get his burger, his family heads to MacMann’s but there are a lot of people standing outside with signs and no one’s eating. A big protest is happening because MacMann’s pays low wages and the workers can’t live on what they make. Turns out his best friend Brandon’s mom and dad work there and they’re a part of the strike too! When Brandon invites Joelito to join the strike, Joelito is hesitant (he wants to sit and eat his burger!) and he has to decide what is most important to him.

JoelitosDecision2

Image Credit: Hard Ball Press, Ann Berlak, Daniel Camacho, José Antonio Galloso

Joelito has to step outside his comfort zone. Until he encounters the strike, he doesn’t really notice that his friend’s family is struggling to make ends meet. Things become personal for him and he empathizes. Sometimes, something as simple as giving up a favorite treat can show how much you care for someone…and for a cause.

Daniel Camacho’s illustrations are very cool. I like the raw sketchy quality of the color pencil, his use of color, and the large, chunky bodies and hands of his figures. His illustrations suit the story very well. An extra treat to this book is that it’s bi-lingual (English & Spanish) and this duality will make it accessible to more children, which is excellent and needed.

I really recommend this book for discussion and learning. Teachers, look at this page from Hard Ball Press for ideas on how to use this book in the classroom!

 

Recommended for: 1st grade and up
Great for: Social Justice, Social Issues, Friendship, Change, Economic Inequality, Empathy, Family, Immigrants, Latin-American, Low Wages, Moving, Perspective, Poverty, Relationships, Spanish Language, Struggles, We Need Diverse Books, Diversity
Book Info: Joelito’s Big Decision by Ann Berlak/Illustrated by Daniel Camacho/Translated by José Antonio Galloso, 2015 Hard Ball Press, ISBN: 9780986240096

 

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

 

MrTigerGoesWild

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

Ah, this is one of my favorites. ❤

Sometimes you just have to say screw it all and let out your inner tiger. Similar to the book Wild by Emily Hughes, this book explores themes of self discovery and acceptance in face of criticism.

Just look at his face! Look at it! He’s adorable! In Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, Mr. Tiger is in quite a predicament. His posh neighbors are very posh but for some reason he’s not feeling so posh anymore…change is coming for him and he doesn’t even realize it yet. One day, he s…l…o…w…l…y bends down on all fours (GASP!), runs around town like the wild animal he is and before he knows it, he’s NAKED! How unacceptable. His neighbors have had enough and tell him to go to the wild and so he does! But he gets lonely without his friends and when he comes home, it looks like he’s influenced them to be a little wild sometimes too. 😉

Mr.Tiger2

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

I love Peter Brown’s art. Though he uses mostly muted colors in this book (browns, grays, blacks, greens) there’s a vibrancy to his style. He draws blocky bodies, uses simple shapes and creates expressive faces (I LOVE MR. TIGER’S EXPRESSIONS!) with ink, watercolor and gouache. The very first spread stands out; as Mr. Tiger is surrounded by the townsfolk with their gray bodies, closed eyes and haughty expressions, you can’t help but be attracted to his annoyed expression and bright orange skin. My favorite spread is the one where Mr. Tiger slowly…drops…down…to the ground, ready to be wild!

I hope you’ll enjoy this book with your little wild ones. ROOOOAAARRR!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Community, Criticism, Etiquette, Proper Behavior, Self Actualization, Freedom, Friends, Relationships, Self Discovery, Acceptance, Change, Difference, Discussion
Book Info: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown, 2013 Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ISBN: 9780316200639

Where Do We Go When We Disappear?

WheredoWeGoWhenWeDisappear

Image Credit: Tate Publishing, Isabel Minhós Martins/Madalena Matoso

I first discovered author Isabel Minhós Martins through The World in a Second. Because I enjoyed that book so much, I wanted to read more of her work. I found a few more titles of hers at my local library. Not all of her books are translated to English yet (from Portuguese) but out of the few I could get my hands on, I thought this one was very good.

Death, loss and change aren’t easy topics to discuss at any age and I know that parents often look for books that gracefully tackle these subjects. What I like about Where Do We Go When We Disappear? is that it’s very reflective, thought provoking and it isn’t necessarily about death, so parents can use this book however they need.

Martins says that for someone to disappear, someone must first notice the disappearance. Therefore, it always takes at least two people for someone’s loss to be recognized; for the missing to begin. And with the missing begins the questions and Martins opens the story to the discussion of disappearance of all kinds of things in our world! This can help a child begin to make connections and start healing. Even socks disappear, for example! (Who knows where they go??) Nothing lasts forever and some things take longer to disappear. But everything doesn’t disappear to NOTHING. Matter is recycled, exchanged and shifts and on and on it goes…

WhereDoWeGo2

Image Credit: Tate Publishing, Isabel Minhós Martins/Madalena Matoso

Martin’s evocative text is accompanied by Matoso’s bold illustrations. The bright, blocky illustrations are just enough for the text, to spark discussion. Smiling humans, sad humans, trees, winding roads, nature and the ocean; the pictures are strong yet gentle. Where Do We Go When We Disappear? is a beautiful book that’s good for all ages. It does a great job of starting conversations about existence, life, death and change.

