Get your child’s school year off to the right start by encouraging them to love themselves just as they are. Help kids embrace their own uniqueness with these books and music that teach kids self-confidence! Because every child should feel comfortable and happy in their own skin.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some of the material below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contians affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Teach Kids Self-Confidence: Books and Music
We love these Changing Faces books! They are so adorable and fun for little ones, as the faces of the animals change each time you turn the page, thanks to something like a built-in Venetian blind. And the latest in the series, I Love You, Elephant!, has a special message of being happy just as you are. Little Monkey encounters different animals, wishing he could be like them. Yet his animal friends help him by pointing out what makes him special!
Ninja Boy’s Secret is a beautiful book about a boy learning to follow his heart – even if it means he might disappoint his father. Because unlike so many children, Ninja Boy doesn’t actually want to be a ninja. He wants to be a musician! Fearful of how his father will react, Ninja Boy nevertheless summons the courage to share his secret, by playing a beautiful violin sonata. Great story and I love the Japanese-inspired illustrations!
Honeysmoke: A Story of Finding Your Color is a beautiful story for anyone who feels like they don’t quite match anyone else. Simone, a young mixed girl, isn’t as dark as her mother or as light as her father. She longs to find a color of her own. A beautiful story about building self-confidence through embracing your uniqueness. It also sparks a lot of conversations with my mixed kids, who were curious to identify exactly what color they were!
How Do You Dance? is a great book about finding your own way, rather than trying to just imitate what everyone else is doing. There are so many ways to dance, but the most important way is the one that feels right to you! Lovely illustrations of diverse people enjoying music in all different ways!
The Love is a truly unique album! It’s hip-hop music that focuses on “love, belonging, and gender justice.” It features more than 60 artists, including many children. What really impressed me was that the album grew out of the group’s genuine engagement with their audience. As one co-founder explains, “Hundreds of kids and families trusted us with their lived experience to write these songs.” It really inspires self-confidence in kids who feel ostracized and misunderstood and encourages allies to stand up for inclusion. And beyond that, it’s just really great music that my kids love!
On sale now! Friends, I have been working hard on getting this planner for Baha’i parents ready for you – and it’s finally done! It includes monthly and weekly calendars, plus planning pages for service projects and holy days! If you are a homeschooler like me, you can also purchase a homeschool supplement to get curriculum planners and lesson plan templates. Read on to find out more!
Planner for Baha’i Parents with Homeschool Supplement
In this digital Homeschool Supplement, you will find templates for fleshing out your family’s daily and weekly routines, organizing curricula and resources, as well as (of course!) lesson plan templates.
I also know how diverse homeschoolers are! There are so many ways of organizing a homeschool; therefore, I have included several different lesson plan templates, also recognizing that some of you may not use lesson plans at all!
This Homeschool Supplement is designed for you to print as needed. This way you can print only the pages that fit your homeschool. Inside you will find:
Want your child to give back to their community – or even just pick up their toys? Children have natural tendencies to want to make a difference in their homes and communities. Nurture them with these wonderful new books that inspire kids to help others!
Books that Inspire Kids to Help Others
It is such a classic dilemma: Parents feel like they are drowning in housework, yet their children never appreciate all of their hard work. In fact, they usually just contribute to the mess! In Llama Llama Mess Mess Mess, Llama Llama – like so many other children – ignores Mama Llama’s calls to clean up. But Mama Llama uses an unexpected strategy to convince Llama Llama of the importance of helping out. What would happen if Mama Llama didn’t clean up either? When Llama Llama realizes how chaotic and stressful life would be without Mama Llama’s hard work, he sees that pitching in means a peaceful home – and more playtime! – for everyone. A fun way to teach responsibility to little ones.
If you are an animal lover, prepare to have your heartstrings tugged with Garbage Dog! This is a sweet, beautifully illustrated book about a dog forced to live on the streets. But throughout his struggles, looking for food and avoiding mean animals, Garbage Dog never loses his sense of decency. He makes friends with all kinds of animals wherever he goes, and looks out for others, even sharing the little food he manages to scavenge. But don’t worry, there is a happy ending for Garbage Dog! A lovely book about friendship and kindness to others.
