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June 2017

    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    New LGBT Picture Book for Kids: Sparkle Boy

    Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher to facilitate this review.  As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.


    Sparkle Boy
    by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Maria Mola


    Publisher: Lee & Low Books
    Pages: 32
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 4 – 8 years
    Grade Level: Preschool – 3

    Synopsis
    Casey loves to play with his blocks, puzzles, and dump truck, but he also loves things that sparkle, shimmer, and glitter. When his older sister, Jessie, shows off her new shimmery skirt, Casey wants to wear a shimmery skirt too. When Jessie comes home from a party with glittery nails, Casey wants glittery nails too. And when Abuelita visits wearing an armful of sparkly bracelets, Casey gets one to wear, just like Jessie. The adults in Casey’s life embrace his interests, but Jessie isn’t so sure. Boys aren’t supposed to wear sparkly, shimmery, glittery things. Then, when older boys at the library tease Casey for wearing “girl” things, Jessie realizes that Casey has the right to be himself and wear whatever he wants. Why can’t both she and Casey love all things shimmery, glittery, and sparkly? Here is a sweet, heartwarming story about acceptance, respect, and the freedom to be yourself in a world where any gender expression should be celebrated. Sparkly things are for everyone to enjoy!

    Reflection
    Little Casey likes dressing up in shimmery skirts, wearing glittery nail polish and sparkly bracelets. But Casey’s older sister Jessie does not approve. She thinks only girls are allowed to do those things.

    When Casey is bullied and laughed at one day in the library, his sister protects him and she finally learns to accept her brother for who he is. In the end, Casey is free to be himself and revel in the love of his parents, his abuelita (grandmother) and his sister.

    In addition to Sparkle Boy tackling the issues of diversity, acceptance and respect, there are also elements of sibling rivalry, bullying and the freedom to be yourself. Why shouldn’t boys like sparkly and glittery things and girls like trucks? Who made up those rules? Sometimes boys like pretty stuff and that’s ok. Sometimes girls are tomboys and that’s ok too.

    While some may think it’s a bit harsh, I appreciate that little readers are shown the difficult sides of self expression from others in this book. For example, when Casey is being made fun of by the older boys in the library. To me, it reflects a real life situation that many boys who were dressed like Casey in a public place may have also experienced. Because, let’s face it, kids can be very cruel and you can’t always shield and protect your kids from others. That’s life.

    I also like that this book celebrates the uniqueness of Casey without tagging it with a label. It honors his desire to wear girl’s clothing and other things traditionally worn by girls. I think this book would be good for children who are gender non-conforming, but also other kids to promote understanding and tolerance. One to check out during Pride Month with your little readers.


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

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    blogger events

    Book Expo America: My First-Time BEA Adventure!

    Last year I made it a goal to attend Book Expo America (BEA) in New York City.  I’m so thrilled I achieved my goal and was able to go just a few weeks ago – it was fantastic!

    What is Book Expo America?

    Book Expo America or BEA is basically book heaven for book lovers and nerds like me.  Here is the formal description taken from the Book Expo America website:

    BookExpo provides a focused professional environment to discover emerging authors and the next blockbuster titles, engage with the world’s most influential publishers and learn from industry leaders and peers.  BookExpo culminates with BookCon, our two day Fan event where storytelling and pop culture collide.

    My Experience

    Overall, my first-time experience at BEA was great.  I opted to drive into the city since I live one state over from New York.  If you’re local and plan to either drive or take the train or other local transportation be sure to budget accordinglythat’s my first tip. Have enough money for parking, tolls, gas, or other fees like food.  Of course if you’re staying at a local hotel you’ll also want to ensure you include those expenses into your budget as well.

    Upon my arrival at the Jacob Javits Center I was impressed with how smoothly the registration and check-in process went.  The line to check-in was a bit long, but it moved very quickly.  Once I received my badge, I immediately took my suitcase to the baggage claim area.  Yes, I brought a suitcase with me.  I was told to bring a suitcase so it will be easier to carry all of the free books you’ll receive.  So that’s my second tip: bring a rolling suitcase.  Trust me, you’ll be happy that you did.  Also, be sure to have a few single dollars on hand to check your suitcase.  I paid $3.00, but that price may increase for next year and beyond.