 

P.S. For parents looking for a secular book about death, this book does mention “heaven” but in relation to where puddles go to eventually become clouds. It’s quite interesting.

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Discussion, Change, Death, Family, Loss, Nature, Permanence, Reflection, Relationships, Sadness
Book Info: Where Do We Go When We Disappear? by Isabel Minhós Martins/Illustrated by Madalena Matoso, 2013 Tate Publishing, ISBN: 9781849761604

Written and Drawn by Henrietta

Written&DrawnByHenrietta

Image Credit: Liniers & TOON Books (RAW Junior, LLC), Liniers

“A box of colored pencils is as close as you can get to owning a piece of the rainbow.”

Written and Drawn by Henrietta is about the unpredictability of storytelling, going with the flow and letting your mind take you on a journey. Henrietta is just as surprised about what happens in her story as readers are! We get to follow her creative process and listen in on her discussions with her cat Fellini as she writes and illustrates an EPIC story.

This funny and clever book actually starts on the front endpaper. Henrietta shares wisdom about the power of books. Next we see her holding a shiny new box of pencils which she’ll use to create the title page of her story about a three headed monster with only two hats. Her protagonist “Emily” seems very stressed about the noises coming from her wardrobe and Henrietta even scares herself! Hahaha. Her story progresses and Huey, Dewey and Louie Bluie (the three headed monster) accompanies Emily into the wardrobe (It was made in Narnia, see…) where adventure awaits. Henrietta knows all the tricks to make an engaging story.

Written&DrawnByHenrietta2

Image Credit: Liniers & TOON Books (RAW Junior, LLC), Liniers

Liniers’ writing and illustration are excellent. But when you read this book, you won’t think about him because he creates a loveable character who has complete control of the reins of this book. He’s mastered the “Kid Art” style of illustration and the pages are alive with bold strokes, gnarly teeth and wild colors. Henrietta is confident in her skill and it’s fun to see the story develop. TOON BOOKS are special because they’re comic leveled-readers. Many kids are into comics and graphic novels these days and I can’t recommend this TOON Book enough. I have my fingers crossed for another installment of Henrietta’s story. I hope your child will love this book and be inspired to create!

 

P.S. Be sure to read Liniers’ dedication. 🙂 It’s very sweet. AND this book is also available in Spanish!

 

Recommended for: Age 6 and up
Great for: Discussion, Humor, Clever, Friendship, Puns, Relationships, Storytelling, Suspense, Writing a Story, Storyboarding, Inspiration, Creative Thinking
Book Info: Written and Drawn by Henrietta by Liniers, 2015 Liniers & TOON Books (RAW Junior, LLC.), ISBN: 9781935179900

My Seneca Village

MySenecaVillage

Image Credit: Namelos, Marilyn Nelson

 

My Seneca Village is a mighty work. Marilyn Nelson, as she describes in the introduction, connected to the people of Seneca Village while spending years researching the community and this is very evident in how heartfelt and moving this collection of poems is. Seneca Village was a community in New York City located where Central Park now is. It was a community of mostly African American families, with Irish, German, Jewish and some Native Amerian residents. It existed from 1825 to 1857; in 1857 all residents were forced to move out by the city in order to build the park. With this forced removal came the end of a rich, vibrant and thriving community.

What My Seneca Village does so beautifully is bring Seneca Village back to life. Through original poems, Nelson honors and creates a voice for its residents. We learn their stories, we see young dreamers, young love, life, death, gossips, mischievous children, racism and strength. Some of the residents we meet are real people who lived in Seneca Village, others are fiction and we also meet huge historical figures, like Frederick Douglass, who stop through the village to give moving speeches. It’s hard to narrow this book into one category because it does so much. Nelson’s poetry is powerful. One of my favorite stanzas is from the village’s Reverend Rush during an anti-abolition riot:

 

                                      “I asked everyone to bow their heads and pray.

                                        Pray for this nation’s struggle to be free

                                        for ALL Americans. Equality

                                        must be bitter, if you’ve always been on top,

                                        and you’re slapped awake out of a lifelong sleep.

                                        Pray we’ll pull together toward a common hope.”

 

Over a hundred years later and we’re still struggling for the same thing. I’m glad for this story. I’m glad to know about Seneca Village, I’m glad that this novel is being read nationwide and I encourage you to read this book and travel to Seneca Village.

 

P.S. Just wanted to note how nice this book is. Namelos is a small publisher and I can’t remember the last time I picked up a book with such nicely inked letters.

Also, here’s an interesting NPR article about the play The People Before the Park.

