My Two Blankets for Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

MCBookDay-white-2

Woo Hoo! ūüėČ

 

MyTwoBlankets

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Irena Kobald/Freya Blackwood

 

Multicultural Children’s Book Day (January 27th) is a beautiful effort to share the love of multicultural books! I have the pleasure of participating this year. Thank you to MCCBD and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with a copy of the book My Two Blankets!

My Two Blankets¬†discusses the struggles that immigrant children may face when leaving their home and making a new one. In recent years, there have been more and more picture books that discuss this topic and it‚Äôs encouraging to see. It‚Äôs important to think about the experiences of others and picture books have the power of bringing a whole new world of understanding to children! It’s also important for these children to know that their stories matter.¬†

The story opens with Cartwheel playing happily in her village in Sudan, but soon war comes and she moves to another country (possibly Australia) with her Auntie. Everything is strange and jarring for her; the people, the food, and especially the language! She‚Äôs frustrated by her confusion and she feels like she‚Äôs losing her identity. At home, she‚Äôs able to soothe herself under a ‚Äúblanket‚ÄĚ of familiar words and sounds. One day, she meets a girl in a park who talks strangely, like everyone else, but her kindness draws her in. The girl teaches Cartwheel her language, a little at a time, and their friendship blossoms. She begins to feel more confident, a new blanket growing alongside her old one.

MyTwoBlankets2

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Irena Kobald/Freya Blackwood

I enjoyed this book very much, but I do have one very important suggestion for how the story can be improved. Cultural exchange is crucial for creating a better, multicultural world. Readers don’t get to see Cartwheel share her original blanket (her culture, stories and WORDS) with her friend. We only see the friend teach Cartwheel her language and not the other way around. The additional imagery of a blended blanket, red and blue, with her friend having a similar blanket, would’ve been powerful. Cartwheel teaches her friend how to do cartwheels, but I hoped to see much more! I encourage families and teachers to think about this while reading the book and maybe it will spark healthy discussion!

The illustrations in My Two Blankets are beautiful. I enjoy Blackwood’s style; the wiggly, sketchy lines around the oil and watercolor paints create a feeling of movement and energy. The contrasting reds and blues make the images stand out and she is excellent at depicting soft expressions. I love how she uses symbols to represent words that float in the air, are held by the girls and absorbed by Cartwheel.

 

Please take time to read this book, discuss the story, and enjoy the illustrations. Touching back on the importance of cultural exchange, below is a video recipe for Sudanese Blended Okra Meat Stew or Bahmia Mafrook! Maybe this is something Cartwheel ate in Sudan and continued to make with Auntie in her¬†new home. It’s also a dish she¬†could’ve¬†shared¬†with her new friend. I hope your family will try it and enjoy! ūüôā

Ah, it looks so tasty!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Immigration, Diversity, Relationships, Frustration, Struggles, Struggle With Identity, Inner-Strength, Support, We Need Diverse Books, Family, Discussion, Sudan, Australia
Book Info: My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald/Illustrated by Freya Blackwood, 2014 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780544432284

 


 

Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD)

Our mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.

Our Mission: The MCCBD team’s mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

Founders: The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia and Valarie here.

Sponsor Info

Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors!

Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books*Lil Libros

Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk*Candlewick Press,* Bharat Babies

Silver: Lee and Low Books*Chronicle Books*Capstone Young Readers T

Tuttle Publishing , NY Media Works, LLC/KidLit TV

Bronze: Pomelo Books* Author Jacqueline Woodson*Papa Lemon Books* Goosebottom Books*Author Gleeson Rebello*ShoutMouse Press*Author Mahvash Shahegh* China Institute.org*Live Oak Media

Co-Hosts

Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 11 amazing Co-Hosts and you can read more about them here.

Furthermore, here are the links to the co-hosts’ individual sites: All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share, The Educators’ Spin on it, Growing Book by Book, Imagination Soup,¬†I‚Äôm Not the Nanny,¬†InCulture¬†Parent,¬†Kid World Citizen, Mama Smiles, Multicultural Kid Blogs, and¬†Spanish Playground.

