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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 inspring 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.

children's books

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!

To create this printable, I collaborated with Briana James of Artish Reader, a talented Art student. If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember the first project Briana and I collaborated on for my 31 Days of Women’s History coloring sheet.

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:

Thanksgiving Books for Kids
Hanukkah Books for Kids
Multicultural/Diverse Christmas Books for Kids
Latinx Book Recommendations
Diverse & Inclusive Board Books for Infants and Preschoolers
Diverse & Inclusive Picture Books for Kids
African-American Picture Books Featuring Males
African-American Picture Books Featuring Females
Native/Indigenous Picture Books
Asian & Pacific Islander Book Recommendations

Happy Reading!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THIS PRINTABLE! 

CHECK OUT MORE OF MY RESOURCES (INCLUDING MY POPULAR PRINTABLE READING JOURNAL and 28 DAYS OF BLACK HISTORY) ON MY TEACHER’S PAY TEACHERS WEBSITE AND GIVE ME A FOLLOW OVER THERE TOO.

AS ALWAYS, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

children's books

The Ultimate List of Diverse Christmas Children’s Books to Read this Holiday Season

It’s the “most wonderful time of the year” again and the holidays are here.  One of our family’s favorite ways to celebrate the holiday season is to cuddle up and read lots of wonderful Christmas and holiday themed picture books.

Each year as soon as the holidays start to roll around, people often ask me for children’s holiday book recommendations – specifically Christmas books for children of color.  As I’ve often said, I don’t discriminate when it comes to reading books on my own or with my kids.  However, I do know the power of children seeing themselves reflected in literature especially around Christmas when they are bombarded with images of a White Santa Claus from the media to retail stores.

From the story of the nutcracker to the significance of the poinsettia, the multicultural/diverse books on this list include not only some traditional favorites, but also a few great modern additions too.  Check out the list below, complete with publishers’ descriptions included.

Native American Night Before Christmas by Gary Robinson, Jesse T. Hummingbird Ages 4 – 8

An innovative retelling of the classic Christmas tale, this full-color book takes a whimsical look at what Christmas Eve might be like for a Native American family when Old Red Shirt (the Native American Santa Claus) comes a-calling with his team of flying white buffalo to deliver fry bread, commodities and other goodies.

Waiting for Christmas by Monica Greenfield, Jan Spivey Gilchrist Ages 5 – 6

Sharing a sense of wonder and excitement in the time just before Christmas, two African-American children enjoy decorating the tree, visiting with relatives, and checking for presents one last time.

Christmas in Lagos by Ages 4 – 8
Christmas in Lagos
A delightful and charming story celebrating Christmas in Lagos, a modern West African city. This picture book explores the sights and sounds of Lagos at Christmas through the eyes and words of a little Nigerian girl writing a Christmas journal.

Damon and the Magic Christmas Tree by Tash Creates, Ebony Glenn Ages 4 – 8

Damon is a seven-year-old from Seattle, Washington. He wants a Superman action figure for Christmas, and he wants to spend the holidays with his family at their home in Seattle. Instead, his parents tell him that they’re all flying to New York City to visit Damon’s grandmother.

All the Colors of Christmas by Matthew Paul Turner, Gillian Gamble Ages 4 – 8

In his trademark style, Matthew Paul Turner celebrates the Christmas season, particularly the colors that infuse the holiday and all the memorable sensations and experiences—including a festive market, sledding, and nativity scene—connected to those bright hues. Matthew draws his readers into a whirling ribbon of the familiar reds and greens of Christmas, as well as other festive hues, including white, gold, blue, and brown.

Amazing Peace a Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou (Author), Steve Johnson (Illustrator), Lou Fancher (Illustrator) Ages 6 and up

Angelou’s beautiful, moving, and beloved poem, which she first read at the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony, now comes alive as a fully illustrated children’s book, celebrating the promise of peace in the holiday season. In this simple story, a family joins with their community—rich and poor, black and white, Christian, Muslim, and Jew—to celebrate the holidays.

Christmas Soul: African American Holiday Stories by Allison Samuels, Michele Wood Ages 4 – 8 and up

With original stories by Debbie Allen, Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Whitney Houston, D.L. Hughley, Monica, and more. In this collection of poignant and witty original stories, African American celebrities recount their favorite childhood Christmas memories.

