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2018 May

25

May
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: Note to Self by Celina Monique McMillian

On 25, May 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Note To SelfNote To Self: Affirmations to Young Queens written by Celina Monique McMillian, MSW, illustrated by Autumn Hayes

From Goodreads: This book is intended to empower and influence girls (Queens) to realize they are ENOUGH, to embrace their flaws, and to expand their vocabulary. Affirmations are valuable and powerful. They encourage self-love, self-worth, and self-respect. What we speak, we believe; and what we believe, we achieve.

I recently started listening to a podcast that presents talks by indigenous people. It’s called Think Indigenous and in one episode a woman spoke about the necessity of teaching her children that they have value as humans, since the world will try to teach them otherwise. Despite having parenting practices around this, she was surprised and inspired by a practice her sister had started. Every morning before the sister’s kids got out of the car at school she would call out affirmations and have the kids repeat them back.

Note To Self brought this to mind for me. The subtitle says it all, these are lovely affirmations for girls of color and they can be used for the same purpose as the speaker on Think Indigenous.

While they are geared toward girls, who probably need them the most, parents can easily read them to all their kids. They can talk about how they apply specifically to their own children to help them see their value.

Teachers can use them, too, to inspire their whole class or bolster a single student who needs the extra encouragement. Don’t underestimate the importance of teaching positive self talk.

Daily or weekly readings of the book paired with bringing the encouragement off the page can do wonders for children struggling to find their value. Repeat the affirmations as mantras at the start or end of the day. Repeat them during hard moments together. Send them home written in slips of paper for students to find when they get home or to read before bed. Slip them in lunch boxes or bags or backpacks for children to find at recess or lunch. A quick pick-me-up to remind them you are thinning of them and believe in them.

Another worthwhile and necessary publication from Melanin Origins.

Disclosure: I was sent a review copy by the publisher, Melanin Origins, in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase the book here:

On Amazon: available as a paperback, hardback, and ebook

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23

May
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Rerun: Museum Mysteries by Steve Brezenoff

On 23, May 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Museum MysteriesMuseum Mysteries written by Steve Brezenoff, pictures by Lisa Weber

The Haunted History Museum

The Case of the Missing Museum Archives

The Case of the Portrait Vandal

The Case of the Stolen Sculpture

I bought and read three of these little mysteries. It’s such a tricky balance to strike in these early chapter books, trying to get enough story and character in there that it’s well written without making it too complex and long for kids who are just beginning to read. I personally am fine with books that lack a bit in an involved mystery and character development. I know kids who read these types of stories and enjoy them. I also happened to be one of those kids. I think these mysteries really do a good job of striking that balance. The diversity in ethnicity of the kids comes off as a little shallow, but I think for this type of books it’s just fine. Kids in my library are just happy to see themselves on the cover and read about a kid that they can picture looking like them.

Book number two (the one pictured at the left) is especially important right now. It’s a girl in a hijab who is not a terrorist. She also happens to love space travel and math. STEM girl for the win. The story is wee bit far fetched as the father is about to be fired for something that he didn’t do and the evidence that he lost some important documents is shaky at best. But the characters are likable and the story is fun if you put aside your grown up sensibilities.

When I bought these there were only four that I found on Amazon. On Goodreads it appears there are a few more that feature the same kids in new mysteries which if you have a population that likes mysteries I highly recommend getting. The original Nate the Great was pretty easy, but some of the later chapter books he is in get a lot longer and more wordy. I would say these could replace those longer Nate the Greats of be a place to move to afterward.

I highly recommend these for beginning chapter book collections. They’re a fun introduction to mystery novels and they feature a diverse cast of characters.

 

 

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18

May
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: Shorty and the Sullivans by Linda J. Mubarak

On 18, May 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

ShortyShorty and the Sullivans written by Lynda Jones-Mubarak, illustrated by M. Ridho Mentarie

From Goodreads: Meet The Sullivans, an African American couple in their early 50s. They do not have children, but they do have a big, black dog named Ebony Joyce who they sometimes call Ebony J. In this story, the Sullivans discover that sympathy, empathy and compassion can emerge from very small events, and that sometimes, the best friendships can develop from very unusual circumstances.

