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July 2016

    children's books, read aloud

    Let’s Talk About Race: The Must-Read Picture Book for Talking to Your Kids About Race

    Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester, illustrated by Karen Barbour
    letstalkaboutrace
    Publisher: Amistad
    Age Range: 4 – and up
    Pages: 32

    Synopsis (from Amazon)

    I am a story.

    So are you.

    So is everyone.

    Julius Lester says, “I write because our lives are stories. If enough of these stories are told, then perhaps we will begin to see that our lives are the same story. The differences are merely in the details.” Now Mr. Lester shares his own story as he explores what makes each of us special. Karen Barbour’s dramatic, vibrant paintings speak to the heart of Lester’s unique vision, truly a celebration of all of us.

    Reflection
    In light of all the recent events going on in Dallas and across the nation, yesterday I posted this book on my Instagram page and it was very well received.  Therefore, I decided to highlight it here on the blog for others to see who don’t follow my Instagram page.

    This book is definitely one of the best books I’ve seen that tackles the tough topic of race and explains it in a way that’s easy for young children to grasp.  It’s my recommendation for being one of the must-have books in your child’s home library to start having conversations about race and racism.

    I know some of you may be thinking things like: “Why do I need to to talk to my children about race?” or “My kids are too young to start having those types of conversations?” or “Will talking about race promote racism or bigotry?” or “Isn’t that the teacher’s job?”

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    I understand that talking about race in America or race in general can feel dangerous and overwhelming, but it’s important work if we want to truly get to a place where all people are treated as equals.  I believe it is crucial that we talk to our kids openly and honestly about race as soon as they are old enough to understand that people come in all different colors, shapes and sizes.  My 3.5 year-old daughter currently refers to White people as “peach” and Black people as “brown”.  I never taught her that – it’s something she has picked up over time since learning her colors.

    I think it’s important to give children the words and language to understand both the superficial outer differences between people, as well as the very real, lived differences that exist under the surface. As parents, caregivers and educators, we need to teach them to respect and value those differences as well as the many similarities that all people share.

    Let’s Talk About Race provides you with a sort of blueprint for educating your children or students about race and being unique.  It helps them become more compassionate toward people and allows them to help push the lever toward true equality.  In essence, this books helps kids to see beyond the superficial outward differences and look deeper for common interests, similar likes and dislikes, values, beliefs, and attitudes.  We all have a story to tell.

    Here are just a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

    “I’ll take off my skin, will you take off yours?”
    “Just as I am a story and you are a story and countries tell stories about themselves, race is a story, too.
    “There are other ways all of us—even me, even you—think we are better than others.”

    It’s also worth mentioning that while I find the illustrations in this book to be gorgeous and interesting, some children (especially smaller ones) may find them to be a bit scary.

    This book touches upon themes of: social justice, having respect for others, race, diversity and self-love.

    Your turn: What are your favorite children’s books for talking about race and racism?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews, children's books, giveaways

    Wash Day by Christin Armstrong + A Giveaway!

    Wash Day by Christin Armstrong
    WashDayChristinArmstrong
    Publisher: Mocha Kid Publishing Co.
    Published: June 12, 2016
    Pages: 32

    Synopsis
    Every child can relate to the struggles that come along with wash day. Some parents can relate as well. Empathize with all of our wash day sentiments in this adorable book for your Mocha Kid.

    Reflection
    I’ve designated Sunday to be the day my daughter and I wash our hair.  If we have plans on Sunday, our backup day is Friday evening.  Our Sunday ritual was formed because I want my daughter’s hair to be fresh for school on Mondays.

