A Girl Like You by Frank Murphy and Carla Murphy

A Girl Like You

Frank Murphy and Carla Murphy, Authors

Kayla Harren, Illustrator

Sleeping Bear Press, Fiction, Jul. 15, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Girls, Embracing individuality, Diversity, Self-esteem, Self-confidence, Friendships

Opening: There are billions and billions and billions of people in the world. But you are the only YOU there is!

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Every girl is a wonder! A Girl Like You encourages girls to embrace what makes them unique, to choose kindness, and to be their own advocates. In an age when girls know they can be whatever the want, this book reminds them of all the ways to be beautifully, brilliantly, and uniquely themselves.

Why I like this book:

Frank and Carla Murphy’s magnificent book celebrates girlhood and encourages girls to discover the unique individuals that they are. Readers will meet girls who are brave enough to try new things and not be afraid of failing; girls who pursue their big dreams;  girls who share their thoughts and opinions with others; and girls who have empathy, listen, and are kind to friends in trouble. The messages throughout are beautiful.

This is not just a book for girls. It is also a book that mother and daughter will want to share together. In fact I have adult friends who would benefit from the many beautiful reminders of who girls/women really are. This is a perfect gift book.

Kayla Harren’s endearing and vibrant illustrations show a wide-range of diversity among the characters. I was delighted to see an illustration of a girl with Vitiligo, a skin pigment disorder. Kudos to the illustrator for making the characters inclusive. The end pages are also fun!

Resources: This book will spark many interesting discussions at home and in the classroom. With older girls, encourage them to make a list about the things they like about themselves or write a short story or poem about how they are special. With younger girls have them draw a picture.  This book pairs beautifully with Frank Murphy’s A Boy Like You, so both could be used together in a classroom setting.

Frank Murphy is a teacher who writes and a writer who teaches. After writing A Boy Like You, he wanted to write this book, but knew he couldn’t do it without the help of his best friend and wife, Carla Murphy, who is a pediatric nurse who has been helping kids get better for more than 15 years. This is her first book.  They live in near Philadelphia, with a daughter and their two dogs.

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.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Lulu the One and Only by Lynnette Mawhinney

Lulu the One and Only

Lynnette Mawhinney, Author

Jennie Poh, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Jun. 9, 2020

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Racially-mixed people, Prejudices, Individuality, Self-esteem, Family Relationships

Opening: “My name is Luliwa Lovington, but everyone calls me Lulu. It means “pearl” in Arabic.

Synopsis:

Lulu and Zane’s mother is from Kenya. Their father is white and he coaches Zane’s hockey team. When she’s with her dad, kids think they are adopted. But being a mixture of both her parents stirs up the inevitable question…”What are you? ” Lulu hates that question.

Her older brother Zane, says the question is annoying. But he’s proud of his family and being brown. So he creates a power phrase that he uses: “I am magic made from my parents.”   He says “It helps people understand who you are, not what you are.” Will Lulu find her power phrase?

Why I like this book:

Lynnette Mawhinney has written a sensitive and heartfelt story that empowers children who are mixed race, biracial, or multiracial. Lulu is always being asked the BIG question: What are you? In the story she learns how to deal with her feelings about being mixed race and how to stand proud when she is asked that inevitable question.  There is so much beauty in this story.

Mixed race children often deal with teasing, like her brother Zane. When Lulu is asked THAT question, it comes across as curiosity from some kids, teasing from others. Lulu is a spunky character who is fortunate to have an older, confident brother in Zane, who can help her.

I like that the story is based on the real-life experiences of the author. It is a book that multiracial children and their families will identify with, but it is also a story that should be shared with all children. It is a perfect discussion book for classrooms.

Jennie Poh’s adorable illustrations are cheery and uplifting. They also showcase the bond Lulu and Zane have with their parents.

Resources: The author is biracial and shares many ways parents can start conversations with their children about race. Make sure you check out her Author’s Note at the end.

Lynnette Mawhinney, Ph.D, is the author of many books on education and teaching, but this is her first children’s book. She is a teacher educator that helps to prepare future teachers for the classroom. Lynnette uses her power phrase whenever she needs it as she is proud to be biracial. She lives in Chicago with her husband.  Visit her at her website.  Visit her on twitter: @lkmawhinney.

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.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

A Wish in the Dark

Christina Soontornvat, Author

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Mar. 24, 2020

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes:  Fantasy, Privilege, Oppression, Poverty, Justice, Friendship, Courage, Self-discovery

Book Synopsis:

After a Great Fire destroys the city of Chattana, a man appears before the starving people and offers to bring peace and order to the city. He is called the Governor and he magically lights the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights across the river represent freedom and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them in the city. But when Pong escapes from the prison, he realizes that the world outside is just as unfair as the one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb lights, while the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong’s prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free.

Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family’s good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear. Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, Christina Soontornvat’s twist on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is a dazzling, fast-paced adventure that explores the difference between law and justice — and asks whether one child can shine a light in the dark.

Why I like this book:

A Wish in the Dark is a timeless Asian fantasy that is exquisitely penned by Christina Soontornvat.  Her storytelling and literary style elevate readers’ sense of wonder. The magical Thai setting, well-crafted characters, riveting plot and the gorgeous imagery are so beautifully intertwined that they create an electrifying experience.

At the beginning of the story, the main characters Pong, Somkit and Nok, are 10 years old. As the story unfolds readers will experience their character growth to age 13, as they journey towards self-discovery, which is different for each. Pong is an observer, who has become restless in the confines of a prison. He wants his freedom. Pong looks out for his best friend, Somkit, a small boy who has health issues. When Pong flees, he feels guilt over leaving his defenseless friend behind. The bond between the boys is so natural that they feel like brothers. Nok is the warden’s daughter. She lives a privileged life and is brainwashed by the Governor’s magic and believes his teachings are sacred. Pong and Nok are complete opposites and their journey is fraught with tension and excitement.

This stand-alone novel deals with many social justice issues: the inequality among classes, poverty, oppression, greed, corruption and power. In this novel, power is used by the Governor to control and manipulate those he claims to care about. In Father Cham, a monk, and Ampai, a woman living among the poorest citizens, power is used in loving kindness for the good of all people.  It is a particularly relevant discussion point for students in classrooms.

Verdict: This book is a gem. It may appear to be dark, but don’t let that fool you. Because at its center, there is heart and light.

Christina Soontornvat grew up in a small Texas town, where she spent many childhood days behind the counter of her parents’ Thai restaurant with her nose in a book. She is the author of engaging picture books, chapter books, and middle grade books for children, including the fantasy series, The Changelings, and the upcoming nonfiction account of the Thai Cave Rescue, All Thirteen. She now lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two children.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in an exchange for a review.

Fantastic You by Danielle Dufayet

Fantastic You

Danielle Dufayet, Author

Jennifer Zivoin, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Sep. 3, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Emotional development, Making mistakes, Self-esteem, Love, Kindness

Opening: There’s one special person I’m alsways with…can you guess who?

Bookjacket Synopsis:  There is one special person you get to spend your whole life with: You! So go ahead, cheer yourself on! Shine Bright! You are the best person to take care of yourself. When you show yourself love and kindness, the world will smile back at you — fantastic you!

Why I love this book:

Danielle Dufayet has written an inspiring and beautiful concept book that teaches children how to create a loving relationship with themselves. The narrative reminds me of a self-nurturing pep talk. Each page nudges readers to be loving, kind, and positive towards themselves. “Hello, Awesome!” And making mistakes is also part of learning and a time to take special care. “If I mess up, I say sorry. I do what I can to help make things right, even if it’s an accident. Then I remember to forgive myself.”  Every page energizes readers with a special nugget of self awareness and wisdom that children will easily grasp..

This book is brilliant and I love it’s simplicity. Adults will enjoy reading it with their children. It is a gentle reminder to take care of ourselves first, because we have a lifetime relationship with ourselves.

I wish you could see the actual book cover. It has a shimmer to it and is gorgeous! Jennifer Zivoin’s illustrations convey the Dufayet’s upbeat narrative and shows a variety of emotions as children try to be their best self. They are beautiful.

Fantastic You is perfect for all children, ranging from pre-K to elementary — and adults.  I recommend the book for every home and school. This is a perfect gift book!

Resources:  There is a special Note to Parents and Caregives by Julia Martin Burch, PhD, with more information about to help children cope with big emotions, self-soothe, and use helpful self-talk, like “I can do this.”

Danielle Dufayet is the author of another favorite book, You Are Your Strong. She also teaches English and public speaking/self-empowerment classes for kids. She lives in San Jose, California. Visit Danielle at her website.

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.

*Review copy from publisher.

Stardust by Jeanne Willis

Stardust

Jeanne Willis, Author

Briony May Smith, Illustrator

Nosy Crow (Imprint of Candlewick), Fiction, Feb. 12, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 2-5

Themes: Siblings, Self-esteem, Multigenerational relationships, Being true to yourself

Opening: “When I was little, I wanted to be a star. My sister was a star. Everybody said so. But nobody said it to me.”

Book Synopsis:

A little girl dreams of being a star, but no matter what she does — finding Mom’s lost wedding ring,  winning a costume prize, or knitting a perfect scarf — her big sister always shines brighter. Then, one night, the girl gazes up at the sky with her grandfather.  He tells her about the Big Bang theory and how everything and everyone is made of stardust, so we all shine in different ways.