Shorty and the Sullivans is another sweet, gentle book from Dr. Linda Mubarak. It’s a story full of heart and compassion. From a collection development perspective, this book has the kind of representation we should be looking for and demanding in our picture books. The Sullivans are a kind older couple who, in the course of the story, take in a young pup. At its heart Shorty and the Sullivans is just a story about dogs and the Sullivans are unremarkably black. It’s the kind of story we see all the time with white (and straight and two-parent and cisgender) families and characters but rarely see with anyone else. This kind of representation is so desperately needed because it normalizes families that aren’t white and doesn’t fall victim to somehow painting whiteness as normal and default. The publisher, Melanin Origins, strives to provide this representation as well as providing affirmation for children of color and shedding light on forgotten or unfairly obscure historical figures. Yet the book isn’t a political statement for its target audience, nor does it need to be. So, will kids like it? In a word, yes. It’s a book about two dogs and their humans. Kids love stories about dogs. Case in point, when the book showed up on our doorstep my daughter immediately noticed the dogs on the cover and began asking what the book was about and if we could read it right then and there. For adults who need more substance than just dogs, it’s also a lovely lesson in empathy as Mrs. Sullivan takes in the homeless puppy and the family learns to incorporate the new family member. The text is on the longer side in this book so I recommend it for classrooms and libraries that serve slightly older children, first through third grade. But I definitely encourage you to check it out and add it to your collections.

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16

May
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Rerun: Following My Paint Brush by Dulari Devi

On 16, May 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Following My Paint BrushI have a bunch of reruns from last summer that are associated with my 100 Day Project. Since they’re all set up and ready to go, I’m going to go ahead and run them. That way if you want to search the tag #The100DayProject or #100daysofselfpublishedkidlit all the posts will be there. Just a heads up that you’ll be seeing these come across the blog over the coming weeks.

Following My Paint Brush text by Gita Wolf based on Dulari Devi’s oral narrative, art by Dulari Devi

From Goodreads: Following My Paint Brush is the story of Dulari Devi, a domestic helper who went on to become an artist in the Mithila style of folk painting from Bihar, eastern India. Dulari is from a community of fisherfolk whose occupation is river-fishing. Used to a life of hard and relentless labor, she discovered painting while working as a domestic helper in an artist’s house.
Dulari learned by doing, and very soon came to adapt artistic rules and conventions to her own expressive needs. Following My Paint Brush narrates Dulari’s momentous journey from a worker who knew no rest to an artist who is willing to go where her imagination leads her.

The art in this picture book is absolutely gorgeous. It’s bright and colorful and charming. Dulari Devi told the story of her life to Gita Wolf who simplified it and wrote it out. I think it’s one of those books that could be quite inspirational for aspiring artists. I could even see the art potentially inspiring some pen, ink and watercolor drawings (although I think that’s a fine line since it is a traditional art form).

I think this would make a nice addition to our biography collection to go alongside other picture book biographies of artists, particularly Draw What You See, The Noisy Paint Box, and also the books we have about Frida Kahlo. It would also make a nice addition to our art collection where we could showcase this traditional art form (I’ll have to think very hard about where it might get the best circulation and use).

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I try very hard to ensure that the books we have about other cultures don’t create a narrative of pity and poverty. Heads up, this book is a story about a woman who grew up very poor and uneducated in India. I will be buying the book for our collection because of the art (did I mention it’s beautiful?) and the worthwhile story, but I am also going to check our other books about India and Indians to be sure we have books that show other narratives from the country.

I would like to share that last year we had a kindergartener who is Indian. She wears a bindi everyday. Some of the other kids in the class (white, as far as I know) asked her about it. Eventually their questions and curiosity started to sound a lot like teasing and bullying. Her teacher came to the library asking if we had books she could read to and share with the class that featured Indian or Indian American characters. There weren’t many. The thing is this little girl is not poor or uneducated and neither are her parents. I worried that the few books we did have would feed the kids another idea about this little girl and her family, namely that they were poor, uneducated and in need of pity (or worse would paint a picture of colonialism in India). I did end up finding a handful of books that were good and the teacher did share them (including Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-Ji). She also invited the little girl’s parents in to talk about an aspect of their culture of their choosing. I am not sure how the whole situation resolved or if it actually did, but that is exactly why I want to be very careful to be sure there is a variety of stories about cultures in our library.

