Monthly Archives

December 2016

    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    Yawning Yoga by Laurie Jordan (A Book Review)

    Yawning Yoga by Laurie Jordan, illustrated by Diana Mayo

    Publisher: Little Pickle Stories
    Pages: 32
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 4 – 8 years old, Preschool – Grade 3

    Elements of yoga practice including stretching, posture, and breath work, are introduced through elegant artwork and poems like ‘Mountain’ (Tadasana) and ‘Seashell’ (Balasana), to help children — and their caring adults — ready their bodies for a restful sleep.

    Life.  It has a tendency to get pretty crazy no matter what we do or how much we try to control it. From our careers and our hobbies to our families and our relationships, it seems there is always something begging for our attention. Am I right? How is someone supposed to get any peace of mind when there are a million things happening at once?

    For some, exercise like yoga or running do the trick; others find peace in writing or painting. For me, the best place to find inner peace is books, because what better way to channel inner peace than through a great read?  The physical act of reading has calming benefits in and of itself.

    Over the past few months, the kids and I have been incorporating yoga into our bedtime routine right after story time.  It’s not an elaborate exercise session, just a few yoga poses to stretch our bodies in preparation for a good night’s sleep.  That’s exactly the point of the book Yawning Yoga by Laurie Jordan: to calm little readers minds and get them ready for sleep.

    You guys!  I am completely smitten by this beautiful book cover!  Isn’t it gorgeous?  It makes it very hard for me to not judge this book by the cover alone.  You’ll be happy to know this book doesn’t just have a pretty cover, the content is amazing too – especially if you’re a fan of yoga like me.  Little kids who practice yoga are also sure to love this book.

    In her first picture book, yoga instructor Laurie Jordan, creator of the Kids Yoga Teacher Training program, offers rhyming gentle poems to guide young yogis through breathing and transitions.  Each yoga pose is first described in a poem and accompanied by its Sanskrit name.  There are also helpful tips that advise readers how they can get the most of of their yoga practice.

    The opening page offers some helpful tips for little readers:

    • Try to hold each pose for three to five breaths.
    • Move through the poses at your own pace.
    • Do all the poses or choose a few different ones to do before bedtime.
    • Each exercise should feel good and get you ready for bed.

    Little readers are then encouraged to begin doing some of the yoga poses starting with reciting an “Om” sound and holding it for as long as they can and then repeating it three times afterwards.  Several yoga poses are mentioned throughout this book including: mountain, hugs and kisses, dog-tired down dog, seashell, butterfly, bedtime bug, jelly belly, candlestick, catch and release, thankful and namaste.  Some of the poses were new to me so I ended up learning something new.

    The back matter contains an afterward by Elena Brower, author of Art of Attention, and a glossary of terms referenced throughout.  The glossary is chock full of useful information and really helps to break down the meaning of each Sanskrit name.  For example, the word “Namaste” means “I bow to you.”  Namaste is traditionally said at the end of yoga practice to honor those we have practiced with.

    Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the illustrations.  If you couldn’t already tell from the cover they are amazing!  They are so dreamy, soothing and simply beautiful.  There are diverse characters represented doing the yoga poses.  I love the color palette chosen by the illustrator as well as the attention to detail.  Each scene seems to transcend you to a far off land and really helps to calm and relax your mind.

    Like all well-written books, I think this one has the power to take little readers on their own personal, self-defined journey to wherever it is they need to be right before falling asleep.  They may imagine they are a warrior standing on top of a mountain, swimming underwater with sea creatures, or out in the garden becoming one with nature.  If your little reader is in need of finding their way to inner peace, I’d highly recommend this book to help them get there.  I’d also recommend this for yoga teachers or little readers who would like to start practicing yoga or mindfulness.

    About Little Pickle Stories
    Little Pickle Stories is dedicated to creating stories and products that foster kindness in young people – and doing so in a manner congruent with that mission.  Learn more on their website.

    Connect with Laurie Jordan!
    Website| Instagram | Twitter

    Connect with Diana Mayo!

    Website | InstagramTwitter

    Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading this book?  What are some ways you help your little readers relax and calm down before bedtime?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    children's books

    55 of the Best Diverse Picture and Board Books of 2016



    When I originally started compiling this list, I was only going to highlight 15 – 20 books.  However, since there were so many great titles published this year, I decided to expand it.  The list includes a few board books for the smallest readers as well as picture books for older readers.  I hope you’ll find a few books for you and your little readers to enjoy.  Cheers to an amazing year in KidLit!

    Board Books

    Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering by Ruth Spiro and 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. Parents and caregivers may learn a thing or two, as well! Read my review here.