    After my suitcase was checked I made my way up the escalator to the main floor.  I was initially overwhelmed with how huge it was – there was so much to see!  However, once I scoped out the main publishers (big publishers and smaller independent ones too) I wanted to network with on the map it was less confusing and overwhelming.  Also, it was easy to spot many of the publishers from their banners and signage.

    It was great to meet so many publishers and subscription box owners who I connect with on a regular basis in person!  I also enjoyed making some new connections, networking with other bloggers, meeting celebrities and well-known authors.  It was also interesting to see all of ARCs (advance review copies) of books being signed and handed out as freebies to attendees.  My suitcase was filled to the brim with nothing but books and publisher catalogs!

    In addition to networking with different publishers, there were also various author discussions taking place on the main stage and at other areas.  The one thing I didn’t notice was a session that specifically targeted to book bloggers. I would have loved to see something like this on the agenda.

    Hanging out with the creators of the Lit Joy Crate subscription box at one of the BEA after parties.

    My two final tips are:

    1) Wear comfortable shoes – preferably flats.  You’ll be doing a ton of walking!  And if you wear a Fitbit like me – bring it with you.  I racked up over 20,000 steps on the day I attended BEA.

    2. Bring your phone charger – This is crucial especially if you’re a blogger.  Although I brought my charger with me, I left it in the car like a moron!  I was not about to walk all the way back to the garage where I parked so I had to make due without it for the day while at the expo.  Luckily, a few people were nice enough to share their chargers with me, but not everyone I asked was so friendly and willing to share.  Long story short, bring your own charger with you.  There are plenty of charging stations located throughout the Javits Center on the main floor.

    Here are a few other tips from the BEA website to make your experience more enjoyable:

    WATER—bring either a Camel-Bak or refillable water bottle to have on the go, all of that walking builds up quite a thirst!

    EXTRA LAYERS—pack a light sweatshirt or sweater, running around the exhibit floor may make you hot, but once you enter a conference or leave the exhibit floor, you may get a bit chilly.

    PACE YOURSELF!—don’t rush! You have three days to walk the floor. Take a break every few hours to relax and calm down from the hustle and bustle of the exhibit floor and Autographing Area.

    BREAKFAST—be sure to have breakfast before heading to BookExpo even the smallest amount of food will give you hours of energy to carry you till lunch.

    EAT ON-SITE—scope out the food court for food allergies, budget, and acquired taste options. Be sure to grab lunch so you are energized for the afternoon.

    Interested in attending BookExpo or BookCon next year?
     It will be held in New York City at the Jacob Javits Center on May 30 – June 1, 2018.  I look forward to hopefully attending again next year!

    Your turn: Have you ever attended BookExpo or BookCon?  What was your experience like?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    family fun, subscription boxes, technology

    Bitsbox: How I’m Teaching My Kids to Code Before Middle School

    Photo courtesy of Bitsbox

    Are you curious about how you can teach your kids to code before middle school?

    A couple of months ago I introduced you to a new subscription box called Bitsbox.  Bitsbox is a subscription box (designed for kids ages 6 – 14) that sends coding exercises to kids each month in order to help them learn coding. It includes app cards and coding themed toys to keep the kids interested in learning more month after month.  Kids can see the exact code and the results of their changes in real time!

    As a Computer Programmer and lover of all things STEM, it’s important for me to expose my children to technology in order to help them build foundations for future academic and career success.  That’s why I’m a huge fan of Bitsbox!

    Here are a few reasons why I absolutely LOVE Bitsbox:

    • It sends a clear reminder to parents that “coding is the new literacy.”
    • Coding experience is NOT required!  Remember, this is simple and it’s designed for kids.
    • You receive a cute “Apper Keeper” to store and organize all of the coding exercises.  Remember the old Trapper Keepers from the 1980’s?
    • Through repeated repetition, kids have the chance to play around and see how basic coding and functions work before they graduate to more complex learning.
    • It encourages children to learn design while fostering their problem solving abilities. Kids can change colors, add different backgrounds, songs and sounds to their creations.
    • It is specially designed for young children (ages 6-14) to give them a developmentally appropriate understanding of how coding works.
    • It helps teach children how to type and become more familiar with a keyboard.
    • Once you become a Bitsbox user you have access to the website for free, and can continue to use the cards and online apps for as long as the website is available for continued teaching and learning.
    • They offer different resources for parents AND classroom teachers.
    • It’s fun: My kids LOVE doing it – honestly! (And they are currently only 3.5 and 4.5 years old!)

