Under the Same Sun by Sharon Robinson

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Under the Same Sun

Sharon Robinson, Author

AG Ford, Illustrator

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Jan. 7, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: African-American, Family Relationships, Multigenerational, Multicultural, Tanzania, Safari

Opening: The sun rose in the sky like an orange ball of fire. The rooster crowed. Then the dawn light gave way to an early-morning blue. “Nubia! Busaro! Onia! Wake up!” Father called. “Rachel! Rahely! Faith! The plane will soon be landing!”

Synopsis: Auntie Sharon and Grandmother Bibi are coming to Tanzania from America to visit their family. It will soon be Bibi’s eighty-fifth birthday and her seven grandchildren are planning a big surprise! They spend the next few days telling stories, exchanging gifts, making trips to the markets and preparing spicy meals.

Finally the big day arrives, and three generations of family pack their bags and pile into their father’s jeep for a safari trip in the Serengeti National Park. They view beautiful animals in the wild — hippos, crocodiles, exotic birds, gazelle, a pride of lions, elephants, zebras and giraffes. They make a final stop on their return home to Bagamoyo, a slave-trading post along the Indian ocean.  It is a meaningful stop, because Bibi’s African-born grandchildren learn about how their great-great grandparents were captured and shipped to Georgia to pick cotton on a southern plantation.

Why I like this book:

This is a personal book for Sharon Robinson, daughter of Jackie Robinson, the first black major league baseball player. She shares the story of the trips she and her mother make to visit her brother David, who returned to Tanzania to raise his family. Readers will get a strong sense of the rich cultural heritage, customs and language. This is a heart-felt multigenerational story with a twist, showing Sharon’s African nieces and nephews learning about their ancestral heritage. AG Ford’s oil paintings are exquisite. Just study the vibrant and lively book cover. His brush captures the love and joy among the Robinson family.

Resources: There is an Author’s Note, family photos, a map of Tanzania, a glossary of Swahili words spoken in East Africa, and a page about Tanzanian history and meals. This is a great read for Black History Month. Encourage children to talk with great grandparent, grandparents and family members about their family history. Record the stories told, or write them down.

Favorite Quote: Bibi gathered her children and grandchildren in her arms. “We may be separated by land and sea, but we are always under the same sun,” she said. And she hugged them all at once.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website where you will find lists of books by categories.

Somebody Cares by Susan Farer Straus

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Somebody Cares: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Neglect

Susan Farber Straus, PhD, Author

Claire Keay, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Mar. 14, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Child abuse, Neglect, Child safety, Diverse characters

Opening: There were times I felt good about being me. I did a lot on my own. I told myself, “‘I’m big. I can take care of myself.” But that’s not how I felt all the time. Lots of times I needed help and there was no help.

Publisher Synopsis: Useful to read with a caring adult, Somebody Cares is a book for children who have experienced parental neglect and have taken care of many things on their own. It helps them understand their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors and prepares them for changes in their families. Most importantly, Somebody Cares teaches children that they are not to blame and were brave to do so much on their own.

Why I like this book:

This is the first picture book I’ve read that deals with young children who feel dismissed or neglected by parents. Out of necessity many children have to prepare their own meals, go home to an empty house after school, care for younger siblings, are left at home alone when a parent goes out at night, and worry about parental substance abuse problems. These children are brave, courageous, and strong.  But neglect leads to loneliness, anxiety and behavior problems.  Neglect can be found in all socio-economic groups.

The author has written the narrative in first person, which is very effective. Children express their thoughts and feelings about what it’s like to be on their own. When neighbors and teachers ask them if they are okay, they clam up so they don’t make their parents mad or get in trouble. Help arrives when an adult calls a social worker, who intervenes and talks with the child and parents.  Things begin to change as they all work together.

The illustrator shows a diverse group of children throughout the book, thus eliminating any stereotypes. The illustrations are rendered in warm, colorful pastels. The author has written a must-needed book for children experiencing neglect. Children shouldn’t have to carry such a big burden alone.

Resources: This book is an important tool for grandparents, a caring adult, teachers, school counselors, and therapists to read with a child. In the story the children are encouraged to develop a “Safety Plan,” and a “Feel Good Plan” of deep breathing exercises and relaxation. There are fun after-school activities for kids. There is a “Note to Readers” at the beginning of the book. This book belongs in every school library and counselor’s office.

