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11

Jul
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Rerun: The Monkey King’s Daughter written by T. A. DeBonis

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

Monkey King's DaughterThe Monkey King’s Daughter written by T. A. DeBonis

From Goodreads: The Monkey King’s Daughter isn’t about Sun Wukong, the Monkey King – it’s about his daughter, Meilin. Only, Meilin doesn’t know she’s the Monkey King’s daughter. In fact, she doesn’t know she’s half-monkey at all. As far as Meilin knows, she’s an ordinary 14 year-old high school freshman from Midland Hills, California, facing all the problems that bright young girls face at that age- flakey girlfriends, zits, too much homework, bad hair, obnoxious boys… But all of that changes when her ancient past catches up with her. (And she thought high school was gonna be easy…)

Today I have another great self published series. I said in another recent review that I am getting rather tired of Greek mythology. Because of Percy Jackson it seems to be everywhere. As a kid I went through a phase where I was into Greek mythology and I still enjoy it, but there is a lot of really interesting mythology out there (I was always way more fascinated with Egyptian mythology) and I wish I had been able to discover it as a young reader. The Monkey King’s Daughter is based in Chinese stories of the Monkey King. If you’ve read Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese you will be familiar with the myth this book draws on. Plenty of it is explained in the course of the story and will make sense to kids unfamiliar with it.

Despite Melin’s age and the fact that she’s in high school, the book is totally appropriate for upper elementary. It’s perfect for kids who like to age up. I would also highly recommend it for lower readers in middle school. The story is exciting enough, but the reading level isn’t particularly difficult.

The pacing was off in a few places. Most of the time the story plugged along, but there were a couple places where things happened a little quickly, felt rushed, and were glossed over. I think this has less to do with it being self published and more to do with the reading level it’s intended for. I don’t know exactly where it falls, but it’s a little more difficult than beginning chapter books, but not nearly as difficult as Percy Jackson (or as long).

My only other complaint is that when Meilin meets her father for the first time she isn’t awkward or angry or anything. She runs into his arms and they spend an evening star gazing together, enjoying each other’s company. I just had a hard time believing that a kid who hasn’t met her father would feel overwhelming love for a man who was never around. Will most kids care about this? The only kids who might are ones who have not met their fathers or who have experienced meeting them later in life. Does that make the book unworthy? I don’t think so. I doubt most kids who will tear through the adventure in this will mind that it isn’t totally authentic. Just be aware it may fall a little flat for some readers.

I really hope this story leads kids to the original Monkey King stories from the different parts of Asia. They’re very exciting and funny. Meilin takes some things in stride, but she was a very realistic kid. She didn’t suddenly become good at everything when she discovered her heritage and fell into her adventure. This is the first in a series and I’ll be buying the rest (I bought the first to try it out). It’s well worth having on our library shelves, particularly if you have kids who love mythology (we all have Riordan fans) and kids who like action.

 

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09

Jul
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Rerun: One of a Kind, Like Me by Laurin Mayeno

On 09, Jul 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

One of a KindOne of a Kind, Like Me/ Unico Como Yo written by Laurin Mayeno, illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo

From Goodreads: Tomorrow is the school parade, and Danny knows exactly what he will be: a princess. Mommy supports him 100%, and they race to the thrift store to find his costume. It’s almost closing time; will Danny find the costume of his dreams in time?

This is another one of Liu-Trujillo’s books that I had intended to put in the library collection, but was not allowed to leave our house by my daughter. We probably read this once a week. Her favorite, the spread of Nifty Thrifty, the thrift shop Danny and his mom visit to find his costume. There are racks and racks of clothes and she loves to see if she can spot any purple before Danny and his mom start their search aisle by aisle.

This is a must purchase for any family or library looking to add books about gender non conforming kids. While I’m all for books like I Am Jazz that focus on being either gender non-conforming or transgender (those must be in your collection too!), I think the beauty of this particular story is that Danny just wants a purple princess costume. There isn’t much beyond that and that’s fine. We’ve had boys come through our lower school who haven’t struggled with gender identity per se, but love to wear dresses and fancy shoes. This book is for them. Danny is confronted by his friends at the end, but he has the perfect response. Mom and Grandpa are both super supportive and don’t bat an eye when Danny presents the picture of his costume.