    The first box (Animal House) focused on the coding skill of coordinates.  The second box (Robo Boogie) taught the kids all about variables and action commands.  We learned how to make objects move, how to change them to a random size and position them on the screen.  Future boxes you receive after the first and second one feature more advanced concepts like working with variables and if/else statements.  Sound too complex?  Don’t worry, Bitsbox made this super simple to understand by including a handy explanation guide for kids (and grownups) with each box.

    My kids and I have enjoyed creating these apps on our own for the past few months.  Since they are still both under age 6, I still assist them quite a bit with typing in some of the lines of code.  This is especially true for some of the longer and slightly more complex apps.  The kids are definitely becoming more comfortable with typing on the computer keyboard and memorizing where certain letters, numbers and symbols are which is great!

    To get started coding with Bitsbox all you need is a computer with a keyboard (desktop or laptop) and a web browser. (It’s currently not available to use on a tablet or smartphone.)  You then go to the Bitsbox website and login using either a grownup account or a kids account.  (All of your work will be saved to your account so you can refer back to it later.)  Next, your child starts building  their own customized apps which can be downloaded to a phone or tablet just like any other app!

    Ready to try Bitsbox for yourself?
    Save 20% on a subscription with my discount code: WEEREAD20.  Here’s to hoping your family becomes a Bitsbox-loving family like ours!

    Disclaimer:  We received free subscription boxes from Bitsbox in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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    adult books, book reviews, parenting

    A Guide for New Moms Who Feel Overwhelmed: Whoa, Baby! by Kelly Rowland

    Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the publisher to facilitate this review.  As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

    Whoa, Baby! by Kelly Rowland and Tristan Bickman M.D.

    Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 192

    Synopsis
    When global pop star Kelly Rowland became a mom for the first time, giving birth to her son Titan, she felt the most incredible love she had ever experienced. But after spending nine months so focused on the baby growing inside her, she was caught completely off guard by how much she had changed. Like many first-time moms, she was not ready for what had happened to her body and for so many overwhelming new thoughts and emotions. She wondered: Will I Ever Walk Again? Will I Ever Sleep Again? Are My Boobs Always Going to Be Like This? Rowland had questions about everything from postpartum bleeding, skin and hair changes, and dealing with aches and pains to getting back in shape and sex after baby. She also weighed the larger notions about what she wanted out of motherhood and the rest of her life.

    In Whoa, Baby! Rowland and Dr. Bickman team up to share this reassuring information with new moms everywhere. Often hilarious and always down-to-earth, Rowland and Dr. Bickman cover every surprising challenge that new moms face.

    Reflection
    The subtitle of this book pretty much tells it all.  “A guide for new moms who feel overwhelmed and freaked out (and wonder what the #*$& just happened.  Whoa Baby is the book I wish I had by my side before giving birth to my first child. Yeah, I read other pregnancy books, but they only provided answers to the standard questions you find in most books. I love Kelly’s “tell it like it is”, hilarious and blunt advice she provides as she reminisces about her first pregnancy.

    First off, some of the descriptions used for each chapter are great and straight to the point: What are these bumps on my butt? (hemorrhoids), So now we’re both wearing diapers? (urinary incontinence), Why didn’t anyone tell me to bring Depends? (postpartum bleeding), Will I ever get my groove back? (Sex after baby). I had these exact same thoughts after becoming a mom the first time around. I was thinking, why didn’t anyone tell me these things?

    Next,  my attention was captured with the opening sentence in the introduction. It’s great to know someone else also enjoyed everything about being pregnant! I thoroughly enjoyed both of my pregnancies, but anytime I tell others they look at me like I’m crazy. I was fortunate enough to never experience any sickness or heath scares with either pregnancy just like Kelly.

    This read like a chatty narrative and focused mainly on Kelly’s experience, while adding in several useful tidbits of information like recommended natural herbs to increase lactation while breastfeeding.  Kelly’s OB GYN Dr. Tristan Bickman also adds her input and advice throughout the book.

    I found this book to be a really fun and honest depiction of what to expect with a new baby. No sensors, just truth. At times, it may feel like Kelly is sitting across from you telling you the good things and the bad things you can expect. Some parts may make you laugh out loud.  Whoa, Baby opens you up to the normalization of what to expect as a first time parent that other people may not warn you about like how loose and floppy your vagina is after childbirth (if you give birth naturally) and how much you’ll bleed.

