Monthly Archives

August 2017

    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers (A Book Review)

    Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris

    Publisher: Chronicle Books
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 104
    Age Range: 6 – 9 and up
    Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3 and up

    If you had to name a statue, any statue, odds are good you’d mention the Statue of Liberty. Have you seen her?

    She’s in New York. 
    She’s holding a torch. 
    And she’s in mid-stride, moving forward. 
    But why?
    In this fascinating, fun take on nonfiction, Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris investigate a seemingly small trait of America’s most emblematic statue. What they find is about more than history, more than art. What they find in the Statue of Liberty’s right foot is the powerful message of acceptance that is essential to an entire country’s creation.

    Here’s an interesting fact some of you may not know: the right foot of the Statue of Liberty is raised and not sitting flat on the platform. That’s right, Lady Liberty is not standing still…she’s on the move. But where is she going? She’s going forward to greet new immigrants entering the United States. What a powerful message of acceptance for little readers!

    This picture book entitled Her Right Foot is so interesting, informative, poignant and funny too! Oh, and it has a neat surprise cover underneath the dust jacket.  It features the date, July 4, 1776 written in Roman numerals. That is the date on which the Declaration of Independence was signed.  What a nice, thoughtful, and detailed touch!  I absolutely LOVE all of the history and the beautiful symbolism of the statue’s raised right foot. Who knew? I went on several tours to Ellis Island and not once did anyone mention this interesting tidbit of information. I honestly think this story is so captivating and entertaining from beginning to end even though the text is quite lengthy (104 pages). It’s not boring though and it makes you want to turn the pages to read and learn more.

    Little readers will enjoy learning several interesting facts about the Statue of Liberty.  They’ll find out who came up with the idea to create a statue, who designed it, how it got to New York, what the spikes on the statue’s crown represent, and who came up with the idea to put a giant record player inside the Statue of Liberty (an idea that never came to fruition).

    This book was originally slated for publication in 2018, however the creators and Chronicle Books were inspired by the recent immigration ban to bring it to young readers as soon as possible. I’m so glad they did because books like this one are so needed right now. It can be a gateway to discussing refugees and immigration with our youngest readers. I think it’s a wonderful book to start conversations with and among students, helping them connect current events with the United States’ history as a nation of immigrants.

    The last few pages of this book get me choked up every time because it’s written so beautifully.

    After all, the Statue of Liberty is an immigrant, too.  And this is why she’s moving.  This is why she’s striding.  In welcoming the poor, the tired, the struggling to breathe free.  She is not content to wait.  She must meet them in the sea.

    One to definitely check out with your little readers if you’re interested!

    book reviews, children's books, STEM

    STEM Board Books for Baby and Toddler Future Scientists: Baby Loves Science Series

    Disclaimer: I was provided copies of these books from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

    Is it ever too early to start teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts to children?  I don’t think so, but others may disagree with me. My reason is simple: we use STEM related concepts each and every day whether we realize it or not.  From the moment children are born they begin investigating the natural world around them.  They learn about how things work by testing them with their tiny fingers, watching them change, listening to sounds, and feeling textures. Essentially, that’s what science is all about, right?

    That’s why I love the Baby Loves Science board book series for children ages birth to three.  They claim to be “accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for toddlers”.  Featuring friendly, simple text, cheerful illustrations and facts, these books are the perfect fun introduction to chemistry, physics and engineering for babies and toddlers.  I also think they are engaging, entertaining, and filled with simple learning opportunities.

    I know I learned about quantum physics at some point during my school days, but I seemed to forget what it means over the years. Thanks to reading Baby Loves Quantum Physics, it helped to spark my memory.  The same is also true for thermodynamics.  So yes, parents and caregivers may in fact learn (or re-learn) a thing or two as well by reading these books.  I know I did!

    I like how both of these books have short and simple sentences on each page making them great for bedtime story time if you are short on time.  They also spell things out for little readers making the concepts easy to grasp.

