book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    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

    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.

    children's books, children's literacy, read aloud, reading tips

    Celebrate National Literacy Month with FREE Resources from Reading Is Fundamental

    Every year in the month of September we acknowledge and celebrate National Literacy Month.  In honor of National Literacy Month and kids heading back to school, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and Macy’s recently announced the launch of free resources and digital tools to support the fight against the national literacy crisis. Together, RIF and Macy’s are working to empower parents and educators with free resources that will help them meet the needs of children, foster their love of reading and learning, and provide students with the fundamental building blocks for success that literacy provides.

    Source: Reading is Fundamental

    This year’s support of National Literacy Month encompasses supplemental classroom materials for the whole family and resources for literacy advocates, parents and caregivers. Students, teachers, home school educators, and parents can take advantage of FREE literacy extension activities to go along with children’s books.  The selection of books featured on the website is very diverse so there’s something for everyone to enjoy!

    They also have additional resources including:

    • games
    • lesson plans
    • coloring sheets
    • video and other interactive media
    • reading passages
    • word searches
    • memory match puzzles
    • word search worksheets
    • read alouds
    • daily book bites
    • author interviews

    Reading is Fundamental (RIF) currently has over 14,000 books in their database to choose from.  To access their online book database and the resources go their Home page and then select ‘Find a Book’.  Once you’ve selected your book, click on either the cover image or link to see the available resources to go along with the book.  They truly have a treasure trove of excellent diverse children books to choose from including books for teens!

    Literacy Central includes a plethora of other valuable resources including: a literacy tracker, reading log, interactive activity calendars and more!   Check it out to take advantage of these free resources to help enhance story time and a child’s reading life.

    Your turn: Did you find these resources to be helpful?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    interviews, men of bookstagram

    The Men of Bookstagram: Up Close and Personal with Ryan from @DadSuggests

    Have you ever noticed Instagram is flooded with female bookstagrammers?  I wanted to find out who some of the men are who also share and read books on Instagram.  This ongoing series will feature some of the most well read men on Instagram who also share a passion for all things BOOKS.  Let’s get up close and personal with: Ryan from Dad Suggests.

    What is your name and Instagram handle?

    My name is Ryan Billingsley and I’m the dad behind @dadsuggests on Instagram.

    When did you start your Instagram account and what was your motivation for starting it?

    We actually started DadSuggests and our Instagram page in the summer of 2018, so we just celebrated our 1 year anniversary. Basically, I really just wanted a way to share with other parents and teachers the things that our family loves. I wanted to help people find really high-quality content for some meaningful family time.

    After writing about a few of our favorite books and games and putting up pictures of them on Instagram, I realized how much I love advocating for things like empathy and imagination – and how important it is to read and play with your kids. My articles and my posts often drift into reflections on parenting and our role in providing a magical childhood for our kids. I might be writing about books and board games – but in my head I’m often contemplating how to make happy kids and other bits of the meaning of life.

    Have you always enjoyed reading?

    Yes! I was lucky enough to have parents who sat by the side of my bed at night and read me stories that I’ll never forget – like classic tales from the Brothers Grimm. And I had a very cool bunk bed growing up with a built-in bookshelf. It was the perfect size to store all of my Goosebumps books – which I very often stayed up late reading.

    And, of course, I was tremendously lucky to grow up during the era of Harry Potter – basically being the same age as Harry through the whole series. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be a kid during that craze – attending the midnight releases and trying to read the whole book before the sun came up.

    Where do you currently live?

    I have lived in beautiful Fayetteville, AR for my entire life.

    Name 1-2 recent books you’ve really enjoyed reading this year.

    For picture books, I’ve already shortlisted Imagine That by Jonathan D. Voss and All the Ways to Be Smart by Davina Bell as favorites for 2019. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Both books do a tremendous job celebrating the child’s imagination – and that is of course a real soft spot for me.

    Imagine That leaves me with the same happy feelings I get when I read Winnie the Pooh, and I’m actually tempted to label All the Ways to Be Smart the most important, if not the very best, picture book ever made. (Sidenote: Wow, I need to check this one out ASAP since we haven’t read it yet!)


    Are you currently in a relationship? It’s okay to plead the 5th if you prefer not to answer!

    Haha! No need for mysteries here! My wife and I just celebrated our 8th anniversary!

    Do you have children? If so, do they love to read as well?

    We have a 6-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. They’ve been read to literally every single day of their lives – particularly at bedtime. Reading has always been cherished family time and a part of our soothing going-to-sleep process. Books have simply always been a part of the routine since day one.

    After all that exposure to stories – our son has caught on with independent reading really nicely, and he really loves reading fantasy books. Some of his favorites early chapter books are The Kingdom of Wrenly and Moongobble and Me. And we really love doing interactive books and Choose Your Own Adventure together.

