Monthly Archives

October 2016

    adult books, currently reading

    What I’m Reading (in October 2016)

    I realize it’s been a while since I’ve told you guys what I’m reading.  Over the summer I was so engaged with the kids and their activities that I didn’t take as much time to read as I normally do.  Now that the kids are in school, I’m back to my normal routine of reading 2-3 books per month.  Here’s what I’m reading this month:

    Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Susan Cain

    The monumental bestseller Quiet has been recast in a new edition that empowers introverted kids and teens. Susan Cain sparked a worldwide conversation when she published Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. With her inspiring book, she permanently changed the way we see introverts and the way introverts see themselves.

    The original book focused on the workplace, and Susan realized that a version for and about kids was also badly needed. This book is all about kids’ world—school, extracurriculars, family life, and friendship. You’ll read about actual kids who have tackled the challenges of not being extroverted and who have made a mark in their own quiet way. You’ll hear Susan Cain’s own story, and you’ll be able to make use of the tips at the end of each chapter. There’s even a guide at the end of the book for parents and teachers.

    This insightful, accessible, and empowering book, illustrated with amusing comic-style art, will be eye-opening to extroverts and introverts alike.

    I was immediately drawn to this book because not only am I more introverted, but my daughter is too.  I am in LOVE with this book you guys – it’s so insightful!  I think it’s a must read for all parents raising introverted children.  Be sure to check out Susan Cain’s Ted Talk which still stands as one of the most viewed Ted talks of all time.

    Like Magic by Elaine Vickers
    This sweet middle grade novel featuring a diverse cast of characters proves that friendship can be just around the corner.

    For three ten-year-old girls, their once simple worlds are starting to feel too big. Painfully shy Grace dreads starting fifth grade now that her best friend has moved away. Jada hopes she’ll stop feeling so alone if she finds the mother who left years ago. And Malia fears the arrival of her new baby sister will forever change the family she loves. When the girls each find a mysterious treasure box in their library and begin to fill the box with their own precious things, they start to feel less alone. But it’s up to Grace, Jada, and Malia to take the treasures and turn them into something more: true friendship.

    Your turn: What books are you currently reading?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    children's books, holiday books, read aloud

    Just Treats, No Tricks: 30+ Halloween Books Featuring Diverse Characters

    While diversity in children’s literature has come a long way since my childhood, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.  This couldn’t be more true when searching for diverse books based on specific holidays like Halloween. If you follow my blog or my Instagram page you’ll know I read a variety of books with my kids regardless of race, culture or religion.  Yes, that includes animal books too on occasion- we’ll read just about anything.  However, I also read lots of diverse books with my kids because it’s important for me to read books with them where they can see themselves being represented often.

    So imagine my surprise when I initially started searching for diverse holiday books years ago when my daughter was born.  I was disappointed that I found so few books where a diverse character was the main protagonist.  This still remains true today although there are several books featuring diverse supporting characters. What’s up with that?  Shouldn’t holiday books (and all books) come in a kaleidoscope of colors? Anyway, I digress.

    Below you’ll find my list of diverse Halloween books that feature diverse supporting characters or main protagonists. I hope you enjoy this list and find a few books to read with your little readers for Halloween!

    For Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers



    For Preschoolers – 2nd or 3rd Grade & Up

    Please note: Wee Winnie Witch’s Skinny: An Original African-American Scare Tale is a scary book. Therefore, it’s not recommended for little readers who get scared easily.  All other books listed in this category are not so scary.

    The book Dem Bones only features skeletons.  I included it because it’s based on the traditional African-American spiritual, passed down by word of mouth for generations entitled “Dem Bones”.








    Chapter Books For Tweens, Teens & Up







    Your turn: Did you enjoy this post and find it to be helpful?  Which books would you add to this list? Feel free to share in the comments.  I’d love to hear from you!

    adult books, book reviews

    Think Happy by Karen Salmansohn (A Book Review)

    Think Happy: Instant Peptalks to Boost Positivity by Karen Salmansohn
    Publisher: Ten Speed Press
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 128

    Happiness expert and Oprah columnist Karen Salmansohn presents a collection of 50 inspirational inner peptalks to boost your confidence, attitude, and mood. These peptalks are different than affirmations because they’re feisty, fun and memorable–and will thereby stick in your brain like a catchy song. You’ll naturally want to keep repeating them, thereby changing your neural pathways so you’re inclined to think positive thoughts, which lead to positive habits, which lead to a positively happy life!

