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    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    My Color is Rainbow by Agnes Hsu (A Book Review)

    My Color is Rainbow by Agnes Hsu, illustrated by Yuliya Gwilym

    Publisher: hello, Wonderful
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 32

    Synopsis
    Follow Little White Arch on his journey as he wonders what his color could be. Along the way he meets many colorful characters who help him realize the answer. A playful story about kindness, acceptance, and openness that celebrates how we are not defined by one, but many wonderful characteristics.

    Reflection
    Who doesn’t love rainbows? They are colorful, magical, and full of hope! Rainbows are a bridge into other times and cultures, science, color theory, and more!  I know whenever I see a rainbow in the sky it immediately evokes happiness within me.  There’s just something about seeing all seven colors of the rainbow together as one that instantly makes me smile and fills me with joy.  Perhaps you can relate.

    My Color is Rainbow starts off introducing White Arch, the main protagonist.  White Arch looked white, but deep down he felt like he was much more than just the color white.  So he dreamed of the many different possibilities of what color he might actually be: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

    I think one great aspect of this book is that it presents many of the different associations that colors have with emotions– for example red is often associated with love, yellow usually represents happiness and blue can mean feeling peaceful.  These are common expressions in our language, and this book presents those in a straightforward manner that can easily be grasped by the youngest readers.

    My Color is Rainbow is also filled with bright and colorful illustrations.  Each two-page spread uses different colors of the rainbow to represent the color White Arch is dreaming of possibly becoming. My kids love pointing out each of the colors as well as all of the various things taking place on each page.  They love seeing White Arch on the last page riding on the horse sporting his new rainbow colors.

    In the end, White Arch decides his favorite color isn’t any one particular color. His favorite color is rainbow! What wonderful messages of diversity, inclusiveness, kindness and acceptance this book sends to babies, preschoolers and early readers!  Add this colorful book to your little readers home or school library…especially if they love rainbows!  It’s great for teaching kids about colors and feelings and it’s a great self-discovery book.  As an advocate for diversity and inclusiveness, I appreciate that this book sends a clear message that all colors do indeed matter.  Yes, representation matters!

    Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

    About the Author
    Agnes Hsu can be found these days happily creating on hello, Wonderful, overseeing her daughter’s kindness project Rainbow Rock Project, and running her Plaeful store featuring her first product launch, an erasable wall decal to inspire kids to draw.

    Agnes’ work has been featured in nationwide publications in print and online such as Real Simple, Women’s Day, Better Homes & Gardens, Shutterfly, Tiny Prints, Elizabeth Street, Buzzfeed, Good Housekeeping, Spoonful and Babble.

    About the Illustrator
    Yuliya Gwilym aka yufrukt, is an illustrator, designer and published author focused on creating for children. Born and raised in Ukraine, she has been living in the Netherlands since 2008.  She creates illustrations for books, magazines, clothes, toys, stationery and more. Visit her website here.

    Your turn:  
    Have you read this book with your little readers yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    Rainbow Weaver by Linda Elovitz Marshall (A Book Review)

    Rainbow Weaver by Linda Elovitz Marshall, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri

    Publisher: Children’s Book Press
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 6- 9 years old

    Synopsis
    Ixchel wants to follow in the long tradition of weaving on backstrap looms, just as her mother, grandmother, and most Mayan women have done for more than two thousand years. But Ixchel’s mother is too busy preparing her weavings for market. If they bring a good price, they will have money to pay for Ixchel s school and books. And besides, there is not enough extra thread for Ixchel to practice with.

    Disappointed, Ixchel first tries weaving with blades of grass, and then with bits of wool, but no one would want to buy the results. As she walks around her village, Ixchel finds it littered with colorful plastic bags. There is nowhere to put all the bags, so they just keep accumulating.

    Suddenly, Ixchel has an idea! She collects and washes the plastic bags. Then she cuts each bag into thin strips. Sitting at her loom, Ixchel weaves the plastic strips into a colorful fabric that looks like a beautiful rainbow just like the weavings of Mayan women before her.

