In the world of multicultural books, they often focus on one culture or group. The book, Winter Candle, by Jeron Ashford, does an extraordinary job of combining a wide variety of cultures while looking at winter traditions and the role of the candle.
The premise of the book, as written by Kirkus Reviews, is that on Thanksgiving, Nana Clover realizes that she doesn’t have a candle for her table and asks the super for one. Later, another family doesn’t have a special braided havdalah candle to mark the Jewish Sabbath’s end and borrows the half-used candle from Nana Clover. A few days later, the Ericksons find that one of the candles on their Saint Lucia crown is broken. They ask the Danzigers, and the same little candle continues its trip. The African-American family in 5A celebrating Kwanzaa needs the candle next, because the baby has eaten one of the seven candles for the kinara. Finally, a winter storm causes a power outage, and Nasreen and Faruq, who have just moved in, are concerned that their father won’t find the building. Their mom suggests borrowing a candle from their neighbors, and the stubby piece of wax lights their father’s way. Soon, all the neighbors join in to welcome the new family. The richly textured paintings highlight the glow of the small candle; the family portraits, too, glow with warmth.
What is special is that all of these families live in the same apartment building and not only do they need to share the same lumpy candle when they run out of their normal ones, they consider themselves close enough to their neighbors to ask for assistance. Each time the family borrows the candle from whomever had it last, a child comments about how ugly and frumpy it is or how it isn’t their “normal” candle for the holiday. Even so, the candle always manages to burn a little brighter and seem a little bit more special than the rest of the candles.
This is a great little reminder that no matter what our differences are, we are actually all quite similar. It reminds us all that our lives are meant to be shared and enjoyed together.
An author’s note provides a brief overview of each celebration.
I have long been fascinated by the story of Malala Yousafzai. As a young girl, Malala Yousafzai defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. She risked her life to get information to the western world about how important education was for all children in Pakistan and how difficult the Taliban was making it for them. For her bravery, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, but survived. In 2014 she became the youngest Nobel Prize winner for her amazing work.
Of course I have wanted my children to get an understanding of who she is and what she did. That said, I didn’t think that J was ready to read I am Malala, even in the version specifically made for children. Sometimes it is necessary to find ways to ease her into non-fiction subject. When I saw this great post from Valarie Budayr during Multicultural Children’s Book Day, I knew it was a book I had to get my hands on.
With gorgeous pictures and an engaging story, For the Right to Learn tells of Malala Yousafzai’s unusual early education growing up in the Swat valley of Pakistan. Malala’s father believed that both boys and girls deserved to have an education and, because he ran a school, Malala was able to get a wonderful education.
However, when the Taliban came to power in Pakistan they made rules that changed how women were treated. For the Right to Learn manages to use simply imagery and text like the following to let children know just how many changes the Taliban instituted.
“They declared that females should be separated from males. They wanted to outlaw education for girls. They also tried to force women to wear garments called burqas to cover their entire bodies and faces.”
The Taliban slowly made more and more rules making it harder for women to get an education. Through intimidation and violence, the lives of those that disagreed with the Taliban become more and more difficult and increasingly dangerous.
But, as the book explains, bombs could not silence Malala. She wound up blogging anonymously through the BBC to tell first-hand what it was like to experience the school closings for girls. That garnered international attention and some girls were allowed to go back, but only those under the age of 10.
Then in 2009, the Pakistani army decided that it was no longer safe for the people within their own country and 2 million people fled the Swat Valley. “The Taliban had already tried to take her rights, her education, and her voice. Malala prayed they wouldn’t come after her home.”
After three months, the Taliban seemed to be gone, but her home town was a shell of what it once was. By that time, people had also discovered that she had been the one blogging and Desmond Tutu had nominated her for an award. But the Taliban wasn’t really gone, they were just laying low, and now she was on their hit list.
On October 9, 2012, a man got onto her bus headed for school asking who Malala was.
Malala and two of her friends were injured in the shooting, but miraculously they all survived. Malala was injured the worst and had to be airlifted to a hospital in England for additional surgeries and to keep her safe from the Taliban. She inadvertently became a household name standing for equal education for women, but what she wanted more than anything was to be allowed to go back to her own studies.