    Sunlight + Air + Water = Food for the tree – Baby Loves Thermodynamics!

    In quantum physics, until Baby looks in the box, Cat is both asleep and awake. – Baby Loves Quantum Physics!

    I like to use these books in the following ways:

    I focus on helping my children understand concepts by asking simple questions about different things mentioned in the books. “What do you think happened to the cat?”

    I encourage my children to use analysis and reasoning skills by asking simple analytical and reasoning questions. “What do trees need in order to grow?”

    I help my children to think about their own process of thinking by asking questions like “How did you know that?” or “How did you figure that out?”

    I help my children apply concepts to their everyday world by doing simple and age-appropriate beyond the book craft projects that are related to the book in some way.

    Let’s support every child to be a Scientist, Engineer, Techie and Mathematician!  You can do this by reading STEM themed books or doing STEM related hands-on activities.  This can also be done through the intentional use of simple questions that promote higher-level thinking.

    Check out all of the current books in this series!

    Baby Loves Quantum Physics! by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan

    Baby Loves Thermodynamics! by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan

    Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering! by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan

    Baby Loves Quarks! by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan

    Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing
    Pages: 20
    Age Range: 0-3 and up
    Available for Sale: September 5, 2017

    Your turn: What are your thoughts about incorporating STEM into the lives of toddlers and preschoolers?  Please feel free to share your ideas and STEM experiences so that we might all learn and grow together.

    book reviews, children's books

    Leaf by Sandra Dieckmann (A Book Review)

    Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my review.  All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

    Leaf by Sandra Dieckmann

    Publisher: Flying Eye Books
    Pages: 32
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 3 – 5
    Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
    Publication Date: October 3, 2017

    When a polar bear arrives unexpectedly in the woods, the animals fear and avoid him, suspecting him to be dangerous – and his habit of collecting leaves only adds to their distrust. Then one day, they watch as he attempts to fly over the water with wings made of colorful leaves…just trying to go home.

    Maybe he needs some help?


    Creatures crave companionship and love just like people do.  No matter what you look like or where you are from, love and feelings are the same.  I think Leaf offers a beautiful visual representation of what love and kindness is and shows how even animals possess the incredible gift of giving and receiving love.

    When a polar bear named Leaf arrives unexpectedly in the woods, the other animals fear and avoid him.  They automatically think he is dangerous simply because he looks and acts unlike any of the other animals in the wild wood.  With his white fur and weird leaf collecting habit, Leaf is an outsider.  After being carried upon shore due to melting ice in his natural habitat, Leaf is forced to make a home among an old, overgrown cave on the hill.

    Needless to say, Leaf feels lonely and misses his family dearly.  All he wants to do is go back home to his family. Animals are not immune from experiencing complex emotions, such as sadness and loneliness.  I love the way this book tackles complex emotions in a way that makes it easy for little readers to grasp.

    This book can spark so many discussions with the following themes:

    • loneliness
    • sadness
    • acceptance
    • empathy
    • community
    • family & love
    • friendship
    • kindness
    • feeling and being treated like an outsider
    • global warming & climate change (discuss reasons why the ice may be melting)

    In addition, I like how this book comes full circle with the clever and wise crows.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I’ll just tell you it’s beautiful and truly brought a tear to my eye.  I love how the simple act of kindness the crows showed to Leaf had the power to dispel his feelings of loneliness.  Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how beautiful the illustrations in this book are. Every page is a work of art worthy to be framed.  The color palette used throughout is so stunning and truly pops off the page!

    Not only does the story illustrate all of the themes mentioned above, but it also shows beauty in diversity and illustrates how creatures are all the same no matter how different they may be.  I think children need to be exposed to books like this with powerful and poignant overall messages.  Although this book is about animals, it’s very relevant to feelings of isolation and loneliness that humans may face too.  In today’s political climate, it seems that resisting isolation and staying open to being connected to others will be more important than ever.  I highly recommend checking out this book with your little readers when it publishes on October 3, 2017.

    Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading this with your little readers?  Feel free to share in the comments.


    book reviews, children's books

    Mommy and Me Picture Book Recommendation: A Night Out With Mama by Quvenzhané Wallis

    Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher to facilitate this review.  As always, all opinions are my own.

    A Night Out With Mama
    by Quvenzhané Wallis, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

    Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
    Pages: 40
    Age Range: 4 – 8 years old
    Grade Level: Preschool – 3
    Available for Sale: October 3, 2017

    From Academy Award–nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis comes a story about glitz, glamour, and the most important thing of all—family.

    A very talented little girl has a very special night ahead of her. A night where she’ll get to wear a new dress in the most beautiful shade of blue with shoes that match it perfectly. A night where she’ll get to ride in the biggest car she’s ever seen! A night that will, of course, include ice cream.

    But most special of all, it will be a night out with her mama.

    A very talented little girl has the pleasure of going with her Mama to her very first fancy awards show. She’ll get to wear her blue shoes along with her matching dress and headband, ride in a limousine and of course, eat lots of ice cream.

    I love picture books like this that showcase everyday kids being kids. Of course, it’s not everyday a kid gets to attend a glamorous awards show or take pictures on the red carpet, but many kids do have family interactions.  You see the family eating breakfast together, the girl getting teased by her big brother, and being given a flower by her baby brother.  That scene reminds me of myself and my son.  My son loves giving me flowers and it warms my heart every time he does it.  It’s also so cute to see the girl and her mother all dressed up having such a great time out on the town.  This book inspires me to start having regular one-on-one mommy and me dates with my kids no matter how glitzy and glamorous or laid back they may be.  The main thing is they be FUN!

    At first I’m shy…but then I relax and get into it.

    The book doesn’t specify whether this story is based on a real life experience, but I’m willing to bet it is.  Especially since the author is actress Quvenzhané Wallis.  At the age of 9, Wallis was the youngest ever nominee for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild.  To me, this picture book appears to be a fictional (or real) account about Quvenzhané ‘s first academy award experience.  The topic is lighthearted and understandable with minimal text that is easy to read.  There are themes of: family, confidence, overcoming fears, love, mother-daughter bonding, glitz and glamour.  An absolutely adorable book with gorgeous illustrations for mothers and daughters to enjoy reading together!

    Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading this book?  Feel free to share in the comments.  What are some of your other favorite “Mommy and Me” themed books?

    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Muslim Picture Book for Kids: Muhiima’s Quest (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.

    Muslim picture books for kids are not easy to come by.  Especially ones that showcase kids doing normal everyday things.  Enter Muhiima’s Quest, a charming and inspirational book of self-discovery and a celebration of diversity with the message that our heritage and faith are what make us unique and special.

    Although her family does not celebrate birthdays, Muhiima wakes on the morning of her 10th birthday to an unusual surprise. Her mother gives her a carefully drawn map with instructions not to ask questions, but to simply follow the map. Muhiima sets off on her bicycle to begin a quest that will take her all around town. At each destination on the map she is gifted with an important message and a mysterious little box. Travel with Muhiima on her journey and discover how the pieces of this puzzle come together.

    Muhiima’s Quest is a delight and the illustrations are adorable! The story follows Muhiima a young Muslim American girl as she goes on a quest riding her bicycle around town. You see, it’s Muhiima’s 10th birthday and since traditional Muslims don’t celebrate their birthdays (or any other holidays with the exception of Eid), Muhiima’s parents have decided to do something very unique for their daughter. Her mother gives her a map and tells her to “find her way”. Muhiima’s job is to visit all of the places on the map until she reaches her final destination back at home.

    Along the way, Muhiima is given tiny boxes from trusted family adults. When she gets back home all of the people she visited are at her house waiting to surprise her. One by one, Muhiima opens the tiny boxes and is surprised to see each one contains a tiny pearl to make a beautiful pearl necklace. In the end, they all enjoy a feast in celebration of Muhiima.

