Ghost: Track #1

Ghost

Image Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), Jason Reynolds

Three things I love about this book are:

1) The voice

2) The careful and thorough characterization

3) How Reynolds depicts black male love

Ghost is a character you won’t forget because he’s very honest about everything. He messes up, you feel for him. He does something right, you cheer for him. As he explains, he has “scream inside.” Many people would quickly label Ghost a “bad kid” but what Reynolds does so well is remind readers that behind every person, behind every relationship, there’s a story. Usually the “bad kids” have experienced heavy things and could benefit from real, caring relationships.

Ghost likes sunflower seeds & world records and takes a lot of crap from kids at school. After his dad tries to shoot him and his mom, the harrowing experience leaves him even more shaken up. He learns to run that night (“…running ain’t nothing I ever had to practice. It’s just something I knew how to do.”) and later earns a spot on a track team without even trying. Tough as nails (not really) “Coach” takes Ghost under his wing and they become closer as Ghost learns more about himself. He leaves it all out on the track; pushing himself to be better, in every way. He becomes more disciplined, he finds community in his team, and though he continues to make stupid mistakes, he grows as a young man.

Reynolds does an amazing job of creating voice for this book. Ghost’s AAVE is prominent and used unabashedly, he’s silly and makes interesting connections in his head. I love it; it feels fresh. Reynold’s characters are all very interesting people; he includes little memorable details like…Ghost’s mom hates studying and pretends to study while they watch her favorite love stories. Though this is a slim book, there’s a great amount of character development that’ll keep you interested and excited about the next book in the series.

I love Coach!! He’s the father-figure Ghost needs and deserves in his life. Though he’s kind enough to bail Ghost out of sticky situations, he makes sure to teach him important lessons too. It not just about Ghost’s track potential for him; he recognizes early that Ghost needs guidance and love. He comes from the same rough place as Ghost and is committed to shaping him. This entire book is about connections and relationships but Ghost and Coach’s relationship is what shines the most.

I really enjoyed this book! I’m curious about how children of color are reading/enjoying it too. This is my first book by Jason Reynolds and I can’t wait to read more.

On your mark…set…go!!

P.S. OMG I reviewed a chapter book (it’s been a while)…lol.

Recommended for: 6th Grade and up
Great for: Family, Diversity, Role Models, African American, Sports, Track and Field, Middle School Life, Bullying, Friendship, Determination, Black Boys, Love, Relationships
Book Info: Ghost by Jason Reynolds/Jacket Illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton, 2016 Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9781481450157

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love

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Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade Books (Penguin Random House LLC), Michelle Edwards/G. Brian Karas

 

Happy New Year!! 😀

2017 is going to need a heaping spoonful of kindness. Kindness and consideration for others. But it’s not just “consideration” that we need, it’s holding people in our hearts. There’s a difference there. A deeper level of connection.

In A Hat for Mrs. Goldman, we meet Sophia and Mrs. Goldman who are close friends and neighbors. Mrs. Goldman has cared for and loved Sophia since she was a baby, when she knit her her first hat. Because Mrs. Goldman is so busy knitting for everyone else, she doesn’t have a hat to keep her head warm and Sophia decides to do something about it! Though she only vaguely remembers how to knit (her speciality is making pom-poms), she determinedly works on a special hat for her friend. It turns out a little lumpy but it’s beautiful because it’s a gift for her friend.

What I like so much about this book is that it’s very honest; two good friends love each other and work to take care of each other. The story is simple but touching storytelling and charming illustrations make it a winner. Children will learn Yiddish words like keppie (head) and mitzvah (good deed) too!  I love that Sophia is Latino and Mrs. Goldman is Jewish but it isn’t dwelled upon; there’s a great message of community and love here.

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Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade Books (Penguin Random House LLC), Michelle Edwards/G. Brian Karas

 

Karas’ sweet mixed media illustrations are full of gorgeous pale pinks, browns and blustery blues and greens. The illustrations are very soft, which adds to the comfortable, homey feel of the story. Sophia, with her determined expressions, brown skin and no-sense side-ponytail is a great character for children to emulate; even though she gets frustrated, she keeps working towards her goal!

Edwards even includes a pattern for Sophia’s Hat at the end of the book (Edwards writes for Lion Brand Yarn) so that children can dive into knitting themselves. What a sweet book about friendship and knitting! I hope you’ll enjoy this one as much as I did.

 

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Mitzvah, Love, Caring, Selflessness, Determination, Creative Thinking, Kindness, Relationships, Diversity, Community, Knitting
Book Info: A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards/Illustrated by G. Brian Karas, 2016 Schwartz & Wade Books (Penguin Random House LLC), ISBN: 9780553497106

Music Is…

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Image Credit: Simon Kids (Simon & Schuster), Brandon Stosuy/Amy Martin

I’m not a big fan of music. I know that sounds weird. I mean, I enjoy listening to music. Of course there are songs that take me back; the memories connected to those songs are so vivid. I always dance and move to a good song or beat. I’m just not INTO music. Some people live and breathe it; they always have headphones on and bump it loud in their car. They talk music, they anticipate music, they live music.

