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holiday gift guide series

Gift Guide for Book Lovers: A Few of My Favorite Gifts for Bibliophiles

Getting a special gift for your favorite book nerd in your life can sometimes be challenging, especially when you’re on a budget.

When I’m looking for gifts for fellow readers, I seek items that are useful and functional. (Bonus points if they are handmade or personalized!) Since the holidays are closely approaching, I put together this mini gift guide with a few ideas for book lovers. From journals to bookish essentials – there is something for bookworms of all ages on your list!

If you have any gift suggestions for readers, let me know in the comments.


$100 Lakeshore Learning Gift Card Giveaway + The Ultimate Fort Builder

We can’t get enough of the products from Lakeshore Learning. I am consistently impressed with their quality, service and affordability. Through my partnership with them, I am now able to try out products at home with my kids like their awesome Ultimate Fort Builder that my kids are obsessed with.

The Ultimate Fort Builder includes 45 durable poles and 25 kid-friendly connectors, which can be put together to create an igloo, a castle and other creations. The structures are strong enough to support a sheet or blanket on top, and the kit also includes instructions for easy construction.

Before the kids started building, it was easy to see that several skills would be needed for success in building their forts:

  • teamwork
  • organization
  • following directions
  • critical thinking

With zero adult instruction or help, my kids opened up the box, sorted the parts and started building.

Once their fort was complete, the kids added a blanket on top and a few pillows on the floor. While not sturdy enough to climb on, their fort was well-made and not likely to come down without effort. The kids enjoyed playing inside and there was plenty of room for them to move around comfortably.

Some other great benefits of building with the Ultimate Fort Builder:

  • encourages imagination and creativity
  • fosters cooperative play
  • helps boost kid’s confidence when they complete each project on their own or working together as a team

More to Love About Lakeshore Learning
Did you know Lakeshore has been making award-winning and high-quality educational products for over 60 years? They are a brand my family and I trust for their unique and exclusive products that are designed by teachers. Their products encourage curiosity and imagination and help kids develop a love of learning. Have you seen their 2020 Gifts for Growing Minds collection yet? It has all the gifts and learning toys you need to complete your holiday shopping for kids on your list.

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You can take advantage of using my unique code if you are shopping on this holiday season or in-stores. Use my code 7933 to save 25% off any single non-sale item. Coupon valid ‪through 12/31/20 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 for details.

Lakeshore Learning $100 Gift Card Giveaway!

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

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!

holiday gift guide series

Charitable Giving with CARE: Teaching Kids About Kindness and Giving

I describe my three year-old son as a giving, empathetic and gentle soul.  My daughter shows signs of giving and empathy too, but not as much as my son does.  I think when children learn to be givers at an early age it shapes their values and provides opportunities to develop kindness, a virtue that improves lives and reduces violence and bullying.

But in a culture dominated by violence, cruelty and self-absorption (and quite a lot of the “gimmes” during this holiday time), empathy and compassion must be nurtured, and studies show that young people are becoming less empathetic than in generations past.  As our child’s first and most important teacher, we, as parents, have an important opportunity to start building pathways to kindness and compassion for people, animals and the earth, starting when children are very young.

I try to teach concepts of giving, kindness and empathy by reading lots of books like ones listed here and here.  In addition, I provide my kids with different opportunities to help others. Even from an early age, children can be involved in helping others. From donating non-perishable goods to a food pantry, to donating their clothes and toys, to volunteering as a family at an animal shelter, I aim to find numerous age-appropriate opportunities to cultivate generosity and empathy.

Another way I’m teaching the kids about giving this holiday season is by introducing them to organizations like  CARE works around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice.

I am truly inspired by the overall mission of CARE as they support things that are near and dear to my heart like diversity and empowering girls and women.  The website is full of inspiring stories and videos of children like Evelesi and Maliyana whose lives have been forever changed because of small acts of kindness from people and families like ours.  Check out this video to get a dose of inspiration.  Want even more inspiration?  Be sure to tune in to to meet and interact with the girls featured in the 2016 catalog from December 5th – 16th.

With your support CARE can:

  • Help poor families send their children to school
  • Help people learn skills to start and sustain their own businesses
  • Deliver emergency aid when disaster strikes
  • Help women build a better life for themselves, their families and their communities

Reading books and telling stories that demonstrate showing compassion and care for others is great.  I will never discount the power of using stories to get certain points across to children.  It’s been proven that stories are a wonderful teaching tool, and of course, regular reading and storytelling build important communication and literacy skills. However, I think whenever you have the opportunity to provide children with real-life, tangible examples and sharing personal stories helps even more.  Help your children see the impact of giving like never before this holiday season with CARE.  Your gifts will empower girls and women to pursue their dreams and help lift up their communities.