    Reflection

    I adore books that teach kids about human rights, fighting for a good cause and making the world a better place.  It’s never too early to try and change the world, right?  I enjoy reading books like Rainbow Weaver to help my kids exercise their power as agents of change in the world and help them not to feel powerless.

    Little Ixchel wants to help her mother weave in order for her to be able to sell items at a nearby market.  You see, Ixchel wants to earn money so she can pay for her books and other school materials.  There’s only one problem though – there isn’t enough extra thread for her to use.  She later gets inspiration from rainbow colored plastic trash bags surrounding her and turns them into fabric in order to create gorgeous rainbow pieces to sell at the market.

    I am inspired by Ixchel’s problem solving spirit, resourcefulness and creativity!  Not only are the pieces she creates are absolutely beautiful, but by turning the plastic bags into string she helps to clean up her village – genius!  It reminds me to the book One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul.

    I also loved that this book is bilingual – written in both Spanish and English text.  The illustrations are stunning and very detailed.  I think they really capture the Mayan culture really well.  Parents and educators may be inspired to do simple weaving projects with their kids as an extension activity after reading this book.  We plan to try our hands at our very first cardboard weaving project – so fun!

    Although Ixchel is a fictional character, the author’s note in the back of the book mentions an organization of weavers in Guatemala called Mayan Hands which this book was inspired by.  In an effort to bring more awareness to the work of the Mayan women, this book was written as a tribute to the weavers at Mayan Hands.  A portion of the proceeds from this book will benefit weavers of the Mayan Hands and Maya Works cooperatives.  The proceeds will also help by providing money for education of children like Ixchel, and for health and dental care for the weavers and their families.

    I’d highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about weaving, Mayan culture, art, environmentalism, problem solving, creative thinking, recycling and family traditions.

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    Read Aloud Book Club for Kids: January Chapter Book of the Month Selection

    Happy New Year, friends!

    I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!  I’m so excited it’s a new year and can’t wait to see all the great things in store for 2017.  I’ve been busy working on a few different projects behind the scenes and I can’t wait to unveil them to you as the year goes on.

    Here’s the first project I’d like to introduce…a read aloud book club the whole family can join in on!  If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve likely already heard about this.

    This year I made a goal to read aloud more easy reader chapter books with my kids in addition to reading lots of picture books. So instead of keeping it to myself, I thought it would be fun to have others who may be interested join us!

    As the year goes on, I hope to expand this club with beyond the book activities and maybe a few other goodies. For now though, the goal is to just read aloud 1 easy reader chapter book per month.  This club will feature different easy to read diverse chapter books to read aloud each month with the younger children in your home. Are you up to the challenge? Do you have a goal to read aloud daily with your kids? Join us!

    Here’s the first diverse chapter book we’ll be reading aloud:

    The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith

    Fans around the world adore the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the basis of the HBO TV show, and its proprietor Precious Ramotswe, Botswana’s premier lady detective.

    Have you ever said to yourself, Wouldn’t it be nice to be a detective?  This is the story of an African girl who says just that. Her name is Precious.

    When a piece of cake goes missing from her classroom, a traditionally built young boy is tagged as the culprit. Precious, however, is not convinced. She sets out to find the real thief. Along the way she learns that your first guess isn’t always right. She also learns how to be a detective.

    This book is a quick read.  The copy we have is only 73 pages long so it shouldn’t take long to finish reading it.  Plus, it’s part of a mystery series for young readers!  If you like this book you may want to check out the others in the series: Mystery of the Missing Lion and Mystery of Meerkat Hill.

    I hope some of you will join us this month and read along with your little readers.

    Happy Reading!

    Your turn: What are some of your favorite easy reader chapter books for kids?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    Yawning Yoga by Laurie Jordan (A Book Review)

    Yawning Yoga by Laurie Jordan, illustrated by Diana Mayo

    Publisher: Little Pickle Stories
    Pages: 32
    Format: Hardcover
    Age Range: 4 – 8 years old, Preschool – Grade 3

    Synopsis
    Elements of yoga practice including stretching, posture, and breath work, are introduced through elegant artwork and poems like ‘Mountain’ (Tadasana) and ‘Seashell’ (Balasana), to help children — and their caring adults — ready their bodies for a restful sleep.

