Monthly Archives

April 2018

    children's books

    I’ll Always Love My Mama: 22+ Picture Books to Celebrate Mom on Mother’s Day (Or Any Day)

    Mother’s Day.  It’s the one day of the year when many people pay tribute to that one person who gave you life – your mother.  And while every day can be considered to be Mother’s Day, I love the idea of having one holiday set aside to honor moms.  Amidst the demanding schedule of modern day life, Mother’s Day is the most opportune moment to tell your mom what she means to you.

    Mothers are often the foundation of the family, a source of sustenance and support. They are our caretakers, teachers, drill sergeants, cheerleaders and best friends. They anchor us and inspire us to reach for the stars.

    They take time off from work when we are born and have sleepless nights because we cry all night. They put food on the table, clothe us, and put a roof over our heads. When we get sick, the first thing we do is ask for our mothers. When we need advice, she will be there to give it and when we need to vent, she is there to listen. Our mothers are our best friends, even if the relationship between mother and child isn’t all that great.  As a mother, it is their job to protect us; just like it is the job of a lioness to protect her cubs. They hold our hands when we cross the road, but eventually have to let us spread our wings and fly.

    Below I’ve gathered a list of picture books that embrace different kinds of moms and showcase the precious love between a mother and child.  Check these out to read with your own children this Mother’s Day and beyond.

    My Mommy Medicine by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Shannon Wright

    A beautiful book that showcases the unconditional love between a mother and daughter.  There’s just something about the instinctive nurturing of some mothers that seems to make everything feel better, right?

    What is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack

    A touching, powerful tale of compassion between a mother and her son.  This book reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.

    Hair for Mama by Kelly Tinkham

    It’s family picture time for the Carters, but Mama does not want to be in the photo this year. All of her beautiful hair is gone because of chemotherapy treatments for her cancer, and she doesn’t want to be remembered without hair. Eight-year-old Marcus knows that the picture won’t be the same without Mama, so he comes up with a plan to find her some hair and make her better.

    Nine Months: Before a Baby is Born by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin

    In this pregnancy book unlike any other one out there, watch what’s actually happening through meticulously detailed, actual size illustrations, perfectly paired with a lyrical yet informative text, and culminating in a warm, joyful birth scene.

    When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L.B. Dennihan, illustrated by Lorraine Rocha

    “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In this imaginative take on that popular saying, a child is surprised (and disappointed) to receive a lemon tree from Grandma for her birthday. After all, she DID ask for a new gadget! But when she follows the narrator’s careful—and funny—instructions, she discovers that the tree might be exactly what she wanted after all. This clever story, complete with a recipe for lemonade, celebrates the pleasures of patience, hard work, nature, community . . . and putting down the electronic devices just for a while.

    Hero Mom by Melinda Hardin

    An easy to understand depiction of a diverse group of moms serving in the military.  I like that it shows the women being strong leaders and that this book opens up discussions based on gender/sex roles.  Women are shown fixing military tanks, flying fighter jets, nursing soldiers back to good health and more!

    My Mommy is a Hero by Hannah Tolson

    Each and every day, mothers sacrifice for their children and their family.  But what is especially unique to military mothers is that they sacrifice day in and day out for their country too.

    Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

    Today there are very few good children’s books that have Muslim or Islamic themes.  There are even fewer books that focus on the African-American Muslim experience like Mommy’s Khimar.  I love this adorable story about a little Muslim American girl who likes to play dress up with her mother’s khimar (hijab).  It’s a lively and upbeat story with engaging words and vibrant illustrations that oozes with love!

    Mama’s Belly by Kate Hosford

    A charming and touching story about a curious little girl and her family awaiting the arrival of her baby sister.  The family wonders how life will be different once the new baby arrives.  Would make a great baby shower gift for expectant mothers.

    Ten Cents a Pound by Nhung N. Tran-Davies

    An illiterate, hard working Vietnamese mother persuades her young daughter to go to school. The girl is torn between her desire to stay home with her family and the familiarity of their village, and her desire to discover the world beyond the mountains that surround them. Every time the girl insists that she will stay, her mother repeats that she must go, that there is more to life than the labor in the coffee trees.  A wonderful display of affection and the power of education and literacy.