Classroom Reading Challenge!

Attention Teachers! Check out this awesome opportunity to earn a FREE¬†hardcover multicultural children’s book for your classroom. Follow this link to the MCCBD website for more information. Also, click here for a free MCCBD poster for your classroom!

 

A Chat with Daniel Miyares

I first discovered Float sitting on the new books table of¬†my bookstore. You see, I had a ritual of familiarizing myself with the new crop every Tuesday; excited to find a new favorite. I picked up the small gray book, took¬†some time to flip through the pages…and kept the story with me.

When I started my blog, I knew I had to review it. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know Daniel Miyares a bit and he was kind enough to let me interview him. Really, it turned into a great conversation. Hope you enjoy our chat.

 

Alia: Q1. What are three words to describe yourself?

Daniel:¬†Ummmm…introvert, unorganized (or as I like to say intuitive), heartfelt.

Alia: I’m introverted too! Yay for introverts! ūüôā

Daniel:¬†Yay! Let’s get together and feel anxious.

Alia: Q2. I know you’re married with kids. Has your family given you any ideas/inspiration for projects?

Daniel:¬†YES, absolutely my family gives me inspiration everyday. I am married. My wife’s name is Lisa and we have two little children together. I always like to say my best story ideas come from some sort of anxiety or character flaw that I have. Couple that with the fact that children and marriage can be some of the most honest mirrors you’ll ever come across and you’ve got a free flowing fount of possible story fodder.

I do see a lot of my children’s way of looking at and experiencing the world make it into my stories. Not just the innocence, but the honesty of their emotions. I see the ups and downs of Float almost everyday in my house in one way or another. It’s true and sweet.

Alia: Q3. My dad was an artist, so I grew up surrounded by art. Do you have artists in your family? Have you noticed your children taking a strong interest in art?

Daniel:¬†My dad took a few art classes in college I believe, but he never pursued it. My daughter really loves art. She’s always got a project going. I can count on her to sit with me if I need a painting buddy. It’s fun to talk art and design with her. It’s like I have some inside track on all the stuff that hasn’t been “taught” out of her. She frequently schools me on color. My colors are never sparkly enough for her. ūüôā

Alia:¬†Cool! Yeah I agree with her. I love sparkly but then there has to be balance. I’ve also noticed that children often have insight that we are too old and too “trained” to have.

Daniel:¬†So right! That’s why I feel like I’m continuing to learn about my own books. The more I share them with children the more insight I walk away with.

Alia: Kids are pretty sweet. I learned a lot from my students when I was a teacher.

Daniel: I bet you did! What did you teach?

Alia: I taught Elementary school English in Korea for four years.

Daniel:¬†That’s so wonderful. I’m sure you’ve got stories. I should interview you about that!

Alia:¬†Haha. Oh yeah I have a lot. It’s all kinda a blur of dirty noses, screaming kids and lots of laughs.

Q4. I love the paintings you post on Instagram and Facebook. Are you a paper margin doodler?

Daniel:¬†I am a margin doodler, an over the important information doodler, an on my desk and chair doodler. It’s kind of an obsession. Thank God someone invented Instagram. Now I have a place to put all those random scribbles. Actually it’s been freeing to post things without much editing. I can get pretty calculated when it comes to making art and I need to be reminded to loosen up and not worry about it so much.

Alia:¬†It must be nice to just make art for arts sake when it’s your JOB to make art. Just put it out there and go!

Daniel: It is nice to just make art without a big agenda. It also reminds me of the things I love about making pictures.

Alia: Q5. Okay big question. Why do you make picture books? What do YOU get out of it?

Daniel:¬†Okay this is a biggie. Picture books kind of found me. I had always loved drawing and painting, as well as secretly writing poetry, but I never dreamed of making picture books. A friend introduced me to my artist rep and through working with them I realized that the things I love about making illustrations and telling stories could be really meaningful in picture books. I suppose what I get out of it is the sense that I’m using more of the whole of my creative self on a project. For me there is an emotional cycle to the process of making a book- the passion and uncertainty of conceiving an idea, the anxiety of pitching/selling it, the craft and focus of making it, all ending with the joy of sharing it with so many people. It’s a roller coaster and I feel in love with it.