    Reflection
    Life.  It has a tendency to get pretty crazy no matter what we do or how much we try to control it. From our careers and our hobbies to our families and our relationships, it seems there is always something begging for our attention. Am I right? How is someone supposed to get any peace of mind when there are a million things happening at once?

    For some, exercise like yoga or running do the trick; others find peace in writing or painting. For me, the best place to find inner peace is books, because what better way to channel inner peace than through a great read?  The physical act of reading has calming benefits in and of itself.

    Over the past few months, the kids and I have been incorporating yoga into our bedtime routine right after story time.  It’s not an elaborate exercise session, just a few yoga poses to stretch our bodies in preparation for a good night’s sleep.  That’s exactly the point of the book Yawning Yoga by Laurie Jordan: to calm little readers minds and get them ready for sleep.

    You guys!  I am completely smitten by this beautiful book cover!  Isn’t it gorgeous?  It makes it very hard for me to not judge this book by the cover alone.  You’ll be happy to know this book doesn’t just have a pretty cover, the content is amazing too – especially if you’re a fan of yoga like me.  Little kids who practice yoga are also sure to love this book.

    In her first picture book, yoga instructor Laurie Jordan, creator of the Kids Yoga Teacher Training program, offers rhyming gentle poems to guide young yogis through breathing and transitions.  Each yoga pose is first described in a poem and accompanied by its Sanskrit name.  There are also helpful tips that advise readers how they can get the most of of their yoga practice.

    The opening page offers some helpful tips for little readers:

    • Try to hold each pose for three to five breaths.
    • Move through the poses at your own pace.
    • Do all the poses or choose a few different ones to do before bedtime.
    • Each exercise should feel good and get you ready for bed.

    Little readers are then encouraged to begin doing some of the yoga poses starting with reciting an “Om” sound and holding it for as long as they can and then repeating it three times afterwards.  Several yoga poses are mentioned throughout this book including: mountain, hugs and kisses, dog-tired down dog, seashell, butterfly, bedtime bug, jelly belly, candlestick, catch and release, thankful and namaste.  Some of the poses were new to me so I ended up learning something new.

    The back matter contains an afterward by Elena Brower, author of Art of Attention, and a glossary of terms referenced throughout.  The glossary is chock full of useful information and really helps to break down the meaning of each Sanskrit name.  For example, the word “Namaste” means “I bow to you.”  Namaste is traditionally said at the end of yoga practice to honor those we have practiced with.

    Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the illustrations.  If you couldn’t already tell from the cover they are amazing!  They are so dreamy, soothing and simply beautiful.  There are diverse characters represented doing the yoga poses.  I love the color palette chosen by the illustrator as well as the attention to detail.  Each scene seems to transcend you to a far off land and really helps to calm and relax your mind.

    Like all well-written books, I think this one has the power to take little readers on their own personal, self-defined journey to wherever it is they need to be right before falling asleep.  They may imagine they are a warrior standing on top of a mountain, swimming underwater with sea creatures, or out in the garden becoming one with nature.  If your little reader is in need of finding their way to inner peace, I’d highly recommend this book to help them get there.  I’d also recommend this for yoga teachers or little readers who would like to start practicing yoga or mindfulness.

    About Little Pickle Stories
    Little Pickle Stories is dedicated to creating stories and products that foster kindness in young people – and doing so in a manner congruent with that mission.  Learn more on their website.

    Connect with Laurie Jordan!
    Website| Instagram | Twitter

    Connect with Diana Mayo!