    Whether you’re feeling stressed, need motivation, are dealing with haters, or need to turn your tale of woe into a tale of wow, THINK HAPPY’s instant peptalks and whimsical illustrations will grump-proof your brain so you can move forward with optimism, resilience, and plain ol’ fabulousness.

    How you think and what you think about, over time, largely creates the circumstances of your life – including the degree to which happiness, joy, love, excitement, passion and purpose will play a major role in it.

    It takes a tough person to learn to think differently.  We develop patterns of thought and habitual ways of thinking over the course of a lifetime.  The good news is we can learn to think differently and view the world with new eyes. This book is the perfect example of how to change your mindset to start thinking happy thoughts and giving yourself mini peptalks.

    This book embraces the power of words and encourages you to think happy thoughts. Each section provides you with 5 things to say when you’re faced with a particular situation. For example: 5 things to say when you are trying something new, 5 things to say when faced with failure, 5 things to say to motivate yourself to go for your dreams and so much more.  This collection of 50 positive pep talks will quickly become your favorite go-to tool for whenever you need a little extra support or positive affirmations.

    When you use the instant peptalks in this book regularly you will begin to change your thought patterns which will lead to more optimistic thoughts and positive habits.  Which ultimately will lead to you living a happier life.  I can personally attest to that as I’ve been putting these peptalks into practice in my daily life over the past few weeks.  For example, I constantly find myself repeating the phrase “Every expert started out as a beginner” whenever I try something new.  I also like saying, “You are a fine piece of china.  Don’t let anyone treat you like a paper plate” when dealing with toxic or annoying people.

    I like using these instant peptalks because they are catchy and serve as positive reminders for me to keep moving forward and pushing harder.  I have my favorite peptalks written on post-it notes in places where I can reference them often. Another great thing about these peptalks is they are great to use with children.  Here are some of my personal favorites for kids: “Practice is how you learn”, “Realize how much you’re worth…don’t give people discounts” and “Do good to feel good.”

    We all know people and circumstances will occasionally break you down in life. But if you keep your mind focused, your heart open to possibility, and continue to put one foot in front of the other, you will be able to quickly recover the pieces, rebuild, and come back much stronger than you ever would have been otherwise.

    Each day you wake up with a choice.  Transformation is yours to create.  Will you decide to be grateful, spontaneous, enlightened, and joyous, or will you choose to keep complaining about how terrible your life is?  Research shows the power of positive thinking cannot be underestimated.  So go and think yourself to a new level of happiness and joy.  I dare you!  Check out this book if you’re in need of some good instant peptalks or gift it to a friend or loved one.

    Your turn:  I’d love your thoughts on building positivity habits.  What is your favorite way to shift your mindset when things get tough in life? Feel free to share yours in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

    book reviews, children's books

    STEM Board Books for Your Future Scientists!

    Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
    Age Level: 1 – 3 years
    Grade Level: Preschool and up
    Pages: 20

    Baby Loves Quarks by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan
    Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this book explores the basics of particle physics and chemistry – quarks, protons, neutrons, atoms and molecules – and ties it all to baby’s world. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby’s sense of wonder.

    Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan
    Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this book explores the basics of flight – from birds, to planes and rockets – and ties it all to baby’s world. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby’s sense of wonder.

    Happy book birthday to these two adorable STEM board books, Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering and Baby Loves Quarks!  These books were both published on October 4, 2016 and are available for purchase at a bookstore near you.


    If you think about it, most things we do on a daily basis can be turned into science, especially when coupled with an explanation.  From pouring water from one cup to another (different sized cups are great for volume), laundry (physics of the spinning clothes), baking (chemistry), bubbles (surface tension), our bodies (biology), and the environment, we can always find something scientific to engage the kids in even when they are babies.

    It is never too early to become an engineer or chemist!  With these adorable board books, babies will love learning the basics of flight and particle physics and chemistry giving them the head start they need.  Featuring friendly, simple text, cheerful illustrations and facts, these books are the perfect fun introduction to chemistry, physics and engineering.

    My kids and I adore this Baby Loves Science series of books.  There are currently two books in the series and a new one is coming out in the coming months called Baby Loves Quantum Physics.

    As the author of the Baby Loves Science series of board books, Ruth Spiro’s goal has been to learn as much as she can about science, and also about how parents and caregivers can turn everyday experiences into fun, informal learning opportunities for their little ones.  Check these out for your STEM loving, curious little readers!

    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara

    The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara, illustrated by Sara Kahn
    Publisher: Lee and Low Books
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 8 – 12 years
    Grade Level: 3 – 7

    Luli likes to sit in the shade of an olive tree with his beloved cats: Lucy the Fat, Lucy the Skinny, and Lucy Lucy. But when Luli and his parents go to the city to see his aunt and uncle one weekend, the cats must stay behind at home.

    After a fun visit with family, Luli is looking forward to going home and seeing the Lucys. But then Luli’s hometown comes under attack and the family must seek refuge at his aunt and uncle s house. Luli doesn t understand what is happening and worries about his pets. Who will keep the three Lucys safe? And when will he and his family be able to return home?


    This is such a well-written and beautiful book! It’s based on true events that took place in the summer of 2006 when a war broke out on the border between Lebanon and Israel. It’s referred to as the July War by the Lebanese. This book explores the reality of war in the Middle East and what it means to be displaced, as told through the eyes of a child, a little boy named Luli.

    Luli and his family take a weekend trip to visit his aunt and uncle in Beirut, Lebanon. The family leaves their three pet cats all named Lucy at home.  There’s Lucy the Fat, Lucy the Skinny and Lucy Lucy who likes to eat hummus. When Luli and his family arrive back home, they are terrified to see bombs flying in the air.  They decide to head back to Beirut to hide in the aunt and uncle’s basement since there is destruction all around their house.

    Meanwhile, all little Luli can think about is his cats – the three Lucys.  Are they safe? Who will pet them and tell them everything will be okay?  A grueling thirty-four days pass before a cease-fire is declared and the family decides to go back home.  They return to a neighborhood they don’t recognize. Everything is in shambles and has been completely destroyed. The family and everyone around them must rebuild and start anew. And what about the three Lucys? You’ll have to read it to find out how the story ends.

    Due to the young age of my children, I didn’t read this one aloud with them.  Instead I read it on my own and absolutely loved the realness of it.  Be warned: this book is a bit sad and it’s tough to read at times, but it’s real life.  By the end of the book I think little readers will be filled with a renewed sense of hope.

    The illustrations are done in a dreamy watercolor palette using different shades of orange, blue and green.  I think the color choices used by the illustrator give this book a nice sense of warmth, calm and comfort despite the main topic of war.


    I also think this book does a great job showing how quickly you can go from living a carefree life to losing virtually everything in a matter of minutes.  I love that despite everything Luli and his family lost, they still managed to hold on to the things that mattered most: each other, their memories, their hopes and their dreams.  They could still see the snow-peaked mountain, the salty sea, the valley and the city in the distance so all was not lost.  Little by little by working together their town started to come back to life.

    This is a good quality book with themes of: war, history, loss, rebuilding, hope, healing, family and the power of the human spirit. Recommended for kids ages 8 and up.

    children's books, coloring books, holiday gift guide series

    Holiday Gift Guide Series: Empowering Gifts for Brown Girls Under $35

    Happy October!  I just looked at my countdown calendar to see there are only 84 days until Christmas. That’s 12 Sundays.  Just under 3 months.  Wow!

    This year, I am committed to getting ready for the big season early.  I loathe waiting until the last minute and rushing to purchase gifts.  Can you relate?  Hopefully through my series of holiday gift guide posts over the coming months, I’ll be able to help YOU get started on that quest too.