    Although Muhiima doesn’t have a traditional American birthday party, I love how all of the adults came together to make her day so special. You could truly feel all the love and appreciation each person has for her. To me, this book signified a sort of rite of passage for Muhiima as she’s transitioning to her double digit years.

    Reading this book presents adult readers with a great chance to talk to little readers about when they encounter something new or unfamiliar to foster a connection between them and Muhiima. For example, you could talk about how each family has their own beliefs and traditions that others may not. That may make others different in some ways, but that’s not a bad thing. You could also talk to kids about embracing their uniqueness and the importance of having a supportive village of people around you.  Muhiima’s friends and family members imparted so much wisdom on her by saying things like: “know your value and hold your head high” and “never boast about your blessings”. Themes include: family, diversity, Muslim culture, Islamic teachings, self-confidence, faith and heritage.  There is also an activity section for kids to write down their own pearls of wisdom.

    I’d probably recommend this book for children ages 7-8 and up for independent reading since some of the paragraphs are a little lengthy. However, I think this book could be read aloud by an adult to smaller children as well.

    Connect with Author Rahma Rodaah!

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

    family fun, STEM, technology

    STEM Saturdays: Osmo Creative Kit Review

    Disclaimer: I received an Osmo Creative Kit directly from Osmo in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    As a Computer Programmer and lover of all things STEM (science, math, engineering and technology), it’s important for me to expose my children to technology in order to help them build foundations for future academic and career success.  I want them to be as computer-savvy as possible from a young age.  Online skills are becoming as important as reading and writing for the younger generations, so why not give them a head start in life?  Since my kids are both still currently under the age of 5, my main goals are making sure they know their way around computers, smartphones and tablets without over exposing them too much.

    What is Osmo?

    I’ve been a huge fan of Osmo since discovering them a couple of years ago.  Simply put, Osmo is a unique gaming accessory for the iPad that comes with games that will change the way your child plays.  To date Osmo has been named one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions, is a Parent’s Choice award winner, a winner of the prestigious Oppenheim award, and a 2016 finalist for Toy of The Year.

    What’s Included?

    We received the Osmo Creative Kit which uses interactive art tools in 3 creative apps: Monster, Masterpiece and Newton. With the creative kit you receive: a white board, dry erase markers, a pouch, and a cloth to erase.

    Each of the three apps you download transforms your drawings and instantly brings them to life on the screen right before your eyes! The drawings then become animation to take part in a story, solve a puzzle or they become a one-of-a-kind artwork piece you can frame!

    How Do You Play Osmo?

    All that you need to play Osmo is an iPad with a camera.  Osmo is currently compatible with: iPad 2, iPad (3rd Generation), iPad (4th Generation), iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Mini 4, iPad Air, iPad Air 2 and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Osmo does not currently work with Android-based tablets, however they hope to develop for Android in the future. Right now they are just focusing on iOS.

    Setting up your Osmo gaming system is easy.  You simply download the apps from the app store, place your iPad in the white Osmo base, and then clip on the red Reflector.  And once you set up your Osmo account(s), you’re ready to play!  Note:  If you have multiple children or people who will be using your Osmo you can set up different accounts.  I think this great to be able to track the progress each person has made.

    Why We Love Osmo

    Although we haven’t quite figured out how to play the Newton game yet, we truly love our Osmo gaming system! The kids enjoy playing Monster the best – they love Mo (and so do I)!  It’s so cool to see all of the things the kids draw being pulled onto the screen.  I’m still amazed at the technology and how it all works.  I want to see the code behind, but that’s just the techie in me I guess!

    I personally love the Masterpiece game since I am not the best at drawing.  My drawings always turn out looking amazing!  Now if only I could actually draw that well on my own – ha!  The Masterpiece app has several pictures in the library that you can choose from to sketch. I also like the fact that you can take photos of different objects in your home and draw them as well.  Initially getting used to looking at the iPad screen instead of looking at the paper takes some time and practice.  We love watching our drawings in fast play once we’re done creating them.