    There were several chapters in this book I wish I would have read prior to having my first child.  For example, I think chapter 14 (Why Can’t I Sit Down without Wincing?) and chapter 18 (What Do I Want Out of Motherhood?) were particularly useful.  I think even if expecting or first-time moms don’t really learn anything new from this book, they will get the encouragement that they aren’t alone and can laugh about their own experience.

    The chapters and the overall book are fairly short, allowing you a quick snippet each evening before bed or whenever you take a 10 minute break during your day.  I think the real talk is a perfect balance to the other academic pregnancy books out there that freak you out about all the preparation required for childbirth and parenthood.

    Overall I think Whoa, Baby provides much needed guidance for the new mom.  It may even help to put your mind at ease and also let you know that your experiences are normal.

    Seen on MovingBabies

    Your turn: Are you or someone you know going to be a new mom?  Do you think this book may help them?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Bathing Around the World: Around the World in a Bathtub (A Book Review)

    Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review.  As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

    Around the World in a Bathtub: Bathing All Over the Globe by Wade Bradford, illustrated by Micha Archer

    Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
    Pages: 32
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 3 – 7
    Grade Level: Preschool – 2

    Synopsis
    A lively look at bath time around the world.  From a hammam in Turkey to a maqii on the Alaskan tundra, this colorful picture book shares the bath-time battle that happens every night, around the world. “Yes, yes!” say the grown-ups, “No, no!” say the children, and the chase is on!

    Reflection
    We’ve seen picture books that embrace different cultures and customs, right? These books help us understand what people in other countries eat, how they dress, and where they hang out. But have you ever thought about how people in other countries bathe?

    Bathing can be very special to people in different ways. For some it’s a way to relax and escape from the stresses of everyday life. For others it’s precious family time – a bonding moment between a mother and her child and time for creating special memories together.  My kids love taking baths although there are occasions when they put up a fight. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve experienced that before with your kids at some point during their childhood.

    The newly released book Around the World in a Bathtub introduces little readers to bathing customs, preferences and tendencies from around the world. Who knew the way you bathed depended on so many factors like your geographical location, climate, lifestyle or beliefs. From the U.S. to Japan to France to South Africa, when it comes to bathing habits, how different — and yet the same — we all are is fascinating. Each day, millions of children around the world take baths. At first, many of them don’t want to, but once they get in it’s hard to get them out.

    This cute diverse book with bright and colorful collage illustrations may help make your child’s bathing experience more fulfilling and you might even learn a thing or two about bathing!  For example, did you in Japan the family members, from oldest to youngest, take turns relaxing in a square tub called an ofuro?  Interesting, right?  The back matter contains additional information about different bathing habits around the globe.

    Connect with the Author & Illustrator!
    Wade Bradford is the author of more than thirty plays, as well as the picture book Why Do I Have to Make My Bed?  When not soaking in the tub, singing in the shower, or floating in his favorite swimming hole, Wade teaches writing at Moorpark College.  He currently lives in California with his wife, two daughters, two dogs, and a rabbit.  Visit his website.

    Micha Archer created the collages in this book using origami paper, Indian textile stamps, and other materials from around the world.  When Micha isn’t traveling, she splits her time between Costa Rica and western Massachusetts. Visit her website.

    Your turn: What unique bathing customs or rituals do you and your family practice?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's books, diverse books, interviews, technology

    Teaching Young Girls to Love Coding: Sasha Savvy Loves to Code + An Author Interview!

    Sasha Savvy Loves to Code by Sasha Ariel Alston, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

    Publisher: Gold Fern Press
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 44
    Age Range: 7 – 10
    Grade Level: 2- 5

    Synopsis
    Are you looking for a book to help teach young girls about coding?  Look no further than Sasha Savvy Loves to Code!

    Sasha Savvy Loves to Code is an early reader chapter book (ages 7-10). The main character, Sasha Savvy, is a super smart 10-year old African-American girl, who lives in Washington, DC. Sasha must choose which class to take for summer camp. Her mom discovers that the camp is offering a new class for girls on how to code. Sasha thinks this will be boring and doesn’t believe that she is good at computer stuff. Despite this, she decides to give it a chance and convinces her best friends Gabby Reyes and Ashley Webster, to attend the coding camp with her. Sasha’s mom, a Software Developer, gives her a unique formula to help her remember how to code but will it be enough to get her through a challenging first day of camp with bugs everywhere, computing errors, that is.

