Seasons of Joy by Claudia Marie Lenart

Seasons of Joy: Every Day is for Outdoor Play

Claudia Marie Lenart, Author and Illustrator

Loving Healing Press, Fiction, Apr. 1, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 2-4

Themes: Seasons, Nature, Animals, Multicultural Children, Playing outdoors

Opening: Wake up! It’s Spring. / Trees are tipped in wisps of green. / Let’s stretch our legs and run on soft, fresh grass. / Up and down the hills we hop and jump / Like newborn bunnies do.

Book Jacket Synopsis: The pure and simple delight of children playing outside is captured in needle-felted wool paintings created by Claudia Marie Lenart. The picture books pairs dreamy images of multicultural children, animals, flowers and trees with verse that expresses the joy young children experience in nature’s seasons. Children can see themselves in the diverse characters and can be inspired to spend more time playing outdoors and connecting to nature.

What I like about this book:

Claudia Marie Lenart’s Seasons of Joy is magical.  Her rhyming prose conjures such beautiful visual images of each season and encourages young children to go outside to picnic in a meadow, watch butterflies dance, float on waves, pile leaves high, gather nuts and pine cones, make snow angels and build snow castles. Just read the opening (above) and let her words roll around your mouth and feel their power.

Accompanying her lyrical language is Lenart’s signature wool artwork, which will captivate children as they study all of the beautiful detail in each dreamy scene. Children will experience the wonder, joy and adventure in spending a day romping in nature throughout the seasons. This is a perfect bedtime story.

Resources: Spend a day outdoors picking violets, climbing a tree, playing games in the meadow with friends, exploring creeks or counting the stars at night.

Claudia Marie Lenart is a fiber artist whose passion is needle felting.  Her soft sculpture characters are created by repeatedly poking wool and other natural fibers, like alpaca, with a barbed needle. She illustrated three books for the late children’s author Jewel Kats: Jenny and Her Dog Both Fight Cancer, Prince Preemie, and Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist.  To learn more about Lenart’s artistry and books, visit 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 Perfect Picture Books.

There’s a Cat in Our Class! by Jeanie Franz Ransom

There’s a Cat in Our Class!: A Tale About Getting Along

Jeanie Franz Ransom, Author

Bryan Langdo, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Aug. 15, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Animals, Dogs, Cats, Diversity, Embracing differences, Tolerance

Opening: “There were eighteen students in Miss Biscuit’s class. Until…”

Synopsis: Just before lunch, Miss Biscuit shared the exciting news that there would be a new student joining the classroom — Samantha. Max, Rusty, Ginger, and Tanner assume that their new classmate will be just like them … a  DOG.  But Samantha is a cat! “But cats make me nervous,” Rusty said. Me, too! Ginger said. “I’m going to start shedding any minute.”  How does that make Samantha feel? That leads to some hilarious acting out and a heap of questions among the classmates.  When Samantha saves the ball game at recess, the other dogs thinks she’s a pretty cool cat. Then Miss Biscuit announces that there will be another new student arriving tomorrow…

Why I like this story:

Jeanie Franz Ransom has written a clever and humorous story for young children about embracing the differences in each other. With the growing diversity in our country, this is a very timely book.  The students in this story are curious and brutally honest with their questions to their new classmate, Samantha. They want to know if she eats mice, walks on a leash, wags her tail and uses a litter box or goes outside. The  cast of characters are lively and learn about acceptance, tolerance and how to get along. Bryan Langdo’s illustrations are colorful, expressive and tickle the imagination! I love the book cover.

Reading this book to children will help them discover how they are more alike than different, no matter their skin color, ethnicity, language, LGBT issues or disability.  There’s a Cat in Our Class emphasizes compassion and connectivity with our beautiful diverse human family. Although their lives may vary, children enjoy learning, playing games and sharing feelings of joy and sadness. This book fosters acceptance of others.

Resources: This book includes A Note Readers written by Gayle E. Pitman, PhD, that discusses how parents, teachers, and other adults can talk with children about diversity in a way that’s meaningful and effective.