    My favorite thing about our Creative Kit is all of the games encourage creativity and lots of imagination.  In addition, they encourage children to work on their fine motor skills in a simple way that’s really easy to understand.  You’re learning while having fun and strengthening muscles in your body including your brain.  How cool is that?

    Osmo games teach children a wide variety of things like:

    • logic and problem solving skills

    • spatial relational skills

    • spelling and critical thinking skills

    • drawing and creative confidence

    • counting, addition and multiplication

    • math, money, fractions and nonverbal communication

    Osmo is recommended for children ages 5 – 12, but my children are able to use it just fine with very little adult supervision required.

    To learn more about the affordable Osmo gaming system kits and games visit their website.

    Your turn: Do your children have an Osmo gaming system?  How do you teach your children about STEM and/or technology?  Feel free to share in the comments.


    children's books

    Bookface Friday Kid Lit Inspiration Featuring Black Protagonists

    What is Bookface Friday Anyway?

    If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve likely seen some of our popular Bookface Friday photos.  Over the past few months I’ve really come to enjoy participating and scouting out potential books featuring Black protagonists for us to showcase.  Although we don’t post a bookface photo every Friday, I really get into it when we do and so do my kids. They actually look forward to posing for their photos now.

    I think the New York Times summarizes exactly what a bookface is the best:

    Bookface involves strategically lining up your face or another body part alongside a book cover that features a matching body part so that there appears a melding of life and art. Librarians and other book lovers post these photos weekly on visual apps like Instagram, using the caption #BookfaceFriday.

    In addition to the #BookFaceFriday hashtag, I recently learned about the hashtag #BookFootFriday too.  This is the same concept as bookface photos except you line up the book cover with your feet or legs instead.

    What qualities do bookface or bookfoot worthy books possess (in my opinion)?  Beautiful, high-quality, close up illustrations that are big enough to take up a full page on their own.  There are some illustrators who I think draw the best illustrations for potential bookface photos including: Kadir Nelson, Frank Morrison, Vanessa Brantley-Newtown, Don Tate and Floyd Cooper just to name a few.  I also think the bookface craze is great for helping books gain additional exposure and for highlighting talented illustrators.

    Below I’ve rounded up 17 of the best bookface photos we’ve featured on Instagram to date.  There are 15 books for children and two bonus diverse books for adults.  If you’re looking for a few book recommendations featuring Black protagonists to use for your bookface or bookfeet photos, I hope these pictures and books will provide some inspiration for you.  Enjoy!

    I Just Kept Spinning   (This is our most popular bookface/bookfoot photo to date!)

    Props used to pull this off: a cute tutu

    Emi’s Curly, Coily, Cotton Candy Hair

    Props used to pull this off: a hot pink colored shirt

    One Million Men and Me

    Props used to pull this off: Hubby wearing a gray shirt and my daughter wearing a pink hoodie shirt

    Ellington Was Not a Street

    Props used to pull this off: a white pair of leggings

    Something Beautiful

    Props used to pull this off: a striped shirt with similar design

    Hank’s Big Day

    Props used to pull this off: a red shirt, white pants

    He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

    Props used to pull this off: a red shirt

    I Have a Dream

    Props used to pull this off: a black shirt

    Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born

    Props used to pull this off: a matching gray shirt

    Peekaboo Bedtime

    Props used to pull this off: a pillow and comforter with a similar color scheme/design

    Fishing Day

    Props used to pull this off: a pair of jeans

    Ron’s Big Mission

    Props used to pull this off: a matching yellow shirt


    Props used to pull this off: a white shirt

    We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song

    Props used to pull this off: a matching denim shirt (can use overalls or a dress too)

    Where’s Rodney?

    Props used to pull this off: a matching orange shirt

    Bonus Diverse Book for Adults: November Blues

    Props used to pull this off: no props needed for this one

    When Dimple Met Rishi

    Props used to pull this off: a matching orange shirt

    Your turn: What book titles would you add to this list?  Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments.