Follow:
Browsing Tag:

book reviews

    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

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

    Published by MacMillian Format: Hardcover
    Source: MacMillian
    Buy on Amazon
    five-stars

    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.

    five-stars
    Share:
    blog tours, book reviews, diverse books

    The Pirate Tree by Brigita Orel (Blog Tour)

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

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

    the pirate tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

    four-half-stars
    Share:
    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
    five-stars

    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.

    five-stars
    Share:
    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    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
    five-stars

    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.

    five-stars
    Share:
    book reviews, diverse books

    Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin (A Book Review)

    978-0062798602 Published by Harper Kids Pages: 32
    Format: Hardcover
    Buy on AmazonBuy on Indie Bound
    five-stars

    Tameika is a girl who belongs on the stage. She loves to act, sing, and dance—and she’s pretty good at it, too. So when her school announces their Snow White musical, Tameika auditions for the lead princess role. But the other kids think she’s “not quite” right to play the role. They whisper, they snicker, and they glare. Will Tameika let their harsh words be her final curtain call? Not Quite Snow White is a delightful and inspiring picture book that highlights the importance of self-confidence while taking an earnest look at what happens when that confidence is shaken or lost. Tameika encourages us all to let our magic shine.

    Many fairy tales depict a world of predominantly blonde heroines with twinkling blue eyes and a fair complexion. This is problematic and an unrealistic view of the world we live in today.

    Seeing oneself is an affirming moment, but for little girls of color, this mirror image is as rare as Cinderella’s glass slipper fitting properly. We all crave representation and deserve access to reflections of ourselves, and that is why I’m excited by this book: Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin illustrated by Ebony Glenn.

    When little Tameika auditions for the role of Snow White, she overhears kids saying she’s “too chubby” and making comments about her having brown skin. They whisper and giggle and stare at her which in turn causes Tameika to second guess her decision about playing the lead role.

    I adore this book for so many reasons. It shows all marginalized kids that everything is possible. Tameika auditioning for the role of Snow White is powerful not only for readers of color, but for everyone, enabling us to see beyond the dominant images of White protagonists in childhood stories and fairy tales.

    It is revolutionary that fairy tales and stories represent children of all colors. With her brown skin, and kinky hair, Tameika is the furthest from classic Disney fantasies—but closest to my reality.  Hopefully all children (and adults) reading this book will realize that we can become our wishes and dreams, and that we’re worthy of being seen despite what others may think or say.

    I think this book is a winner! It has great read aloud appeal, beautiful illustrations that inspire, and messages about body positivity, acceptance, self-love, bravery, diversity and inclusion. Ages 4-8 and up.

    five-stars
    Share:
    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Women’s History Month: Our Legendary Ladies Presents Anandi Gopal Joshi (A Book Review)

    I received this book for free from MCP Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

    Anandi Gopal Joshi Published by MCP Books Format: Hardcover
    Source: MCP Books
    Buy on Indie Bound
    four-stars

    A baby book highlighting the life of Anandi Gopal Joshi, the first Indian woman to receive a western medical degree and a trailblazer for women's rights and education.

    The second board book in the Our Legendary Ladies series, this board book introduces tiny readers (ages birth – 4 and up) to Anandi Gopal Joshi.  Born on March 31, 1865, Anandi Gopal Joshi was one of the first Indian female physicians.

    Joshi was married at the age of just nine, which was common in 19th century India, to a man 20 years older than her.  She gave birth to their first child when she was 14, but her baby son died 10 days later due to a lack of medical care for women.  The death of her son served as her motivation to study medicine.

    During a time when it was unthinkable for a woman to get an education, Anandi defied the odds and came to America to study medicine at the Women’s College of Philadelphia.  She later returned to India and received special recognition and congratulations from Queen Victoria.  Anandi dreamed of opening a medical college for women, but due to an early death from tuberculosis on 26 February, 1887, her dream was never realized.  She died at the age of 21.

    In 1997, a crater on the planet Venus was named after Anandi by the International Astronomical Union.  She is one of the few notable to receive this honor.

    Although Anandi’s life was short lived and she is lesser-known, she was a true inspiration and pioneer of her time.

    About the Our Legendary Ladies Book Series
    The books are written by Megan Callea and illustrated by Jennifer Howard.  For each featured lady in this book series, a leading historian signs off on the final version of the book.  Each book is well researched and fact checked for accuracy.  In addition, for each book purchased, a portion of the proceeds, and books, will be donated to these non-profits: Bright by ThreeJumpstart and Operation Showers of Appreciation.  Following Anandi Gopal Joshi, future Our Legendary Ladies books will include Sacagawea, Amelia Earhart and Anne Frank.