    Good Job, Athena! (Mini Myths) by Joan Holub and Leslie Patricelli

    After Athena ties Arachne’s shoes for her, Arachne takes the credit for Athena’s hard work. But when their friends ask Arachne to teach them how to tie their shoes, Arachne must admit the truth. So Athena comes to the rescue and teaches everybody this important skill. All is forgiven, and the girls are friends again. Conceived and crafted by Greek-mythology expert Joan Holub and illustrated by the bestselling Leslie Patricelli, this book also includes a summary of the original Arachne myth.

    Music Is… by Brandon Stosuy and Amy Martin

    Featuring Amy Martin’s dynamic art style, Music Is… explains music through our eyes and ears so that the sense of hearing is transformed into a visual experience. A pitch-perfect board book that is sure to strike a chord with readers of all ages.  Read my review here.

    My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith and Julie Flett

    The sun on your face. The smell of warm bannock baking in the oven. Holding the hand of someone you love. What fills your heart with happiness? This beautiful board book, with illustrations from celebrated artist Julie Flett, serves as a reminder for little ones and adults alike to reflect on and cherish the moments in life that bring us joy.

    Once Upon a World: Cinderella by Chloe Perkins and Sandra Equihua

    The classic tale of Cinderella gets a fresh twist in this debut title of a brand-new board book series, Once Upon a World. With Mexico as the backdrop, and vibrant artwork from Mexican illustrator Sandra Equihua, Cinderella is still the same girl with a fairy godmother and a glass slipper—but she’s totally reimagined.  Read my review here.

    Once Upon a World: Snow White by Chloe Perkins and Misa Saburi

    The classic tale of Snow White gets a fresh twist in this debut title of a brand-new board book series, Once Upon a World. With Japan as the backdrop, and beautiful artwork from Japanese illustrator Misa Saburi, Snow White is still the same girl who meets seven dwarves and accepts a shiny red apple—but she’s totally reimagined.  Read my review here.

    We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett

    In this sweet and lyrical board book from the creators of the bestselling Little You, gentle rhyming text captures the wonder new parents feel as they welcome baby into the world. A celebration of the bond between parent and child, this is the perfect song to share with your little ones.

    Picture Books

    10 Secrets of Being a Lady by Sheba Matheu and Meredith Rushing

    The 10 Secrets of Being a Lady is children’s book for all ages reminding women of their roles in society, which start in the home. The story was expressly created to encourage dialogue and impart wisdom through family generations.  Read my review here.

    A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts and Noah Z. Jones

    Ruben feels like he is the only kid without a bike. His friend Sergio reminds him that his birthday is coming, but Ruben knows that the kinds of birthday gifts he and Sergio receive are not the same. So when Ruben sees a dollar bill fall out of someone’s purse, he picks it up and puts it in his pocket. But when he gets home, he discovers it’s not one dollar or even five or ten—it’s a hundred-dollar bill, more than enough for a new bike just like Sergio’s! But what about the crossed-off groceries? And what about the woman who lost her money? Presenting a relatable story told with subtlety and heart, the creative team behind Those Shoes pairs up again for a satisfying new picture book.

    A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards and G. Brian Karas

    Mrs. Goldman always knits hats for everyone in the neighborhood, and Sophia, who thinks knitting is too hard, helps by making the pom-poms. But now winter is here, and Mrs. Goldman herself doesn’t have a hat—she’s too busy making hats for everyone else! It’s up to Sophia to buckle down and knit a hat for Mrs. Goldman. But try as Sophia might, the hat turns out lumpy, the stitches aren’t even, and there are holes where there shouldn’t be holes. Sophia is devastated until she gets an idea that will make Mrs. Goldman’s hat the most wonderful of all.

    A Morning With Grandpa by Sylvia Liu and Christina Forshay

    Mei Mei s grandpa is practicing tai chi in the garden, and Mei Mei is eager to join in. As Gong Gong tries to teach her the slow, graceful movements, Mei Mei enthusiastically does them with her own flair. Then Mei Mei takes a turn, trying to teach Gong Gong the yoga she learned in school. Will Gong Gong be able to master the stretchy, bendy poses? Winner of the LEE & LOW New Voices Award, this title celebrates, with lively spirit and humor, the special bond between grandparent and grandchild and the joy of learning new things together. Readers of all ages will want to try out some tai chi and yoga too!

    A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts and Hyewon Yum

    Lyrical prose and lovely illustrations combine in a gentle, realistic story about finding connections in an unfamiliar world.

    A Squiggly Story by by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery
    This picture book from award-winning author Andrew Larsen playfully and imaginatively explores a young child’s process of learning to express himself. It promotes the idea that stories are available for everyone to tell, whatever way we can, and will inspire pre-readers to try writing stories of their own.

    A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young

    When Lucy sees an ad in the newspaper for a unicorn, she sends in her twenty-five cents and waits four to six long weeks for her very own unicorn to arrive.

    Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

    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. What would you do with a problem like this? Not afraid of failure, Ada 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!  Read my review here.

    Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comport

    Ada Ríos grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option…until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash.

    Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty

    BEAUTIFUL breaks barriers by showing girls free to be themselves: splashing in mud, conducting science experiments, and reading books under a flashlight with friends. This book will encourage all girls to embrace who they are and realize their endless potential.  Read my review here.

    City Shapes by Diana Murray and Bryan Collier

    From shimmering skyscrapers to fluttering kites to twinkling stars high in the sky, everyday scenes become extraordinary as a young girl walks through her neighborhood noticing exciting new shapes at every turn. Far more than a simple concept book, City Shapes is an explosion of life. Diana Murray’s richly crafted yet playful verse encourages readers to discover shapes in the most surprising places, and Bryan Collier’s dynamic collages add even more layers to each scene in this ode to city living.  Read my review here.

    Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer

    What is poetry? Is it glistening morning dew? Spider thinks so. Is it crisp leaves crunching? That’s what Squirrel says. Could it be a cool pond, sun-warmed sand, or moonlight on the grass? Maybe poetry is all of these things, as it is something special for everyone—you just have to take the time to really look and listen. The magical thing is that poetry is in everyone, and Daniel is on his way to discovering a poem of his own after spending time with his animal friends. What is poetry? If you look and listen, it’s all around you!

    Dario and the Whale by Cheryl Lawton Malone and Bistra Masseva

    When Dario and his mother move to Cape Cod from Brazil, Dario has a hard time making friends since he doesn’t speak English well. But one day Dario meets someone else who has just arrived in New England and he doesn’t speak any English at all…because he’s a right whale! Day after day Dario and the whale meet at the beach. But what will happen when it’s time for the whale to migrate?

    Dear Dragon by Josh Funk and Rodolfo Montalvo

    George and Blaise are pen pals, and they write letters to each other about everything: their pets, birthdays, favorite sports, and science fair projects. There’s just one thing that the two friends don’t know: George is a human, while Blaise is a dragon! What will happen when these pen pals finally meet face-to-face?

    Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library by Julie Gassman and Andy Elkerton

    Have you ever thought about bringing your dragon to the library? Don’t do it! You might have the best intentions, but that dragon will cause nothing but trouble. Using rhyming text and a diverse cast of characters, this charming picture book will provide some important and some not so important library etiquette in a very entertaining way.

    Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie

    As slaves relentlessly toiled in an unjust system in 19th century Louisiana, they all counted down the days until Sunday, when at least for half a day they were briefly able to congregate in Congo Square in New Orleans. Here they were free to set up an open market, sing, dance, and play music. They were free to forget their cares, their struggles, and their oppression. This story chronicles slaves’ duties each day, from chopping logs on Mondays to baking bread on Wednesdays to plucking hens on Saturday, and builds to the freedom of Sundays and the special experience of an afternoon spent in Congo Square.

    Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan

    In his gentle yet deeply powerful way, Ashley Bryan goes to the heart of how a slave is given a monetary value by the slave owner, tempering this with the one thing that CAN’T be bought or sold—dreams.

    Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak

    As trees sway in the cool breeze, blue jays head south, and leaves change their colors, everyone knows–autumn is on its way!  Join a young girl as she takes a walk through forest and town, greeting all the signs of the coming season. In a series of conversations with every flower and creature and gust of wind, she says good-bye to summer and welcomes autumn.  Read my review here.

    Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow

    Elephant wants to play hide and seek. See if you can help the others find him?he’s very good! Have You Seen Elephant? is an assured and exciting debut from a top emerging talent.

    Henry Wants More! by Linda Ashman and Brooke Boynton Hughes

    More games, more races, more tickles, more books—little Henry can’t get enough! When a toddler is armed with that useful word and the world is full of brand-new things, his family just doesn’t stand a chance. Follow Henry on his exhausting and all-too-familiar day filled with play . . . and a lot of love! Buoyant rhymes and charming illustrations strike a heartwarming note that will ring true with families of energetic little ones.

    How to Build a Museum by Tonya Bolden

    Award-winning author Tonya Bolden has written a fascinating chronicle of how ideas, ambitions, and actual objects came together in one incredible museum. Includes behind-the-scenes photos of literally “how to build a museum” that holds everything from an entire segregated railroad car to a tiny West African amulet worn to ward off slave traders.

    How to Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder

    Equipped with a camera and determination, a little girl sets out to track down an elusive red fox. But foxes are sneaky, and it proves more difficult than she thought.  Nilah Magruder’s debut picture book charmingly tells the story of what it means to not give up and how sometimes what you’re looking for is closer than you think.

    I Love Your Brown by Daneya L Jacobs and M Ed Atiya Chase

    In this love letter from mothers to brown daughters everywhere, little girls are reminded to love the skin they’re in. Girls come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes. Some have long hair, some have short, and others have straight hair or curly. Still, despite the differences, there is something all little brown girls have in common…they have the power to be anything!  Read my review here.

    I’m a Brilliant Little Black Boy by by Betty K. Bynum and Joshua B. Drummond

    With all of his good friends, Joshua’s days are filled with adventures where books, a telescope, a red-superhero cape, rhyming hip-hop verse, twinkling fireflies that light up the magical summer skies above a card board fort in the park― and so much more ― is just what boyhood innocence and imagination is all about.

    In Plain Sight: A Game by Richard Jackson and Jerry Pinkney

    As Sophie and her grandpa talk, he asks her to find items he’s “lost” throughout the day, guiding Sophie on a tour through his daily life and connecting their generations in this sweet, playful picture book from Richard Jackson, illustrated by Caldecott Medalist and Laura Ingalls Wilder Award winner Jerry Pinkney.

    Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn and Ruth Hearson

    Leo and Daddy go to swim class where they kick, bounce, and dive like little fish. Joining other babies and their caretakers in the pool is a guarantee for unforgettable fun.  Read my review here.

    Like a Bird: The Art of the American Slave Song by Cynthia Grady and Michele Wood

    Enslaved African Americans longed for freedom, and that longing took many forms including music. Drawing on biblical imagery, slave songs both expressed the sorrow of life in bondage and offered a rallying cry for the spirit. Like a Bird brings together text, music, and illustrations by Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator Michele Wood to convey the rich meaning behind thirteen of these powerful songs.

    Little People Big Dreams: Maya Angelou by Lisbeth Kaiser and Leire Salaberria

    This book follows Maya Angelou, from her early traumatic childhood to her time as a singer, actress, civil rights campaigner and, eventually, one of America’s most beloved writers. This inspiring and informative little biography comes with extra facts about Maya’s life at the back.  Read my review here.

    Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith

    Little Red is on her way to visit Auntie Rosie with a basket of goodies and some spot medicine. Along the way she meets the Very Hungry Lion. The Lion is eager to gobble up Little Red. The Lion’s plan doesn’t work out the way he wanted.  Read my review here.

    Maggie and Michael Get Dressed by Denise Fleming

    It’s time for Michael to get dressed! Maggie will help.
    Michael knows where each piece of colorful clothing should go. Yellow socks on feet, brown hat on head. But who will end up wearing the blue pants?

    Marta! Big and Small by Jen Arena

    As Marta explores the jungle, she knows she’s bigger than a bug, smaller than an elephant, and faster than a turtle. But then she meets the snake, who thinks Marta is sabrosa―tasty, very tasty! But Marta is ingeniosa, a very clever girl, and she outsmarts the snake with hilarious results.  With simple Spanish and a glossary at the end, this fun read-aloud picture book, Marta! Big and Small, teaches little ones to identify opposites and animals and learn new words.

    Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

    This little Mary has STYLE! In this fun take on Mother Goose, fashion-forward Mary helps some of childhood’s most beloved characters go glam. From the kid who lives in a shoe (and dons some fab footwear, too) to Jack, who breaks his crown but gets a great new one, Mary’s school friends look fantastic in their finery. But are they now too well dressed for recess? Not to worry—Mary always shows her flair for what to wear!  Read my review here.

    Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell

    What good can a splash of color do in a community of gray? As Mira and her neighbors discover, more than you might ever imagine! Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, Maybe Something Beautiful reveals how art can inspire transformation—and how even the smallest artists can accomplish something big.

    Miles and Mia A to Z by Michaela Alexander

    Go on a journey with Miles and Mia as they make their way through all 26 letters of the alphabet.  Read my review here.

    More-igami by Dori Kleber and G. Brian Karas

    Joey loves things that fold: maps, beds, accordions, you name it. When a visiting mother of a classmate turns a plain piece of paper into a beautiful origami crane, his eyes pop. Maybe he can learn origami, too. It’s going to take practice — on his homework, the newspaper, the thirty-eight dollars in his mother’s purse . . . Enough! No more folding! But how can Joey become an origami master if he’s not allowed to practice? Is there anywhere that he can hone the skill that makes him happy — and maybe even make a new friend while he’s at it?

    Normal Norman by Tara Lazar and S. Britt

    What is “normal?” That’s the question an eager young scientist, narrating her very first book, hopes to answer. Unfortunately, her exceedingly “normal” subject—an orangutan named Norman—turns out to be exceptionally strange. He speaks English, sleeps in a bed, loves his stuffed toy, goes bananas over pizza, and even deep-sea dives! Oh, no: what’s a “normal” scientist to do?

    Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim and E. B. Lewis

    John wants to be a preacher when he grows up—a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation! So he preaches to his flock, and they listen, content under his watchful care, riveted by the rhythm of his voice.

    Princess Cupcake Jones and the Dance Recital by Ylleya Fields and Michael LaDuca

    Follow Princess Cupcake Jones as she learns that determination and practice bring positive results and surprises. Taking dance classes with her friends is the highlight of her week. But when Cupcake struggles to do everything ‘just right’ before the recital, she isn’t sure if she’ll be able to master it all in time. The gentle rhyming cadence, vibrant illustrations, and captivating pages deliver valuable life lessons and family values.  Read my review here.

    Radiant Child: The Story of the Young Artist Jean Michel-Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

    Jean-Michael Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocked to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art work had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message and art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful.

    Rice & Rocks by Sandra L. Richards and Megan Kayleigh Sullivan

    Giovanni’s friends are coming over for Sunday dinner, and his grandmother is serving rice and beans. Giovanni is embarrassed he does not like ‘rice and rocks’ and worries his friends will think the traditional Jamaican dish is weird. But his favorite Auntie comes to the rescue. She and Giovanni’s pet parrot, Jasper, take him on a magical journey across the globe, visiting places where people eat rice and rocks. This exciting story celebrates the varied traditions of every culture while also highlighting the delicious similarities that bring us all together.  Read my review here.

    Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson and Ron Husband

    Based on true events, Ron Husband’s uplifting illustrations bring to life Deborah Hopkinson’s tale of a resourceful, determined teacher; his bright, inquisitive students; and their refusal to accept discrimination based on the color of their skin.

    The Airport Book by Lisa Brown

    In a book that is as intriguing as it is useful and entertaining, we follow a family on its way through the complexities of a modern-day airport. From checking bags and watching them disappear on the mysterious conveyor belt, to security clearance and a seemingly endless wait at the gate to finally being airborne.

    The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller and Frank Morrison

    It’s the day before the big parade. Alta can only think about one thing: Wilma Rudolph, three-time Olympic gold medalist. She’ll be riding on a float tomorrow. See, Alta is the quickest kid in Clarksville, Tennessee, just like Wilma once was. It doesn’t matter that Alta’s shoes have holes because Wilma came from hard times, too. But what happens when a new girl with shiny new shoes comes along and challenges Alta to a race? Will she still be the quickest kid?

    The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara and Sara Kahn

    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?  Read my review here.

    Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

    Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, but he wants a name that’s all his own. Just because people call his dad Big Thunder doesn’t mean he wants to be Little Thunder. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done, like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder.

    The Water Princess by Susan Verde and Georgie Badiel

    Based on supermodel Georgie Badiel’s childhood, a young girl dreams of bringing clean drinking water to her African village.  Read my review here.

    Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo

    As her mom reads a bedtime story, Lucy drifts off. But later, she awakens in a dark, still room, and everything looks mysterious. How will she ever get back to sleep?

    Whoosh: Lonnie Johnson’s Super Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton and Don Tate

    A love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity began early in Lonnie Johnson’s life. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, persistence and a passion for problem solving became the cornerstone for a career as an engineer and his work with NASA. But it is his invention of the Super Soaker water gun that has made his most memorable splash with kids and adults.  Read my review here.

    Bonus Books!
    I only recently discovered Rainbow Weaver about a month ago, but I just had to include it as a bonus book.

    Ixchel wants to follow in the long tradition of weaving on backstrap looms, just as her mother, grandmother, and most Mayan women have done for more than two thousand years. But Ixchel’s mother is too busy preparing her weavings for market. If they bring a good price, they will have money to pay for Ixchel s school and books.

    Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop Slave-Explorer by Heather Henson

    Grab your lantern and follow the remarkable and world-famous Mammoth Cave explorer—and slave—Stephen Bishop as he guides you through the world’s largest cave system in this remarkable homage to the resilience of human nature.

    Your turn: What books would you add to this list?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books

    Numbers by John J. Reiss (A Book Review)

    Numbers by John J. Reiss

    Publisher: Little Simon
    Age Range: 1 – 4 years old
    Grade Level: Preschool and up
    Format: Hardcover

    Count from 1 to 1,000 in this stunning, graphic first concept board book.

    From kites, cakes, and candy kisses, young readers can count from 1 to 1,000 using illustrations of fun, familiar objects. With bright, bold artwork, this board book is perfect for parents and little ones to share.

    I love a good counting book, don’t you?  I think they are the perfect way to introduce young children to early math concepts while engaging their imaginations, expanding vocabulary and reading and writing skills.  Sharing counting books together with the kids is a wonderful way for us to spend time together, learning, imagining, and exploring.

    Numbers is a simple, bold, bright, and a great counting book!  It isn’t a complex book, but it is one that encourages counting with it’s vivid illustrations.  Little readers can count from 1 to 20, count by 10’s up to 100 and finally skipping all the way to 1,000.  Each number is shown on the same page as the objects the child is being asked to count (crayons, fingers, flowers, baseball players).  My kids love counting then flipping the page exclaiming ” I knew it , I said that number I was right!” My only complaint is that the book skipped the numbers 200 – 900 and went straight to 1,000.

    In addition to the illustrations I also liked the fact that this book uses a wide variety of vocabulary words like: portholes, bananas, and horse-chestnut leaf.  Another great thing is that each number is written as a symbol and spelled out as a word allowing children to recognize both the number and the corresponding word.

    This newly re-published version of Numbers (originally published in 1971) is also a sturdy board book, making it great for little hands to hold.  My kids enjoy flipping the pages to count the objects, making it a more interactive and engaging read with young children.  Overall, I think it’s ideal for introducing children to rote counting and colors.  I would happily recommend this book to families with babies through preschoolers , my 4 year-old daughter loves it and partly because she reads all the words and numbers herself!

    Numbers publishes from Little Simon on December 20, 2016!

    Disclaimer:  I was provided a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    holiday gift guide series

    Charitable Giving with CARE: Teaching Kids About Kindness and Giving

    I describe my three year-old son as a giving, empathetic and gentle soul.  My daughter shows signs of giving and empathy too, but not as much as my son does.  I think when children learn to be givers at an early age it shapes their values and provides opportunities to develop kindness, a virtue that improves lives and reduces violence and bullying.

    But in a culture dominated by violence, cruelty and self-absorption (and quite a lot of the “gimmes” during this holiday time), empathy and compassion must be nurtured, and studies show that young people are becoming less empathetic than in generations past.  As our child’s first and most important teacher, we, as parents, have an important opportunity to start building pathways to kindness and compassion for people, animals and the earth, starting when children are very young.

    I try to teach concepts of giving, kindness and empathy by reading lots of books like ones listed here and here.  In addition, I provide my kids with different opportunities to help others. Even from an early age, children can be involved in helping others. From donating non-perishable goods to a food pantry, to donating their clothes and toys, to volunteering as a family at an animal shelter, I aim to find numerous age-appropriate opportunities to cultivate generosity and empathy.

    Another way I’m teaching the kids about giving this holiday season is by introducing them to organizations like  CARE works around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice.

    I am truly inspired by the overall mission of CARE as they support things that are near and dear to my heart like diversity and empowering girls and women.  The website is full of inspiring stories and videos of children like Evelesi and Maliyana whose lives have been forever changed because of small acts of kindness from people and families like ours.  Check out this video to get a dose of inspiration.  Want even more inspiration?  Be sure to tune in to to meet and interact with the girls featured in the 2016 catalog from December 5th – 16th.

    With your support CARE can:

    • Help poor families send their children to school
    • Help people learn skills to start and sustain their own businesses
    • Deliver emergency aid when disaster strikes
    • Help women build a better life for themselves, their families and their communities

    Reading books and telling stories that demonstrate showing compassion and care for others is great.  I will never discount the power of using stories to get certain points across to children.  It’s been proven that stories are a wonderful teaching tool, and of course, regular reading and storytelling build important communication and literacy skills. However, I think whenever you have the opportunity to provide children with real-life, tangible examples and sharing personal stories helps even more.  Help your children see the impact of giving like never before this holiday season with CARE.  Your gifts will empower girls and women to pursue their dreams and help lift up their communities.

    Learn more about Gifts for Change and donate!

    Want to get involved?  Give a gift, change a life. When people do their holiday shopping with CARE their money directly impacts women and girls around the world who need it most. Contributions to the catalog strengthen communities and empower individuals to be independent and successful.  Learn more about the Gifts for Change at the website.  In the catalog you can give as little as $25 up to $7,000 or more.  The choice is yours!  Of course any amount you can donate will be greatly appreciated.

    Connect with CARE!
    Website | Facebook | Twitter

    adult books, book reviews, currently reading

    The Thunder Beneath Us by Nicole Blades (A Book Review)

    The Thunder Beneath Us by Nicole Blades

    Publisher: Dafina (Kensington Publishing Corp.)
    Format: Paperback
    Pages: 320

    To the world, Best Lightburn is a talented writer rising up the masthead at international style magazine James, girlfriend of a gorgeous up-and-coming actor, and friend to New York City’s fabulous. Then there’s the other Best, the one who has chosen to recast herself as an only child rather than confront the truth.