    Author Interview with Sasha Ariel Alston!

    Tell me a little about yourself and how you came up with the idea to write the book.
    My name is Sasha Ariel Alston and I am from Washington, DC.  I’m currently a 19 year-old student attending Pace University in New York City.  My major is Information Systems with a minor in Marketing.  In Washington, DC I attended a STEM focused high school and my track was Technology.  That’s how I initially became interested in STEM in general.  I had my first internship when I was in the 11th grade at Microsoft which provided me with a real world experience.  At Microsoft, I was a Marketing Manager for my team which consisted of two game developers and a project manager.  That’s where I saw there was a correlation between business and technology.

    About a year after my internship, my mom (who is also an author) and I came up with the idea for me to write my book. My mother’s name is Tracy Chiles McGhee.  This came a result of people constantly asking me what coding and STEM was all about.  About a month before I was getting ready to graduate from high school I started writing the book Sasha Savvy Loves to Code.  Shortly after the book was finished we launched a Kickstarter page with an initial goal to raise $5,000.  We reached (and surpassed) the goal in just 4 days.  That showed me just how much this book was needed and how there is a lack of diversity in STEM.

    When will you graduate and what kind of career would you like to have?
    I will graduate in 2019.  Depending on how far my book goes, I really would like to focus on building this brand.  I would love for my book to turn into a series and have products to go along with it.  I also envision a Sasha Savvy animated show similar to Doc McStuffins.  If that doesn’t go as planned then I would like to have a career in Education Technology.

    What motivates you?  Do you have any particular role models you look up to?
    My mom is my ultimate role model.  She raised me as a single mother.  I am also attracted to very positive role models for African-American girls.

    What is your hope for little girls who read your book?
    My book is geared towards girls ages 7 – 10.  I hope to raise awareness of what coding and STEM is for girls.  I want them to be able to see themselves in this profession if that’s what they’re going to be interested in.  As I’m sure you know, there is a huge lack of diversity in both gender and race in the Information Technology field.  I’m hoping kids and teens who read my book will be able to relate to it and to me since I’m also a teenager.  Lastly, I want to dispel the stigma that coding is nerdy and it isn’t cool.  My book gives a different perspective of it.

    What advice would you give to kids who may be interested in getting involved in coding?
    Coding requires a lot of hard work.  You have to be very disciplined, focused and determined.  My advice would be to learn as much as you can and study hard.

    Connect with Sasha Ariel Alston!

    Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

    Your turn: Have you and your little readers read this book yet?  Feel free to share your comments.

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    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli (A Book Review)

    Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli, illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio

    Publisher: Chronicle Books
    Pages: 32
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 5 – 8 and up
    Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3 and up
    Release Date:
    August 1, 2017

    Synopsis
    Mr. Crocodile loves his job. Every morning he gets up with an alarm. He brushes his teeth. He chooses the right tie to match his outfit, eats a quick slice of toast, and heads off to work on a crowded train. But what exactly is his job? The answer may surprise you! Readers will want to pore over this witty, wordless book again and again, finding new details and fresh stories with every reading.

    Reflection
    I enjoy wordless picture books just as much as regular picture books. I like how they encourage us to slow down and search the illustrations for meaningful details that sometimes may get overlooked. One way I like to use wordless picture books is to write our own list of words for the book. I jot down different words to describe the setting and each character’s feelings.

    Like many wordless books, Professional Crocodile helps spark your imagination. It also features a fantastic story sequence which helps promote creativity. Kids and adults will be held captive by this story and the detailed illustrations – truly! You’ll be dying to know what kind of job this professional crocodile has. Where is he going? Why is he all dressed up? And what in the world is his job?

    In the beginning we see the crocodile relaxing in a pond the night before.  The next morning he begins his daily routine of getting ready for work – getting dressed, eating breakfast, etc.  Then he begins his morning commute via the subway.  The ending will surprise you and fill you with delight. You’ll be thinking…”Of course that’s what crocodiles do for a living!”  So cleverly done! I also love the empathy and kindness the crocodile has.  On his way to work he purchases a bouquet of flowers and gives them to a stranger (likely a woman he passes each day on his way to work).  He also buys a loaf of fresh bread to feed to the birds in a nearby park.

    Be sure to look for this one when it publishes on August 1, 2017.  We see something new each time we read it…so fun!

    Your turn: How do you use wordless picture books when reading with children?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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