Chicken in the Kitchen

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Image Credit: Lantana Publishing Ltd., Nnedi Okorafor/Mehrdokht Amini

A chicken in your kitchen is never a good thing. It can only lead to trouble, right? Anyaugo wakes up one night to a ruckus in her kitchen. ¬†She bravely gets out of bed and peeks around the kitchen door to find a massive chicken. Not only is the chicken making a mess, it’s getting awfully close to the food her mom & aunties made for The New Yam Festival the next day! Anyaugo seeks out her trickster friend Wood Wit, a nature spirit, who tells her to talk to the creature. She builds up her courage and discovers that the chicken is really a friendly Masquerade Spirit!! Masquerade Spirits come to town during festivals and this hungry one stopped by her kitchen for a snack. ūüėČ

What I love about this story is how it unabashedly celebrates Nigerian/Igbo culture. The chicken masquerade spirit and nature spirit are never referred to as “mythical creatures.” They are treated with respect, as they should be, and readers get a glimpse of the vibrant New Yam Festival on the last few pages of the book. Anyaugo protects the hard work of her mom and aunties by confronting the intimidating spirit. In the process, she makes a new friend. This #ownvoices book is magical, fun and refreshing. Nigerian American author Nnedi Okorafor’s storytelling is engaging and sweet. I hope to read more of her work soon!

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Image Credit: Lantana Publishing Ltd., Nnedi Okorafor/Mehrdokht Amini

Mehrdokht Amini’s mixed media illustrations are wonderfully detailed and rich. I’ve admired her work ever since I discovered¬†Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns in my bookstore.¬†She uses a palatte of reds, greens, blues and oranges for this book. Chicken masquerade spirit’s plummage is bright, majestic and eye-catching; the spirit easily blends into the other Yam Festival masquerades. Anyaugo has the rounded face and curious large almond eyes signature of Amini’s style. There are even clues in the illustrations to show readers how slippery Wood Wit really is!

This is a lovely book to share with your family and classroom. Enjoy! Now I really want some yams…

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Animals, Fear, Festivals, Spirits, Nigeria, Nigerian Culture, New Yam Festival, Problem Solving, Trickster Tales, OwnVoices, Diversity
Book Info: Chicken in the Kitchen by Nnedi Okorafor/Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini, 2015 Lantana Publishing Ltd., ISBN: 9780993225307

Dear Dragon

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Image Credit: Viking (Penguin Young Readers Group), Josh Funk/Rodolfo Montalvo

Like the dragon Blaise Dragomir, this excellent book has flown a bit under the radar. Josh Funk writes really amusing books and this is my favorite one so far! Dear Dragon has themes of kindness, inclusiveness and discovery; kids will enjoy watching these characters fall into friendship!

Blaise Dragomir¬†(dragon boy) and George Slair (human boy) are matched through a¬†poetry/pen-pal assignment in their classes. I love¬†how the language they use is formal at first but¬†as they get closer, it becomes more familiar.¬†The boys have no idea that they’re different species; their friendship grows over several months.¬†It’s fun to see¬†how each boy imagines the life of the other; different experiences lead to different perspectives. When Blaise reads about George building a fort with his dad, he imagines two dragons hammering A REAL FORT, that protects a castle! He has no idea that George’s fort is built of cardboard (and that he is human! ūüėČ ¬†). Their classes finally meet in the spring¬†and though it’s quite a surprise, they roll with it!

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Image Credit: Viking (Penguin Young Readers Group), Josh Funk/Rodolfo Montalvo

 

Though dragons and humans don’t have the best history of peaceful interactions, these boys overcome that and recognize the goodness in each other. Children can relate to overcoming differences (and learned¬†prejudices and fear) to connect with others. Also, at first Blaise and George don’t enjoy writing much,¬†but though the project, they gain more confidence in their skills (as they gain a friend).

As with most excellent¬†picture books, the synergy¬†between the text and illustrations is phenomenal. Montalvo’s watercolor, ink and graphite illustrations are warm and so detailed! I happened to see the book’s cover months before it published¬†and I remember being SO¬†excited to see a brown boy with bushy hair! It’s not common to see brown boys on the cover of picture books so I’m glad to have one more gem to recommend. Montalvo brings Funk’s writing to life in a beautiful way.

I really enjoyed Dear Dragon and I hope you will too! In addition to being a very good read aloud, this book is perfect for pen-pal projects. Maybe a new (dragon?) friend is waiting…

 

 

Recommended for: 1st Grade and up
Great for: Friendship, Open-Mindedness, Courage, Acceptance, Read-Aloud, Rhyme, Humor, Pen-Pal, Inclusiveness, Diversity, Adventure, Animals
Book Info: Dear Dragon: A Pen-Pal Tale by Josh Funk/Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016 Viking (Penguin Young Readers Group), ISBN: 9780451472304

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. ūüėČ

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

City Shapes

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Image Credit: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), Diana Murray/Bryan Collier

I first saw this book cover online many, many months before it published and I couldn’t forget it. How could I?? Her smiling brown face is full of joy and wonder. Now I finally have my own copy of this book and it is a delight.