    For more information about Our Legendary Ladiesclick here to visit the official website.

    four-stars
    Share:
    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Go on a BabyMoon and Bring This Picture Book With You: BabyMoon by Hayley Barrett, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

    I received this book for free from Candlewick in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

    Go on a BabyMoon and Bring This Picture Book With You: BabyMoon by Hayley Barrett, illustrated by Juana Martinez-NealBabymoon by Hayley Barrett
    Published by Candlewick Pages: 32
    Format: Hardcover
    Source: Candlewick
    Buy on AmazonBuy on Indie Bound
    five-stars

    Inside the cozy house, a baby has arrived! The world is eager to meet the newcomer, but there will be time enough for that later. Right now, the family is on its babymoon: cocooning, connecting, learning, and muddling through each new concern. While the term “babymoon” is often used to refer to a parents’ getaway before the birth of a child, it was originally coined by midwives to describe days like these: at home with a newborn, with the world held at bay and the wonder of a new family constellation unfolding. Paired with warm and winsome illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal, Hayley Barrett’s lyrical ode to these tender first days will resonate with new families everywhere.

    Have you ever been on a babymoon?  Do you even know what a babymoon is?

    ba·by·moon
    /ˈbābēˌmo͞on
    noun
    a relaxing or romantic vacation taken by parents-to-be before (or after) their baby is born.

    The term Babymoon was first coined in a 1996 book, The Year After Childbirth, by childbirth educator Sheila Kitzinger.

    Essentially, a babymoon is sort of like a honeymoon, only it happens after you confirm that you are pregnant and expecting a baby, and before (or after) the baby arrives.

    My husband and I didn’t go on a babymoon before or after having either of our children.  Why?  Because I had no idea this was even a THING!  Now that I know the definition of what a babymoon is and especially after reading this beautiful book, it ALMOST makes me want to go and make another baby!  Seriously though, as far as I’m concerned, my baby making days are over, but thanks to Babymoon I can live vicariously through these gorgeous illustrations and imagine what a babymoon might be like.

    In this rhyming book, readers meet a sweet family (a biracial family of color) who decide to go on a secluded babymoon with their newborn baby.  The baby is gender neutral which was a purposeful decision.  I love that the family chose to take their babymoon AFTER baby arrived along with their pet cat and dog in tow as a way for them all to bond as a family.

    As first-time parents, they have so much to learn about caring for a new baby.  From changing diapers to nursing to building trust.  If you are a parent then you know having a child changes the family dynamic dramatically.  The baby becomes the center of attention from the moment he/she arrives.

    I like how the parents in this book are investing time and space to be together as a family unit away from home.  It gives me hope these parents will walk into parenthood more connected than ever.

    Newborns should be spending the vast majority of their time in the arms of their mothers and fathers and that’s exactly what this book shows.  And since they were away from their home, they won’t have to worry about being their baby bombarded with the smells of other family members, friends or neighbors.  All of that can be confusing to a new baby, especially when they are still learning to nurse. Babies are primal little creatures and rely on their nose to guide them.

    Although this babymoon getaway is blissful, it is peppered with a bit of anxiety as the parents look like they’re trying to decipher baby’s cries.  This shows the reality of parenthood and how tough it can be at times having a newborn.

    Here together.  So much to learn.  We muddle through each new concern.

    The illustrations in Babymoon will take your breath away and make you feel the love these parents have for their baby.  I think this is some of Juana Martinez-Neal’s best work to date.  Each illustration is so tranquil infused with gentle and loving tenderness.  A definite must-have for newborn parents or parents-to-be.  Add this one to your baby shower gift giving list!

    Your turn: Seasoned parents, what tips or advice would you offer a new family to help them get through the first couple of weeks? Please share your wisdom in the comments below!

    About the Author
    Hayley Barrett wrote BABYMOON to encourage growing families to take time together to rest and fall in love. Once an aspiring nurse-midwife, she honors the arrival of any child, whether newborn or older, by birth or by adoption, as a momentous event.  Hayley lives in eastern Massachusetts.

    About the Illustrator
    Juana Martinez-Neal is the author-illustrator of Alma and How She Got Her Name and the Pura Belpré Award–winning illustrator of La Princesa and the Pea and of La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for los Niños, both by Susan Middleton Elya. Juana Martinez-Neal was born in Lima, Peru, but currently resides in Arizona.

    five-stars
    Share: