In conjunction with the Multicultural Children’s Book Day event 2021, I was gifted My Sister, Alicia May Written by Nancy Tupper Ling; Illustrated by Shennen Bersani (Pleasant St. Press)
When I received this book to review for Multicultural Book Day 2020, I immediately wrote to the author to tell her what a sweet and wonderful book she had written. It just made me feel good and happy to read this story. It is so real, down-to-earth and full of kindness and just shows how a strong sense of being can open you up to a positive focus on life.This is the honest account through the eyes of one child whose older sister has Down Syndrome and she does a beautiful job of sharing her experiences with her and how she comes to a greater sense of self through their connection. We need more books like this, in every library, school and home just to show the pure beauty of the diversity of each life, each family-yet through all our uniqueness it too binds us together when we share our experiences and create a much broader and open sense of normal. The illustrations lovingly portray for us the life for these sisters-you can see their similarities in their faces and gestures. Life is life and it is not always easy but if you can be grateful and appreciative of your life you can spread this joy to others as well as being satisfied and at peace in your skin. I highly recommend this beautiful heartfelt story.
I was gifted a copy of this book by the author. All opinions expressed are my own.
A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett Art by Shawn Harris
This is a simply beautiful book. I adore the eye-catching torn-paper illustrations and the white-on-white, with bursts of oceanic blue, of the images inviting us into the depths of the life of a polar bear. The accompanying narration compels us to follow the bear across the frozen tundra and into the deep blue sea, leaving much space for wonder and creative thought. The text and illustrations work perfectly together in this picture book about a loveable polar bear and each question is answered by a beautifully accompanying illustration that is so soothing and interesting. This is an early book about science and animals that will fascinate the youngest child.
In The Half Room by Carson Ellis
Illumination is at the heart of this story and how a moon lights a room and at times how everything seems to only be a series of halves. It is quirky and at the first pass through might seem “disconnected” but by allowing the imagination to fill in the dark spots, we can see the mystery revealed. A child, who does not know the phases of the moon, might not understand why they only see half a moon, half a table or half a cat so they will explore this option with glee and curtiosity. It is very crafty and is a book about halves and wholes that allows the imagination to explore what the eyes are seeing. The surreal artwork lends a touch of fantasy to the story and brings to mind some of the great surreal art by the likes of Dali, Picasso and Arp. This is a slyly sophisticated book, take a look!
Julián At The Wedding by Jessica Love
Jessica Love is back with another endearing tale of love, acceptance and joie de vivre. The art is dreamy and utterly charming. I love Julián’s purple suit with the skirted back and even the way “typical” roles are reversed. Here we see the sympathetic boy coming to the rescue of a girl who just likes to get dirty. Julián’s grandma is all in this time. There is nothing but a pure example of letting everyone be happy with their own self-expression. This book is a testament to love, friendship, acceptance and self-identity offering even a young child into a world where everyone is loved and has a place.
Rain Before rainbows by Smriti Prasadam-Halls Art by David Litchfield
This book is breathtaking with every beautifully written word and accompanying illustration. This is a story of hope, personal growth and intention; the real sense that life can get better propels it forward. Each page is filled with richly colored fantastical scenes that will keep you mesmerized while the perfectly-paced story shimmers with promise and resilience. The little girl along with her trusty fox companion embark on a journey which parallels life’s ups and downs, yet offers a sense of hope that there is a beautiful rainbow just around the corner. I absolutely adore this book. It is a ray of sunshine for anyone stuck out in the rain.
The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azúa Kramer Art by Cindy Derby
This story is profound. I cannot even imagine having to share this book with a child who has lost a mother-it is heartbreaking-I had tears in my eyes as I read it. This book does a fantastic job of creating a safe place for a child to mourn. Questions are asked and pondered, pain is held in a safe container and the quietly thoughtful text pairs perfectly with the expressive illustrations. This heavy topic is presented in a loving way by using a non-threatening sentient being that is able to envelope the child’s sadness in its large furry arms and is able to answer the most unanswerable questions from deep in its heart. A tear-jerker but one of the most loving books out there on this topic.
