Eyes That Speak to the Stars by Joanna Jo (A Book Review)
This is a beautiful story that should be in every home and school library. Books like this may help to have productive discussions about self-acceptance, racism, and anti-bullying from an early age. Teaching children to accept people for who they are and what they look like may help mold young, impressionable minds to be more accepting and empathetic of others.
Unfortunately, many Asian Americans are still facing racist attacks, both verbal and physical – just for being Asian. How sad is it that the shape of someone else’s eyes (or the color of their skin) is enough to make some people dislike them immediately? When others reduce your entire identity to a simple facial feature like your eyes, it can have lasting and harmful psychological effects. No one likes feeling left out, especially kids who are learning to discover where they fit into the world.
To every Asian who has ever been bullied, you are not alone. You are seen, heard, and worthy. People should not be ridiculed for the shape of their eyes, the color of their skin, or for any other reason. Forgive yourself if you’ve let negative remarks make you think you needed to “fix” everything that bullies said was ugly and weird. Understand that you don’t need to look like the Eurocentric standard of beauty to be liked or loved or to “fit in”. Ignore the hateful remarks and hurtful comments. Continue to hold your head high and look to the stars. For your eyes are magical, powerful, and beautiful. “Your eyes rise to the skies and speak to the stars.”
Eyes That Speak to the Stars is recommended for ages 4 – 8 and up. This book publishes on February 15, 2022, but can be pre-ordered now.
Read my review of Eyes That Kiss in the Corners here!
Have you read the companion book, Eyes That Kiss in the Corners? Sound off in the comments!
Keeping the Dream Alive: 30+ Children’s Books to Read for Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Or Anytime of the Year)
Looking for the best Martin Luther King Jr. children’s books?
Even if you do nothing to celebrate or acknowledge Dr. King, the holiday is a wonderful opportunity to talk to children about racism, diversity, equality, kindness, friendship, and peace. Since his death in April 1968, many have stepped up to carry on his legacy including: Stacey Abrams, Bryan Stevenson, Tamika D. Mallory and others. It has truly been inspiring to see so many new activists and politicians continuing to stand up and speak out against injustices the same way Dr. King did years ago.
Below I’m sharing some great children’s books inspired by the life and legacy of one of our nation’s most prominent civil rights activists, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Let me know in the comments some of your favorite Dr. King children’s books.
The 2022 Ultimate List of Diverse Children’s Books
What books are you and your kids looking forward to reading in 2022? We’re entering this new year with another epic list of diverse reads to share with you. Ready?
Most of the books listed here are recommended either for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary readers since my children fall within those groups and so do the little readers in my core target audience. However, I’ve also included a few middle grade and young adult books for slightly older readers to enjoy as well. The best part is all these books are available for pre-order now so you can get a head start on your shopping.
Rest assured, I’ve selected what I think will be the “best of the best” in terms of diverse books. I know other amazing books will be released throughout the year, but these are the ones that were on my radar right now. As other books are released, I will come back and make changes to this post throughout the year so be sure to check it periodically or bookmark it to read later.
I’m looking forward to sharing most (if not all) of these books with my little readers. As always, I tried to target books that will likely have: stunning illustrations, read aloud appeal, a kid-friendly theme – or all three! Enjoy!
Note: ** Since other countries have different release dates, some of these books may be released earlier or later internationally than the months I have listed as publication dates do sometimes change. **
Have you seen this new SBP Learning series of picture books from the publisher Sleeping Bear Press? It features nonfiction social justice topics like: anti-racism, equality and racial justice. Sleeping Bear Press is generously sponsoring this giveway for one (1) winner to receive a copy of two of the latest books in the series. Check out the synopsis below from the publisher to read more about these informative books and enter the giveaway for your chance to win. Good Luck!
Topics on race in America have been avoided in children’s education for too long–allowing racist systems to continue to thrive. Racial Justice in America: Topics for Change explores current questions around race in comprehensive, honest, and age-appropriate ways. Developed in conjunction with educator, advocate, and author Kelisa Wing to reach children of all races and encourage them to approach race issues with open eyes and minds.
Millions of Americans have marched and protested to fight inequality and to bring about social change. These large gatherings, filled with powerful and courageous voices, have shined a light on important issues and resulted in new laws. This book covers some of the most famous marches in U.S. history–and encourages readers to stand up for the things they believe in.
Keeping the Dream Alive: Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. + Lakeshore Learning People Shapes Kit
This week marks the 92nd birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and next week we celebrate a federal holiday in his honor. Even if you do nothing to celebrate or acknowledge Dr. King, I think the holiday is a great opportunity to talk to children about racism, diversity, equality, kindness, friendship, and peace.