The story is also a great one about using your imagination and making something when you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for. Danny is convinced that his purple princess dress is at Nifty Thrifty, but they can’t find it. Just before the story closes Danny realizes all the pieces of it are there. He and his mom just have to put them together. After some cutting and sewing Danny has the costume he pictured and it’s perfect.

The pastel color palette is perfect for the gentle story and the pictures alternate between lots of white space and racks of clothing filling the page. As always the people are lovely and have great expressions and body language.

I don’t think this should be the only book you have in your collection about gender non conforming kids. It must also include books like I Am JazzJacob’s New Dress, and Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress. (I am having a MUCH harder time finding books for gender non conforming girls.) But it should absolutely be there. It’s for those kids who aren’t quite sure yet about themselves and need to see their reflections. It’s also for those kids who are out there and want to be different. They’ll see themselves too. And it’s for their classmates, so they can see their diverse world, the one they see everyday, reflected. And if you think you don’t have one of those kids in your school, buy it anyways. You might not know that you do, you might eventually, and your students will eventually encounter someone like Danny. They deserve to see a wider world too.

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06

Jul
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: Taylor’s STEM Adventures: Hawaii by Mary Payton

On 06, Jul 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Taylors STEM HawaiiTaylor’s STEM Adventures: Hawaii written by Mary Payton, illustrated by M. Ridho Mentarie

From Goodreads: Taylor’s STEM Adventures Hawaii is the first 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 military base. Taylor gives military children the insight into the STEM adventures and activities that await them in their next military move.

I tested this one out on my in-house book tester (i.e. my six-year-old daughter) and we absolutely loved it! STEM is a hot trend in education and while I tend to hate things that become wildly popular as they rarely measure up to the hype, I do love STEM and STEAM. Not only are they important for our kids to become well versed in, but they are interesting and encourage children to be inquisitive, something that’s been really lacking in traditional education for awhile.

Taylor’s parents both work in the U.S. military which is why they live in Hawaii. Books with military families are not particularly easy to come by. Even less so are books with military families where deployment isn’t the main focus. Here Taylor has two parents involved in STEM careers in the military and from them he has had a love of these subjects fostered.

Taylor’s STEM Adventures is part Hawaiian tour, part conversation starter. The book does a couple things with the things Taylor introduces the reader to. First, he gives a broad swath of ways STEM can be found in Hawaii and in everyday life. Second, it creates interest around the concepts and ideas. We stopped at many different points and talked more about volcanoes, observatories, coral reefs, architectures, and history. It was particularly apropos because of the volcano that has been erupting in Hawaii that’s been in the news. Taylor shows the reader how Hawaii was formed and the role volcanoes played. He takes you to historical and scientific points of interest. He also discusses oceanography and a couple famous buildings on Oahu. It’s not unlike the Snippet in the Life series also published by Melanin Origins in that these topics are introduced, but not discussed at great length, allowing readers to take interest and then pursue the ones they find most relevant to themselves. This will help hold the interest of younger readers while guiding older readers to new subjects and ideas.

If you’re looking for some good nonfiction titles to pique interest and encourage curiosity make sure to add this to your collection! Also be sure to hand it to Moana fans that want to get a little more serious about learning about the part of the world she came from. I can’t wait to see more STEM adventures with Taylor.

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 IndieBound: paperback and hardback

On Amazon as an ebook.

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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04

Jul
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Rerun: The Remembering Day/ El Dia de los Muertos written by Pat Mora, illustrated by Robert Casilla

On 04, Jul 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

The Remembering DayThe Remembering Day/ El Dia de los Muertos written by Pat Mora, illustrated by Robert Casilla

From Goodreads: Long ago in what would come to be called Mexico, as Mama Alma and her granddaughter, Bella, recall happy times while walking in the garden they have tended together since Bella was a baby, Mama Alma asks that after she is gone her family remember her on one special day each year. Includes facts about The Remembering Day, El dia de los muertos.

I bought this one for our Spanish collection and because I know several classes, including our music class, study El dia de los muertos. Mora imagines a time when the tradition of El dia de los muertos began in this sweet story about Bella and her grandmother. The story is fairly quiet as the two remember the happy times they have had together. As Mama Alma realizes she is going to die she asks Bella to start a celebration of those who have died in their village.

