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    Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story (A Book Review)

    Published by MacMillian Format: Hardcover
    Source: MacMillian
    Buy on Amazon
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    Told in lively and powerful verse by debut author Kevin Noble Maillard, Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern Native American family, vibrantly illustrated by Pura Belpre Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Juana Martinez-Neal.

    Reflection
    Fry bread.  Of all the foods most commonly associated with Native American culture, fry bread has long been at the center of the table.  It is a food that was born out of desperation and survival that no one could have predicted it would be the become a touchstone of Native American culture.  I think in order to truly understand and appreciate the beauty of the book Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, you must first learn about the complicated history of fry bread.

    Fry bread is a flat dough bread, fried or deep-fried in oil, shortening, or lard. It is tradition to the Navajo people, who are the largest federally recognized Native American Indian tribe in the United States.  Frybread was first used in 1864 using the flour, sugar, salt and lard that was given to the Navajo tribe by the United States government when the Navajo, who were living in Arizona, were forced to make the 300 mile journey known as the “Long Walk” and move to Bosque Redondo, in New Mexico, onto land that could not be farmed with their traditional foods, which were vegetables and beans.

    The Navajo had been forced to move because of the pioneers who came to the southwestern area where the Navajos lived. The pioneers wanted the land and resources to themselves, so they drove the Navajos out of their homes violently, and, as is said, forced them to walk 300 miles to where they would be held in camps.  The camps they were put into had meager supplies, so the U.S. government sent them supplies to make the food that is now known as fry bread.  Since the Navajos no longer had access to fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables, they used what they had in order to survive.  And that is how fry bread came to be.   Fry bread is important to Native American culture, because it represents the perseverance,  and pain the Navajo people went through.

    Now that you know this history, let me tell you about this book that I’ve now included in my list of Top 10 picture books of 2019.  Yes, it’s that great…trust me!

    Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story is so much more than a story about food.  From the illustrations to the end papers to the back matter, this is a simple, yet phenomenal story about food, history, culture, diversity, resourcefulness, perseverance, family and community.

    As soon as you open up the book,  you are immediately drawn in with the mesmerizing end papers.  The end papers list the 573 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States.  This is so powerful to me as I honestly had no idea there were so many tribes in the United States.

    The story is told in simple, lyrical text.  Readers learn that fry bread is a food, it’s a shape, it’s sound, it’s history and more.  In short, readers learn that fry bread is an important symbol of the Native American culture.  At the end of the book, readers are invited into the story with the simple phrases, “Fry bread is you.”, “Fry bread is us.”  The back matter has a recipe for fry bread, an author’s note and more detailed information about fry bread.

    This book shows us that food helps to bring people together.  Food has the power to connect people.  Sometimes, sharing a meal together gives us a safe space to talk about our days, our ups and downs, our fears and anxieties, our joys and successes.  Food also allows us to learn and share about different cultures.  Not only does cultural expression through food allow us to be exposed to new flavors, but it also allows us to become more aware of each other’s cultural background and the food that comes with it.  In essence, food gives us comfort.  Although the Navajo people were only given meager supplies by the pioneers, they found comfort in eating fry bread.  It helped fuel and nourish their bodies and allowed them to keep going despite the odds they faced.

    Coming together and sharing a meal is the most communal and binding thing in almost every place in the world.  As witnessed so beautifully in this story, being able to make a dish and share it with the people you love is one of the most universal concepts because it’s at the root of survival.  Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story shows as that even when times are tough and painful, the urge to survive and persevere endures.

    After reading this book, I learned some modern Native Americans have a troubled relationship with fry bread.  While it is symbolic of their people’s darkest time, it is also viewed as their ingenuity and ability to survive despite the odds.  Whatever the larger cultural agreement is, among Native Americans I still think this is an amazing story that should be be on children’s bookshelves’ in homes and schools worldwide.

    Your turn: What are your thoughts on the history of fry bread?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    10+ Picture Book Recommendations to Celebrate Filipino American History Month

    October is recognized as Filipino American History Month, where the contributions of the Filipino and Filipino American community are celebrated in the United States.  The month of October was chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Filipinos who landed in what is now Morro Bay, California on October 18, 1587.

    In celebration of Filipino American History Month, I’ve compiled a list of a few books to add to your bookshelf or read, whether you’re Filipino or not.  Enjoy!

    Oh My Kulay!: Colors, Fruits and Veggies in Filipino by Jocelyn Francisco, illustrated by Jamie Lee Ortiz

    Children typically have no difficulty learning English and adapting to the culture of the country they live in because they are immersed in it. Oh My Kulay will introduce and help children acquire their colors using vegetables and fruits in Tagalog/Filipino – the official language of The Philippines.

    Hand Over Hand by Alma Fullerton, illustrated by Renné Benoit

    Nina can’t convince her lolo to take her fishing on the old banca boat with him. Lolo’s reply is the same as always: “A boat is no place for a girl.” When Nina promises to bait her own hook and remove her own catch, her grandfather finally relents, “just for today.” Much to the amusement of the other fishermen in their Filipino village, Lolo shows Nina how to jig the lines, set the hook and pull in a fish hand over hand. But no one is laughing when Nina brings in the biggest fish of the day!

    Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong by Dawn B. Mabalon, PhD & Gayle Romasanta, illustrated by Andre Sibayan

    This book  tells the story of labor leader and co-founder of the United Farm Workers Larry Itliong’s lifelong fight for a farmworkers union, and the birth of one of the most significant American social movements of all time, the farmworker’s struggle, and its most enduring union, the United Farm Workers.  Ages 8 and up.

    Pagtulog Na, Nene: A Hiligaynon Lullaby, illustrated by Hermes Alegre

    A gentle Hiligaynon Lullaby to help transport little ones off to the land of sleep.

    Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore, illustrated by Kristi Valiant


    Cora loves being in the kitchen, but she always gets stuck doing the kid jobs like licking the spoon. One day, however, when her older sisters and brother head out, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama’s assistant chef. And of all the delicious Filipino dishes that dance through Cora’s head, she and Mama decide to make pancit, her favorite noodle dish.

    With Mama’s help, Cora does the grown-up jobs like shredding the chicken and soaking the noodles (perhaps Mama won’t notice if she takes a nibble of chicken or sloshes a little water on the floor). Cora even gets to stir the noodles in the pot—carefully– while Mama supervises. When dinner is finally served, her siblings find out that Cora did all their grown-up tasks, and Cora waits anxiously to see what everyone thinks of her cooking.

    Willie Wins by Almira Astudillo Gilles, illustrated by Carl Angel

    The story of a Filipino American boy who overcomes peer pressure and learns about family love and heritage from his father.

    Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella by Myrna J. de la Paz, illustrated by Youshan Tang

    Set in the exotic islands of the Philippines, this Cinderella retelling tale captures the mystical charm of the indigenous culture of the Filipinos.

    Filipino Celebrations: A Treasury of Feasts and Festivals by Liana Romulo, illustrated by Corazon Dandan-Albano

    From these pages, children will learn the history of each holiday, its cultural influences, the varied ways in which people celebrate in different regions of the Philippines, special customs and food, key words and phrases (in English and Tagalog), and more. Games, songs, and other activities invite young readers to join in the fun. New and familiar holidays take on a special flavor as children learn about the diverse cultures that make up this wonderful island nation. Perfect for Filipino-American families looking to share the unique culture of the Philippines, educators interested in promoting multiculturalism in the classroom, or anyone interested in the country, Filipino Celebrations will encourage children ages five to ten to participate and learn while having fun.

    Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories by Liana Elena Romulo & Joanne de Leon

    Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories presents thirteen well-loved myths and tales from the Philippines. These stories will enchant 5 to 14-year-old readers around the world with their wit and charm. Many of the tales have been transmitted from mother to child over centuries, and cover classic childhood themes—such as the forces of good triumphing over evil, children rebelling against evil adults and the weak prevailing over the strong. They make perfect new additions for story time or bedtime reading.

    Pan de Sal Saves the Day by Norma Olizon-Chikiamco, illustrated by Mark Salvatus

    Pan de Sal Saves the Day: A Filipino Children’s Story is an award-winning, inspiring tale for young children everywhere. It’s the story of a young girl named Pan de Sal who lives in the Philippines and thinks she’s the unluckiest girl in the whole world. Aside from not liking her own name and finding her appearance strange, she doesn’t have all the fancy things her classmates have. She can’t even muster the courage to try out for the Glee Club, even though she has a beautiful voice.

    Things change suddenly when an unexpected event forces her into the limelight. With her innate talent and resourcefulness, Pan de Sal wins the admiration of her classmates and finds the confidence she needs to fulfill her dreams.

    For anyone who has ever felt like an outsider or experienced adversity, Pan de Sal Saves the Day teaches children to see the unique qualities in everything and everyone, even themselves.

    Filipino Friends by Liana Romulo, illustrated by Corazon Dandan-Albano

    A delightful book about Filipino-American boy visiting the Philippines for the very first time.

    Isa, Dalawa, Tatlo…Ito Ay Obalo!: Numbers and Shapes in Filipino Jocelyn Francisco, illustrated by Jamie Lee Ortiz


    Isa, Dalawa, Tatlo…Ito Ay Obalo! is part of a series that will introduce the Filipino language to keep the Filipino culture and language alive and reinforce a sense of identity. It is important that children learn that we are all different and that differences must not only be accepted but also celebrated; their culture and language is something they can be proud of.

     

     

    Your turn: Do you have a favorite Filipino children’s book you love?  Feel free to share your recommendations below!

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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.

     

     

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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.

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    Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o (A Book Review)

    Sulwe Published by Simon Kids on October 15, 2019
    Format: Hardcover
    Source: Simon Kids
    Buy on Amazon
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    Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything. In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

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

    Having lighter skin has long been a status symbol and is still seen as “superior” by many people around the world. However, thanks to the introduction of affirming songs like Beyonce’s “Brown Skin Girl” and books like Lupita Nyong’o’s forthcoming release Sulwe; Black girls and women everywhere are unapologetically adoring themselves for who they are inside and out.

    Sulwe, which means “star” in the Kenyan language Luo, introduces readers to a young girl named Sulwe who is the darkest person in her family. Sulwe wished she had light skin like her sister Mich who is the color of high noon. In an effort to try and lighten her skin, Sulwe uses a big eraser to try and rub off layers of her skin and she only eats the lightest, brightest foods like: bananas, white bread, and crackers. As a last effort, Sulwe decides to turn to God and pray for a miracle. She prays to wake up and have light skin and lots of friends just like her sister. When she wakes up the next morning and sees her prayer wasn’t answered she breaks down and tells her mother everything.

    Her mother gives her sage advice and reassures her she’s beautiful just the way she is. Later that night, Sulwe is visited by a shooting star who takes her on a quest which helps her learn to love and appreciate herself.

    Based on Lupita’s childhood, Sulwe will pull at your heartstrings and make you cheer at the end when Sulwe gains the strength to see the beauty and power in her own dark skin. The book may also spark some excellent conversations about colorism and the pressures women of color face to obtain Eurocentric standards of beauty. In a world where women and young girls still grow up with constant reminders that only light/fair skin is beautiful, I’m so glad books like this exist.

    The overall message of inspiring children to see their own unique beauty is powerful. Sulwe will undoubtedly plant seeds of sufficiency and adequacy in little Black girls’ minds and empower them to proudly say, “I Am Enough.” Publishes October 15, 2019 from Simon Kids, but available for pre-orders now.

    Your turn: Have you ever felt ashamed of your skin color like Sulwe?  Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

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    The Women Who Caught the Babies by Eloise Greenfield (A Book Review)

    The Women Who Caught the Babies Published by Alazar Press on September 1, 2019
    Format: Hardcover
    Source: Alazar Press
    Buy on Amazon
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    The Women Who Caught the Babies highlights important aspects of the training and work of African-American midwives and the ways in which they have helped, and continue to help, so many families by “catching” their babies at birth. The blend of Eloise Greenfield's poetry and Daniel Minter's art evokes heartfelt appreciation of the abilities of African-American midwifes over the course of time. The poem “Africa to America" begins the poetic journey. The poem “The Women" both heralds the poetry/art pairing and concludes it with a note of gratitude. Also included is a piece titled “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” which pays tribute to the midwife who caught newborn Eloise.

    In honor of Black Breastfeeding Week, I want to introduce you to this forthcoming September 2019 book: The Women Who Caught the Babies by Eloise Greenfield.  The book opens with a beautiful and informative five-page introduction by author Eloise Greenfield.  There are also a series of poems about African American midwives from the days of slavery to the early 2000s. The book closes with a poem about the midwife Miss Rovenia Mayo who caught Eloise Greenfield herself on the evening of May 17, 1929.

    The amazing illustrations in the book are done by illustrator Daniel Minter who was also caught by a midwife during his birth.  Minter said in a recent interview with Press Herald, “In those rural areas, you just did not have access to a hospital, for one thing,” Minter said in an interview. “And if there was one, hospitals didn’t accept black patients until recently. You didn’t have that as an easy option, so you had midwives.”

    The Women Who Caught the Babies traces the history of Black midwives and the critical role they played in improving the care and outcomes for Black families.  Midwives are prominent members of the community. They do more than just deliver babies, they are spiritual healers, family counselors, nutritionists, and postpartum doulas.  I think it’s wonderful books like this exist to teach readers about this rich tradition of African American midwives.  It has been carried across the Atlantic, kept alive and passed down from healer to healer, continuing through slavery and spread throughout the African diaspora.

    I’m so impressed with the attention to detail that was paid to this book to ensure its authenticity.  The archival photographs that appear in this book were digitally captured from a film called All my babies…a midwife’s own story by documentary filmmaker George C. Stoney.  I think this book is a winner for poetry lovers and those wanting to learn more about the important history of Black midwives.  Ages 9-12 and up.

    Fun fact: If you scan the QR code on the back cover of the book you can hear Eloise Greenfield read her introduction and poems from the book.  Give it a try…so cool!

     

    Note: For those who may want to support midwives and help spread the word, please consider supporting one of the resources listed below.  All of these organizations are doing incredible work for Black midwives.

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    Celebrate National Tooth Fairy Day: Diverse Picture Books About The Tooth Fairy & Teeth

    It’s National Tooth Fairy Day!  Celebrated twice a year on August 22nd and February 28th, National Tooth Fairy Day is a made up holiday that some look forward to celebrating.

    My kids and I usually celebrate by reading some of our favorite tooth fairy and tooth themed books.  This year the kids are also making their own tooth fairy pillows.  For reference, we’re following the instructions in this post for our inspiration.

    Below I’ve rounded up a list of a few books for kids that feature diverse characters.  I hope you’ll find a book or two to help you celebrate National Tooth Fairy Day with your little readers.

    Picture Books

    Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli

    A fun and interesting take on the tooth fairy!  Tallulah is not only a tooth fairy, she’s the founder and CEO of Teeth Titans, Incorporated.   While the story does have some adult humor throughout that may go over children’s heads, it’s refreshing to see such a diverse tooth fairy that has so much style!  Beautiful illustrations accompany this witty and creative story.

    Throw Your Tooth on the Roof by Selby Beeler

    Have you ever wondered how the children in other countries dispose of their baby teeth, when they fall out?  This book is a wonderful exploration of culture and what others do when they lose teeth.  In the book, readers will discover how children in many countries (Canada, America, Denmark, England, Mexico) dispose of their lost teeth.

    Did you know that in some parts of the world, children are instructed to throw their tooth on the roof?  Find out other interesting traditions like this one by checking out this book.

    How to Trick the Tooth Fairy by Erin Danielle Russell

    Little Kaylee loves pulling pranks so it’s no surprise that her favorite holiday is April Fool’s Day.  More than anything, Kaylee wants to prank the Tooth Fairy, but what happens when the Tooth Fairy pranks back?  You guessed it…a prank war breaks out between Kaylee and the Tooth Fairy.  They battle each other with bubblegum, water and more.  In the end, Kaylee and the Tooth Fairy learn to work together and become friends.

    I Lost My Tooth in Africa by Penda Diakit

    This is a cute story about a girl named Amina from Portland, Oregon who goes to visit her extended family in Mali, Africa.  On the plane Amina discovers that her tooth is loose.  Her father tells her that in Mali when you lose your tooth, you get a chicken!  This story allows readers to make comparisons between tooth traditions in America and Africa. Readers will learn that instead of receiving money for a tooth (like in America), children in Africa place their tooth under a gourd, in hopes that the African tooth fairy will deliver them laying hens.

    The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez by René Colato Laínez

    The Tooth Fairy has some competition.

    Meet El Ratón Pérez, the charming and adventurous mouse who collects children’s teeth in Spain and Latin America.

    When both the Tooth Fairy and El Ratón Pérez arrive to claim Miguelito’s tooth, sparks fly under the Mexican-American boy’s pillow. Who will rightfully claim his tooth?   This magical tale introduces a legendary Latino character to a new audience and provides a fresh take on the familiar childhood experience of losing one’s tooth.  Contains some Spanish words featured throughout with definitions in the back matter.

    Your turn: What are some of your favorite books about the Tooth Fairy or losing teeth for kids?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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