If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall (9781452137797)
Inspired by Blackall’s travels for UNICEF and Save the Children, this is a picture book guide to our planet. It offers a first-time visitor to earth useful information, such as directions to our planet in the solar system. The world is looked at through the people who live here, the homes we live in, the families we grow up in. It also features the world’s weather, schools, transportation, jobs and hobbies. Then the book turns to animals around the world and under the sea. It finishes looking at creativity, art, science and medicine. It’s a celebration of all that makes us unique, fascinating and worth the visit.
While the list above may sound mundane, in Blackall’s hands it is warm and energetic. Each item is marveled at for a bit, rather like picking up a gem and then moving on to the next amazing jewel. The entire book is a delight, looking at the earth and at humans as something to be proud of, to care for, and to adore.
As always, two-time Caldecott Medal winner Blackall’s art is remarkable. She shows diversity of humans and animals with such joy. Her characters always have a little extra sparkle in their eye or in the tilt of their head.
A grand tour of earth that invites us all to slow down and love our planet and one another. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.
Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders, illustrated by Carol Rossetti (9780711252424)
With a clear focus on self-acceptance and body positivity, this nonfiction picture book celebrates all girls and young women. The book is filled with images of girls of all sizes, races, religions and abilities. Readers are told to start loving their bodies now, not waiting. Bodies are more than just there to be admired: they are strong and active no matter their size or shape. The book encourages readers to make a list of what they appreciate about their body, offering help and ideas. The book then recommends that if that did not help it might be a good idea to seek help from an adult or organization. Self care is also emphasized along with dressing your body the way it feels best to you. Self-love is a process, and this book shows a clear way forward.
Sanders’ text is clear and fierce. She demands that readers take action, not see themselves as objects, and deeply understand that no matter our size, race or ability that our bodies are ours to treasure and celebrate. The focus on self kindness and self care is an important one, nicely moving readers away from perfectionism towards habits that will serve them well for their entire lives.
The illustrations are tremendous. I particularly love the groups of girls and young women gathered together in their underwear and fully clothed. It’s a visual sisterhood, a commitment to loving ourselves and one another. The girls throughout the book are diverse and active. I particularly appreciate that it is often the larger girls as well as those of different abilities who are doing the activities.
Fierce, kind and compassionate, this book insists that all girls are valued. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Frances Lincoln.
Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (9781943147724)
A little girl tells her mother that she won’t be going back to school because no one could say her name, not even her teacher. So her mother explains that names are actually songs, and offers various examples, each accompanied by phonetic help in pronouncing them. The little girl goes on to explain the bullying behavior of some of the other students, pretending to choke on her name. Her mother explains that some names are not pronounced in the throat, but in the heart. Some of the children at school were scared of her name too, but her mother explains that certain names contain fire because they are so strong. What about the children who said her name was made up? Names come from dreamers who create new names when old ones were stolen, explains her mother. The next day, the little girl heads back to school, ready to sing her name for her teacher and class.
This picture book is completely inspiring, both for children with unique or unusual names but also for teachers and classmates to help lead everyone to inclusion of diversity in their classrooms. I love the help in pronouncing the rainbow of names shared in the story, particularly when that same pronunciation help extends to names that are not unusual such as Benjamin, Olivia and Ms. Anderson. It’s a clever way to show that we all have interesting names and we have learned to pronounce them all.
The illustrations show a diverse class of children in an urban setting as the little girl and her mother walk home together. As her confidence in her name grows, the world around becomes filled with colors, streaks of pinks and golds, clouds of pastel. These same bursts of cloud and fire return when she goes to school, declaring her griot-inspired name for everyone: Kora-Jalimuso.
A book that shows how powerful inclusion is, simply by saying someone’s name with care and conviction. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Innovation Press.
This new UK award was created by The Author School. It is awarded to UK based authors only and focuses on books published in 2019 that feature “Black, Asian, Latin American and and/or inclusive main characters.” Below are the longlists for the juvenile categories. The shortlists will be announced in September with the winners announced in October.
Son of the Circus by E. L. Norry
My Hair by Hannah Lee, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan
The Mysterious Melody by SP K-Mushambi, illustrated by Kudzai Gumbo
Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian, illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik
The Star Outside My Window by Onjali Q. Rauf (coming to the U.S. in January 2021)
Tin Boy by Steve Cole, illustrated by Oriol Vidal
Toad Attack by Patrice Lawrence, illustrated by Becka Moor
All The Things We Never Said by Yasmin Rahman
Becoming Dinah by Kit De Waal
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
The Boxer by Nikesh Shukla
Chinglish: An Almost Entirely True Story by Sue Cheung
The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Oh My Gods by Alexandra Sheppard
The Tunnels Below by Nadine Wild-Palmer (coming to the U.S. in February 2021)
Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell (9781481485630)
When Musa started kindergarten, his teacher explained that the other children around him would become his new friends. Musa wasn’t sure about that, they were strangers! His teacher also said that her favorite day of the year was the first day of school and that show-and-tell that year would center around each child’s favorite day of the year. Musa was thrilled, he knew that everyone would pick Eid along with him! Musa soon found out that the other children celebrated different holidays. A few weeks later, Musa and his mother brought in food and told the class about Eid. On Mo’s turn, he talked about celebrating Rosh Hashanah. Moises explained that his family celebrated Los Posadas on Christmas. Kevin’s family of scientists enjoyed celebrating Pi Day with plenty of pie. Each child had their own celebrations and all the children got to learn about one another’s cultures in a very celebratory way.