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.

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Amina’s Voice

Hena Khan, Author

Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Fiction,  Mar. 14, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Pakistani and Asian Americans, Friendship, Peer Pressure, Family, Muslim Culture, Community, Prejudice, Racism

Opening: Something sharp pokes me in the rib. “You should totally sign up for a solo,” Soojin whispers from the seat behind me in music class. I shake my head. The mere thought of singing in front of a crowd makes my stomach twist into knots.

Book Jacket SynopsisAmina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American,” now that she is to become a citizen. Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with  these questions, her local mosque is vandalized, and she is devastated.

Why I like this book:

Hena Khan has written a timely and empowering novel about a young Muslim American girl, who finds her voice with the help of friends, family, and community.

Khan’s novel is multi-layered with many themes. The central theme of Khan’s book is about what it’s like to be a Muslim girl growing up in America. She takes her readers into a loving and strict Muslim family, where cultural traditions are at the center of their lives, from praying, studying the Quran and meal preparation, to the respect shown to visitors and the value of community.

The main characters are multi-dimensional and diverse. Amina is a kind-hearted, shy, and talented pianist and vocalist. Her best friend, Soojin, is Chinese and wants to change her name because no one knows how to pronounce it. Bottom line, she wants to fit in. This raises important questions for Amina. Would the popular kids like her better if she changes her name? How does she be true to her Muslim values and still be American? Many readers will identify with the angst of middle school as they navigate through those sensitive years. Amina’s story will also resonate with children of immigrants.

The language is carefully crafted and uplifting. The plot is realistic and leaves readers with hope even after the Islamic Center is attacked and vandalized. It is heartwarming to see how the community rallies behind the Muslim community by inviting them to use their churches and providing labor to rebuild the center. It beautifully demonstrates to readers the meaning of our common humanity. I know my community would come to the rescue of our Muslim neighbors. Verdict: This book belong in every middle grade library. It’s a treasure!

Hena Khan is a Pakistani American who was born and raised in Maryland. She enjoys writing about her culture. She is the author of several books, including It’s Ramadan, Curious George, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, and Night of the Moon. You can learn more about Hena Khan by visiting her website.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

Halito Gianna: The Journey Continues by Becky Villareal

Halito Gianna: The Journey Continues

Becky Villareal, Author

CreateSpace, Fiction, Dec. 27, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 7-11

Themes: Exploring family roots, Multicultural, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, Mystery

Opening: Halito means hello in Choctaw, but I didn’t find that out for a long, long time. At least that’s how it seems when you’re still in school and having to go every single day of the year!

Synopsis: Gianna is a fourth grader who came to America from Mexico. She is very interested in exploring her family’s roots.  Her teacher announces that the class will celebrate Halloween with a Book March and students are encouraged to wear a costume that matches a character in a favorite book. Gianna wants to dress as a Native American girl to honor her favorite book, The Rough-Faced Girl. While she searches her attic for costume possibilities, she discovers an old trunk that is full of old family pictures of Mexico, passports, and memorabilia. She realizes how much she doesn’t know her family history. Her mama tells her that her father was a soldier at Fort Bliss in El Paso and was shipped overseas. He didn’t return and her mother never knew what happened to him. Gianna decides that she’s going to find out. With the help of the social studies teacher, she learns how to search information about her father on veteran’s sites. With her new best friend, Aponi, who is Native American and speaks Choctaw, she begins to learn about her friend’s culture.  Aponi helps Gianna with her search, which takes a very unexpected turn. Will Gianna find her father and solve the mystery for her mother?

Why I like this book:

Becky Villareal has written a captivating chapter book about a girl interested in researching her family roots, finding answers about her father’s disappearance and learning something more about her own identity. Halito Gianna: The Journey Continues is the second book in the Gianna The Great series. It teaches young readers about genealogy, history, solving a mystery and tolerance for different cultures.