Alia:¬†Ah what a great answer. I love it! ūüôā

Daniel: Great question!

Alia: Thanks!

Q6. What kind of jelly do you like on your PB&J? lol

Daniel:¬†Grape. Absolutely, Grape. Smuckers if it’s on the shelf, but the generic store brand works too. Every now and again I do make a monster PB&J. You know the one with the extra piece of bread in the middle?

Alia:¬†Classic. Good choice. But I’m more about Welch’s Grape. I’ve never done a monster PB&J and now I’m wondering why I haven’t. Haha

Daniel: Me too!

Alia: I guess I have to try it now!

FloatDounpour

Image Credit: Simon & Schuster, Daniel Miyares

Q7. Where did Float‘s story grow out of? The book-making process can be quite long. Can you remember any big or tough edits you made to the story or design of Float?

Daniel:¬†I was on a plane flying home from my Aunt’s funeral. It had been raining so I did a drawing of a little boy floating a paper boat in a puddle. I wondered what happened before that moment and drew that. Then I wondered what happened after that moment and drew that. I went on like this until I found the beginning and end of the story. The book making process is quite long and requires you to stay focused on what‚Äôs best for the story throughout. That’s how I know I’m working with good collaborators- if they honestly critique with that lens. Hurdle one for me with Float was should it have words or not. It seemed like a strong visual narrative that took you to all the emotional places necessary without words, but I wasn’t sure. I tried a whole string of variations on the manuscript, but none of it seemed to say anything that the pictures weren’t. My editor Kristin Ostby at S&S was great about helping to weigh and measure that. At one point I wrote a sound poem for the story. I’d still like to do something with it someday. I’m actually thinking of trying to do some readings of Float in the music rooms of elementary schools instead of a regular class. I figured the children could help tell the story with the instruments. Kind of a rainy day orchestra! Another hurdle or edit was how to get all the emotional beats into the story in an interesting way. Panels seemed like a logical way to pace things out and reveal information as the reader needed it. It was just another layer of design that became really important once I got into building the book.

Alia: Doing readings of Float in music rooms sounds awesome! I can see kids really getting into that.

Daniel:¬†Yeah I’d like to give the instruments a try.

Alia: Q8. I read Float as a story about imagination and delight in play. What were your favorite imagination activities or games as a child?

Daniel:¬†My favorites were drawing, building forts or hideouts, exploring the woods, playing in the creek near my house. The spaces weren’t that big, but they seemed like whole different worlds. I don’t know how many makeshift boats and action figures met their end in that creek.

Alia:¬†Me too. I grew up in the city but I loved making forts out of sheets in my room. Crawl inside and…read books.

Daniel: Those little hiding spots were the best.

Alia: Yup!

Q9. Do you like origami? Origami used to be MY THING so I enjoyed the paper-folding element of Float very much.

Daniel:¬†I do. I’ve worked at Hallmark Cards as an artist for the past twelve years. I’ve gotten to make a lot of things out of paper in that time. It has always amazed me how just a blank piece of paper can take on a life of its own.

Alia:¬†Well that’s pretty cool. I always wonder about card artists. There are so many well designed and unique cards out there.

PardonMe

Image Credit: Simon & Schuster, Daniel Miyares

Q10. While preparing for this discussion, I realized that Pardon Me is your book and I got really happy because I think that book is a little dark and very hilarious. Can you share some background on that book?

Daniel:¬†Absolutely, remember what I said about starting with an anxiety or character flaw for a story idea? That’s how Pardon Me! started. I’m introverted so I like to have my alone time and think space. With a family I’m often scheming of ways to find those quiet moments. So I imagined the little bird as me. I can try to cling to what I think is right, fair and deserved even to my detriment. In short, I just took a look at what was making my blood boil and I wrote it down. I just had to substitute interruptions with animals.

