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2019 June

28

Jun
2019

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: If You Look Up to the Sky by Angela Dalton

On 28, Jun 2019 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

If You Look Up to the Sky written by Angela Dalton, illustrated by Margarita Sikorskaia

From Goodreads: There are times when a full moon will guide you, a storm will excite you, and a big, blue sky will inspire you to believe anything is possible. These are a few of the many gifts we receive from the sky and universe when life feels scary and confusing.

Told by a grandmother to her grandchild,
If You Look Up to the Sky is about the power of everlasting love and the ways the sky connects us through good times and bad. It offers a child comfort in knowing that you never need to be afraid… if you look up to the sky. 

I wish I had had this book to review in April, National Poetry Month. It is such a beautiful, prayer-like ode to slowing down and worrying less. It’s also a beautiful remembrance of a grandmother who knew how to soothe a worried child.

Each line of the poem starts with “If you look up to the sky…” The child seen in the illustrations shares that their grandmother would encourage them to look up and notice what was in the sky. Through the story they share each of the meanings held by the different skies you might encounter. Some meanings are affirmations about a person’s worth or what they bring to the world. Others are mantras about taking life as it comes and finding solace and strength in whatever comes your way.

I know in our house we’re dealing with some anxiety and I have been looking for ways to help my daughter feel loved, seen, and connected and give her some ideas she can keep in her back pocket for when she’s feeling worried. I’m putting this book into heavy rotation at bedtime and mentioning it during times she’s struggling.

I also appreciate that the book can be used to help with grief over the loss of a loved one. In the beginning the young child remembers what their grandmother would say when she sat the child on her lap. As the book progresses, the child ages up and appears to become an adult. The final stanza is “But know that you will always find me, in the brightness of the moon…If you look up to the sky.” The final illustration shows the grandmother’s face in the face of the full moon shining down on the silhouette of a parent and child waving up at the moon grandmother. I interpreted this to mean that the grandmother had passed on, but had left the gift of looking at the sky as well as a memory of her in the moon for her family. I don’t think you need to draw a connection to this explicitly, but if you are looking for some comfort in a time of loss, I do think this book could be a resource and help.

The illustrations all feature a child of color, which, at least in my experience, is rare in a bedtime-style book (Ten Nine Eight by Molly Bang notably comes to mind, but few others do). The soft colors and fuzzy edges give the pictures a dreamy, soothing quality that really matches the message of the book. Nature features prominently too, as you might expect with stanzas interpreting what the sky indicates.

I highly recommend this one for home libraries. I do think there is a place for it on library shelves as children need to find it and find the wisdom in it. I see it fitting better with the mission of public libraries who provide books for families to share without needing to support a curriculum or study, but school libraries should consider it if they do social-emotional learning or have a collection with affirming books.

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

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21

Jun
2019

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: Taylor’s STEM Adventures Texas by Dr. Mary Payton

On 21, Jun 2019 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Taylor’s STEM Adventures Texas written by Dr. Mary Payton, illustrated by Jorge Mansilla

From Goodreads: Taylor’s STEM Adventures Texas is the second book in a series of stories about the young son of two military members from STEM career fields. As his family moves to various duty locations Taylor guides you through his adventures in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at each base. Taylor gives military children the insight into the STEM adventures and activities that await them in their next military move.

I am so excited that Taylor is back for his next adventure in STEM! You can go back and read my review of the first book where Taylor explores Hawaii with a STEM lens here. In the newest installment, Taylor and his parents have moved to Texas and he’s here to share about all the science based learning he’s doing in the new place.

I mentioned this last time, but was reminded how much I love that these books feature a military family. So many books that include military families are specifically about being a military family. This one is not and it’s so important for kids with parents in the military to see themselves doing regular things (like learning about science and visiting touristy spots). It’s equally important for kids who don’t have family in the military to see that military kids aren’t that different.

Texas families will be happy to see their home state being shown as more than cattle ranches, White cowboys in big hats, and barbecue. I’m a California girl born and raised and I found it a relief to see that there’s more to Texas than some antiquated (and White) history. I was personally really interested in the caves and caverns the book talked about. I love caves and cave-dwelling creatures, especially bats.

I think this time around Dr. Payton has continued to provide just enough information to give an overview and pique interest. But I think the book has leveled up in the best possible way. It’s longer this time around and a larger format (there was absolutely nothing wrong with that last time, for the record) making it appeal to a slightly older crowd. It aged up with my own daughter who was excited about Taylor’s trip to the Johnson Space Center.

There is a lot here making this another great addition to collections designed to grab kids interest and encourage them to explore further. Taylor explores architecture, bats, caves, dinosaurs, and NASA. School libraries should definitely have both of the Taylor books on their shelves and anyone with science oriented kids should too.