    What advice would you give to parents of children who may have reluctant readers or kids who don’t enjoy reading?

    The best case scenario is that you’re able to start early and make reading a part of the family routine from day one. There’s no better predictor for growing up to love reading than spending your childhood on Mom and Dad’s lap reading picture books together every night.

    But assuming it’s too late for that and we’re talking about older kids now – it’s still important to note that it’s never too late to discover a love for stories. Step one as a parent is to ensure that you’re being a reading role model. If all children see is their parents watching TV or looking at their phone, odds are pretty good that’s what they’ll choose to do too.

    And, speaking as a teacher, don’t forget that turning reading into a chore is the absolute kiss of death. Avoid that at all costs. Instead, expose them to a wide variety of materials they might like – graphic novels, magazines about video games, Choose Your Own Adventure, scary stories, audio books, etc.

    In my experience, reluctant reading often has strong correlations with reading struggles. And their struggles feed their reluctance, and their lack of practice makes it harder to grow. So you have to start somewhere to start building vocabulary, prosody, and a positive relationship with stories – and even the most reluctant readers still really love relaxing and being read to.

    What books are on your nightstand right now?

    Right now I have an awesome stack of picture books that I’m writing about for our next article on – The Best Picture Books About Imagination. The stack includes This is Sadie by Sara O’Leary and Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers. I have twelve of our favorite picture books here for this list, and they all do a great job celebrating creativity and promoting a magical childhood. I also have the new novelization of Pan’s Labyrinth from Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke sitting on my nightstand. It’s amazing!

    Why do you think it’s important to read either on your own or with children?

    Quite frankly, reading to your kids is the second-best gift you can give them – finishing in a close second place to your unconditional love. Reading to your kids will obviously prepare them for a better life academically, but it’s so much more than that. Reading grows imagination and empathy as well – along with a plethora of other social skills. Books open up a window into the world, and they have the ability to impart invaluable wisdom. On the deepest level, exposing your kids to that art and that wisdom will help them find meaning in life.

    And you can never be too old to benefit from stretching your imagination and widening your understanding of the world. Whether you’re reading to educate yourself or just to escape for a little while – the benefits to the brain are numerous. Personally, I find that reading a good novel clears my mind the same way that meditating or playing chess does – and my brain always appreciates those calm moments.

    Hard cover, paperback, or e-book when reading a book on your own?

    I’ve always preferred hardcover editions. With picture books that’s always important because it ensures that they will include the often beautiful end papers. And hardcovers may not always be the most convenient choice for reading or traveling with novels – but they’re certainly my favorite.

    Name 1-2 of your favorite authors.

    One or two is too hard! But I can give you a very condensed version of just some of our favorites: Bruce Coville, Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen, Sara O’Leary, Trudy Ludwig, Philip C. Stead, Shel Silverstein, Chris Van Allsburg, and Ben Hatke.

    Does your family have any story time or reading rituals to share?

    After dinner time and shower time comes book time – every single night. And we never miss a night. We take books on vacations with us, and nothing about the ritual changes. Typically the reading consists of a stack of picture books, but sometimes that’s replaced with a longer reading from a chapter book. It’s a beloved ritual, and I plan on reading aloud with the family indefinitely.

    How do you choose which books to share on your Instagram page?

    We only write about books that we love on, and we put a lot of thought into books that we put onto any of our lists. Typically, those are the books that we take pictures of and share on Instagram as well, and occasionally we’ll throw in some new purchases or library finds that we’re really excited about too. And I try to get into the spirit of Throwback Thursday and pull out books from my childhood. Basically, if we love it, we’ll recommend it to others.

    It’s important to me that our social media accounts and our website always remain a source for our personal recommendations. That’s why we make it a point to inform publishers and authors that we only recommend the things we love, and we simply have no interest in doing negative reviews.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. It was a lot of fun, and I appreciate you and what you do on Here Wee Read.

    I also wanted to say thank you to every single person who took the time to read this interview. I hope that you found a few new interesting picture books to look up – and I hope that I’ve been able to inspire you to help me spread this message to others: it’s so incredibly important to read and play with your kids! It’s our noble duty and it’s our privilege as parents to build a magical childhood for our kids – full of imagination and creativity and wonder.

    You can follow me at @DadSuggests on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest – and you can catch all of my new fatherly thoughts on picture books, board games, and more on

    Connect with Ryan!


    Your turn: Did you enjoy this feature?  Tell us your thoughts in the comments.  Also, please let me know what other men of Bookstagram I should feature in this series.

    If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read: 10 Male Bookstagrammers to Follow on Instagram If You Love Books.
    Also, be sure to check out our other interviews with Rod Kelly and Reggie Reads.