The Cajun Nutcracker by Chara Mock, Jean Cassels

As Merrae dances with her friends and family to the sound of washboards and banjos, her excitement only grows when she receives a Nutcracker from Perrain for Christmas. But later that night, she awakes to find herself surrounded by nutrias and the evil Alligator King. Soon toy soldiers and the heroic Nutcracker come to life and begin to battle the creatures. After Merrae is saved by the Nutcracker, they sail through the swamp to see the Sugar Cane Fairy, where the air smells sweet with magnolias.

The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora

A gorgeous re-imagining of the beloved Christmas poem, set in Africa.  Since Clement Clarke Moore penned this Christmas classic in 1825, it has been beloved by children around the world. Now, Caldecott Honor winner Rachel Isadora sets the poem in Africa, capturing the anticipation and excitement of Christmas in her stunning collages.

My Baby Loves Christmas by Jabari Asim (Author), Tara Nicole Whitaker (Illustrator) Ages 2 – 4

Celebrate all the lovely things that Baby discovers about Christmas. This board book, the perfect gift for a new baby, features rhythmic poetry.

10 Trim-The-Tree’ers by Janet Schulman and Linda Davick Ages Birth – 3

Help your children count down to Christmas with ten little neighbors trimming the tree in their building’s lobby.

A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas by Pat Mora (Author), Magaly Morales (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 7

In this version a little girl receives gifts from a secret amiga, whose identity is a sweet surprise at the book’s conclusion. There are things to find and count in Spanish on every page, with pronunciations provided right in the pictures and a glossary and music following the story.

The Nutcracker in Harlem by T. E. McMorrow (Author), James Ransome (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

This jazz-inspired reinvention of The Nutcracker is a worthy tribute to the dreamlike wonder and magic of the Christmas season.  In this original retelling, set in New York City during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, one little girl finds her voice as a musician thanks to her enchanting adventures with a magical toy.

Under the Christmas Tree by Nikki Giovanni, Kadir Nelson Ages 6 – 8

Presented from an African-American perspective by a Coretta Scott King Award-winning author, a holiday tale provides readers with twenty-three charming poems that capture the joy and happiness of one family’s Christmas celebration.

Walk This World at Christmastime by Big Picture Press (Author), Debbie Powell (Illustrator) Ages 5 – 8

A collection of global cultures, Walk This World at Christmastime illustrates the ways people around the world celebrate Christmas. Travel to a new set of countries with every turn of the page. Lift the numbered flaps for all the fun of an Advent calendar in a format to be read again and again.

Tree of Cranes by Allen Say Ages 4 – 7

As a young Japanese boy recovers from a bad chill, his mother busily folds origami paper into delicate silver cranes in preparation for the boy’s very first Christmas.

A Stork in a Baobab Tree: An African 12 Days of Christmas by Catherine House (Author), Polly Alakija (Illustrator) Ages 5 – 8

Set in Africa during the Christmas season, this is the story of a village preparing for a celebration – the birth of a child. The story is told in verse inspired by the traditional carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, but in this version the gifts are: 1 stork in a baobab tree, 2 thatched huts, 3 woven baskets, 4 market traders, 5 bright khangas, 6 women pounding, 7 children playing, 8 wooden carvings, 9 grazing goats, 10 drummers drumming, 11 dancers dancing and 12 storytellers.

Nine Days to Christmas: A Story of Mexico by Marie Hall Ets (Author), Aurora Labastida (Author) Ages 6 -10

Ceci eagerly awaits Las Posadas, the traditional nine-day series of yuletide celebrations. This year she’ll lead the candlelight procession that reenacts Mary and Joseph’s trek to Bethlehem. Meanwhile, Mother takes her to the old marketplace to choose her very first piñata. Ceci is dazzled by the colorful array of options, and after making her choice has second thoughts about the fate of her piñata once the posada takes place.

I Got the Christmas Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison (Author), Frank Morrison (Illustrator) Ages 3 – 6

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and a mother and daughter are enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday season. The little girl hears sleigh bells ringing and carolers singing. She smells chestnuts roasting–CRUNCH! CRUNCH! CRUNCH!–and sees the flashing lights of the department store windows–BLING! BLING! BLING! She spreads the spirit of giving wherever she goes. And when she reaches Santa, she tells him her Christmas wish–for peace and love everywhere, all the days of the year.

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits (Author), Gabi Swiatkowska (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

When Yoon’s teacher lends her a book about Santa Claus, Yoon can’t wait to show it to her parents. To Yoon’s disappointment, though, her mother responds, “We are not a Christmas family.” As Christmas Eve approaches, Yoon learns more and more about this exciting holiday. But no matter how hard she tries to convince her parents to sing Christmas songs or put up Christmas stockings, they always say no. A determined Yoon soon realizes that she must use her own “Shining Wisdom” to persuade her parents that they can indeed be a Christmas family.