Since his death in 1968, many have stepped up to carry on his legacy including: Stacey Abrams, Bryan Stevenson, Tamika D. Mallory and others. It has truly been inspiring to see so many new activists and politicians continuing to stand up and speak out against injustices the same way Dr. Kig did years ago.
Dr. King’s birthday allows me time to reflect on the words from the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech that took place at the March on Washington. When I listen to the speech, I begin to think about my own dreams for my children. As parents and educators, we all want the best for our children, right? In essence, we want them to be kind, smart, successful and to achieve all their life goals.
In celebration of Dr. King’s birthday, we enjoyed using our People Shapes™ Project Kit to create a banner of people from diverse backgrounds all joined together in unity holding hands. One of my favorite things about products from Lakeshore Learning is they allow my kids to imagine, create and learn as they play and sometimes have open dialogue about real world issues. While working on our banner we read a couple of books about Martin Luther King Jr., talked about the March on Washington and ways Dr. King’s work and sacrifice has had a lasting impact on our lives.
The People Shapes™ Project Kit can be used to create self-portraits, favorite storybook characters and more! You get 24 chipboard People Shapes in 12 People Colors®, plus cute felt outfits, craft hair, wiggly eyes, spangles, sequins, glue, craft sticks and more.
Cheers to you, Dr. King on your birthday in heaven! Thank you for the opportunity to meditate on your message and your legacy. How are you keeping Dr. King’s dream alive with your family? Feel free to share in the comments.
You can use my Lakeshore Learning coupon code to get 25% off any single non-sale item. My coupon code is 6383. It can be used for purchases in-store or online.
Valid through 1/31/21 for one-time use in stores or online. Limit one coupon per customer. Not valid on items with shipping restrictions. Other exclusions may apply. Visit http://bit.ly/3bRGxeZ for details.
Today I’m thrilled to share with you the cover of a new book by award-winning author Eve L. Ewing! In addition to her work as a writer, Ewing is a sociologist of education whose research is focused on racism, social inequality, and urban policy, and the impact of these forces on American public schools and the lives of young people.
MAYA AND THE ROBOT is an illustrated middle grade novel about a forgotten homemade robot who comes to life just when aspiring fifth-grade scientist Maya needs a friend—and a science fair project. The cover and interior art are by Christine Almeda, a Filipina American freelance illustrator and character designer.
Synopsis Maya’s nervous about fifth grade. She tries to keep calm by reminding herself she knows what to expect. But then she learns that this year won’t be anything like the last. For the first time since kindergarten, her best friends Jada and MJ are placed in a different class without her, and introverted Maya has trouble making new friends.
She tries to put on a brave face since they are in fifth grade now, but Maya is nervous! Just when too much seems to be changing, she finds a robot named Ralph in the back of Mr. Mac’s convenience store closet. Once she uses her science skills to get him up and running, a whole new world of connection opens up as Ralph becomes a member of her family and Maya begins to step into her power.
“It’s hard for me to look at Christine’s cover without tearing up. I’m so excited for the world to get a first look at Maya and Ralph and for the ways the cover gives little glimpses into the story to come!” – Eve L. Ewing
Eve L. Ewing is the award-winning author of Electric Arches, 1919, and Ghosts in the Schoolyard. She also wrote the acclaimed Ironheart and Champions series for Marvel Comics. Her work has appeared in many venues, including the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and Vanity Fair. Born and raised in Chicago, she was a middle school teacher before completing her doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Currently she is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.
Christine Almeda is a Filipina American freelance illustrator, character designer, and lover of sunshine. She graduated from Montclair State University with a BFA focused on character design and children’s media. She believes in the power of creativity, diverse storytelling, and that art can make life more beautiful.
The Picture Books That Helped Me Through: The Best Diverse Picture Books of 2020
Looking for the best picture books of 2020? Here my top 50 favorites from the year (in no particular order).
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you click a link and purchase items. Thank you in advance for supporting by shopping my links which allows me to keep providing this type of content for you.
Did you find yourself reading more in 2020 than you had in previous years? I know I did! One of the best bookish lessons 2020 taught me is to always keep your home library stocked with a few good books.
When your library closes for several weeks or months, you return to your own bookshelves for reading materials, right? I was grateful to have several favorite reads on hand and several books that I hadn’t gotten around to reading yet. I was also grateful to have a pretty decent inventory for my bookworm children to select from.
While 2020 has certainly been an interesting and challenging year, it has taught me SO many lessons and reaffirmed other things which I already knew.
Here are some of the other lessons 2020 has taught me:
I am capable of so much more than I thought. And so are YOU!
Black lives matter. Today, tomorrow, yesterday and ALWAYS.
Self-care is a priority, not a privilege. I need to take care of myself and ensure I fill up my own cup so I can be fully present for others.
To prioritize my health and build up my immune system.
Time is a limited resource, don’t waste it on people or things that don’t add value to your life. Period.