Learn more about Gifts for Change and donate!

Want to get involved?  Give a gift, change a life. When people do their holiday shopping with CARE their money directly impacts women and girls around the world who need it most. Contributions to the catalog strengthen communities and empower individuals to be independent and successful.  Learn more about the Gifts for Change at the website.  In the catalog you can give as little as $25 up to $7,000 or more.  The choice is yours!  Of course any amount you can donate will be greatly appreciated.

Connect with CARE!
Website | Facebook | Twitter

holiday gift guide series

Holiday Gift Guide Series: MyFamilyBuilders

When I came across MyFamilyBuilders™ on Instagram I knew I had to feature them in my holiday gift guide!  While my kids haven’t actually tried these blocks yet, I can already tell they’ll spend hours playing with them.  Don’t they look great?


The overall mission of MyFamilyBuilders™ is to help create a world where parents and kids celebrate love and the values shared by all families, regardless of color, creed, sexual orientation or culture.  The folks at MyFamilyBuilders™ wants to improve our world, so we’re starting with children, the toys they play with, and what those toys can teach them.  Through MyFamilyBuilders™ toy set they are creating a world where children and parents are proud of themselves, their families and their communities.


MyFamilyBuilders™ toy set contains 48 wooden pieces that snap together with cleverly concealed magnets and a board game with 25 big cards that they’ve designed to empower parents and kids to play, experience and facilitate easy conversations about diversity & tolerance.  With a total of 2048 possible matches per set, kids will have a ton of fun and create a world free of preconceptions.

THE MyFamilybuilders™ SET INCLUDES
· 48 handcrafted magnetic wooden blocks
 that come in 12 sizes: 16 adults heads, 16 kids heads, 4 big bodies, 4 small bodies, 4 big legs, 4 small legs; 3 blocks (head, body, and legs) make up a character.
· 25 big cards to play 5 fun educational games in conjunction with the 48 unique wooden blocks. The 5 games were designed by an education specialist for different age stages ( 3+; 4+; 5+; 6+).

Packaging: The MyFamilybuilders™ set comes packaged in a handy box to keep all of the pieces securely in one place for storage.
Total weight is 3.12 lbs.
Materials: Eco-friendly hardwoods. Safe, non-toxic, water-based paint.
Safety: This product conforms to most international safety requirements for toys, including regulations in the USA (CPSIA) and Europe (EN71).

Price: 48-piece set: $69.95 (current sale price), 32-piece set $49.95


I think this magnetic wooden block set would be perfect for teaching kids about diversity and respecting differences of other people.  They’d also be great for kids who love to mix and match colors and fashion styles.  Add these to your holiday gift list, but hurry because I hear they are a hot selling item!  Great for ages 1 to 99.

Connect with MyFamilyBuilders!
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Book Reviews

Holiday Gift Guide Series: The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda

The Christmas Story by Robert Sabuda

Publisher: Candlewick
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 12
Age Range: 5 – 8 years old (and up)

Hope and joy radiate from the pages of Robert Sabuda’s new pop-up book celebrating the Nativity.

Long ago in the town of Bethlehem, on a bright and starry night, a baby was born, a child who was called the son of God. Announced by an angel, born in a humble manger, laid in a bed of straw, visited by shepherds and wise men—the age-old, awe-inspiring story of the birth of Jesus is lovingly brought to life by master pop-up artist Robert Sabuda in six gorgeously imagined scenes, culminating in a 3-D manger sheltering humans and beasts, guarded by an angel above. Glinting with touches of gold and pearlescent foil, The Christmas Story is a visual feast, a holiday treasure to be shared with the whole family.


Before there were 3D movies, there were pop-up books.  As a child, I used to love pop-up books because the action literally jumped right out at me as I turned the pages.  Opening each page was like unwrapping a gift.  There was always a surprise awaiting on the next page to reward me.  So fun!

Pop-up book artist Robert Sabuda is the master at transforming a blank piece of paper that lacks dimension, texture and movement and turning it into a beautiful piece of art.  That’s exactly what he has done with the book The Christmas Story.  It’s truly a marvel in paper engineering that your kids, and even some adults, will be pretty impressed by.

