Long Time, No Write!

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Been busy, y’all…

Hi everyone,

*blows dust off website*

It’s been a while. Sheesh. I’ve been very, very busy doing some really cool stuff that I’ll share with you RIGHT NOW. ūüôā

 

  • I was appointed to the 2020 Randolph Caldecott Committee!! **AHHHHH** Anyone who’s been following my blog a while knows how passionate I am about picture books. This is a dream, y’all. And to be APPOINTED?! I’m SO grateful and EXCITED. Thank you ALSC for seeing my hard work and believing that I can do a great job on this committee. I can’t wait to spend 2019 reading and reflecting on EVERY ELIGIBLE PICTURE BOOK PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES! I’m also looking forward to excellent discussions with my committee members! This will mean I can’t blog about any 2019 book with illustrations next year but I hope to blog about older books.

 

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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

Cradle Me

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Image Credit: Star Bright Books, Inc., Debby Slier

Parents and caregivers know that babies like to look at all kinds of diverse faces. Faces that express different ranges of emotion are best. The vibrant baby photographs in this board book are great for developing little brains and sparking curiosity.

Cradle Me¬†celebrates Native American babies from eleven different tribes tucked sweetly in their cradle boards. What a GORGEOUS book! Babies are “peeking,” “crying” and “yawning” all while looking very cute. I love that Slier includes a blank spot on every page for readers to fill in matching words from languages other than English; that’s so important for literacy & language survival.

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Image Credit: Star Bright Books, Inc., Debby Slier

At the end of the book, there’s a short note about the history and continued use of cradle boards by Native mothers. Here, readers will also learn the names of the eleven tribes the babies are from. This is a sweet book to give to the babies in your life. Not only is it a “mirror” book for Native babies, it’s a simple and effective way to introduce Native cultures to non-Native children…and introduce them SUPER early. Every beautiful cradle board has the same basic shape but each one is a little different; there are various blanket patterns, frame designs and beadwork patterns.

Enjoy!

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Baby Faces, New Baby, Native American, Family, Emotions, Vocabulary, Diversity, OwnVoices, Early Childhood Development
Book Info: Cradle Me by Debby Slier, 2012 Star Bright Books, Inc., ISBN: 9781595722744

Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

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Image Credit: Farrar Strauss Giroux Books for Young Readers, Debbi Michiko Florence/Elizabet Vukovińá

Whew! It’s been a while, yeah? Today’s review celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! Let’s go!!

The first in a delightful new beginning chapter book series, Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen is¬†a great addition to your bookshelves. I’m so excited to welcome this¬†new series about a Japanese American girl &¬†her family.¬†Two areas of children’s literature¬†that are lacking in diverse/#ownvoices stories¬†are Beginning Chapter Book Series &¬†Board Books, so it’s encouraging to see this new series *hopefully* flourish.

Every year, Jasmine’s family hosts a¬†mochi-tsuki; they make sweet rice cakes to celebrate the New Year. But this year, OH THIS YEAR, Jasmine is determined to help make the mochi (even though she’s too young). Her bossy big sister Sophie is finally old enough to help the women roll the¬†mochi…but she can’t! She thinks up a clever plan though; she’ll help the men of¬†the family pound the mochi! In order to lift the big wooden hammer, she has to build up her strength first. Jasmine pushes against traditional gender roles¬†in order to accomplish her goal of joining the men in¬†the physical work.

I like how Florence invites¬†the reader inside of Jasmine’s home; we’re placed right in the middle of the drama, love and mochi-tsuki. In addition to dealing¬†with a bossy big sister, Jasmine¬†battles a visiting cousin who’s a bully!¬†Jasmine is eager, as most young children are, to do the same thing her big¬†sister does. She’s also eager to show everyone how capable she is. Readers follow¬†her ups and downs and by the end of the book, will admire and respect her¬†fortitude. Jasmine is one determined kid!

I love Elisabet Vukovińá’s ink and watercolor illustrations; they really enhance the story. She’s great¬†at characterization; Jasmine has confident body language and her spunky facial expressions are hilarious.

I hope your child will enjoy Jasmine’s story as much as I did! Don’t miss this one; libraries &¬†bookstores, please add this one to your beginning chapter book sections!

 

P.S. Coming July 11th, 2017,¬†Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen includes an easy mochi recipe at the back of the book! How fun! Also, the second book in the series, Jasmine Toguchi: Super Sleuth, releases the same day!! Say, what? ¬†ūüėČ

 

Recommended for: 2nd Grade and up
Great for: Family, Friendship, Siblings, Determination, Humor, Girl Power, Diversity, Japanese American Culture, Japanese Food, #Ownvoices
Book Info: Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen¬†by¬†Debbi Michiko Florence/Illustrated by Elizabet Vukovińá, 2017¬†Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780374304102

 

 

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

 

 

Conflicted

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child releases soon and the world is once again engulfed in Harry Potter Mania. People are starting to freak out, my bookstore is preparing for a Midnight Release, we have a cute display up and fans are getting that magical feeling again. This is the excitement that J.K. Rowling so brilliantly created for us; we’re anxious to return to the world of Harry Potter and see where she takes us next.

Except…I can’t get over how J.K. Rowling continues to ignore Native voices.

These voices are speaking up about her cultural appropriation in Magic in North America. I wrote a bit about it here,¬†around the time the first chapter was released on Pottermore, and though it’s been months, Rowling has been silent. No engagement and no dialogue. Her only response so far to this problematic piece of writing has been to block a Native person on Twitter.

There’s a very bitter taste in my mouth. I’ve been trying to re-read the series in anticipation of the new book and I just…can’t right now.

One great thing about the internet and social media is that it’s a powerful platform; Native authors and academics are discussing J.K. Rowling’s work and major news outlets have amplified their voices. This is a big deal.

I’ve also been thinking about the lines between respect, fandom and criticism of authors/illustrators. Sam Bloom wrote a really good piece about Lane Smith’s book¬†A Tribe of Kids, “playing indian” and critically examining an author’s work.¬†Authors make mistakes and they can also learn from them. Especially in children’s literature, it’s important to listen to criticism because THIS IS ABOUT THE KIDS. When you’re writing about/alluding to cultures that aren’t your own, you have the responsibility to be respectful.

With great power comes great responsibility, J.K. Right?