    I initially started wearing my hair in its natural state six and a half years ago.  Back then, wash day was a breeze because I took the plunge and did the “big chop” aka cut all of my hair off.  As my hair started to grow out, I found myself dedicating a whole day to the cleansing ritual of my hair.  I must admit, it was quite daunting and downright exhausting.  I felt a lot like the little girl does in the beginning of this adorable book.  She says, “Is it washday again?  Surely it can’t be!  We just did this last week.  Don’t do this to me!”
    Wash DayInspired by the author’s daughter and YouTube sensation, Riley Armstrong, this book is one that little girls with natural hair (and their mothers) will easily relate to.  The girl in this book starts off by having a tantrum because she doesn’t want to get her hair washed yet again.  She doesn’t like getting her hair detangled nor does she like her eyes stinging from the “tear-free” shampoo.  The girl has no choice but to oblige and let her mom start the hair washing and styling process.  By the end of the book, the little girl is all smiles and she’s pleased with how good her hair looks.

    The illustrations are so bright and cheerful – they make me smile.  They show the little girl getting her hair washed, conditioned, detangled and finally all twisted up.  Kids will be captivated by the rhyming text used throughout.  I think this book does a good job showing just how intimidating wash day can be for little girls (and women) with a head full of natural hair like me and my daughter.  Tangles and knots alone can turn a day meant to be about pampering to one of frustration.  Luckily for me, I’ve found a regimen and hair washing process that works well for me and my daughter that doesn’t take all day to complete.

    I think this book also shows just how beautiful the end result of wash day can be.  I mean who doesn’t like the feeling of having your hair freshly washed and styled?  For me, it’s an instant pick me up.  When my hair looks good, it automatically boosts my confidence and makes me feel good just like this cute little girl.  Check this book out and read it with your little mocha girl on wash day or any day!

    About the Mocha Kid Magazine
    Mocha Kid is an up-and-coming interactive magazine that is geared towards empowering, unleashing and glorifying the many physical shades of African American children. Their sole purpose is to equip parents with the necessary tools and insights that will nurture the needs and fashion of their little ones.

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

    The Giveaway!
    Our friends over at Mocha Kid Magazine were kind enough to sponsor a giveaway to win 1 FREE copy of Wash Day!  Use the entry form below to enter.  Good luck!

    Wash Day Book Giveaway!

    Your turn:  Wash day: Do you love it or hate it?  What are your favorite wash day tips when washing your daughter’s hair?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    Ada Twist, Scientist (A Book Review)

    Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty illustrated by David Roberts
    adatwistscientist
    Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
    Grade Level: Kindergarten – 2
    Age Range: 5 – 7 years
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 32

    Synopsis (from Amazon)
    Like her classmates, builder Iggy and inventor Rosie, scientist Ada, a character of color, has a boundless imagination and has always been hopelessly curious. Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs growing inside your nose? When her house fills with a horrific, toe-curling smell, Ada knows it’s up to her to find the source. Not afraid of failure, she embarks on a fact-finding mission and conducts scientific experiments, all in the name of discovery. But, this time, her experiments lead to even more stink and get her into trouble!

    Inspired by real-life makers such as Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, Ada Twist, Scientist champions girl power and women scientists, and brings welcome diversity to picture books about girls in science. Touching on themes of never giving up and problem solving, Ada comes to learn that her questions might not always lead to answers, but rather to more questions. She may never find the source of the stink, but with a supportive family and the space to figure it out, she’ll be able to feed her curiosity in the ways a young scientist should.

    Iggy Peck and Rosie Revere have earned their places among the most beloved children’s characters, and they have inspired countless kids and adults to follow their dreams and passions. Now in her own charming and witty picture book, determined Ada Twist, with her boundless curiosity for science and love of the question “Why?,” is destined to join these two favorites.  The book is the perfect tool to remind both young girls and women that they have the intelligence and perseverance to achieve their dreams.

    Reflection
    I could hardly contain my excitement when an advanced copy of this book showed up on my doorstep.  I honestly don’t remember being so excited to read a children’s book before.  The reason behind my excitement is two-fold: 1. I am a huge fan of Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer so that automatically made me have high expectations for this book.  2. Ada Twist is a little Black girl and she’s also a fellow scientist!  No, I’m not a scientist, but I majored in Computer Science in college and graduate school…that counts, right?

    “Ada Marie! Ada Marie!
    Said not a word till the day she turned three.
    She bounced in her crib and looked all around,
    observing the world but not making a sound.”

