Monthly Archives

February 2017

    children's books, interviews

    Author Interview with Anna McQuinn

    Last month I had the pleasure of reviewing Anna McQuinn’s latest book entitled Lola Gets a Cat.  You can read my review here.  Lola Gets a Cat will be released on February 14, 2017 (Valentine’s Day & International Book Giving Day), but it’s available for pre-order now.

    I also had the opportunity to interview Anna McQuinn and ask her a few questions.  Check it out!

    How did you come up with the characters Lola and Leo?

    The characters kind of developed organically. With Lola I sent out to write about a little girl having some new experiences and the first story I wrote had her go to the library. Well, in the course of writing (and also based on readers’ reactions to her) I realized she’d developed into a little book-loving girl.

    This shouldn’t have come as a surprise and I devoured books as a little girl myself – but I don’t think you are always conscious of this kind of thing as you write. To be honest, it wasn’t until Charlesbridge Publishing began writing back cover copy, that it dawned on me!

    Leo was a little bit more considered. Of course I wanted him to be a book lover too, but I wanted him to have his own personality. So I thought about his characteristics quite a bit more at the outset. I see him as a little adventurer, having new experiences and being quite fearless.

    Do you plan to start a new series of books with new characters in the future?

    I’m not sure about a series, but I have just begun work on a nursery rhyme book. I must admit that with all the changes in both the US and UK recently, I have found it quite hard to concentrate on writing – though I have been inspired to pull out a story I’d been working on and given up on about a little ferret who is bullied… watch this space!

    Besides your own, what were some of your favorite children’s board, picture, or chapter books you’ve read or come across within the past year?

    I was about to say, this is easy – but then you said within the past year. I don’t feel I’m that up to date… I’m a huge fan of Suzanne Bloom and excited about anything new from her; I think the Baby Loves books from Charlesbridge are super cute; and I read Rat Runners by Oisin McGann recently – fabulous story! Did you know that I have a Goodreads page where I review books I read?  You can check it out here. The character Lola also has her own Goodreads page too which can be found here.

    What are some of your must-have children¹s books for a home library?

    Ok, this is easy. Here are my favorites:

    Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse – Kevin Henkes
    Please, Baby, Please – Spike Lee & Kadir Nelson
    Crispin, the Pig Who Had it All–  Ted Dewan
    Whistle for Willie (and anything else by) Ezra Jack Keats
    What About Bear? – Suzanne Bloom
    Feeding Friendsies – Suzanne Bloom
    You Are Not Small – Anna Kang
    It’s a George Thing by David Bedford
    Global Babies (the whole series of books)
    Always and Forever by Alan Durant
    I had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn
    One Word From Sophia by Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail

    Do you have any literacy rituals that you practice in your family or practiced in the past?

    My Dad was a great bed-time storyteller (there’s a nod to that at the end of Lola Loves Stories).  I especially loved his stories about when he was a small boy. However, when he’d told me a few and then I begged for ‘just one more’ he would begin a story “there was once a little girl called Anna” and for some reason I never wanted these – perhaps because it signaled the last story of the night.

    Besides reading, what are some other things parents can do to set their children up for literacy success?

    Talk! And sing! With very young children, I advise parents to just describe what the child is doing. It feels funny until you get used to it, but it really helps children to learn words to describe what they are doing. You can extend it to emotions too. Sometimes when a child is upset, saying “Oh that really upset you now, didn’t it, you thought it was unfair (or whatever)…” is better than trying to fix something and gives children a vocabulary of words to describe their emotions. Finally I would say READ! Children really notice if a parent encourages them to read, but is never seen reading themselves.

    If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading with children, what would it be?

    Never give up and never EVER decide ‘this child just isn’t into books’.  By never give up I mean trying – be ready to abandon any book that’s not working or just let go mid-way through if your child is getting wriggly.
    Your child may have enough in 2 pages and that’s OK – there’s no obligation to finish every story in one sitting.
    The Irish Children’s Laureate has a lovely piece of advice here.

    Hardcover, Paperback or e-book (when reading a book on your own)?


    Fiction, non-fiction or some other genre (when reading a book on your own)?

    Oh, I often have one of each on the go. I’m currently reading Silk Roads a non-fiction book by Peter Frankopan, and I’ve just finished The Storyteller by Jodi Piccoult. I often have one ‘deep and meaningful’ book on the go alongside a more pacey thriller so I can read depending on my mood.

