Diversity in children’s literature has always held a strong place in my heart and is something that I promote at every possibility. When Charlottesville happened, I couldn’t wrap my head around how our country had seemingly traveled backwards in time. I went back to check out books that focused on diversity, that focused on the experiences of racism that African-Americans have faced in this country, I took comfort in how far children’s books have come to show inclusion instead of exclusion. It wasn’t enough, but it was a start. Continue reading →
We have recently started encouraging our daughters to get into the “old fashioned” concept of writing letters to pen-pals. J has started writing to a cousin and some of E’s closest friends will be moving away this summer. With that in mind, finding Josh Funk’s new book, dear Dragon, has been an absolute delight.
The story is that two young boys, George Slair and Blaise Dragomir, go to two different schools and have been assigned to be each other’s pen pals. Their entire classes have teamed up as a class project and their letters have to be written in rhyme as it is also for their poetry project. What they don’t know is that one school is for dragons and one school is for humans. Much hilarity ensues. Continue reading →
What if you had a machine that could do all of your homework for you? Would you share that information? What would you do with all of the extra time? How would you feel about using the machine? These are all questions that come up in Dan Gutman’s The Homework Machine.
The Homework Machine tells the story of four fifth graders who found a way out of doing their homework. The foursome is made up of a geek, a class clown, a teacher’s pet and a slacker. When the geek, Brenton, accidentally tells Sam about his machine, it sets the ball in motion for an adventure in ethics and self-discovery.
We picked up this book because it is on the 2016-17 NC elementary school Battle of the Books. J really enjoyed this book and simply couldn’t put it down. For her, she felt that this was one of those books where you really felt like you were a part of the story. She felt that she was right there in the story, seeing it through the characters’ eyes. One reason for that sense of perspective comes from the fact that you read all of the actions from various perspectives. Whereas The Candymakers focused on a long period of time from one character and then repeated that whole segment from another character’s perspective, The Homework Machine, switches from paragraph to paragraph in the four main characters’ perspectives as well as the teacher, two mothers and a few classmates.
J also felt very connected to one of the characters because the two had a great deal in common. With four very distinct personalities, it is probable that a reader will feel a certain bond or kinship with an individual character.
From an adult perspective, it was very interesting to see how the kids not only dealt with the notion of right and wrong when it came to using the machine, but also how they developed as individuals. Judy, the intelligent class-pet who worked hard but excelled, struggled with the most guilt throughout the story. Sam, the class clown, and Kelsey, the slacker, wanted to utilize the homework machine the most because they truly struggled when it came to doing the work and wanted an easy out, so they dealt with less guilt. Brenton invented it as a way to free up his time to study other things that he wasn’t doing in school and because he knew all of the answers anyway.
In addition to the ethical question of using a homework machine, part of the story dealt with each child’s desire, or lack there-of, of fitting in, especially through the eyes of Aam. Sam struggles with both a great deal of self-doubt and yet a strong need to be seen as cool. By being a part of the foursome and seeing Brenton seriously not care what others thought of him, helped Sam have more faith in himself.
This is a great book to get kids thinking about ethics. Additionally, it also highlights the fact that you can’t judge a book, or person, by it’s cover and that we don’t know what others are going through. As we have started to read a few other Battle of the Books entries, that seems to be a theme for a selection of them this year and it is a great way to help teach empathy. All in all, this was a very enjoyable book.
It is once again time for the Multicultural Children’s Book Day. I was honored to participate in this event last year and am thrilled to be a part this year.
When I go through the books that we read, we actually read a ton of books that fall into the multicultural category, but I know that we are not the norm. The founders of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day actually say the following as their mission statement:
Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.
The amazing MCCBD team has the following message: ” We hope 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.”
I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston from Wisdom Tales Press. We have read a number of books from this publishing company and I am always impressed. This one was one of their better ones with stunning artwork.
The story is about two children who have to learn how to share together and work together. It also is about understanding what a family goes through after they have to leave their home due to being “different.”
The house next door to Sameer’s had been empty for as long as he could remember. The family had gone away when the war began. But now they were back, and he was ready to have fun with his new playmate. Together they could climb the big olive tree that overlooked both their gardens, and eat the delicious olives it produced. The only problem was that Muna, the little girl next door, didn’t want to play and she didn’t want to share the olives. She said they belonged to her family alone—that is, until one fateful night when lightning struck the tree.
Both of my girls enjoyed reading this book. When I talked to J about it, she definitely got the message about sharing. She had a harder time comprehending the fact that Muna probably felt bitter at having to have left her home and being considered “different.” The olive tree had been shared for years, but now she feels overly possessive because she lost it. J did understand that when the lightening struck it was a symbolic message to wake them up and get them to work it out.
I actually love the fact that this book allows you to open a conversation about what other people might be feeling. One of the other MCCBD bloggers posted this wonderful worksheet that I want to start using with J. You can see her great reviews and get a PDF of this page by visiting her site.
Opening our kids’ eyes to the world around them is incredibly important. We struggle with being “different” when big Christian holidays come up, so I know that my girls understand on some levels. But there is more to it then religion. Our children should understand the bigger picture of different races and struggles that people face. We should always be reading texts that broaden their understanding of the world and I am incredibly grateful for Multicultural Children’s Book Day.
Please check out the full link-up of all of the amazing books featured this year. You can find that HERE.
Sponsors of Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2015
Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press,Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, Gold Sponsors: Satya House, MulticulturalKids.com, Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Silver Sponsors: Junior Library Guild, Capstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books, The Omnibus Publishing. Bronze Sponsors:Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing, Rainbow Books, Author Felicia Capers, Chronicle Books Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.
Meet the Co-Founders behind Multicultural Children’s Book Day
Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press are the co-founders of Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Read more about their passion for putting great books in kids’ hands here.
The 2015 Multicultural Children’s Book Day Co-Hosts:
Collaborations and Partnerships
Multicultural Children’s Book Day is partnering with First Book to offer a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. We want to help get diversity books into the hands of kids who most need it and now we have a way to do it! The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found HERE.
MCCBD is also collaborating with Children’s Book Council to highlight wonderful diversity books and authors on an ongoing basis all year.
Disclosure: * I was given this book free-of-charge by the author in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own.