 

Recommended for: 12 and up
Great for: Poetry, Everyday Life, Community, History, Seneca Village, American History, African American, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Racism, Family, Love, Friendship, Relationships, New York, Eminent Domain, Injustice, Central Park
Book Info: My Seneca Village by Marilyn Nelson, 2015 Namelos, ISBN: 9781608981960

Toys Meet Snow

ToysMeetSnow

Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade Books (Penguin Random House), Emily Jenkins/Paul O. Zelinsky

It’s starting to get cold out where I am and though I’m not a fan of cold weather, I can’t deny how beautiful snow looks as it blankets the earth.

Toys Meet Snow celebrates the wonder of curiosity and play. It’s both simple and complex with excellent characterization. First, we’re introduced to our characters; Lumphy, a stuffed Buffalo, StingRay, a plush stingray and Plastic, a rubber ball. Their Little Girl has left for winter vacation and they’re staring out the window in wonder at the first snow of the season. Teamwork gets them out the door and into the snow (not before taking the necessary protective measures of course!).

We get to see the personalities of each toy and Jenkins writes the story so that it’s easy to anticipate their reactions on each spread, which can be great for children who’re learning to read (the predictability in story format). Lumphy is very inquisitive, StingRay is poetic and visual and Plastic is all about the facts! They study the snow, ask questions and make a snowman. Plastic even gets a special boost of self confidence before heading back in for the day.

ToysMeetSnow2

Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade Books (Penguin Random House), Emily Jenkins/Paul O. Zelinsky

 

I like the way Emily Jenkins writes. There’s a quirky cuteness to this story. Her writing pairs well with Zelinsky’s soft, beautiful digital illustrations. My favorite spread is the one where the toys leave indentations in the snow to make snow angels! It’s fun to guess which toy made which angel. With glittery snow on the cover, you’re ready to dive into a winter story, but you’ll find that it’s quite warm. 🙂 Toys Meet Snow is a large book with wide beautiful spreads. The blustery white snow covers the pages and you’ll feel like you’re out with the toys, on an adventure. Can you tell how much I love the illustrations?The red strawberry syrup sunset is lovely and so is this book. Check it out and enjoy!

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Learning, Curiosity, Inquisitive Minds, Learning, Relationships, Action/Adventure, Snow, Animals, Personalities, Read Aloud, Play
Book Info: Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins/Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky , 2015 Schwartz & Wade (Penguin Random House), ISBN: 9780385373302

The Girl With a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran

TheGirlWithABraveHeartCover

Image Credit: Barefoot Books, Rita Jahanforuz/Vali Mintzi

I’m a sucker for traditional “folktale” stories! Reminiscent of Cinderella, Shiraz has her hardships and her rewards and The Girl With a Brave Heart shines due to its interesting and magical story with vibrant illustrations. There’s a soothing quality to the format of a well written folktale and this one is great for reading aloud.

The Girl With a Brave Heart tells the story of kind Shiraz, whose father has passed away and she lives with her stepmother and stepsister, acting as a maid for them. One day her cherished ball of wool blows into her neighbor’s garden so she goes to fetch it. A ragged old lady lets her in in exchange for Shiraz’s labor. She tells Shiraz to do three chores that involve destruction (smash all the things in her kitchen with a hammer, for example), but Shiraz understands what she really needs and helps her. The old lady rewards her with specific instructions for dipping into the two pools in the back on her way home.

When Shiraz arrives home, ball of wool in hand, her family doesn’t recognize her because her beauty is stunning! Eager to find out what happened, her greedy stepmother and stepsister Monir concoct a plan for Monir to get her beauty as well. But the character of a person is their most important aspect and Monir…when she rushes to find her “lost ball of wool”she gets exactly what she deserves for her selfishness.

GirlWithaBraveHeart

Image Credit: Barefoot Books, Rita Jahanforuz/Vali Mintzi

This book is gorgeous. The cover has gold foil on it. 🙂  I first spotted part of the cover image on Barefoot Books’ Twitter page and asked them where it came from because I had to know more about it. Vali Mintzi has amazing style and isn’t afraid to use color. Her gouache paints are bold; she uses strong lines, dabs of color here and there and with just a few strokes, she brings to life the colorful city of Tehran. I love how she gives her characters long noses and shades half their faces with another color. It reminds me of Picasso’s faces.

Though this story does follows the traditional folktale tradition where goodness is equated with beauty, I don’t fault the story for it. Shiraz’s heart is pure and for her kindness, she’s given a gift. Perhaps your family or classroom can discuss folktales and fairytales that break tradition! This is an excellent addition to any collection.

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Family, Discussion, Folktale, Helping Others, Inner Beauty, Inner Ugliness, Kindness, Morals, Read-Aloud, Relationships, Selfishness, Tehran
Book Info: The Girl With a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran by Rita Jahanforuz/Illustrated by Vali Mintzi, 2013 Barefoot Books, ISBN: 9781846869297