In December 2014 she became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner. In her speech, she lifted her voice for children everywhere: “This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change.”
Malala is the voice of how important education is for everyone. We have long heard that the only way we are going to fight terrorism is to educate people and help them help themselves out of poverty. Author Rebecca Langston-George did an outstanding job of tackling the difficult situations that Malala faced in a wonderful way without causing un-needed fears and illustrator Janna Bock brought it to life. Malala stands for strong women everywhere and is someone I want my girls to look up to at an early age. I am highly impressed by this beautiful book as an entry point into her biography.
I have given myself a challenge this year to write once a week about a non-fiction picture book as part of the non-fiction picture book challenge. I aim for Wednesdays, but sometimes, life just gets in the way. For additional titles, you should check out Kid Lit Frenzy and the many great blogs that participate in the link-up. I’m especially excited about a new book about Elizabeth Cady Stanton that is apparently coming out later this month.
One concept that is really difficult for children to grasp is that everyone is different and that not every family can do or buy the same things. For the most part, children socialize with people that tend to be in very similar socio-economic situations. But it is incredibly important for kids to understand that the world is made up of lots of different people with different lifestyles, especially as they start going to schools that have a wider mix of children and demographics.
Maddi’s Fridge, by Lois Brandt, is a very well written picture book that broaches a key topic of what to do when your friend doesn’t have enough to eat. Maddi & Sofia are close friends who love to do things together, but one day Sofia learns that while her refrigerator is always well stocked with healthy foods, Maddi’s is nearly empty and that things like milk are saved for her younger brother. Maddi is embarrassed and doesn’t want Sofia to tell anyone.
When Sofia goes home to her full fridge and a healthy dinner prepared by her mother, she wonders what she can do, but also wants to stick to her promise not to tell anyone.
Sofia keeps trying to bring healthy food to school, but it doesn’t survive as leftovers in her backpack. Finally, one day she succeeds. But even with that, she still feels badly when she thinks of her own fridge compared to Maddi’s and decides to tell her mom.
Together, they fill grocery bags of food to take over to Maddi’s house, even Sofia’s brother’s beloved cheesy pizza bombs, which he only gets to eat as a special treat. The mothers talk and Sofia apologizes for breaking her promise. While a promise to a friend is important, Sofia realized that “You’re more important. I wanted you to have milk too.”
In addition to being an awesome story, the final page has ideas about how to help friends with empty refrigerators. I especially like the idea of getting kids involved in the local food bank. It is important to make sure that kids who live comfortably understand that not everyone else does. We are also strong believers in giving back and the best way for children to understand that notion fully is to participate in things like bagging food at a food bank or working in a soup kitchen. This book does a remarkable job of dealing with a very tricky subject.
J has long had a fascination with astronomy and studying planets. This year, it turns out that they are also studying planets a ton in school. So when I was offered a copy of Buzz Aldrin’s new book from National Geographic Kids called Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet, I jumped at the chance to add it to our library. Then I was at the library yesterday and found the book You are the First Kid on Mars, by Patrick O’Brien. It is amazing that they are really taking it to the next level with these books and allowing people to truly consider what life would be like on another planet.
In Welcome to Mars, Buzz Aldrin challenges curious kids — who he refers to as “Generation Mars” — to think about the faraway red planet as a possible future home for humans (National Geographic Children’s Books, September 2015, ages 8-12). What will your new home look like? How will you get there? What will you eat for breakfast? Buzz is passionate about making traveling to and living on Mars a reality and encourages young scientists, engineers and astronauts to not just reach for the stars, but to join him on this journey to build a permanent home on Mars.
Aldrin manages to write the book in a way that is really accessible to young scientists. With bright graphics, hands-on science experiments, handy timelines and content that showcases the history of inter-planet travel as well as the future, this book is a must for kids who want to know more.
The first half of the book focuses on the history of space travel and knowledge. Aldrin of course has a large amount of experience with space travel, and he talks about what it is like to travel in space and the costs involved. Young scientists learn the history about how people have studied space over the years and how they managed to make maps of distant planets. Aldrin explains who major players were in Mars discoveries and how the various forms of exploration have happened.