    Ten years ago, on Christmas Eve, Best and her two older brothers took a shortcut over a frozen lake. When the ice cracked, all three went in. Only Best came out. People said she was lucky, but that kind of luck is nothing but a burden. Because Best knows what she had to do to survive. And after years of covering up the past, her guilt is detonating through every facet of her seemingly charmed life. It’s all unraveling so fast: her new boss is undermining and deceitful, her boyfriend is recovering from a breakdown, and a recent investigative story has led to a secret affair with the magazine’s wealthy publisher.

    Best is quick-witted and headstrong, but how do you find a way to happiness when you’re sure you haven’t earned it—or embrace a future you feel you don’t deserve? Evocative and emotional, The Thunder Beneath Us is a gripping novel about learning to carry loss without breaking, and to heal and forgive—not least of all, ourselves.

    Survivor’s guilt.  It’s something many people deal with at some point in their lives.  People living with survivor’s guilt for extended periods of time often experience depression, self-loathing and self-punishment.  In each situation in their lives – whether it’s a relative living as an addict, a parent being a full blown alcoholic, or being the lone survivor in an accident – they feel like they had somehow, unfairly, escaped the doom and gloom that seemed to prey upon the people they love the most.  Sometimes they even believe they caused it.  As a result, people suffering from survivor’s guilt end up wasting a lot of time and emotional energy trying to answer questions like, “Why them and not me?”  If you’ve ever experienced the pain of survivor’s guilt in some capacity then The Thunder Beneath Us is the book for you.

    The opening line of this book made me laugh out loud – literally!  It immediately intrigued me and drew me into the story.  Best (short for Bathsheba) is a beautiful, accomplished magazine journalist dating a hot actor.  What more could a woman ask for, right?  Although it sounds like she has it all together on the surface, her life is a hot mess! She’s been living with so many secrets that eventually begin to come bubbling to the surface and rock her world upside down.

    Although I think the first half of this book was a bit slow to develop, the second half definitely made up for it and had me turning the pages so fast wanting to know what was going to happen next!  After having a breakdown, Best visits her childhood home in Canada.  That’s when we learn what really happened ten years ago when she was the sole survivor of a terrible ice accident that tragically took the lives of her two brothers. What she had to do in order to survive turns out to be the mystery.  For years Best lived with survivor’s guilt, without ever expressing her feelings.  Can you imagine what that must feel like?

    While Best isn’t the most likeable character, I did find myself relating to her in some chapters.  Her personality can be described as sassy, witty and funny.  Some may even call her a hater.  No matter how you feel about Best Lightburn I think you’ll find yourself cheering for her, laughing at her, crying with her, cursing her out and wanting to reach out and give her a big hug at times.  She’s not perfect – she’s human.

    I love the author’s attention to detail and the way she describes each character, their actions and the scenery around them.  The Thunder Beneath Us is a very thought-provoking, gripping, compelling and emotional book with themes of: love, family, relationships, personal discovery, self-acceptance, healing, loss, forgiveness, coping with the past and moving forward.  There are some valuable personal growth and self-discovery lessons to be learned for people who have struggled with things that haunt them from their past.  Best is forced to finally confront her tainted past so she can finally move on, forgive herself and experience happiness in her life once again.

    Add this book to your holiday gift list for yourself or a friend.  This book has it all: fresh, detailed and concise writing, scandal, secrets and workplace affairs it’s great for reading while traveling or over the weekend.

    About Nicole Blades

    Nicole Blades is a novelist and journalist who has been putting her stories on paper since the third grade. Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, by Caribbean parents, Nicole moved to New York City and launched her journalism career working at Essence magazine. She later co-founded the online magazine SheNetworks, and worked as an editor at ESPN and Women’s Health. Now a freelance writer, her features and essays have appeared in MORE magazine, Cosmopolitan,,,, BuzzFeed, SELF, and BlogHer. Nicole has been a speaker and panelist at BlogHer, Mom 2.0 and the MA Conference for Women. She also created Ms. Mary Mack, a blog that aims to bring compassion and common sense back to parenthood.  Nicole currently lives in Connecticut with her husband and their son.

    Connect with Nicole Blades!

    Website| Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

    book reviews, children's books

    The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks (A Book Review)

    The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton


    • Age Range: 5 – 10 years
    • Grade Level: Kindergarten – 5
    • Hardcover: 40 pages
    • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
    • Available for Sale: January 17, 2017

    Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference.

    Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else.

    So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan—picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!—she stepped right up and said, I’ll do it! She was going to j-a-a-il!

    Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.

    Nine year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks was just an ordinary girl in a lot of ways.  She liked to help her mother cook, she sang in the church choir, she went to school, she loved to eat ice cream, but she especially loved her mother’s recipe for hot rolls baptized in butter…yum!