Alia: ¬†Ohhh, I see and I totally understand! Very cool.¬†I’m imagining the animals as your family now!

Q11. What are you thoughts about efforts like We Need Diverse Books and the general push for diversity in publishing and literature?

Daniel: It’s so critical that children have access to books that celebrate a wide range of cultures and experiences. I see it either challenging and expanding what they know about the world or affirming who they are. I feel like I as an individual can choose to invest in projects that help to do that, but I have to tell stories that lean into my point of view. I have very specific memories from growing up where I read a book or a poem and it churned something up inside of me. It widened my gaze in a way that I never would have on my own. That gives me hope that if talented authors and artists from all different ethnicities, ages, genders, and sexual orientations continue to lean into their experiences to craft meaningful stories, then there will be those kinds of transformative intersections. Of course it’s important for that focus on diversity to be present at all points of the book making process-all the way to a child having the book in hand. Over the past few years I’ve gotten to meet so many wonderful book champions who strive to do just that.

Alia:¬†When I think back to books that shaped me growing up, they’re all kinds of books but I definitely connected to seeing little girls who looked like me.

Daniel: Sure, we all want to feel like we belong and are understood.

Alia:¬†Q12. I think I read that you’re from South Carolina? Serious question…Do you like grits?

Daniel: Oh my, yes I do love grits. I was raised on them and biscuits. One of my favorite breakfast foods.

Alia: Yes! Okay, even more important question. How do you like them? Butter? Salt? Cheese? I love biscuits too. My grandma made great ones.

Daniel: I used to take a serving of grits and put scrambled eggs, butter and bacon in them then cover it with cheese.

Alia:¬†OMG…

Daniel:¬†I know…gross.

Alia: Hahaha. We cook ours with butter in the water, add a little salt and I like a side of scrambled eggs too. Sometimes I add cheese.

Daniel:¬†This is all making me really hungry. I would’ve eaten just fine at your house.

Alia: Haha. Yes. My family is from Alabama and Mississippi so I grew up with good Southern Cooking.

Q13. Do you mind sharing a little bit about your next two books Surf’s Up and Bring Me a Rock!?

Daniel:¬†I don’t mind at all. Surf’s Up is a collaboration with the amazing Kwame Alexander. He wrote it and I illustrated. It’s the story of two frog friends, Bro and Dude. Bro just wants to read his book and Dude just wants to get to the beach. It’s really a celebration of the power of reading and imagination. Kwame’s dialogue is fantastic. It is releasing Feb. 1st. Bring Me A Rock! is my next book with Simon & Schuster. I’m the author and illustrator on this one. In it a megalomaniac insect king demands that all of his loyal subjects bring him a rock. He’s going to build a majestic pedestal fit for a king. It’s about how his kingly plans don’t go as expected and how the day is ultimately saved by the most unexpected hero. It’s out June 7th.

Alia:¬†They both sound really cool. I’m looking forward to both! I love the names Bro and Dude haha. That’s awesome.

Daniel: I know! When I read it with my kids we crack up so hard. They call each other Bro and Dude for the rest of the night.

Alia: I feel like teachers are going to enjoy reading that one aloud with their students!

Q14. ALA Midwinter Conference is underway and the Caldecott Medal winner will be announced on Monday. You already know I’m rooting for you…How do you feel about all the love you’re getting for Float?

Daniel:¬†Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine so much love being poured out on Float. You know when you’re making a book you do your best to craft the best story experience you can, but once it’s released it takes on a life of it’s own. I’ve been overwhelmed by all the kind and generous people I’ve gotten to meet along the way such as yourself! It’s given me a more well rounded view of the book community. I’m in awe.

Alia:¬†I honestly think that when a book gets love like Float is getting, it’s partially a reflection of the author’s spirit because you put so much of yourself into every aspect of the book. Float has kinda flown under the radar and into people’s hearts because it’s that good. ūüôā

So thank you for sharing stories.

Daniel:¬†Alia, I appreciate all the support you’ve given to me and Float. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share them.

