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a book and a craft

    a book and a craft, book reviews, children's books

    Island Pride: Teaching Children to Keep Their Culture Alive Through Books

    Disclaimer: I partnered with the publisher and joined the Penguin Young Readers blog tour in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    Islandborn
    by Junot Diaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa

    Understanding who we are is maybe one of life’s biggest questions. Knowing where we came from is extremely important. It impacts who we are, how we think, what we believe, how we interact with others, what we think is possible for ourselves, whether we view the world as good or bad, what we strive for. Our history—our upbringing—impacts everything we think, believe and do.

    Keeping your culture (or native language) alive at home will reinforce in your children a sense of identity and will build their self-esteem. Children benefit from learning to value their roots and their culture. Children must be taught that we are all different and that differences must not only be accepted but also celebrated and that their culture (and language) is something they have to take pride in.

    One way of helping children appreciate diversity is to teach them about different cultures through books.  It’s important for children to learn each culture is unique but equally important and valuable. Respecting others begins by respecting ourselves and our heritage.

    When I first learned about Junot Diaz’s children’s book I was estatic!  Even though I wasn’t born on an island (I was born in the US), my mother was born in Jamaica and so was my husband and his family.  Therefore, we take pride in celebrating our Jamaican culture.

    In the book Islandborn, a little girl named Lola longs to remember the island where she was born for her school homework assignment. Thankfully, with the help of family and friends Lola’s imagination takes her on a journey back to the island.  As she talks to different people, Lola uses her sketchbook to write down simple phrases to help her remember.  Finally in the end, Lola goes home and draws pictures of everything she wrote down and creates a gorgeous book for her class assignment.

    The book never explicitly states which island Lola is from, but I assume it’s the Dominican Republic where Junot Diaz emigrated from based on a magnet placed on the refrigerator in one of the illustrations.  There is also mention of a “monster” that fell upon the island for thirty years which is likely a metaphor for Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo.

    Although I think the text is quite wordy for a picture book aimed at readers ages 5-8, I liked this book for several different reasons:

    • The thing that stood out the most to me is there are no White characters featured in this book.  You will also see a variety of diverse character names like: Mai, India, Camila, Matteo, Nu, Leticia, Dalia, etc.
    • Each page is frame worthy – the illustrations are bursting with bright, beautiful colors
    • The overall messages of understanding and appreciating where you came from and your family history rings loud and clear
    • It challenges children to use their imagination
    • By Lola understanding her past, it will no doubt give her future wisdom-filled direction

    After reading Islandborn, the kids completed a Jamaican word search puzzle, colored a family tree picture and we made Jamaican flags using construction paper.  A fun way to reflect on the story, our family history and explore the island of Jamaica.

    Reading this book may help remind little readers of who they are, what motivates them, and what their purpose is. It reminded me of that little kid I was—the one who dreamed big, feared little, and enjoyed the simple things in life. Islandborn reminds me of what really matters: family, building great friendships and relationships, and taking pride in your heritage and culture.

    Your turn: How do you teach your kids to keep their culture alive and take pride in where they came from?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    AUTHOR
    Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. A graduate of Rutgers University, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
    ILLUSTRATOR
    Leo Espinosa is an award-winning illustrator and designer from Bogotá, Colombia, whose work has been featured in The New YorkerWiredEsquireThe New York TimesThe Atlantic, and more. Leo’s illustrations have been recognized by American Illustration, Communication Arts, Pictoplasma, 3×3, and the Society of Illustrators. Leo lives with his family in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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    a book and a craft, book reviews, multicultural children's book day

    Drum Dream Girl: A Book Review #ReadYourWorld

    Happy Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

    I am so excited to be chosen as a Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD) reviewer this year!

    The book I was sent to review is Drum Dream Girl written by Margarita Engle and beautifully illustrated by Rafael Lopez.  Although I previously read this book with the kids before, I was delighted to receive a copy to add to our home library!

    Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle
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    This book is based on the true story of a young girl named Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban who broke down barriers for female drummers in Cuba in the 1930s.  Back in those days, there was an unwritten rule that stated girls cannot be drummers.  No one dared to question that rule – that is until little Millo came along.  She thought both boys and girls should be free to play the drums, but everyone else disagreed including her father.

    Millo dreamed of pounding tall congas and tapping small bongós.  She hoped her dream would some day come true, but until that day came, she kept on dreaming and practicing in secret on her own.  Millo’s father understood how much his daughter loves playing the drums, so one day he finds her a teacher who helps to perfect her drumming skills.  Finally, Millo is ready to play the drums in a cafe on the street to show that girls can play drums too.  It was during that performance that everyone decided that indeed both girls and boys should be free to drum and dream.

