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    children's books, holiday books

    Kiss Me, I’m Irish!: 5 Diverse St. Patrick’s Day Picture Books

    I never really used to do much to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day besides wear the color green and cook corned beef and cabbage. If I really wanted to get fancy I’d eat a green bagel or drink a green smoothie.  However, since becoming a parent, St. Patrick’s Day is now all about shamrocks, rainbows, setting leprechaun traps, teaching the kids about the holiday and finding fun ways to celebrate the day.  Needless to say, Pinterest is my best friend.

    The kids and I also read a variety of St. Patrick’s Day themed books.  Here, I’ve listed 5 of our favorite St. Patty’s Day books that feature a diverse cast of characters.  Enjoy!

    How to Trap a Leprechaun

    Sue Fliess’s read-aloud text and Emma Randall’s whimsical illustrations will provide much fun for young readers eager to catch their very own leprechaun! But beware: leprechauns may leave you with nothing but a cardboard box and a shoe or two.

    How to Catch a Leprechaun

    You’ve been planning night and day, and finally you’ve created the perfect trap! Now all you need to do is wait. Is this the year you’ll finally catch the leprechaun? Start a St. Patrick’s Day tradition with this fun and lively children’s book.

    How to catch a leprechaun?
    It’s tougher than you think!
    He’ll turn your whole house upside down.
    He’s quicker than a wink!

    Hooray for St. Patrick’s Day!

    It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, and time to join in the celebration. Children can lift the flaps for interactive fun as they see the children in this book make holiday crafts, taste traditional Irish food, perform a play about Saint Patrick, and even march in a Saint Patrick’s Day parade. As an added bonus, they can search for the hidden leprechaun on each spread.

    St. Patrick’s Day

    Today in Mrs. Madoff’s class we all wore something green to school. Kate played the fiddle and we danced to Irish music. Then we learned about St. Patrick and many Irish tales and traditions. Now we know why there are no snakes in Ireland. Not every-one in school is all Irish like me, but we all can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day together!

    Fiona’s Luck

    The greedy Leprechaun King has locked away all the luck in Ireland and the whole country has fallen in to despair. Through clever charades, Fiona outwits the Leprechaun King and restores luck to the land.

    Your turn: How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with your children?  What books would you add to this list?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books, holiday books

    Love Is by Diane Adams (A Book Review)

    Love Is by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane

    Publisher: Chronicle Books
    Pages: 32
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 2-5 years old
    Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
    Available for Sale: January 24, 2017

    Perfect for Valentine’s Day—or any tender moment—this story of a girl and a duckling who share a touching year together will melt hearts old and young. In this tenderly funny book, girl and duckling grow in their understanding of what it is to care for each other, discovering that love is as much about letting go as it is about holding tight. Children and parents together will adore this fond exploration of growing up while learning about the joys of love offered and love returned.

    What exactly is love? How do you define it?  One definition I remember learning at a young age is: love is caring for others without any regard to what you get in return.

    It seems most people have a different definition of the word love. And we are all correct in our own way, right?  I think Love Is does an amazing job teaching the smallest readers the meaning of the word love through playful text and whimsical illustrations.

    You guys, I think this book is beyond adorable.  I am completely smitten with it!  After a little duckling follows a butterfly out of a park, a little brown-skinned girl sporting the cutest pom pom ponytails you ever did see, picks it up and brings it home to nurture it. As time goes on, you see the duckling grow and eventually moves on to go back out into nature with its family. In the end, the duck returns back to the girl with a new duckling family of its own.

    The soothing rhyming text seems to flow so well throughout the book. I just love every single verse. This book truly touched me and even made me laugh and tear up in some parts because I think it’s so beautifully done.

    “Love is missing, reminiscing, wishing things could stay the same.  It’s understanding even ducklings, like the seasons, have to change.”

    “It’s peaceful sleeping, no more peeping, tucked in tightly, head to toes. Love is waking up together, side by side, and beak to nose.”

    I also admire the loose, flowy lines and warm color palette the illustrator used for this book. There are gorgeous tones of: pink, red, yellow, purple and teal.  It’s no surprise this talented illustrator did some artwork for the movies Tangled and Frozen.  I’m looking forward to seeing more work from her in future books.

    I think the overall message of Love Is teaches children how to love, nurture and care for others.  There are also themes of: growing up, coping with change and learning to let go of things.  The popular saying “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.” echos throughout.  I love how when the little girl sees the butterfly again later in the book she then sees a brood of ducklings being led by the same duckling she raised who is now all grown up.  It’s a nice way to show things coming full circle.

    After reading the book for the first time on my own, I sat quietly at the kitchen table and jotted down a few new thoughts on what love means to me. Here’s what I came up with:

    Love is an action – It’s the way you talk and show your love to others and to God. It’s how you express your love to your spouse/partner, your children, your friends/family, animals and nature. It’s hugging, kissing and telling others how much you love them. It’s helping others when they are in need. It’s the way you take care of the things that mean the most to you.

    Love is making sacrifices – I believe in order for true love to exist there must be some level of sacrifice involved. In my experience, becoming a wife and mother has taught me what true sacrifice and unconditional love is.

    So again I ask, how do you define love?

    I’d highly recommend reading this book with your little readers – especially around Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.  A fun extension activity might be to ask kids what love means to them and write out their answers on paper hearts.

    Your turn: How do you define the word love?  Will you be reading this book with your little readers?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    children's books, holiday books

    20+ Multicultural Thanksgiving Books for Kids!

    Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of the year.  Yes, I am a true foodie at heart, but that’s not the only reason why I love Thanksgiving.  (Really, it’s not!)  To me, everything about the day provides a sense of comfort and gratitude.  Stuffing your face and eating until you’re comatose…well, that’s just an added bonus.