I think this one would make a great addition to any collection. While it has the cultural component of looking at El dia de los muertos, it’s meaning and possible origin, it is also a story about a grandparent dying. I think it would be a good story to offer to children and families who have lost someone. My own family celebrates the Celtic version of a remembering day each fall and this would be a fantastic book to read at that time.

I loved that Mora’s first line makes it clear that this is something that started before colonizers from Europe came and she touches on it again in the note at the end of the story. Remembering the dead is not uniquely Catholic or even Christian and the practice goes back much further into our human history. I think it’s important to acknowledge that with our students and children.

The illustrations are warm and inviting. They show Bella and Mama Alma working in their garden, weaving, and playing together. The soft, warm colors enhance the nostalgic and gentle mood of the text. The text is a bit on the long side so your mileage may vary with very young audiences. I bought this specifically for my second grade classes, but I think it could be read up into fifth grade and down into Kindergarten. The story is just so worthwhile.

I am curious, the title in English is The Remembering Day while the Spanish title is El Dia de los Muertos. I understand that the holiday is about remembering and respecting the dead, so does that mean The Remembering Day is a more accurate translation? I like it better. Calling it the Day of the Dead always brings Halloween to mind for my students and sort of sucks the meaningful significance out of the holiday (we are actually one of those families that do not celebrate American Halloween, for the record, so this could just be a personal bugaboo). To my limited knowledge of the holiday The Remembering Day seems a lot more inline with what the holiday is about.

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02

Jul
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Chapter Book Review: The Mockingbird’s Manual by Seth Muller

On 02, Jul 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

The Mockingbird's ManualThe Mockingbird’s Manual written by Seth Muller, pictures by Bahe Whitethorn, Jr.

Book 1 of Windclaw Chronicles

From Goodreads: Near a dry streambed on a wind-swept spring day, Ellie Tsosie makes a strange discovery. She finds a startling gift, a book called The Mockingbird’s Manual. Ellie slowly wakes to a new and magical world, formed of the birds who have always lived around her home. But until the discovery, she never knew of their lives or of their secrets. In the first book of the Keepers of the Windclaw Chronicles, Ellie takes her first steps into the fantastic realm of the Animal World, where she comes to learn that she has a mission.

I would have LOVED this book as a girl. I am a bird person and the idea that you could find a book that allowed you to speak with birds, would have been so magical to me. The story follows Ellie as she discovers a manual that helps her communicate with the birds in her southwestern home. It takes Ellie a few days to figure out what is going on and what she needs to do to help.

Despite being the first in a series of three books The Mockingbird’s Manual does an excellent job of walking the line between setting up the series and creating a story that fits within the confines of the book. It isn’t a fast paced novel by any means, but it also isn’t slow and plodding. Again it strikes a nice balance, this time between giving growing readers something interesting to read without making it too complex for them to work through the mechanics of reading and keeping track of the plot. In other words, it’s a perfect transitional chapter book. I have not read the other two so I can’t speak to their difficulty level although I do know they are slightly longer than this one.

In terms of representation, the book is set in the Navajo Nation. Debbie Reese, children’s literature scholar and Nambe Pueblo member, always stresses the importance of tribal specificity in literature. “Native American” is far too broad of a term to be meaningful to anyone who is actually indigenous. This gives Native kids solid, realistic representation.

I would highly recommend the book (and the series) to all school libraries that serve third grade and up. I hesitate to call it a fantasy novel as the Native Nation it comes from may not view it as fantasy, but it fits in with other Euro-centric fantasy novels with talking animals, magical powers, and mystery. Not to mention Ellie being called to help in the Animal World. It would be a good series to start with before jumping into those (prolific) Warriors books or the Spirit Animals series. Be sure to hand it to kids who like animal books and your quiet fantasy loving girls who may not be quite ready for more difficult series.

Most beginning chapter book collections are lacking in any kind of diversity. It’s even more difficult to find Native representation so be sure to add this to your collections- home, school, or public library.

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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29

Jun
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: Maxine’s New Job by Lynda Jones-Mubarak

On 29, Jun 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Maxine's New JobMaxine’s New Job written by Lynda Jones-Mubarak, illustrated by Adua Hernandez

From Goodreads: Maxine Hill is an inquisitive 4th grade student who has a talent for solving problems and enjoys helping people in need. While using her quirky skills of observation, Maxine discovers an unexpected secret about Mrs. Sullivan, her sweet, quiet neighbor that changed their relationship forever.