The second half of the book becomes the “what it” portion. Aldrin discuss how long it would take to travel there, the difficulties of landing and the challenges to going back to Earth. Throughout this section, kids are also presented with the real life issues of what life on Mars entails, such as the need for space suits, but also talks about how to turn some of the challenges into benefits – like turning sunlight into electricity.
J has really enjoyed reading this book and brought it in to school when they were working on planets.
In Patrick O’Brien’s book, You are the First Kid on Mars, he takes a lot of the same information and puts it into a different package. While Aldrin’s book is a great resource for older kids who are able to read through a lot of details, O’Brien’s book shortens the information down to a really cool picture book.
In First Kid on Mars, you get to imagine yourself actually flying to Mars from a space station. It takes a really long time to get there, so the ship has rooms with everything you need and it spins to make it feel like you have gravity. Once you’ve landed, the book takes you through a wide variety of aspects of what life on Mars would be like and what kind of scientists would be doing work there. A big job is searching for Martian life, but not the little green men kind, more the kind of microscopic life that would require a microscope to see.
The book also touches on a number of aspects of the history of getting to Mars. For example, in the picture below, the Mars explorers find the remains of the Pathfinder named Soujourner Truth that landed on Mars in July 1997 and communicated information back to Earth until September 1997 when the batteries failed.
In beautiful pictures, that are often a rusty tint due to the dust you would find on Mars, you can imagine what life would be like. From the whirlwinds to greenhouses and the robots that help do a variety of jobs on the planet.
Both of these books are an excellent way to get kids excited by the notion of space travel and exploration. There are also a number of really wonderful quotes about science and imagination that encourage kids to use their imaginations and make the discoveries of the future.
This post is part of my contribution to the Kid Lit Frenzy Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge. We’ve really been getting into non-fiction books and I love challenging myself to write about them more frequently. Check out the link for some other truly amazing non-fiction picture books.
Shabbat is a special part of the Jewish religion, similar to the Christian tradition of going to church on Sundays. Historically, Jews were expected to fully make it a day of rest to separate it from the normal work week. This means that no work should be done from sundown on Friday night to sundown on Saturday night. This was challenging back before technology started playing such a large role in our lives, but is even more complicated in today’s day and age. The idea though, is to spend the day with family and friends and in the study of Torah.
Since cooking is work, and therefore something that you are not allowed to do, the traditional food on Shabbat is cholent. Cholent is a mixture of ingredients that can withstand the long cooking time as it needs to be prepared on Friday and left to cook all day Saturday in a oven set on low or on a hotplate turned on before sundown. Typically it is beef, beans, potatoes and vegetables, but can also be made completely vegetarian. Chik Chak Shabbat, by Mara Rockliff, takes the idea of cholent and adds in the beautiful aspect of how people of all cultures can come together.
In this story, the residents in an apartment building enjoy the wonderful smell of cholent wafting in from apartment 5A every Saturday. Each apartment represents a different culture, but every Shabbat they all come together to share a meal and each others’ company. Each family has a different idea about what makes the cholent taste so good – based on the foods that they eat in their own homes.
Goldie, the woman in apartment 5A, explains to her friends and neighbors why the cholent is so important to her. She has wonderful memories as a child of making Shabbat a special time, putting aside all of the things that make your week so busy and instead focusing your attention on the people around you. Rather than rushing around in a hurry, “chik chak,” you take things slowly. Something we all could use a weekly dose of.One Saturday, the smells of cholent are missing from the apartment because Goldie had been too sick on Friday to start it. All of the other families wanted to make sure that Goldie still got to celebrate Shabbat and quickly made foods from their own cultures to share together representing the parts of her cholent that stood out the most to them. “We had to hurry, bring it right away, chik chak!” they explain to her, “[b]ut here we are together.” It wasn’t Goldie’s normal cholent, but with a shining face, she told them all that “it tastes exactly like Shabbat!”