Arturo and the Navidad Birds by Anne Broyles (Author), KE Lewis (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 7

It’s time for Arturo and his Central American grandmother, Abue Rosa, to decorate their Christmas tree. Abue Rosa shares with him the family history of each ornament as it is hung. But what happens when Arturo plays with—and breaks—a glass bird? Young readers will find out in this touching, bilingual picture book.

N Is for Navidad by Susan Middleton Elya (Author), Merry Banks (Author), Joe Cepeda (Illustrator) Ages 5 – 6

Bienvenidos! to a celebration of Christmas, Latino-style! From the ngel (angel) hung above the door to the zapatos (shoes) filled with grass for the wise men s camels, each letter in this festive alphabet introduces children to a Spanish word, and each colorful page takes them through another joyous aspect of the 22 days of the traditional holiday.

An Angel Just Like Me by Mary Hoffman (Author), Ying-Hwa Hu, Cornelius Van Wright Ages 5 – 6

An inspiring text and festive illustrations highlight the story of Tyler’s quest to find a Christmas tree angel who does not have golden hair and pink skin, but rather looks like him and his family, is a unique Christmas story that celebrates ethnic diversity.

‘Twas Nochebuena by Roseanne Greenfield Thong (Author), Sara Palacios (Illustrator)

It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re invited to a Nochebuena celebration! Follow a family as they prepare to host a night filled with laughter, love, and Latino tradition. Make tasty tamales and hang colorful adornos (decorations) on the walls. Gather to sing festive canciones (songs) while sipping champurrado (hot chocolate). After the midnight feast has been served and the last gifts have been unwrapped, it’s time to cheer, “Feliz Navidad and to all a good night!”

Grace at Christmas by Mary Hoffman Ages 6 – 9

When her grandmother takes in a stranded family at Christmas, Grace is reluctant to share her favorite holiday with strangers, even though the visiting family includes a “real live ballerina.”

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, Ed Martinez

This is the story of a treasure thought to be lost in a batch of tamales; of a desperate adn funny attempt by Maria and her cousins to eat their way out of trouble; and the warm way a family pulls together to make it a perfect Christmas after all.

Christmas Soup by Alice Faye Duncan, Phyllis Dooley Ages 4 – 7

While Mama is making the traditional Christmas soup her children wish for more. When Baby Fannie prays ‘Bless our home with something more’— and that ‘more’ turns out to be two hungry strangers to feed, it seems as if things can’t get much worse. But the soup—a true feast for the hungry pair—is shared, and the Beene children learn a lesson about giving they won’t soon forget.

Hold Christmas in Your Heart by Cheryl Willis Hudson

A collection of traditional and contemporary African American Christmas songs, stories, and poems for the very young, illustrated by a selection of respected African American artists.  Works from legends such as Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, and Nikki Grimes (just to name a few) are perfectly complimented by rich illustrations from a number of renowned illustrators including, George Ford, Cal Massey, and Sylvia Walker.

A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World by M.E. Furman (Author), Susan Gal (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 7

A World of Cookies for Santa takes readers across the globe to see all the treats that await Santa on Christmas Eve. Head to the Philippines, where children leave out puto seko cookies and ginger tea for Santa; jet to Russia for a honey-spice cookie; then set out for Malawi for a sweet potato cookie! When you’ve returned home, the journey’s still not over—M. E. Furman provides recipes for children to bake some of Santa’s cookies for themselves. A World of Cookies for Santa is a multicultural celebration that families will return to year after year.

The Miracle of the First Poinsettia by Joanne Oppenheim (Author), Fabian Negrin (Illustrator) Ages 4 and up

Originally native to Mexico, beautiful poinsettia plants decorate homes around the world every holiday season. But few people who love the plant s deep red tones know the traditional Mexican tale about how the poinsettia first came to be. In this extraordinary collaboration, Fabian Negrin brings his warm, glowing scenes to Joanne Oppenheim s thoughtful narrative, transporting readers to Old-World Mexico and into the arms of a young girl as her trust leads her straight into a miracle. A beautiful alternative to the traditional nativity story, this book is a wonderful evocation of Mexican customs and culture.

La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story by Antonio Sacre (Author), Angela Dominguez (Illustrator) Ages 5 – 7
Nina is visiting her grandmother in Miami for Christmas. Usually she spends it in snowy New England with her mother and her family, but this year is different. She isn’t certain what to make of a hot and humid holiday, until she learns the traditions of her father’s side of the family from her Cuban grandmother. She helps prepare for the evening and takes part in all their traditions—the intricate cooking for the feast, the dancing, the music, and the gathering of relatives and neighbors. It all comes together for a Noche Buena that Nina will never forget.

