Mini Myths: Be Patient, Pandora!

BePatientPandora

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

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Josephine

Image Credit: Chronicle Books, Patricia Hruby Powell/Christian Robinson

A passionate woman full of energy, charisma and magic was Josephine Baker.

Patricia Hruby Powell uses the metaphor of volcano to describe Josephine’s personality and I think this is perfect. Ever since a little girl, she bubbled and popped and fizzled with pent up energy to perform and dance. She was born poor in segregated St. Louis to a single mother who also loved to dance. They shared a love of vaudeville. As a child she started out in the group The Jones Family but quickly moved on to The Dixie Steppers. Even in a chorus line she stood out with her distinct, silly style. She got hitched, went to broadway and used her smarts to get onstage and SHINE.

Look how spunky and charming she is in the film Zouzou (1934)!

Though she loved to perform, Josephine was tired of segregation and just barely getting by. She got the chance to head to Paris where as soon as she stepped off the steam ship, she wasn’t discriminated against because of her color and felt truly beautiful! She took Paris by storm, charming the entire city, headlining shows, staring in movies and drawing crowds with her energy and risqué banana skirts. She was in every way fabulous, scandalous and daring. When war came she spied for France and became a hero.

As she got older, she remarried and adopted twelve children from all over the world; her rainbow tribe. Though she worked hard to support her children and keep up her lavish lifestyle, she was put out of their mansion, the bills too much to pay. Luckily her friends helped her family and years later, at sixty-seven years old, she decided to give the US one more try. It was a success! America loved her and dear Josephine danced herself to eternal sleep.

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Image Credit: Chronicle Books, Patricia Hruby Powell/Christian Robinson

The rhythm and energy of the writing in this book suits Josephine’s personality. It’s broken very cleverly into “acts” of her life. Robinson’s illustrations, as usual, are vivid and beautiful. His signature long bodied figures are perfect for Josephine’s limber body. The book opens with a red curtain, each “act” is introduced by a scene on a stage and finally, after we finish reading the story, the red curtain returns, flowers stewn on the floor below it. I love this touch. It brings the story full circle; she lived for performance. Robinson says in the end notes that he’s been connected to Josephine Baker’s story ever since he was young and it’s very evident in the loving way he depicts her.

Josephine has become one of my favorite biography picture books. It’s one that my bookstore never carried and I kept reading about online. I kept thinking “I’ve GOT to read that book!” After reading Josephine (or maybe even during, like I did), you’ll want to look up photographs and videos of this AMAZING woman. What a woman she was…

 

Recommended for: 2nd grade and up
Great for: Dance, Vaudeville, African-American, Segregation, Determination, Black Girls Rock, Black Girl Magic, Confidence, Courage, Rhythm, Energy, Paris, Black History Month, Black History Month Children’s Books, Non-Fiction, Discussion, Biography
Book Info: Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell/Illustrated by Christian Robinson, 2014 Chronicle Books, ISBN: 9781452103143

My Two Blankets for Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

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Woo Hoo! 😉

 

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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’s encouraging to see. It’s 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’s frustrated by her confusion and she feels like she’s losing her identity. At home, she’s able to soothe herself under a “blanket” 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.

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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! 🙂

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 PublishingNY 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 SoupI’m Not the NannyInCulture ParentKid 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!

 

The Sea Tiger

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

The illustrations are gorgeous, right? 🙂

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! 🙂

 

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

 

Remy and Lulu

 

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Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books), Kevin Hawkes/Hannah E. Harrison

Art has always been an integral part of my life so when I read this book for the first time, I was delighted. It’s very silly and endearing. Hawkes is a great storyteller.

In Remy and Lulu, Lulu meets a painter named Remy and they become friends. Remy is VERY confident in his art and claims to paint the “essence of a person, not their likeness” (his art is a blur) but his patrons are always disappointed and angered by his art! One day during a session, Remy stops to rest and Lulu picks up a brush and takes off painting. At first his patrons are angry but then they spot the tiny, meticulous masterpiece in the corner and are ecstatic! They thank Remy and pay him double and he’s reassured that painting from his heart will lead to great results (and money in his pocket and food in their bellies!)

Remy (and Lulu) becomes very famous but he has bad eyesight, so he never notices Lulu’s paintings UNTIL he has a commission from an optometrist who gifts him with new glasses. Finally his eyes are opened to the truth of their fame and he is angry and bitter and forgets about his good friend. Luckily, Remy comes to realize just how important friendship is when Lulu helps him find himself again.

Kevin Hawkes’ paintings are great; the scenes of the French countryside are beautiful and inviting. His style stands out with its bold color and strokes but so does Hannah E. Harrison’s. Her miniature, highly detailed animal paintings are gorgeous. Harrison’s oil paintings add something special to the book, similar to how Lulu is the best business partner and friend Remy could ask for. Check out her book Bernice Gets Carried Away which is also AWESOME and highlights her detailed style.

Be sure to read this story with your little budding artist and head out to the country side to paint like Remy and Lulu!