    Name an adult book that:

    a) Inspired you Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (Walter Mosley)
    b) Made you laugh out loud We Are all Made of Glue or The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am
    c) You recommend to others often
    Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (Walter Mosley)
    Room by Emma Donoghue
    Orange Mint and Honey by Carlene Brice
    The Binding Vine by Shashi Deshpande
    A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
    Just Like Tomorrow by Faiza Guene
    The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe

    What books are on your nightstand or e-reader right now?

    Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun , Silk Roads and Swing Time

    Are you working on any special projects that you want to share with others?

    I’m writing a new Leo book – he goes for a check-up. The illustrator, Ruth Hearson has just sent me the first few rough drafts which is SO exciting!

    How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?

    On my Facebook page or here on my website.

    Your turn: Did you enjoy this interview?  What other authors would you be interested in learning more about?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    black history, children's books, diverse books, read aloud

    Black History Month Books for 3, 4 & 5 Year-Olds

    It’s Black History Month again!

    This year I decided to focus on a few board books, picture books and paperback books for the younger readers ages 3 – 5 (and up).  If you’ve been looking for good quality historical books about prominent Black people from the past and present, I hope you’ll enjoy this list.  Perhaps you’ll find something new or be reminded of some of your old favorites.

    I recommend these books because they are not overly wordy and don’t dwell strictly on Civil Rights, slavery or struggle. I think most are easily digestible for the younger crowd and great for reading aloud at home or with a preschool or Kindergarten class.

    Remember, Black History shouldn’t be limited to the month of February.  Make a commitment to read books about people of all different races with your children year round.  Enjoy!

    (This post contains affiliate links.)

    Board Books & Picture Books for 3 Year-Olds & Up

    Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison

    Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.  Among these women, you’ll find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things – bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them.

    A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

    A is for Activist is an ABC board book written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for.

    The alliteration, rhyming, and vibrant illustrations make the book exciting for children, while the issues it brings up resonate with their parents’ values of community, equality, and justice. This engaging little book carries huge messages as it inspires hope for the future, and calls children to action while teaching them a love for books.

    Black Cowboys by Kyla Ryman

    Black Cowboys explores a culture that has been largely written out of history, but is still thriving today all over the United States. In the photographs of Andrea Robbins and Max Becher, children will visit rodeos, trail rides, and meet many different Black Cowboys and Cowgirls. The engaging photographs will appeal to even the youngest of children, while the subject matter will encourage further thought and discussion in older readers.

    Our Legendary Ladies: Harriet Tubman by Megan Callea

    We’re loving this simple and beautiful board book for the littlest readers ages birth to 3. Not only is it perfect for fitting into small little hands, it gives readers a nice overview of who Harriet Tubman was and what she stood for. Perfect for reading during Black History Month or any time of the year.

    The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. by Johnny Ray Moore

    This little book tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr. in a way that even very young children will understand. This simple but accurate account of his life begins with King’s childhood, making it easy for little ones to relate to his story. Children will learn that he excelled in school, became a minister, and worked to end segregation in America. This book, with only about 200 words accompanied by delicate watercolors, is a great way for parents to begin to teach their children about this inspirational historical figure. Ages 2-5.

    The Story of Rosa Parks by Patricia A. Pingry

    This little book of only about 200 words introduces Rosa Parks, called the mother of the civil rights movement. Here is the story of her courageous decision to remain on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, an action that resulted in her arrest and, ultimately, a victory for civil rights. The rich oil paintings by artist Steven Walker contribute to the tension of the moment and the understanding of Rosa Parks. Ages 2-5.

    Barack Obama 101: My First Presidential Board Book by Brad M. Epstein

    A board book for small hands to hold with colorful photographs about the first family’s history, Denver Convention, office of President and even a picture frame for the child to insert his own photo. It ends with “Someday I can become President. Yes We Can.”

    I Look Up To…Michelle Obama by Anna Membrino

    It’s never too early to introduce your child to the people you admire! This board book distills Michelle Obama’s excellent qualities into deliciously illustrated little baby-sized bites, with text designed to share and read aloud.

    Each spread highlights an important trait, and is enhanced by a quote from Michelle herself. Kids will grow up hearing the words of this influential woman and will learn what YOU value in a person!

    Be Bold Baby: Michelle Obama by Alison Oliver

    Celebrate Michelle Obama’s most motivational and powerful moments, with quotes from the former First Lady, and vibrant illustrations by Alison Oliver.