Our attention is one of our most important resources. Remember to redirect your attention from others to YOURSELF and avoid being distracted from real life by giving people or things your attention that don’t deserve it.
Change is inevitable. Be willing to roll with it and go with the flow.
Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Don’t be judgmental. Be kind. Always.
To count my blessings each and every day and take NOTHING for granted.
To keep learning, be flexible and think outside the box.
Evening family walks are my favorite.
Busyness can no longer be an excuse. The people that are supposed to be in my life will be there. Period.
When used correctly social media is an amazing tool that connects us. I am grateful for technology as a means of staying connected with people.
Be authentically me. Life is too short to worry about what others think.
I don’t need much to be happy. Really, I don’t.
Never leave the house angry. Kiss your loved ones and tell them you love them daily.
Invest in your business (if you have one) and your personal growth.
Take time to appreciate the little things each day.
This year has also brought us some excellent children’s picture books. Here, I’ve listed my top 50 favorite picture books of 2020. These are the picture books that helped me through in 2020. Spy any of your favorites here?
Habbi Habbi Bilingual Education at Home + Reading Wand & Bilingual Books Giveaway!
Disclaimer: I was gifted the Habbi Habbi Reading Wand and bilingual books in exchange for an honest review and to host this giveaway. As always, all opinions are my own.
Are you looking for an easy, screen-free and interactive way to raise bilingual kids? If so, you may want to check out a company called Habbi Habbi. Started by two moms, Hanna and Anne-Louise, these women value being intentional parents. As stated on their website:
We aspire to have our kids … express CREATIVITY, be SELF RELIANT, be GRITTY, feel WORTHY, show EMPATHY, engage GLOBAL COMMUNITY, exercise SELF CARE.
Habbi Habbi bilingual books are are such a great way to introduce kids to a new language and major bonus points for them being so easy to use!
Once your books and reading wand arrive, take them out of the box and turn the reading wand on. It comes fully charged and ready to use right out of the box. This is HUGE for anxious and curious kids like mine who are always ready to just “dive right in”. Every inch is of the book is tappable – text, image, even white space! Our family was gifted a set of English-Spanish books to try.
Also, you’ll only need one want to use with ANY book in the Habbi Habbi series, regardless of language. E.g. one wand accesses Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and any future title / language that is released. The reading wand is also re-chargable and comes with a USB cord for easy charging.
The bilingual books are matte hardcover board books with thick and sturdy pages, perfect for even the tiniest readers! They also have rainbow colored book spines which make them aesthetically pleasing to look at all together on your bookshelf.
I can’t recommend the Habbi Habbi reading wand and bilingual books enough for anyone who wants to learn Spanish or Mandarin Chinese with their children. Have you tried Habbi Habbi with your little readers yet? Feel free to share in the comments.
THE GIVEAWAY! Our friends at Habbi Habbi want to give one (1) lucky winner a Starter Set (Wand + 5 books) – in your choice of Spanish-English or Chinese-English.
Entry rules: Open Worldwide at everyone ages 18 and over. (If it is an international winner – you are required to pay shipping on your own). There will be no shipping costs for U.S. or Canadian residents. Good Luck!
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Harper Kids in exchange for an honest review. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
Synopsis A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.
Drawing from the strength of these powerful women in her life, she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self love and empowerment.
Reflection “My eyes that kiss I the corners and glow like warm tea are a revolution.”
People often call eyes the windows to the soul. The eyes are usually one of the first things we look at on another person. They can tell us when someone is lying or telling the truth, and they can even tell us when someone is in love or ill. Apparently, our eyes tell us a lot more about ourselves and others than we once thought.
In America, and in other parts of the world, there are negative stereotypes that still persist today related to having “Asian eyes.” When people say “Asian eyes”, they are talking about slantedness, roundness, smooth monolids and deep eyelid folds. But they’re also talking Westernization, beauty standards and self-acceptance.
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners is a beautifully written and illustrated love letter that celebrates Asian eyes. It’s a lyrical ode to loving oneself, self acceptance, and having confidence. Four generations of women are featured in this story and they all have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.
This book is an absolute must-have for Asian and Asian-American children (and adults) who may have grown up feeling ashamed about their eyes. If you grew up wearing eyelid tape or Scotch tape to make your eyes appear bigger, read this. If you ever had eyelid surgery to change your Asian eyes, read this. If you were made fun of or called names because of your eyes, read this. It is sure to heal your soul and fill you with so much pride and joy about your eyes.
Everyone should read this book, not just Asians or Asian-Americans. Reading it can help build empathy, compassion and a better understanding for some readers. Books like Eyes That Kiss in the Corners are so needed to help reflect our multicultural world.
The Barefoot Book Box: A Book Subscription for Kids 0 – 9
Are you planning to gift your little readers or students with a book subscription box this holiday season?
I love monthly subscription boxes for kids because they offer unique educational experiences. Subscription boxes can give kids of all ages the chance to learn by reading great books, doing fun projects, crafts and activities. Many subscription boxes on the market today are designed to include everything you need to spend quality time together as a family or on your own. Today, there are subscription boxes that appeal to all sorts of different interests and passions from books to beauty and everything in between.
Have you heard about the Barefoot Book Box yet? They currently have three book boxes available for kids ages 0 – 2, ages 3 – 5 and ages 6 – 9. You can choose their 3 month, 6 month or 12 month plan.
From their website: “Each box is created by an independent children’s book publisher with nearly 30 years of experience crafting award-winning products. The publisher Barefoot Books is known for publishing beautiful books of the highest quality. They’re designed around a set of core values to help you raise caring, open-minded, global citizens who can think critically and creatively. Educators and parents know that if a book is from Barefoot, they can trust the language, storytelling and illustrations to be beautiful, age-appropriate, and engaging for kids.”
Each Barefoot Book Box includes books, gifts, an artist’s print and expert tips that are focused on a specific theme. The themes are rooted in their 5 core pillars of publishing:
Global Awareness, Diversity & Inclusion
Early Learning & First Concepts
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics
Creativity & Imagination
My kids are currently ages 6 and 8 so we opted for the box for kids ages 6 – 9. Some of the things I love the most about Barefoot Books is their commitment to diversity and inclusion, their high-quality books, and how they incorporate real-life lessons, social/emotional learning and STEAM (science, math, engineering, art, and math) into their books.
Barefoot Books also gets bonus points from me for their consistent use of bright and vivid illustrations and I absolutely LOVE their commitment to green (eco-friendly) business practices. From sustainably sourced paper to vegetable-based ink, the materials that make up their books are ones that you can feel good about having in your classroom or home. Just look at the quality of their books!
Did I also mention they work with talented artists from around the world who illustrate each of our books by hand? As a part of your subscription, with every box you’ll receive an exclusive, collectable 8×10 inch illustration image, printed on sturdy cardstock. You can hang these on your walls, give them as gifts, use them as prompts to inspire your child’s artwork, or laminate them to create unique and colorful placemats. In addition to expert tips, the back of each artist’s print features information about the artist and their illustration technique. Talk about attention to detail AND adding even more value!
Keeping these prints within your child’s view not only adds beauty and whimsy to your home or classroom — it also reminds your child of their favorite books, reinforcing learning and prompting ongoing discussions.
The best part? Shipping costs are already included in your membership prepaid price! In addition, all Barefoot Book Box memberships are prepaid. Therefore, there is no need to cancel your membership if you wish to no longer receive a box. Your payment method will be charged only once at the time of purchase. No further charges will be made.
Lastly, at this time, the Barefoot Book Box is available for purchase in the United States, only. International shipping and shipping to Alaska and Hawaii are not currently available for online orders.
The Mocha Express Reading Challenge: Download this Diverse & Inclusive Holiday Reading Challenge for Kids and Adults!
Happy Holidays, friends! Y’all ready for another resource to use with your little readers, your students or on your own? If you’re an educator, it makes the perfect holiday gift for all of your students no matter what age they are!
I talked to Briana about my idea and concept and she used her creative genius to produce a high-quality reading chart. I couldn’t be more happier with it! Get in touch with Briana, give her a follow on Instagram, and support her as she continues to build up her art portfolio. It’s always such a pleasure to work with her and help support another Black woman at the same time.
This coloring printable is a fun way to celebrate holiday reading. It features an array of books and other items beautifully stacked on a train which I’ve decided to call the Mocha Express. You can enjoy this coloring page printed in various sizes from 11 x 17 up to 24 X 36 if you’d like jumbo poster size.
Each day during the holiday months, color in one book or object until the whole poster is complete. Also, be sure to use the checklist to check off books as you read or complete the challenges. I designed this printable to be used starting Thanksgiving Day (in the U.S.), but you can start using it any day throughout the year you choose.
If you need book recommendations throughout the challenge, I have created several categorized lists in my online Bookshop and Amazon stores to assist you. Also, if purchasing new or used books isn’t in your budget, be sure to utilize your local library.
Here are a few of my book lists to help get you started:
A Kids Book About publishes hardcover, high-quality books that cover a range of challenging, empowering and important topics for kids ages 5-9. They have an impressive growing collection of books about: money, white privilege, feminism, body image, voting, depression, cancer, empathy, systemic racism and more.
Each book has an easy to follow text-only format with no illustrations. Essentially, these books are meant to be conversation starters and are best read with a grown up to answer any discussion questions children may have.
Also, have you heard the news? A Kids Book About recently announced their books made it on the 2020 list of Oprah’s favorite things!