Gianna Saldana is a curious, determined and kind-hearted girl. She befriends Aponi, the new girl who is shy and self-conscious. Both characters are from different family backgrounds. Gianna’s mother is a single parent raising her daughter alone. Aponi is from a very large family, many living in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

The story is original and well-crafted, the plot is realistic and the ending will surprise and satisfy readers. It is an adventure story with a fun mystery to solve. Villareal incorporates both Spanish and Choctaw words throughout the story. The illustrations are colorful and cartoon-like. Verdict: This 37-page book will engage readers and is an excellent recommendation for reluctant readers.

Becky Enriquez Villareal is the author of Gianna the Great series. She was born in Dallas, Texas in 1954 to missionary parents. She grew up in several different Texas towns including McKinney. For twenty years she has taught early childhood in Dallas Independent School District. For the past ten years she has completed family research. The grandmother of three she enjoys writing and spending time with her family.

Resources: This is a wonderful discussion book for children and parents to explore their own family history. Answer your kids’ questions about your childhood and family life. Encourage them to interview their grandparents and great grandparents about their memories of family history so they have a sense of their roots.  They may be surprised about what they learn.  Visit Villareal‘s website, where kids can print out a variety of family trees and fill in their own family information.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

*I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk by Kabir and Surishtha Sehgal

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The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk

Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal, Authors

Jess Golden, Illustrator

Beach Lane Books, Fiction, Jan. 12, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 3-6

Themes: Transportation, India, Tuk Tuk, Nursery Rhyme, Multicultural

Opening: Tuk tuk wheels go / round and round, / round and round, round and round. / Tuk tuk wheels go / round and round, / all through the town.

Publisher Synopsis: This picture book brings an international twist to the beloved nursery rhyme, The Wheels on the Bus, by bringing you aboard a busy three-wheeled taxi in India! Anything can happen as the tuk tuk rolls through town—from an elephant encounter to a tasty treat to a grand fireworks display. And in the midst of all the action, one thing’s for sure: passengers young and old love every minute of their exciting ride as the wheels of the tuk tuk go round and round!

Why I like this book:

This mother and son writing team have created a clever multicultural spin on the popular children’s song “The Wheels on the Bus.” Children are introduced to Indian culture in this joyful story about the riders traveling around town in a three-wheeled motorized tuk tuk. Readers will get a taste of street life as riders hop on and off the packed tuk tuk, pay their rupees (money) to the wala (driver), greet each other with “Namaste,” stop for a cow that blocks the street, get sprayed with water by a roaming elephant, munch on papadoms (snacks) and “bobble-bobble-bobble all through the town.”

As you read the story out loud, you can’t help but slip into the melody of the song.  The language is lyrical and a delightful way to engage children using different words, “ching, ching, ching,” “squish, squish, squish,” and “om, om, om.” Jess Golden’s lively pastel illustrations are colorful, playful, expressive and encourage exploration. His quirky humor transports children to another country and shows the daily lives of the children and families who live there.  My favorite illustration is of the Yogi sitting cross-legged on top of the bus chanting  “om” as the tuk tuk driver waits for the cow to move.

I won “The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk” in a giveaway on Sue Morris’ blog, Kid Lit Reviews. Stop by Sue’s website!

Resources: Sing the “Wheels on the Bus” and then “The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk.” Talk about the differences in the type of  transportation, food, and dress.  This book lends itself to many discussions as children study the illustrations. Would they like riding in or driving a tuk tuk?  What would they do if a cow stopped the tuk tuk they are riding in?  Have them draw a picture of a tuk tuk.

Kabir Sehgal started his class newspaper in second grade and has written ever since. A bestselling author of several books, he is also a jazz bassist and Grammy-winning producer. One day he hopes to drive a tuk tuk through the streets of India. But for now he rides the subway in New York City.

Surishtha Sehgal was a university professor for many years and now enjoys reading to children during story time. She is the founder of a nonprofit organization that promotes social responsibility among students, and she serves on the boards of two universities and a national arts center. She loves sipping chai with her family in Atlanta.

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.

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.

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.