Tag Archives: friendship

Greetings from Witness Protection!

Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the free review copy of his book – all opinions are my own.

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I had so much fun reading this book and would find myself finding ways to sneak in a chapter here and there. Quite impressive for a debut novel, but it is obvious that Jake Burt knows his audience well (he teaches 5th grade). Totally not surprising that the book is already a BEA Editor’s Buzz Pick for 2017!

Nicki Demere is a foster kid who happens to also be a kleptomaniac. After getting sent back from her most recent family, she finds that while her background of crime hasn’t helped her win over families, the US Marshalls might have a need for her to help hide a family of 3 by making them a family of 4. Continue reading →

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Let the Museum come to Life with Mr. Owliver

I love being able to talk to my daughters about art and share a love of viewing art. We don’t have a lot of access to museums where we live, so I have to supplement with books and through their amazing art program at school. To engage kids in art, you have to make it come alive. That is exactly what Carolyn Bracken managed to do in her upcoming book, Mr. Owliver’s Magic at the Museum.

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In this fabulous book, Mr. Owliver is a night watchman at the Animaltown Art Museum. He loves his job and is perfectly happy to have the night shift, considering he is an owl. His job starts when everyone is leaving the museum at the end of the day, so he spends his night being able to see famous paintings without any crowds and at whatever pace he wants. Over the years, he has come to see the characters in these paintings as his friends. Continue reading →

Diverse Books, Now More than Ever

Diverse Books,Now More Than Ever

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 →

Sukkot – the Fall Harvest Festival

Every fall, Jews around the world come together to celebrate Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, also known as the High Holidays. Five days after Yom Kippur is over, another holiday starts again, this time, it is the wonderful holiday of Sukkot.

Picture Booksabout Sukkot

Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest and the exodus from Egypt. Many families build their own sukkahs  or have one at their synagogue. A sukkah is a temporary hut topped with branches and decorated with autumnal, harvest, or Judaic themes. One mitzvah of sukkot is to share a meal in the sukkah. Another is to shake a lulav and etrog and rejoice before God. The lulav is actually made up of branches from palm (lulav), willow (aravot), and myrtle (hadassim) trees and the etrog is a citron fruit. The four items are meant to represent the various personalities that make up the community of Israel, whose intrinsic unity is emphasized on Sukkot. More than anything, sukkot is a holiday of coming together.

Since Sukkot is a holiday of community, it is a great time to come together and read a book to understand the many meanings of the holiday. Continue reading →

Princess Lila Builds a Tower

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Princess Lila is a princess who had everything in order to be happy, and yet she wasn’t. She lived in an enormous castle, had all of the material things a princess could hope for and servants to take care of her every need. But she wasn’t allowed outside of the walls of her castle and she had no friends. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be so happy in that situation either.

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So begins the story Princess Lila Builds a Tower, by Anne Paradis (CrackBoom! Books, May 2017). Lila tries a variety of ways to get past her parent’s rule about not leaving the castle grounds and still seeing the world outside the walls, until she decides to build a tower with the help of one of her tutors. The tutor is thrilled as it will involve architecture, geometry and mathematics. Continue reading →

Real Friends by Shannon Hale

When I first heard that Shannon Hale was writing a graphic novel memoir I knew that it was one of those books that I was going to have to get my hands on. Thanks to NetGalley, my daughter J and I were able to read this before it actually came out, but I also still have a copy of it pre-ordered in my Amazon account.

Shannon Hale is one of our favorite authors who has written books from the Princess in Black Series to Ever After High and the Princess Academy series. You can check out some of our comments on those at an earlier post about Princesses who Defy the Rules. The characters that she writes about are strong, spunky, and take chances to be their own best self. Combine our love of her writing with the ever-trendy graphic novel format, and I knew there was a winning combination.

In her new book, Real Friends (being published this May by First Second), Shannon Hale and illustrator LeUyen Pham bring forth a graphic novel about growing up and the realities of friendship and cliques. Continue reading →

Maggie Celebrates Ayyám-i-Há

This past December my daughter was getting ready for her school’s holiday music celebration when we decided to get a lesson on inclusion. Their music teacher was having them sing a variety of Christmas songs, but had failed to consider other faiths. Enter E, a very strong willed, opinionated, proud little Jewish girl. She decided that singing only Christmas songs wasn’t very inclusive since she doesn’t celebrate Christmas and asked that they also sing a Chanukah song.

So about a week before the performance, she comes home all excited about the new words to the end of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” – now the words have become “we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a Happy Chanukah, we wish you a loving Ayyám-i-Há and a Happy New Year.” Say what? I couldn’t really understand what she was saying, I thought it was more like a loving Yamaha, but that didn’t make much sense either, so I texted her friend’s mom. Turns out Ayyám-i-Há is a Bahá’í holiday celebrated in late February, but is a time of small gift giving and the closest thing to Christmas that they celebrate.