Waldo is back in a made for Halloween special and although he gives a lot of tricks, they sure feel like treats when you solve them! This edition includes a Glow-In-The-Dark slider that reveals hidden in the dark pictures, only adding to the mind boggling fun. This book will last well through this holiday and into the ones for years to come. Every time you pick up a Waldo book, the search begins anew. Hours of fun! I love this book although it makes my eyes see crisscross. All kidding aside, this book bolsters eye strength and concentration and has just the comfort appeal of our beloved Waldo, his striped clothes and the wonderful cast of characters.
Flying Paintings The Zhou Brothers: A Story of Revolution and Art by Amy Alznauer; paintings by ShanZuo Zhou & DaHuang Zhou
Art is powerful and its transformational power takes center stage in this historic tale of the Zhou brothers whose lives and art were shaped largely by the Cultural Revolution in China. This is a heavy theme for a children’s picture book but with the author’s gentle touch of the subject, accompanied by dynamic ink-and-watercolor paintings by the subjects themselves, readers are immersed in the bold artistic style and the courageous spirit of the Zhou brothers. The book focuses not only on the historical moment in time but also on the difficulties that arise in families and those that relate to art, country, and humankind. The book is magnificently illustrated with art by the Zhou brothers themselves, enlivening the tale with a sense of a first hand narrative. This is a wonderful early non-fiction book that introduces two contemporary Chinese artists who were confronted with much suffering and many roadblocks but were still able to rise up and be true to who they really were.
Grow: Secrets of Our DNA by Nicola Davies; illustrated by Emily Sutton
Knowledge is magnificent and this book is armed to the gills with it. From the beautifully drawn helices on the end pages to the realistic illustrations that bring life to the fascinating world of DNA, this book is a STEAM book for all ages. One of the best takeaways from this book is that although our DNA makes us unique, the fact that uniqueness is a constant for all living creations, only proves that we are all just one giant community. All the same, yet all different. All things grow, all things change.
The cover drew me right in. The illustrator’s use of a variety of mediums, such as pastels, colored pencils, ink and watercolors are a beautiful blend of the simple and the complex. Although the illustrations are cartoon-like, they craftily capture important details using design elements such as texture, color and line. The illustrations wonderfully carry the science of the subject matter. The characters are diverse, the information is highly accessible and interesting and will surely kick off a larger quest for knowledge. I highly recommend this wonderful introduction to life science.
Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall
Jabari is at it again! He does not let failure get him down. He uses creative thought to problem solve and just has a total CAN DO attitude! The book has a great non-fiction element that celebrates black scientists and doctors who help to fire up Jabari’s determination to figure things out. Jabari is honest and he gets frustrated, but his dad brings in the mindfulness aspect that scientists really need and after a few calming breaths, Jabari is ready to give it another try. Through his efforts, Jabari learns compromise and cooperation and through just enough action and rest time, he learns how to be successful and how to have fun!
The illustrations are fun and I just love the Rube Goldberg machines they come up with and the happy way a family interacts and relies on each other for support and love. Very sweet STEAM focused book and an inspirational story of perseverance, problem solving and creativity.
Love Is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer; illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Just like the disco song expresses, Love is the message! Love is, love is the message that I sing to you; Love is the message that I bring to you; Love is the message for a song…. Love is the message for us all! This book shows how a small child, who might be wondering how they can make an impact on the world, that one small gesture can have a much larger effect. This book is a great gateway into the world of activism and brings to light the invisible roots of our global connection. This book gives hope and highlights acceptance and shows how important it is to stand up for human rights for all peoples of the world. This story recounts a true story of the power to unify through love and positivity and how you’re never too young to be an inspiration. The march of diverse characters pulls you right in. They are so endearing with their shining eyes and smiles and pink “cat” hats, the 100’s of hearts floating all around the pages and the beautiful affirmations decorating the signs. This is what the world needs now! I see it right alongside Julian Is A Mermaid, by Jessica Love, as books that will become anthems for the ages.
