Celebrating Our Grandmothers

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

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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

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The Great Pet Escape

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Image Credit: Henry Holt and Company (MacMillan), Victoria Jamieson

What do YOUR pets do when you’re gone? Plan escape? World domination? Sniff their butts?

Victoria Jamieson’s (winner of the Newbery Honor for Roller Girl) brand new graphic novel about three classroom pets and their clever plan to escape their elementary school is pure fun. Ringleader GW is a tenacious hamster with cute, lovey-eyes during the school day but as soon as the kids are gone…flee to the secret laboratory!! Little do the kids know, GW is an inventor and is super determined to convince friends Biter and Barry to escape. Unfortunately, they meet their match in a tyrant mouse named Napoleon who strives to keep things nice and orderly. There’s something to be said for seniority! >_<

What shines about The Great Pet Escape is the writing; witty lines, clever jokes and snappy banter between characters make for a fun read! Jamieson has stepped up her humor and I’m loving it; kids will get a kick out of how silly this book is. As usual, her art is great! With bold colors, exciting panels and characters with great expressions, this one is a hoot.

Another thing I love about this book is that it’s a great option for budding readers. I’m always looking for quality beginning readers and this is now on my “to-recommend” list for adventurous young readers who want to laugh out loud! I hope you’ll check out The Great Pet Escape and enjoy the shenanigans!

 

Recommended for: Age 6 and up
Great for: Humor, Animals, Friendship, Determination, Rivals, Ingenuity, Teamwork, Inventions, Imagination, Graphic Novel
Book Info: The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson, 2016 Henry Holt and Company (MacMillan), ISBN: 9781627791052

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

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Image Credit: Chronicle Books, Pat Zietlow Miller/Frank Morrison

Sometimes it’s better to be friends than rivals, especially when you’re working towards the same goal!

In The Quickest Kid in Clarksville, Alta’s role model is the amazing sprinter Wilma Rudolph. The story takes place in 1960 when everyone in Clarksville, Tennessee is preparing for the big parade to celebrate Wilma’s 3 Gold Medals at the Rome Olympics. Wilma is the fastest woman in the world and Alta is the fastest kid in Clarksville. She’s confident in her feet. Problem is there’s a new girl named Charmaine who’s just as confident in her speed and struts around like she rules the block! It doesn’t help that she has shiny new sneakers while Alta’s are worn down. Nevertheless, Alta challenges her to a race!  On parade day, Alta and her friends struggle to get their bulky banner to the parade site and reluctantly accept Charmaine’s help. Relay-style (just like Wilma and her team) they arrive at the parade to celebrate their champion! Representation really matters and I can’t imagine how much Wilma meant to young black girls in the 60s (and now!).

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Image Credit: Chronicle Books, Pat Zietlow Miller/Frank Morrison

I enjoyed the writing of this book; there’s a nice rhythm and just the right amount of sass and confidence. Morrison’s beautiful watercolor illustrations pair perfectly with the words. Just take a look at the cover! Alta knows exactly who she is! Throughout the story, we see determination, confidence, worry, shame and happiness on her face and in her body language. My favorite spread is when she’s ready to run, banner in hand with furrowed brows, chanting “Wil-ma Ru-dolph. Wil-ma Ru-dolph” in her head to boost her heart and her feet.

Just gorgeous!

P.S. Check out author Pat Zietlow Miller’s awesome Nerdy Book Club post about the process of making this book/finding the right story. Also check out this great photo of Wilma with her parents during the parade! ❤

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Determination, Confidence, Friendship, Rivals, Relationships, Teamwork, Sports, Track and Field, Black Girl Magic, African American, Diversity, History, Segregation, Clarksville TN, Wilma Rudolph, Rhythm, Read-Aloud
Book Info: The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller/Illustrated by Frank Morrison, 2015 Chronicle Books, ISBN: 9781452129365

If You Plant a Seed

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Image Credit: Balzar + Bray (HarperCollins), Kadir Nelson

 

If You Plant a Seed is gorgeous. Kadir Nelson is a master painter and in this book, he combines his paintings with a memorable story about the importance of sharing and kindness.