My kids love looking at all of the intricate art on each page.  As I read the story, they like counting the number of items they see on each page like: doves, sheep, palm trees and camels.  They also love pointing at the gold foil accents that make certain things in the book stand out like the stable where Jesus was lying in.

Reading this book really gets me in the holiday spirit.  It features six imagined scenes from the inspiring story of the birth of Jesus.  Little readers will see scenes of the angel who came to tell Mary she would soon have a baby named Jesus, a scene of the three wise men traveling, and more.  The book ends with a beautiful nativity scene with the three wise men giving Mary precious gifts befitting for a king.

This book makes a really special holiday gift for children or adults.  While I wouldn’t recommend it to be held by the smallest readers due to the fragile pop-up art, I think children ages 5 and older would handle it just fine.  The pages are sturdy and so is the cover, but the pop-up artwork is fragile.  A true delight to read and marvel at all the beautiful scenes featured.  A holiday book that can be enjoyed as a family again and again each year during the holiday season. Perfect for religious families!

Your turn: Have you read any of Robert Sabuda’s pop-up books?  Feel free to share in the comments.

holiday gift guide series

Holiday Gift Guide Series: IttyBittyBees

I recently had the opportunity to connect with Dalia Dixon, owner of, a new online toy store. They have a great selection of black/brown action figures and dolls as well as adorable wooden toys and games. Their mission is to inspire little ones with toys that represent them and provide fun play!

IttyBittyBees came to fruition while Dalia was shopping in a predominately African-American community in Atlanta. While shopping with her two toddlers, she noticed that only white dolls were sold in stores in predominately African-American neighborhoods. She felt that this was a total disservice and almost downright indoctrination (given the history and current events of this country) to the African-American community. Then one day she decided that she wanted to make black/brown toys more available to the members of her community.

Wanting to start a toy store was also reinforced by a video of a little African-American girl on a news website. She remembers watching a video that showed the little girl choosing the white doll over the black doll because she felt the white doll was prettier and better, versus the black doll that was ugly and bad. When Delia was younger, her mom bought her white dolls at first, but she began buying her black dolls and she was very excited to receive the dolls that looked like her.  They made her feel special and served as a confidence booster.

Representation is important for self esteem, awareness, and confidence. It’s also reinforcement to be a productive member in society. IttyBittyBees wants black and brown children to see more positive images of themselves so that they are more confident about themselves and who they are.

You can visit to browse their selection of toys and books. You can follow also follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The links are listed below.

family fun

Holiday Gift Guide Series: Hideaboo Hideouts + An Instagram Giveaway!


5-4-3-2-1 blast off!  The kids absolutely LOVE playing in their new Hideaboo rocket ship hideout!  Created by an award winning teacher, Hideaboo hideouts help spark creativity and allow your kids to play independently or with each other. My kids love pretending they are astronauts in a rocket ship flying to outer space.


One of the best things about the hideouts is they are totally portable and can be placed in any part of your house or used on the go (as long as your bring your card table along with you).  We currently have our hideout in our living room, but the kids have played with it upstairs in their room too.  It’s perfect for keeping them occupied while I do things like cook dinner or fold the laundry.

Hideaboo also provides you with FREE access to their printable library.  They’ve created activities, diy costume ideas, an adventure journal and printable puppets for each of their Hideouts! Your purchase comes with a code for free downloads of your printable activities and instructions.  How fun is that?

Each hideout is made to slide over a card table and it’s super simple to set up and fold away for easy storage.

Here’s what’s you get:

  • Includes ONE Hideout and ONE storage bag
  • Card table not included
  • Slips over standard card tables, 34″ w x 28″ h
  • Easy to setup and tear down
  • Durable, high quality fabric & machine washable

These are the current hideouts available:

  • Happy Camper Hideout
  • Enchanted Castle Hideout
  • Underwater Submarine Hideout
  • Outer Space Rocket Hideout
  • Down on the Farm Hideout
  • Lemonade Stand

The best part?  Our friends over at Hideaboo were gracious enough to sponsor a giveaway!  That’s right, you can choose ANY one of their hideouts if you are the lucky winner!  Pop on over to my Instagram page if you want to enter to win.  Good luck!

Connect with Hideaboo!

Website | Instagram | Facebook


Holiday Gift Guide Series: My Reading Adventures Journal + A Giveaway!

Photo Credit:

Are you guys following Lu and Bean Read yet?  They have a wonderful podcast where they introduce you to new authors and children’s stories.  They also have a lovely website and Instagram account that I’ve been following for a few months now.  Today, we’re featuring their brand new reading journal for kids in our holiday gift guide series.

