Folktales with Lessons for Life

Folktales are such a wonderful part of children’s literature. There are so many tales that have been passed down through the generations and we have learned so many valuable lessons from them. One of the things that I find especially fascinating is reading folktales from a wide variety of cultures to see how similar situations are handled differently and how each culture tries to educate its children on how they are supposed to behave. The list could go on and on, but here are ten that we have recently read that are completely non-traditional for mainstream western world and quite wonderful.

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You Can Do Anything – an inspirational tale with a Hip-Hop beat

One of the neat things about being an Independent Consultant with Usborne Books & More is coming across titles that I would never normally pick up, but that hold some pretty amazing messages. The newest in that category is Hip and Hop, You Can Do Anything, by Akala.

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Akala is an award winning UK Hip-Hop artist who also founded the Hip Hop Shakespeare company. As per their website, The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company is a music theatre production company aimed at exploring the social, cultural and linguistic parallels between the works of William Shakespeare and that of modern day hip-hop artists. How cool is that? Continue reading →

Sumptuous Storytelling with Yokki and the Parno Gry

parno coverOne of the things that seems to be happening in many of the public schools, at least in my neck of the woods, is that there is such a focus on test scores, reading levels, and facts that we are spending less time encouraging our children to think and create. Childhood is a time where many children still believe in the power of stories and where their imaginations run wild. But between the presence of technology and the odd over-scheduling we can’t seem to escape from, kids often don’t get to experience the creative bursts that come from boredom. Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby’s story, Yokki and the Parno Gry, is a tale that highlights the power and wonder of a child’s imagination.

Yokki and the Parno Gry is a tale about the Romani people and the power of storytelling. In the same way Evan Turk’s book, The Storyteller, has the art of telling a story as the item that saved a people in their time of need, so too does Yokki’s story save his family. What sets this book apart from anything else I’ve seen is that it focuses ono the Romani culture and traditions, something we rarely see presented in books in a positive light. Continue reading →

Thirsty, Thirsty Elephant

All animals are pretty amazing, but what child hasn’t been fascinated by elephants?  In North Carolina we are fortunate to have one of the largest natural habitat zoos, so watching the elephants roam and frolic is pretty special. The huge animals are pretty awesome to watch, especially if they are coating themselves in dirt or playing with each other.

elephant coverOne thing that we have been told about elephants is that they have amazing memories. In Thirsty, Thirsty Elephant, author Sandra Markle tells us of the true story of an older elephant in Tanzania who helped her herd find water during a drought. As the synopsis explains:

During a drought in Tanzania, Grandma Elephant is in search of water for her herd. Little Calf follows along and mimics her grandmother at each stop on their journey. When Grandma leads them to a watering hole she recalls from years before, the elephants are overjoyed and Little Calf splashes about with her tender leader. Grandma’s persistence and powerful memory is something Little Calf will never forget.

The story is told through the fascinating generational differences between Grandma Elephant and Little Calf. While Grandma leads the herd in search of water, we see how Little Calf hasn’t yet mastered getting water from her trunk to her throat. Unfortunately, the watering hole is being used by a wide variety of animals and soon there is not enough to go around. Continue reading →

I Love You Americanly

Happy 4th of July! My family just finished walking in our local parade and it was fun to wave at everyone and wish people a happy 4th of July. We are such a rich, diverse country and this is a great time to celebrate that fact. So given that today is the day that we celebrate America, I give you the really wonderful book I Love You Americanly, by Lynn Parrish Sutton and illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg.

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I Love You Americanly is a tribute to the United States as well as a love story between parent and child. As Lynn Parrish Sutton explains, “It is a declaration of love for family and country that includes America’s geographical wonders, cities and monuments, as well as its founding ideals and quintessential experiences.” Continue reading →

Life in the Ocean – Sylvia Earle and a lesson in protecting our earth

ocean coverOur earth’s surface is about 71% water and 29% land, yet much of our seas have barely been explored. Life in the Ocean is the true story of Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer and activist. While the book is about how she fell in love with the sea at an early age, it is also a message that we need to take better care of our oceans.

The start of the book tells of Earle’s early life in New Jersey and her natural curiosity that developed while she was  living on an old farm. Earle investigated the world around her and studied nature and animals. A move to Florida and a pair of swim goggles showed her the amazing life that lived in the ocean and would forever change her life.

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The book then takes a quick turn by briefly describing Earle’s achievements. Between being the only woman doing the kind of research that she was involved in to developing equipment that would allow her to dive deeper in the water, she was obviously an important force in her field. I would have liked to have seen this developed more, but that is where the book becomes less of a biography and more of a book about the ocean and its future. Continue reading →

Empowering books from the Peace Dragon

We live in a confusing world. I can only imagine what it must be like to be a child these days with the proliferation of digital media and the constant information stream. It is hard to turn it off and focus on the right in front of us. Not only that, but there is so much hatred in the world right now and I don’t think it is possible to shield our children from it. But we do have the power to acknowledge the hate that is out there and to promote a world of kindness. To promote going high when they go low. To promote loving everyone. I’ve taken a look at books about kindness in the past, but when I was given the opportunity to check out two new books from the Peace Dragon series, I jumped at it.

Empowering books from the Peace Dragon

Author Linda Ragsdale encourages everyone to view the world through the eyes of peace. Her Peace Dragon project started after she survived a terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008. The Peace Dragon’s mission is to set peace and love as the natural response in any situation. Her books Words and Not Opposites help show children how words can empower and encourage us, and create change in our lives and the world around us. Continue reading →

A Family is a Family is a Family

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We all feel a little different from others from time to time. Sara O’Leary’s sweet book, A Family is a Family is a Family, gently reminds us all that no matter what our differences, we are all the same in the one way that matters most – there are people around us who we love and who love us.

The book starts from the voice of an unknown child who wanted to go last when her teacher asked the class to share what makes their family special. This child wanted to go last because they weren’t sure what to say – “My family is not like everybody else’s.” But what does that mean? What makes this child think that her family is so different?

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The rest of the book features a different family on each spread. No two families are exactly alike which also allows each child reading it to see a family that might be similar to theirs. We talk about how important it is for kids to see themselves represented in books, and this story aims to include as many as possible. There are a variety of races, families with gay and lesbian parents, adoptive families, step-families, and everything in between. Continue reading →

Standing up for the Statue of Liberty

This week my younger daughter is at a camp where she is getting to do a wide variety of arts and crafts project with the theme – Party in the USA. They are fully involved in celebrating this great country that we live in. So far, her favorite day has been where they focused on the Statue of Liberty. In addition to painting a picture, they created her crown and torch.IMG_0008

Back in April, I wrote about a few books that we had found about the Statue of Liberty after visiting her during our spring break. Now there is a new book coming out this September that takes a very interesting look at Lady Liberty, specifically, her right foot.

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In Dave Eggers’ new book, Her Right Foot, readers get the usual history of the great statue – how she was designed and built, why she is green, and what the symbolic significance is behind aspects of her design. But then about half-way through the book, Eggers draws the reader’s attention to a little discussed part of the statue – her feet. Continue reading →

Jason Chin’s Grand Canyon

grand canyon coverIt’s summer, time for family vacations. One place that has been on my husband’s bucket list for some time is the Grand Canyon. I would like my daughters to be a touch older so that they can appreciate it a bit more and not balk at the walking involved, but it is definitely something that we plan to do at some point. Before we could possibly attempt that, letting our children explore Jason Chin’s Grand Canyon is an absolute must.

Grand Canyon is one of the most talked about books in the nonfiction picture book genre right now. I got a copy of the book from the library and now I can completely understand why this book has people so excited. Chin takes a fascinating look into the Grand Canyon and the book works as a wonderful research tool for any child in the upper elementary grades. Continue reading →