I was so shocked when I found this book in our local library, but it is such a beautiful book that shows how cultures can all share in events together. While we all have our own special traditions, we grow by sharing them together, learning from each other, and realizing that we are not all that different after all. With my love of showing that we are all a big multicultural world that should embrace our similarities and differences, it is no wonder that this book is one of my favorites.
I’m always looking for ways to get my girls interested in art. It is very hard living in an area that does not have art museums easily accessible. When I was growing up in Los Angeles, we were taken to museums on a regular basis as part of our formal education.
So imagine my surprise to find the book “Who Stole the Mona Lisa?” in our local library and for J to declare it one of her favorite books. She read it over and over. I think that actually sparked her desire to take an art class and start delving into Picasso. This innovative take on da Vinci’s masterpiece is full of interesting facts, but is also told as something of a mystery about the time when Vincenzo Perugia stole the painting and kept it for two years.
Told from the perspective of the lady herself, this book starts in the Louvre with the reader getting to listen to a curator give a guided tour of the museum. They stop at the Mona Lisa for detailed inforation. Interesting facts about the time when Leonardo da Vinci painted her are presented along with great facts about the master himself. It turns out that the Mona Lisa was owned by many French kings until Napoleon decided to donate her to the Louvre where she became world famous.
Everything was great until 1911 when she was stolen from the wall of the museum. The French police looked everywhere, but could not find her. People came to the museum to see the blank space where she was supposed to be and pay tribute to her memory. She was finally found in the home of Vincenzo Perugia, an Italian living in Paris and the world went wild.
The book starts and ends questioning why the Mona Lisa is smiling. By the end of the book, we are told that she is smiling because she is happy. Happy to be back where she belongs.
As with great books for children that are based on actual events, the final page in this book is the author’s note with additional facts and details about the Mona Lisa and the time that she was stolen from her home.
Since reading this, J has also been reading “Who Was Leonardo da Vinci” and the Da Vinci edition of the Getting to Know the Great Artists series. She continues to learn huge amounts about the artist and his work and is quite fascinated by him. She has learned just how much of a renaissance man he was and all of the amazing things that he invented. She loves that he was fascinated by puzzles and codes. Her only sadness is that we can’t just visit the Louvre ourselves. Someday :)
My 8 year old has recently gotten into art. She is starting to have more faith in her abilities and seems to be enjoying the process more than she used to. Last weekend I signed her up for a local art class that was focusing on Pablo Picasso’s Cubist period while creating dogs in his style. I was amazed at the work that they did with such a complicated style. J thought hers didn’t come out well, but I explained how unusual Picasso was and showed her some of his work. We also had a few books about him, so I let her explore some on her own. She’s decided that she is not a fan of his Cubist period, but is opening her mind to the broader world of art.
One book that was given to us years ago is the book When Pigasso Met Mootisse. In an incredibly creative manner, this book tells a somewhat fictionalized version of the friendship between Picasso and Matisse. While the two were never neighbors, they were friends. Unfortunately, they also were in a bit of competition in the art world at the same time and said some means things to each other. What is outstanding about this book is the art and how it showcases both artists and their different styles. Picasso’s sharp angles next to Matisse’s soft, realistic paintings highlights how two artists can view the same thing in completely different ways.
I also knew that somewhere in the house we had a biography on Picasso. Written in 1984, the picture book biography by Ibi Lepscky focuses on Picasso’s youth. He was moody and liked to collect things. His mother, in particular, didn’t understand him and was frustrated by the messes that he often made. His father was not often around, as he himself was an artist and spent all of his free time painting. When his mother felt like she could no longer handle him on her own, she got his father involved and he realized that Picasso had an amazing artistic talent. While a simplistic telling of his younger years, it is interesting to see how misunderstood Picasso was as a child and how important it was to have someone finally see his potential.
Of course looking at these books and encouraging J to understand Picasso more also made me curious about a book series I had seen at her school library. They have a series of books called Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists. When I was volunteering on Monday I checked out the Picasso book. If you are looking for a great way to teach kids about artists, this is it! With a mix of photographs, art samples, and illustrations, kids can really get a sense of the artist. Picasso was an artist who tried many different styles based on where he was in his life and this book does a great job of explaining his different “periods.” The pages on Cubism were great for J to see and understand, but the whole book itself is quite impressive.
We are really excited that J is getting more interested in art (it has always been E’s passion). While the closest art museum is unfortunately over an hour away, we are definitely going to have to start going so that both of our girls can get exposed to all of the amazing art that is out there.
This post is part of my challenge to post weekly about a non-fiction picture book through a link-up at Kid Lit Frenzy. Check out all of the amazing posts that get updated weekly.
Last summer when the Battle of the Books list came out, I printed out a copy hoping to encourage J to read some of the books over the summer to expand her reading options even though she knew should wouldn’t be allowed to be on the team this year. It was a nice thought on my part, but even though she thought a bunch of the titles sounded good, she really did not care to read them. I actually started reading a number of them on my own, but completely dropped the subject with her. Over winter break, she decided on her own that she was ready to tackle the list.
The first book that she read after making this decision was Tuck Everlasting. She had already read The Lemonade War and Because of Winn-Dixie, and I think she picked Tuck because it had been brought up at our last kids’ book club as an option of a book that has a movie. The main theme of Tuck Everlasting is the notion of immortality and whether it is a blessing or a curse. The Goodreads synopsis says:
“Doomed to – or blessed with – eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing that it might seem. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a stranger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune.”
I was actually hoping to read it before she got a chance, but I wasn’t fast enough. I did wind up reading a chunk of the middle with her, but only because she still enjoys our reading time together before bed. J really enjoyed it and is now thrilled by the notion that there is a Broadway musical coming out. She understood that eternal life isn’t something that we would necessarily want to have, to watch those you love die before you. I think the other reason that she liked the book was because the characters were so well developed and real, even with their ability to never die.
The second book that she read, which got me thinking about the theme of perspective, is “A Dog’s Life – The Autobiography of a Stray.” In Tuck Everlasting you are considering the notion of eternal life. From the outside, it might sound rather appealing, but when you go through the experience yourself, there are many challenges that come up and make living forever not such an enticing goal. The book A Dog’s Life does a really exceptional job of considering the world from a dog’s perspective from birth through to old age. This dog happens to also be a stray whose life gets impacted tremendously by the other people, both human and animal, that are in her life.
The Goodreads synopsis of A Dog’s Life says: “Squirrel and her brother Bone begin their lives in a toolshed behind someone’s summer house. Their mother nurtures them and teaches them the many skills they will need to survive as stray dogs. But when their mother is taken from them suddenly and too soon, the puppies are forced to make their own way in the world, facing humans both gentle and brutal, busy highways, other animals, and the changing seasons. When Bone and Squirrel become separated, Squirrel must fend for herself, and in the process makes two friends who in very different ways define her fate.”
A Dog’s Life is incredibly far away from the books that J would typically tend to read, yet she absolutely loved it. Author Ann Martin writes with simplicity and clarity and makes even non-dog lovers feel for her characters. When a family treats Squirrel with cruelty, J and I had a conversation on how people could be that way and how important it is to care for others. There were so many moments in this book that resonated with us and brought out strong feelings.
When I asked J what she liked the most with A Dog’s Life, she really enjoyed that it was from the dog’s perspective and written in her voice. She had done work in her third grade class on perspective before winter break, but this seemed to impact her on a stronger level then writing a short piece. I’m just glad that she’s understanding things on a variety of levels and enjoying stories that stray from the predictable.
I am lucky that J loves to read as much as she does. We are looking forward to the time when she can officially be on the Battle of the Books team. She struggles with the fact that her classmates read books so that they can take reading counts tests on them. She loves books and doesn’t have a competitive bone in her body when it comes to them, she just wants to share her love of books with anyone who will listen to her, but she doesn’t want to quantify what she is reading. I think that she will thrive being allowed onto the Battle of the Books team next year so that she will have a group of people reading the same books and feeling them with the same sense of passion that she does and she could use a little drive of competition as well. For now, because she is reading things that many of her friends are not, if she wants to have a conversation about a book she either has one with me or else she finishes a book and tries to figure out which of her friends might read next.