Alia: Of course! Okay final question!

Q15. Are you a fan of BBQ and if so, what’s your favorite place in Kansas City?

Daniel:¬†I’m required to be a fan of BBQ if I live in KC. It’s in the contract. There are so many places to go if you’re coming this way, but by far my favorite is a place called Joe’s KC. It used to be called Oklahoma Joe’s. It’s in a gas station and it’s worth the wait every time.

 

I want to thank Daniel Miyares once again for taking time to talk with me. It was a fun chat and I wish you and Float THE BEST on Monday for the ALA Youth Media Awards!

Be sure to check out his:

Website, http://www.danielmiyares.com/ and Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/danielmiyaresdoodles/

Thanks for reading! ‚̧

ALA Youth Media Awards!

BookAwardsImage

Image Credit: American Library Association (ALA)

Well guys, it’s almost that time!

Right now in Boston, the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference is well underway. Book lovers, librarians, publishing reps, authors and illustrators are talking books, giving away¬†and signing advanced copies of books and (I’m sure) having a blast!

Perhaps the most anticipated aspect of the conference is the ALA Youth Media Awards on Monday morning. This is where they award the BIG AWARDS;¬†Newbery, Caldecott, Geisel, Pura Belpr√©, Printz, Sibert, Odyssey, Stonewall, Coretta Scott King, Schneider Award and more…That’s an awful lot for one day. ūüôā

**Click this link for a live webcast of the awards ceremony and a summary of all the awards**

Unfortunately, I’m behind in my Newbery¬†reading so I have no official selection yet but if I HAD to choose, based on what I’ve read so far, I’d pick Echo¬†by Pam Mu√Īoz Ryan. Why? Because though there are some issues with pacing, it’s an EPIC and unique story and I’ve seen children embrace it. I’m in the middle of The War that Saved My Life and it’s great, so I’d be happy to see that one win too. Either way, I’m celebrating all these great books.

2016NewberyReads

Just a sample of books being considered for the Newbery Medal!

I already posted about my Caldecott Medal Prediction (Float by Daniel Miyares!) I’ve been certain about that for a while…You can read that post here! I’d love to see Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle¬†or Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh¬†win the Pura¬†Belpr√©!

Float

Image Credit: Simon & Schuster, Daniel Miyares

There are so¬†many cool books up for the Newbery award this year. The School Library Journal’s blog Heavy Medal does an awesome Mock Newbery and it’s fun to see what people think deserves to win. Check out that post here.

Here are some titles that people are loving:

Echo by Pam¬†Mu√Īoz Ryan

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

My Seneca Village by Marilyn Nelson (I think this is more suited for the Printz (YA award)! For a more mature reader)

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton

Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin

Finally, one of the biggest take aways from all this Newbery and Caldecott excitement is the potential for learning in the classroom. Teachers can read the books throughout the year, hold Mock Elections and finally hold an Awards Ceremony Watch Party in class! This might even get your reluctant readers excited about reading! Here is a great post about Mock Elections around the country. Get inspired!

Happy Reading and YAY for Monday Morning!

 

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans

DrownedCity

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Don Brown


Drowned City
is a tough but very important¬†read. The graphic novel element makes this story accessible to reluctant readers and Brown does a great job of recounting and documenting this part of history. It’s easy to pick up the book and learn the history, facts, heroism and the incompetency. The writing of Drowned City reads like an extended newspaper article; fact after fact with the addition of speech bubbles. The moments of dialogue help connect¬†readers to the tragic events and the people who suffered through them.

As I read the book, I’d stare at the words and then the illustrations and I’d shake my head, memories of television news reports coming back to me. Brown’s illustrations are powerful. He uses a palette of of browns, blues, grays and purples to depict the stagnant water, stormy skies, and hopeless expressions of the people of New Orleans.