    The Best Mother by C. M. Surrisi

    A little girl named Maxine goes in search of trying to find the “best mother” – a mom better than her own.  She’s tired of her mom telling her to do things like brush her teeth or comb her hair.  Maxine “interviews” several other moms at various locations, but in the end she realizes her mom is in fact the best mother of all.

    A Night Out With Mama by Quvenzhané Wallis

    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.  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!

    How Mamas Love Their Babies by Juniper Fitzgerald

    How Mamas Love Their Babies is written by a mother who is a former stripper who did what she had to in order to make ends meet for her baby.  The book illustrates the myriad ways that mothers provide for their children―piloting airplanes, washing floors, or dancing at a strip club.  It provides an expanded notion of working mothers and challenges the idea that only some jobs result in good parenting. We’re reminded that, while every mama’s work looks different, every mama works to make their baby’s world better.

    Jonathan and His Mommy by Irene Smalls

    I absolutely love this sweet story about a little boy named Jonathan and his mom spending the day together exploring their neighborhood!

    Mama’s Saris by Pooja Makhijani

    A young Indian girl is about to celebrate her seventh birthday so her mother lets her choose which sari she wants to to wear.  This book is so cute for girls who love playing dress up with their mother’s clothes.  The author’s note at the beginning of the book provides lots of good information related to saris that readers who ware unfamiliar with the culture may find useful.  There is also a helpful glossary of terms that defines some of the Indian words used throughout.  I love the bond that the mother and daughter share.

    Hush: A Thai Lullaby by Mingfrong Ho

    A beautiful rhyming tale set in Thailand that features a mother trying to keep all of the animals in the forest quiet so they won’t wake her sleeping baby.

    Lala Salama: A Tanzanian Lullaby by Patricia MacLachlan

    This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a family that lives near a lake in Tanzania.  Lala Salama means “good night” in Swahili.  A soothing bedtime story for little ones.

    Lullaby (For a Black Mother) by Langston Hughes

    With a few simple words as smooth as a song, the poet Langston Hughes celebrates the love between an African American mother and her baby.

    Cora Cooks Pancit by Lazo Gilmore

    Cora finally gets her chance to assist her mom in the kitchen. They’re making pancit (pan-SEET), a popular Filipino noodle dish. When dinner is finally served, Cora anxiously awaits to see what everyone in her family thinks of her cooking. A recipe for pancit is included in the back of the book.

    Cancer Hates Kisses by Jessica Reid Sliwerski

    Chances are you know at least one person who has been affected by cancer. Maybe that one person is you.  This upbeat picture book is fantastic for helping children understand and cope with all the ups and downs that come with a parent who has cancer. I love how they refer to their mom as a cancer-fighting superhero! All of the different stages of cancer are mentioned: diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Extra points for having a portion of all proceeds of this book being donated to the American Cancer Society. All the hearts for this gem!

    Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

    What’s inside Grandma Mimi’s purse?  Pure Magic!  This is such an adorable book perfect for reading with Grandma on Mother’s Day, Grandparent’s Day or anytime of the year.  You’ll never know what treasures you’ll find hiding inside of grandma’s purse.

    Mango, Abuela and Me by Meg Medina

    Little Mia finds out that her grandmother is moving out of her sunny house with parrots and palm trees to come and live in the city with her and her parents. Mia isn’t too thrilled about this because her grandmother only speaks Spanish. This is a delightful story about love, learning, friendship, patience, and learning a new language.  Fun for reading with grandma on Mother’s Day, Grandparents Day or any time of the year.

    The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman

    This is one of my favorite picture books starring a strong mom, Mrs. Peters.  I love her story and the resolution– and I adore Marla Frazee’s illustrations!  Oh, and seriously, that is a lot of quality rhyming!

    Mommy, Mama, and Me by Leslea Newman

    Rhythmic text and illustrations with universal appeal show a toddler spending the day with its mommies. From hide-and-seek to dress-up, then bath time and a kiss goodnight, there’s no limit to what a loving family can do together.  Shares the loving bond between same-sex parents and their children.