Do you keep track of the books you read on your own or the ones you read with your kids?  I keep track using an Excel spreadsheet that I’ve been using for a few years now.  I know, it’s old school, but it gets the job done.  One day I’ll finally purchase a reading journal for myself.  For now, I’ll live vicariously through my kids and help them log their books in their My Reading Adventures kids journal from  I think it’s a great way to spark or enhance a child’s interest in reading.

The My Reading Adventures kids reading journal offers kids space and prompts to write, draw and reflect on a year’s worth of reading. The journal allows kids to record 52 books—one for every week of the year—as well as completing several fun writing and drawing exercises. It’s designed for kids of every age. Younger kids may choose to complete the book with an adult. For the youngest kiddos, each section provides space to draw responses. Older readers may wish to use the journal on their own or with an adult. They are given the option of drawing and writing to spark their creativity.


  • 124 pages
  • Spiral bound
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Space to record 52 books
  • Options to write, draw or both
  • Younger readers can record pictures books with the help of an adult
  • Older readers can complete the entries alone or with an adult
  • Fun extras!

Since we read well over 52 children’s books in a year, this journal will serve as a record of our favorite 52 books we’ll read next year along with any specific reactions the kids had.  I can’t wait to start filling up our journal!

Perhaps you’d like to give this journal as a gift during the upcoming holiday season. Wouldn’t it be fun to pair the journal with a nice pen/pencil or markers and a favorite book?  Thankfully our new friends at are graciously offering to giveaway one FREE journal to a lucky reader.  So. One of you lovely readers will walk away with a brand new reading journal! Keep it. Or give it. Or buy a few and stick them under the tree.  Makes a great holiday gift for little readers.  Good luck!

Connect with Lu and Bean Read!

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

My Reading Adventures Journal

Your turn:  Let me whether you already keep a reading journal for your kids, or why you think it would be good to start. I look forward to hearing your responses!

children's books

Holiday Gift Guide Series: The Ultimate List of Children’s Book Subscription Boxes


Are you planning to gift your little readers with a book subscription box this holiday season?

I love monthly subscription boxes because they offer unique educational experiences. They 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 with your children.  Today, there are subscription boxes that appeal to all sorts of different interests and passions.  Below you’ll find a huge list of book subscription boxes for kids (and young adults) to choose from.  Enjoy!

Bear & Bud Book Club

Books for young readers featuring diverse characters and themes that invite them to think, laugh, question, and learn about themselves and others.  Each box includes an activity and discussion guide, materials for two book-themed crafts and a snack recipe.  They have picture books (ages 3-5), books for growing readers (ages 6 – 8) and tweens (ages 9 -12).


Booklandia delivers 2 Bilingual and/or Spanish books every month.  Your box choice will contain beautiful wonders of carefully selected books everyone will enjoy from babies to middle schoolers.  Choose from hardcover/paperback board books, picture books or chapter books.


Bookroo makes reading exciting for kids and affordable and convenient for parents.  Each box contains either 3 board books or 2 picture books and the combined retail value of the books always exceeds the subscription price.  Bookroo is also in the process of rolling out a new Junior Box for kids ages 7-10.  Check out my review of this subscription box here.

Brown Toy Box

Brown Toy Box was founded to help parents of children of color find toys, books, gifts and games that reflect them culturally.  Each themed box contains fun and engaging toys, books and games that feature brown children in all their awesomeness.

Brown Treasure Club

An affordable, exclusive subscription box service catered to girls of color ages 6-12.  This box is designed to educate and celebrate little brown girls all over the world!

Early Literature

Early Literature is an exclusive service that is geared toward helping educators experience an effortless and exclusive way to grow their classroom libraries every month.  Each month teachers and early learning programs will receive a box of 4-5 curated books. Books that are new, upcoming releases, and classics!

Gift Lit

Geared for ages 2 through 12, literary experts choose the perfect books for your child’s age and reading skill. You pick the theme, including favorite fiction for boys or girls, fantasy, page turners, new releases, around the world, classics or historical fiction, and the literary experts can pick out the perfect book — or you can make your own substitutions.

Heritage Box


The first ever monthly subscription box specially curated to teach children ages 5  to 12 about Black History and geography of the countries of Africa.  Each month children can expect to receive a package alternating between Black History and African geography content! Each box will include exciting games, activities and a relevant book or souvenir for the African travel package. Check out my review of this subscription box here.