DrownedCity2

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Don Brown

One criticism I have of this book is that in the summary, Brown writes “The suffering hit the African American community hardest; a weather disaster became a race disaster” but he never addresses this in the book. Brown skin is visually noticeable in the illustrations¬†but he doesn’t¬†discuss the issue of race in the lack of¬†response to the hurricane victims, or even acknowledge that most of the victims were African American. This is something I’d encourage parents and teachers to discuss.

Published in 2015, just in time for the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Drowned City is a worthy and moving read that will provoke much discussion in your home or classroom. This book can be even more powerful when used in conjunction with real life accounts and stories from the victims themselves. A while back I compiled a group of excellent books about Hurricane Katrina for a display at my bookstore. Check out my post here for those books and be sure to pick up a copy of this graphic novel.

 

Recommended for: Ages 12 and up
Great for: History, Modern History, Hope, Community, Determination, Discrimination, Discussion, Economic Inequality, Incompetency, Hurricane Katrina, Inner Strength, Lack of Leadership, Leadership, Social Issues, Struggle, We Need Diverse Books, Non-Fiction, African American
Book Info: Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans by Don Brown, 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780544157774

Freedom in Congo Square

FreedomInCongoSquare

Image Credit: Little Bee Books (Bonnier Publishing Group), Carole Boston Weatherford/R. Gregory Christie

In this beautiful book, we learn about the slaves of New Orleans who toiled and eagerly anticipated their day of rest because on that day, they headed to Congo Square to let their bodies flow freely and revel in the music and culture of home. Congo Square was their place of freedom, their chance to celebrate who they were and simply enjoy each other’s company. Eventually Jazz would develop out of the music played at this space.

Freedom in Congo Square has an excellent Forward and Author’s Note that I highly recommend reading. Taking time to summarize and teach the history is important because it adds to the experience of the book. Children with knowledge of slavery will easily understand how important a day to rest, a day to celebrate was to slaves. It’s easy to see the joy and relief in their bodies as they dance and sing and drum. Weatherford’s poetic language and description of plantation life during each day of the week builds anticipation for what readers know is coming, that glorious Sunday.

CongoSquare2

Image Credit: Little Bee Books (Bonnier Publishing Group), Carole Boston Weatherford/R. Gregory Christie

The rhythm and rhyme of this book is great for reading aloud to children and Weatherford always has the coolest illustrators for her books. Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century is both textually and visually gorgeous. Freedom in Congo Square is no different. Christie’s collaged paintings are inspiring; the slaves have black, beautiful skin highlighted with blue-gray and long, limber bodies. Their long limbs are bent over in the cotton field BUT are also outstretched in jubilation at Congo Square. I love the bright, joyful colors of his paints and the cover of the book is striking with its use of yellow and black.

This is an excellent book that tells the story of an important safe and creative space for enslaved people during Slavery. What a great new release for 2016! If your family takes a trip down to New Orleans, why not add Congo Square to your list of places to visit?

 

Recommended for: 1st-2nd Grade and Up
Great for: History, Slavery, Celebration, Determination, Music, Music History, New Orleans, Community, Family, We Need Diverse Books, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, Oppression, Spirituality, Discussion, Days of the Week, Rhyme, Rhythm, Read Aloud, Jazz, African American, Africa
Book Info: Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford/Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, 2016 Little Bee Books (Bonnier Publishing Group), ISBN: 9781499801033

I Like Myself!

ILikeMyself

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Karen Beaumont/David Catrow

 

It’s the beginning of a new year! This is when we start thinking about how to improve ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally.

I Like Myself!¬†happily¬†celebrates¬†identity and self esteem. It has a universal message and glows with positive energy; exactly what kids need to see. The little girl in this book isn’t worried about what you think because she’s focused on how awesome she is. The rhythm of the writing is catchy and comfortable and as she tells her story, we learn that she loves¬†not only the physical aspects of her appearance but also loves her character. Even a lion¬†is a little afraid¬†of her WILD side and she’s cool with that! With her trusty dog by her side, she’s not letting anything bother her and is ready for the world.

“No matter if they stop and stare,¬†no person¬†ever¬†anywhere¬†can make me feel that what they see is all there really is to me.”