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    As you can tell from the opening paragraph of this book, Ada didn’t utter a word until she turned three years old.  When she finally did talk the first word she said was, “Why?”.  She’s a rather curious child who wants to know everything.  Ada’s curiosity gets the best of her both at school and at home.  Fed up with all the chaos and havoc, Ada’s parents put her in “time out” and send her to the thinking chair.  In the end, Ada’s parents learn to accept her for who and what she is: a young scientist.

    To say we enjoyed this book is an understatement.  We absolutely LOVE it!  I knew it was going to be just as good as the other two books in the series.  From the cadence to the illustrations to the overall plot, I’m smitten by Miss Ada Twist and so are my kids!  We read it three times in a row the first night we received it and have been reading it nonstop at bedtime since.

    After looking through the two previous books, I noticed that Ada Twist appeared along with all of the other classmates!  (One subtle difference I noticed is in Rosie Revere, Engineer Ada has a gap in her two front teeth.  However, in Ada Twist she doesn’t.  Not sure if it’s actually a gap or just missing teeth that didn’t grow in yet.  In Iggy Peck Ada isn’t shown smiling so you can’t tell if the front tooth gap is present in that book or not.)

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    How interesting that all three characters are in all three of the books!  I honestly never realized Iggy Peck made an appearance in the Rosie Revere book until recently.  Knowing this now makes me wonder if this series continues which classmate will be the protagonist of the next book.  I’m so curious to know more about all of the remaining 14 kids in Miss Lila Greer’s second grade class.  Aren’t you?

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    Overall, this book is a delight to read with stellar illustrations to match.  It teaches little readers about problem solving, perseverance, science, working together as a family and challenges them to have a sense of curiosity like Ada.  I don’t know about you, but I appreciate curious children who constantly question why things are the way they are.  Highly recommended for kids ages 4 and up.

    Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  However, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading about Miss Ada Twist?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    giveaways, subscription boxes

    Just Like Me Box Plus a Giveaway!

    I’ve featured several literary subscription boxes here on the blog before like Bookroo, My Lit Box, Heritage Box and The Story Box.  Today, I’m introducing you to a new subscription box that was built on the foundation of exposing children of color to literature, characters, authors and stories that are reflective of them: Just Like Me Box.

    After first-time mom, Tamara McNeil, grew frustrated with searching for books featuring black characters, she took matters into her own hands and created Just Like Me!.  By day, Tamara is a public relations director for a national nonprofit, and by night, she’s juggling the role of wife, mother, and newly minted entrepreneur.

    The mission of Just Like Me! is to spark a lifelong love of reading and self-discovery with every box they ship. Each month they will send you a perfectly curated box filled with 2-3 African-American children’s books and other educational tools. Before making their selections they consider the subject, authors, awards, and prices of each item. Each book is read and discussed by their team before it is included in any subscription box.

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    Just Like Me! has access to thousands African American themed books. From classic children’s books, board books, award winning literature to books written by new authors sharing exciting new adventures, Just Like Me! hand picks items for your child each month.  Books are chosen based on educational value, merit, and awards.  The Just Like Me! team will search and identify the books that are perfect additions to your child’s reading list each month.

    Our friends at Just Like Me! were kind enough to send us a sample of one of their boxes.  It came in a sturdy cardboard box and it was nicely packaged.  The theme of their July box was “Black Excellence”.  A beautifully designed pamphlet was included which contains a definition of what the word excellent means along with some inspirational words and tips that encourage children to achieve and maintain a high level of excellence.

    Our box contained the following items:

    1 copy of Sugar Plum Ballerinas Plum Fantastic by Whoopi Goldberg
    1 copy of Marvelous Me by Lisa Bullard
    1 copy of The Marley Adventures: Get to Know Marley by K. Alicia Bolton
    1 copy of Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
    1 copy of The Marley Adventures Activity Book

    Just Like Me! is a simple subscription service with no strings attached.  You are free to cancel anytime.

    Cost: $25 per month plus tax with FREE shipping (includes 2-3 books and other educational tools)

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    Connect with Just Like Me Box!