Endangered Species Superheroes is a graphic novel about a teenage girl living with her grandfather and helping out at his wildlife sanctuary. Yet Lindsey’s idyllic life is interrupted when her grandfather’s nemesis, Mace Zagan, escapes from prison. Overcome with jealousy for her grandfather’s many awards and accomplishments, Zagan is determined to get his revenge. After his first attempts to hurt Lindsey’s grandfather fail, Zagan decides to kidnap Lindsey!
Help comes from unexpected quarters. Several of the animals from the sanctuary – loyal to Lindsey and her grandfather – discover that they’ve developed super powers, ironically, thanks to one of Zagan’s evil schemes. Working together, this super team of an iguana, sloth, rhinoceros, and tapir help Lindsey to save the day.
I love that despite the dangers presented in the book, it always manages to stay upbeat and positive. Plus the relationships shown among both humans and animals are very supportive, as the characters demonstrate true friendship for each other. A great adventure story, and one that will spark an interest in the urgent need to help endangered animals.
The Chupacabras of the Río Grande is the latest installment of the wonderful Unicorn Rescue Society series for middle grade readers. (Read my review of the first two books). There are so many things to love about this book: How its heroes are smart, thoughtful, brave (and diverse!) kids; how it centers on rescuing mythical (but actually real, and very endangered) creatures; and how, through their adventures, the children also learn about other culture and very real problems facing society.
In The Chupacabras of the Río Grande, Elliot and Uchenna travel to the Laredo, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the US, to investigate reports of a chupacabra. This book builds on the previous ones of the series, but new co-author (and Pura Belpré winner) David Bowles brings an intimate knowledge of the bicultural & bilingual communities on the border. The book delves into an issue that children will surely have heard about on the news – the border wall – but in a nuanced way that carefully avoids generalizations. In fact, one of the most brilliant plot twists is that in the end, the children find an unexpected ally in a rancher that they had thought they would have nothing in common with.
Highly recommended series for kids with a lot of imagination and a desire to save the world!
Want to teach your child ecology, patience, and community all at once? So often, community gardens are an oasis of green space as well as inclusion in urban life.
When we first married and lived in an apartment, we rented a little space in a nearby community garden. I loved going out to our plot in the evenings, when it was cool. Half of the neighborhood was there as well! The community garden was a supremely social space, and people often brought music and food to share.
Here are wonderful children’s books that convey that sense of sharing and well-being that community gardens represent. Are you part of a community garden? Share your story in the comments!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Harvesting Friends/Cosechando Amigos for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Community Gardens: Books for Kids
Though How to Grow a Friend never mentions community gardens by name, it is a lovely way to teach children about the underlying values at an early age. Author Gillingham shows how friends, just like plants, must be carefully and patiently tended. With its beautiful, simple metaphors and sweet images of children gardening together, it is the perfect way to help children understand the skills needed to be a true friend.
The simple, lyrical text and enchanting artwork of Green Green: A Community Gardening Story make it ideal for young readers. Everyone knows that green green is playing in the fresh air and brown brown dirt is for digging, but what about the gray gray of buildings rising ever higher? I love that in this book as in many others on this list, it is the children that lead the way, inspiring the adults to create a community garden in the middle of all that gray gray. Includes at the back ideas for making your world a greener place, as well as information (and a craft!) specifically on bees and butterflies.
Errol’s Garden is a wonderful example of exactly why community gardens are so needed! Many children, like Errol, have no yard to have their own garden, yet with some perseverance and teamwork, people come together to make a green, growing space they can all share! When Errol discovers the perfect spot for a garden (the apartment building’s rooftop), he shares the news with his neighbors, who luckily are just as excited as he is. (Consider all the diversity boxes checked off in this community, from racial and religious diversity, to gay couples, a man in a wheelchair, and a woman with incredible green, spiky hair!) Everyone has something to contribute and works together to turn their rooftop into a beautiful garden. Illustrates beautifully how our differences are truly our strengths when we have a common goal.