Summer is starting to wind down and like the little girl in this book, kids are holding onto the last bits of fun before they head back to school. City kids will really relate to City Shapes;¬†it celebrates the beauty of city-living and also teaches shapes! In the story, a mama pigeon and an imaginative girl¬†spend the¬†day exploring their¬†city. The dynamic spreads and¬†gorgeous¬†rhyming sentences teach children about shapes¬†found in the city.¬†Children will enjoy reading Murray’s rhymes and searching for shapes in the illustrations. Maybe they’ll even be inspired to search for shapes in their own home.

This book sounds beautiful read aloud. I hope families, teachers and librarians are reading it to their children. Murray’s flowing words are enhanced by Collier’s colorful and dreamy art.¬†Collier’s signature watercolor and collage art has so many layers for children to explore; he truly brings the city to life. I especially love that the girl in the book is his daughter! In a time when we need many more excellent books staring black children, I’m so happy to have this one to love and recommend.

What a lovely book! With¬†every read you’ll find something new to enjoy. ‚̧

 

P.S. Towards the end of the book, look for the tiny photograph of Collier’s daughter! ūüėÄ

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Imagination, Discovery, City Life, Creativity, Shapes, Animals, Friendship, Read-Aloud, Diversity, African American, Black Girl Magic
Book Info: City Shapes by Diana Murray/Illustrated by Bryan Collier, 2016 Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ISBN: 9780316370929

 

 

 

 

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

Have You Seen Elephant?

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Image Credit: Gecko Press USA (Gecko Press Ltd), David Barrow

I finally got my hands on this book, y’all! ¬†I spotted it on Twitter months ago and it’s finally available in the US. *victory*

Do you know how refreshing it is to open a picture book that’s obviously about¬†an interracial family…but doesn’t focus on it? We’re starting to see more books like this (The Airport Book)¬†in children’s literature. Don’t get me wrong; books that focus on race are necessary but it’s also important to have ones that present multiculturalism as norm. The endpapers & first page of the book show a wall¬†of family photographs¬†that tell us a bit about the family’s genealogy.

In Have You Seen Elephant?, a boy is invited to play a thrilling game of hide and seek. Elephant kindly warns him that he’s very good. He’s up for the challenge though¬†and it turns out that Elephant is rather good. My goodness, Elephant is in the most obvious places but no one sees him. ūüėČ After they finish their game, Turtle asks if they want to play tag…he’s quite speedy.

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Image Credit: Gecko Press USA (Gecko Press Ltd), David Barrow

I like this book very much. Not only is it very sweet, it’s playful, hopeful and kind.¬†They’re all very good friends and care about each other. The text is sparse but it allows the illustrations to speak loudly. Children can fill in the gaps and decide for themselves whether Elephant is really good at hiding or if the boy and his family are very generous. Barrow’s illustrations are heartwarming; he uses lots of warm browns, golds, oranges and reds. There’s a lot of texture in his technique; spirals radiate out from light sources and scratches, splotches and drips are on every page.

I think you’re going to really enjoy this book. I can’t wait to see what’s next from David Barrow!

P.S. Pay attention to the endpapers for laughs. ūüėÄ

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Friendship, Animals, Love, Diversity, Multiculturalism, Discussion, Read-Aloud, Humor
Book Info: Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow, 2016 Gecko Press USA (Gecko Press Ltd), ISBN: 9781776570089

It’s Ramadan, Curious George

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hena Khan/Mary O’Keefe

It’s the month of Ramadan, a time for Muslims around the world to pray, reflect, and fast with loved ones. Last night at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, at least fifty people were killed and the shooter seems to be Muslim. ¬†In this time of sadness, this tragedy¬†has already resulted in increased Islamophobia and racism towards Muslims in our country.

We MUST love and understand each other. Hatred has no place here.

It’s Ramadan, Curious George is¬†an important and sweet addition to the Curious George book series. We need more books that are mirrors for Muslim children and this is one more to add to your shelf. There’s already a Happy Hanukkah, Curious George,¬†many Christmas books, and now we have one to celebrate Ramadan!¬†I hope this cute book makes it into the hands of Muslim children who need it and any child who wants to learn more about¬†Ramadan and Islam.

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hena Khan/Mary O’Keefe

It’s Ramadan, Curious George is a¬†tabbed board book; its sturdy size and format is perfect for little hands to grasp. Each tab highlights a chapter of the story with a small illustration. The story follows Curious George, The Man with the Yellow Hat and their new friend, Kareem. Kareem is going to try fasting for Ramadan for the first time and Curious George is actually helpful! ¬†ūüėČ ¬†He cooks delicious food with Kareem’s family¬†and helps Kareem make it through his tough first day of fasting. The book also discusses the importance of sharing with others; Curious George helps with a food drive at the mosque and even inspires a new tradition! At the end of Ramadan, they happily celebrate Eid together and Curious George is glad to have experienced it all.