    Audrey also just wanted to go to different public places and do things just like everyone else. Why couldn’t she eat inside of her local ice cream shop (Newberry’s) and why did she always have to get hand-me-down schoolbooks?  I’ll tell you why – because Audrey grew up in Birmingham, Alabama at the height of racial segregation in the South. After participating in the Children’s March in May 1963, Audrey is the youngest of more than three thousand children who get arrested.  She spent a total of seven days in jail.


    Remember I said Audrey was ordinary in a lot of ways?  Well, not only did being the youngest child to get arrested in the 1963 Children’s March make her quite extraordinary, but so did being blessed with the opportunity to eat dinner with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on several occasions at her house.  That’s right, Dr. King used to come to little Audrey’s house to eat dinner with her family and other ministers.  The dinner conversation would revolve around different strategies to help wipe out segregation laws.  It was from overhearing those conversations that Audrey decided she would stand up for what’s right despite the consequences.

    This book is very inspirational and quite moving.  I absolutely LOVE Audrey’s courage and passion for wanting to do the right thing even if it meant she had to spend a few days behind bars.  As always, Vanessa Brantley-Newton delivers exquisite illustrations that really capture the essence of this true story.  My favorite illustrations are when Audrey is shown laying down in bed in the jail cell and the other illustration where she is sitting criss-cross applesauce in the cell.


    Later in life, Audrey went on to graduate from college and became a teacher. Nicknamed the “Civil Rights Queen”, Audrey Faye Hendricks passed away in 2009. The back matter includes a timeline of events, a recipe for “Hot Rolls Baptized in Butter” and an author’s note.

    Overall, I think this is a beautiful and important non-fiction book that helps children understand they are never too young to make a difference and change the world.  Perfect for reading with your little readers during Black History Month, Women’s History Month or any time of the year.

    children's books, family fun, giveaways

    Celebrate Computer Science Education Week With Your Kids + A Brightly Giveaway!


    There’s always a reason to celebrate, right?  Well, this week the kids and I will be celebrating Computer Science Education Week which will be observed December 5 – 11th this year.  One of the ways I’ll be celebrating is by participating in the Hour of Code.  Want to join in on the fun?

    In December 2013 the folks at started the first ever Hour of Code event, described as “a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event. One-hour tutorials are available in over 40 languages. No experience needed. Ages 4 to 104.” Sounds amazing, right?

    If you didn’t already know, I work full-time as a Computer Programmer and have over 15 years of technology experience.  In other words, I’m a true geek at heart.  As a parent, I understand not only the importance of reading, but also the importance of teaching your children about technology.  Today, we live in a world surrounded by technology: mobile phones, tablets, laptops, iPads, desktop computers, Smart TVs, etc.  Computer science and the technologies it encompasses lie at the heart of our economy, communication and daily lives.

    As the digital age has transformed our world and workforce, many U.S. K–12 schools have fallen behind in preparing students with the fundamental computer science knowledge and skills they need for future success. To be a well-educated citizen as we move toward an ever-more computing-intensive world and to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st Century, people must have a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of computer science.  Understanding computers has become increasingly important not only for those who want to pursue careers as programmers, but also for those who want to jump into other fields, which are becoming more and more entangled with and influenced by technology.

    So as parents and caregivers, what can we do to help our kids become little computer whizzes?  Don’t solely rely on your child’s school to help them learn.  Remember, your are your children’s first teacher.  I believe in giving kids meaningful, high-quality, and creative experiences with technology and fostering skills that enable them to be more successful throughout their lives.

    One thing you can do is read STEM and STEAM focused books with your children.  I love this list of 17 STEM focused books from Brightly and this one which is specifically for girls.  Another fun thing you can do is have family coding nights.  This consists of watching a fun one-hour tutorial with your kids or letting them do it on their own.  The tutorials on provides a variety of hour-long tutorials for students of all ages..  They require minimal preparation time and they are self-guided allowing students to work independently at their own pace and skill-level.

    And just in case you need even more reasons to get your kids excited about computers here’s a few:

    • Learning to code is fun (and cool)!
    • Computers and coding gives kids an outlet for their creativity and imagination.
    • Learning to code provides a setting for kids to practice problem-solving skills, the engineering process, teamwork, & collaborative skills.
    • Coding is a very rewarding talent that can enhance the value of any individual in any profession, as it is a key 21st century skill.
    • Your kids can be active creators of technology, rather than just passive users of it.

    Your turn: Does your child have an interest in computer science?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    The giveaway!
    For Computer Science Education Week, I’ve teamed up with our friends over at Brightly to bring you and your little computer whizzes this amazing giveaway!  One lucky winner will win two STEM focused books: Coding Games in Scratch and Minecraft Exploded Builds: Medieval Fortress along with a Brightly tote bag.  Use the entry form listed below or go here to enter.  Giveaway ends on December 31, 2016.  Good luck!