Why I like this book:

This quiet book would make an excellent read-aloud before bedtime. The narrative has a lovely rhythm and it speaks to the core of a child’s insecurity of feeling overshadowed by an older sibling. I enjoyed the relationship between the grandfather and his granddaughter.  The illustrations are stunning and compliment the storyline. They also depict how diverse we all are as humans. I love the ending where readers will discover the girl does shine in her own special way. This is a great family discussion book as it encourages siblings to share their insecurities and their dreams.

Resources: Read the book to children. Ask each child to say what they like about each a sibling or classmate  — what makes them shine. Or ask each child to draw a picture about what they dream about and what makes them shine.

Jeanne Willis wrote her first book when she was five. After that, there was no turning back. She has since written more than three hundred books and has won several awards, which are arranged in the attic where she works along with her collection of caterpillars, pink-toed tarantula skins, and live locusts. Jeanne Willis lives in London.

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.

*Review copy provided by publisher.

Unstoppable Me! and No Excuses! Mental Health Awareness Month

Unstoppable Me!  10 Ways to Soar Through Life, is written by Dr. Wayne Dyer, with Kristina Tracy, and is published by Hay House, Inc.   The illustrations by Stacy Heller Budnick, are colorful and enchanting.  Although Dr. Dyer would like the concepts in his books introduced to children as early as two years of age, I believe kids ages  4 to 8 years, benefit most– and parents.  This book is based on Dr. Dyer’s adult book What Do You Really Want for Your Children?

Dr. Dyer has effectively used rhyme in a fun way to communicate the 10 concepts in his book.   It is a heartwarming  book that encourages kids to become the most that they can be.    He begins with “You’re great-no matter what,  persistence pays off, welcome to the unknown, you have a choice, farewell to worry, peace begins with you, enjoy the here-and-now, healthy me, creativity is the key, and what can you give.”    Dyer’s messages build such positive self-esteem for children, in ways that a child will easily and eagerly understand.  For example he says, “change is a good thing and if you embrace it instead of fear it, life will always be an adventure.”    His challenge to children is to think about what “you can give and not what you can get.”   At the end of the book is a very important section where children and parents can answer questions about how they might handle a situation.  A great way for a parent to learn about what is on their child’s mind. 

No Excuses!: How What You Can Say Can Get in Your Way  is another book written by Dr. Wayne Dyer with Kristina Tracy and illustrated by Stacy Heller Budnick.  It is for children 4 to 8 years of age. 

This is a  story about a boy who loves turtles and wants to become a marine biologist,  but isn’t supported and encouraged by those around him.  He begins to doubt himself  and gives up on his dream saying  “I’m not smart enough…it’s too hard…it will take too long and cost too much .”   While visiting an aquarium, the boy meets a marine biologist who changes his life,  and gives him the first encouragement he needs to begin to work through his excuses and gain self-confidence.  This book delivers a  powerful message.  It’s well-suited for parents and teachers to use with children, to help them name the excuses they make that prevent them from reaching their full potential.  As with all Dr. Dyer’s books, there is a list and a quiz at the end where kids can discuss whether a sentence is an excuse.

I believe we are undergoing a major paradigm shift in how we teach our children.  Children are so open and receptive to new thoughts and ideas.  Dr. Dyer’s book would be great tools for teachers to use with pre-schoolers through elementary.   After giving this more thought, it would be good for parents to start introducing his books at age two, and continue to read them repeatedly through elementary school.   What better way to affirm your child’s greatness, encourage possibility and reach their full potential.

Incredible You!

Dr. Wayne Dyer’s picture book “Incredible You,” is an uplifting, feel good about yourself picture book that helps children explore the 10 ways to let your greatness shine through. The book illustrations by Melanie Siegel, are bold and colorful.

Everything is possible in the hearts and minds of a child. That is what makes this the perfect book to boost a child’s self-esteem. Dr. Dyer, “believes that you cannot start early enough to teach the essential lessons for living a successful and peaceful life.”

Parents can introduce their children to 10 concepts that include: share the good, find what you love, find a quiet place inside, make today great, take care of yourself, everyone is special, especially you and many more. Each idea is presented very simply and is numbered. At the end, Dr. Dyer, has a list of questions related to each idea, where parents and teachers can help the child relate in his//her own special way.

This is a beautiful book filled with love, insight and purpose. It’s a simple message that kids will get.

It is Dr. Dyer’s wish that “these precious souls close the book and feel that nothing is impossible for them.” “It would be even more thrilling for me if this becomes the book they choose each night.”

The first week of May is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, declared by the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. This week emphasized the importance of family and youth involvement in the children’s mental health movement.  National Mental Health Month will run through May.