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    You’re Strong With Me by Chitra Soundar & Poonam Mistry (Blog Tour)

    Published by Lantana Publishing Pages: 40
    Format: Hardcover
    Source: Lantana Publishing
    Buy on Amazon
    four-half-stars

    The rain clouds are long gone and the dry season scorches the land. Everything is new for the baby giraffe. As she bounds ahead and lags behind, her mother patiently explains the ways of the grasslands. And until she grows a little taller, older, and wiser, her mother reminds her: “You’re strong with me.”

    Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of You’re Strong With Me from the publisher to review and enjoy with our family in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Reflection

    Throughout human and animal history, mothers and their babies have been known to be connected in beneficial ways. By staying close to their mothers, infants receives protection, warmth, emotional reassurance, and breast milk – in just the forms and quantities that nature intended.

    In the book, You’re Strong With Me, readers are introduced to a mother and baby giraffe.  The baby giraffe questions different things like an oxpecker that flies onto her mother’s back and birds flying towards a fire in the tall grass.  Each time baby giraffe asks a question, her mother says, “Until then, you’re strong with me.”  This reassures the baby giraffe and seems to give her the confidence to keep exploring and learning from her mother.

    After reading this book, I immediately thought about a video I recently saw that featured a mother giraffe giving birth.  It was unlike any birth I had ever seen!  The baby giraffe fell from its mother’s womb, about 5-8 feet above the ground.  The baby was shriveled up lying still on the ground, still too weak to move.  Then the mother giraffe lovingly lowered her neck as if to kiss the baby giraffe. And then something incredible happened!  She lifted her long leg and kicked the baby giraffe, sending it flying up in the air and tumbling down on the ground. The mother continued to do this over and over again until the baby giraffe learned to stand on its feet.  Baby giraffes must learn quickly to stand and run with the pack.  Otherwise, they will have no chance of survival.  Most humans are not quite as lucky as baby giraffes. No one teaches us to stand up every time we fall. When we fail, when we are down, we just give up. No one kicks us out of our comfort zone to remind us that to survive and succeed, we need to learn to get back on our feet.


    You’re Strong With Me is a beautifully illustrated story about mother giraffe teaching her daughter about having instincts for survival in the wild.   Under her mother’s guidance, the baby giraffe begins to understand she must learn to be kind to certain animals, how to handle forest fires and how to pay attention to noises and quiet in their environment.  Ages 4-8 and up.

    A Word from the Illustrator Poonam Mistry + FREE Coloring Sheets to Download!

    Creating the artwork for ‘You’re Strong With Me’ was actually the hardest of the three to illustrate. The first two books from the series were very different.  I really wanted to create something that almost was a combination of the two: something that showcased how incredibly beautiful the African Savanna is, but also focused on the closeness of the relationship of the calf and her mother.

    Patterns and Research
    My Dad was born in Kenya and so around my parent’s house they have a lot of ornaments and wall art inspired by Africa. This really helped at the beginning stages of the book when I first received the manuscript for the story.  For this book in the series, I researched a lot of patterns found on African textiles and art. I really wanted to make sure (like I had done with the previous two books) that the patterns I was using reflected the origins of where the story was set. I used a lot of zigzags, diamonds, triangles and squares in the artwork, adding finer details later on in PhotoShop.

    Process
    This book involved at lot more drawing and sketching at the planning stage.  After the initial sketches, I drew out the final images in pencil around 1/3 larger than the actual size. I transferred these onto thicker cartridge paper and began to draw the final designs using ink pens (0.5mm minimum). I prefer using ball tip pens just because I find the ink glides on better and creates more pigmented lines. Then, using the bank of patterns I had researched, I selected the patterns I thought would work best and applied them to the drawing.  After these were completed, I scanned them onto the computer and used PhotoShop to apply colour and adjust the composition.  It took a long time to get the shape and proportions of the giraffe correct. Originally, I was going to cover them in giraffe print, but I wanted to do something a little different with them. In the end, I decided on creating individual patterns for the giraffe and her calf using triangles.

    Colours
    Usually I pick a small palette of colours to work on throughout the whole book before I have even begun drawing. For ‘You’re Strong With Me’, I really wanted to make sure the palette was warm with lots of golden oranges, yellows and browns to reflect and capture the hot climate there. As the story features a creek I selected a small set of tortoise blues too but only added accents of them throughout the book where needed.

    Hidden gems
    The African Savanna is full of the most amazing wildlife and insects. I really wanted to highlight this in the book so many of the pages have hidden birds or insects in them. With this specific book they are particularly camouflaged with their surroundings. I hope this will give further opportunities for little ones to spend more time exploring the art and discovering something new.

    Download the FREE giraffe coloring sheets designed by illustrator Poonam Mistry HERE and HERE!