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According to Wikipedia, “during the Festival of Ayyám-i-Há, Bahá’ís are encouraged to celebrate God and his oneness by showing love, fellowship and unity. In many instances Bahá’ís give and accept gifts to demonstrate these attributes, and it is sometimes seen as a “Bahá’í Christmas”, but many Baha’is only exchange small gifts because gifts are not the main focus. It is also a time of charity and goodwill and Bahá’ís often participate in various projects of a humanitarian nature.”

I needed to find a book about it, so I asked my daughter’s friend for some help. They loaned me a wonderful book that I now share with you.

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In Patti Rae Tomarelli’s book, Maggie Celebrates Ayyám-i-Há, the sun is just starting to go down on February 25th and young Maggie hurries to a hill and uses a compass that her grandfather gave her so that she can face west. She takes in the amazing sunset and then cries in joy, “My God, my Fire and my Light! The days which Thou has named the Ayyám-i-Há in Thy Book have begun!”

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As the day progresses, Maggie find winds to do wonderful acts of kindness. She breaks open her piggy-bank to get at the money she has saved to purchase birdseed and make her own feeder. She bakes cookies with her brother and leaves them as gifts for two elderly friends. She leaves flowers and notes for her parents, brother, and teacher. Then she returns home to meditate.

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I think this holiday is absolutely wonderful. The book even includes information about the holiday, about what Maggie did each day and why, and shows children how to make the bird feeder that she makes as one of her gifts. It was really wonderful for my daughter to see that there are other minority religions out there as well and that we should all take pride in our beliefs and learn to share them with those around us.

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celebrating-around-the-worldWhile I believe that this particular book might be out of print, there is a brand new book that came out in January about the holiday – Celebrating Ayyam-i-Ha Around the World, by Melissa Lopez Charepoo. This book apparently shows a wide spectrum of families around the world celebrating this wonderful holiday.

I love that we learned something new this year and we continue to learn about their faith and experiences. For all of those who will begin celebrating Ayyám-i-Há this weekend, may you have a loving and joyous holiday!
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Over-Scheduled Andrew

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It is amazing how busy our children’s schedules are these days. I know that I personally feel like a taxi service sometimes, just going from one activity to the next. In Over-Scheduled Andrew, author Ashley Spires shows how having too many extra-curricular activities can get in the way of just being a kid.

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It started innocently enough. Andrew loved putting on plays, so he joined the drama club “so he could wear costumes and perform on a real stage.” He was a natural, “but even naturals have to practice,” so he was encouraged to join the debate club, which led to the chess club. He also found it hard to keep up with the dance routines, so he took ballet and karate. It was a lot, but he still made sure to see his best friend and just be a kid. Then people asked him to do more and more and finally, the straw broke the camel’s back.

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All of his activities left him so exhausted that he missed his cue in the big play, the reason he had started all of this in the first place.

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Andrew got smart and cut back his schedule to only 2 things. Now he had time to just hang out with his friends and be a kid.

These days, we really do tend to over-schedule our children rather than let them just have fun. I know that I’m guilty of it at times. Kids seem to have a really hard time with being “bored” these days. Unstructured play time is so important to their development. The hardest part is that most of us no longer live in neighborhoods where the kids can just go outside and play with the other kids who live close-by. Playdates have to be organized around everyone’s busy schedules. There is no easy solution, but this book was definitely spot on for our current culture. The interesting thing here was that Andrew had overdone it himself and he was smart enough to finally take a step back and give up most of his activities so that he could be fully involved in the ones that he really loved. A great book with a timely message.

Can I Join Your Club?

can-i-join-your-club_diversity-inclusivity-and-friendshipOne of the more important lessons that we can teach our children is to be inclusive rather than exclusive. To embrace others regardless of their differences and to try to be friends with everyone. This is something that we teach at home, through our actions and behaviors, and through books. It is never to young to learn to include others, but it can be a hard message to learn, which is why I’m so happy to have found the book Can I Join Your Club, by John Kelly.

In this simple book, Duck wanted to make some new friends so he decided to join a club. He first approaches Lion, although he does so with a large wig on his head to look like a mane. When he asks Lion if he can join, Lion needs Duck to prove that he is worthy of the club and asks him to roar like a lion. Of course, ducks don’t roar, they quack. “‘Application denied!'” said Lion. ‘You’re not really what we’re looking for in a Lion Club.'”club1

Duck then goes from club to club never quite fitting in and constantly being told that he is denied entrance to their club. As I read the book, I got the odd memory of all of the club tables out on college campus, but especially right before rush week. You wanted so much to fit in, and yet deep down, you knew you were a little different.

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Duck was depressed. Who wouldn’t be? Club after club has just said that he wasn’t worth having around. Luckily, Duck is one smart duck and he knows what he has to do – start his own club! But Duck is also a caring duck and he doesn’t want anyone to feel shut down the way he did, so when Tortoise comes up and asks if he can join Duck Club, Duck has one simple question – “Do you want to be in a club with me?” When Tortoise says yes, Duck of course tells him that he is approved.

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Animal after animal approaches Duck’s table which has now been renamed from “Duck Club” to “Our Club.” Duck realized quickly that you can never have too many friends and you don’t have to all be the same.

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The story is simple and yet profound. If you only surround yourself with people that look and act exactly like you, you will be missing out on all of the things that everyone else has to offer. But if you care less about what’s on the outside and more about what’s on the inside, you’ve opened yourself up to a world of possibilities and a whole lot of fun.

This is a great message for little kids as they are starting preschool and going to playgroups. The book is also rather large so it is perfect for story time and sharing.

** I am an Independent Usborne Books & More Consultant, but I never recommend books that I don’t believe in. If you want any additional information on this book or any other Usborne title, please get in touch with me.

Making Friends with Billy Wong

When we think of the Civil Rights Movement, we understandably think about the African-American experience. I wrote once before about how Mexican Americans in California were segregated into various schools and we have all heard of the horrible injustice of the Japanese Internment camps. As a Jew, I have long heard stories of quotas and some regions not allowing Jews to purchase homes or join certain clubs. There has always been a fear of things that are different and unknown. For this year’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day, one of the books I was sent was Making Friends with Billy Wong, by Augusta Scattergood. This book gave me pause to consider the Asian American experience, especially in the South.

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This novel focuses on Azalea Ann Morgan, a young girl who is sent to live with a grandmother that she barely knows during the summer of 1952. Her grandmother needs some help while she is recuperating from an injury and Azalea has been volunteered for the job. Azalea is very shy and doesn’t like talking to strangers, and more than anything, she misses her best friend back in Texas. Grandmother Clark has a very strong personality and is seen as something of one of the town’s matriarchs, but that doesn’t mean that Azalea likes her right off the bat. Early on, she encourages Azalea to befriend Billy Wong, a young Chinese-American boy living with his great-aunt and uncle and helping them at their grocery store.

Azalea is not comfortable with meeting anyone new, but especially not a “foreigner,” which is how she sees Billy. She fears going to Mr. Wong’s store assuming that she won’t be able to understand anything he says since she doesn’t speak Chinese. Grandma Clark, ever the one to bring people together, finally helps Azalea break down her walls by making her take Billy to ice cream on a scorching hot day.

The reason that Billy is living in in Paris Junction is so that he can go to a better school. According to the author’s note in the back of the book, the Jim Crow laws of segregation in the South also impacted the Chinese immigrant population, which was surprisingly large. In 1927, a Supreme Court case classified Chinese Americans as “colored,” which led to many communities not allowing Chinese students to attend the segregated white schools. for Billy’s character, in his hometown he would have to go to the Negro school, which offered a substandard education. There had been a Chinese Mission school that his older siblings had attended, but it closed down. However, in Paris Junction Billy was allowed to go to the white school. While on the topic of Billy, from time to time, the novel switches to Billy’s voice in the form of his writings. From these small moments, we can see the prejudice from Billy’s eyes which lends additional power to his plight.

I was surprised to learn of the large number of Chinese immigrants that moved to the south as migrant labor and wound up opening  neighborhood groceries that served black and white clientele. But as one might imagine, their being in cities that historically had been segregated didn’t always allow for smooth transitions. As Augusta Scattergood alludes to in this book, other students were not happy with the notion of students who were different coming in and excelling on the sports teams and in the classroom. Local businessmen were also not always thrilled with the Chinese grocery stores, especially if they took business away from them. By setting this novel up through the eyes of 11 and 12 year olds, you can really get a sense of what the experience was like.

Scattergood uses her novel to touch on a variety of topics. There is the fear of those that are different. There is also a general anxiety around people and learning how to deal with strangers. Azalea and her grandmother learn how to be a family and how important family bonds are. Finally, there is also the character of Willis DeLoach who has a lot of anger and is incredibly misunderstood, but behind his prejudice is a little bit of jealousy and a lot of burdens bigger than a boy his age should be dealing with. Grandma Clark is the glue trying to put the whole town together.

This middle grade novel has a lot going for it and was a great read. Many kids can empathize with one or more of the characters and see how hard it is to be different. I also think that reading the author’s note and understanding the true history behind this story is important. A great read for kids 8+.

MCBookDay-white-1I received this book from Scholastic Books as a part of the 2017 Multicultural Children’s Book Day.

I have been involved with Multicultural Children’s Book Day since it started. Having grown up in Los Angeles, surrounded by a diverse community, I never thought about the notion of being different. Now that I live in a small town in the south, I am much more aware just how hard it can be to be a minority and to be misunderstood. I have always tried to teach my daughters to love everyone and to believe that we are all one human race and that all of our histories and differences should be celebrated.  I also know how important it is to be able to see yourself in the books you read, even more so when you are in the minority, so I look forward to this blogging event every year.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

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 holiday, the MCBD Team is on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawDelores Connors, Maria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use their official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.