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11

May
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book: Breaking the Sickle by Louie T. McClain II

On 11, May 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Breaking the SickleBreaking the Sickle: A Snippet of the Life of Dr. Yvette Fay Francis-McBarnette written by Louie T. McClain II, edited by Francis W. Minikon Jr., illustrated by M. Ridho Mentarie

From Goodreads: Have you ever wondered what your passion was? What you were put on this Earth to do? Dr. Yvette Fay Francis-McBarnette, a trail blazing woman of medicine, understood exactly what her purpose was in life. Her interest and area of expertise was researching ways to identify those with sickle cell early on, and providing therapeutic solutions to induce an improved quality of life for those who suffered from the disease. Dr. Francis-McBarnette led an extraordinary life that tells such an amazing story of hope and encouragement. Read along as Melanin Origins presents a childlike perspective of her formula for breaking the cycle of Sickle Cell Disease.

I have a secret way of testing out all books that I bring into the house. Kids books that is. I casually leave them out in a basket, next to the bed, or on the kitchen table. Then I wait to see how long it takes my daughter to pick them up, peruse them, and ask to have them read to her. A litmus test of sorts.

I have admitted before that upon seeing these “Snippet in the Life of” biographies for the first time I was confused by the representation of the subjects as modern looking children. “Why not draw the people as they were in the historical settings they lived in?” I wondered. As with Booker T. Washington, Flying Above Expectations, and Ida B. Wells I was not in the know. It takes my daughter no time at all to see these biographies and pick them up, curious about who they are about. They are always that night’s bedtime story when they arrive.

This installment in the series features Dr. Francis-McBarnette, a female doctor dedicated to helping African Americans through her research and treatment of sickle cell disease. The book is part affirmations, part science introduction, and part biography. Dr. Francis-McBarnette, a woman who hailed from Jamaica, entered Yale’s medical school at the age of 19. She was also only the second black woman at the school. Depicted as a young girl, Yvette, takes the reader through her life and explains that when she saw the impact sickle cell disease had on people and families she became determined to help manage the disease. She emphasizes the hard work she put into her studies and her life in order to accomplish the things she did and she encourages readers to do the same. She also gives a simple lesson on how sickle cell disease works. Not so long as to confuse or bore readers, not so short as to be uninformative. Perfect for budding scientists.

While the book is a snippet of a great woman’s life, it also provides many parents with an opportunity to talk to their children about how incredible her accomplishments were because of the color of her skin. She worked hard and also overcame obstacles that normally held women and people of color back. It makes her story all the more amazing.

The text in the book is spare enough that it will keep younger audiences engaged. For children curious for more about her, tearchers, librarians or parents can help them research her further online. But the book stands on its own, whetting children’s appetites for learning about less well-known historical figures that are probably passed over because of their race and/or gender. This is the kind of representation we need more of in children’s books (and grown up books too, to be honest). We need to have young women of color on the covers of picture books. We need to be reading books about women in science and especially women of color in science to all kids, not just kids of color.

Libraries, classrooms, and home collections need to be considering the “Snippet in the Life of” series. Melanin Origins is now releasing all of them in both paper- and hardback and they are super affordable. They need to be on our shelves showing all children that it wasn’t just white men who made history. There were plenty of other heroes out there working to make the world a better place. Before you turn your nose up at books published outside traditional channels consider the lack of diversity in the books available through those channels. This book in particular shows children that a disease that affects many black and African American people is and was important enough to be studied, addressed, and managed. It also fits the bill for promoting STEM/STEAM education, particularly with girls (so it’s really on point :) ). I also recommend the book for families affected by sickle cell disease. It’s a great introduction for young children to understand what the disease is and why they may be getting the treatment they are.

Disclosure: I was sent a review copy by the publisher, Melanin Origins, in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase the book here:

On Melanin Origins website

On Amazon: available as a paperback or hardback

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