Multicultural Children’s Book Day ~ Book Reviews

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There’s been a great uptick in multicultural children’s books in the last few years but they are still, unfortunately, far fewer in numbers than they should be. It’s so important for kids to identify with the characters in the books they read yet it’s easy forget that not all kids get that chance. And those kids who do identify with the characters featured in the majority of books need a chance to see variety of culture, color, and tradition represented to help them form foundations of acceptance and empathy for those they’ll meet who may be different than they are.

So, I’m sharing a few books in honor of multicultural children’s book day today. Take a look at the stacks of books you get from the library, the ones that line your home shelves. Are they filled with diverse characters or could they be described as a little closer to vanilla? Here are a few options at varying age ranges to get you started if you need to broaden your horizons.
Little Leaders Bold Women in Black History Book Review

Written and Illustrated by: Vashti Harrison

Number of Pages: 96

Age Range: 4-12

Rating: 5/5

First, a fabulous volume featuring mini-biographies of “bold women in Black history.” Ranging from the likes of Phyllis Wheatley and Sojourner Truth to Oprah Winfrey and Dominique Dawes each featured female has a one page bio giving you a snippet of information to whet your appetite. Then there’s the back matter with suggested reading, recordings, websites and more. One that should belong in everybody’s library!

Pashmina Book Review

 

Pashmina

Written and Illustrated by: Nidhi Chanani

Number of Pages: 176

Age Range: 10-14

Rating: 4/5

Next up is a vivid young adult graphic novel about Pri who finds a magical pashmina that transports her to a place where she learns about her Indian culture and finding peace as an Indian-American. The colors are gorgeous and anyone who’s ever struggled to fit in will connect instantly with Pri and her dilemmas.

Shadow Warrior Book Review

Shadow Warrior

Written by: Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Illustrated by: Celia Krampien

Number of Pages: 64

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4/5

Now we have a  fictionalized story of a female ninja in 1500s Japan. Based on actual events there are plenty of resources (maps, glossary, further reading, known facts vs. the fictionalized parts) to supplement the fascinating story of a fearless woman.
Storm Boy Book Review

Storm Boy

Written and Illustrated by: Paul Owen Lewis

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 5-9

Rating: 4/5

Last up is an older release about a boy from an indigenous tribe from the Pacific Northwest. After being caught in a storm he washes ashore in a village inhabited by supernatural beings. Again, excellent back matter gives background on the tribal motifs, culture, and traditions.

Do you have any favorite multicultural stories or characters you think I’d like? I’m always looking for suggestions to add to my “To Read” list. Leave them in the comments below!

Happy Reading!

Middle Grade Book Review ~ The Nameless City

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

When I was growing up there were very few, if any, graphic novels available for younger readers (or at least very few mainstream ones, I don’t think I ever encountered one on all of my trips to the library.) I remember when I was a teenager my younger brother getting into comics and manga and my mother freaking out because most of them featured very scantily clad women and lots of violence. Thankfully that has changed a lot in recent years. There are now tons of graphic novels and comic style books for all age ranges featuring gorgeous artwork, complex and funny stories. Basically anything you could want in a “regular” book.

I’ve never been able to get into the manga style animation so you probably won’t ever see one of those featured here on the blog (sorry!) But I’ve come to really appreciate the beauty and genius of a graphic novel. This one I read recently made me feel as if it were a historical fiction (I kept looking for an author’s note with additional information on the time period and such.) The author was definitely influenced by ancient China but has created an original tale with engaging characters. I can’t wait to read more!

Nameless City Book Review

The Nameless City

Written and Illustrated by: Faith Erin Hicks

Number of Pages: 240

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 3.5/5

The Nameless City changes names each time a new conqueror takes control. The occupants of the city choose to keep their heads down and stay out of trouble as much as possible and call themselves Nameless rather than acknowledging the latest power, which never seems to last very long. Kaidu is from the Dao clan, the current occupiers of the city and Rat is a cynical, street smart native. The two meet and become reluctant friends, learning to respect each other’s ways and helping to change the fate of the nation.