In this simple tale, Rabbit and Mouse nurture their seeds, wait patiently and finally have the most beautiful tomato, carrot and cabbage plants. They nibble them and smile at the fruits of their labor. But soon, their bounty attracts curious visitors; the birds take notice of their beautiful vegetables. But Rabbit and Mouse are selfish, and so, chaos happens and a major argument ensues. Slowly they realize that it’s much better to be kind and to share, because when you’re kind, that kindness grows and grows and maybe you’ll get more than you ever imagined.

This book is one of my favorites because the story is so simple yet so powerful. There’s nothing more powerful than a message of love and kindness and this book teaches that message to little ones in a beautiful way. Nelson’s oil paintings are beautifully vibrant and alive. Lush vegetables and realistic animals fill the pages. Your children will love pointing out all the animals! This is a great book to add to your collection.

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Animals, Lessons, Friendship, Gardening, Teamwork, Community, Kindness, Sharing, Springtime
Book Info: If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson, 2015 Balzar + Bray (HarperCollins), ISBN: 9780062298898

Rex Wrecks It!

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Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Ben Clanton

 

What a gorgeous cover, right? I know we’re thinking the same thing. 😉

In Rex Wrecks It, Rex is a WRECKING MACHINE. He can’t really help it; he just gets so excited around blocks. His friends Gizmo, Sprinkles and Wild are builders but Rex, well he’s a naturally-gifted wrecker. After building their masterpieces, Rex destroys them…every time and they get awfully frustrated. Finally Gizmo, Sprinkles and Wild come up with the best plan ever! They invite Rex to build something awesome with them. Sometimes it’s better to work together and it sure is more fun.

This book is adorable. I discovered it tucked in the picture book stacks at my bookstore and it’s one I always keep in the back in my mind for a great story about friendship, understanding and working together. I love Clanton’s art style; clean lines, splotchy watercolors, cute creatures and lots of dynamic wrecking scenes. Do you have one of those kids who loves to destroy things? If so, they’ll love this book! RAWR!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Friendship, Teamwork, Animals, Dinosaurs, Humor, Read-Aloud
Book Info: Rex Wrecks It! by Ben Clanton, 2014 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763665012

Salsa

Image Credit: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press), Jorge Argueta/Duncan Tonatiuh

Image Credit: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press), Jorge Argueta/Duncan Tonatiuh

I couldn’t stay away for long…I’m reviewing another book illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. Check out my review for his book Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras. This book is written by Jorge Argueta and the topic is something many people will agree is very delicious, SALSA!

Salsa is bilingual (Spanish and English) and takes the reader on a journey through all aspects of salsa. It’s a “Cooking Poem” with rhythm and vivid imagery. Argueta begins the poem with a volcano whose hardened lava becomes the rock that makes molcajetes and tejolote which Nahua, Aztec and Mayan people used to grind, grind, grind delicious things. Cultural tradition continues to this day and the family in the story use these ancient tools to make delicious salsa! Lots of similies and metaphors fill the pages and bring the words and illustrations to life. Like musical instruments, they use their ingredients to make a “salsa orchestra.”  While enjoying the poem, we also learn how to cook salsa!!

As always, Tonatiuh’s signature illustrations draw from his indigenous Mexican heritage: I always enjoy the ears and lips of his people. He hand draws the images and digitally collages in interesting textures for color and design. I love how each illustration is framed top and bottom with a motif that reflects the stage of the recipe process; look at the wise chili peppers with faces like grandmother and grandfather! This beautiful book is a delight and your family or classroom will enjoy learning about delicious Salsa. 🙂

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Cultural Diversity, Food Culture, Poem, History, Mexican Food, Family, Teamwork, Read-Aloud
Book Info: Salsa by Jorge Argueta/Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh, 2015 Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press), ISBN: 9781554984428