Ali’s story is focused on inclusion and demonstrates how that can look in a classroom filled with children from various cultures, countries and faiths. The story is straight forward and powerful, clearly showing that not all children celebrate Christmas and even when they do, it may not look the same. Readers will enjoy seeing not only the celebrations shared in the story, but others shown on the class calendar.
Bell’s illustrations are done digitally but also incorporate handmade textures, giving them a marvelous organic quality that warms them. The children and families here are diverse with multiracial families, grandparents raising children, and gay parents represented in the story.
A beautiful look at diversity and inclusion through family celebrations and holidays. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Salaam Reads.
Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by April Harrison (9780525581130)
When Zura’s teacher announces that next Monday is Grandparent’s Day, Zura isn’t as enthusiastic as her classmates about her grandmother visiting the class. Her grandmother, Nana Akua, is one of her favorite people on earth, but Zura was worried that the other children and families might laugh or be mean. Her grandmother looks different than most people in the United States. She has marks on her face representing her tribal family as well as beauty and confidence. When Zura admits to being worried for her grandmother, the two work together on a plan which involves bringing Zura’s quilt with its Adinkra symbols from Ghana. Monday arrives quickly and several other grandparents do their presentations. Zura introduces her grandmother who explains the marks on her face and the important tradition they represent. Then it’s the class’ turn to do their own marks in removable makeup.
Walker explains in her author’s note how she learned about the Adinkra symbols and the tradition of facial marks in Ghana. She uses these elements to tell the universal story of children of color whose parents or grandparents immigrated from another country and whose culture carries through in stories and traditions to the present day. Walker shows how such visible differences can cause pain and worries but also how they serve as a bridge to a deeper understanding as long as we take the time to listen and learn.
Harrison’s art is beautiful. She fills Zura’s classroom with children from a variety of races and cultures. She uses patterns and colors, almost creating the effect of stained glass on the page. The faces of her characters shine, sometimes looking right at the reader, as Nana Akua does when explaining her marks.
A celebration of diversity that show how openness to being different creates community. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.
Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (9780884487975)
Celebrate the magic of the color brown in this book filled with poetic words and enticing illustrations. Deep secret brown is the color of the river currents and also the little girl’s eyes. It is the color of her eyelashes which are the same brown as the shadows of the hemlock trees in the woods where they hike. Amber brown is the color of honey and the color of her hair. Radiant brown is the color of the sand at the beach and the color of her skin. Brown is the color of caramel and cocoa, the color of warm family moments on icy cold days and the color of fall leaves and laughter.
Doyon’s poetry is approachable and accessible for young readers who will see themselves not only reflected on the pages but celebrated for all of their colors. Doyon’s poem is not simple, she insists on looking deeply at the colors and moments that connect us all, the laughter and the love in our families, and the beauty of African-American skin. She has created a picture book that delights in turning what society sees as a negative into a joyous positive party.
The illustrations are pure delight, as you can see from the cover. They take warm autumnal colors, which of course include brown, and create a book that glows in the reader’s hands. Skin color is celebrated, as is diversity in the African-American community. There is pure joy in the illustrations that matches the positivity of the text.
A positive look at African-American families, skin colors and experiences. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
The 2020 Notable Books for a Global Society have been announced. This is an annual list of 25 books created by the International Literacy Association which enhance student understand of people and cultures. The list includes books published during the previous year for grades K-12. Here are the 2020 books:
The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come by Sue Macy, illustrated by Stacy Innerst
At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorrell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Dreams from Many Rivers by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez
Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Cannaday Chapman
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis
Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Daniel Egenėus
Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet by Elizabeth Rusch,
illustrated by Teresa Martinez
Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg
The Moon Within by Aida Salazar
New Kid by Jerry Craft
Orange for the Sunsets by Tina Athaide
The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos
Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist by Julie Leung, illustrated by Chris Sasaki
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paoal Escobar
Room on Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple, illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
Soldier for Equality: Josė de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War by Duncan Tonatiuh
Thanku: Poems of Gratitude by Miranda Paul (Ed.), illustrated by Marlena Myles
Todos Iquales / All Equal: Un corridor de Lemon Grove/ A Ballad of Lemon Grove by Christy Hale
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini (9781541578937)
The authors that created Can I Touch Your Hair, a collection of poems about race, return with a dictionary that selects powerful words to think about as we work on making our world better. The dictionary includes words like empathy, acceptance, compassion, humility, respect and tenacity. Nicely, no effort is made to include the entire alphabet, rather words were selected for their ability to make an impact. Along with each word, there is a poem written by one of the authors and then also a piece of prose that speaks to their own interaction with the concept and how it has impacted their life. Other elements include a quotation with each word and also a way for the reader to try it out in their own life.
The tone here is encouraging and positive without underplaying the incredible amount of work needed to be done to make progress on social issues. The focus is on individual responsibility for each of the concepts and taking personal action to make change happen. In their personal stories, the authors make it alright to make mistakes, take responsibility and continue to move forward. The combination of all of the elements for each concept is very powerful, offering a book that can either be read cover-to-cover or that one can dive into a single concept and explore.
The art by Amini uses a variety of media from photographs to cut paper to pressed leaves to paintings. Each turn of the page takes readers into a new concept visually as well, changing from dark colors to vivid green to cool blues and using different formats.
A unique dictionary that asks us all to do our part in changing our world. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Carolrhoda Books.