There’s intrigue, perseverance, battles and bullying, friendship–pretty much anything a tween boy could ask for (or girl for that matter!) When I worked at the library I loved handing graphic novels to reluctant readers. They’re perfect with their minimal text and lots of pictures but that doesn’t make them any less valuable as books. There’s still a lot going on. Plus they’re just plain fun!

If you’re already an aficionado I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments. I definitely haven’t read them all! And if you’ve never read a graphic novel, I’ll challenge you to pick one up in the next couple of weeks. Give it a read and let me know what you think!

Happy Reading!

Picture Book Reviews ~ Wintry Favorites

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We’re a little behind the curve here but we’ve finally gotten a snowstorm! In celebration (and because we’re all fighting colds and don’t want to actually go out in it just yet) I’m sharing a few of my recent favorite snowy, winter books.

The Snowbear Book Review

The Snowbear

Written by: Sean Taylor

Illustrated by: Claire Alexander

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 2-6

Rating: 3.5/5

Iggy and Martina wake up to a world covered in snow and proceed to make a snowbear in their front yard. Then they venture out to try their sled and end up deep, deep in the woods. Thanks to their snowbear (or was it just their imagination?) they get home safe and sound.

A fun tale of adventure, friendship, and the power of imagination (or perhaps a little magic, you decide!) Alexander’s illustrations evoke all the chill of a winter’s day but rather than making you want to stay bundled inside you’ll long to join the kids in their adventures.

Winter Dance Book Review

Winter Dance

Written by: Marion Dane Bauer

Illustrated by: Richard Jones

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 3-7

Rating: 5/5

A small fox watches as snowflakes begin swirling through the air. With winter coming, what should he do? All the animals he encounters in the forest have suggestions for him. The caterpillar tells him to wrap up in a shiny chrysalis, the bat tells him to swoop into a cozy cave to sleep, the turtle tells him to bury himself in the cool mud and more. Each animal takes his own advice but the fox knows none of these is best for him. When another fox appears the two join the dancing snowflakes in a dance of their own. Gorgeously muted illustrations are a perfect match for the lightly poetic text. This is a versatile tale that could pair with winter bedtime stories or serve as a precursor to a day of playing out in the cold.

Something's Fishy Book Review

Something’s Fishy

Written and Illustrated by: Jean Gourounas

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 4/5

A grumpy looking penguin is trying to do some fishing but he is continually interrupted by all the other polar animals. Each one asks what he’s doing, though the fishing pole dangling in the hole in the ice should make it relatively obvious. And each one is greeted with the same glare. Eventually it seems as if everyone has gathered and they’re perplexed as to why no fish are biting…something’s definitely fishy!

I won’t give away the ending but young readers will surely chuckle. This would be a great classroom read to encourage predicting endings. (North and south pole animals mix indiscriminately here…sometimes I can let that slide, other times it bothers me to no end. Somehow I was okay with it today. Just be aware, penguins and polar bears are NOT neighbors in real life!)

Picture Book Review ~ Yellow Favorites Part 3

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I have a few last lovely yellow covers to share today. One is a newer release while the other two are older favorites (one reaching as far back as my own childhood…yep, that old!)

Windows Book Review

Windows

Written by: Julia Denos

Illustrated by: E.B. Goodale

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 5/5

A boy and his dog take an evening walk through their neighborhood at dusk observing all the goings on. As the sky darkens the lights come on in the windows of shops, houses, and apartment buildings giving us (and the boy) a glimpse of what is happening inside. The details in the highlighted windows encourage discovery and re-reading while the neighborhood has both urban and suburban appeal. It’s a beautifully executed reminder to slow down and look around you, to appreciate the small moments and remember that those around us are more like us than they are different.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate Book Review

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Written by: Jacqueline Kelley

Number of Pages: 344 

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 5/5

We’re going back a few years to 2010 for this Newbery honor favorite. Eleven-year-old Calpurnia is facing the turn of the century and all that the new modern future will bring. Unfortunately she is expected to become a traditional Texas lady learning handiwork, cooking and all that goes with it. But she’d much rather spend time with her cantankerous grandfather studying bugs, digging in the mud and learning about Darwin and his groundbreaking (and controversial) theory of evolution. Callie, her family, and the whole community experience some unexpected events and go through some growing pains before they come to an understanding about what the future means for them all.