Silent Night by Lara Hawthorne Ages 5 – 6

Celebrate the magic of Christmas with this beautifully illustrated book, based on the world’s best-loved carol. Rediscover the Nativity Story in all its glory—from quaking shepherds to heaven-sent angels—as the song lyrics are brought to life on every spread. The world’s diversity is reflected in a cast of characters with a range of skin tones.

Baby Jesus Like My Brother by Margery W. Brown Ages 5 – 6

When Keisha explains the meaning of Christmas to her brother Tony, the young boy finds many similarities between Jesus’ family and his own African American family.

The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve (Author), Ellen Beier (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

Virginia’s old coat is too small. The cold South Dakota wind blows across the Rosebud Indian Reservation, making her shiver as she walks to school. Virginia dreams of a new coat arriving in the Theast boxes–parcels of clothing from churches in The East. But, she knows she may not have a chance for a coat this year. Her father is the village Episcopal priest, so her family chooses last, and as Mama always says, The others need it more than we do. Generosity and unexpected joy remind Virginia of the importance of community within this story from the author s childhood.

Christmas Soul: African American Holiday Stories by Allison Samuels (Author), Michele Wood

With original stories by Debbie Allen, Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Whitney Houston, D.L. Hughley, Monica, and more. In this collection of poignant and witty original stories, African American celebrities recount their favorite childhood Christmas memories. Accompanied by evocative oil pintings, these stories will illuminate the holidays for years to come.

A Child is Born by Margaret Wise Brown, Floyd Cooper Ages 2 – 4

This lyrical celebration of the miracle of Christmas is now just the right size for little hands! Margaret Wise Brown’s simple, poetic language brought to life by Floyd Cooper’s spectacular paintings offer a fresh perspective on the Holy Family and the miraculous birth of Christ.

Who Built the Stable?: A Nativity Poem by Ashley Bryan Ages 4 – 8

Told in gentle rhyme and illustrated with Ashley Bryan’s enormous talent, this is a picture book that captures the reason for the season in all its wonder and beauty. Who Built the Stable? is a celebration of Christmas, of the kindness of children, and of the new hope born with each new baby.

12 Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora

Set in Africa, this beautiful rendition of the classic Christmas carol has a unique twist: colorful icons illustrate the various gifts repeated in each verse of this cumulative song, creating a rebus-style text that gives young children a fun way to follow along and chime in with the lyrics.

Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano (Author), Marjorie Priceman (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

It’s Christmas Eve and Mami has bought a delicious roast for a Christmas feast. But, oh no! It’s too big to fit in the oven. Jose and Papa need to find an oven big enough to cook Mami’s roast. As they walk from door to door through their apartment building, no one seems to be in the Christmas spirit. So they head down the street to find someone willing to help, and only when they do, lo and behold, the scent—the itself magical smell—of dinner begins to spread, and holiday cheer manifests in ways most unexpected.

Jackie’s Gift by Sharon Robinson, E.B. Lewis Ages 4 – 8

Young Steve Satlow is thrilled when his hero Jackie Robinson moves onto his block. After the famed second baseman invites Steve to a Dodgers game, the two become friends. So when Jackie hears that the Satlows don’t have a Christmas tree, he decides to give them one, not realizing the Satlows are Jewish. But Jackie’s gift helps these two different families discover how much they have in common.

Christmas for 10 by Cathryn Falwell Ages 2-4

A simple counting format frames a family’s cheerful preparation for Christmas, from one star on top of the tree and one wreath, to ten hands stringing popcorn and ten people wishing peace for all.

Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina, Chandra Cox Ages 5 – 6

While thinking about all the wonderful things that come with the arrival of Christmas, an African-American boy begins to think about the less fortunate people in the world and vows to make a difference this year by sharing his gifts with others that are more in need.

An Island Christmas by Lynn Joseph, Catherine Stock Ages 6 – 8

As Christmas approaches, Rosie helps her mother and Tantie prepare black-currant cake, sorrel drink, and soursoup ice cream; finishes making her gifts for everyone; and decorates the tree.

O Christmas Tree by Vashanti Rahaman, Frané Lessac (Goodreads Author) (Illustrator) Ages 2 – 5

This Christmas, Anslem wants a Christmas tree more than anything else in the world. He wants “to touch it and smell it and get a feel and a smell of real Christmas.”

