A Bike Like Sergio’s

 

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Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Maribeth Boelts/Noah Z. Jones

In A Bike Like Sergio‘s, Ruben’s family has trouble making ends meet and money is always tight. His best friend Sergio has a slick new bike and doesn’t understand why Ruben can’t just ask his parents to buy him one too. Ruben, like many children around the world, already understands the necessity of being choosy about every purchase in order for his family to survive.

One day at the grocery store, a lady drops “just a dollar” that turns out to be a hundred and Ruben’s thoughts go straight to buying a new bike!! But when he sees his mother crossing items off their grocery list (they can’t afford all of it), he starts to feel guilty; the bill suddenly weighs heavy in his pocket. After Ruben scares himself by thinking he’s lost the money, and his dream bike, he develops empathy for the woman when he sees her again in the store…What’s the right decision to make when you’re so close to having something you desire, and maybe even deserve?

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The Girl With a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran

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Image Credit: Barefoot Books, Rita Jahanforuz/Vali Mintzi

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

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

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

GirlWithaBraveHeart

Image Credit: Barefoot Books, Rita Jahanforuz/Vali Mintzi

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

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

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

 

Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat: A Chanukah Story

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, Naomi Howland

 

Happy Chanukah!

I recently discovered this lovely book about Chanukah and latkes. Who doesn’t like latkes?? So delicious.

In this folktale, Sadie lives in a drafty house with her four little brothers and they’re so poor that they always worry about their next meal.  On the first night of Chanukah, as Sadie collects firewood, she meets an old woman and kindly offers the wood to her. For her kindness, the old woman gives her a magical frying pan and tells her the words to use it but she must remember to keep them a secret! When Sadie puts the pan on the stove and whispers the words, a feast of latkes appear in the pan. On the last day of Chanukah, her naughty brothers wait for her to leave the house then try to use the pan. But of course they didn’t hear the words correctly and soon the entire village is overflowing with tender, salty, delicious latkes!!

Howland’s gouache and colored pencil illustrations are folksy and beautiful. The story takes place in Russia and she includes colorful folk art flower borders in the illustrations. The character of Sadie is based on an old photograph of her grandmother and the story itself is inspired by The Magic Porridge Pot by The Brothers Grimm. Howland is also kind enough to include a recipe for latkes at the end of the book and there’s a note about Chanukah/Chanukah traditions for readers who aren’t familiar with the holiday.

Happy Chanukah! I hope you’ll seek out this cute story about family, culture and sharing with community. I’m off to find some latkes…

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Chanukah, We Need Diverse Books, Cultural Diversity, Holidays, Food Culture, Religions, Family, Folktale, Morals, Magic, Kindness, Family, Community, Celebration, Storytelling, Russia, Latkes
Book Info: Latkes, Latkes Good to Eat:  A Chanukah Story by Naomi Howland, 2004 (Reprint) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780618492954

The Stories Julian Tells

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Image Credit: Bullseye Books (Alfred A. Knopf), Ann Cameron/Ann Strugnell

The Stories Julian Tells is fantastic. It’s a story full of poetic lines, vibrant imagery and is simply magical. It opens with Julian and Huey’s father making a lemon pudding for their mother; you’ve never seen such enthusiastic cooking! He says “Leave the pudding alone!” and then almost instantly falls asleep on a chair. His boys disobey of course, one taste leads to another and before they know it, the whole pudding is gone! The Stories Julian Tells features several interconnected stories that showcase Julian’s fantastic stories, his brother Huey’s imagination, their parents’ love for them and friendship. I love the Catalog Cats! Who knew invisible cats help your garden grow?

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New Cover…cute but I’m partial to the original

This short novel is an excellent example of a story that features a family of color but doesn’t focus on the fact that they are a family of color and is not “historical.” They’re just a super cool Black family in the 80s! Perhaps many readers grew up with this book and love it. Ann Strugnell’s illustrations are magical and suit the story perfectly. Newer editions have an “updated” cover but I really love the original. The Stories Julian Tells is a great read aloud book and is also good for the classroom; so many discussions to be had about Julian and Huey and their fabulous stories.