Callie is spunky and endearing and while this volume doesn’t solidify everything for Callie, there is a second installment that continues her story. I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in both of them.

Hooper Humperdink Book ReviewHooper Humperdink….Not Him!

Written by: Theo LeSieg

Illustrated by: Charles E. Martin (It’s been reissued with new illustrations by Scott Nash (of Flat Stanley fame) as you’ll see if you click on the link above.)

Number of Pages: 48

Age Range: 5-9

Rating: 3/5

We’re going back even farther, all the way to 1976 for this early reader. Dr. Seuss wrote various volumes under another nom de plume which haven’t quite gained the same notoriety but there are a few gems among them. (This isn’t necessarily one of them, though it is a nostalgic favorite!) 🙂

The main character is having a party and inviting everyone but Hooper Humperdink. He lists everyone from A to Z (literally) and details all the fun things that will be happening. The reader can see the look of disappointment on Hooper’s face throughout the telling and when the narrator has a change of heart at the end we’re rewarded with an eager smile from both Hooper and his faithful pup. It’s a great discussion prompt for including others or feeling left out.

Well, I hope you’ve all managed to stay warm wherever you may be. And if I’ve missed any of your favorite yellow covered volumes (which I’m sure I have, there must be millions out there!) please share them in the comments below.  Happy reading!

Picture Book Review ~ Yellow Favorites Part 2

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

We’re still gray and gloomy in my little corner of the world so we’ve got a few more bright and shiny books to perk up the atmosphere.

The Book of Mistakes Book Review

 

The Book of Mistakes

Written and Illustrated by: Corinna Luyken

Number of Pages: 56

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 5/5

An unbidden blob of ink on the first page morphs from a mistake into a unique girl’s face. The smudges and misshapen things that happen along the way all get incorporated into the illustrations (or hidden behind bushes!) to create something unexpectedly magical. This is a fantastic illustration of how life is just not perfect, but with a little ingenuity and a positive attitude everything can be used for something good even if it doesn’t fit into our original plan.  The text is anything but preachy though the message is obvious and the illustrations are quirky and endearing.

One of my favorite reads of the year! Check out my Instagram feed for a few more images from inside.

My Uncle Emily Book Review

My Uncle Emily

Written by: Jane Yolen

Illustrated by: Nancy Carpenter

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 6-10

Rating: 3.5/5

Gilbert’s “Uncle” is none other than the poet Emily Dickinson who wears dresses like a girl but writes poems and studies nature like a man. When she gives him a dead bee and poem to take to his school teacher it leads to Gilbert’s getting into a fight and telling a small lie. Emily encourages him to “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant” and eventually all becomes clear.

Written in free verse (similar to Dickinson’s poems) and based on true events and the poet’s own words, this is a lovely little episode that would fit in nicely as part of an author study or poetry unit.

Papa's Backpack Book Review

Papa’s Backpack

Written and Illustrated by: James Christopher Carroll

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 3/5

When a parent or loved one leaves to serve in the military it can be challenging for everyone left behind, but especially for children. Here, a small bear cub imagines being taken along when Papa leaves, staying safe and providing comfort and support from inside a special backpack. The text is sing-songy and repetitive, almost like a chant or mantra. The illustrations are bold and cheerful. The emphasis is on the emotions of missing someone rather than the realities of the dangers they face while they’re gone.

I have a few more sunny yellow volumes to share to keep the gloom at bay so stay tuned!

Picture Book Review ~ Yellow Favorites

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

We’ve had more than our share of gloom this winter (though I am grateful we haven’t dealt with some of the super cold temps the rest of the country has faced.) We’ve usually had a few good snowstorms and I’ve been able to get out and use my snowshoes at least a couple of times by now but all we’ve had is a bit of rain and lots of gray skies. So I’m shifting my focus a bit. I’ve got some more winter faves to share with ya’ll but they’re going to be put on hold in favor of something a bit more cheerful.  Here are a few bright and sunny covers that caught my eye at the last trip to the library. Maybe they’ll warm up your neck of the woods just a little.