We’re back in the world of Shorty and the Sullivans, this time across the street with Maxine Hill, a precocious fourth grader. Maxine is an adorable girl with big glasses and a big heart. Her family is gentle too and I enjoyed meeting them. The illustrations have a cozy feeling to them as we see into the places in Maxine’s world.

The book is definitely on the long side for a picture book. Obviously this isn’t unheard of, I simply tend to prefer keeping picture books shorter and saving more complex stories for transitional chapter books, but that’s totally a personal preference. I think the story and length does make the book a better fit for older audiences, first or second grade and up. If you could get your third and fourth graders into it, it would be great!

From a social justice standpoint I thought this book really tackled some interesting problems. Maxine and her family support being involved in community and helping out how and when they can. They volunteer at a food pantry once a month and started to do so after Maxine noticed an unhoused man and began asking questions. (Side note, I wish the book had called him unhoused instead of homeless.) I really love that her family is so willing to engage in this way and the way Mubarak has written it, it comes across as genuine and sincere instead of didactic.

It’s this ethic of service that leads Maxine to help Mrs. Sullivan, her neighbor across the street, solve a problem. It turns out Mrs Sullivan is functionally illiterate, largely because she struggled so much in school learning to read, never got the help she needed to be successful, and then dropped out of school. I have never seen a picture book that takes on this issue, but it isn’t an uncommon one. I know my library system has a program for adults who are illiterate or need more reading instruction and it isn’t the only program like that out there by any means. It might not be super realistic that a fourth grader is going to help a woman with learning disabilities to learn to read, but I love books that take a positive stance on children stepping in and stepping up, even if it’s not totally plausible. I think it’s a representation of sorts. It shows kids they can help and puts faith in them. No need to squash their optimism and willingness to do good. If anything I think it encourages them to stay engaged and find ways they can help even if it doesn’t look exactly the way they first think it will.

I do have to point out two criticisms of the book. First there is a typo (an incorrect name) on the second to last page. Not a huge deal, but I wish it had been caught. There’s also a continuity error. The text says Maxine has a puppy named Amos, but he is pictured as a cat in the illustrations. That being said, before you decide not to purchase the book and roll your eyes, writing it off as a mistake only made in small press/indie press/self published books, know that there are frequently typos in traditionally published books. Both in continuity and in the form of typos. While it’s unfortunate when it happens and can be frustrating for readers, it’s not uncommon. Don’t let this deter you from considering this book (for personal copies feel free to cross out words and correct them). The overall message and story and the representation on the page are far too important to write it off.

Update: I was sent an early, uncorrected copy of the book. The author reached out to me and graciously offered me a new copy. The mistakes have been fixed! So definitely be sure to get your copy today!!

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 IndieBound: paperback and hardback

On Amazon as an ebook.

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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27

Jun
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Rerun: Melena’s Jubilee written by Zetta Elliott

On 27, Jun 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

melenas-jubileeMelena’s Jubilee written by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Aaron Boyd

From Goodreads: At breakfast she learns she has been given a “fresh start,” and she decides to celebrate by doing things differently for the rest of the day. Melena chooses not to fight with her brother, and shares the money she has rather than demanding to be repaid by a less fortunate friend. This story introduces children to the concept of jubilee, which stresses the important principles of debt relief, generosity, and forgiveness.

I will buy nearly any book that Zetta Elliott writes and publishes, my exception being YA because I work in an elementary library (but to be honest I buy those for myself to read). Everything she writes is excellent and the books are popular with our students. I chose this book in particular to be my first review of the year because of the turning-over-a-new-leaf theme that seemed so appropriate for a new year.

Melena’s Jubilee follows Melena through a day where she decides to have a fresh start. She wakes up feeling new and refreshed. The day before she had been in trouble, but today she wants to make things right and make good choices. She inadvertently and indirectly broke a vase of her mother’s and her mother offers to help her glue it back together. She decides to let her brother be instead of whacking him with a pillow. She forgives money owed to her by a friend and she shares her ice cream with her neighborhood friends.