 

Recommended for: 1st Grade and up
Great for: Diversity, Fantasy, Friendship, Morals, Discussion, Family, Read-Aloud, African-American
Book Info: The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron/Illustrated by Ann Strugnell, 1989 Random House Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780394828923

Virgil and Owen

Image Credit: Bloomsbury  Children's Books, Paulette Bogan

Image Credit: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Paulette Bogan

Virgil and Owen is a quirky and funny little book; definitely one of my favorites this year. Virgil the penguin has control issues. He’s very possessive when it comes to friendship and decides to keep a polar bear that he finds (without asking him how he feels about it of course). As Virgil leads the polar bear around, the polar bear has a great time playing with the terns and other animals but Virgil does NOT have fun. Virgil gets angrier and angrier and keeps pulling the bear away from the fun. Virgil reaches his boiling point when the polar bear has had enough! Luckily, Virgil learns his lesson and realizes that real friendship is about kindness.

Bogan’s illustrations are so sweet; the little penguins, terns and seals are adorable. She uses watercolors and pens to create a blustery arctic backdrop. Pay attention to how she draws expressions; they’re pretty hilarious! This story is great for discussing emotions and how to make friends. It’s also excellent for story time and learning animals. Remember…the next time you find a polar bear, be kind to him and you just might make a lasting friend!

Recommended for: Toddlers and up
Great for: Morals, Emotions, Friendship, Animals, Storytime, Humor
Book Info: Virgil and Owen by Paulette Bogan, 2015 Bloomsbury Children’s Books, ISBN: 9781619633728

Everyone Loves Bacon

Image Credit: Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan), Kelly DiPucchio/Eric Wight

Image Credit: Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan), Kelly DiPucchio/Eric Wight

Recently the World Health Organization said we should limit the amount of bacon we eat because it (and other processed meats) can lead to cancer…But guess what? We can still READ about bacon!!

Kelly DiPucchio’s latest book, Everyone Loves Bacon, is a hoot. Bacon is full of himself. He’s a hot-shot with an ego issue. He knows that everyone loves him; how can they not? He’s amazing. He has tons of adoring fans (including Pancake) and even a few enemies (French Toast is one). He’s the life of the party BUT Bacon makes a big mistake. He starts to forget about his friends when his popularity goes to his crispy head. You can’t forget about your friends Bacon!

Eric Wight’s illustrations are wonderfully retro and bright. The story takes place at an old school diner so we get to see the old diner tables, glass straw dispensers, mini coin jukeboxes and all the nostalgic goodness of greasy spoon living. Also, I’m a sucker for cute illustrations, especially cute food with faces. Ugh! They get me EVERY time. I really love this book with all its puns and silly humor and I hope you will too.

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Humor, Discussion, Morals
Book Info: Everyone Loves Bacon by Kelly DiPucchio/Illustrated by Eric Wight, 2015 Farrar Straus Giroux (Macmillan), ISBN: 9780374300524

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters

Image Credit: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, John Steptoe

Image Credit: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, John Steptoe

Can we just take a moment to admire how beautiful the cover is? It’s easy to see why this book won a 1988 Caldecott Honor Award. This is one of my absolute favorite books from my childhood because it was one of the first books in which I saw a reflection of myself. Look at that beautiful black girl on the front!

Author/illustrator John Steptoe created this African-Cinderella story after being inspired by African folktales published in a collection called Kaffir Folktales by G.M. Theal in 1895. Theal was a South African historian who also felt it was his duty as a Christian White male to civilize the Africans. So from African roots to colonization to a Black artist living in Brooklyn, these stories traveled and inspired. Steptoe created a book that celebrates Africa. He uses water soluble inks applied by brush and pen and with this technique, his illustrations glow. They are so beautifully vibrant!

In Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, Mufaro has two daughters named Manyara and Nyasha. Manyara is a rotten person and treats her humble and kind sister Nyasha horribly. One day it’s announced that the Great King is looking for a new wife and only the most worthy woman will become his Queen. Manyara’s selfishness catches up with her and Nyasha’s gentle nature and kindness give her all the treasures she deserves. This twist on the western Cinderella tale is very sweet and is full of morals for people of all ages to learn from. If you have a child who loves Cinderella stories, add this one to their collection! You’ll enjoy reading it together.

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Fairytales, Cultural Diversity, Diversity, Morals, History, Discussion
Book Info: Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe, 1987 Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, ISBN: 9780688040451