    You’re Strong With Me’ is available for purchase in North American bookshops on October 1, 2019 and in UK bookshops on October 3, 2019.  For every book purchased on the website, Lantana Publishing donates a book to children’s hospitals via Read for Good UK.

     

     

    four-half-stars
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    The Pirate Tree by Brigita Orel (Blog Tour)

    Published by Lantana Publishing on September 3, 2019
    Format: Hardcover
    Source: Lantana Publishing
    Buy on Amazon
    four-half-stars

    The gnarled tree on the hill sometimes turns into a pirate ship. A rope serves as an anchor, a sheet as a sail, and Sam is its fearless captain. But one day another sailor approaches, and he's not from Sam's street. Can they find something more precious than diamonds and gold? Can they find . . . friendship?

    the pirate tree

    Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of The Pirate Tree from the publisher to review and enjoy with our family in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Friends are an important part of everyone’s life. For children who recently arrive in a new country, state or town, making friends is even more significant. Friendship can help ease a child’s transition and enhance their learning and social development.

    As beautifully demonstrated in the book The Pirate Tree, making new friends can sometimes be a challenging and uncomfortable experience.  When newcomer Agu tries to make friends with Sam, Agu doesn’t immediately feel welcome after asking if he can play pirate ship with her.

    I don’t know you.  You’re not from my street.  Agu’s face falls.  He watches her struggle with a thick rope.  No one wants to play with him because he’s a newcomer.

    Initially, Sam is unsure about Agu, but then she finds out he’s from Nigeria and that he sailed on a ship before.  Once Sam begins to open up and get to know a little more about Agu, she invites him aboard her make believe pirate ship and they embark on a journey towards friendship.

    The Pirate Tree teaches readers to encourage inclusions among new friends and connect through conversations.  Sam and Agu were quickly able to establish things they had in common which led to an invitation to play together.  A delightful story about finding a kindred spirit and discovering a new friend.  Available for purchase now from Lantana Publishing.  Ages 5 – 8.

    four-half-stars
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    Unicorns 101 by Cale Atkinson Blog Tour

    Unicorns 101 on September 3, 2019
    Pages: 32
    Format: Hardcover
    Buy on Amazon

    Unicorns! You love them, but how much do you really know about them? Join Professors Glitter Pants, Sprinkle Steed, Star Hoof, and Sugar Beard, plus their trusty lab assistant, Pete, as they reveal mind-blowing unicorn facts never before available to the public! Full of eye-popping illustrations and nonstop, sidesplitting laughs—plus a removable Unicorn Scientist diploma at the end of the book—Unicorns 101 will have children eager to enroll, time and time again!

    Unicorns continue to remain popular magical creatures among kids and readers of all ages.  With their magic powers, glitter and sparkles, it’s no surprise that people continue to be obsessed with unicorns year after year.

    We enjoyed reading this funny and engaging book to help spark imagination and get a crash course in all things unicorn.  If you have a unicorn lover check this one out!  Recommended for ages 3-7 and up.

    View the Book Trailer

     

    About the Author

    CALE ATKINSON is an author-illustrator and animator whose titles include Where Oliver FitsTo the SeaOff and Away, and Sir Simon: Super Scarer. He lives lakeside with his family in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. See more of Cale’s work at Cale.ca, and follow him on Twitter.

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    Llama Llama Mess, Mess, Mess by Anna Dewdney Blog Tour

    Published by Penguin Kids Format: Hardcover
    Source: Penguin Kids

    Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    About the Book
    Age Range:
     2 – 5 years
    Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
    Hardcover: 40 pages
    Publication Date: August 27, 2019

    ORDER LINK
    Click here!

    Synopsis
    Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama is growing up, but he still loves to play with all his toys! When Mama Llama says it’s time to clean up, Llama responds like any child more interested in playing than cleaning . . . by ignoring her! But Mama has an imaginative response of her own. What if she never cleaned? What would happen then? Well, Llama Llama is going to find out! Here is a truly funny take on a childhood chore that all children will relate to and laugh at! And it is sure to be helpful to get kids cleaning up!

    Reflection
    I’ve always loved cleanliness and organization ever since I was a kid.  I guess today I would be categorized as having a bit of OCD and I’m totally okay with that.  I was taught that “there is a place for everything, and everything should be in its place.”  I still believe this today and teach it to my kids now that they’re older.

    When the kids were younger it was hard to keep up with having the house as tidy as I usually like it to be.  It wasn’t worth it for me to keep picking up after the kids when it would get messy again within minutes.  I learned to just let things go.  However, now the kids are old enough to know better and understand what it means to have a messy house or a messy room just like Llama Llama.

    It’s cleaning day in the book Llama Llama Mess, Mess, Mess and all Llama wants to do is play with his toys instead of helping his mom clean up.  In order to teach Llama good cleaning habits Mama Llama shows him what would happen if she stopped cleaning the house.  Llama sees his mother taking the clean clothes out of the dryer and throwing them in the air, wearing blankets on her head, and making forts with mops and brooms.  Pretty soon, everything’s in disarray and Llama has no place to play.  That’s when he decides to work together with Mama Llama to clean up the mess.

    I love how Mama Llama taught Llama the importance of keeping the place where you live clean by pretending to have bad habits herself.  It wasn’t until Llama witnessed his mother’s messiness that he understood there was no space left for him to play.  Mama Llama did a great job teaching Llama the basic concept of “everything in its place” and working together as a team.

    I believe once children can see everything in its place they are able to understand where something belongs.  Llama quickly understood this which helped get one step closer to keeping his own room clean. Half the battle for a child is not understanding where things should go and how to keep them organized without having it demonstrated for them.

    If you’re having trouble teaching your kids how to keep their rooms clean, be sure to check out Llama Llama Mess, Mess, Mess for some inspiration.  Ages 2-5.

    About the Author
    Anna Dewdey passed away in September 2016, at the age of fifty from cancer. A teacher, mother, and enthusiastic proponent of reading aloud to children, she continually honed her skills as an artist and writer and published her first Llama Llama book in 2005. Her passion for creating extended to home and garden and she lovingly restored an 18th century farmhouse in southern Vermont. She wrote, painted, gardened, and lived there with her partner, Reed, her two daughters, two wirehaired pointing griffons, and one bulldog. Anna was a warm-hearted, wonderful, wise soul who will be forever missed, but whose spirit lives on in her books.

    Your turn: What are some of your tips to teach children to keep their room clean?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    Titan and the Wild Boars: The True Cave Rescue of the Thai Soccer Team by Susan Hood and Pathana Sornhiran

    Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Titan and the Wild Boars: The True Cave Rescue of the Thai Soccer Team by Susan Hood and Pathana Sornhiran, Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
    Publisher: HarperCollins
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 48
    Age Range: 4 – 8

    Synopsis
    One afternoon, eleven-year-old Titan, his friends from the Wild Boars soccer team, and their coach rode their bikes to explore local caves. They crawled through the narrow tunnels in the dark to reach the center of the cave. When they turned to go home, heavy rains had flooded the tunnel. They were trapped!

    With rising waters and monsoon season upon them, time and oxygen were running out. The world watched with bated breath as rescuers from around the globe joined forces to try to free the boys. After eighteen harrowing days, in an unprecedented effort of international teamwork, they were finally saved.

    Reflection
    Eleven-year-old Chanin grew up being obsessed with soccer.  At the age of six he started playing and joined the Wild Boars soccer team a few short years later.  Nicknamed “Titan” by his family after the powerful giants of Greek mythology, he was known for his strength which made him an asset to the team.

    On June 23, 2018 Titan and eleven of his teammates entered the Tham Luang Nang Non Caves along with their soccer coach in search of adventure. The storied “hidden city” within the cave excited the boys so they went in search of it.  Little did they know they’d be spending 18 days trapped (June 23 – July 10) there underground surrounded by stone cold water and little oxygen with no food.

    While reading this book I felt a range of different emotions from sadness to nervousness to sheer excitement!  This story is not only captivating, but it’s informative too.  It’s so interesting to read the details about how the team members all made it out alive.  What an incredible journey for the soccer team, their coach and all of the rescuers/volunteers involved!  This is an amazing story of bravery, perseverance, teamwork and community.  The illustrations by Dow Phumiruk are so vivid will take your breath away.  Each illustration really helps to bring the story to life.

    The back matter has more information about the cave rescue including a timeline and other fascinating facts.  For example: while being trapped in the cave, four of the boys missed their birthdays.  There is also a brief interview with British divers Chris Jewell and Jason Mallinson.  An inspiring non-fiction book not to be missed this year.

    Watch the Book Trailer!

    About the Authors
    Susan Hood is the award-winning author of many books for young readers, including Ada’s Violin, Shaking Things Up, and Lifeboat 12. She is the recipient of the 2017 E.B. White Honor Award, the 2017 Christopher Award, the 2017 Américas Award, and the 2017 Bank Street Flora Steiglitz Straus Award, given annually to “a distinguished work of nonfiction which serves as an inspiration to young people.” Visit susanhoodbooks.com.

    Pathana Sornhiran was born in Bangkok, Thailand, where she attended the Faculty of Arts at Chulalongkorn University with a major in English and French. She later completed her master’s degree in journalism in London, UK and now works as a journalist in Asia, traveling across the region to find and tell stories that matter.

    About the Illustrator 
    Dow Phumiruk was born in Bangkok, Thailand and came to the United States with her family when she was very young. Her mother was a nurse, and her father, a retired Royal Thai Air Force captain. He worked for Thai Airways for many years, which allowed her family many trips back to Thailand when she was younger. Dow currently lives in Colorado with her husband and three daughters. She is an author and illustrator of children’s books and has been a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators since 2011. Dow is also a general pediatrician who teaches medical students part time. When she is not creating or teaching, she likes to hike the trails near her home. Visit her at artbydow.blogspot.com

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    Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry (Book Review) + Natural Hair Tips & Techniques

    Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

    Publisher: Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 32
    Age Range: 4 – 8
    Grade Level: Preschool – 3

    Synopsis
    It’s up to Daddy to give his daughter an extra-special hair style in this ode to self-confidence and the love between fathers and daughters, from former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry and New York Times bestselling illustrator Vashti Harrison.

    Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he’ll do anything to make her — and her hair — happy.

    Reflection
    Twist outs. Braid outs. Wash and Gos. Bantu knots. Locs. Afros. Braids. Top Knots. Ponytails.  Today’s natural haired beauties are embracing their kinks, coils and curls more than ever before to express their style.  Just ask little Zuri.  She wants to have the perfect hairstyle to welcome her mother home.  Armed with an iPad, hair products and her dad, she ends up finding the perfect look.

    I adore this book for so many reasons.  First, it showcases a Black father in a positive light bonding with his daughter doing her hair.  We don’t see this enough, especially in the Black community.  I personally think a father caring for his daughter’s hair isn’t a loss of masculinity.  In fact, I think women admire men even more who take the initiative to learn how to do hair.  I love how Zuri’s dad steps up to the plate and figures out what needs to be done to do his daughter’s hair in his wife’s absence.

    With the help of social media, Zuri’s father learns how to comb, part, oil, twist, and style Zuri’s hair.  This experience allowed Zuri to bond with her dad in an entirely new way, and likely instilled a deep pride about the heritage in her hair.

    One thing I notice with my husband is he likes to bond with our kids by playing, roughhousing, teaching them a skill or a sport.  But Hair Love shows that fathers talking to their daughters about their hair is an entirely new way to bond. Just like my daughter, many girls love to see and spend time with their dad.  So when a father actually does a good job on his daughter’s hair she’ll likely respond with, “Yeah, my daddy did my hair!”…now that’s bonding.

    I also love how Zuri’s dad tells her that her hair is beautiful.

    Daddy tells me it is beautiful.  That makes me proud.  I love that my hair lets me be me!

    When I was younger I remember people used to always use the word “nappy” to describe natural Black hair.  That word was thrown around a lot during my childhood by children and grown-ups and I never liked it.  Since becoming an adult and embracing my own natural hair, I no longer use that word to describe my hair or anyone else’s natural hair.  You have to be mindful of the things you say to children and teach them about self-love at an early age like Zuri’s dad.

    I also think Hair Love does a great job showing readers that being a father is much more than being able to provide for a family financially.  Fatherhood sometimes encompasses: cooking, cleaning, AND doing hair.  It may also involve showing your daughter how to love herself completely inside and out, how to appreciate her natural beauty, and love everything about herself. Those are things that sometimes men (and women) really don’t think about as being a father.

    Lastly, the adorable illustrations by Vashti Harrison make this book a ten on the cuteness scale.  Just look at how adorable the front cover is!  As always, Vashti does an outstanding job telling the story through her stunning illustrations.  A winner!

    Hair Tips & Techniques

    • Learn your daughter’s hair type and what will work best in styling her hair.
    • Create or find a regimen that works your daughter’s hair and lifestyle. Once you find what works KEEP DOING IT.  Consistency is key to growing beautiful, natural hair.
    • Find people within your family and friends and talk to them about maintenance if you’re unsure.
    • Utilize social media when necessary.  There is a wealth of information online.  You can find easy, child-friendly tutorials as well as product reviews.
    • Browse the hashtag #naturalhair or #naturalhairkids on any social media platform and all kinds of helpful information will be in the palm of your hand.

    About the Author

    Chicago native Matthew A. Cherry is a former NFL wide receiver turned filmmaker who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, and the Baltimore Ravens. In 2007 he retired and moved to LA to pursue a career in entertainment. Now, he directs music videos and short films, including “Hair Love,” the animated short film on which this book is based. Matthew was named to Paste Magazine‘s list of Directors to Watch in 2016.

    About the Illustrator

    Vashti Harrison is the author-illustrator of the New York Times bestselling picture book Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, which is also a NAACP Image Award winner. She earned her BA from the University of Virginia with a double major in Media Studies and Studio Art, and received her MFA in Film and Video from CalArts where she snuck into Animation classes to learn from Disney and Dreamworks legends. There she rekindled a love for drawing and painting. Now, utilizing both skill sets, she is passionate about crafting beautiful stories in both the film and picture book worlds.

    Your turn: How do you teach your children to love their hair?  What natural hair tips and techniques would you add to this list?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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