Norman: One Amazing Goldfish! By Kelly Bennett; illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
Filled with bright bold colors, this amusing story highlights overcoming fear, the power of the true friendship that one can have with a pet, and a trust in one’s own self-worth. This is a fun read and will keep the attention of young readers who will be able to relate to overcoming shyness when introduced to something new. People might try to douse your inner spirit with negativity but if you are true to yourself, whatever the final result, you will gain confidence, knowledge and above all, self- respect! Three cheers for Norman the amazing goldfish. This is a delightful story with a positive message!
Will You Be My Friend by Sam McBratney; Illustrated by Anita Jeram
We’ve been waiting a lifetime for this sequel. This book just feels like home. The characters are so familiar and with each illustration of their expressive faces, you fall deeper and deeper in love with them. I just want to stroke the new bunnies sweet pink nose-enough it is cartoon-like, it has an element of realness that just makes them so cuddly. I love the hopping bunnies on the end sheets that just led you into this story about the joys of discovering a new fiend. This is a warm and wonderful tale that leaves ample space for children to illustrate the tale for themselves, is a loving portrayal of a young child’s growing independence and the deep seated happiness of finding a new friend.
Thank you to Candlewick Press for all of these amazing books. All opinions expressed are my own.
A few years ago, I taught teen yoga workshops for the library. They were a lot of fun and I really enjoyed sharing them with the community through the library. One of the best things, is that all programs through the library are open and accessible to all and are free of charge for the participants.
Fast forward to now. The teen librarian shared my name with the adult programming coordinator and voilà! through a generous self-help grant, I am now offering my Groove & Flow series through their online event portal (search for yoga in calendar). Here is the link to my online yoga video-library. Along with my classes, the library has been able to bring a fabulous online Qigong program with Dr. Ming Wu and Dr. Wei Li. Here is the link for the online Qigong video-library.
Zero Local: Next Stop Kindness by Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow
With very few words, this wonderful picture book is able to clearly express kindness and gratitude and how the two can easily help to build community. In an urban setting, on a commuter rail, where the characters are at first noticeably separated and in their own worlds, how one small gesture can awaken people to what is in front of them. The Butterfly Effect is in full form-where a tiny change in one place creates a large effect in another. Here we see a young child taking on the job of spreading love and positivity-one tiny gesture. The others start to notice, show their curiosity, get involved and smile-change happening. They will then go on their ways, back into their worlds again, but this time with a different paradigm, thereby affecting change on a much larger level.
This is all told in a seemingly simple book. But the few words, the scratch pencil art that is only highlighted occasionally by bursts of yellow. Why not just try to read the story by looking for the yellow moments-what story can you derive from them?
I love the diverse character array, the varied perspectives offered by the angles drawn, that the speed of movement is created wonderfully with pencil lines and from end-sheet to end-sheet pure creative fun! I highly recommend this book. It’s a shower of mindfulness that will evoke curiosity and a wonder view of the world.
The Same But Different Too by Karl Newson. Illustrations by Kate Hindley
Amazing adorable menagerie of characters highlighting their similarities and differences! These illustrations are absolutely so endearing. I just want to hug each one! The most important message of this book jumps out from the get go- I am me and you are you and that is just the way it is supposed to be. Our similarities and differences are what keep the balance in the world. We need each other.
Simple examples highlight the similarities and the differences and show how they are beneficial and that they work together for a symbiotic relationship. The rhymes are very nice and flow easily and the illustrations enrich the simple words. This is a great read-aloud which will be memorized and recited along. It is just so sweet. I really appreciate the attention to mindfulness and how it presents different ways of paying attention. The last 2-page spread is adorable beyond words! Highly recommend this book!
What I Like Most by Mary Murphy. Illustrations by Zhi Cheng-Liang
Starting immediately with the delicate cherry blossom watercolor art of the front end-sheet and the tree of autumn at the end, I knew I was going to love this book. The illustrations are beyond superb. Each one is a piece of art that creates a lvog atmosphere that accompanies the thoughtful text, that is full of curiosity and wonderment.