As far as a book to read in the classroom, both the idea of forgiveness and making better choices are concepts we focus on and I think the story will really resonate with some discussion. The idea of starting over also really appeals to me as an educator for helping children move on from bad days. They happen to everyone, but that doesn’t mean they have to hang over us. As a parent I also like these ideas and have talked about them with my daughter when she or I have had a rough day. I originally ordered the book for my library, but after reading it to my daughter she asked for her own copy. Something about the illustrations and the story really clicked for her. This was the first book in a couple months that she has requested I buy.

I hate to say this, but Boyd’s illustrations are bright and rainbow-hued which is like catnip to children. Shallow, but true. The illustrations are beautiful, though and the brightness celebrates the message of the book. The various types of prints and papers used really makes them interesting to pore over. While Elliott’s story is beautiful by itself and has a message without hitting you over the head with it, I think the two together make this a great book. I’m pretty sure the rainbow on the cover and the sun at the end sealed the deal for my daughter. :)

If you have money in your budget, be sure to purchase this one. It will find many appreciative readers, from parents to teachers to students.

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25

Jun
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Chapter Book Review: The Hidden Temple of Ogiso by O. T. Begho

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

Obi and TitiThe Adventures of Obi and Titi: The Hidden Temple of Ogiso (book 1) written by O. T. Begho

From Goodreads: The Adventures of Obi and Titi is an epic African adventure series that follows the story of two brave, young children and a very naughty monkey who set out on an unexpected journey of knowledge, hope and everlasting friendship. Deep in the heart of Africa, where civilization truly began, two young children, Obi and Titi, unwittingly find a hidden temple and a mysterious map. This discovery sets off a chain of events that will change their lives forever. For once they must settle their differences and work together, as they set off on a magical adventure to save their village and the ones they love. 

This is the perfect book and series for the summer! We just finished reading it last night and I cannot recommend it enough. Usually it takes us a week or more to get through chapter books- we’re tired, my daughter spends the night at my mom’s house, we watch a movie instead of reading- even though they’re not especially long or difficult to get through. But Obi and Titi had us hooked and we plowed through it in three nights. It was such an exciting read!

Set in historical Benin, Obi and Titi have been friends since they were tiny as their father’s were also close friends. Titi is the daughter of the Oba, or king, and Obi is the son of his greatest warrior. Except Obi’s father hasn’t been seen or heard from in years. He set off one day and no one seems to know where to or if he’s even still alive. One day while playing on the edge of the forbidden forest, Obi is pulled into the river by some creature and dragged downstream and into the forest. Titi goes looking for him and when they find each other, they also unexpectedly find Obi’s father’s spear. This sets them off on an investigation of an entrance to what they believe is the lost Temple of Ogiso, which ultimately puts them on a much bigger quest to save the kingdom from evil.

It was so wonderful to read a story that had a boy-girl friendship that didn’t have to be fraught with them jabbing each other over their gender or hinting at some romance. They’re kids and they’re friends. Even the two year age difference doesn’t cause much of a conflict. Titi and Obi solve the mysteries, puzzles, and riddles they encounter together and Titi isn’t the caricature of a chiding, rule-following girl that we so often see in these types of books.

This is perfect for reluctant readers, although the reading level might be a wee bit high, and it can keep interest in reading going through the summer when those reluctant readers might fall behind. Each chapter ends with a cliff hanger which make this perfect for reading aloud and keeps the pages turning. It might also lead to some under-the-covers-after-lights-out sneak reading. You’ve been warned.

It definitely has the feel of Indiana Jones and other adventure/action/mystery stories. Begho did a phenomenal job of balancing wrapping up the story arc for this particular book while setting up the series and enticing you to keep reading it (we’ll be buying the rest!). I would recommend the book for kids 5 or 6 and up if you’re reading it aloud. For independent reading, it would be excellent for second through fourth grades. They also did a really good job of creating a chapter book that has a complex enough story to be interesting but isn’t burdensome for readers who are just coming to chapter books.

Be sure to buy this series if your library serves kids in beginning chapter books or if you have a second, third or fourth grade classroom. Also check out the series website and Facebook page for more games, historical information, to set up author visits, and updates on the series.

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22

Jun
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: Brick by Brick by Louie T. McClain

On 22, Jun 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Brick by BrickBrick by Brick: A Snippet in the Life of Booker T. Washington written by Louie T. McClain, illustrated by M. Ridho Mentarie

From Goodreads: A children’s book snippet about the life, accomplishments, and achievements of the great Booker T. Washington – an inspirational African-American innovator, leader, scholar, and philanthropist.

