All posts in 3) Grade K-2

#BlackHistoryMonth by Carole Boston Weatherford

#BlackHistoryMonth by Carole Boston Weatherford

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Carole Boston Weatherford in Roxbury, Massachusetts last year. I was struck by her quiet elegance and dignity. Her books reflect that too.

Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes with Mia Wenjen

Carole Boston Weatherford is on the left. Ekua Holmes is on the right.

I didn’t realize how many #BlackHistoryMonth stories that would have remained largely untold if not for Carole’s work. Today, I wanted to share with you her books in honor of #BlackHistoryMonth.

#BlackHistoryMonth by Carole Boston Weatherford

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Lena Horne

Lena Horne, image from Wikipedia

Lena Horne was both an legendary actress and activist, born into a well educated and high achieving family. During the Great Depression, Lena started her career at the Cotton Club as a dancer in the chorus line. Her career catapulted from there, to Broadway, headlining an all-white band, to Hollywood. During WWII, her activist side emerged in full force, which resulted in being blacklisted during McCarthy’s Red Scare. Still, Lena persisted. With a new husband, she was able to further her career to become an international star, and use her fame in the fight for civil rights. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Congo Square New Orleans

Congo Square, U.S. National Register of Historic Places, image from Wikipedia

“Slavery was no ways fair. Six more days to Congo Square.” The back story of the birth of jazz in New Orleans: because Louisiana was a French colony, then a Spanish colony, even slaves had Sunday off from work. In most states, African drums and music were banned. But once a week at Congo Square in New Orleans, hundreds of slaves and free blacks would congregate, play music, and dance. Told in simple rollicking rhyme, this picture book is exuberant as it is informational about a little known story that expresses a human’s capacity to find hope and joy even in the most difficult circumstances. And this resulted in the birth of jazz, America’s only original art form. Carole Boston Weatherford’s books are all exceptional. Both she and illustrator R. Gregory Christie are Coretta Scott King Honorees. Freedom in Congo Square is one of my (accurate) Caldecott picks. [picture book, ages 2 and up]

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My Very Short Diversity Picture Book Videos

My Very Short Diversity Picture Book Videos

I’ve been making very, very short picture book videos on my YouTube channel. I only have 47 subscribers, so if you would subscribe, I’d be very grateful!

I made over three dozen picture book videos so far of newly published books, but I picked these five diversity books to highlight today.

5 Wonderful Diversity Picture Books Made Into a Very Short Video

Mamá the Alien by Rene Colato Lainez, illustrated by Laura Lacamara

The confusion of being a legal alien versus an alien from outer space makes its bilingual Spanish picture book the perfect conversation starter about the naturalization process. MAMA THE ALIEN by Rene Colato Lainez, illustrated by Laura Lacamara. ♫ Background song, Englishman In New York by Sting. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

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Great New Early Chapter Books

Great New Early Chapter Books

I was a first round judge for The Cybils Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books this past fall which meant that I read about 50 Easy Readers and 80+ Early Chapter Books that were nominated by the general public. Our group then came up with the short list, and then round two judges picked a winner in each category.

To keep track of each book, I kept notes on each book, rating it on a 5 point scale. I share my notes below of the books I liked the most (4.5 or 5/5). Our group then held online discussions via email on books that we liked, culminating in an online discussion to pick the short list. It’s interesting that  that strong reactions to books could go either way. A good example is The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake by Robin Newman … I loved the film noir detective story but not everyone agreed with me.  Charlie Bumpers vs. The Perfect Little Turkey is another book that I loved especially for its boy appeal — our list felt girl audience heavy — but our group tried to be gender neutral.


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Great New Easy Readers

Great New Easy Readers

It just so happened that most of the diversity picks on the nominated easy readers for The Cybils made the short list. I personally was a champion of Don’t Throw It to Mo! by David Adler which also won the Geisel Award.

My fellow judges were mostly librarians and they needed something fresh to get excited about. I can relate; I think an award like The Cybils is helpful to highlight new authors rather than award a long running and popular series like Elephant and Piggie. In fact, the popularity of Elephant and Piggie spawned many knock offs which starts to become tiresome as well. And, my final gripe is that there is only so much rhyming you can pull off with fox/box, yet there were more books that you’d expect with this rhyming scheme.