Hena Khan (Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns) did another great job with this one. Her informative rhyming text with Mary O’Keefe Young’s sweet illustrations is perfect. You’ll want to keep this book on your¬†shelf not only for Ramadan, but all year long. Books like this are not only important for children who need them but are¬†also important¬†for fostering respect and understanding of different cultures¬†at an early age. I hope you’ll enjoy it with your family!

Ramadan Mubarak!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Friendship, Community, Ramadan, Religion, Relationships, Love, Respect, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, Cultural Relativism, Cultures, Understanding, Discussion, Animals, Read-Aloud
Book Info: It’s Ramadan, Curious George¬†by Hena Khan/Illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young, 2016 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,¬†ISBN: 9780544652262

Teeny Tiny Toady

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Image Credit: Sterling Children’s Books (Sterling Publishing), Jill Esbaum/Keika Yamaguchi

Can you say “Modern Classic?” The story and art feel old in the best way. This book feels warm and happy,¬†like sitting snuggled on Grandma’s lap as she reads you¬†The Three Little Pigs¬†and a slice of her chicken pot pie sits comfortably in your belly. Yup,¬†Teeny Tiny Toady feels familiar…and EPIC.

The story starts in a super dramatic way; a big bad human picks Mama Toad up and traps her in a bucket! Cute little Teeny Toady rushes to get her seven big, burly, body-building older brothers to help her but they insist¬†they can handle the situation themselves. The Toady Bros struggle to rescue their mother; every one of their attempts fail and of course they’re¬†too busy to listen to their teeny¬†sister’s suggestions! Before they know it, they’re in trouble too and Teeny must find¬†courage & strength to become a¬†Teeny Hero. There’s something to be said for brains over brawn and her Mama believes in her from the very beginning. ūüėČ

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Image Credit: Sterling Children’s Books (Sterling Publishing), Jill Esbaum/Keika Yamaguchi

Esbaum’s rhyming text is delightful and sounds great when read aloud. She’s a very good storyteller; the pacing, drama, humor and¬†characters are perfect. This story teaches an important lesson for little ones; have faith in yourself and even if you’re little, you can do big things! Yamaguchi’s digital illustrations are magical; lush greens, soft colors and warty chubby toad bodies fill the pages. The toads ARE.SO.CUTE. My goodness. I love how she illustrates and characterizes them; their expressions and personalities are great and feel inspired by Disney and/or anime (especially their eyes!).

One of my favorite spreads is when Teeny thinks up her plan; Esbaum’s text floats and curls from left to right alongside the swirls¬†of leaves and color straight to Teeny’s brain! What a great story! You will fall in love with this family. Teeny Tiny Toady¬†deserves¬†a spot near your favorite fairy tales and fables.

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Fables, Lessons, Inner Strength, Creative Thinking, Determination, Rhyme, Family, Relationships, Siblings, Girl Power, Read-Aloud, Animals, Love
Book Info: Teeny Tiny Toady¬†by Jill Esbaum/Illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi, 2016 Sterling Children’s Books (Sterling Publishing),¬†ISBN: 9781454914549

My Blue is Happy

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Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Jessica Young/Catia Chien

My Blue is Happy is refreshing. It looks at how we connect colors to different emotions/experiences and how color carries different meaning for everyone. How the young girl in the story interprets her world¬†isn’t so black and white. HER blue isn’t sad…it’s happy and joyful.¬†She doesn’t see yellow as her mother does, cheerful and warm; her yellow is worried and frantic. She sees colors from a very rich¬†perspective and they are¬†special to her.¬†As we follow the girl’s colorful daily life, we meet her family members too and get to see¬†how they interpret color.

Jessica Young’s writing is pretty and visual. Good thing she was paired with Catia Chien¬†whose warm acrylic illustrations work perfectly with the text. She uses scratchy, long streaks of color to create magical scenes. Chien is not afraid of color, she uses it confidently. This book has great potential in the classroom and home to spark creative thinking and lively discussion about color! It could also work well in therapy and counseling because it very vividly discusses emotion and feeling. I hope you’ll enjoy this one as much as I did! ¬†ūüôā

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Emotions, Perspective, Personalities, Colors, Similes, Relationships, Family, Quiet Moments, Discussion, Animals
Book Info: My Blue is Happy by Jessica Young/Illustrated by Catia Chien, 2013 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763651251

Silver Linings: It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon & A Good Day

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Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random), Jarrett J Krosczka

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Image Credit: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), Kevin Henkes

Searching for the positive, for the silver lining, can be pretty rough. When you’re knee deep in sadness and frustration, it’s almost impossible to see the bright side. A big part of growing up is learning how to bounce back from these moments¬†and A Good Day and It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon¬†beautifully & creatively discuss¬†this topic for children.

In A Good Day, four young animals have a bad day; little yellow bird loses his favorite feather and the other animals also face frustrating situations. But then, things slowly get better for each of them and even a little girl’s day brightens. This small book packs a big punch; it’s about relationships, interconnectedness and perspective. Sometimes things don’t get better but usually they do. The story is lovely in its pacing, format and emotion.¬†The art is, as usual for Henkes, strikingly simple. Children will enjoy looking at the bright watercolor animals. I love how he draws their furrowed brows!¬† Continue reading