    It was refreshing to revisit this book with the kids.  They really liked all the bold colors and illustrations and I loved the overall message which tells children to follow their dreams.  It was interesting to hear my daughter say, “Look Mommy, I can play the drums!” as she ran off and got her drum set right after I finished reading the book.  It’s amazing how far we’ve come from the 1930s when it was taboo for women and girls to have the freedom to do the things their hearts desired.

    Extension Activities
    There are lots of different extension activities you can do with kids after reading this book.  Below are two examples.

    Have a Discussion

    • Talk about the idea that only boys should play drums.  Do you think it’s unfair or reasonable?
    • Talk about different things that people today think is only for boys or only for girls.

    Make a Drum (or another musical instrument)!
    Since the Chinese New Year is coming up, we decided to do a Chinese drum craft activity using paper plates.  It was fun!  We got the idea from Pinterest.

    Here’s what we used:

    • Two paper plates (or bowls)
    • Paint (we used red and gold glitter paint)
    • Paintbrush
    • Glue gun (or stapler)
    • 1 craft stick
    • Yarn
    • Two buttons (you can also use jingle bells)

    FullSizeRender

    Want to learn more about the Multicultural Children’s Book Day organization?
    Our mission:  The MCCBD team’s mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

    The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia and Valarie here.

    Platinum Sponsors: Story Quest Books.Wisdom Tales PressLil’ Libros

    Gold Sponsors: Candlewick PressTori Nighthawk: Don’t Judge A Bird By its FeathersBharat Babies

    Silver Sponsors:Lee & Low BooksChronicle BooksCapstone Young ReadersChina Institute.orgTuttle PublishingNY Media Works, LLC/KidLit TV

    Bronze Sponsors: Jacqueline Woodson, Pomelo BooksPapa Lemon BooksGoosebottom Books LLCAuthor Gleeson Rebello, M.D .Shout Mouse PressMahvash ShaheghLiveOak Media

    Our CoHosts
    Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing co-Hosts and you can view them here.

    Classroom Reading Challenge: Help spread the word on our Classroom Reading Challenge . This very special offering from MCCBD offers teachers and classrooms the chance to (very easily) earn a free hardcover multicultural children’s book for their classroom library. These books are not only donated by the Junior Library Guild, but they are pre-screened and approved by them as well.

    What we could really use some help with is spreading the word to your teacher/librarian/classroom connections so we can get them involved in this program. There is no cost to teachers and classrooms and we’ve made the whole process as simple as possible. You can help by tweeting the below info:

    Teachers! Earn a FREE #Multicultural Kids Book for Your Classroom! #teachers, #books #teacherlife
    http://ow.ly/UUy96

    The Classroom Reading Challenge has begun! Teachers can earn a free diversity book! #teachers, #books
    http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/?p=1796

    Connect with MCCBD!
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MulticulturalChildrensBookDay
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/MCChildsBookDay
    Official Hashtag:  #ReadYourWorld

    Multicultural_Paint_R.LiuTrujillo2-240x300

    Your turn:  How will you be celebrating Multicultural Children’s Book Day with your little readers?  Feel free share in the comments.

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    a book and a craft

    A Book and a Craft: Where the Wild Things Are

    It’s true that we are HUGE fans of activities and crafts based on children’s books.  I love taking the kids to the library for our weekly story time which is usually followed by a craft project.  I also incorporate crafts at home with the kids throughout the month.

    Today I’m sharing a craft inspired by the book, Where the Wild Things Are by Maruice Sendak.  This craft was easy to put together and took about 20 minutes to assemble from start to finish.  This would be a great craft to do at a play date, as it uses only a few items (easy set-up is bonus for a mom hosting a play date!) and these paper plate crafts are fun for acting out the story in a small group.  We had a blast making our craft and using it in retelling the book Where the Wild Things Are.



    I didn’t do a tutorial for this because I wasn’t actually planning to write a blog post about this.  As I mentioned, it’s pretty straightforward to put this together so you shouldn’t have any trouble.

    To make this craft you’ll need:

    • 1 small tan colored paper plate (or you could use a white plate and color/paint it tan)
    • brown felt cut into strips
    • adhesive foam shapes (for the eyes, nose, ears and teeth)
    • scissors (for cutting the felt)
    • glue or double-sided tape
    Steps:1. Place the paper plate on your work surface with the tan side up.

    2. Remove the sticker backing from the adhesive foam shapes and adhere them to the paper plate.
    3. Glue the felt strips around the outer edge of the paper plate.Your turn:  Do you and your kids work on book related craft activities together?  Feel free to let me know in the comments.

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