The upshot is that new Easy Readers seem to be a pretty closed off group: books are either popular series that seem to spawn endless books, imitators of these popular series, or rhyming sequences involving “fox” and “box.” While most of the selections below fit into those three categories, they are the best of the pile and there are also a few that refreshingly don’t.

How about you? Are there any Easy Readers that you don’t mind reading over and over again? Please share! Thank you! Read more…

Yoga for Kids: Rachel's Day in the Garden

Yoga for Kids: Rachel’s Day in the Garden

Giselle Kids Yoga Stories

I’m thrilled to be on Rachel’s Day in the Garden by Giselle Shardlow’s blog tour! I feel fortunate that Giselle moved a few years ago near me so we got to meet in person several times! Giselle is a certified kids’ yoga instructor and her line of books introduces yoga to kids.

I’m a huge proponent of yoga. It helps me from getting injured and it’s a little gift to myself when I practice. It also helped me when I had carpel tunnel from being on the computer too much. I can feel when my life is out whack too, because I will have trouble with balancing poses!

My kids have all tried yoga in various ways. My son likes yoga cards to do poses in bed in a silly way. It’s still yoga though! PickyKidPix says yoga is calming for her. She needs that! Grasshopper and Sensei is prone to injury because she has tight lower body. It’s either physical therapy or yoga, but yoga is for life! She gets the most benefit from yoga, but it’s also the most challenging for her.

yoga pragmaticmom Read more…

Diversity Mystery Books for Kids

Diversity Mystery Books for Kids

It was a lot harder than you’d think to find mystery books for kids with characters of color. I want to thank my Instagram followers for their help in putting this list together:

West Meadows Detectives: The Case of the Snack Snatcher series by Liam O’Donnell

Myron is on the autism spectrum which makes him a great detective because his observations are based on fact and logic rather than emotion. When snacks go missing from his school cafeteria, it would seem that Sarah “Smasher” McGintley might be the culprit, but Myron and his classmates (which include children of color) from Resource Room 15 search for evidence in unlikely places until they find out what really is going on.

Liam O’Donnell communicates a subtle message to readers that kids with special needs also have special talents in this series for newly independent readers. [early chapter book, ages 6 and up]
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Hamsters & Guinea Pigs in Early Chapter Books

Hamsters & Guinea Pigs in Early Chapter Books

I’m not sure what children’s publishing rule of thumb seems to dictate that hamsters sell Early Chapter Books but when I judged the first round Cybils, there were a surprising amount of hamster themed books in this category. This, of course, let me to search out more Early/Easy Chapter Books with hamsters as characters as well as picture books.

Why do you think Early Chapter Books and hamsters go so well together? Is this publishing gold or a knee-jerk “copy what’s working” strategy to find an escaped hamster? Are hamsters really the Houdinis of rodents or are we short-changing rats, moles, mice and other furry creatures?

My search for hamster books was prompted by this video below. It turns out that hamsters have flexible hips that allow them to take sharp turns easily, even doing a complete U-turn in a tight space. And let’s not discount their ability to stuff food into their cheek pouches. The pouches, which secrete no saliva, extend down to their hips! Read more…

Rice & Rocks cover reveal

Cover Reveal for Rice and Rocks!

Today, I am doing the cover reveal for a diversity picture book called Rice & Rocks. I met author Sandra L. Richards through Instagram and I’d encourage any new authors to meet bloggers through social media. It works!

Rice & Rocks cover reveal Read more…

5 Great NEW Diversity Easy Readers

5 Great NEW Diversity Easy Readers

I’m thrilled to be judging first round Easy Readers and Early Chapter books for the Cybils! I’m joined by Katie Fitzgerald of Story Time Secrets, Jennifer Wharton of Library Thing and Jean Little Library, Juliana Lee of Juliana Lee: Crafting Stories, Susan Murray of From Tots to Teens.Cybils 2015

The Easy Reader genre was my biggest challenge to find diversity, multicultural and inclusive books for kids when I searched for ten great ones. I literally sat in my public library and read an entire wall of them to create Top 10 Best Multicultural Easy Readers. This year there were 3o Easy Readers nominated for the Cybils and these 5 have diversity themes and characters.

Do you have any favorite diversity Easy Readers? Please share!

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