    Floating On Mama’s Song / Flotando en la cancion de mama by Laura Lacamara and Yuyi Morales

    Anita’s mama loves to sing. She sings such beautiful, happy songs that something magical happens: Everyone who hears her music floats high above the ground. But then Mama stops singing. Can Anita find a way to bring back happy times and magical moments for her family?

    Up: How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones by Susan Hughes

    Around the world, little ones are carried in many different ways: in slings, on shoulders, in backpacks, on hips, in baskets, and in loving arms. Up! depicts ten places around the world, from Afghanistan to northern Canada, Peru to West Africa. In each place, a mom, dad, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or sibling lovingly carries a baby.

    Catch a Kiss by Deborah Diesen

    Little Izzie tells her mom to blow her a kiss, then another, and yet another. But when Izzie goes to “catch” the third kiss she misses and her kiss flies away never to be found again or will it?  I like how comforting, loving, playful and reassuring the mother is in this book. I think it beautifully showcases the sweet bond between a mother and daughter.  Izzie’s mother also tells little readers the secret of kisses: “No matter how far they have to go, no matter what they have to get through, and even if they get lost along the way, Mama-kisses ALWAYS come find you.”

    Hats Off To You by Karen Beaumont

    An adorable story with a nice tribute to mothers at the end. Perfect for little fashionistas who like to play dress up or a mother daughter book club with little girls ages 4-8.

    Welcome Song for Baby by Richard Van Camp

    From renowned First Nations storyteller Richard Van Camp comes a lyrical lullaby for newborns.

    Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk

    This beautiful bedtime poem, written by acclaimed Inuit throat singer Celina Kalluk, describes the gifts given to a newborn baby by all the animals of the Arctic.

    My Mama is a Mechanic by Doug Cenko

    Snuggle with Mom for this sweet book about a mother as seen through her son’s eyes. To him, she is a surgeon when she repairs his favorite stuffed animal, a chemist when in the kitchen, and an architect when they play with toy blocks. But no matter what happens, she is always his mama, and that’s the most important thing of all!

    Babymoon by Hayley Barrett, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

    In this rhyming book, readers meet a sweet family (a biracial family of color) who decide to go on a secluded babymoon with their newborn baby.

    A Ride on Mother’s Back: A Day of Baby Carrying Around the World by Emery Bernhard

    Through a steamy rain forest in Brazil, along a river in Papua New Guinea, across a frozen inlet in the arctic, this book takes young children on a far-reaching journey to discover how babies worldwide are carried and what they see from their unique vantage points.


    When I Carried You in My Belly by Thrity Umrigar

    A super sweet and beautiful book about a mother sharing details about how she prepared for motherhood prior to her daughter being born.  I love how different members of the family are represented showing them all having a part in the arrival of the sweet baby girl.

    Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there who celebrate!

    Your turn:  What are some of your favorite children’s books starring moms?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    children's books, diverse books, read aloud

    21 Picture Books for National Military Appreciation Month + Ways to Show Appreciation

    When a family member goes to war, the impact on those left at home can be challenging.  In fact, the entire cycle of deployment can be a very painful and frightening time, particularly for children.  Raising children in the military isn’t easy, but books can help youth and their families cope when a parent is deployed. Military must deal with the same issues other parents face, but they also have to grapple with challenges that directly relate to a military life.

    Did you know that May is National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM)? In 1999, Congress selected the month of May because it contains more national observances in honor of the armed forces than any other month.  NMAM’s aim is to “reflect upon the sacrifices made by members of the United States Armed Forces and to show appreciation for such service.”

    National Military Appreciation Month is the perfect opportunity to express our gratitude and to salute those who are currently serving or have served in the military.  I’ve gathered a list of children’s books to read with little readers throughout the month of May.  All of the books listed have a military or war theme in some way.  In addition, I’ve included a few ways adults and children can show their appreciation this month to honor our veterans and active duty members.