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

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links):

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

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14

Jun
2019

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: Kiddo Lingo! by Tiffany K. Daniels

On 14, Jun 2019 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Kiddo Lingo!: Early Childhood Development Book Series written by Tiffany K. Daniels, illustrated by Jorge Mansilla and Ridho Mendari

From Goodreads: Tiffany K. Daniels, Speech-Language Pathologist embarks on a creative series that inspires and encourages children, in particular those with special needs to excel in their developmental skills. With Kiddo Lingo, the goal is to provide exposure to daily activities that children of all diverse cultures experience, so we can better understand the common goal that we all share: wanting the best for our children .

There are a lot of concept books out there intended to work with kids on early school-readiness skills like ABCs, 123s and colors. Most of them are pretty run-of-the-mill and a lot are downright boring. Then there are a newer crop of hip concept books that seem made for the entertainment of the parent/educator rather than the actual child (creepy hipster ABC book, I’m looking at you).

Thankfully Melanin Origins does not seem to be falling into these traps with the concept books they have published (check out John Ensley II’s My ABCs for a beautiful and culturally relevant concept book). Kiddo Lingo! is not quite your traditional concept book, as it doesn’t focus on ABCs or 123s. It takes on more complex school-readiness concepts like paying attention to detail, following directions, actively listening, and answering questions.

The book is broken into short sections with illustrated short narratives followed (or sometimes preceded) by instructions for an adult . This means the book is designed to be read together and talked about/interacted with. Nothing in it is difficult and nothing requires more than a caring adult and a child. This would make it a great book to take along to restaurants where young kids need to be wrangled and entertained. The games, such as a version of Simon Says and look-and-find pictures, can be done sitting down quietly or standing up and moving around. The length of the shorts are perfect for short attention spans (hello paying attention to realistic, age-appropriate expectations!) and allow the book to be picked up and put down without losing the thread between readings.

Not only does it have activities to do together, it features a diverse cast of characters including a child pictured in a wheelchair. We need more visual diversity like this because representation matters (I can’t say this enough). Thank you Jorge Mansilla and Ridho Mendari for adding those details in and keep up the good work to Melanin Origins for ensuring that representation is being published in books for kids. The illustrations are bright and inviting with big-eyed, charming kiddos.

This is the perfect book for a shared reading experience. Picture books are designed with that in mind, but not all of them hit the mark in the way this one does. Highly recommended for preschools, daycares, and home libraries. Kiddo Lingo! lives up to its subtitle “Early Child Development Book Series”. These are great skills for adults to work with kids on and they are developmentally appropriate for young kids (the 3-5 set). Grab a couple copies and give them out at toddler birthday parties and tuck them in the diaper bag for restaurant and doctor appointment outings.

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

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links):

  • On Amazon: paperback, hardback, and ebook.
  • On IndieBound: paperback and hardback.

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

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07

Jun
2019

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: Lessons Learned Along the Journey by Louie T. McClain II

On 07, Jun 2019 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Lessons Learned Along the Journey written by Louie T. McClain II

From Goodreads: Meet Tia Patterson, the intelligent, humorous, and brave descendant of the first and only African American owned car manufacturing company: C.R. Patterson & Sons. Journey with Tia as she provides insight on being successful and courteous while navigating the wiles of life.

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

This is a great book to add to social-emotional curriculums. McClain has used an interesting character to take you through lessons for being a decent human being in this life. Tia Patterson uses driving metaphors to give readers ten pieces of solid advice. Patterson is the descendant of Frederick Douglas Patterson, owner of the first and only African American car manufacturing company. I appreciated the update of using Tia, a woman, to break the stereotype of men and boys being the only ones who like and understand cars.

As someone who moves a fair amount in activist circles where we stress “impact over intent”, I really appreciated how all the advice took into account how our personal choices can have an impact on those around us or create ripples that impact people further out from us. This is why the driving metaphors work so well here. This is a hard lesson to learn, especially for kids who are naturally self centered (I don’t mean that in a negative way) and need us to both explicitly teach them to look outside themselves and model that behavior.

Some of the driving scenarios that set the stage for the lessons might be a little complex for younger audiences, but then again so are the lessons. Teachers who use picture books in upper elementary and even middle school would be wise to incorporate this text. (You do use picture books with older kids, right?)

I’m hoping Melanin Origins and Louie McClain write a book for young readers about Frederick Douglas Patterson and his car company. Maybe an entry in the next Snippet in the Life series? I want to know more and I suspect readers of Lessons Learned will too.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links):

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

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