    Over the next few weeks I’ll be highlighting a variety of affordable products and books for kids and adults.  I hope you’ll find a few items you’d like to purchase as gifts!

    First up, is Brown Girls Club.  They showcase gorgeous girl-empowering products for babies, kids and adults!   Here you can find the perfect gifts for your mother, sister, wife, or daughter and keep your dollars flowing through the Black community.  Yes, this is a black-owned business by a woman named Crystal Swain-Bates who is the proud author of six fun black children’s books and the owner of Goldest Karat Publishing, LLC. The mission of Brown Girls Club is simple: to remind brown girls and women daily of their sparkle!

    From her line of products you’ll find: books, self-esteem boosting magnets, tote bags, t-shirts, party supplies and pillows.  The best part?  Most of the products are under $35.  Check it out!

    These pillows would make a great addition to a little brown girl’s bedroom or playroom.

    Tote Bags
    These adorable tote bags are perfect for toting around library books, dance recital outfits or school books.



    Lola has really really REALLY big hair, much bigger than the other kids at her school. Despite her hair blocking the view of anyone that dares sit behind her and causing her to lose at hide and seek, she sings the praises of her big hair throughout this rhyming picture book. Designed to boost self-esteem and build confidence, this beautifully illustrated book is perfect for any girl or boy who has ever felt a bit self-conscious about their hair and may need a reminder from time to time that it’s okay to look different from the other kids at their school. 

    Meet Makayla, a pretty black princess who lives in a castle far, far away. Although she has cute dresses, a sparkling tiara, and a shiny wand, she knows that being a princess isn’t just about her fancy things, she has to put in work to be the very best princess she can be! By the end of this rhyming picture book, Makayla realizes that “It’s not my castle, my wand, or the dress that I’m in. What makes me a princess is what lies within!”

    Coloring Books
    In “Color My Fro”, 31 big-haired fairies, mermaids, warriors, models, cheerleaders, and fierce divas grace the pages of this coloring book celebrating the beauty of black women and natural hair. At each turn of the page, a new natural hair inspired illustration greets you.

    Fun for any occasion, “Color My Fro” is the perfect stocking stuffer for natural hair lovers of any age so grab your crayons, colored pencils, and your afro pick and get started!

    Meet Zoe & Star, two adventurous African-American girls who just love to have fun! Follow them throughout over 45 fun-filled coloring and activity pages that inspire creativity, promote self-confidence, and celebrate diversity.

    Party Sets
    I’m a Pretty Princess Party Set

    Connect with Crystal Swain-Bates!

    Website | Facebook | Instagram

    Your turn: Did you enjoy this list of gifts?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    children's books, giveaways

    Freshtake Books: Hip Hop Inspired Board Books for Babies + A Giveaway!

    Have you seen these adorable hip hop inspired baby board books by Freshtake Books yet? There are currently three books: Nighty Nite Problems (featuring Jay Bee), Sippin’ On Apple Juice (featuring Snoop Frog), and Piggie, Piggie, Piggie (featuring Odorous P.I.G.) based on the hit songs by Jay Z, Snoop Dogg, and the Notorious B.I.G. Written by Lily Bomar Owens, these adorable high-quality board books take three famous rap songs and spin the well-known choruses in a fun, kid-friendly way.


    Snoop Frog is a hip-hoppin’ frog who likes to drink apple juice.  Jay Bee is tired from too much buzzing around.  He just wants to sleep, but he’s having fur problems.  Fitting the typical stereotype of a pig, Odorous P.I.G.’s room is a mess, a real pigsty.  And his momma’s not too happy about it. A fun and very cute gift idea for your hip hop or music lovin’ babies!

    Our friends at Freshtake Books were gracious enough to sponsor this fun giveaway: 1 lucky US-based winner will win a copy of the book Piggie, Piggie, Piggie.  Use the entry form below to enter for your chance to win.  Good luck!

    Freshtake Books Giveaway

    Connect with Freshtake Books!
    Website | Instagram