Thunder Boy Jr.

ThunderBoyJr

Image Credit: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), Sherman Alexie/Yuyi Morales

There aren’t enough words to describe the joy that is this book and how ecstatic I am to know it. I feel privileged to be a bookseller and share this book with the world. I get to put this book into little hands and I’m hoping that kids will connect to Thunder Boy Jr.

I’ve been anticipating this collaboration for over a year, since it was announced, because Sherman Alexie and Yuyi Morales create magic…and together?? Rarely do we get such cosmic levels of possibility and creativity as this. I’m calling this book for, at the very least, a Caldecott Honor but it deserves a Caldecott Medal. I doubt the Newbery Committee will choose a picture book winner again this year but the story/writing is POWER.

You’d think Thunder Boy Jr. is a super special name; that only one person in the world has it but actually that’s not true. Thunder Boy is named after his dad and though his dad is great, he wants his own name! Thunder Boy likes to do things like ride his bike, roll in the mud and Grass Dance so maybe his new name could be related to those things? With a nickname like Little Thunder, it sure is easy to feel small but his bright and rambunctious personality (and the love between him and his father) will see him through.

ThunderBoy2

Image Credit: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), Sherman Alexie/Yuyi Morales

Rarely do we get to see picture books about Native American families and this important and beautiful book should be in every library. I’m hoping teachers and families around the world will love Thunder Boy Jr. because it speaks to individuality, growing up and identity (and just happens to feature a loving Native family.) Indigeneity is central to the story but also it isn’t. It’s SO lovely to read a picture book that talks about powwow and how names are given and earned in Native cultures! Wow! ❤ Though the story focuses on a son-dad relationship, readers will love Little Thunder’s cool mom and his cute little sister who, by the way, have “fancy-normal” names.

Yuyi Morales’ illustrations have so much raw energy and vivid color and for that reason she’s one of my favorites (I’ve reviewed Just a Minute! in the past). I love how she draws the big body of Thunder Boy Sr. next his small son; he really is like his namesake. Earthy & bright colors and lots of movement fill the pages; this family bursts onto the scene like a lighting bolt and at the end of the book, I feel as though I know them. I enjoy how the writing matches the illustrations exactly in some parts of the book but Morales also uses her illustrations to create a separate story that gives us more insight into Little Thunder’s personality. He rocks out hard on a guitar but his dad is angry about the broken strings and he slyly steals his sister’s red ball as he continues sharing his story.

Thunder Boy Jr. is the strongest picture book so far of 2016 and I’m hoping people will love it and cherish it. Something tells me Little Thunder would gobble up all the love and attention…especially now that he has confidence in his brand new name!

MeWithThunderBoy

All the love and happiness

 

P.S. Since this book is out in the wild now, great discussions are starting. It has a lot of potential to teach but it also discusses aspects of native cultures that might need explanation to some readers. Please check out Debbie Reese’s two posts about how to read this book with your children; it gives context that the book itself is lacking. They are here and here.

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Love, Humor, Identity, Struggle With Identity, Individuality, Growing Up, Native Americans, Father-Son, Siblings, Frustration, Powwow, Cultural Diversity, Diversity, Read-Aloud, Discussion
Book Info: Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie/Illustrated by Yuyi Morales, 2016 Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group), ISBN: 9780316013727

My Two Blankets for Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

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Woo Hoo! 😉

 

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Irena Kobald/Freya Blackwood

 

Multicultural Children’s Book Day (January 27th) is a beautiful effort to share the love of multicultural books! I have the pleasure of participating this year. Thank you to MCCBD and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with a copy of the book My Two Blankets!

My Two Blankets discusses the struggles that immigrant children may face when leaving their home and making a new one. In recent years, there have been more and more picture books that discuss this topic and it’s encouraging to see. It’s important to think about the experiences of others and picture books have the power of bringing a whole new world of understanding to children! It’s also important for these children to know that their stories matter. 

The story opens with Cartwheel playing happily in her village in Sudan, but soon war comes and she moves to another country (possibly Australia) with her Auntie. Everything is strange and jarring for her; the people, the food, and especially the language! She’s frustrated by her confusion and she feels like she’s losing her identity. At home, she’s able to soothe herself under a “blanket” of familiar words and sounds. One day, she meets a girl in a park who talks strangely, like everyone else, but her kindness draws her in. The girl teaches Cartwheel her language, a little at a time, and their friendship blossoms. She begins to feel more confident, a new blanket growing alongside her old one.

MyTwoBlankets2

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Irena Kobald/Freya Blackwood

I enjoyed this book very much, but I do have one very important suggestion for how the story can be improved. Cultural exchange is crucial for creating a better, multicultural world. Readers don’t get to see Cartwheel share her original blanket (her culture, stories and WORDS) with her friend. We only see the friend teach Cartwheel her language and not the other way around. The additional imagery of a blended blanket, red and blue, with her friend having a similar blanket, would’ve been powerful. Cartwheel teaches her friend how to do cartwheels, but I hoped to see much more! I encourage families and teachers to think about this while reading the book and maybe it will spark healthy discussion!