    National Military Appreciation Month is an ideal time to salute our American heroes and thank them for their sacrifices. Be sure to show your gratitude to our servicemen and servicewomen this month and every month of the year!

    The United States v. Jackie Robinson
    by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and R. Gregory Christie

    Many people know that Jackie Robinson was the first Black baseball player who broke the color barrier by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers. But did you know he got in trouble for not sitting on the back of the bus BEFORE Rosa Parks?  The United States v. Jackie Robinson is an amazing nonfiction picture biography that depicts a lesser known time in Jackie Robinson’s life serving in the military.

    Wind Flyers by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Loren Long

    This is a story about a young boy and his great-great uncle who was a wind flyer with the Tuskegee Airmen – the often under celebrated World War II heroes.
    The uncle’s life is recounted from his childhood through his time spent with the Air Force in Alabama. This is not a nonfiction book based on a particular person, but rather a poetic story about the men who served with the 332nd Tuskegee Airmen.  Apart from the illustrations, I love the fact that this book is lyrically written and not too wordy. Perfect for keeping smaller children up to age 9 engaged in the story. Check this one out for your airplane loving toddlers, preschoolers or elementary little readers.

    My Sailor Dad by Ross H. Mackenzie

    My Sailor Dad is a beautifully illustrated book that does a great job explaining Navy terminology to kids.  Children are likely to understand what it’s like when a parent or loved one is out to sea.  This book also includes people of different cultural backgrounds and can appeal to either boys or girls.

    Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

    Maya Lin is Asian-American architect, designer, and artist.  This nonfiction picture book biography gives young readers a glimpse into Maya’s childhood and explains the creative process she used to design the Vietnam War Memorial.  There is so much to learn about perseverance, art, history and standing up for yourself.

    Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops by Jill Biden, illustrated by Raúl Colón

    A heartwarming and powerful story about a young girl named Natalie who misses her father while he is deployed in Iraq.  It’s based on Jill Biden’s granddaughter Natalie’s own personal experience during her father’s deployment.  Readers will understand how deployment affects young children and requires them to be brave while their parent is also being brave serving our country.

    The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild

    When a war comes to Peter’s town, he and his father must flee their city and leave their home.  Before escaping, Peter manages to bring a treasure box with him that contains a book inside.  The entire city is bombed and destroyed, including the library.  Peter and his father set off with other refugees to find a safe place, but along the way Peter’s dad turns ill and dies.  Before he passes away, he asks Peter to promise to some day return to their city and bring the book back to the library in which they borrowed it from.  A touching story with themes of war, refugees, and the power of books and literature.

    Blue Sky White Stars by Kadir Nelson

    A stunningly beautiful, poetic and patriotic tribute to America’s flag, diverse population and landscape.  Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are breathtaking!

    Hero Mom by Melinda Hardin

    An easy to understand depiction of a diverse group of moms serving in the military.  I like that it shows the women being strong leaders and that this book opens up discussions based on gender/sex roles.  Women are shown fixing military tanks, flying fighter jets, nursing soldiers back to good health and more!

    Hero Dad by Melinda Hardin

    A little boy talks about his dad being a superhero because he is in the military.  There are references to some things you might see in the military like:  camouflage, night vision goggles, and tanks.  An easy to understand military themed book with simple sentences for young readers.

    Pilot Mom by Kathleen Benner Duble

    A picture book about Mom who flies tanker jets?  Yes, please!  This book tells the story of a girl named Jenny who is scared on the day her mother is leaving for Europe to go on a training mission.  Jenny’s mom reassures her everything will be ok and that what she’s doing is for her daughter’s freedom to do what she wants with her life.  Due to the long text, I’d recommend this one for slightly older readers ages 8 and up.

    H is for Honor: A Military Family Alphabet by Devin Scillian

    An informational alphabetic picture book that explains the in’s and out’s of the military from A to Z.  Each letter has a rhyming poem and some additional facts in the side margin.  Suitable for both younger and older readers, this book provides a wonderful introduction of military life.