    I’m looking forward to enjoying family, good food, and of course reading some great books with the kids before the holiday arrives.  There are so many Thanksgiving-themed books available you may end up having a hard time deciding which ones to read.  To make it a little easier I’ve rounded up a collection of board and picture books that will teach kids the importance of gratitude, thankfulness, and kindness mixed in with a little fun and food…yum!  I’ve also added some culturally responsive/sensitive books to help teach children about the real story of Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective.

    Board Books

    Thank You God: From Kids Around the World by Allia Zobel Nolan

    As little readers turn the pages, they’ll travel to different countries and get a chance to discover what their friends in Egypt, Russia, Africa, China and other lands are grateful for–things like koala bears, northern lights, windmills, and more. And while they’re thrilling to exotic, new flora and fauna, they’ll get a lift-the-flap surprise on every spread. A great way to celebrate different cultures during Diversity Month (October), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all year around.

    My Thanksgiving Prayer by Crystal Bowman
    This board book features a child thanking and praising God for the big and small joys of life. Children will delight in the colorful illustrations and the catchy rhyming text.

    Turkey Time! by Price Stern Sloan
    Through rhyming text, this adorable book walks through Thanksgiving Day in the lead-up to the big meal.

    Five Silly Turkeys by Salina Yoon
    Toddlers will love the silly Thanksgiving turkeys in this fun counting book full of silly turkeys doing very silly things!  From twirling on a dance floor to being chased by a bee to tanning in the sun, these are no ordinary Thanksgiving turkeys. This shiny fabric–tabbed book is a holiday treat that is sure to be gobbled up quickly.

    Picture Books (Includes Culturally Responsive Native American Books)

    We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell

    The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.

    The Very First Native Americans by Cara Ashrose

    Long before Columbus landed in America, hundreds of groups of people had already made their homes here. You may have heard of some of them—like the Sioux, Hopi, and Seminole. But where did they live? What did they eat? How did they have fun? And where are they today? From coast to coast, learn all about these very first Americans!

    The People Shall Continue by Simon J. Ortiz

    A classic for 40 years, The People Shall continue is an absolute must for reading about the history of Indigenous people in America. This is such a beautiful, profound and important book. Every library should have a copy of it.

    Told in the rhythms of traditional oral narrative, this powerful telling of the history of the Native/Indigenous peoples of North America recounts their story from Creation to the invasion and usurpation of Native lands. As more and more people arrived, The People saw that the new men did not respect the land. The People witnessed the destruction of their Nations and the enslavement of their people. The People fought hard, but eventually agreed to stop fighting and signed treaties.

    Encounter by Jane Yolen

    When Christopher Columbus landed on the island of San Salvador in 1492, what he discovered were the Taino Indians. Told from a young Taino boy’s point of view, this is a story of how the boy tried to warn his people against welcoming the strangers, who seemed more interested in golden ornaments than friendship. Years later the boy, now an old man, looks back at the destruction of his people and their culture by the colonizers.

    1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace

    Countering the prevailing, traditional story of the first Thanksgiving, with its black-hatted, silver-buckled Pilgrims; blanket-clad, be-feathered Indians; cranberry sauce; pumpkin pie; and turkey, this lushly illustrated photo-essay presents a more measured, balanced, and historically accurate version of the three-day harvest celebration in 1621.

    Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp

    Giving Thanks is a special children’s version of the Thanksgiving Address, a message of gratitude that originated with the Native people of upstate New York and Canada and that is still spoken at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations.

    The Circle of Thanks by Bruchac

    Fourteen poems with themes of thanksgiving and appreciation of nature, based in part on traditional Native American songs and prayers.

    Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas

    This entertaining and historical story shows that the actual hero of Thanksgiving was neither white nor Indian but God. In 1608, English traders came to Massachusetts and captured a twelve-year-old Indian, Squanto, and sold him into slavery. He was raised by Christians and taught faith in God. Ten years later he was sent home to America. Upon arrival, he learned an epidemic had wiped out his entire village. But God had plans for Squanto. God delivered a Thanksgiving miracle: an English-speaking Indian living in the exact place where the Pilgrims landed in a strange new world.

    Squanto’s Journey by Joseph Bruchac
    In 1620 an English ship called the Mayflower landed on the shores inhabited by the Pokanoket, and it was Squanto who welcomed the newcomers and taught them how to survive. When a good harvest was gathered, the people feasted together–a tradition that continues almost four hundred years later.

    The Trail of Tears by Joseph Bruchac

    In 1838, settlers moving west forced the great Cherokee Nation, and their chief John Ross, to leave their home land and travel 1,200 miles to Oklahoma. An epic story of friendship, war, hope, and betrayal.

    Squanto Y El Primer Dia De Accion De Gracias/Squanto and the First Thanksgiving by Joyce K. Kessel

    An introduction to the life of the Massachusetts Indian Squanto, best known for befriending the Pilgrims of the New Plymouth Colony.

    Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith

    This collection of interrelated stories is heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny. Author Cynthia Leitich Smith writes with wit and candor about what it’s like to grow up as a Seminole-Cherokee boy who is just as happy pounding the pavement in windy Chicago as rowing on a take in rural Oklahoma.

    Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition by Sally M. Hunter

    Twelve-year-old Russell learns how to grow and dry corn from his Winnebago grandfather.

    Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson

    Born of Mohawk and Cayuga descent, musical icon Robbie Robertson learned the story of Hiawatha and his spiritual guide, the Peacemaker, as part of the Iroquois oral tradition. Now he shares the same gift of storytelling with a new generation.

    Hiawatha was a strong and articulate Mohawk who was chosen to translate the Peacemaker’s message of unity for the five warring Iroquois nations during the 14th century. This message not only succeeded in uniting the tribes but also forever changed how the Iroquois governed themselves—a blueprint for democracy that would later inspire the authors of the U.S. Constitution.

    Many Hands: A Penobscot Indian Story by Angeli Perrow

    Why does everyone keep telling Lily that many hands make the basket? Didn’t she make the basket with her very own hands? It is the most beautiful basket of her 10-year-old life and no one will give her the credit she deserves. In the end, she learns a valuable lesson about pride and the spirit of community. Into the story is woven the process of basket making and a Wabanaki animal legend, as well as some words of the Penobscot language.

    Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules

    It’s almost Thanksgiving, and Tuyet is excited about the holiday and the vacation from school. There’s just one problem: her Vietnamese American family is having duck for Thanksgiving dinner – not turkey! Nobody has duck for Thanksgiving – what will her teacher and the other kids think? To her surprise, Tuyet enjoys her yummy thanksgiving dinner anyhow – and an even bigger surprise is waiting for her at school on Monday. Dinners from roast beef to lamb to enchiladas adorned the Thanksgiving tables of her classmates, but they all had something in common – family! Kids from families with different traditions will enjoy this warm story about “the right way” to celebrate an American holiday.

    Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen

    A modern Thanksgiving classic about an immigrant girl who comes to identify with the story of the Pilgrims, as she seeks religious freedom and a home in a new land.  As Molly nears her first Thanksgiving in the New World, she doesn’t find much to be thankful for. Her classmates giggle at her accent and make fun of her unfamiliarity with American ways.

    And Molly’s mother only makes things worse when she creates a doll for a school Thanksgiving project that looks more like a Russian refugee than a New England Pilgrim. But the tiny modern-day pilgrim just might help Molly to find a place for herself in America.

    Over the River and Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure by Linda Ashman

    This rhyming book is so fun!  It features a multiracial family traveling by sleigh to get to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the holidays.  Each family faces an obstacle that delays their trip, but in the end they finally reach their destination.

    Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes

    What makes you thankful? A book? Weekends? Your family? How do you say thanks? With a flower? With a chocolate bar? With a surprise?

    In sixteen extraordinary poems that range in form from a haiku to a rebus to a riddle, Nikki Grimes reminds us how wonderful it is to feel thankful, and how powerful a simple “thank you” can be.

    Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table by Vanessa Newton

    auntiemabelAuntie Mabel and her family and friends have gathered for their big Sunday dinner and can’t wait to dig into a delicious, mouthwatering meal. Before they can begin, Auntie Mabel starts—and doesn’t stop!—blessing everyone and everything she surveys: the yams and Brussels sprouts, the table and chairs—even the president of the United States!

    Milly and the Macy’s Parade by Shana Corey
    In the spirit of “Miracle on 34th Street” comes a heartwarming holiday story based on the true origins of the Macy’s Parade,endorsed by Macy’s. The Macy’s Parade is a treasured American pastime. But few people know that the first parade in 1924 was organized by immigrant employees at Macy’s eager to incorporate their old-world traditions into their new American heritage. With facility & flair, Shana Corey tells the fictional story of a Polish immigrant girl who helps envision this grand event.

    Rice & Rocks by Sandra L. Richards
    Tradition takes flight in Rice & Rocks, a picture book celebrating food, culture and diversity.

    Giovanni’s friends are coming over for Sunday dinner, and his grandmother is serving rice and beans. Giovanni is embarrassed he does not like ‘rice and rocks’ and worries his friends will think the traditional Jamaican dish is weird. But his favorite Auntie comes to the rescue. She and Giovanni’s pet parrot, Jasper, take him on a magical journey across the globe, visiting places where people eat rice and rocks. This exciting story celebrates the varied traditions of every culture while also highlighting the delicious similarities that bring us all together.

    Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore
    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.

    Rivka’s First Thanksgiving by Elsa Okon Rael
    More than anything, Rivka wants to celebrate Thanksgiving. She has learned all about the holiday in school and knows her family has a lot to be thankful for in America. But Rivka’s parents are Jewish immigrants from Poland, and they wonder what Pilgrims and Indians have to do with them. Is Thanksgiving really a holiday for Jews?

    Corn is Maize: The Gift of the Indians by Aliki
    Popcorn, corn on the cob, cornbread, tacos, tamales, and tortillas—all of these and many other good things come from one amazing plant. With simple prose and beautiful illustrations, award-winning author-illustrator Aliki tells the story of how Native American farmers thousands of years ago found and nourished a wild grass plant and made corn an important part of their lives.

    Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Pat Zietlow Miller

    Celebrate food and family with this heartwarming Thanksgiving picture book. We will share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread. / Grateful to be warm and fed. / We will share the bread. In this spirited ode to the holiday, set at the turn of the twentieth century, a large family works together to make their special meal. Mama prepares the turkey, Daddy tends the fire, Sister kneads, and Brother bastes. Everyone—from Grandma and Grandpa to the littlest baby—has a special job to do. Told in spare, rhythmic verse and lively illustrations, Sharing the Bread is a perfect read-aloud to celebrate the Thanksgiving tradition.

    The Great Thanksgiving Escape by Mark Fearing

    thanksgivingescapeIt’s another Thanksgiving at Grandma’s. Gavin expects a long day of boredom and being pestered by distantly related toddlers, but his cousin Rhonda has a different idea: make a break for it – out of the kids’ room to the swing set in the backyard! Gavin isn’t so sure, especially when they encounter vicious guard dogs (in homemade sweaters), a hallway full of overly affectionate aunts, and worse yet, the great wall of butts! Will they manage to avoid the obstacles and find some fun before turkey time? Or will they be captured before they’ve had a taste of freedom?

    The Memory Cupboard by Charlotte Herman
    For Katie, nothing compares to Thanksgiving at Grandma’s. There are the aunts and uncles, whom Katie loves to see each year. But a cherished object is broken at dinner, and Katie blames herself for spoiling the day.

    Gracias the Thanksgiving Turkey by Joy Cowley
    In this warm holiday story, a young Puerto Rican boy saves the life of his pet turkey with help from his close-knit New York City family and neighborhood. Beginning Spanish vocabulary is woven into the text.

    Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell

    A counting book that features an African-American family shopping for food, preparing dinner, and sitting down to eat. Lively read-aloud text paired with bright collage illustrations.

    The Little Kids’ Table by Mary Ann McCabe

    Everyone knows that the little kids table is the place to be for any holiday or family gathering. They just know how to have fun! This silly, rhyming story follows a group of rambunctious cousins from table setting to dessert.

    Gracias Thanks by Pat Mora
    In a series of poetic sentences, a young boy (biracial Mexican/Caucasian) tells about some of the everyday things for which he is thankful. Come share the joy, and think about all the things for which you can say, ¡Gracias! Thanks!

    The Firefighters’ Thanksgiving by Maribeth Boelts
    Station 1 is always a busy place. When there aren’t fires to put out there are plenty of chores to do. And on Thanksgiving Day there’s a big feast to prepare. Lou is in charge of dinner this year, but just as they finish shopping, a call comes in. They drop everything to get to the fire. Other calls interrupt Lou’s cooking throughout the day, and it looks like there may not be a Thanksgiving dinner for these firefighters.

    How Many Days to America: A Thanksgiving Story by Eve Bunting
    After the police come, a family is forced to flee their Caribbean island and set sail for America in a small fishing boat.

    Sweet Potato Pie by Kathleen D. Lindsey
    During a drought in the early 1900s, a large loving African American family finds a delicious way to earn the money they need to save their family farm.

    Stone Soup by Jon J Muth
    Set in China in Muth’s hauntingly beautiful watercolors.  Three strangers, hungry and tired, pass through a war-torn village. Embittered and suspicious from the war, the people hide their food and close their windows tight. That is, until the clever strangers suggest making a soup from stones. Intrigued by the idea, everyone brings what they have until– together, they have made a feast fit for a king!

    Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland

    Thanksgiving is about everything that we are thankful for. Cheerful, colorful illustrations accompany the simple text in this celebration of family, friends, and the holiday that brings them all together.

    Your turn:  What books will you and your little ones be reading for Thanksgiving?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    book reviews, children's books, holiday books

    The Great Spruce by John Duvall (A Book Review)

    The Great Spruce by John Duvall, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon

    Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 5 – 8 years old
    Grade Level: Kindergarten – Grade 3
    Pages: 40

    Alec loves to climb trees—the little apple trees, the wide willow trees, even the tall locust trees. But his favorite is the great spruce, with its sturdy trunk and branches that stretch up to the sky. Alec’s grandpa planted it as a sapling years and years before Alec was born, and every Christmas, Alec and his grandpa decorate the tree together, weaving tinsel and lights through its branches, making it shine bright.

    But one day, a few curious men from the nearby city take notice of Alec’s glistening great spruce, and ask to take it away for their Christmas celebration. Though it’s a huge honor, Alec’s heartbroken at the idea of losing his friend. With great courage and creativity, Alec comes up with a plan to save his favorite tree in this joyful holiday tale.

    Like young Alec, in the book The Great Spruce, I have fond memories of climbing trees and playing outdoors as a young child.  I’ve always loved being surrounded by nature and natural elements as it seems to instill a sense of beauty and calmness in me.  As a parent, I try to expose my kids to things that are alive and growing in order to promote curiosity and exploration.  My hope is that my children will grow up to be citizens who respect living things similar to the way Alec respects trees.  I believe a consistent exposure to nature can help remind children that the world contains an infinite variety of things and all are important.

    The Great Spruce is such a delightful and heartwarming story!  I really LOVE this story and young Alec’s passion for trees.  The simple act of Alec’s grandpa transporting a spruce tree many years ago to Alec’s backyard allowed Alec to get up close and personal with the tree and his environment.  It also provided him with endless hours of imaginative play as he pretended to be a scout searching for pirates along the river.  As a result, Alec became a better observer and felt more connected to the outdoors.

    I love how Alec stood up and demanded the tree be transported to the city instead of being chopped down.  “Stop!” Alec screamed as the curious man stood right in front of the tree with a chainsaw in hand.  “You don’t have to cut this tree down…we can dig it up!  You can borrow the tree instead!” Alec said.  A bright smile spread across grandpa’s face as he grabbed two shovels and handed one to Alec.  Before long, everyone was digging up the tree, even the crew from the city!  Eventually, they dig up the great spruce tree and begin transporting it to the center of town.

    At the end of the tree lighting ceremony a young girl asks Alec if his tree can remain in the city.  Alec tells her the tree is just visiting, but he hands her a pine cone from the tree.  He tells the girl to plant the cone in good soil in a place where it will get plenty of sunlight.  Months pass by and in the spring as Alec climbs his tree with his telescope in hand.  He notices the tiny sapling taking root in the big city square in the center of town where the young girl planted the pine cone Alec gave her months ago.

    I think there are so many things to love about this book including the detailed and bright illustrations.  I also really like the fact that the book has sort of a chain reaction effect that started with Alec’s grandpa and ended with the young girl in the city.  I find it helpful that the back matter includes an author’s note which explains the Christmas tree tradition and how it came to be and photographs that show the process of transplanting a tree.

    A well-written book that may help to inspire wonder and a passion for protecting trees in your child.  Check it out this holiday season!

    children's books, holiday books, read aloud

    Just Treats, No Tricks: 30+ Halloween Books Featuring Diverse Characters

    While diversity in children’s literature has come a long way since my childhood, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.  This couldn’t be more true when searching for diverse books based on specific holidays like Halloween. If you follow my blog or my Instagram page you’ll know I read a variety of books with my kids regardless of race, culture or religion.  Yes, that includes animal books too on occasion- we’ll read just about anything.  However, I also read lots of diverse books with my kids because it’s important for me to read books with them where they can see themselves being represented often.

    So imagine my surprise when I initially started searching for diverse holiday books years ago when my daughter was born.  I was disappointed that I found so few books where a diverse character was the main protagonist.  This still remains true today although there are several books featuring diverse supporting characters. What’s up with that?  Shouldn’t holiday books (and all books) come in a kaleidoscope of colors? Anyway, I digress.

    Below you’ll find my list of diverse Halloween books that feature diverse supporting characters or main protagonists. I hope you enjoy this list and find a few books to read with your little readers for Halloween!

    For Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers



    For Preschoolers – 2nd or 3rd Grade & Up

    Please note: Wee Winnie Witch’s Skinny: An Original African-American Scare Tale is a scary book. Therefore, it’s not recommended for little readers who get scared easily.  All other books listed in this category are not so scary.

    The book Dem Bones only features skeletons.  I included it because it’s based on the traditional African-American spiritual, passed down by word of mouth for generations entitled “Dem Bones”.








    Chapter Books For Tweens, Teens & Up







    Your turn: Did you enjoy this post and find it to be helpful?  Which books would you add to this list? Feel free to share in the comments.  I’d love to hear from you!

    children's books, holiday books, read aloud

    Picture Books to Read with Grandma & Grandpa On Grandparent’s Day

    I’ll be honest and say I didn’t even know National Grandparent’s Day existed until my adult years. This is probably because it didn’t originate in the United States until the year 1978. It’s often one of those holidays that can be easily overlooked especially since it’s right around back-to-school, Labor Day and adjusting to new routines for both kids and adults.

    Of course, one way the kids and I will be celebrating Grandparents Day is by reading lots of grandparent-related books like the ones listed below.  I’ve categorized some fantastic books for your to enjoy with your little readers. Hopefully you find at least one book from this list that resonates with you. Enjoy!



    Grandad Mandela by by Ambassador Zindzi Mandela, Zazi and Ziwelene Mandela, illustrated by Sean Qualls

    Grandad Mandela is a beautiful and important story told from the perspective of Mandela’s two youngest great-grandchildren and daughter.  The story begins with little Zazi and Ziwelene approaching their grandmother (Mandela’s youngest daughter, Zindzi) to tell them about their great-grandfather after finding a photograph of him around the house.  Mandela’s daughter goes on to her grandchildren the story of why Mandela went to jail when she was just eighteen months old.

    Grandaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box by Michael S. Bandy

    Based on the true story of one family’s struggle for voting rights in the civil rights era.  A  powerful and touching true-life story shares one boy’s perspective of growing up in the segregated South.

    Time Together: Me and Grandma by Maria Catherine

    Time with grandma is always special, and these special moments are captured in this picture book using beautiful illustrations and minimal text. From biking to bird watching, these small moments are the ones that create big memories and show the importance of family.

    When Grandmama Sings by Margaree King Mitchell
    When Grandmama Coles gets a big chance, Belle gets one, too. Belle’s going to spend the summer touring the South with Grandmama and a swing jazz band! Belle’s never been outside Pecan Flats, Mississippi, and she can’t wait to go on the road with Grandmama, helping her read signs and menus and hearing her sing. There are so many new things to see on their travels through the Deep South. But some things aren’t new. Everything is segregated, just like at home. But Grandmama stands up for what’s right. And when she sings, Belle knows that Grandmama’s song can bring everyone together.

    Grandmother and I by Helen E. Buckley
    Grandmother and I are sitting on the big chair, rocking. We rock back and forth, and back and forth.  Other people have laps for sitting on and backs for riding on. But when you have a cold or lighting is coming, nothing feels quite as right as rocking on Grandmother’s lap, listening to the little tunes that she hums.

    Grandfather and I by Helen E. Buckley
    Everybody is in such a hurry these days–mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. About the only people who aren’t in a hurry are grandfathers. With them there is always time to stop…and look…just as long as you like.  This gentle story about the warm, happy relationship between the oldest and youngest ones in the family was originally published in 1959 with illustrations by Paul Galdone.

    15 Things Not to Do With a Grandma by Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling
    The hilarious follow-up to 15 Things Not to Do with a Baby has all the warmth and humor of its predecessor, focusing on the relationship between children and their granny. DON’T hide an elephant in Grandma’s bed. DON’T send Grandma up to the moon in a rocket, or wear her pants on your head, or give her squashed jelly beans on toast for breakfast. But do… dance with Grandma, listen to Grandma’s stories, hug her and love her lots. She loves you!

    Don’t Call Me Grandma
    Great-grandmother Nell eats fish for breakfast, she doesn’t hug or kiss, and she does NOT want to be called grandma. Her great-granddaughter isn’t sure what to think about her. As she slowly learns more about Nell’s life and experiences, the girl finds ways to connect with her prickly great-grandmother.

    Bigmama’s by Donald Crews
    Four African American children travel with their mother, and when the train arrives in Cottondale, Florida, the summer at Bigmama’s house begins! Donald Crews brilliantly evokes the sights, sounds, and emotions of a memorable childhood experience.

    Grandma in Blue with Red Hat by Scott Menchin
    When a young boy learns about what makes art special—sometimes it’s beautiful, sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it tells a story—he realizes that these same characteristics are what make his grandmother special, too. As a result, he finds the inspiration to create his own masterpiece that’s one of a kind.

    The Baby on the Way by Karen English
    In an urban rooftop garden, a young African American boy named Jamal initiates an intriguing conversation with his grandmother when he asks her if she was ever a baby. Turns out Grandma was even once ?the baby on the way,? and she proceeds to tell the story of her birth, the tenth child in a poor farming family. As she discusses the events and traditions that accompanied her welcome to the world, from the fetching of the midwife to a folkways ritual of drinking water from a thimble, vivid, expressionistic paintings from a talented new illustrator evoke the past.  A gentle and satisfying book that will inspire young readers to gather other stories about being the baby on the way.

    Grandpa’s Face by Eloise Greenfield
    Seeing her beloved grandfather making a mean face while he rehearses for one of his plays, Tamika becomes afraid that someday she will lose his love and he will make that mean face at her.

    Grandma Lena’s Big Ol’ Turnip by Denia Lewis Hester
    Grandma Lena takes good care of the turnips she plants in her garden. One turnip grows so big that Grandma can’t pull it out of the ground! Even when Grandpa, Uncle Izzy, and the dog help Grandma yank and tug, the big ol’ turnip doesn’t budge.

    Mei-Mei Loves the Morning
    Set in a contemporary city in China, depicts a typical morning in the life of young Mei-Mei and her grandfather. The warm and engaging watercolor illustrations bring this intergenerational story to life.

    Grandfather Counts by Deborah J. Short
    When Helen’s grandfather, Gong Gong, comes from China to live with her family, he’s shocked to find that none of his grandchildren speak Chinese. How will he communicate with them? At first he keeps to himself. Then one day he joins Helen to watch the trains. He starts counting the train cars in Chinese, and she repeats the words. Then Helen says the numbers in English. They continue to teach each other, and Helen even learns her Chinese name, which means “flower.” In this luminously illustrated intergenerational story, the devotion between a young girl and her grandfather helps them overcome barriers of age and language. Grandfather Counts was selected as one of the 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC).

    A Morning with Grandpa by Sylvia Liu
    Mei Mei’s grandpa is practicing tai chi in the garden, and Mei Mei is eager to join in. As Gong Gong tries to teach her the slow, graceful movements, Mei Mei enthusiastically does them with her own flair. Then Mei Mei takes a turn, trying to teach Gong Gong the yoga she learned in school. Will Gong Gong be able to master the stretchy, bendy poses?

    Dear Juno by Soyung Pak
    Juno’s grandmother writes in Korean and Juno writes in drawings, but that doesn’t mean they can’t exchange letters. From the photo his grandmother sends him, Juno can tell that she has a new cat. From the picture he makes for her, Juno’s grandmother can tell that he wants her to come for a visit. So she sends Juno a miniature plane, to let him know she’s on the way.

    Caribbean (Cape Verde)
    Seaside Dream by Janet Bates
    Tomorrow is Grandma’s birthday, and the house is overflowing with family and friends. Hugs, laughter, and the smells of delicious food fill the air as everyone gets ready for a beach party. Cora is excited, but she is also worried because she still does not have a present for Grandma. Cora cannot think of anything special enough. Cora knows her grandmother misses her home country, Cape Verde. After a nighttime walk on the beach with Grandma, Cora finally comes up with an idea for the perfect gift. It is one that both of them will always remember and a way to help Grandma reconnect with faraway family.


    Indian Shoes by Cynthia L Smith

    What do Indian shoes look like, anyway? Like beautiful beaded moccasins…or hightops with bright orange shoelaces?  Ray Halfmoon prefers hightops, but he gladly trades them for a nice pair of moccasins for his Grampa.

    Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia
    Aneel’s grandparents have come to stay, all the way from India. Aneel loves the sweet smell of his grandmother s incense, and his grandfather, Dada-ji, tells the world s best stories. When he was a boy, adventurous, energetic Dada-ji had the power of a tiger. Hunh-ji! Yes, sir! He could shake mangoes off trees and wrangle wild cobras. And what gave him his power? Fluffy-puffy hot, hot roti, with a bit of tongue-burning mango pickle. Does Dada-ji still have the power? Aneel wants to find out but first he has to figure out how to whip up a batch of hot, hot roti Overflowing with family, food, and a tall stack of fun, Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji is sure to warm the heart and tickle the tummy.

    Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi
    One thick, hot day, Arun Gandhi travels with his family to Grandfather Gandhi’s village.  Silence fills the air—but peace feels far away for young Arun. When an older boy pushes him on the soccer field, his anger fills him in a way that surely a true Gandhi could never imagine. Can Arun ever live up to the Mahatma? Will he ever make his grandfather proud?

    In this remarkable personal story, Arun Gandhi, with Bethany Hegedus, weaves a stunning portrait of the extraordinary man who taught him to live his life as light.

    Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story by Arun Gandhi
    At Grandfather Gandhi’s service village, each day is filled, from sunrise to sunset, with work that is done for the good of all. The villagers vow to live simply and non-violently. Arun Gandhi tries very hard to follow these vows, but he struggles with one of the most important rules: not to waste.

    How can throwing away a worn-down pencil hurt anyone? How can wastefulness lead to violence? With the help of his grandfather, Arun learns how every wasteful act, no matter how small, affects others. And in time he comes to understand the truth of his grandfather’s words: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

    A Picnic in October by Eve Bunting
    Tony thinks it’s dumb to go all the way to Liberty Island for a birthday picnic. But that’s before he understands what the Statue of Liberty means to Grandma.


    A Gift from Abuela by Cecilia Ruiz

    Abuela can’t help thinking how much she’d like to give Nina a very special treat, so she saves a little bit of her money every week — a few pesos here, a few pesos there. When the world turns upside down, Abuela’s dream of a surprise for Nina seems impossible. Luckily, time spent together — and the love Abuela and Nina have for each other — could turn out to be the very best gift of all.

    Abuela by Arthur Dorros
    Dive into Spanish text and fly high over beautiful New York City with Rosalba and her grandmother in Arthur Dorros’ enchanting Abuela.

    Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina
    Mia’s abuela has left her sunny house with parrots and palm trees to live with Mia and her parents in the city. The night she arrives, Mia tries to share her favorite book with Abuela before they go to sleep and discovers that Abuela can’t read the words inside. So while they cook, Mia helps Abuela learn English (“Dough. Masa“), and Mia learns some Spanish too, but it’s still hard for Abuela to learn the words she needs to tell Mia all her stories. Then Mia sees a parrot in the pet-shop window and has the perfectoidea for how to help them all communicate a little better.

    Grandma’s Records by Eric Velasquez

    Every summer, Eric goes to live with his grandmother in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem) while his parents work. Through the long hot days, Grandma fills her apartment with the blaring horns and conga drums of Bomba y Plena, salsa, and merengue-the music she grew up with in Puerto Rico-sharing her memories and passions with Eric.

    But Eric sees Grandma in a new light when she gets them tickets to hear their favorite band in concert. The music sounds so different than it does at home on their scratchy records. And then the lead singer serenades Grandma right in front of the whole audience!

    Ladder to the Moon by  Maya Soetoro-Ng
    From Maya Soetoro-Ng, sister of President Obama, comes a lyrical story relaying the loving wisdom of their late mother to a young granddaughter she never met.

    Little Suhaila wishes she could have known her grandma, who would wrap her arms around the whole world if she could, Mama says. And one night, Suhaila gets her wish when a golden ladder appears at her window, and Grandma Annie invites the girl to come along with her on a magical journey. In a rich and deeply personal narrative, Maya Soetoro-Ng draws inspiration from her mother s love for family, her empathy for others, and her ethic of service to imagine this remarkable meeting. Evoking fantasy and folklore, the story touches on events that have affected people across the world in our time and reaffirms our common humanity.

    Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies
    At the bottom of Syd’s garden, through the gate and past the tree, is Grandad’s house. Syd can let himself in any time he likes. But one day when Syd comes to call, Grandad isn’t in any of the usual places. He’s in the attic, where he ushers Syd through a door, and the two of them journey to a wild, beautiful island awash in color where Grandad decides he will remain. So Syd hugs Grandad one last time and sets sail for home. Visiting Grandad’s house at the bottom of the garden again, he finds it just the same as it’s always been — except that Grandad isn’t there anymore. Sure to provide comfort to young children struggling to understand loss, Benji Davies’s tale is a sensitive and beautiful reminder that our loved ones live on in our memories long after they’re gone.

    Joone by Emily Kate Moon
    oone likes the color orange, ice-cream sandwiches, and playing outside. She lives in a yurt with her grandfather and her pet turtle, Dr. Chin, who rides around on her hat. Grandpa teaches Joone something new every day. Sometimes Joone teaches him something new, too, like how to make a daisy chain. Together they enjoy life’s small joys—sunsets, tree houses, and most of all, each other.

    Grandpa Green by Lane Smith
    Grandpa Green wasn’t always a gardener. He was a farmboy and a kid with chickenpox and a soldier and, most of all, an artist. In this captivating new picture book, readers follow Grandpa Green’s great-grandson into a garden he created, a fantastic world where memories are handed down in the fanciful shapes of topiary trees and imagination recreates things forgotten.

    Grandma’s Gloves by Cecil Castellucci
    A child who loses a beloved grandparent finds comfort in carrying on the activities they shared in this sweet, genuine look at a universal rite of passage.

    Grandma is always on her knees in the dirt, with her gardening gloves on, talking to her roses and laughing with the birds-of-paradise. Her home brims with plants and blossoms, and on hot days, she waters her granddaughter, her “most special flower of all,” with the garden hose. But a day comes when Grandma is no longer there to care for the little girl, who feels sad and small and alone until she remembers all that her grandmother taught her — and all that she now has to teach. Full of light and life and the solace of green growing things, this moving and beautifully illustrated picture book explores a timeless bond with warmth and joy.

    Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo
    In this magical picture book, a young boy spends an overnight visit with his nana and is frightened to find that the city where she lives is filled with noise and crowds and scary things. But then Nana makes him a special cape to help him be brave, and soon the everyday sights, sounds, and smells of the city are not scary—but wonderful. The succinct text is paired with watercolor illustrations that capture all the vitality, energy, and beauty of the city.

    Our Granny by Margaret Wild

    Two children compare their granny with others. Some grannies have thin legs, fat knees, crinkly eyes, or big soft laps. Their granny has a wobbly bottom and wears an old red sweater that was grandpa’s. She has a style all her own–and to the children who love her, this granny is perfect. Full of warmth and good humor.

    Llama Llama Gram and Grandpa by Anna Dewdney
    It’s an exciting day for Llama Llama; he’s going to visit Gram and Grandpa Llama and spend the night! His first night away from home….and from Mama. But he makes sure to pack everything he needs. And there are so many fun things to do with Gram and Grandpa. It’s not until he gets ready for bed that he realizes that he’s forgotten something important. Fuzzy Llama! Fortunately, Grandpa Llama has a wonderful solution and soon Llama Llama is having sweet dreams.  May you rest in peace, Anna Dewdney.

    Baking Day at Grandma’s by Anika Denise
    Three bouncing little bear siblings, wrapped tight in their winter clothes, can’t wait to tromp through the snow for Baking Day at Grandma’s!  In a rhyming text that begs to be sung, the bears and their grandma pour and mix and stir–with breaks for hot cocoa and dancing–to create the perfect wintry treat. Then they wrap it up in ribbons to show that sweets are even better when they’re shared. With a recipe in the back, this is a perfect family feel-good story for the fall, winter, and any holiday spent with grandparents.

    Grandpa and Me by Karen Katz
    Let’s make a pizza with Grandpa! You can help. Lift the large, sturdy flaps to find everything you need.

    Grandma and Me by Karen Katz
    This lift-the-flap book continues Katz’s board book series, following Where is Baby’s Mommy?, with this celebration of spending time with a special grandmother.

    How to Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan
    Written in a how-to style, the narrator gives important tips for “babysitting” a grandpa, including what to eat for snack (anything dipped in ketchup, ice cream topped with cookies, cookies topped with ice cream) what to do on a walk (find lizards and dandelion puffs, be on the lookout for puddles and sprinklers), and how to play with a grandpa (build a pirate cave, put on a scary play).

    Filled with humor, energy, and warmth, this is a great gift for or from a grandparent, and perfect for lap reading when Grandpa comes to visit!

    How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan
    When you babysit a grandma, if you’re lucky . . . it’s a sleepover at her house! And with the useful tips found in this book, you’re guaranteed to become an expert grandma-sitter in no time. (Be sure to check out the sections on: How to keep a grandma busy; Things to do at the park; Possible places to sleep, and what to do once you’re both snugly tucked in for the night.)

    Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
    When Alice Rumphius was a little girl, she lived with her grandfather, an artist, by the sea.  During the day, he let her help him with his paintings. In the evening, he talked about his childhood in a faraway land.

    Barbara Cooney’s story of Alice Rumphius, who longed to travel the world, live in a house by the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful, has a timeless quality that resonates with each new generation. The countless lupines that bloom along the coast of Maine are the legacy of the real Miss Rumphius, the Lupine Lady, who scattered lupine seeds everywhere she went.

    Time Together: Me and Grandpa by Maria Catherine

    Small moments between a grandpa and child are chronicled in this picture book using beautiful illustrations and minimal text. From taking a nap to reading the newspaper, these small moments are the ones that create big memories and show the importance of family.

    Your turn:  How will you be celebrating Grandparent’s Day with your little ones?  Feel free to share in the comments below.

    children's books, family fun, holiday books

    5 Last-Minute Ways We’re Celebrating Easter

    I love this time of year.  For me, Easter is a time of celebration, joy and hope.  There’s much realization for me about the power of the cross and God’s presence in this season of my life.  Easter is my yearly reminder of God’s transcendent love, and a reminder of our responsibility to “pay it forward”.

    This year I really wanted to be intentional with Easter and come up with some fun activities to engage my kids. However, I was traveling for work for a few days, so I didn’t have time to plan out activities and fun things to do like I did last year during Holy Week.  And now with Easter being just three days away, I have no time to worry about elaborate crafts or fancy Pinterest activities.  Can you relate?

    I just want to use the next few days to introduce the Easter story and plant seeds for important conversations about God’s sacrifice. I want to keep it as simple, purposeful and straight forward as possible for my kids’ short attention spans.

    In addition to reading some great books, here are the other activities we have lined up for the next few days leading up to Easter.

    5 Last-Minute Ways We're Celebrating Easter

    1. We’re Going on a Nature Walk
    Weather permitting, we’ll be going on a Good Friday nature walk at a nearby park.  This is a simple activity and it won’t cost you a thing (except a few cents to print out the free printables).  The Unlikely Homeschool has put together these wonderful cards to help guide conversation during your walk as a family or group.  The cards walk children through a scriptural account of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, His crucifixion, and His resurrection, all while they spend time outside appreciating God’s creation.  {free printable}

    2. We’re Reading the Bible
    This is one of my favorite Bibles that the children own.  The kids love it too!  Over the next three days we’ll be reading select passages and stories from this Bible related to the resurrection.
    The Beginner’s Bible®, the bestselling Bible storybook of our time, now in a special edition just for toddlers. Toddlers will love this special edition of The Beginner’s Bible created especially for tiny hands to carry with them wherever they go. The toddlers edition features a smaller size, a go-anywhere handle, and an easy Velcro closure. Toddlers will come to know and love the key stories and characters of the Bible with this best-loved Bible storybook.

    3. We’re Cooking
    There are so many wonderful Easter-themed recipes available to help teach kids the true meaning of Easter and the resurrection.  Below are a few that I like.  What are some of your favorites to try?

    Resurrection Rolls | Resurrection Cookies | Empty Tomb Rolls Easter Tomb Biscuits Empty Tomb Cake

    4. We’re Coloring
    Coloring certainly won’t help your kids understand the true meaning of Easter, but it’s something fun and doesn’t require much effort.  Plus, coloring is a great way to enhance those fine motor skills!  Here are the coloring sheets we’ll be using. {free printables}

    5. We’re Planting Magic Jelly Beans
    This is a really cute Easter tradition I started with the kids last year…planting magic jelly beans on Easter Eve!  Simply plant some jelly beans into your own homemade wheat grass or use the grass outside in your yard.  Do this with the kids.  Then, early in the morning before the kids wake up (or right after they fall asleep at night) “plant” some lollipops in place of the jelly beans.  The kids will be so excited when they wake up and see their magic jelly beans have turned into a mini garden of lollipops.  So fun! {free magic jelly beans packet printable}

    I hope these simple ideas help you and your kids celebrate Easter this weekend while having some fun.  Happy Easter!

    Your turn: How will you celebrate the deeper meaning of Easter with your little ones this year?  How does your family celebrate Easter?  Do you have any fun crafts, games, recipes or activities you do?  Feel free to share in the comments.