It has been great to see her gain a different type of perspective on life by reading things that challenge her notions. The Battle of the Books will continue to allow her to get additional perspective and be surrounded by those who appreciate books the way that she does.
A few weeks ago, my younger daughter randomly decided that she wanted to check out a book about dentists. We wound up pulling a few off the shelf and it turns out that they were absolutely fabulous! Some children have a major fear of going to the dentist, but that has never been an issue in our house. We have been very fortunate to have an absolutely wonderful pediatric dentist and my girls both look forward to their appointments. If you do have a child who is a bit concerned about going to the dentist these books are a wonderful way to calm nerves. For the curious child, these books are a great way to learn about teeth, hygiene and dentistry.
The Tooth Book – The classic Dr. Seuss ode to teeth never gets old. As he says, Teeth come in handy when you chew, so take care of them! This awesome book for the youngest readers will make them laugh out loud as they find out all the things teeth can do and how to take care of them so they last a lifetime!
The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist – We have a strong love of the Berenstain Bears. In this story Sister Bear gets her first lose tooth and needs to visit the dentist for the first time. Mama Bear takes Brother and Sister to the dentist. Brother Bear goes first and the dentist finds a cavity. Of course, watching it get filled scares Sister Bear. She informs the dentist of the lose tooth and fears that it is going to be painfully yanked out. The dentist gently pulls the tooth out and to her surprise it didn’t hurt at all. The dentist gives Sister Bear the tooth and she puts it under her pillow that night and finds money the next morning. This story focuses on preconceptions that kids can have especially something like going to the doctor or dentist only to realize that their fears were blown out of proportion.
Open Wide: Tooth School Inside – This laugh-out-loud book is a great way to learn about teeth. Tons of facts are given as you read along during a day in Dr. Flossman’s class at tooth school. Of course, there is the constant theme of reminding kids to brush and floss, but they will also learn the various teeth, their names, the parts of the tooth itself as well as how cavities are formed and why baby teeth are important. There are also some great historical facts about teeth and dentistry as well as two quizzes at the end of the book. An incredibly fun book that my girls read over and over again.
ABC Dentist – As the front flap says, “A trip to the dentists office doesn’t have to be scary. This book explains the ABCs of a dentist appointment so you’ll know exactly what to expect.” This is a wonderful book to help kids understand all of the aspects of a dentist office and what happens when they are getting their teeth cleaned. The book not only explains details about your teeth, but also explains key items found in a dental office – why you wear a bib, what the x-ray looks for, what a hygienist and orthodontist are, and various things needed to care for our mouths and teeth. While not as comical as Open Wide, the great pictures mixed with aspects of collage make this a great learning tool.
You Wouldn’t Want to Live without Dentists – Recently our library got in a number of new books in the series, “You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without.” These great books talk of modern inventions and professions and how they have improved the quality of our lives. It is hard to imagine what it was like before modern dentistry, electricity or running water. A great thing about these books is that they can be read on a variety of levels of understanding, going into further details depending on the child’s age and interest level.
In the dental book, you get to see the interesting history of modern dentistry. The book keeps kids engaged by talking about some of the more disgusting issues that people had to live with before there were dentists – rotten teeth, pain, teeth falling out, bad breath, and even death from infection. The book also gives great information on what our teeth do, why we need them, and why we need to keep them healthy.
In terms of history, the book does a great job of showing how dental issues were dealt with in the past. Once the book moves into modern dentistry, it focuses on the benefits of prevention, orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry. A great look into the world of dentistry and potential career options.
There are tons of great books about teeth and dentistry, but these have been ones that we really enjoyed.
While I’m at it, one of my blogging goals for this year is to get more active with the book blogging community. One big goal is to participate in this year’s non-fiction picture book challenge (#nfpb2016). The goal is to read and blog about at least one non-fiction picture book each week and it is hosted by Alyson Beecher at KidLitFrenzy. I’m going to join in on the notion of aiming for Wednesdays for this post. To see some amazing books that are coming out this year, that I’m going to have to start pre-ordering, check out this great post of Alyson’s.