But there are no Christmas trees in the West Indies where Anslem lives. He must depend on the boat that brings evergreens from the north. In past years, the trees arrived fresh and green. But this year, the first year his family can afford a tree, the evergreens are so dry that not a single tree has a single needle on it. Anslem is deeply disappointed, until his neighbor Miss Mary shows him that the West Indies have a beautiful Christmas tree of their own.

Poppa’s Itchy Christmas by Angela Shelf Medearis (Author), John Ward (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

After spending weeks guessing what is in the packages under the Christmas tree, George is unhappy to receive a homemade muffler and itchy long underwear, but they come in handy when he has an accident while ice skating.

Snowflake Kisses and Gingerbread Smiles by Tori Trent Parker, Earl Anderson Ages 2 – 3

A sparkling holiday picture book with a soft, padded cover featuring striking photos of young African-American children celebrating Christmas, one of the most popular holidays of the year.

Messy Bessey’s Holidays by Patricia McKissack (Author), Fredrick McKissack (Author), Dana Regan (Illustrator) Ages 5 – 7

Bessey and her mother bake cookies for Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah, and after cleaning up the kitchen, they distribute the treats to their neighbors.

Chita’s Christmas Tree by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard (Author) Ages 4 – 8

Papa and Chita leave downtown Baltimore in a buggy to find a Christmas tree in the deep woods.

A Doll For Navidades by Esmeralda Santiago (Author), Enrique O. Sanchez (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

Las Navidades are coming. The house smells of cinnamon and coconut, crepe paper festoons the yard, and best of all, the Three Magi will soon bring presents to all the children. Esmeralda hopes they will bring her a baby doll. But instead, she receives something far more precious: she experiences firsthand the magic of giving and the power of her family’s love for her.

Mim’s Christmas Jam by Andrea Davis Pinkney (Author), Brian Pinkney (Illustrator) Ages 4 – 8

The best part of Christmas is the whole family savoring Mim’s belly-hum jam together. But this Christmas, Pap is far away in New York City, digging a hole for something called the subway, and his family is missing him something awful. Pap aches to be home, but the heartless foremen of his dig site have decided there will be no break, not even for Christmas. It looks like it’s going to be one lonely holiday for everyone . . . until young Saraleen and Royce send their pap a gift that may just inspire a Christmas miracle.

Christmas in the Time of Billy Lee by Jerdine Nolen, Barry Moser Ages 4 – 7

One holiday season Ellie makes three wishes: that her parents will see that her friend Billy Lee is not imaginary; that snow will fall on Septon’s Creek for the first time in fifty years; and that joy will return–especially to her parents, who always seem worried lately. Billy Lee always says, “There is magic in believing something good with all your heart.” When Ellie begins to believe, all kinds of miracles occur, from broken tree lights twinkling again, to angel shapes appearing in snow, to the biggest one of all: a baby brother arriving soon.

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko (Author) Ages 5 – 8

Holiday time at Sadie’s house means golden gelt sparkling under the Christmas tree, candy canes hanging on eight menorah branches, voices uniting to sing carols about Macabees and the manger, and latkes on the mantel awaiting Santa’s arrival.  A great book for blended families who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.

The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen (Author), Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator) Ages 5 – 8

The luminous art of three-time Caldecott Honor recipient Jerry Pinkney transforms the nineteenth-century Danish girl of Andersen’s tale into a child plucked straight from America’s melting pot, shedding new light on the invisibility of the poor among the prosperous-a circumstance as familiar in Andersen’s day as it is in our own.

Your turn: Which books on this list are your favorites?  Did you discover some new books to read with your little readers?  Feel free to share in the comments.

children's books

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

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!

Reflection
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 www.carolegerber.com.

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.”

Book Reviews

Three Ways My Children Teach Me About the Joy of Giving

Disclaimer: I’ve teamed up with Zonderkidz to share how my children taught me about the joy of giving with the Berenstain Bears.

I enjoy the holidays for many reasons: family time, food, holiday parties, Christmas lights and cheesy Hallmark movies.  Although I’ve always liked the holidays, becoming a parent has reawakened my holiday spirit and the joy of giving in many ways.  I now look forward to the holidays with lots of anticipation and excitement in a way I never did before in my adult years.  Yes, my children have helped me fall in love with the true meaning of Christmas all over again.  They also taught me what it really means to give and to give with grace.

Three Ways My Children Teach Me About the Joy of Giving

Give to others without expecting anything in return

If you feel like doing something for someone, then just do it and don’t think about what you might receive in return.  I find lessons like this can often be learned through your own life experiences as well as through reading books.  When I read books like The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, I am often reminded of some very important lessons like giving without expecting anything in return.  I have always like reading Berenstain Bears books and watching the cartoons on television when I was younger. I think these books teach great moral lessons and allow for further discussion and reflection with the discussion questions that are often found in the back of the book.

I love how Brother and Sister Bear learn to give generously to others in the book The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of GivingThey gave their remaining money cheerfully to others instead of thinking of themselves.

It is more blessed to give than receive.

A valuable lesson to be learned for readers of all ages.  Being a parent is a constant reminder to me to give to others without expecting anything in return.  For everything I do for my children on a daily basis, I never say, “What’s in this for me?”

When you learn to give freely without expecting anything in return, you are not burdened with the need for praise, thanks, or appreciation.  In a word you learn, grace–where you are recipient of the blessing.

Give as much as you can year-round

My children have taught me the importance of incorporating giving into my life all year long. During the holiday season, it’s easy to share our good fortune and blessings with others. We’re constantly reminded to give to fundraisers, food drives, bell ringers and charities.

When I look at my children, I’m reminded daily to not only give my all to them, but to give as much as I can to others too.  It’s important to me my children see me model charity and giving from January through December.  I don’t want them to grow up thinking people are only in need, or happy to accept help, during the holidays.

Each act of giving changes the world for the better

Even the smallest act of giving makes a positive impact.  I witness this firsthand whenever I give to my children or treat them with kindness.  It makes them in turn want to give joyfully to others.  My children constantly teach me whether I’m asked or not, to seek opportunities to help others when you can.

You never know when a simple act of helping someone will cause a long-lasting, positive ripple effect in the world. It might not be felt right away, but as the ripples spread outward and impact others, they’re likely to bounce back to you in surprising and wonderful ways.

Your turn: How have your children taught you about the joy of giving?  Feel free to share in the comments.

About The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving
In The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, Brother and Sister Bear can’t wait for Christmas and all the presents they’ll open. But during the Christmas Eve pageant, something special happens! The Bear cubs learn a very valuable lesson about the joy of giving to others.

Books referenced in this blog post:

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving
By Jan & Mike Berenstain
In Stores Now! (released September 2010)
Recommended for ages 3-8

children's books

Christmas in September with Santa Bruce + A Giveaway!

Disclaimer: We’re thrilled to partner with Disney Book Group for this festive giveaway in time for the holiday season!  Enter for your chance to win a copy of ALL FOUR Bruce books, Santa Bruce ornament & hat, and a box of Santa Bruce holiday candies.Santa Bruce
By Ryan T. Higgins
In Stores September 4th, 2018
Published by Disney Book Group
Recommended for ages 3+

ABOUT THE BOOK
Bruce is a lot of things. He is a bear. He is a grump. He is a pretty decent cook. And he is a mother. One thing Bruce is not? Santa Claus. But that doesn’t stop the whole forest from lining up to give him their Christmas wishes when he becomes the victim of mistaken identity—again. Kids will howl with laughter as award-winning author-illustrator Ryan T. Higgins delivers another hilarious story about this bear who just can’t catch a break.

We’ve read all four of the Bruce books and they never fail to make me and the kids laugh out loud!  This time, Mother Bruce is a victim of mistaken identity, yet again!  One day while outside shoveling snow in his red “Santa like” gear, he is mistaken to be Santa Claus.  Santa Bruce is a cheerful and delightful story that is so fun to read aloud with kids during story time.

The illustrations capture the story so well too which makes it even funnier.  The facial expressions that Bruce and the other animals make are so spot on and really help to bring the story to life.

Ready to find out how you can enter to win the giveaway?  Read on.  Good Luck!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan T. Higgins (ryanthiggins.com) is an author and illustrator who likes the outdoors and cheese sandwiches. He is NOT a grumpy old black bear, but he DOES like making books about one—starting with the best-selling Mother Bruce, which received the E. B. White Read-Aloud Award and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor. He lives in Maine with his wife and kids… and too many pets.

LEARN MORE
Visit Books.Disney.com

Follow Disney Book Group on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

THE GIVEAWAY!

One (1) US-based winner will receive:

  • Full set of all four Bruce books
  • Branded ornament and Santa hat
  • Plus a Santa Bruce box of holiday candies!

 

Christmas in September with Santa Bruce Giveaway

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children's books

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story + A Giveaway!

Disclaimer: We partnered with Zonderkidz to bring you this fun Easter giveaway!  We received a copy of this book in exchange for our honest review.  As always all opinions expressed are my own.

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story by Jan & Mike Berenstain

About the Berenstain Bears
Stan and Jan Berenstain published the first Berenstain Bears book in 1962, and the series has gone on to capture the hearts and minds of children across generations and across the globe. In the 50+ years since “The Big Honey Hunt,” the Bear family has grown from three to five members; the Berenstain Bears have been translated into over a dozen languages; and over 300 million books have been sold worldwide.

About The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story
The Berenstain Bear cubs are candy-crazy this Easter! But Missus Ursula and some Sunday school students tell the cubs about the true meaning of Easter. Includes a sheet of colorful stickers!  Recommended for ages 4-7.

***

As with all of the Berenstain Bears books there are lessons to be learned. In this book Brother and Sister Bear learn the true meaning of Easter, how Jesus rose from the tomb.  I love how the story was presented as part of an Easter play in Sunday School which made it easy for my children to understand.  They are familiar with watching plays at school and going to Sunday school at our church.


I’m a total fan of the Berenstain Bears books. I read them when I was younger and I am now reading them to our children. I love the lessons taught in each one. I didn’t realize that Stan and Jan Berenstain had both passed away and their son is now writing the books. I’m glad that the tradition is being carried on and that Brother and Sister will still continue to share important life lessons with our children today. I also liked that on the back cover page there are activities and questions that help children apply the lesson learned.

One (1) winner receives:

  • 1 Copy of The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story
  • Egg dye
  • Candy
  • 1 Plush bunny

Open to US addresses only.

Prizing and samples provided by Zonderkidz.

Link to Purchase

Visit Amazon to purchase The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story!

Connect with The Berenstain Bears!
Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story Giveaway

children's books

8 Christmas Picture Books Every Black Child Should Read + Clarence Claus

As soon as the holidays start to roll around, people often ask me for children’s holiday book recommendations – specifically Christmas books for children of color.  As I’ve often said, I don’t discriminate when it comes to reading books on my own or with my kids.  However, I do know the power of children seeing themselves reflected in literature especially around Christmas when they are bombarded with images of a Caucasian Santa Claus.

So in addition to reading quality books that prominently feature children of color, I also support small Black-owned businesses like Green Top Gifts to show my kids that Santa can look like us – enter Clarence Claus.  Have you heard of him yet?  He’s the Black Santa Claus I wish I had been exposed to growing up.

Greentop Gifts is a wrapping paper company featuring a Black Santa Claus. Clarence Claus™ truly represents the culture and lifestyle for people of color.  You may have seen the Clarence Claus wrapping paper featured in the list of Gayle King’s Favorite Things in the December 2017 issue of Oprah Magazine.

We’ve proud to collaborate with Greentop Gifts to showcase their high quality wrapping paper and highlight eight Christmas books I think every Black child should own (or at least read and borrow from the library).  The children’s books mentioned below is a great place to start if you are looking for Christmas stories featuring Black children and families.  Not only are they entertaining, but they also help put children (and adults) in a festive mood.

Recommended Picture Books (Ages 4 – 8)
12 Days of Christmas by Rachel Isadora
Christmas for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
Christmas Makes Me Think by Tony Medina
Jackie’s Gift by Sharon Robinson
The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora
The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow (Read my review here!)
Under the Christmas Tree by Nikki Grimes and Kadir Nelson

What are some of your favorite Christmas books to read with your little readers?

Be sure to enter our Instagram giveaway where you can enter to win:

  • (2) rolls of Clarence Claus Wrapping Paper
  • (4) Clarence Claus Gift Labels
  • (1) Clarence Claus Kid’s Shirt

Happy Holidays and happy reading!

Book Reviews

The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow (A Book Review)

The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow, illustrated by James Ransome

Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover
Age Range: 4 – 8
Grade Level: Preschool – 3

Synopsis
This jazz-inspired reinvention of The Nutcracker is a worthy tribute to the dreamlike wonder and magic of the Christmas season.  In this original retelling, set in New York City during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, one little girl finds her voice as a musician thanks to her enchanting adventures with a magical toy.

This quintessential holiday tale is brought to vivid life by debut picture book author T. E. McMorrow and Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator James Ransome. An author’s note at the end provides additional information about the history of the Harlem Renaissance, and about the author’s inspiration for this musical retelling.

Reflection
The Nutcracker has become a staple to many families across the world during the holiday season.  The Nutcracker’s evolution and influence on the world is unlike any other ballet in history.  There are now several versions of the play complete with their own staging, choreography, costumes and interpretations.