Favorite Quotes:

“Sometimes I thought everyone forgot about me. Sometimes I thought it was because I was bad.” 

“I thought this was the way it would be forever. Then something happened and things changed.”

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

The Grand Wolf by Avril McDonald

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The Grand Wolf

Avril McDonald, Author

Tatiana Minina, Illustrator

Crown House Publishing Limited, Fiction, Apr. 26, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Animals, Wolf, Death, Dealing with Grief, Accepting Change, Friendship

Opening: “Once in a while, / on a clear sunny day, / Wolfgang would go / to the Grand Wolf’s to play.”

Synopsis: Wolfgang and his friends enjoyed visiting the Grand Wolf.  Grand Wolf always had fresh bread baking in his house and toys in his shed. He’d take Wolfgang on long walks and show him things in the forest. But one day when Wolfgang and his friends went for their visit, they sensed something was wrong. The Wise Owl tells them that Grand Wolf has died. At first they are angry and don’t believe Owl.  Spider helps them deal with their grief and reminds them Grand Wolf will always be in their hearts and memories.

Why I like this book:

I am in awe of Avril McDonald’s tender and wise book about dealing with grief. The lovely rhythmic language and the beautiful illustrations blend perfectly to explore the emotional journey of love and loss, breaking your heart and then helping it to heal.  The book is so well written and talks about death in such a way that is perfect for children.  Wolfgang and his friends express their disbelief and anger and share their tears as Wise Owl and Spider support them, help them deal with this major change in their lives and remind them that just because someone is gone doesn’t mean they have left your heart.  Tatiana Minina’s colorful, bold and expressive illustrations really contribute to the book’s message.

The Grand Wolf is part of McDonald’s Feel Brave Series of books which are designed to help children deal with real life situations, manage tough emotions and reach their potential. Each book tells a story about a real life situation that children may face and offers simple coping strategies.  Each of the five books helps children deal with self-confidence, anxiety and fears, change, grief, loss, worries and bullying.  Follow Avril McDonald on her Feel Brave website.

Resources: This book is a great discussion book and resource for families and educators to use to talk about death with young children.  It is a helpful book for a family dealing with grief, approaching grief or separation. There is also a Feel Brave Teaching Guide available along with a CD.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Barefoot Book of Children – Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Jan. 27, 2017

Multicuturalblogger buttonMulticultural Children’s Book Day – Jan. 27, 2017

Today I am a book reviewer for the Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCBD). The official social media hashtag is #ReadYourWorld. It was founded “to spread the word, raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature and get more of multicultural books into classrooms and libraries.” Please click on the highlighted link above to see all of 300+ book reviews.

barefoot-book-for-children-61bby4xv8bl__sx423_bo1204203200_Barefoot Book of Children

Tessa Strickland and Kate DePalma, Authors

David Dean, Illustrator

Barefoot Books, Nonfiction, Oct. 1, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Diversity, Race, Inclusivity, Connectivity, Commonality, Differences, Global Family

Opening: Every morning, millions of children open their eyes and start another day. We are all somewhere. Where are you? What can you see or hear or smell from where you are?

This is a timeless and empowering book that gives children a peek into how other children live around the world. The Barefoot Book for Children takes readers on a visual tour of their world and nudges them to think about their own lives in comparison to the lives of kids living in New Zealand, Israel, Brazil, Italy, Africa, Pakistan and China. What are their names? How do the dress? What language do they speak? What do their homes look like? Do they live with a single parent, gay parent or an extended family? What are their favorite foods? Do they go to school? What kind of transportation do they use? Do they have hobbies or like to play games?  What is their faith? In learning about others, children experience a richer view of the world community.

Why I like this book:

Tess Strickland and Kate DePalma’s approach is fresh, versatile and appealing for children. The Barefoot Book of Children is celebration of our diversity, inclusiveness and common humanity. Children are naturally curious about why they are where they are in their specific life. They wonder why they are born to a certain family, what part of the world they are born in and why their lives may feel more challenging or privileged. They may live in a farming community, a jungle or a crowded city. They may be a refugee from a war-torn country. They may be walking miles daily across dusty terrain to gather water for family bathing, cooking and drinking. There are millions of children on the planet, each one leading a life all their own — just as they are.