    Be Bold Baby: Oprah by Alison Oliver

    Celebrate Oprah Winfrey’s most motivational and powerful moments, with quotes from the media mogul, and vibrant illustrations by Alison Oliver.

    Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney

    Using simple poetic language and stunning photographs, Sandra and Myles Pinkney have created a remarkable book of affirmation for African-American children. Photographic portraits and striking descriptions of varied skin tones, hair texture, and eye color convey a strong sense of pride in a unique heritage. A joyous celebration of the rich diversity among African-Americans.

    Picture Books for 4 Year-Olds & Up

    Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Ebony Glenn

    A lyrical picture book biography of Janet Collins, the first African American principal dancer at the Metropolitan Opera House.  Janet Collins wanted to be a ballerina in the 1930s and 40s, a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States. Janet pursued dance with a passion, despite being rejected from discriminatory dance schools.

    Fearless Mary: American Stagecoach Driver by Tami Charles, illustrated by Claire Almon

    Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary and Black Mary, was the first African-American female star route mail carrier in the United States.  Born as a slave in Tennessee during the administration of Andrew Jackson, Mary was sixty years old in 1895 when she became the second woman and first Black person to ever work for the U.S. Post Office.

    Fancy Party Gowns 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.

    Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist by Barbara Herkert
    Harriet Powers learned to sew and quilt as a young slave girl on a Georgia plantation. She began making pictorial quilts, using each square to illustrate Bible stories and local legends. Harriet exhibited her quilts at local cotton fairs, and though she never traveled outside of Georgia, her quilts are now priceless examples of African-American folk art.

    We March by Shane W. Evans

    On August 28, 1963, a remarkable event took place–more than 250,000 people gathered in our nation’s capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march began at the Washington Monument and ended with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, advocating racial harmony.

    Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass by Dean Robbins

    Two friends, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, get together for tea and conversation. They recount their similar stories fighting to win rights for women and African Americans. The premise of this particular exchange between the two is based on a statue in their hometown of Rochester, New York, which shows the two friends having tea.

    The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford

    Lena Horne was born into the freedom struggle, to a family of teachers and activists. Her mother dreamed of being an actress, so Lena followed in her footsteps as she chased small parts in vaudeville, living out of a suitcase until MGM offered Lena something more—the first ever studio contract for a black actress.

    Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull

    Before Wilma Rudolph was five years old, polio had paralyzed her left leg. Everyone said she would never walk again. But Wilma refused to believe it. Not only would she walk again, she vowed, she’d run. And she did run–all the way to the Olympics, where she became the first American woman to earn three gold medals in a single olympiad.

    Bessie Smith and the Night Riders by Sue Stauffacher

    Even though she can’t afford a ticket to see the great blues singer Bessie Smith perform, Emmarene listens outside Bessie’s tent—that is, until she bursts into the show to warn the crowd:  The Night Riders have come!

    Based on a true incident, Bessie Smith and the Night Riders is a powerful story of facing down danger and standing up for what’s right. With John Holyfield’s luminous paintings setting the stage, readers will be cheering for Bessie and Emmarene all the way to their final bow.

    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.  Back matter includes biographical overview, photos, bibliography, and more resources.  You can read my review of this book here.

    She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick
    Effa always loved baseball. As a young woman, she would go to Yankee Stadium to see Babe Ruth. Effa never dreamed she would someday own a baseball team, yet alone be the first and only woman ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. An inspirational story for girls and boys who love baseball.

    Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

    In this picture book biography, award-winning author and illustrator Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant free verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa, and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for all people, no matter the color of their skin. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.  This Coretta Scott King Honor Book supports the Common Core State Standards.

    Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson

    This beautifully written and illustrated book tells the story of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade that took place in 1963 in Alabama. As many as 3,000 children and teens were arrested and put in jail before the event was over, but their marching made a difference. On May 10, 1963 desegregation ended all because the children marched and led the way.

    Nothing But Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson by Sue Stauffacher

    Althea is nothing but trouble! Everyone agrees: her mama, her daddy, her teacher, even the policeman. But when Buddy Walker, the play leader on Althea’s street in Harlem, watches her play paddle tennis, he sees something more: pure possibility. Buddy buys Althea her very own stringed tennis racket, and before long, she’s on her way to becoming a great athlete—and to proving that she’s more than just trouble.

    Althea Gibson was the first African American ever to compete in and win the Wimbledon Cup. Born in 1927, she was a spirited child and became an enormously talented athlete.

    Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

    Explore the true story of four female African American mathematicians (Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden) at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

    Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

    “If you can dream it, if you believe it and work hard for it, anything is possible.”  This is the advice Dr. Mae Jemison received from both of her parents after telling them she wanted to be an astronaut when she grew up. Mae was ridiculed by her friends and discouraged by her teacher when she told them about her dreams of going to space.  On September 12, 1992, Mae’s dream finally came true and she officially became the first African American woman to go to space.

    Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You by Carole Boston-Weatherford

    This picture book is perfect for teaching little readers ages 4-8 about some of the things Dr. King stood for like peace and equality.  It shows children how they too can be an agent of change by doing things like banding together against bullies, believing in your cause, learning as much as you can, and doing the very best at anything you do.

    Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens by Nina Nolan

    Read my full review here.

    Accompanied by John Holyfield’s gorgeous illustrations, debut author Nina Nolan’s narrative wonderfully captures the amazing story of how Mahalia Jackson became the Queen of Gospel in this fascinating picture book biography.

    Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews

    Along with esteemed illustrator Bryan Collier, Andrews has created a lively picture book autobiography about how he followed his dream of becoming a musician, despite the odds, until he reached international stardom. Trombone Shorty is a celebration of the rich cultural history of New Orleans and the power of music.

    Dizzy by Jonah Winter

    This is the story of Dizzy Gillespie, a real cool cat who must have been born with a horn in his hands, judging from the way he played the trumpet. Jazz was his ticket on a train to better days, and he left his hard life in a small town for New York City and the hottest band around. But did Dizzy stand straight and play right? NO! He was a clown. He hit high notes, low notes, never-been-heard notes, and before he knew it, Dizzy created a whole new music: BEBOP.

    Molly by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter by Dianne Ochiltree

    This legendary tale introduces young readers to Molly Williams, an African American cook for New York City’s Fire Company 11, who is considered to be the first known female firefighter in U.S. history.

    Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford

    Gordon Parks is most famous for being the first black director in Hollywood. But before he made movies and wrote books, he was a poor African American looking for work. When he bought a camera, his life changed forever. He taught himself how to take pictures and before long, people noticed. His success as a fashion photographer landed him a job working for the government.

    My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by AG Ford

    What was it like growing up as a son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? This picture book memoir, My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III, provides insight into one of history’s most fascinating families and into a special bond between father and son.

    Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown by Sally M. Walker

    Henry “Box” Brown’s ingenious escape from slavery is celebrated for its daring and originality. Throughout his life, Henry was fortified by music, family, and a dream of freedom. When he seemed to lose everything, he forged these elements into the song that sustained him through the careful planning and execution of his perilous journey to the North.

    Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson

    Born to parents who were both former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing, and that her sweet, bird-like voice, resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired everyone from songwriters to playwrights. Yet with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by her fellow black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights.

    Paperbacks for 4 Year Olds & Up

    Martin’s Dream: Ready to Read by Jane Kurtz

    In 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech that proclaimed that it was time – long overdue – for all men to be treated as equals. Today his beliefs are more important than ever, and author Jane Kurtz explains Dr. King’s words in language even the youngest reader can understand.

    Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Margaret McNamara

    When Mrs. Conner’s class learns about a great man, they discover their own dreams and hopes for a better world!

    National Geographic Readers: George Washington Carver by Kitson Jazynka

    I love these National Geographic paperback books for young readers!  They are easy to read for young readers and they’re affordable!  They have a wide range of biographies to choose from: Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. just to name a few.  The back matter also includes additional facts, a quiz and a glossary.

    Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story by Ruby Bridges by Ruby Bridges

    The extraordinary true story of Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child to integrate a New Orleans school–now with simple text for young readers!  In 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges walked through an angry crowd and into a school where she changed history.

    This is the true story of an extraordinary little girl who helped shape our country when she became the first African-American to attend an all-white school in New Orleans. With simple text and historical photographs, this easy reader explores an amazing moment in history and the courage of a young girl who stayed strong in the face of racism.

    My First Biography: Martin Luther King Jr. by Marion Dane Bauer

    The MY FIRST BIOGRAPHY series brings the biggest life stories to the smallest readers.

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man. His words changed the way people thought, and his actions spurred them on to change the world. With simple, lyrical text and bold, kid-friendly illustrations, this book introduces Dr. King to the youngest readers and inspires them to change the world.