    The Wall by Eve Bunting

    A young boy and his father visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Memorial in Washington DC in search of finding the boy’s grandfather’s name written on the wall.  As they search the wall, you see various other people shown too: a wounded veteran, a group of school children, people of all different ages.  There are themes of: loss, war, and family sprinkled throughout.  Great for reading on Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day or anytime of the year.

    The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara Walsh

    A lovely tribute to our Veterans!  Since World War ll, red poppy have been used as a symbol to remember fallen soldiers.  This story explains the history of how this tradition came to be.  Moina Belle Michael, a schoolteacher from Georgia, felt soldiers deserved to have a symbol to remind people of their sacrifice and courage.  Her symbol of choice?  Red poppy flowers.

    America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Mike Benny

    America’s White Table explains the tradition of the “white table” and the symbolism behind it.  The white table honors servicemen and servicewomen across all branches of the military who have gone missing or were held captive in the line of duty and never made it back for chow. The White Table is set in many mess halls in the military.  Solitary and solemn, it is the table where no one will ever sit.

    Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen? by Sherri L. Smith

    It’s up, up, and away with the Tuskegee Airmen, a heroic group of African American military pilots who helped the United States win World War II.  While this book details thrilling flight missions and the grueling training sessions the Tuskegee Airmen underwent, it also shines a light on the lives of these brave men who helped pave the way for the integration of the US armed forces.

    Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall

    I adore this true story of how Winnie-the-Pooh became the beloved story book character that we all know and love today.  Veterinarian Harry Colebourn purchased the bear cub for $20 while he was in route to serve in World War I. He named the Bear Winnipeg, Winnie for short, and she soon became the mascot of his regiment.

    The Journey by Francesca Sanna

    Told through the eyes of a family who has to uproot their home due to war to find safety, The Journey is a powerful book about the things many refugees have to face.  I love how nurturing and protective the mother is over her children.  Great for discussing topics about war, refugees, empathy and migration.

    Luis Paints the World by Terry Farish

    Luis wishes his older brother Nico wasn’t leaving for the Army.  While his brother is deployed, Luis copes by using art as therapy to express his emotions and help him deal with her brother’s absence.  Luis decides to paint a mural in his Dominican neighborhood and many people in the community come together to give him a hand.  I really like this story that shows a community coming together to beautify their neighborhood and missing loved ones across the miles.

    Remembering Vera by Patricia Polacco

    A cute story about a precious dog named Vera that joins the US Coast Guard.  Found as a stray dog by the US Coast Guard, Vera moved into the San Francisco Bay base and later became a hero and friend.

    Tucky Jo and Little Heart by Patricia Polacco

    Based on a true story, Tucky Jo and Little Heart is a beautiful story about love and friendship. I love the special bond that develops between a young WWII soldier and a little Filipino girl in the South Pacific.  Provides readers with an insight of war and the power of friendship and kindness.

    Night Catch by Brenda Ehrmantraut

    When a soldier’s work takes him half-way around the world, he enlists the help of the North Star for a nightly game of catch with his son.  Night Catch is a timeless story that connects families while they are apart and offers comforting hope for their reunion.  A great book for families facing deployment of a loved one and introducing a creative way to connect with others who are far away.

