Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children

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Image Credit: Cartwheel Books (Scholastic), Sandra L. Pinkney/Myles C. Pinkney

First of all, Happy Black History Month!! I always learn something new this month, so I hope you do too.

I really enjoyed Shades of Black; I recommend it as a board book and as a picture book.

Why is this book important?? Self love. It celebrates the complexity and beauty of black identity. Black people have a long history of complicated feelings about our skin color that’s connected to racism, mixed-heritage, and social constructs of beauty (White as most beautiful). For example, have you heard of the The Brown Paper Bag Test?  It was a way in which upper class & lighter-skinned Black people discriminated against darker-skinned Black people. During American slavery, lighter-skinned slaves were usually house slaves. In many cultures around the world, lighter skin is more desirable; some people even bleach their dark skin to be lighter. Hair is another complicated issue intertwined with skin color in the Black community; there’s “good hair” & “nappy hair”…

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A well worn loved copy of Shades of Black

So…a book for children that celebrates all shades of Blackness as beautiful? I’m all about it. Plus, it’s available as a board book for toddlers? This is awesome. Toddlers may not be thinking about their skin color just yet, but seeing positive images of children that look like them, that they can smile at, is important for healthy development.

Sandra L. Pinkney begins Shades of Black with “I am Black. I am Unique” in large, bold letters and it’s repeated several times throughout the text. Her words are paired with Miles C. Pinkney’s beautiful & vivid photographs. Sandra compares various shades of brown skin to colorful foods; the children in the photos are joyful and curious. She also talks about Black hair (“My hair is the soft puffs in a cotton ball and the stiff ringlets in lamb’s wool.”) and compares our eye colors to those found in semiprecious stones. At the end of the book, she reminds Black children that they come from ancient kings and queens; a fact that the institution of slavery tried to snuff out!!

I highly recommend Shades of Black; it shows that books written by #ownvoices are necessary…and beautiful! Pick up this book and read it with your child; the children’s smiles are infectious. Black children are gorgeous! ❤

**P.S. Shades of Black won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Children’s Literary Work!

 

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Empowerment, Positivity, Kid Faces, African-American, Black History Month, Happiness, Black Hair, Colors, Foods, Opposites, Diversity, Own Voices
Book Info: Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney/Photographs by Myles C. Pinkney, 2006 Cartwheel Books (Scholastic), ISBN: 9780439802512

 

 

This is Not a Book

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Image Credit: Phaidon Press Inc., Jean Jullien

This is one of my favorite board books this year! It’s very cheeky (literally) and imaginative. This Is Not a Book has Jullien’s signature humor and creativity; if you haven’t read Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise yet, please do!

First things first, this is not a book. It is a tool for play and discovery. Open the first page to see a monster ready to eat you, the next page is a laptop for you to use and keep flipping to find a refrigerator full of delicious food and more. I repeat, this is NOT a book! Jullien adds little details to his art that make it fun. Pay attention to expressions, themes, and place. Some of the pages are meant to be moved too; the butterfly can’t flap its wings if you don’t flap the book! I love Jullien’s use of bold black line; his style is very distinct and strong. The format of this board book is very clever; though only a rectangle, this…object…can transform into many different things. 😉

I hope your toddler will enjoy this book! If you’re looking for something different and fun to “read” check this one out. It’s perfect for sparking fun discussions with children because this book is what you make of it.

 

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Storytelling, Imagination, Discussion, Humor, Animals, Play, Pretend-Play
Book Info: This is Not a Book by Jean Jullien, 2016 Phaidon Press Inc., ISBN: 9780714871127

We Sang You Home

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Image Credit: Orca Book Publishers, Richard Van Camp/Julie Flett

We’re about half-way through Native American Heritage Month 2016 and almost a week into a world where Donald J. Trump is the President-Elect of the United States of America…I’ve been reflecting and thinking a lot about peace, love and family. I’ve also been thinking about kindness and doing my best to share books that celebrate open-mindedness, different perspectives, cultures and #ownvoices. I can’t praise this one enough.