Beaumont’s writing reminds me of Seuss and so does¬†Catrow’s style of illustration.¬†He combines¬†bright and vibrant colors with long, windy bodies, dramatic shapes and expressive faces.¬†The fluid energy of the watercolors seems barely bound by pencil¬†and ink; wiggles of color bounce on the page. I can’t say how much I love seeing a little brown girl with a wide smile, bright cheeks and twisty hair on the pages! She’s gorgeous and so is this book because it promotes self-confidence in a wonderful way.

 

Recommended for:¬†All Ages! What a message…
Great for: Confidence, Self-Esteem, Girl Power, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Discussion, Rhyme, Rhythm, Imagination, Inspiration, Read-Aloud
Book Info: I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont/Illustrated by David Catrow, 2004 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780152020132

Orange Pear Apple Bear

OrangePearAppleBear

Image Credit: Little Simon (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), Emily Gravett

This chunky board book is smart and the illustrations are beautiful. On the surface it’s a simple word-picture association book for early vocabulary learning but then…things get funky as Gravett starts to MIX IT UP! Bear has the best expressions. Have you¬†ever seen an Apple Bear? I sure haven’t! But he doesn’t seem to mind too much and keeps on juggling the fruit until…he gets a little hungry!

The watercolor illustrations in Orange Pear Apple Bear are vibrant and sure to attract your baby’s attention. The use of white space draws the eye to the images, making them pop. Blotchy colors and sketchy strokes bring bear and the fruits to life. Bear is a¬†cute and curious guy, and your family will enjoy his antics!

P.S. Once again, clever use of the front and end endpapers! Shouldn’t¬†leave tasty fruit uneaten, right?

OrangePearAppleBear2

Image Credit: Little Simon (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), Emily Gravett

 

Recommended for: Babies and Toddlers
Great for: Early Learning, Animals, Vocabulary, Word Association, Colors, Shapes, Humor, Foods, Fruit, Rhyme, Read-Aloud
Book Info: Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett, 2011 Little Simon (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), ISBN: 9781442420038

The Sea Tiger

TheSeaTiger

Image Credit: Templar Books (Candlewick Press), Victoria Turnbull

The illustrations are gorgeous, right? ūüôā

The Sea Tiger explores themes of friendship, protection and encouragement. In the story, The Sea Tiger is the narrator but Turnbull uses speech bubbles for dialogue (and sound!). He is very confident in his presence and power but his best friend, a little Mer-Boy named Oscar, is a bit shy. They go exploring together under the ocean; majestic sea circuses and sea carnivals are just a few of their fun adventures.

The Sea Tiger protects little Oscar but like a good friend, he has his best interests in mind and slowly…encourages the young Mer-Boy to venture out and make a new friend. Their friend circle widens and their relationships are enriched.

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Image Credit: Templar Books (Candlewick Press), Victoria Turnbull

Turnbull’s colored pencil illustrations remind me of old¬†Chinese scrolls; the way she draws the tiger with his whispy tendrils of floating hair, the beautiful¬†plant life and the muted colors she uses. Her illustrations also look very “vintage,” ¬†especially how she draws the mermaids’ faces. How does she make the pencil look so soft?? Lovely! I also love the singing turtles with their squiggly¬†note-bubbles filling the yellow-green ocean. I hope you’ll enjoy The Sea Tiger as much as I did!

P.S. Pay attention to the front and back endpapers! ūüôā

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Fantasy, Encouragement, Deep Sea Life, Animals, Confidence, Protection, Mermaids, Relationships
Book Info: The Sea Tiger by Victoria Turnbull, 2014 Templar Books (Candlewick Press), ISBN: 9780763679866

 

Growing Up Pedro

GrowingUpPedro

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Matt Tavares

Let me get this off my chest…I’m not a baseball fan and I think that’s why it took me so long to pick up this book. I didn’t read it until I decided to participate in a Twitter Chat (SharpSchu) to discuss it.¬†Sometimes I have to remind myself to open my eyes and embrace everything. I’m still¬†not big on baseball but Growing Up Pedro isn’t just about baseball; it’s about the amazing relationship between brothers Ram√≥n and Pedro Mart√≠nez.