    Different Ways to Honor and Show Appreciation to Veterans or Active Duty Members

    • Say Thank You.  Teach children to simply say “thank you” if they see a member of the armed forces in his or her uniform.  Taking a moment to thank them for their service goes a long way.
    • Offer and publicize a military discount. If you are a business owner, a military discount for all current and prior service members could be an easy way to show your thanks. Every penny saved helps a family’s budget stretch further.
    • Decorate or clean up at your local cemetery. While there are some organizations that attempt to maintain the graves of the fallen servicemen, perhaps in your city or town, it has been a while. Simple bouquets of flowers (often on sale at super stores during May for this very reason) or small American flags could be a nice gesture.
    • Donate to or volunteer at your local VA hospital. By volunteering at the hospital or even donating things like blankets, new warm socks, or other similar comfort and care items can make a person’s stay just a bit more comfortable.
    • Fly a flag at your home of place of business. This is perhaps the simplest way to show your respect and appreciation for the work that our active member and reservists do, and what our veterans have done. The American flag is an important symbol in their daily lives, and by showing it the proper respect and honor, you are thanking them as well. Why not wear a lapel pin on your clothes for the entire month? Putting it on every morning and seeing it in the mirror throughout the day will be a reminder to think about with gratitude all our armed forces members have done and continue to do for those needing help across the globe.
    • Send a care package. Contact Operation Gratitude (or another military organization) to find out how you can lift the spirits of new recruits, U.S. service members deployed overseas, and America’s wounded heroes. Packages contain snacks, toiletries, magazines, games, DVDs, and personal letters of appreciation.
    • Organize a school event. Whether you’re a college student or the parent of school-age children, talk to the university dean or to your child’s principal about incorporating military-related curriculum in some way this month.
    • Help a military spouse. Consider the many ways you can lend a hand to the spouse of a deployed service member. Offer to babysit, mow a lawn, paint a fence, pick up groceries, cook meals, or help drive children to after school activities. Taking on a few simple chores can really help lighten the load of a parent struggling to do the work of two people.

    Your turn: What other military/war themed books would you add to this list?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books

    Front Desk by Kelly Yang: A Book Review

    Disclaimer: I was provided with an advanced review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    Front Desk
    by Kelly Yang

    Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 304
    Age Range: 8-12
    Grade Level: 3-7

    Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.

    Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.

    Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.

    Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

    It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?

    I will never know exactly feels like to be an immigrant who was not born in the United States. It’s simply not a part of my story. However, I do know what it’s like to be a Black person and at times feel discriminated against because of the color of my skin, the texture of my hair or my full lips. I guess that may feel what like to be an immigrant although they are not exactly the same thing.

    I think Front Desk is an amazing middle-grade book that wholeheartedly deserves a five star rating, let me tell you why.

    First of all, it’s loosely based on the author’s life, the daughter of first generation Chinese immigrants. The author lived this tale so the writing is gripping and very authentic based on some of her own life experiences.

    Second, it outlines the struggles and hardships many immigrants have to face daily. The book is set in the 1990’s timeframe so I found myself relating to it on so many levels. Having an immigrant-born Jamaican mother, my sister and I were often teased and heard terms like “fresh off the boat” even though we were both born in the US. My heart ached for little Mia and her family at times. But then my heart sang to see how they overcame any roadblocks that were in their way.

    Lastly, I loved all of the themes and lessons this book provides to readers: perseverance, racism, social justice, teamwork, hard work, gratitude, family, friendship and so much more. I honestly can’t say enough good things about this one!

    I walked away from this book feeling so full and blessed which was unexpected. I felt like I took my kids on an amazing read-aloud journey to experience what it feels like to live in an immigrants’ shoes. If you woke up this morning, have food to eat, and clothes to wear give thanks and be grateful.

    Kudos to author Kelly Yang for penning such wonderful and powerful debut novel! Front Desk publishes May 29, 2018. An absolute must-read for 2018!

    Your turn: Do you plan to read this book when it comes out?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books

    Do You Have Magic Breath? An Easy Way to Teach Preschoolers About Mindfulness and Deep Breathing

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

    My Magic Breath
    by Nick Ortner and Alison Taylor, illustrated by Michelle Polizzi

    Publisher: Harper Collins
    Age Range: 4 – 8
    Grade Level: Preschool – 3
    Format: Hardcover


    Do YOU have the magic breath?

    Let’s see…Take a deeeeeep breath in…and BLOW it out…

    …and like magic, you can feel better just by breathing! Sometimes it’s hard to feel happy. But with this interactive picture book, children breathe along as they learn how to make angry or sad thoughts disappear.

    In a world that is sometimes too busy, with too many things going on, My Magic Breath will help steer children into a serene space of mindfulness, self-awareness, and balance.

    If you like interactive books like Press Here or Mix It Up, then you’re likely to enjoy this forthcoming mindfulness book for preschoolers and early elementary aged students.  It’s a new bedtime story favorite book of ours!