That’s not me but I appreciate music and I love how happily this book celebrates it.

Music Is…has flowing text that begins simply, becomes more lyrical and ends reflectively. Contrasting words like quiet & loud, slow & fast, lo-fi & hi-fi lead to lines like “cymbals that splash and ba-da-ba bass and rat-a-tat-tat drums on a rumbling stage.” Stosuy’s words are great for reading aloud and invite discussion. “How is music happy?” “What is lo-fi?” “What does ‘Music is for everyone’ mean?” are just a few questions that children might ask when reading this book and for that reason, it’s a book for all ages! Music-loving parents will want this book to share with their children.

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Image Credit: Simon Kids (Simon & Schuster), Brandon Stosuy/Amy Martin

 

Amy Martin’s illustrations are bold, eye-catching and so diverse. I love how she uses colors that contrast and highlight. Her art shows children that indeed, music is for everyone. Her illustrations match the rhythm of Stosuy’s words and the cover of the book is so bright and inviting!

I hope you’ll check this one out. It’s a pretty cool board book to share and enjoy. 🙂

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Music, Music History, Diversity, Family, Emotions, Friendship, Relationships, Vocabulary, Humor
Book Info: Music Is… by Brandon Stosuy/Illustrated by Amy Martin, 2016 Little Simon (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9781481477024

Celebrating Our Grandmothers

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Image Credit: Inhabit Media Inc., Susan Avingaq & Maren Vsetula/Charlene Chua

dontcallmegrandma

Image Credit: Carolrhoda Books (Lerner Publishing Group), Vaunda Micheaux Nelson/ Elizabeth Zunon

Today I’m doing a double review of two excellent books that explore relationships with grandmothers. Fishing with Grandma and Don’t Call Me Grandma are very different stories that feature loving and powerful grandmothers.

Don’t Call Me Grandma wasn’t what I expected it to be. From reading the title alone, I assumed it would be about a grandmother who doesn’t want to be reminded of her age but that’s not what it’s about at all! Vaunda Micheaux Nelson writes really great books by the way; I’ve already reviewed The Book Itch and Bad News for Outlaws. This book tells the story of a little girl and her relationship with her glamorous Great-Grandmother Nell. Great-Grandmother Nell has a strong personality; she’s very prickly but is also loving (in her own way). Nell’s great-granddaughter is slightly scared of her but because she knows how special she is, she works hard to get close to her.

I really enjoyed the flashbacks scenes in this book because they tell us more about Great-Grandmother Nell. The scene about Nell’s first heart-break is very moving, though it’s not the kind of heart-break you might expect. Great-Grandmother Nell is ninety six  years old and has lived through the civil rights movement and more. I’m glad to see this story discuss race and being a Colored girl (and later a Colored woman) in the United States.

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Image Credit: Carolrhoda Books (Lerner Publishing Group), Vaunda Micheaux Nelson/Elizabeth Zunon

Elizabeth Zunon’s illustrations are beautiful. Her style is a mix of watercolor, pen, markers, collage and pencil. Great-granddaughter favors Great-Grandmother and Great-Grandmother’s warm brown face is full of rich lines and wrinkles. All the beautiful perfume bottles on her vanity and the scene where she teaches her great-granddaughter how to blot her lipstick reminds me of my grandmother. For the flashback scenes, Zunon uses blotchy watercolors that give the feeling of hazy memory. Check out this behind the scenes blog post about how Zunon created the illustrations!

Great-Grandmother Nell is a strong grandmother and so is Anaanatsiaq (grandmother) in Fishing with Grandma. She drives an ATV and is always down for an adventure! In the story, a little boy and girl are excited to visit their favorite elder. Their visit starts with string games and fresh bannock from the oven but the children are eager for a little more adventure. They decide to go jigging for fish on the ice and Anaanatsiaq shows them how to dress for the cold. She also shows them to how to check the ice for thickness (safety first) and how to use traditional tools!

One of my favorite things about this book is that it’s full of Inuktitut words and describes Inuit fishing tools. Children can learn a bit of another language while enjoying a story about a loving indigenous family. Another plus is that the story is co-written by Inuit elder Susan Avingaq…so it’s a story about indigenous peoples written by an indigenous woman for children all over the world. This is the power of #ownvoices.

After the family has a successful day of fishing, Anaanatsiaq explains that the extra fish they caught will go to elders who can’t make it out to the lake. It’s important to give and think of others and also important to learn traditional skills, she says. These are good lessons for children all over the world to take away.

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Image Credit: Inhabit Media Inc., Susan Avingaq & Maren Vsetula/Charlene Chua

Charlene Chua’s digital illustrations are so clean and vibrant. I love how she brings their community to life and I especially like the spreads on the blue ice and underwater with the beautiful Arctic char. I like how she uses streaks of color to fill space; it creates a pretty effect. Her characters have such bright expressions and rosy cheeks! Annanatsiaq is loving and protective of her curious grandchildren; her happy face shows a lot of pride. They’re adventurers just like her!

I hope your family will take time to enjoy these two stories about grandmothers. Maybe you can even read them with your grandmothers!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Grandmothers, Relationships, Teamwork, Ice Fishing, Siblings, Love, Indigenous Peoples, Community, Diversity, Strong Women
Book Info: Fishing with Grandma by Susan Avingaq & Maren Vsetula/Illustrated by Charlene Chua, 2016 Inhabit Media Inc., ISBN: 9781772270846

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Grandmothers, Racism, History, Relationships, African American, Strong Women, Patience, Understanding
Book Info: Don’t Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson/Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, 2016 Carolrhoda Books (Lerner Publishing Group), ISBN: 9781467742085

Real Sisters Pretend

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Image Credit: Tilbury House Publishers, Megan Dowd Lambert/Nicole Tadgell

What makes a relationship real? Is it blood? Dedication? Love? As the little girls in this book know, real sisters never have to pretend.

In Real Sisters Pretend, two sisters play a game of pretend princesses. The younger sister Mia says to her big sister Tayja “Let’s pretend we are sisters” and Tayja quickly corrects & reassures her that they are already sisters, real sisters, and there’s no need to pretend that! As they play, they discuss adoption and a confused stranger they met at the grocery store.

I like the way Megan Dowd Lambert and Nicole Tadgell craft the story and illustrations to create a conversation. Like real life, serious & important moments are blended into the silly ones. Tayja and Mia (climbing princesses) play, take a snack break and continue to play until their other mommy comes home. Readers will enjoy Tadgell’s beautiful watercolor illustrations; she brings these girls, their sweet relationship and loving family to life. When I first saw the cover of this book months ago, I was drawn to the image of two brown girls embracing; it’s powerful!

Real Sisters Pretend is a lovely and important book that can help adopted children make sense of people who “just don’t get” what they naturally understand. I think any child with siblings or cousins will connect to Mia and Tayja. I highly recommend checking out this article from the author about her family & the experience that inspired this story and also this post from the illustrator about her process creating the illustrations! I hope you’ll add this one to your collection. 🙂

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Love, Siblings, Blended Families, Adoption, Relationships, Humor, Diversity, Compassion, Forever Families
Book Info: Real Sisters Pretend by Megan Dowd Lambert/Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell, 2016 Tilbury House Publishers, ISBN: 9780884484417

 

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.

I want to take a moment to say that we MUST love and understand each other. Hatred has no place here.

Now we have a new children’s book about Ramadan. It’s Ramadan, Curious George is an important and sweet addition to the Curious George 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 and many Christmas books, so why not Ramadan? I’m glad that it exists and I hope it makes it into the hands of Muslim children who need it and any child curious about Ramadan and Islam. Parents, this is how we teach love.

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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!  😉  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. This book is a treasure to keep on your shelf not only for Ramadan, but for 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 difference 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. 😉

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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!  🙂

 

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

Wait

Wait

Image Credit: A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press (MacMillan), Antoinette Portis

First of all, the cover illustration wraps around to the back of the book…so 10 points to Gryffindor!!

Secondly, what a precious book that speaks loudly to the idea of quiet, slow moments. Wait is about paying attention to the details and it encourages readers to slow down and enjoy.

There are only three words spoken in the entire book. In Wait, a busy mother rushes through the city with her young son in tow while she says “Hurry” and he says “Wait.” She encourages his curiosity about the world around him while kindly nudging him on to their destination. I love how they’re in two different worlds mentally but are still very connected; she holds his hand lovingly.

This book is so clever! Portis uses foreshadowing in the illustrations to give the reader hints about what’s coming next. Be sure to keep an eye on the truck with the fish and though it seems like Mom says no to the delicious rainbow treat, maybe they’ll get another rainbow treat later!

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Image Credit: A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press (MacMillan), Antoinette Portis

The first time I finished this book, I thought “Oh that’s sweet” but as I re-read it for this review, I realized how complex it is! Portis’ illustrations are bold & confident with rich colors. The wide pages are perfect for depicting movement since the story starts at one point and ends at another. It’s a great story about city life, relationships and appreciating the little things! Check it out!

P.S. This book pairs excellently with Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith which is another beautiful book about a city commute.

 
Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: City Life, Beginning Readers, Patience, Relationships, Diversity
Book Info: Wait by Antoinette Portis, 2015 A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press (MacMillan), ISBN: 9781596439214