The illustrations in My Two Blankets are beautiful. I enjoy Blackwood’s style; the wiggly, sketchy lines around the oil and watercolor paints create a feeling of movement and energy. The contrasting reds and blues make the images stand out and she is excellent at depicting soft expressions. I love how she uses symbols to represent words that float in the air, are held by the girls and absorbed by Cartwheel.

 

Please take time to read this book, discuss the story, and enjoy the illustrations. Touching back on the importance of cultural exchange, below is a video recipe for Sudanese Blended Okra Meat Stew or Bahmia Mafrook! Maybe this is something Cartwheel ate in Sudan and continued to make with Auntie in her new home. It’s also a dish she could’ve shared with her new friend. I hope your family will try it and enjoy! 🙂

Ah, it looks so tasty!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Immigration, Diversity, Relationships, Frustration, Struggles, Struggle With Identity, Inner-Strength, Support, We Need Diverse Books, Family, Discussion, Sudan, Australia
Book Info: My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald/Illustrated by Freya Blackwood, 2014 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780544432284

 


 

Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD)

Our mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.

Our Mission: The MCCBD team’s mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

Founders: The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia and Valarie here.

Sponsor Info

Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors!

Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books*Lil Libros

Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk*Candlewick Press,* Bharat Babies

Silver: Lee and Low Books*Chronicle Books*Capstone Young Readers T

Tuttle PublishingNY Media Works, LLC/KidLit TV

Bronze: Pomelo Books* Author Jacqueline Woodson*Papa Lemon Books* Goosebottom Books*Author Gleeson Rebello*ShoutMouse Press*Author Mahvash Shahegh* China Institute.org*Live Oak Media

Co-Hosts

Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 11 amazing Co-Hosts and you can read more about them here.

Furthermore, here are the links to the co-hosts’ individual sites: All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share, The Educators’ Spin on it, Growing Book by Book, Imagination SoupI’m Not the NannyInCulture ParentKid World Citizen, Mama Smiles, Multicultural Kid Blogs, and Spanish Playground.

Classroom Reading Challenge!

Attention Teachers! Check out this awesome opportunity to earn a FREE hardcover multicultural children’s book for your classroom. Follow this link to the MCCBD website for more information. Also, click here for a free MCCBD poster for your classroom!

 

The Black Snowman

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Image Credit: Blue Ribbon (Scholastic Inc.), Phil Mendez/Carole Byard

Merry Christmas!

This is quite a unique story and it’s been on my bookshelf since I was a little girl. Inspired by Frosty the Snowman, this retelling is Afrocentric, inspiring and reminds readers of the importance of love, family and having pride in oneself!

The Black Snowman is a story of a young black boy named Jacob who’s very sad and bitter. It’s almost Christmas and his mother is poor. He equates being black with being poor and comes to believe that all black things are bad; black magic, black people, black everything! We learn of a magic kente cloth from Africa that once belonged to a powerful storyteller. Hundreds of years later, sold like the Africans it once belonged to, the kente is but a rag and is lost…or is it?

On the city streets, Jacob and his brother Peewee make a snowman out of the black snow. Peewee finds the kente in a trash bin and drapes The Black Snowman with the beautiful rag and he comes to life! He tries to teach Jacob the majesty of Blackness. When Jacob is ready to listen, he also teaches him of the wonders and greatness of Africa; encouraging him to realize he descends from great people. The Black Snowman helps save Jacob and his brother Peewee in more ways than one. Jacob finally realizes how lucky he really is to have his mother and brother’s love and finds courage and pride within himself.

Carole Byard’s art is dynamic and colorful. She depicts the dark, cold streets of the inner city at wintertime in a wonderful way. The bright colors of the kente shine through the gray skies and blustery snow. My favorite page is the one with Jacob, Peewee and their mom smiling in the kitchen, embraced in a tight hug.

This unique story about family, poverty, Christmas, and pride in oneself and heritage has so many applications for discussion in the classroom and at home. I hope you’ll seek out The Black Snowman to read and enjoy.

**This book seems to be out of print! Boo…so check your local library and used bookseller!

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Pride, Siblings, Social Issues, Poverty, Struggle With Identity, We Need Diverse Books, Diversity, Inner Strength, Discussion, Love, Family, Fantasy, Community, Christmas, Afrocentrism, Africa, Slavery, African-American
Book Info: The Black Snowman by Phil Mendez/Illustrated by Carole Byard, 1989 Blue Ribbon (Scholastic Inc.), ISBN: 9780590448734