P.S. The story actually begins on the endpapers (when you first open the book)! Look at Lulu’s sad expression as the beautiful paintings are taken away. 😦


Recommended for
: All Ages
Great for: Humor, Art, Friendship, Determination, Dogs, Animals, Dreams, France
Book Info: Remy and Lulu written by Kevin Hawkes/Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes and Hannah E. Harrison, 2014 Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books), ISBN: 9780449810859

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

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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

A Letter for Leo

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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

This Day in June

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Image Credit: Magination Press (American Psychological Association), Gayle E. Pitman/Kristyna Litten

What a neat little book. The story is very simple but there’s quite a lot to experience if you soak in the illustrations and take time to read the guides at the end. This Day in June celebrates LGBT Pride celebrations and is a vibrant depiction of unity, love and acceptance. From “This day in June, Parade starts soon!” to “All Invited, All Excited” each page shows an aspect of a LGBT pride parade and all the fun, excitement and inclusion that it involves.

Rainbow colors, all types of families, confetti, “Born this Way” signs, people embracing, smiles galore and vibrantly dressed parade goers fill the pages and Litten’s illustrations are so happy and diverse. At the end of the book, there’s a Reading Guide that breaks down every page to give readers more context and information about the history of the parade. I recommend reading these notes because they’re interesting and some references in the story will make more sense after reading them if you weren’t previously knowledgeable. Parents might even consider reading the notes to themselves before reading the story to children to fluff up the presentation while reading aloud.

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Image Credit: Magination Press (American Psychological Association), Gayle E. Pitman/Kristyna Litten

Because this book is published by the American Psychological Association, there’s also a Note to Parents and Caregivers in the back of the book. It discusses how This Day in June can be helpful in promoting discussion about the LGBT community AND there are notes about how to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity to children of various ages. Picture books are always great catalysts for discussion and learning but with these extra tools included, teachers and parents have an extra guide. Get ready for great discussions about important issues of identity, love, expression and celebration!

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Celebration, Parades, LGBT Community, Discussion, Pride Parade, Family, Friendship, Colors, Read-Aloud, Non-Fiction
Book Info: This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman/Illustrated by Kristyna Litten, 2014 Magination Press (American Psychological Association), ISBN: 9781433816581

Here I Am

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Image Credit: Picture Window Books (Capstone Young Readers), Patti Kim/Sonia Sánchez

Whether escaping war, oppression, famine or discrimination, the United States has long been a place for new beginnings for people all over the world. Safe in our homes, it can be hard to put ourselves in the shoes of others, in the shoes of people who are fleeing their old life to make something better. Can you imagine being plucked from your home and while trying to hold on to what you know and understand, being placed in an entirely new (and sometimes scary) environment?

Reading Here I Am reminded me of the struggles of Syrian refugees trying to make new homes in various countries around the world. In this book, a young boy and his family leave Korea to make a new home in the US. This wordless picture book is inspired by the author Patti Kim’s experience leaving Korea at four years old to travel to the US. Her story, combined with Sonia Sánchez’s expressive and energetic art, is a moving tale of immigration.

In Here I Am, a child steps off a plane with his red seed from home tucked safely inside his pocket. It’s easy to see his confusion and reluctance to adjust to his new life. The words on sign posts and restaurants are a jumbled mess and all he hears from his teacher is “Blah Blah Blah” but…his red seed is comfort. He holes away in his family’s apartment, not ready to explore UNTIL…he drops his precious seed out the window and a girl picks it up and goes off with it! As he rushes down the stairs and begins to explore his city, he realizes how fascinating his new home is. Like his seed, he blooms and grows with his new friend, the new connection he makes in his new home.

This book is excellent for discussing difference, feelings and change and I hope you will keep this story with you!

Recommended for: Kindergarten and up
Great for: Diversity, Wordless, Moving, Immigration, Family, Friendship, We Need Diverse Books, Community, Discussion, Storyboarding
Book Info: Here I Am by Patti Kim/Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez, 2014 Picture Window Books (Capstone Young Readers), ISBN: 9781623700362

Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century

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Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books (Random House LLC), Carole Boston Weatherford/Raul Colón

 

Opera. Amazing Voice. Black Woman. World Domination. 😉

Carole Boston Weatherford’s latest biography book tells the story of the talented opera singer, Leontyne Price who started in the segregated South of Laurel, Mississippi and rose to stages around the world. As a young girl, Leontyne’s parents, knowing she’d grow up in a segregated world, encouraged her talent and made sure she knew she was loved and important!

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Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books (Random House LLC), Carole Boston Weatherford/Raul Colón

Music came naturally to Leontyne and Marian Anderson was her inspiration. After she studied voice in college, she began on Broadway and would later dominate the opera stage. She was the first black singer to star at La Scala in Italy and would continue to enchant and inspire people, especially people of color, around the world with her long and impressive career.

This picture book is well written. Weatherford’s voice is strong and she knows how to tell a story with style; “Leontyne was in the church choir, praising God with her gift. A song of promise welled up in Leontyne, as it had in young Marian.” I love it. Raul Colón…what a boss. He’s one of my favorites because his illustrations are always FIRE. He uses watercolor, colored pencils and warm colors. His signature scratch technique is on every page and whenever he depicts music, he uses a rainbow swirl of color that envelops Leontyne. The colorful music is a part of her.

If you’re looking for an excellent new biography book about an often overlooked but well respected Black woman, check this one out! It’s pretty special.

Recommended for: 1st-2nd grade and up
Great for: Diversity, Music, Non-Fiction, Discussion, Inspiration, Opera, We Need Diverse Books, African American, Family, Girl Power, History, Segregation, BlackGirlsRock, Biography
Book Info: Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century by Carole Boston Weatherford/Illustrated by Raul Colón, 2014 Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books (Random House LLC)), ISBN: 9780375856068