We love this new retelling of the Nutcracker – it’s so beautiful! The colorful and detailed water color illustrations by illustrator James Ransome are simply amazing!  The story follows the traditional plot of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King with a lovely jazz inspired twist.

Set in New York City during the height of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920’s, little Marie finally finds her voice as a musician after doubting her musical gifts and her ability to sing.  She falls asleep under a Christmas tree holding a nutcracker drummer boy her Uncle Cab gave her as a gift.  During her nap, Marie dreams of the Nutcracker ballet – that’s when she finds her confidence to sing at the party.

I remember watching the Nutcracker on several occasions as a child and even had the opportunity to go see the play in New York City.  It’s such a magical story for kids and adults alike.  As much as I love the original Nutcracker, I am so pleased an African-American version of this book exists for children of color to see themselves reflected in this classic story.

The back matter contains an author’s note about the inspiration for the story. It also includes additional information about the Harlem Renaissance.  A wonderful Christmas themed book with themes of: music (jazz), dance, overcoming fears, finding your voice, confidence and family.  Add this one to your holiday book collection!

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

children's books

A Halloween Book Giveaway: Lola Levine and the Halloween Scream

Disclaimer: I’m delighted to partner with author Monica Brown and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers to bring you this fun Halloween book giveaway!

Lola Levine and the Halloween Scream by Monica Brown, illustrated by Angela Dominguez

Age Range: 4 – 8
Grade Level: 1 – 5
Pages: 96
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Synopsis
Lola Levine is ready to celebrate her favorite holiday in the sixth book in this charming chapter book series by acclaimed author Monica Brown.

It’s Halloween–Lola and Ben’s favorite holiday. She loves pumpkins, scary costumes, monsters, and ghosts–and she likes to scare people, too. But when Lola plays a scary joke on her super best friends, Josh Blot and Bella Benitez, it doesn’t go as planned.

Can Lola learn from her mistake and still have a happy Halloween?

About the Author
Monica Brown, Ph.D. is the author of many award winning books for children, including Waiting for the Biblioburro and Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina. Her books have received starred reviews, Pura Belpre honors, an NCTE Orbis Pictus honor, Americas Awards, and a Christopher Award. Monica’s books are inspired by her Peruvian and Jewish heritage and her desire to bring diverse stories to children. Monica is a professor of English at North Arizona University, where she teaches multicultural literature. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters, and she invites you to visit her website at lolalevine.net.

Angela Dominguez was born in Mexico City, grew up in the great state of Texas, and now lives in Brooklyn. She is the author of Knit TogetherLet’s Go, Hugo!, Maria Had a Little Llama, and Santiago Stays.

The Giveaway!
We’re giving away TWO (2) copies of this fun easy reader chapter book for kids!  Entering is easy just follow the steps listed below.  We’ll choose two (2) random winners by the deadline.  Books will ship just in time for a Halloween treat.  Open to US residents only age 18 and over.

Lola Levine and the Halloween Scream Book Giveaway

children's books

Lucky Leprechaun: How to Trap a Leprechaun Book Giveaway!

Giveaway HopWelcome to the 1st annual Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop hosted by SaraLee’s Deals Steals & Giveaways. This is an open themed hop with NO minimum prize value. Enter to win the prize Grand Prize by our host for that lucky man in your life. Manscaped – The Perfect Package is sponsoring the prize. So be sure to enter the giveaway here than hop on over and enter all the other great prizes today!

I’m so excited to be a part of of the “Lucky Leprechaun” blog hop and to sponsor a copy of the book How to Trap a Leprechaun by Sue Fliess as my personal contribution.

About the Book


Legend has it that if you catch a leprechaun, he’ll grant you a wish. But, be careful! Leprechauns are full of trickery. To catch one, you’ll need to be clever in crafting your trap. Grab some glitter and glue and get prepared for your wily holiday visitors!

On the night before St. Patrick’s Day, leprechauns show up to steal your treasures and then disappear as quickly as they came. However, if you’re careful you might be able to catch one and then he’ll grant you a wish. You’ll have to be sneaky and set just the right trap to trap a leprechaun.

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

Enter the giveaway here!

How to Trap a Leprechaun

Also, be sure to enter for your chance to win the grand prize and visit some of the other amazing bloggers involved in the giveaway blog hop!

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children's books

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

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

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

How to Trap a Leprechaun

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

How to Catch a Leprechaun

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

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

Hooray for St. Patrick’s Day!

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

St. Patrick’s Day


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

Fiona’s Luck


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

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

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