Monthly Archives

January 2017

    children's books, read aloud, young adult books

    15+ Diverse January 2017 Picture Book and YA Releases

    2017 promises to be a year filled with some amazing literature for kids, teens and adults.  Below I’ve rounded up 15+ diverse picture and young adult books being released this month.  Which ones are you looking forward to reading with your little readers?  Feel free to share in the comments.  Enjoy!

    January 3, 2017

    Martin’s Dream Day by Kitty Kelley

    Bestselling author and journalist Kitty Kelley combines her elegant storytelling with Stanley Tretick’s iconic photographs to transport readers to the 1963 March on Washington, bringing that historic day vividly to life for a new generation.

    Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born by Gene Barretta

    In this picture book biography of Muhammad Ali, author Gene Barretta and illustrator Frank Morrison tell the unforgettable childhood story of this legendary boxing champion and how one pivotal moment set him on his path to become the Greatest of All Time.

    One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

    In this collection of poetry, Nikki Grimes looks afresh at the poets of the Harlem Renaissance — including voices like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many more writers of importance and resonance from this era — by combining their work with her own original poetry. Using “The Golden Shovel” poetic method, Grimes has written a collection of poetry that is as gorgeous as it is thought-provoking.

    Midnight without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson

    It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. But for now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation.

    The Sweetest Sound by Sherri Winston

    For ten-year-old Cadence Jolly, birthdays are a constant reminder of all that has changed since her mother skipped town with dreams of becoming a singing star. Cadence inherited that musical soul, she can’t deny it, but otherwise she couldn’t be more different – she’s as shy as can be.

    Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls by Tonya Bolden

    Award-winning author Tonya Bolden offers an insightful look at 16 figures, from Venture Smith, who bought his freedom; to Sadie Alexander, who contributed to the Civil Rights movement in the United States; to Katherine Johnson, who helped the United States land on the moon.

    Flying Lessons & Other Stories by Ellen Oh

    Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us.

    In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, industry giants Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson join newcomer Kelly J. Baptist in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt.

    January 10, 2017

    Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout: Dance, Spin & Turn It Out: Games, Songs, and Stories from an African-American Childhood by Patricia McKissack

    Parents and grandparents will delight in sharing this exuberant book with the children in their lives. Here is a songbook, a storybook, a poetry collection, and much more, all rolled into one. Find a partner for hand claps such as “Eenie, Meenie, Sassafreeny,” or form a circle for games like “Little Sally Walker.” Gather as a family to sing well-loved songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Oh, Freedom,” or to read aloud the poetry of such African American luminaries as Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. And snuggle down to enjoy classic stories retold by the author, including Aesop’s fables and tales featuring Br’er Rabbit and Anansi the Spider. Read my review of this book here.

    Zoo Day by Anne Rockwell

    A young boy and his family visit the zoo for the very first time. From gorillas to lions, polar bears to parrots, Anne Rockwell and her daughter, artist Lizzy Rockwell, celebrate a day he will never forget. With simple, lyrical text and bright illustrations that jump off the page, Zoo Day brings the joys of visiting the zoo vividly to life.

    Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis by Jeannine Atkins

    A sculptor of historical figures starts with givens but creates her own vision. Edmonia Lewis was just such a sculptor, but she never spoke or wrote much about her past, and the stories that have come down through time are often vague or contradictory. Some facts are known: Edmonia was the daughter of an Ojibwe woman and an African-Haitian man. She had the rare opportunity to study art at Oberlin, one of the first schools to admit women and people of color, but lost her place after being accused of poisoning and theft, despite being acquitted of both. She moved to Boston and eventually Italy, where she became a successful sculptor.

    January 17, 2017

    Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal

    A beautiful picture book about Ann Cole Lowe, a little-known African-American fashion designer who battled personal and social adversity in order to pursue her passion of making beautiful gowns and went on to become one of society’s top designers.

    The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson

    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.  Read my review of this book here.

    January 24, 2017

    Love Is by Diane Adams

    Perfect for Valentine’s Day—or any tender moment—this story of a girl and a duckling who share a touching year together will melt hearts old and young. In this tenderly funny book, girl and duckling grow in their understanding of what it is to care for each other, discovering that love is as much about letting go as it is about holding tight. Children and parents together will adore this fond exploration of growing up while learning about the joys of love offered and love returned.

    The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford

    Celebrate the life of Lena Horne, the pioneering African American actress and civil rights activist, with this inspiring and powerful picture book from award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford.

    Fredrick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers

    In this picture book biography, the late New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers and acclaimed artist Floyd Cooper take readers on an inspiring journey through the life of Frederick Douglass.

    January 31, 2017

    The Wall of Fame Game (The Magnificent Mya Tibbs #2) by Crystal Allen

    Nine-year-old Mya Tibbs is in a triple heap of trouble. As the Tibbs household prepares for the new baby, Mya is extra excited to spend time with her mom watching their favorite Annie Oakley marathon before her new sister arrives. Until she’s cornered into a bet with her number-one enemy, Naomi Jackson, that she can beat her in the famous fourth-grade Wall of Fame Game—which means Mya is stuck studying every night instead of hanging out with Mom. As if that wasn’t enough, Mya just entered Bluebonnet’s annual chili cook-off, even though she doesn’t know how to cook! Holy moly!