    My Magic Breath reminds kids (and adults) that peace is just a single breath away. All you have to do is remember to breathe.  We all have “magic breath” and can use it anytime we feel mad, sad, nervous or worried. Throughout the book, readers are instructed to breath in their happy or sad thoughts and then blow them out onto the page.  My kids love reading this book and pretend to blow the illustrations right off the page.

    I think My Magic Breath is a beautifully illustrated book that explains the concept of mindfulness and deep breathing in a fun and easy to understand way for little readers. A great book to read for story time at the end of each day or in a kids mindfulness group/class.

    Your turn: Do you practice mindfulness with your children?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet (A Book Review)

    Disclaimer: We received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea by Elizabeth Suneby, illustrated by Rebecca Green

    Publisher: CitizenKid
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 6 – 9 and up
    Grade Level: 3 –  7
    Publication Date: May 1, 2018

    It’s monsoon season in Bangladesh, which means Iqbal’s mother must cook the family’s meals indoors, over an open fire. The smoke from the fire makes breathing difficult for his mother and baby sister, and it’s even making them sick. Hearing them coughing at night worries Iqbal. So when he learns that his school’s upcoming science fair has the theme of sustainability, Iqbal comes up with the perfect idea for his entry: he’ll design a stove that doesn’t produce smoke! With help from his teacher, Iqbal learns all about solar energy cooking, which uses heat from the sun to cook — ingenious! Has Iqbal found a way to win first prize in the science fair while providing cleaner air and better health for his family at the same time?

    It’s monsoon season in Bangladesh, which means many families must cook over an open flame. But all of the smoke is making Iqbal’s mother and other family members sick.  Iqbal wants to help, so he enters the district science fair which offers a cash prize for winning first place. Iqbal is determined to win the grand prize so he can buy a gas stove that doesn’t produce harmful fumes.

    I love how creative Iqbal was and how he thoroughly researched his idea to create a solar cooker.  He learned that solar cookers provide many benefits including: protects the environment, reduces health problems, empowers women and girls, increases safety and saves money.

    I also like the special bond between Iqbal and his sister Sadia.  Sadia offers to be Iqbal’s assistant and helps him assemble the solar cooker.  The brother sister duo also receive help from their parents to put the final touches on their invention.  What a great display of family teamwork to accomplish a common goal!  Despite not having much money, they all pulled together and used the little they did have to help Iqbal complete his project.

    Aspiring creatives, engineers, scientists and inventors are likely to enjoy this inspirational story that shows how one child can champion the protection of the environment and help raise awareness about a global health issue.  There are themes of: STEM, creativity, family and solar power.  You truly are never too young or old to make a difference!

    The back matter has additional information about clean cookstoves, a glossary and a neat DIY (do-it-yourself) pizza box solar cooker activity for kids to try.

    Your turn: Have you ever invented anything?  If so, what was it?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (A Book Review)

    Disclaimer: We received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

    Publisher: Candlewick
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 4- 8
    Grade Level: Preschool – 3
    Publication Date: April 10, 2018


    What’s in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from — and who she may one day be.

    If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.

    I think this book is an absolutely adorable story about a little girl named Alma who is initially unhappy with her really long name.  She has six names: Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela.  After Alma’s father tells her the story of her name she appreciates it and fully accepts it.  For example, Alma learns she was given the name “Sofia” because of her grandmother who loved books, poetry and jasmine flowers.

    I love that Alma’s father goes on to tell her different stories of where each of the remaining names came from.  Each story provides Alma with a sense of identity through time, and helps her understand who she is in the world.  Through his stories, Alma’s father gives her a wealth of information about her distant grandparents, great-grandparents, and great aunt.  Alma also learned some things about her family’s heritage which will undoubtedly provide her with an important connection to her own identity and may possibly open her up to a new world into other cultures and traditions.

    When Alma learns her first name was picked just for her she couldn’t be more happy!

    I love the story of my name!  Now, tell me about Alma, Daddy.  Where does that come from?

    I picked the name Alma just for you.  You are the first and the only Alma.  You will make your own story.