The Barefoot Book of Children is a thought-provoking book that explores the why of our situation and helps children discover how they are more alike than different, no matter their skin color, language, dress or faith. This book emphasizes connectivity with a beautiful diverse human family. Their lives may vary, but they also enjoy studying the same subjects in school, playing the soccer or swimming, and share similar feelings of joy and sadness. This book fosters acceptance of others.

The first half of the story is a beautiful narrative picture book. The end of the book is nonfiction, informative and interactive. It invites children to take a closer look at all the illustrations presented earlier and delve more deeply into the details. The book encourages important discussions about our common humanity.  David Dean’s illustrations are colorful, lively and engaging. They contribute significantly to this beautiful book. Children will enjoy studying the detail on each page.

Resources: This book is a groundbreaking resource for parents and teachers to use to start important conversations.  Encourage children to write their own story, include drawings and photos of their own lives. Then encourage them to step inside another child’s shoes and imagine where they would like to spend a day in another part of the world. Ask them to pick a country, a different body, a new name, a language, a home, a family, food, clothing, and hobbies. Ask them to write a new story, draw a picture of their new life or tell their story in small groups.

multicultrual-twitterpartyMulticultural Children’s Book Day 2017 is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Their mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s 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 are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors: MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include:  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 Sponsors include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawMaria 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.

Other shout-outs to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work 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

Join the Twitter party (#ReadYourWorld) and book give-away January 27, from 9 p.m. – 10 p.m. EST. Multicultural, diverse and inclusive book bundles will be given away. 

*I received a review copy of The Barefoot Book of Children from Barefoot Books. The opinions in this review are entirely my own.

Bobbie The Wonder Dog by Tricia Brown

Bobbie the Wonder Dog 61imub6xbFL__SX408_BO1,204,203,200_Bobbie the Wonder Dog: A True Story

Tricia Brown, Author

Cary Porter, Illustrator

WestWinds Press, Fiction, Apr. 12, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: A lost dog’s journey, Human-animal relationships, Animals

Opening: “Bobbie was going on vacation! Just as his favorite man finished securing the luggage, the mix-breed collie jumped up in one easy leap. This would be his riding place.” 

Book Jacket Synopsis: Frank and Elizabeth Brazier decided that they needed a farm dog and their two daughters needed a friend. They fell in love with a six-week-old puppy, with a bobbed tail, and named him Bobbie. He was the perfect herding dog for their farm animals. When the Brazier’s stopped farming to run a restaurant in town, they decided it was best to leave Bobbie on the farm with his new owners. Days later Bobbie showed up at the restaurant.

In August 1923, the Frank and Elizabeth took a trip from Silverton, Oregon to visit relatives in Indiana. Bobbie was known to jump off the back of the car and chase a rabbit and then show up an hour later further down the road. The evening they arrived in Indiana, Bobbie was with Frank when a pack of wild dogs chased after him. This time Bobbie didn’t return. The couple searched everywhere and there was no sign of Bobbie. They made the trip back home not knowing if he was all right.

Six months after Bobbie was lost in Indiana, a dirty and skinny dog limped into Silverton. Bobbie’s paws were raw and bleeding, but he had traveled nearly 3,000 miles home to Frank and Elizabeth.

Why I like this book:

I am a sucker for a really good dog story, especially when it is based on a true story. Tricia Brown’s heartwarming story about this famous collie is destined to become a classic.  Both children and adults will relate to the love and unbreakable bond between Bobbie and his owner, Frank.

Brown’s storytelling is compelling and her pacing keeps readers fully engaged. The author’s attention to detail demonstrates the amount of research done to portray Bobbie’s unbelievable story as accurately as possible. Bobbie’s 3,000-mile journey that fall and winter across mountain ranges, across rivers and through bone-chilling weather, shows his loyalty to Frank and his family. Bobbie just wanted to go home. All the characters in the story are memorable. The ending makes you want to curl up with the book and start all over again.