Hey Let’s Read

HEY! Let’s Read! has spent a lot of time researching and securing access to thousands of African American and Diaspora themed books. From classic children’s books, foam and board books, award winners to books written by newly minted authors, HEY! Let’s Read! relies on the expertise of a 36 year Education veteran to carefully curate and select books and resources for your child and classroom each month. Your monthly subscription will afford your children the opportunity to expand their imagination with books selected just for them!

Ivy Kids

Ivy Kids is a monthly educational subscription box for children ages 3-8.  Have the tools at your fingertips to ensure your child has a solid foundation in math, literacy, and science. Help your child build confidence and be well-rounded in all disciplines to ensure future academic success. The activities in the Ivy Kits have been created by certified early childhood teachers with children of their own.  Each kit contains books, activities and a parent guide for each activity.

Just Like Me!

The Just Like Me! Book Box was built on the foundation of exposing children of color to literature, characters, authors and stories that are reflective of them.  Each box contains two to three age appropriate African-American books and other learning tools for your child.  Once the contents of the box are selected the final product is a complete Just Like Me! Book Box filled with fun books, educational tools and fun gifts to encourage positive child development.  Check out my review of this subscription box here.


Each KidArtLit delivery includes a hardback picture book, all the high-quality supplies you need to complete a related, open-ended art project two times, and our mini magazine with easy-to-follow instructions & ideas for exploring the box’s theme. Plus, each box includes a Ready-Set-Go Pack that your child can interact with the moment you open your box.


Lillypost is a monthly book subscription box that sends beautiful children’s books and other goodies to your door! Each month, tiny fingers will eagerly open hand-wrapped packages and discover carefully curated books, a lovely little note and stickers for fun! We offer two options so you can choose the box that best suits the age of your child. Our Board Book Box is perfect for ages 0-2 and our Picture Book Box is great for ages 3+.

Lit Joy Crate


Each month you will receive a new release book (you may select a board book, picture book, or young adult novel) in the mail every month! But we are more than just a monthly book subscription…each month you will also receive 2-3 creative and quirky book-themed items to go with your new book!

Little Fun Club

Each Little Fun Club box contains three age appropriate books for children ages birth – 12 years old.  The final product is a box filled with education, fun and opportunities for positive child development.

Little Proud Kid

Little Proud Kid is a place to celebrate all people… one people.  They focus on bringing an array of multicultural toys, books, resources, greeting cards, and more to help you teach and celebrate the uniqueness in each and every child.

Outside the Box

Outside The Box is a monthly subscription box for families with a focus on community and giving. Each box provides an opportunity for your family to connect, create and give to the community. Each box contains items based on the monthly theme: a children’s t-shirt or fun wearable item, a hand-selected children’s book, 2 – 4 crafts or activities that reinforce the monthly theme, community cards that inspire intentional ways to share Outside The Box, plus a spotlight on a different non-profit, community service or give-back company each month.

Owl Crate

Every month Owl Crate send you a magical box tailored to a chosen YA theme (e.g. paranormal, first love, dystopia.) Each box will contain one new Young Adult novel, as well as 3-5 other bookish keepsakes to help set the mood for your literary adventure.  They also offer Owl Crate Jr. book boxes for kids!


Splash on Literacy Box

A subscription box of books and art for infants – 6 years old.  Each box contains a book, a mini lesson plan and art supplies.

STEM Reads Book Club

Launching November 15, 2016!!  A monthly book box that introduces children ages 4-8 to different topics in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).  I think this new STEM Reads Book Club is a great way to introduce children to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).  Club members receive handpicked STEM books in a monthly subscription box.  I signed up for a chance to earn 12 free months of membership and you can too!  Check this out by clicking on the link or image above to earn free books, too, or just to learn more.

The Story Box

When you subscribe to The Story Box, your family will receive a monthly box that is curated by a nationally certified speech-language pathologist.  Each box contains 2 children’s books and a guide for parents.  Use the books and guide to make the most of your family reading time, enhance your child’s language skills, and improve your child’s chances of becoming a successful reader.  The books in their boxes are most appropriate for children between the ages of 1-year old and 7-years old.

A portion of each subscription fee is used to purchase books and other educational materials to benefit children with disabilities and children from low-income families.  Check out my review of this subscription box here.