Oddly enough I haven’t reviewed this book yet despite it being the first in the A Snippet in the Life series. Brick by Brick shares a bit of the accomplishments of Booker T. Washington as well as inspiration around how he managed to accomplish so much.

If you’re resisting the Snippet series because the historical figures tend to be less well known, there’s no excuse here. Booker T. Washington is a well-known African American figure and his Tuskegee Institute is arguably more influential. It’s still around today, but also was home to George Washington Carver (who is fascinating in and of himself, peanut research aside) and the Airmen we see in Flying Above Expectations.

This book in particular is very motivational. It encourages kids, whether or not they are familiar with Washington and the Tuskegee Institute, to work hard, have faith in themselves, and rely on good friends. All of these are great messages for children to hear. Grit is one of those educational buzz words that’s been popular for a few years, as has the idea of a growth mindset. These books, besides introducing important black historical figures, also plug directly into those concepts and make them really great additions to classroom libraries. Brick by Brick can open conversations about how important it is to believe in yourself and have faith in your abilities. It can also provide a little dose of inspiration during read alouds.

I’ll be honest, McClain hasn’t hit his stride for the series with this book just yet. The later books do a really good job balancing sharing some historical facts with inspiration. While Brick by Brick is worth your time and shelf space (I had it in my library), I think it’s better as an inspirational, growth-mindset builder rather than peek into the historical aspects of Booker T. Washington. That being said, if you aren’t familiar with Washington of the Tuskegee Institute your interest will be piqued enough to look him up.

Sort of off topic, but something I wanted to bring up in regard to these books by Melanin Origins. Nearly all their books are available as ebooks, hardbacks, and paperbacks. While not everyone has access to ebooks, Kindle does have an app that can be downloaded to a smartphone and is in full color. These are an incredibly affordable way to get ahold of these titles. For libraries the hardbacks are great because they don’t get lost on the shelf. And for home and classroom libraries the paperbacks are an incredibly affordable option. You’re also supporting a black owned business when you purchase them, so it’s a great option all around with something for everyone.

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 IndieBound: paperback and hardback

On Amazon as an ebook.

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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20

Jun
2018

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Rerun: Thank You O Allah! written by Ayesha bint Mahmood

On 20, Jun 2018 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Thank you O AllahThank You O Allah! written by Ayesha bint Mahmood, illustrated by Asiya Clarke

From Goodreads: A glorious array of Allah’s never-ending bounties that will evoke a child’s feeling of gratitude for everything God, Allah in Arabic, has given – from faith and knowledge to family and health, from animals and nature to food and life itself.

Thank You O Allah is a title I purchased to diversify our collection. Being an independent school we don’t have a lot of religious books (unless you count our 2 billion Christmas books), but there are a handful. There are a couple “biographies” of saints and religious figures (Mary, Joseph, Moses), but mostly our Christian books take the same form as this book. They’re vaguely religious prayers that examine the everyday life and surroundings of a small child and thank God for them. I’m thinking most prominently about the Caldecott winner Prayer for a Child.

There are a couple places where I’m pretty sure this was originally a British release, but it won’t confuse anyone. The text takes on a repetitious form that really has rhythm to it. In some ways it brought to mind the chanting of Islamic texts. The only annoying thing about it was that each verse starts with “And let’s thank…”. I don’t think the “and” was necessary each time. That’s an incredibly minor quibble, though.

The illustrations are really beautiful. Bright and inviting they show things most children will be familiar with except for maybe the Q’aaba. I love the cover, but I am sucker for rainbows (I blame Lisa Frank!). The book is certainly Islam-centric, but I think the message in it could be shared with any child. I would consider using it around Thanksgiving, when kids are gearing up into the gimmies season, as a reminder of all the good things we already have.

I would recommend purchasing it if for no other reason than to be sure you have at least one Islamic book on your shelves. Christian books abound and end up on shelves even if a library or school isn’t religious, so I don’t see why we can’t then have Islamic books too. Plus exposure to Islam will teach children tolerance and make them less ignorant. In terms of quality this one is pretty good with nice illustrations, good text, and nice print quality. I’ve been desperate to find Islamic holiday books and I’m willing to relax my quality standards so we can have them on the shelf, but no compromises needed here.

 

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