    Power in My Pen: A Snippet of the Life of Ida B. Wells by Louie T. McClain

    Step into the world of Ida B. Wells as she uses her life experiences and obstacles as motivation to achieve many firsts in editing and journalism in the United States of America and abroad. Read along as she flourishes in the wake of family tragedy and ever changing life situations. “Power in My Pen” encourages penmanship, free thought, and historical lessons from a highly influential leader in the early 1900’s. The strong intelligent woman we know as Ida B. Wells proved, no matter who you are, you can share your message and your truth to the world through the power of the pen.  You can read my review of this book here.

    If You Were a Kid During the Civil Rights Movement by Gwendolyn Hooks

    Joyce Jenkins has recently moved to a new town with her family, and she will soon be attending a segregated school for the first time. Meanwhile, Connie Underwood is trying to figure out what her twin brothers are planning in secret. Follow along with the two girls as they find themselves in the middle of a civil rights demonstration, and find out how the fight for equality changed the country forever. (Note: I’d recommend this one for kids ages 5 – 6 and up.)

    Picture Books for 5 Year-Olds & Up

    Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson, illustrated by Elizabeth Catlett

    The original song Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing was written for schoolchildren to sing at an Abraham Lincoln birthday celebration in 1900 and was named the official African-American anthem in 1949.  This beautiful book captures the struggles and achievements of the African-American experience. There is also a foreword written by Ashley Bryan, additional information about the history of the song and song lyrics in the back matter.

    Hammering for Freedom by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by John Holyfield

    Hammering for Freedom introduces readers to William “Bill” Lewis, born into slavery in Tennessee. Bill learned the blacksmith trade as soon as he was old enough to grip a hammer.

    Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson by Leda Schubert

    Read by full review here.
    This beautiful picture book tells the little-known story of Raven Wilkinson, the first African American woman to dance for a major classical ballet company and an inspiration to Misty Copeland.

    We Shall Overcome by Debbie Levy

    In this book, the theme song for the Civil Rights Movement is explained for children.  From the song’s roots in America’s era of slavery through to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and today, “We Shall Overcome” has come to represent the fight for equality and freedom around the world.

    Little People Big Dreams: Maya Angelou by Lisbeth Kaiser

    In the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the lives of outstanding people from designers and artists to scientists. All of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. The 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.  P.S. There is a Rosa Parks version of this book too.

    The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller

    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 Quickest Kid in Clarksville is a timeless story of dreams, determination, and the power of friendship.

    The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks 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.  You can read my review of this book here.

    Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis by Jabari Asim

    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.

    Dream Big: Michael Jordan and the Pursuit of Excellence by Deloris Jordan

    Long before he became a professional All-Star basketball player, Michael Jordan had dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal—and with dedication and perseverance, that’s exactly what he did. This heartwarming picture book, written by Michael’s mother and illustrated by Barry Root, gives a rare glimpse into a sports hero’s childhood and emphasizes the role that good values play in success.

    Alvin Ailey by Andrea Davis Pinkney

    Describes the life, dancing, and choreography of Alvin Ailey, who created his own modern dance company to explore the black experience.

    Firebird by Misty Copeland

    In her debut picture book, Misty Copeland tells the story of a young girl–an every girl–whose confidence is fragile and who is questioning her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached. Misty encourages this young girl’s faith in herself and shows her exactly how, through hard work and dedication, she too can become Firebird.

    Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney

    Another stunning picture book biography of a prominent twentieth-century African-American in the arts, from the creative team behind Alvin Ailey.

    Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford

    Take a walk through Harlem’s Sugar Hill and meet all the amazing people who made this neighborhood legendary. With upbeat rhyming, read-aloud text, Sugar Hill celebrates the Harlem neighborhood that successful African Americans first called home during the 1920s.  Includes brief biographies of jazz greats Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Sonny Rollins, and Miles Davis; artists Aaron Douglas and Faith Ringgold; entertainers Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers; writer Zora Neale Hurston; civil rights leader W. E. B. DuBois and lawyer Thurgood Marshall.

    Tea Cakes for Tosh by Kelly Starling Lyons

    Tosh loves listening to Grandma Honey tell family stories. His favorite is about the special tea cakes that smell like vanilla and sunshine. They were great-great-great-great-grandma Ida’s specialty when she was a cook in the big house of a plantation. Unlike Tosh, the slave children weren’t allowed to have any of the treats, though Grandma Ida always found a way to put the sugary sweetness into their hands anyway. It was a promise and taste of freedom to come.