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
    justlikemeboxabout
    The Giveaway!
    Just Like Me! was generous enough to sponsor a giveaway to receive a FREE subscription box!  Sorry international friends, this is only for US residents due to high shipping costs.  Good luck to all who enter!

    Just Like Me! Free 1-Month Subscription Box

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    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    When Neema Went on a Journey (A Book Review)

    When Neema Went on a Journey by Olive Elmer Burke, illustrated by Fraser & Kelvin Ntukula
    whenneemawentonajourney1
    Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
    Pages:
    28

    Synopsis
    (from Amazon)
    Oh My! So what did Neema do after she counted four drums? Here is a clue… Neema likes adventures where she can hippity hop, wiggle wobble and stompty stomp smoothly. What? You do too! Well this book is all about that and more… go on, take a look.

    Reflection
    As a Black parent, I’m always on the lookout for empowering and inspiring books that feature Black children.  It’s important for me to constantly show my kids that they don’t have to follow one narrative.  And since books are among the first representations of the broader world that kids see, I try to choose books like When Neema Went on a Journey that will not only have important messages, but will also leave a lasting impression.

    Set in Tanzania, this exuberant, colorful counting journey is a treasure trove of visual and auditory pleasures.  It’s a rhyming book that opens little readers’ eyes to new cultures and ideas whilst introducing them to numbers in a fun way.

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    Sporting her adorable bantu knot hairstyle and African garb, Little Neema sets off on a journey walking through her Tanzanian village and encounters several people, objects and animals along the way like: 4 drums on the ground and 9 birds in a tree just to name a few.  After each item or person she encounters is mentioned, Neema does some sort of action like waving, hopping or stomping.

    “Eight jumping fish swimming so gracefully, so Neema stompty stomped beautifully.”

    Each number (1 – 10) is prominently displayed boldly in the left hand corner which helps with number recognition.  The illustrations are so bright, warm and cheerful with plenty to see and discuss on every pageThe playful language used throughout will not only introduce new vocabulary words, but it will also help toddlers and preschoolers develop auditory discrimination and recognize language patterns.  Since this book incorporates rhyming, repetition and playful language, I think it makes reading more fun.

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    This book teaches more than counting, something just as valuable: a look at another culture.  Overall, the kids and I enjoyed this book.  It has a very nice cadence to it that is calming before bedtime and the pictures are very engaging.  An effervescent and irresistibly cute read-aloud to add to your child’s home library collection.

    Connect with Olive Elmer Burke!
    Website | Twitter | Instagram


    Your turn:
     Have you read this book yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip Series: We’re Going to Edaville USA!

    Our Literary Road Trip Series continues with an upcoming trip to Carver, MA to go to Edaville USA!  Edaville is a family-friendly amusement park and is the home of three adventures: Thomas Land, Dino Land (Seasonal), Christmas Festival of Lights (Seasonal), including over 90 rides & attractions.  It’s also a Top 3 winner for Best New Amusement Park Attractions as chosen by readers of USA Today & 10 Best!

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    Edaville USA offers special events throughout the year, including Hello Kitty, Curious George, Pete the Cat, Superheroes & Princesses, Pumpkins AGLOW and so much more!  This amusement park allows you to enter a world of imagination and wonder where both the young – and the young at heart – can discover the magic of Thomas & Friends. Thomas Land theme park covers 11.5 acres within Edaville USA, bringing the Island of Sodor to life in a lush New England landscape. Families can visit iconic destinations including Knapford Station and Tidmouth Sheds and enjoy 11 themed rides featuring favorite characters like Cranky the Crane, Harold the Helicopter, and more!  The perfect family-friendly destination for your train loving kiddos!

    While we’re in Carver, MA we also plan to check out their local library (time permitting), find a local book store or some other popular literary attraction.  I’m sure we’ll have a great time exploring the town after we experience all that Edaville USA has to offer!

    Connect with Edaville USA!  (for more information and current promotions)
    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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    Your turn: Have you and your family ever been to Edaville USA?  What should we check out while we’re in town?  Feel free to share in the comments!

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