Surprise Ride

Did you see this subscription box featured on Shark Tank?  Each box contains all the necessary supplies for two activities, a book and yummy snack, plus fun extras.  All the things your child needs for unplugged learning. Surprise Ride works with experts to design hands-on courses for kids ages 5+. Subjects include art, geography, history, science and more!

The Conscious Kid Library

The Conscious Kid is an education, research and policy organization dedicated to reducing bias and promoting positive identity development in youth. They partner with organizations, children’s museums, schools and families across the country to promote access to children’s books centering underrepresented and oppressed groups.  They also offer book subscriptions for board books and picture books.  With their new book-a-month subscription option families and teachers can sign up to receive a diverse board book or picture book each month.

The Little Reading Club

In the younger reader boxes there are three expertly chosen, age-appropriate books to keep your children engaged. Older reader boxes include two chapter books. Each month is based on a new theme.

Wam! Book Bundle


Each book bundle contains a mix of 2-3 brand new hardcover and/or softcover diverse books as well an activity guide filled with great, informative tips. WAM’s book selections feature a wide range of multicultural, diverse characters and reflect stories that will engage and excite children everywhere!

Well Read

Well Read Inc. mission is to promote enhanced literacy in the African-American community by providing exciting and culturally relevant books to children ages 3-12 through our monthly subscription service.
A key part of our mission is to reduce the literacy gap in the African-American community.

Your Turn:  Do you have a favorite kids book subscription box? Is there an awesome subscription book box for kids missing from my list? Please let me know in the comments.

children's books

Holiday Gift Guide Series: Empowering Gifts for Brown Girls Under $35

Happy October!  I just looked at my countdown calendar to see there are only 84 days until Christmas. That’s 12 Sundays.  Just under 3 months.  Wow!

This year, I am committed to getting ready for the big season early.  I loathe waiting until the last minute and rushing to purchase gifts.  Can you relate?  Hopefully through my series of holiday gift guide posts over the coming months, I’ll be able to help YOU get started on that quest too.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be highlighting a variety of affordable products and books for kids and adults.  I hope you’ll find a few items you’d like to purchase as gifts!

First up, is Brown Girls Club.  They showcase gorgeous girl-empowering products for babies, kids and adults!   Here you can find the perfect gifts for your mother, sister, wife, or daughter and keep your dollars flowing through the Black community.  Yes, this is a black-owned business by a woman named Crystal Swain-Bates who is the proud author of six fun black children’s books and the owner of Goldest Karat Publishing, LLC. The mission of Brown Girls Club is simple: to remind brown girls and women daily of their sparkle!

From her line of products you’ll find: books, self-esteem boosting magnets, tote bags, t-shirts, party supplies and pillows.  The best part?  Most of the products are under $35.  Check it out!

These pillows would make a great addition to a little brown girl’s bedroom or playroom.

Tote Bags
These adorable tote bags are perfect for toting around library books, dance recital outfits or school books.



Lola has really really REALLY big hair, much bigger than the other kids at her school. Despite her hair blocking the view of anyone that dares sit behind her and causing her to lose at hide and seek, she sings the praises of her big hair throughout this rhyming picture book. Designed to boost self-esteem and build confidence, this beautifully illustrated book is perfect for any girl or boy who has ever felt a bit self-conscious about their hair and may need a reminder from time to time that it’s okay to look different from the other kids at their school. 

Meet Makayla, a pretty black princess who lives in a castle far, far away. Although she has cute dresses, a sparkling tiara, and a shiny wand, she knows that being a princess isn’t just about her fancy things, she has to put in work to be the very best princess she can be! By the end of this rhyming picture book, Makayla realizes that “It’s not my castle, my wand, or the dress that I’m in. What makes me a princess is what lies within!”

Coloring Books
In “Color My Fro”, 31 big-haired fairies, mermaids, warriors, models, cheerleaders, and fierce divas grace the pages of this coloring book celebrating the beauty of black women and natural hair. At each turn of the page, a new natural hair inspired illustration greets you.

Fun for any occasion, “Color My Fro” is the perfect stocking stuffer for natural hair lovers of any age so grab your crayons, colored pencils, and your afro pick and get started!

Meet Zoe & Star, two adventurous African-American girls who just love to have fun! Follow them throughout over 45 fun-filled coloring and activity pages that inspire creativity, promote self-confidence, and celebrate diversity.

Party Sets
I’m a Pretty Princess Party Set

Connect with Crystal Swain-Bates!

Website | Facebook | Instagram

Your turn: Did you enjoy this list of gifts?  Feel free to share in the comments.