    One Million Men and Me by Kelly Starling Lyons

    On October 16, 1995, Black men of all ages, religions and backgrounds gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. They were there on a mission – to mobilize and motivate, as part of what would become the largest event of its kind in U.S. history: the Million Man March. The Million Man March was a movement like no other. It brought together Black men who were committed to inspiring and empowering themselves and each other to make positive and lasting changes in their families and communities. The March was widely covered by news media across the country and the world. Now, this new picture book shares the story of the March in a new light: through the eyes of a little girl who was with her father the day Black men made history.

    This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson

    The story of one family’s journey north during the Great Migration starts with a little girl in South Carolina who finds a rope under a tree one summer. She has no idea the rope will become part of her family’s history. But for three generations, that rope is passed down, used for everything from jump rope games to tying suitcases onto a car for the big move north to New York City, and even for a family reunion where that first little girl is now a grandmother.

    When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill

    From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill’s book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.

    Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown

    Melba Doretta Liston loved the sounds of music from as far back as she could remember. As a child, she daydreamed about beats and lyrics, and hummed along with the music from her family s Majestic radio. At age seven, Melba fell in love with a big, shiny trombone, and soon taught herself to play the instrument. By the time she was a teenager, Melba s extraordinary gift for music led her to the world of jazz.

    Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford

    This poetic book is a resounding tribute to Tubman’s strength, humility, and devotion. With proper reverence, Weatherford and Nelson do justice to the woman who, long ago, earned over and over the name Moses.

    Brick by Brick by Charles R. Smith Jr.

    The compelling true story behind the building of the White House, a powerful part of history rarely taught. The home of the United States president was built by many hands, including those of slaves, who undertook this amazing achievement long before there were machines to do those same jobs.

    Your turn: What other titles would you add to this list?  Feel free to share in the comments.  I’d love to hear from you!

    book reviews, children's books, children's literacy, read aloud

    KidLitPicks: 13 Picture Books To Help Find Yourself in a Book

    Being able to relate to the characters in a book is such a vital piece of enjoying it. It is through these characters that we find the courage and strength to be who we truly are. Trials and tribulations are at the heart of every story, and the way that characters triumph over them can be the essence of what readers are searching for in their own lives. It’s no coincidence then that so many characters can feel lost, alone, and full of doubt. The uncertainty that haunts the beginning of a book, though, can be washed away by the end, leaving behind a sense of hope and fortitude that we, as readers, need from time to time. It is this self-confidence that we hope to instill in the young readers who glance into unknown pages and hopefully are able to see themselves reflected back.

    During January, @kidlitpicks shared books we could see ourselves and others in, and we’re excited to share our round-up for the month. A special shout-out to Wendy from Homegrown Reader for the theme!

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

    “Though she’s little, her inner strength and smarts make Little Red more powerful than brawn, mightier than a lion’s ROAR!” — Summer from @readingisourthing


    Rulers of the Playground, by ​​Joseph Kuefler

    “Regardless of physical differences or emotional differences, there’s a wide range of touchpoints in this book for readers to connect to.” — Mel from @spiky_penelope

    Also an Octopus, by Maggie Tokuda Hall and Benji Davies

    “When it comes to finding yourself in a book, no element does that as well as space – space for imagination, play, re-creation, or projection.” — Katie from @afriendlyaffair

    The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

    “If you want your lion to be purple with flames for hair, rock on! Be yourself and let your artist side blossom.” — Leah from @astoryaday

    My Color Is Rainbow, by Agnes Hsu and Yuliya Gwilym

    “In the end, the little white arch learns that it doesn’t need to be defined by one characteristic alone, but that what makes it so beautiful is that it has a little bit of each color.” — Clarissa from @book.nerd.mommy

    When I’m a Mummy Like You!, by David O’Connell and Francesca Gambatesa

    “I hope BookBairn and I have adventures like these two. And I hope she thinks I’m the best mummy she could have!” —  Kim from @bookbairn

    A Year Full of Stories: 52 Folktales and Legends From Around the World, by Angela McAllister and Christopher Corr

    “With 52 stories, divided by month, this artistic collection is both a visual delight and a chance to relish conversation and story telling together. Certainly one I wouldn’t hesitate giving as a gift.” — Miranda from @bookbloom

    Samson the Mighty Flea, by Angela McAllister and Nathan Reed

    “It also has a great message about perception, ambition, and finding happiness where you are.” — Megan from @chickadee.lit

    Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine, by Allison Wortche and Patrice Barton 

    “Rosie learns that there is never a wrong time to do the right thing!” — Arielle from @childrensbooksgalore

    A Child of Books, by Sam Winston and Oliver Jeffers

    A Child of Books is one of those gorgeous, lyrical works that you will want to open and read again and again- one that resonates deeply and viscerally.” — Lauren from @happily.ever.elephants

    Lola Gets a Cat, by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw

    “Not only can my kids see themselves in this book, but I can see myself and my husband in Lola’s parents.” — Charnaie from @hereweeread

    Odd Dog Out and stories like it are not only messages for those who feel lost and alone. It is also a message for those around them, spreading the word about empathy, love, and acceptance.” — Wendy from @homegrownreader

    Fang Fang’s Chinese New Year, by Sally Rippin

    “Growing up between the Chinese and Australian cultures, I absolutely shared Fang Fang’s self-consciousness about being different. But to all the little Fang Fangs out there, I hope you find yourself surrounded by good people and books that encourage you to embrace and celebrate what makes you unique.” — Shannon from @ohcreativeday

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

    P.S. I Love You Giveaway: Win a Copy of Ladies Drawing Night!

    The Hopping Bloggers is hosting a mega Valentine’s Day giveaway blog hop called P.S. I Love You.  I’m so excited to be a part of it and to sponsor a copy of the book Ladies Drawing Night by Julia Rothman as my personal contribution.

    About the Book

    Speaking directly to today’s explosion of creativity, Ladies Drawing Night is for women looking to deepen their creative connections and expressions. Join rock star illustrators Julia Rothman, Leah Goren, and Rachael Cole for ten evenings of fun and art-making. The nights are led by two talented guest artists and themed around a particular topic, from large-scale ink painting to making art with kids. Samantha Hahn, Mary Kate McDevitt, Joana Avillez, and many more share their expertise. Each chapter includes loads of exciting artwork, insights about drawing, and instructions for that night’s project. A rare peek into the minds and sketchbooks of some of the best female illustrators working today, this inspiring volume is an irresistible invitation to host your own Ladies Drawing Night!

    Enter the giveaway here!

    Ladies Drawing Night Book Giveaway

    Also, be sure to enter for your chance to win the grand prize and visit some of the other amazing bloggers involved in the giveaway blog hop!


    Welcome to the P.S. I Love You Giveaway Hop brought to you by The Hopping Bloggers!

    Hosted By: Mama Smith’s and Women and Their Pretties

    Co-Hosted By: Everyday Life, Crazy Busy Family Life, Life with 5 Monkies, & The Robin’s Nest Designs

    Sponsored By: Teach My


    GRAND PRIZE: Two Teach My Deluxe Learning Kits
    Choose between Teach My Baby, Toddler, Preschooler, and Kindergartener Deluxe Learning Kits

    Teach My are makers of award winning learning tools that help your child get a head start! Their products teach babies, toddlers and preschoolers the basic skills, things like; the alphabet, colors, shapes, numbers, reading and even math! Their aim is to encourage early learning, parent child interaction, self-esteem and help children to develop fine motor skills and excellent hand eye coordination. Bond. Teach. Play… 20 minutes a day! Purchase here.

    Each giveaway has a value of a minimum of $15, however some are worth much more. Be sure to enter to win all of them because there is no limit to how many you can win. GOOD LUCK!

    Are you a blogger looking to connect with brands? Join The Hopping Bloggers database and get started today!
    Are you a brand looking to connect with a network of over 1,000 professional bloggers? Click here to see all that we have to offer and get your personalized quote!

    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    All Kinds of Cars by Carl Johanson (A Book Review)

    All Kinds of Cars by Carl Johanson

    From Swedish illustrator Carl Johanson, this partly true, partly fictitious book is a fantastic visual collection of cars and other wacky forms of transportation. Johanson’s book identifies the ordinary along with the extraordinary – from fire engines and snow plows to galactic buses and guitar cars.  All Kinds of Cars is a playful mix of existing and imaginary enjoyed by adults and children alike.

    My son adores this bright and vivid oversized book! It’s filled with an interesting mix of existing and imaginary cars and trucks; from tow trucks to sausage cars to cloud transporters.  This book doesn’t have an actual storyline, but we love looking at all of the colorful illustrations and differentiating the real cars from the imaginary ones.  My son’s favorite cars are: the dinosaur car, the guitar car, the hat car, the rainbow car, the book car, the rocket car, the chewing gum car, and I can’t forget the poo car!  The poo car cracks all of us up!