Cary Porter’s large, richly textured illustrations are bold, colorful, emotive and significantly contribute to Bobbie’s story. They capture the vintage 1923 automobiles and tractors, the first gasoline pumps, rickety wooden bridges, sleepy towns with dry good stores, dirt roads and cobblestone pavements. The characters are dressed in period clothing. Perfect marriage of stunning artwork and text.

Resources: This is a beautiful book for families. It will prompt many questions from children about what would happen if they lost their pet and how important it is to have pets registered with chips. Encourage kids to come up with a plan if they lose or find a lost pet. Make sure you read the author’s page about the real Bobbie (1921-1927) and his remarkable journey that sparked nationwide interest. Bobbie became a star overnight and people flocked to Silverton, Oregon to see him.  Silverton erected a statue and a seventy-foot mural to pay tribute to their famous dog.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Stickley Makes a Mistake! by Brenda S. Miles

stickley-makes-a-mistake51jrzhny88l__sx401_bo1204203200_Stickley Makes a Mistake! – A Frog’s Guide to Trying Again

Brenda S. Miles, Author

Steve Mack, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Aug. 15, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Frogs, Animals, Making mistakes, Perfection, Perseverance, Rhyme

Opening: When Stickley was young, he didn’t like making mistakes. “Oh no!” he’d say, and he wouldn’t try again. He wanted to be perfect.

Book Synopsis: Stickley didn’t like making mistakes. With help from his Grandpa, Stickley learns to hop up, try again, and say “oh well” when he makes a mistake. Nobody’s perfect, and good things can happen even when you make mistakes — like putting blueberries in the pancake batter instead of chocolate chips. When Stickley writes 1 + 1 = 3 on the blackboard, he asks for help and a polar bear hands him an ice cream cone with two sweet scoops.

Why I like this book:

Brenda S. Mills’ has written a charming and important sequel to her popular Stickley Sticks To It book. Stickley is so afraid of making a mistake, that he’s afraid to try when he messes up. It is important for children to learn that making a mistake is part of their learning process.  They grow from their mistakes. And, some mistakes can be fun. The language is artful, with a careful use of prose that is also lyrical at times.  “No one is perfect, / so practice your best! / If you’re stuck on a problem, / ask for help with the rest!”  Steve Mack’s illustrations are colorful, lively and full of personality. Stickley’s expressions are priceless.

Resources: The book includes a Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers with tips for helping children to embrace their mistakes, learn from them, and keep trying. Stickley Makes a Mistake, is an important book for preschools and elementary students.  This is a good book to read at the start of the new year, to help children know that perfection isn’t the goal — the fun of learning.  And since many parents don’t like making mistakes, it’s a fun book to read with your child.  It will encourage many fun discussions.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

First Snow By Bomi Park

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Bomi Park, Author and Illustrator

Chronicle Books, Fiction, Sep. 6, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 2-5

Themes: Snow, Snowmen, Snow Angels, Inspirational

Opening: “Shhhh, listen… do you hear something? Pit, pit, pit against the window. Glistening, floating in the night.”

Synopsis: A little girl awakens to the sound of snow flakes pit patting against her window.  She quickly dresses in her boots, coat, scarf and hat and sneaks outside to the quiet hush of the snow flakes falling. She begins to roll a small snowball, which grows bigger and bigger as she wanders across the town, along rivers, through the woods, past a bear, and into an open area where a group of children are busy building snowmen and enjoying a magical day in the snow.

Why I like this book:

This enchanting and quiet book by Bomi Park captures the joy and magic a child experiences in a first snow of the season. The minimal text flows nicely, giving the black and white pencil illustrations (with a splash of red) time to draw readers deeply into the journey of a little girl rolling her snowball across town. Park’s dreamy illustrations show the simple wonderment of the story and allow readers time to imagine themselves playing in the new snow. She also uses a lot of white space and many wordless pages in this small book designed for small hands. First Snow is a perfect bedtime snuggle book. Verdict: This book will be a winner with toddlers and young children for many years to come!

Resources: When the first big snow arrives, take a walk, catch snowflakes on your tongue, build a snowman, and make snow angels. Enjoy the experience.

Bomi Park was born and lives in South Korea. First Snow is her debut picture book. It was first published in South Korea. A student of piano, psychology, and architecture, she discovered that drawing was a perfect way to communicate love to her family and friends.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.