The size of this picture book is large; it’s designed to be opened wide and fully experienced. As soon as you open the first page, you’ll see a sweeping landscape of the Dominican Republic in 1981 and little brown boys playing stickball. This sets the tone of the story where we’ll learn how two great baseball players came to dominate American baseball.

GrowingUpPedro

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Matt Tavares

From an early age, Pedro admires his big brother Ram√≥n’s skill and they practice together, throwing balls at the ripe mangos hanging from the trees. Eventually Ram√≥n makes it to the LA Dodgers in 1985 and when he leaves for America, Pedro becomes more determined than ever to follow him. Ram√≥n learns from his struggles and¬†makes sure¬†that Pedro is better in English than him when he’s ready to join him in the Major Leagues. Pedro isn’t as big as Ram√≥n (this will cause some to doubt his ability) but his heart is just as big if not bigger. Heart pumping full of determination, he makes it to the Minor-Leagues just as his big brother is making waves on the Dodgers.

The brothers end up on the Dodgers, together. But before he knows it, Pedro is traded to Montreal! He continues to shine due to his inner strength and the support of his big brother. He DOMINATES as a pitcher and eventually surpasses even his brother in skill. Pedro goes to the Red Sox and later Ramón joins him again and together they lead the Red Sox to the American League Championship Series. Throughout their career, the Martínez Brothers are the pride of the Dominican Republic and never forget where they come from.

Tavares’ watercolor and gouache illustrations are dynamic. As I mentioned earlier, the wide, sweeping landscapes are gorgeous. I particularly enjoy the scenes of young Pedro and Ram√≥n against the green trees, in shorts and caps, playing baseball with their friends and having fun! Baseball lovers will appreciate the almost photorealistic paintings of the brothers during their prime, pitching on the mound with determination in their eyes. If you’re looking for an excellent story about brotherhood, love and reaching for your dreams (oh and baseball ūüėČ ), pick up Growing Up Pedro!

P.S. If you buy this book, be sure to remove the jacket and check out the cover!! It’s really cool and brings the story full circle. Also, this book will be published in Spanish soon! SWEET!

 

Recommended for: 2nd Grade and up
Great for: Brotherhood, Ripe Mangos, Siblings, Relationships, Role Model, Admiration, Dreams, Determination, Coming of Age, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Community, Friendship, Baseball, Biography, Sports, Sports History, Pedro Martínez, Ramón Martínez, LA Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Montreal Expos, Dominican Republic, Inner-Strength
Book Info: Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares, 2015 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763668242

Ask Me

AskMe

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Bernard Waber/Suzy Lee

Ask Me, written by Bernard Waber and posthumously published with illustrations by Suzy Lee is so¬†sweet. The little girl in the story enjoys a fun day with her dad. As they spend time¬†together, she asks him to ask her questions about her likes and reminds him about things she loves. They’re both attentive towards each other while being totally a part of their autumn surroundings. Their relationship is¬†very solid and loving and I appreciate¬†the fresh style of the writing; the story is essentially dialogue between the two. The pace and delivery of the story (also the illustrations) remind me of another great book about a father and daughter, Sidewalk Flowers.

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Bernard Waber/Suzy Lee

Lee depicts a messy piggy-back ice cream treat, romping through the falling leaves and dad pretending to be a bear. These are just a few of the tender moments in this book. I love the way she uses colored pencil and long, scratchy strokes to create the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows of fall leaves. Not only is the story comforting, but the colors and her sketchy-style of illustration is as well and readers will love this father-daughter relationship. What a cute book!

P.S. Another book that starts on the end pages (like Remy and Lulu)! Watch them get ready for their day out. ūüôā

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Family, Relationships, Father-Daughter, Colors, Animals, Autumn, Nature, Community, Read-Aloud, Love, Environment, Discussion
Book Info: Ask Me by Bernard Waber/Illustrated by Suzy Lee, 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780547733944