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. 😉

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 InfoChicken in the Kitchen by Nnedi Okorafor/Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini, 2015 Lantana Publishing Ltd., ISBN: 9780993225307

Ellie Ultra: An Extra-Ordinary Girl

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Image Credit: Stone Arch Books (Capstone), Gina Bellisario/Jessika von Innerebner

What a cute series!

Ellie Ultra is super in every way but when she switches from home school to public school, she suddenly feels out of place. She’s a little too strong, quick and brilliant for her teachers and classmates, so making friends is more difficult than she expects. It doesn’t help that Dex Diggs is a bully (and most definitely a budding-super villain)! When Ellie “borrows” her parents’ Ultra Remote invention, she can finally turn off her “super” but being “ordinary” doesn’t feel quite right. When evil Captain Blob & the Goo Crew invade her classroom, she has to make a difficult decision. Should she continue to fit in by suppressing her powers, or let them loose and save the day??

This book is very fast paced; the story whooshes by in a flurry of action. Though the pace is fast, Bellisario does a nice job of fleshing out her characters. Ellie’s parents are engaged, supporting and loving of their super girl. Ellie is always eager to help others, no matter what. Her selflessness makes her a good person, and a good super hero-in-training. Kids can relate to the issues Ellie faces in this book like being different, fitting in, making new friends and going from home school to public school. Von Innerebner’s digital illustrations are vivid and engaging. I love how she illustrates Ellie; her expressions and body language showcase her confidence and can-do attitude.

I love that Ellie is a Black girl! This series has a healthy dose of “black girl magic” especially since Ellie is a super hero! It’s so great to see. Bellisario also includes a glossary, discussion points and writing exercises to help children connect the story to real life. It’s not easy settling into a new space when you feel different from everyone else. It’s also not easy when the people you desperately want to connect to make you feel odd. There’s a lot to discuss in this story!

I hope you’ll check this one out! It’s a nice new series for beginning readers and if your child enjoys this one, there are three more in the series!!

 

 

Recommended for: 1st-2nd Grade and up
Great for: Friendship, Confidence, Family, Beginning Readers, Super Heroes, Black Girl Magic, Determination, Problem-Solving, School Life
Book Info: Ellie Ultra: An Extra-Ordinary Girl by Gina Bellisario/Illustrated by Jessika von Innerebner, 2016 Stone Arch Books (Capstone), ISBN: 9781496531445

 

Math Curse

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Image Credit: Viking (Penguin Group), Jon Scieszka/Lane Smith

To celebrate 40 POSTS on Read It Real Good, I invited my good friend Nida to write about one of her favorite books. I met Nida while teaching English in Korea and she is particularly great with languages and linguistics.  I didn’t know about Math Curse until she started raving about it BUT I do love Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, or as I like to call them, the 90s Picture Book Dream Team. You might be familiar with their classics The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man. Welcome Nida and please enjoy her review:


Have you ever sat in a class (or meeting) and stared at the clock, counting the minutes, pondering and planning the rest of your day? If the answer is yes, then welcome to the Math Curse.

Math Curse opens with Mrs. Fibonacci telling her students, “You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem.” One girl discovers just how true those words are as she wakes up the next day to find that everything around her makes her think in mathematical terms. The reader follows her thoughts throughout the day where she can’t help but regard everything in her daily routine as a problem to solve, including her other subject classes. Despairing that she’ll never escape the math curse put upon her by her math teacher, she finally solves the ultimate math problem (with the help of a clever little pun) that frees her. She learns that although math may be everywhere, it’s no longer something to dread.

Math Curse is one of my favorite books ever. I love books that are designed to make you think, and this book definitely does that! But it’s not all about the math. The book is also filled with clever wordplay that will appeal to any little linguists out there. The best part is that this book can grow with a child. I first read it when I was 8, before I knew what the Fibonacci sequence, binary numbers, or the quadratic formula were. When I finally learned about those things in middle school, I remembered the Math Curse, went back to read it again, and appreciated it on a whole new level. Even as an adult, I am often plagued by a math curse as I try to figure out how to do everything I need to do within the hours of the day. Talk about a book for all ages!

This book will obviously be a hit with anyone already interested in math or language, but I also highly recommend it for parents who wish to engage their children with an interactive, relatable story. It’s important to understand: It’s not about getting the right answers (which can be found on the back cover, by the way), but rather exercising your brain and challenging yourself to see things in different ways.

 

Recommended for: 1st/2nd grade and up
Great for: Mathematics, Problem Solving, Language, Discussion, School Life, Frustration
Book Info: Math Curse by Jon Scieszka/Illustrated by Lane Smith, 1995 Viking (Penguin Group), ISBN: 9780670861944