    Kids will likely get a kick out of all the zany types of cars, but may also like seeing some of the more familiar modes of transportation like police cars, fire engines, excavators, and dump trucks.  The back matter contains an index of all the cars listed throughout the book.  A visual treat for car lovers of all ages that’s creative, informative and highly imaginative. Recommended for ages 3-5 and up.

    All Kinds of Cars publishes in the US on March 14, 2017 from Flying Eye Books!

    About the Author
    Carl Johanson is an illustrator living and working in Bretagne, France.  He studied graphic design and illustration at Konstfack in Stockholm, and has since focused mainly on illustration and creating books for children.  All Kinds of Cars is his first children’s book, and he is currently working on a second project.

    eeboo, family fun, giveaways

    3 eeBoo Products Your Children Will Love + A Giveaway!

    I initially found out about eeBoo products a couple of years ago while doing an online search for educational toys for kids.  eeBoo is an award-winning toy manufacturer located in New York City.  They make beautifully designed crafts, games, and toys.  All of their products feature cheerful, contemporary, and vintage-inspired designs. In addition to their design focus, all of eeBoo’s products are made of high quality and durable materials.

    Being a literacy advocate, I am also pleased to know eeBoo hires well-known children’s book illustrators to design their products.  How great is that?  So if you like books and beautiful art as much as I do then I think you’ll love eeBoo products too.

    With the winter season in full effect here in the Northeast, I like to keep the kids busy with lots of indoor activities, games and puzzles.  Our friends over at eeBoo were generous enough to send us a few of their products to try.  We received a 100-piece Children of the World Puzzle, I Never Forget a Face Matching Game, and a set of Good Citizenship Flash Cards.

    First Product: I Never Forget a Face Matching Game
    My kids are obsessed with playing the I Never Forget a Face matching game!  There are a total of 24 pairs to match up, but I like to break it up and let the kids do 12 pairs at a time so it’s not as overwhelming.  As they get older (around age 5) I think they’ll be able to handle matching up all 24 pairs at once.  The kids love seeing all of the colorful smiling faces of children from countries all over the world.  I love that the game is designed to teach spatial awareness, to help develop memory skills and sharpen recognition.  I also appreciate the fact that the pieces are made with soy-based inks and 90% recycled greyboard.

    Second Product: 100-Piece Children of the World Puzzle
    We also enjoy putting together the 100-Piece Children of the World puzzle as a group.  It allows us to learn about geography and diversity at the same time.  It’s also a nice conversation starter to talk about where people live around the world.  We also like to discuss different ways to celebrate differences and find similarities among the different cultures.

    Third Product: Good Citizenship Flash Cards
    The Good Citizenship Flash Cards are fun too.  I find the cards to be useful as they help reinforce some of the values we’ve already been trying to instill in the children over the past few years.  The cards are two-sided and focus on teaching appropriate behavior, unselfish values, and social responsibility. The front of each card starts a sentence which is finished on the back of the card.

    Here are some examples:

    When someone seems left out…
    Ask, “Do you want to play?”

    When you see a chore that can be done…
    Pitch in and help with chores when you see them.

    When playing ANY game…
    Never Cheat. Always do your best.

    As you can see eeBoo offers a unique collection of toys and gifts that inspire literacy, drawing, imaginative play, and more.  Simply put, they create toys and gifts that children will affectionately remember.  For more information about eeBoo or their products, please visit:

    Your turn: Do you and your kids have a favorite eeBoo product?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    The Giveaway!!!
    To enter the giveaway to receive the same bundle of eeBoo products featured in this post, follow us over on Instagram for all of the details.  All you need to do is tag two (or more) friends in the comments section of each of the daily posts on Instagram.  You can also answer the bonus question for an additional entry.  The giveaway for this particular prize bundle starts today, February 1, 2017 and ends February 2, 2017 at 12:00am midnight.  Open to all US residents age 18 and over.  Good Luck!

    P.S. This giveaway is part of our #28daysofgiveaways for Black History Month which starts on February 1, 2017 and ends on February 28, 2017.  All month long on Instagram we’re hosting a daily giveaway.  The prizes have generously been donated by 30+ sponsors.  You can enter to win diverse books, children’s book subscription boxes, games, multicultural dolls and more!