    Find all of the men we feature in this series by searching the hashtag #themenofbookstagram on Instagram!

    children's books, children's literacy

    Vooks: The First-Ever Streaming Service Bringing Children’s Books to Life + A FREE Year of Vooks for Educators

    Disclaimer: My family received a free one-year subscription from Vooks to review and enjoy with our family in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    Have you heard about Vooks yet?  It’s the first-ever streaming service that brings children’s books to life with animated illustrations, read-along text and narrated stories. The best part?  It’s kid-safe since their library is filled with stories created specifically for children, for kids ages 2-8.

    Readers can enjoy Vooks on roadtrips, airplanes or in the comfort of their own home.  Vooks can be used anyplace where you have access to an Internet connection.  Additionally, Vooks may be used offline by viewing with mobile apps which allow children to enjoy their favorite stories even without an Internet connection!

    What I like best about Vooks is that it doesn’t contain any ads or inappropriate content.  It’s a safe alternative for kids’ screen time and is filled exclusively with animated versions of some of the most well-known and loved children’s books like: School’s First Day of School, Grace for President, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and more!  Additional titles are constantly being added to the platform regularly.  I also like that Vooks takes the time to work directly with the top publishers, authors, and illustrators around the world.

    Vooks has lots of love and appreciation for educators, so they want to show that by offering teachers/educators a FREE year of Vooks.  Yes, you heard me right!  Teachers and educators can access Vooks for one year totally FREE.  To take advantage of this amazing offer use my referral link to sign up AND get your FREE gift.  Easy, peasy!  Hurry, this offer expires on September 15, 2019 so take advantage of it before you miss out!

    Your turn:  Will you check out Vooks and see what they have to offer?  Do you like the idea of having an ad-free streaming service for kids?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    blog tours, children's books

    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, and follow him on Twitter.

    children's books, giveaways, holiday books

    If You’re Scary and You Know It by Carole Gerber + A Giveaway!

    Published by Familius Format: Hardcover
    Source: Familius

    Disclaimer: Familius sent me the book to check out and I’m partnering with them for a giveaway!

    If You’re Scary and You Know It by Carole Gerber, illustrated by Noel Ill

    Recommended for ages 4-6
    Published by Familius

    About the Book
    Set to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” this festive holiday book is perfect for all of the boys and gouls roaming around on Halloween night! Ghosts moan and groan, while pirates yo ho! If You’re Scary And You Know It! is sure to be a Halloween hit!

    The popular nursery song “f You’re Happy and You Know It” comes alive with this colorful colorful Halloween sing-along action book that will put a smile on everyone’s face.  Diverse children are featured throughout making this an inclusive board book for all to enjoy.  Makes a great Halloween treat for little ones!

    The Giveaway!  Ready to Enter?


    One (1) winner receives:

    • 1 copy of the board book If You’re Scary and You Know It

    Giveaway open to US addresses only.

    Prizing and samples provided by Familius Publishing.

    If You’re Scary and You Know It!

    About the Author
    Poet and author Carole Gerber has written sixteen picture books, three chapter books, and more than one hundred elementary science and reading texts for major publishers. Her most picture recent book, A Band of Babies, was named a 2017 Best Book for Children by Amazon editors. She holds a BS in English education and an MA in journalism from Ohio State, and has taught middle school and high school English as well as college newswriting and factual writing at OSU. Learn more at

    About the Illustrator
    Noël Ill earned her BFA with honors in illustration from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. Throughout her design and illustration career, she has had the opportunity to apply her artwork and tasteful design sense to the publishing and entertainment media fields. Her notable work includes production art for animation, the Be Mine sticker pack for Facebook stickers, and The Sweetest Little Ghost, her licensed illustration for Papyrus greeting cards. She’s inspired by the whimsical books she read as a kid, and her art motto is “Making the world a happier place one drawing at a time.”

    family fun, parenting

    First Day of School Prayers for Children and Parents + 5 Day Prayer Challenge

    Tomorrow my children start their first day of school in a brand new environment.  Although I’m excited for them to start this new journey in a new school, I am also filled with a bit of anxiety and I just feel like praying—and I thought you might pray with me—for our children as they start a new year of school.

    I believe the best gift we give our kids as they head back to school is our prayers.  Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten, middle school, high school, or college, children need our prayers.  If you believe this too, I hope you’ll join me in a 5-day prayer challenge you can do on your own.

    In order to participate, all you need to do is recite the prayers below each morning for the first five days of school.  If you don’t like any of the prayers I’ve chosen, feel free to come up with your own prayers.  And of course, if you’re not the religious type then this challenge isn’t for you and that’s okay.  If your children already started their first day of school, no worries you can still participate.  Just recite the prayers each morning for five consecutive days with your children or on your own.

    I hope you find this prayer challenge to be helpful and will help spread the word if it’s something that resonates with you.