    In the end, Alma proudly proclaims her name in big, bold font which is a drastic change from how she wrote her name in the beginning of the book.

    That’s my name, and it fits me just right!  I am Alma, and I have a story to tell.

    Alma and How She Got Her Name is perfect for kids who have long names and are curious about the origin of their names.  A great overall message about identity rings throughout accompanied by gorgeous colored pencil illustrations in tones of red, white, pink, blue and grey.  There are wonderful messages of acceptance, family, heritage, culture, love and individuality.

    The author’s note tells little readers the story of how she got her name.  A Spanish version of this book will publish on the same date the English version publishes.  Recommended for kids ages 4-8 and up.

    Your turn: How many names do you have? I have 3, my first, middle and last name. Well, 4 if you count “Mommy”. Make that 5 if you count “Babe”.

    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (A Book Review)

    Disclaimer: We received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Mommy’s Khimar
    by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Ebony Glenn

    Published by: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
    Age Range: 4 – 8 years old
    Grade Level: Preschool – 3
    Format: Hardcover

    A young Muslim girl spends a busy day wrapped up in her mother’s colorful headscarf in this sweet and fanciful picture book.

    A khimar is a flowing scarf that my mommy wears.
    Before she walks out the door each day, she wraps one around her head.

    A young girl plays dress up with her mother’s headscarves, feeling her mother’s love with every one she tries on. Charming and vibrant illustrations showcase the beauty of the diverse and welcoming community in this portrait of a young Muslim American girl’s life.


    When the publisher Salaam Reads was founded back in 2016, I was so excited!  Salaam Reads is an imprint that aims to introduce readers of all faiths and backgrounds to a wide variety of Muslim children and families and offer Muslim kids an opportunity to see themselves reflected positively in published works. The imprint, which takes its name from the Arabic word for “peace,” plans to publish books for young readers of all ages, including picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult.  Isn’t that great news?

    Today there are very few good children’s books that have Muslim or Islamic themes.  There are even fewer books that focus on the African-American Muslim experience like Mommy’s Khimar.  I love this adorable story about a little Muslim American girl who likes to play dress up with her mother’s khimar (hijab).  It’s a lively and upbeat story with engaging words and vibrant illustrations that oozes with love!

    Playing dress-up has never been so much fun!  Especially when you have a closet full of beautifully designed headscarves to choose from.

    Some have tassles.  Some have beads.  Some have sparkly things all over.

    The little girl’s excitement at dressing up in mother’s khimar is infectious.  She uses her creative imagination to become a queen with a golden train, the sun, a mama bird and a superhero in a cape.

    When I wear Mommy’s khimar, I am a mama bird.  I spread my golden wings and shield my baby brother as he sleeps in his nest.

    At the end of the day, it’s time to take off the khimar and go to sleep, but not without one last stroke of mommy’s khimar.  The little girl takes her mother’s scents of coconut oil, cocoa butter and cinnamon with her as she drifts off to sleep.  It’s as if her mother is right there lying next to her.  Sometimes, a girl needs to know that her mother’s love will still be there, even when it’s time to go to bed.  Fortunately, smelling the khimar one last time lets the little girl know that Mama’s love won’t ever go away. This story is perfect for reminding children that a mother’s love will always endure.

    I really enjoyed reading this story with my kids.  The pages dance with pastel colored illustrations that really make the story come alive.  Ebony Glenn’s illustrations doing a fantastic job showcasing the beauty of a timeless khimar.  My favorite thing about this book is the mother daughter bond that is displayed throughout.  It’s clear that the girl admires her mother and wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps.  I love the way the little girl expresses her affection for her mom and how much love is shown to the girl from her community: her dad, grandmother and other women at the mosque.

    Overall, I think Mommy’s Khimar beautifully captures the childhood of playing dress up and make believe while contextualizing it against the backdrop of the African American Muslim experience. Mommy’s Khimar can serve not only as a window for other cultures, but as a mirror for Muslim-American children.  It may make many little girls want to snuggle up and read this book with their mother and spark meaningful conversations as their mother shares stories about each one of her beloved khimars.