    Website | InstagramTwitter

    Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading this book?  What are some ways you help your little readers relax and calm down before bedtime?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    Penguins Love Colors by Sarah Aspinall (A Book Review)

    Penguins Love Colors by Sarah Aspinall
    penguinslovecolors
    Age Range:
    3 – 5 years
    Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
    Hardcover: 40 pages
    Publisher: The Blue Sky Press

    Synopsis
    Mama loves brightly colored flowers and her little penguins too!  Tulip, Tiger Lily, Dandelion, Bluebell, Violet and Broccoli use red, orange, yellow, blue, purple, and green to color in their snowy world and paint a wonderful surprise for Mama.   Will she know who painted what?  Of course she will!  But will YOU know?

    Simple language and arresting, graphic illustrations introduce readers to the six primary and secondary colors and the adorable antics of six creative little penguins. A lively text, asking children to participate by answering questions, makes this an engaging, heartwarming story that is perfect for bedtime, story time, or anytime.

    Reflection
    My kids absolutely LOVE this cute little book – honestly!  Since the day we received it, it’s been in our bedtime story rotation on repeat at the top of the pile.  I think the kids are attracted to the bright colors and of course the six little penguins.  I mean who can resist an adorable group of penguins wearing rainbow colored berets who love to paint?

    Each of the penguins is named after a colorful flower.  There is: Tulip, Tiger Lily, Dandelion, Bluebell, Violet and Broccoli.  Did you know broccoli is a flower?  This was news to me, but a note in the copyright explains that broccoli is indeed classified as both a vegetable and a flower.  The part of the vegetable we eat is actually the flower of the plant.  Who knew?

    I love how engaging this book is in such a subtle way.  It asks children simple questions like, “Do you think these little penguins loved to paint on perfect white ice and snow?” and “Do you think they made a mess?”  These questions allow children to think and participate by answering yes or no.  My kids love shouting out the answers to each question asked.

    penguinslovecolors002

    I also like the fact that the author didn’t try to complicate this book by incorporating color mixing.  I think the topic of color mixing would make a great follow-up book to this one though.  The bright and vivid illustrations are captivating throughout the book.  The kids love seeing the penguins all messy and covered in paint.  They also love the page where all of the penguins are in the bathtub – so cute!  Children will relate to doing some of the same things the penguins do like: painting, taking a bath and taking a nap.

    Overall, I think this book is heartwarming, charming, lively and fun!  It’s sure to be a hit with art teachers, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners learning their colors.  In addition to learning about colors, I think children will also easily grasp a couple of different messages and themes like: creativity, imagination, family, love, teamwork, giving, and diversity.  This book shows that not everything in life is black and white; there are colors all around us.  As the back cover of this book says, “Everything is black and white until six little penguins pick up their paintbrushes and change their snowy world into a colorful garden of flowers and rainbows.”  What a great message to encourage little readers to be advocates and agents of change!

    P.S. Be on the lookout for the sequel called Penguins Love their ABC’s coming soon!
    penguinslovetheirabcs
    About the Author
    Sarah Aspinall grew up on top of a hill in the middle of the English countryside and quickly learned that painting, drawing, and writing stories were her favorite things to do.  Later, she came to the United States and graduated with a degree in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design.  She now lives in Los Angeles with her mischievous black cat, Mugglewump.  Connect with Sarah online at her website.

    Your turn: Have you read this book yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's literacy, national picture book month, read aloud

    Celebrate National Picture Book Month in November!

    Hello, November…it’s National Picture Book Month once again!

    What is Picture Book Month?
    Picture Book Month is an international initiative to encourage everyone to celebrate literacy with picture books during the month of November.

    Every day in November, there will be a new post on the website http://picturebookmonth.com from a picture book champion explaining why he/she thinks picture books are important.  There will also be a literacy activity to do with your kids.  Check out the calendar shown below.

    nationalpbmonth2016

    This year’s list of picture book champions are: The 2016 Picture Book Month Champions are: Kwame Alexander, Kevan Atteberry, Phil Bildner, Elizabeth Bluemle, Alyssa Satin Capucilli, Laura Gehl Chamberlain, Matthew Cordell, Pat Cummings, Doug Cushman, Erzsi Deak, Josh Funk, Marita Gentry, Paul Hankins, Verla Kay, Lester Laminack, Minh Le, Adam Lehrhaupt, Sylvia Liu, Ralph Masiello, Laura Murray, Carmen Oliver, Todd Parr, John Parra, Jan Peck, Alexandra Penfold, Jeanie Franz Ransom, Isabel Roxas, Jodell Sadler, Andrea Pinkney, Ashley Wolff.

    In this digital age where people are predicting the coming death of printed books, picture books need love now more than ever. And the world needs picture books. There’s nothing like the physical page turn of a beautifully crafted picture book.

    Join the celebration and party with a picture book!  Be sure to check out the hashtag #picturebookmonth (on Instagram) for additional picture book suggestions to read with your little ones.

    Disclaimer:  I signed up to be a Picture Book Ambassador simply to support this initiative and share the information.  I did not receive any compensation to write this post.

    Your turn:  Will you be celebrating National Picture Book month?  Which picture book champion are you looking forward to reading about this month?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    What Color is a Kiss? (A Book Review)

    What Color is a Kiss? by Rocio Bonilla

    whatcolorisakiss

    Publisher: Charlesbridge
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 32
    Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
    Age Range: 2 – 5 years old
    Available for Sale: 
    December 6, 2016 pre-order now!

    Synopsis
    This sweet, heartwarming story asks one simple question: What color is a kiss? Sassy and intrepid Monica loves to paint and sees her world in every color of the rainbow, but this question nags at her. She paints and paints, hoping to discover the answer. With the help of her mother, Monica discovers that kisses and love come in all colors.

    Reflection
    As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a this sense of curiosity about life and the world around me.  I was one of those kids who was constantly asking “why” “what” and “how” to every thing I didn’t understand.  Now that I’m a parent I find myself fielding questions from my own kids on a regular basis.

    Research shows that a child asks about 40,000 questions between the ages of two and five.  Yes, 40,000 questions – can you imagine?  During that span, a shift occurs in the kind of questions being asked: from simple factual ones (name of object) to the first requests for explanations by 30 months. By age 4, most children are seeking explanations, not just facts.

    I’ll admit, sometimes the amount of questions my kids ask can become annoying, but I love the question little Moncia ponders one day while she’s painting, “What color is a kiss?” in the adorable book What Color is a Kiss by Rocio Bonilla.  To kids this seems like a valid question to ask because they grow up learning that different things have different colors associated with them.  Why would a kiss be any different, right?

    what-color-is-a-kiss

    As a budding artist, Monica has painted many things before, but she’s never painted a kiss.  She starts wondering in her mind what color it could be: red, green, yellow, brown, white, pink, blue, black and gray.  For each color she mentions there are things she likes about it and things she dislikes about it.

    “Should I paint a kiss brown?  Kisses are sweet like chocolate and magical like a forest in autumn.  But…yuck!”

    The text has a mixture of words in all capital letters, playful and childlike italicized cursive writing and regular text. I think some smaller children who haven’t been exposed to cursive writing may not recognize some of the words throughout this book.  My four year old daughter didn’t seem to have a problem reading this book on her own though.  Also, I love the color palette used and the bright and colorful illustrations.  The kids favorite illustrations are the one where Monica is shown running away from a swarm of yellow bees and when she steps in brown dog poop….Ewwww!

    In the end Monica’s mom provides the answer to Monica’s question simply by giving her a kiss on the cheek. Immediately, Monica realizes that kisses and love come in all colors.  So sweet!

    While the kids and I did enjoy this book, it left me wondering how old Monica is supposed to be?  She seems to be a bit older since she’s seen riding a larger bike without training wheels. If she’s older than age six, I wouldn’t think she’d be asking what color kisses are as it seems like the kind of question a two, three or four year-old would ask. That’s just my opinion though.

    If you have a curious and imaginative child like Monica I’d recommend checking this book out.  I think it’s also great for teaching kids about colors, discussing things you like or dislike about certain colors, or for children who love to paint and be creative.

    Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading this book with your little readers?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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