If you’re looking for a great book that celebrates the joy and wonder of having a child, look no further. We Sang You Home is beautifully written and illustrated. We’re slowly getting more books about Native families created by Native people but we need more. As a bookseller and blogger, I can’t wait for these stories! I want to share them and most importantly, Native kids need to see more of themselves on bookshelves.

In We Sang You Home, a Native couple tells their child how they wished and dreamed for him and how his arrival changes their lives. They are better for having him. “We sang you from a wish. We sang you from a prayer. We sang you home and you sang back.” A child holds its parents hopes, dreams and wishes. Van Camp writes beautifully and in the short format of a board book, tells a story of happiness. We’re reminded that a child chooses its family just as much as a family wishes for it; it’s magic.

Julie Flett is a great illustrator; I always enjoy reading and reviewing her books! In this one, she depicts the sweetness of Van Camp’s words with warm earth colors, sunsets & moonshine, toothy smiles and brown skin. Flat, blocks of color fill the pages. The simpler the better for board books and this one is simply beautiful.

I hope you’ll pick it up for Native American Heritage Month and enjoy it throughout the year! 🙂

 

P.S. Check out Debbie Reese’s beautiful review here.

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Celebration, Diversity, Love, Family, Happiness, Indigenous Peoples, Native Heritage Month, New Baby
Book Info: We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp/Illustrated by Julie Flett, 2016 Orca Book Publishers, ISBN: 9781459811782

Music Is…

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Image Credit: Simon Kids (Simon & Schuster), Brandon Stosuy/Amy Martin

I’m not a big fan of music. I know that sounds weird. I mean, I enjoy listening to music. Of course there are songs that take me back; the memories connected to those songs are so vivid. I always dance and move to a good song or beat. I’m just not INTO music. Some people live and breathe it; they always have headphones on and bump it loud in their car. They talk music, they anticipate music, they live music.

That’s not me but I appreciate music and I love how happily this book celebrates it.

Music Is…has flowing text that begins simply, becomes more lyrical and ends reflectively. Contrasting words like quiet & loud, slow & fast, lo-fi & hi-fi lead to lines like “cymbals that splash and ba-da-ba bass and rat-a-tat-tat drums on a rumbling stage.” Stosuy’s words are great for reading aloud and invite discussion. “How is music happy?” “What is lo-fi?” “What does ‘Music is for everyone’ mean?” are just a few questions that children might ask when reading this book and for that reason, it’s a book for all ages! Music-loving parents will want this book to share with their children.

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Image Credit: Simon Kids (Simon & Schuster), Brandon Stosuy/Amy Martin

 

Amy Martin’s illustrations are bold, eye-catching and so diverse. I love how she uses colors that contrast and highlight. Her art shows children that indeed, music is for everyone. Her illustrations match the rhythm of Stosuy’s words and the cover of the book is so bright and inviting!

I hope you’ll check this one out. It’s a pretty cool board book to share and enjoy. 🙂

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Music, Music History, Diversity, Family, Emotions, Friendship, Relationships, Vocabulary, Humor
Book Info: Music Is… by Brandon Stosuy/Illustrated by Amy Martin, 2016 Little Simon (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9781481477024

What Do You See?

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Image Credit: Home Grown Books, Kyla Ryman/Wangechi Mutu

African contemporary artist Wangechi Mutu’s art hangs in galleries around the world and now little ones can experience her vivid and surreal art through this board book.

What I like about What Do You See? is that it’s a “seek & find” book and an introduction to contemporary art. There are many books that introduce children to art/artists but what stands out about this one is the energy of Mutu’s work and the clean design of the book. Each page has very simple text; a line that suggests what can be found in the art and a question to spark imagination. Giving a child something to find and also encouraging discussion about what they see is important for development.

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Image Credit: Home Grown Books, Kyla Ryman/Wangechi Mutu

Each page highlights one section of Mutu’s piece, Le Noble Savage and the final page shows a more complete piece section of the artwork. Is it a woman? A creature stretching elegantly and powerfully? She mixes ink with collage; warm reds, purples and pinks burst on the pages. Because her art is so detailed, there’s much to discover. The format of the book is portrait instead of landscape, which works well for showcasing her art. Another excellent thing about this book is that a portion of sales go to Every Mother Counts. How great is that! 😀

It’s always a pleasure to see see black female illustrators thrive but it’s quite special to see a black female contemporary artist’s work made into a children’s book. Maybe this book will inspire families to check out Wangechi Mutu’s art in person!

Recommended for: Toddlers to Early Elementary
Great for: Imagination, Art, Contemporary Art, Seek & Find, Discussion, Diversity, Women, African Artists, Inspiration, Early Childhood Development
Book Info: What Do You See? written by Kyla Ryman/Featuring the artwork of Wangechi Mutu, 2016 Home Grown Books, ISBN: 9780997058703

Learn the Alphabet with Northwest Coast Native Art

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Image Credit: Native Explore (Native Northwest/Garfinkel Productions)

Something a little different & original for an ABC board book, yeah?

Native Northwest works to create quality learning tools for children. Native Explore (their division for children) works with Native artists and proceeds from their products go back to educators and indigenous learning programs. All the artists whose work is featured are listed on the back of the book by their name & nation. Because Native art is often appropriated, it’s encouraging to see a collection of authentic native art for children in such an approachable medium.

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Image Credit: Native Explore (Native Northwest/Garfinkel Productions)

I was drawn to this book because the images really pop! Little ones will enjoy the vibrant colors as they chew on the pages. The format is very simple; each page teaches a letter, a word and features an illustration. E is for a bright magenta Eagle and R is for a dynamic red, black and white Raven.

Another board book by this company that I really enjoy is Good Night World; in it we see all types of animals slow down and prepare for sleep. I hope you’ll take some time to check out their board books; here’s a link to their Educational Resources page. I really hope they’ll do a touch and feel board book next!

 

Recommended for: Babies and Toddlers
Great for: ABC, Early Learning, Early Childhood Development, Colors, Animals, Native Americans, Native Artists, Word Association
Book Info: Learn the Alphabet with Northwest Coast Native Art, 2010 Native Explore (Native Northwest/Garfinkel Productions), ISBN: 9781554761647

Strawberries Are Red

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Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Petr Horáček

This is such a charming little board book! Reading it puts a smile on my face so I hope little ones will love it just as much.

A simple concept executed well can make a memorable book and board books that keep it simple are usually the most effective for learning. In Strawberries Are Red, children can make a fruit salad while learning colors and fruits. Simple sentences like “Oranges are orange” are paired with vibrant watercolor and crayon illustrations. The crayon-resist watercolor illustrations really glow. The light outline of the crayon helps the fruit to stand out against the rich watercolor washes. So pretty!

I love the way Horáček designed the book. When you flip each page, you can see the fruit from the page before, building up fruits until the last page where suddenly…all the fruits are in a bowl! Yummy! Check out Strawberries Are Red; it’s perfect for summertime. Now I want a fruit salad…

 

Recommended for: Babies and Toddlers
Great for: Contrast, Colors, Fruit, First Concepts
Book Info: Strawberries Are Red by Petr Horáček, 2002 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763614614

Play * Learn * Do: Let’s Bake a Cake!

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Image Credit: Twirl Books (Chronicle Books), Anne-Sophie Baumann, Hélène Convert, Audrey Simon Maillot

Drumroll please…this is the first interactive board book I’m reviewing on my blog and I’m QUITE excited about it!

Twirl is a French publisher and their books are distributed through Chronicle Books here in the US. Their board books are very nicely illustrated and well designed. Similar to this one, there’s a My First Tool Box lift-the-flap activity book that’s also very engaging and cute.

Play * Learn * Do: Let’s Bake a Cake is perfect for little ones who love to help out in the kitchen or pretend to cook. There are handles on top for taking it on the go and the book takes children through preparation, baking and decoration of a cake. Older children can read the recipe to properly “measure” the flour and sugar and younger ones will enjoy the colors and moving the parts around; Let’s Bake a Cake! has some amazing paper engineering.

Baking is hard work so there are cute little mice to help you out! The illustrations in this book are very sweet, just like the raspberry sauce you’ll “pour” over the finished cake! Important baking and safety tips like carefully measuring, finding a grownup to set the oven and being careful of a hot pan are included for children to learn. I’m very happy with this interactive board book and I think little ones will enjoy pretending to make a cake! Check it out and get baking! Yum! 🙂

 

Recommended for: Toddlers, Early Readers
Great for: Cooking, Pretend Play, Vocabulary, Interactive, Imagination, Animals
Book Info: Learn * Play * Do: Let’s Bake a Cake!  Text & Interactive Conception by Anne-Sophie Baumann/Illustrated by Hélène Convert/Paper Engineering by Audrey Simon Maillot, 2016 Twirl Books (Chronicle Books), ISBN: 9791027601400

My Heart Fills With Happiness

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Image Credit: Orca Book Publishers, Monique Gray Smith/Julie Flett

I’m so glad to finally read this little book! Board book format is perfect for this story because it’s meant to be handled, loved and explored. My Heart Fills With Happiness is a much needed depiction of modern Native families; children’s publishing doesn’t have enough and I’m excited to welcome this story!

The families in this book are so happy and loving. Simple sentences accompany an illustration; children can study the art and work towards reading on their own. This story will evoke memories and inspire new memory-making in your family. Sometimes the simplest things put a smile on your face and make your heart full.

Julie Flett! I’ve already reviewed Wild Berries; I’ve expressed my love for her illustrations and once again, she’s created beautiful images to cherish. Her art paired with Monique Gray Smith’s lovely words (the font is also perfect!) is beautiful. This is a great new book to add to your collection and I hope it’ll be well loved alongside all your chewed up and cherished board books. 🙂

 

Recommended for: Babies, Toddlers, Early Readers
Great for: Family, Relationships, Siblings, Love, Everyday Life, Read-Aloud, Native Families, Nature, Happiness, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, Discussion, Vocabulary
Book Info: My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith/Illustrated by Julie Flett, 2016 Orca Book Publishers, ISBN: 9781554987290

Mini Myths: Be Patient, Pandora!

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Image Credit: Abrams Appleseed, Joan Holub/Leslie Patricelli

Oh I love clever books. Greek Mythology for babies and toddlers? Okay! Be Patient, Pandora! is my favorite in the Mini Myth Series though Don’t Get Lost, Odysseus just came out…

This series is inspired by classic Greek myths and each book teaches a simple but important lesson. In this one, Pandora just…can’t…stop herself from touching her mom’s big green box. Will her curiosity get the better of her? One little touch can’t hurt right? The words and sentences are very simple and to the point; perfect for toddlers and early readers. Holub uses several great verbs like leaning, sitting and bouncing and skillfully crafts a story with just a few key sentences.

Patricelli’s art work is, as usual, dynamic. She lays the bright acrylics down heavily and really knows how to use color. Little ones will love the illustrations. Pandora is so cute and naughty; she has the best expressions. [Spoiler Alert] I’m so glad that in this version Pandora’s box doesn’t open to reveal all the troubles of the world! What a relief. >_<

 

Recommended for: Babies, Toddlers, Early Readers
Great for: Humor, Lessons, Patience, Love, Family, Mythology, Vocabulary, Read Aloud, Clever
Book Info: Mini Myths: Be Patient, Pandora! by Joan Holub/Illustrated by Leslie Patricelli, 2014 Abrams Appleseed, ISBN: 9781419709517