    Day One

    Dear God, Father of heavenly lights, Giver of perfect gifts,

    I give my child(ren) to you today and everyday.  Keep him/her and his/her schoolmates safe and protected, Father God.  I ask that this school year you would use every person, every experience and every lesson to shape him/her into Your image, to grow in his/her fruit of Your spirit.  God, grow in his/her heart.   Teach him/her to sacrifice like You did, giving up what he/she values for the good of others. Bless the teachers and administrators, God.  Keep them safe.  These men and women who have committed to invest in the next generation. Give them discernment and wisdom to see each student’s unique abilities and gifts. Multiply their preparation and may their plans be fruitful. Fill the day with moments of wonder. Remind them of their special place in the lives of their students and give them confidence in their abilities.  And for all the parents/grandparents, Lord, I pray for peace. Give us plenty to do so we don’t have time to fret. Let us be extraordinarily grateful for the privilege of parenting. Fill us with wisdom as we watch our babies grow. Grant us patience and kindness as they stretch their wings. Hold us close to You as we learn to let them go.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Two

    Dear Father God,

    Today, I ask You for godly, loyal friends for my child(ren). Friends who love purity, who are pure in heart, and gracious in speech, friends that will sharpen them and love them at all times.  Please give my child(ren) a heart of compassion. Help him/her/them to see situations from every perspective and to treat others like they would want to be treated. Give him/her/them a friendly and kind spirit. May he/she/they welcome friends with a smile.  God I pray my child(ren) would be wise when choosing friends. Give him/her/them discernment to find true friends and help them to build each other up. Give them the ability to say no when necessary and bravery to stand up for what is right. In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Three

    Dear Father God,

    Today I pray for Your care and protection throughout the school year. 
    Cover the schools in our area and across the nation with Your covering and protection.  I/we pray for vigilance among administrators and teachers as well as security personnel. Lord I/we pray that would-be perpetrators will be turned from their intentions and receive the corrective influences that are needed in their lives.  Lord, I/we pray that the school year will be successfully completed without incident. It is so.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Four

    Dear God,

    Today I come to you in prayer Lord, asking you to help my child(ren) experience peace this year. I pray he/she/they will not worry about things they cannot control, but that You will guard his/her/their hearts and minds and keep him/her/them trusting in You. I pray he/she/they will not only enjoy the peace of God, but peace with God. I pray he/she/they will develop a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving as they look to You daily for their needs.  Grant him/her/them Your peace in their hearts and minds in great measure.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Five

    Dear Heavenly Father,

    Let this school year be their best year ever with excellent grades, favor with teachers and classmates and good behavior all covered by Your protection. Enable our children to continue growing in wisdom and stature all the days of their lives.  Let Your peace and understanding envelope them at all times.  Let your joy be their strength. Help them to trust You as their refuge and fortress.  Guard their minds from bad counsel and peer pressure. Bless them with Your Spirit of discernment to know and do what is right at all times.  Strengthen their heart and spirit to resist the devil, so that he/she will flee from them.  Teach them to cast all their anxiety upon You, trusting and genuinely knowing that You care for them.  Let Your light shine in their lives and cause all forms of darkness around them to flee. Make them strong and courageous in the presence of danger. Let them be assured You will never leave nor forsake them as they remain strong in You and Your mighty power.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Below I’ve also included a few short prayers for parents or kids to recite daily.  Source: Living Prayers.

    First Day of School Prayer
    (a parent’s prayer poem for their child starting school)

    Dear Lord,

    Fill her (his) heart with peace,
    Hold her (his) hand today,
    Help him/her feel secure and loved,
    Be with him/her we pray.
    May him/her smile and make new friends
    Paint and learn and play,
    Bless the teaching staff who care
    For little ones today.
    Lift my heart to trust that he’ll/she’ll
    Be overseen by you,
    Father God cover us
    On his/her first day at school.


    Prayer for a child starting a new school year
    (a simple prayer for a child of any age to say)

    Father God,

    Thank you for being beside me,
    Thank you for this new school year.
    Please be there to hold my hand,
    Please help me to relax and enjoy the day.
    Bring new friendships into my life,
    Bring new possibilities to learn and grow.
    Help me to pray in my heart to you if I am anxious,
    Help me to remember that you are always with me.


    School Morning Prayer
    (a simple prayer for primary school aged children to say)

    Father God,

    Be with us today
    Fill our hearts with joy
    Fill our minds with learning
    Fill our classrooms with peace
    Fill our lessons with fun
    Fill our friendships with kindness
    Fill our school with love


    If you’re looking for a few religious picture book recommendations for children, you might enjoy this post.

    Your turn: What will you pray for your children (grandchildren) as they go back to school? Feel free to share in the comments.