This is such an amazing early mindfulness book that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike who will all feel the lasting impression of the illustrations and words way past the reading of the story. This book will delight the senses and offers many factual images of seasons, climate, locations, animals and activities. This book conjures up for me The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren. This book is sure to become a childhood classic. I cannot recommend it enough!
Thank you to Candlewick Press for these books. All opinions expressed are my own.
My Green Day: 10 green things I can do today by Melanie Walsh
This is a wonderful read-aloud with bright cheerful pictures of animals, the sun, good food and even happy trash! This book makes reduce, reuse, recycle and rot very accessible and will become enjoyable part of every day life. The added fact boxes offer extra information that can deepen conversations. A great book for budding eco-warriors!
Only A Tree knows how to be a tree by Mary Murphy
Firstly, the illustrations are adorable The simple shapes create charming characters and the swirls that make up the tree are enlivening. This is a great book to accompany with yoga poses-and the movement will help the facts stick even more. This book draws connection between all living things to planet earth, the cosmos and the infinity of imagination.
Seeds by Carme Lemniscates
Lemniscates has done it again! I love beautifully textures illustrations and the very simple lines of prose. The simple overlying message is love is what makes the world go round. Loving care and attention will grow plants, and flower and food but also loving kind attention to other people will create good friends, happiness and peace on earth.
Thank you to Candlewick Press for these books. All opinions expressed are my own.
A Dynamic Duo of well written and beautifully illustrated non-fiction books by Whitney Stewart and Christine Engel.
What’s On Your Plate: Exploring the World of Food
This is not simply a book about exploring the world of food; it is actually a book about the world and its varied cultures. The facts are extremely well researched, honest and eye-opening. The wonderful union of author and illustrator is wholly creative and engaging, with just the right amount of pertinent information, each one accompanied by a recipe, opening up the door to explore and be curious about cultures and peoples. I appreciate how it draws lines connecting one place to another through the food and gives voice to our multicultural heritages. I love the mix illustrations of drawings and actual images. Its very eye-catching and really brings life to the information. I think this book will peak even the most finicky eaters interest to explore!
What Do You Celebrate: Holidays and Festivals Around the World
A great introduction to the varied yet similar holidays and festivals across cultures and the world. Even if the celebration is not specific to your culture, the overlying message is that although we are unique, we are all connected by our similarities. It is a very inspiring and accessible book about diversity, acceptance and the human spirit. I highly recommend this book. It is so relevant and full of joy and jubilation. The accompanying illustrations are beautifully detailed and depict a wide range of peoples. I love the mix collage aspect of the art!
Thank you to Whitney Stewart for sending me these books. All opinions expressed are my own.
Mindful Tots: Animal Antics…Focus and fun for little ones
This sweet, bright and boldly illustrated board book is a winner in bringing accessible mindfulness to the very young. The dialogue is simple to follow and encourages imaginative play to create a sense of happiness and focus. I found it to be an excellent warm up for tots yoga which led into some wild animal antics of our own. In this day, it transferred very easily as an online activity that I was able to share with my granddaughter,too. I love the straight forward approach using movement and imagination to bring mindfulness and fun to little ones.
Niños Mindful: Rest & Relax/Descansa y relájate
Mindful Tots: Rest & Relax…Sleepy time for little ones
Rituals make bedtime fun and productive. Following a simple routine of relaxing the body, mind and energy patterns can help tots settle down and get ready for sleep. I especially love the bi-lingual version of this story. The simple rhymes in both English and Spanish will assist all children to appreciate diversity and can plant the seeds for a broader worldwide view for peace, love and happiness for all. Three cheers! The illustrations by Rocio Alejandro are so adorable and the children just emanate sensitivity, cooperation and inclusion. Highly recommend!
Thank you to Whitney Stewart for sending me copies of these books. All opinions expressed are my own.