Boo Who Book ReviewBoo Who

Written and Illustrated by: Ben Clanton

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 3 and up

Rating: 4/5

A shy little ghost is new at school and while the other creatures are happy to include him (once they see him) it’s not as easy as they’d all like. He has no arms and things fly right through him so the typical games of catch and tag are out of the question. But eventually they all find a game that works and learn a lesson about friendship and being yourself.

You probably know by now that I love Ben Clanton’s work. He’s got a Mo Willems touch to his books and has a gift for creating simple but utterly charming characters that pack a punch in an equally deceptive story line. This book is no exception. It’s okay to be shy, it’s okay to be different, everyone has something to contribute. Those are lessons we would all do well to remember.

Around America to Win the Vote Book Review

Around America to Win The Vote

Written by: Mara Rockliff

Illustrated by: Hadley Hooper

Number of Pages: 32

Age Range: 5-10

Rating: 4/5

An unknown (to me) story of two brave, bold women who took to the roads in 1916 to raise awareness for the suffrage movement. They loaded up their yellow car with a typewriter to document their story and a kitten to keep them company and drove around the country (literally) encountering blizzards and mobs and mud and more.

Gosh, I loved this! The yellow is predominant in the illustrations as it was used as a symbol of the suffrage movement and besides being the color of their car the women were greeted with banners of yellow and dresses of yellow and entire parties of yellow. The author has included some great back matter about the vote, automobiles, the time period, and the lives of these every day heroes. Hooray for women and all they do to enact change and do good!

Around America to Win the Vote

My Little Book of Big Freedoms Book Review

My Little Book of Big Freedoms

Illustrated by: Chris Riddell

Number of Pages: 40

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 3.5/5

The hugely abstract concepts identified as Human Rights by Amnesty International are beautifully illustrated by Chris Riddell in this small volume perfect for little hands. There’s a giant dog representing Safety, a polar bear symbolizes Togetherness, and a lion stands for Freedom. The over sized animals loom large but protective of the children sharing the pages. Children will probably still not grasp the full understanding of the concepts but they’ll feel the importance of them and there will definitely be dialogues opened. This is a gem for adults as well.

Big Book of Little Freedoms Book Review 2

I’ve got more sunshiney tales to share so tune in later this week for episode two. And until then, stay warm, my friends!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

I’ve been a goal/resolution junkie since I was little. I loved the idea of making a list of things to do and finding ways to do better (one day I’ll figure out how to actually stick to all of them, but that’s another post entirely!) My birthday also rolls around this time of year so that’s an added incentive to look back and look forward and see how far I’ve come and where I’d like to go. Naturally I’ve gotten sucked into the self-help aisle of the bookstore more than once or twice and have found some amazing gems that have helped get me where I am today. But with each new year and the chance to start fresh and re-focus on what I’d like to have happen in the coming months I find that picking up a book or two on the topics I’m most drawn to at the moment can give me the direction, motivation, and tools I need to be more successful.

Kind of along the same lines is the idea of participating in challenges or competitions of some variety. There are a lot of great reading challenges out there* and over the years I’ve participated in a number of them, sometimes with a public commitment and follow-up and sometimes on my own. You can read a book from the year you were born, or set in the state or country where you live. You can read books from genres you’re not familiar with or the previous year’s award winners. Or simply set goals for the number of books you’d like to read or the amount of time each day you’ll commit to reading. The possibilities are endless and sometimes it’s just what I’ve needed to get me out of my comfort zone (ie rut) and introduce me to new favorites.

This year my goals are a little more vague. Rather than focusing on numbers or genres I’m going to work hard to commit to sharing the books I read with all of you. I’ve got great plans for this little blog o’ mine and I’m hoping to find more and more of you that I can share with as I come across favorites and standouts and I’m hoping you’ll share with me as well.

What are your reading goals for this year? Any favorite challenges or groups that you return to year after year? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

*Here are just a few of my favorites if you’re looking for something new to try!

Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club

Oprah’s Book Club

The Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge

The Daily Positive’s Winter Book Challenge

Goodreads encourages you to set a goal for the number of books you want to read throughout the year and tracks it as you go.

There are also a bunch on Pinterest that you don’t have to look too hard to find.