    The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley

    Harlem is home to all kinds of kids. Jin sees life passing her by from the window of her family’s bodega. Alex wants to help the needy one shelter at a time, but can’t tell anyone who she really is. Elvin’s living on Harlem’s cold, lonely streets, surviving on his own after his grandfather was mysteriously attacked.

    Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell

    From acclaimed author Patricia Hruby Powell comes the story of a landmark civil rights case, told in spare and gorgeous verse. In 1955, in Caroline County, Virginia, amidst segregation and prejudice, injustice and cruelty, two teenagers fell in love. Their life together broke the law, but their determination would change it. Richard and Mildred Loving were at the heart of a Supreme Court case that legalized marriage between races, and a story of the devoted couple who faced discrimination, fought it, and won.

    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    Rainbow Weaver by Linda Elovitz Marshall (A Book Review)

    Rainbow Weaver by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri

    Publisher: Children’s Book Press
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 6- 9 years old

    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. And besides, there is not enough extra thread for Ixchel to practice with.

    Disappointed, Ixchel first tries weaving with blades of grass, and then with bits of wool, but no one would want to buy the results. As she walks around her village, Ixchel finds it littered with colorful plastic bags. There is nowhere to put all the bags, so they just keep accumulating.

    Suddenly, Ixchel has an idea! She collects and washes the plastic bags. Then she cuts each bag into thin strips. Sitting at her loom, Ixchel weaves the plastic strips into a colorful fabric that looks like a beautiful rainbow just like the weavings of Mayan women before her.


    I adore books that teach kids about human rights, fighting for a good cause and making the world a better place.  It’s never too early to try and change the world, right?  I enjoy reading books like Rainbow Weaver to help my kids exercise their power as agents of change in the world and help them not to feel powerless.

    Little Ixchel wants to help her mother weave in order for her to be able to sell items at a nearby market.  You see, Ixchel wants to earn money so she can pay for her books and other school materials.  There’s only one problem though – there isn’t enough extra thread for her to use.  She later gets inspiration from rainbow colored plastic trash bags surrounding her and turns them into fabric in order to create gorgeous rainbow pieces to sell at the market.

    I am inspired by Ixchel’s problem solving spirit, resourcefulness and creativity!  Not only are the pieces she creates are absolutely beautiful, but by turning the plastic bags into string she helps to clean up her village – genius!  It reminds me to the book One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul.

    I also loved that this book is bilingual – written in both Spanish and English text.  The illustrations are stunning and very detailed.  I think they really capture the Mayan culture really well.  Parents and educators may be inspired to do simple weaving projects with their kids as an extension activity after reading this book.  We plan to try our hands at our very first cardboard weaving project – so fun!

    Although Ixchel is a fictional character, the author’s note in the back of the book mentions an organization of weavers in Guatemala called Mayan Hands which this book was inspired by.  In an effort to bring more awareness to the work of the Mayan women, this book was written as a tribute to the weavers at Mayan Hands.  A portion of the proceeds from this book will benefit weavers of the Mayan Hands and Maya Works cooperatives.  The proceeds will also help by providing money for education of children like Ixchel, and for health and dental care for the weavers and their families.

    I’d highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about weaving, Mayan culture, art, environmentalism, problem solving, creative thinking, recycling and family traditions.

    children's books, read aloud

    Read Aloud Book Club for Kids: January Chapter Book of the Month Selection

    Happy New Year, friends!

    I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!  I’m so excited it’s a new year and can’t wait to see all the great things in store for 2017.  I’ve been busy working on a few different projects behind the scenes and I can’t wait to unveil them to you as the year goes on.

    Here’s the first project I’d like to introduce…a read aloud book club the whole family can join in on!  If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve likely already heard about this.

    This year I made a goal to read aloud more easy reader chapter books with my kids in addition to reading lots of picture books. So instead of keeping it to myself, I thought it would be fun to have others who may be interested join us!

    As the year goes on, I hope to expand this club with beyond the book activities and maybe a few other goodies. For now though, the goal is to just read aloud 1 easy reader chapter book per month.  This club will feature different easy to read diverse chapter books to read aloud each month with the younger children in your home. Are you up to the challenge? Do you have a goal to read aloud daily with your kids? Join us!

    Here’s the first diverse chapter book we’ll be reading aloud:

    The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith

    Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the basis of the HBO TV show, and its proprietor Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective.

    Have you ever said to yourself, Wouldn’t it be nice to be a detective?  This is the story of an African girl who says just that. Her name is Precious.

    When a piece of cake goes missing from her classroom, a traditionally built young boy is tagged as the culprit. Precious, however, is not convinced. She sets out to find the real thief. Along the way she learns that your first guess isn’t always right. She also learns how to be a detective.

    This book is a quick read.  The copy we have is only 73 pages long so it shouldn’t take long to finish reading it.  Plus, it’s part of a mystery series for young readers!  If you like this book you may want to check out the others in the series: Mystery of the Missing Lion and Mystery of Meerkat Hill.

    I hope some of you will join us this month and read along with your little readers.

    Happy Reading!

    Your turn: What are some of your favorite easy reader chapter books for kids?  Feel free to share in the comments.