Harvesting Friends/Cosechando Amigos is a story told in Spanish and English about a girl who loves to garden with her family. But this summer Lupe has to solve a big mystery – where have all their juicy, ripe tomatoes gone? When Lupe discovers it is the new kid, just arrived from Mexico, who is taking the tomatoes, she digs deeper to find out that his family can’t afford to buy their own. That’s when Lupe shows her true colors, by inviting the boy to help in the garden in exchange for more tomatoes. The two become friends as they work together that summer, and Lupe is inspired to invite their neighbors to work with them in the garden the following summer.
In time, the Amigos Garden becomes a gathering place for the community, growing lasting friendships. Children will love this beautiful book and the kindness and confident leadership of its young protagonist. I love that diversity is shown not just in the having people of different colors working together, but in the small details, like the salsa Lupe’s mother makes, or the norteño musicians playing in the garden at the end. Don’t miss the easy recipes from Lupe’s garden!
The Children’s Garden: Growing Food in the City is based on a real community garden in Seattle! It was started by a local organization dedicated to teaching people to grow their own food. The Children’s Garden was founded soon after the organization was founded in 1978 and is still going strong today! This book showcases how community gardens can be particularly special for children. It conveys what a wonderful sensory experience gardening is, and the pride that the children feel in what they grow. I love the gorgeous illustrations of diverse children working together and connecting with nature.
Like Harvesting Friends/Cosechando Amigos above, The Patchwork Garden / Pedacitos De Huerto also comes from the bilingual publisher Piñata Books. The Patchwork Garden / Pedacitos De Huerto tells the story of a very clever solution to a common problem: Often when people set out to add some green to their urban neighborhood, the spaces available are too small to build a traditional community garden. That is the problem Toña runs into, when she is inspired by stories of her abuela to create her own garden in the city. She gets permission from the church to use a little patch of land, but when the other children in the neighborhood want to garden, too, Toña quickly realizes her garden isn’t big enough for all of them.
And that is when she comes up with the idea of a patchwork garden, just like her abuela’s patchwork quilts! By asking at businesses around the neighborhood, Toña is able to assemble a number of small spaces for garden (outside the clinic, for example, and just next to the shoe shop). Now everyone can have their own little garden patch!
Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table is an absolute gem because it is based on the story of a real life hero. Former basketball star Will Allen saw a need for children in Milwaukee to have access to fresh vegetables, so he bought an abandoned city lot and got to work! But it wasn’t as easy as that. The soil was polluted, a problem that would have stopped most people, but not Will Allen. He started composting to create better soil, and soon the neighborhood kids took notice. Slowly he and the kids turned that empty lot into a thriving farm, right in the middle of the city. And now Will Allen travels widely, and he and his farm inspire others to start their own. He won a MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 2008, and through Growing Power he helped revolutionize urban farming. A truly inspiring story, which includes an afterword from Will Allen himself!
The Forgiveness Garden is a completely different take on the idea of a community garden. This parable of two warring villages was inspired by Beirut, torn apart through years of Civil War. In the parable, one girl, herself bitter after being attacked, decides to make a change, by opening her heart to forgiveness. When given the opportunity for revenge, she instead invites the people of both villages to work together to build a forgiveness garden. Yet even once it is built, people from both villages are scared to enter it, until finally the girl’s attacker, himself transformed through her kindness, joins her in the forgiveness garden. Inspired by the Forgiveness Garden in Beirut, which has sparked a global movement.
July 25, 2019SpanishComments Off on Outdoor Spanish Learning Activity with Chalk
If you’re like me, you are trying to get your kids outdoors as much as possible! I’ve got a few little tricks, like eating breakfast in the backyard (which always morphs into playtime as well) and taking school time outside. We’ve got a great picnic table we can use for crafts and written work, but I also try to take advantage of being outdoors by including more active learning. Here is one super easy outdoor Spanish learning activity that helps with gross motor skills as well as language learning. Big bonus: my kids didn’t want to stop playing!
Good news for busy parents and teachers: no prep involved, and all you need is a sidewalk or patio, and chalk!
Here’s what to do:
Draw a house with chalk. Make it as detailed or simple as you want, to match the level of the children’s vocabulary.
Call out a part of the house, and the children must jump there as quickly as possible.
Repeat for as long as they want to play!
You can play this on two levels:
Adentro/afuera. At the simplest level, you call out either adentro or afuera, and they must jump either inside or outside of the chalk drawing. That’s actually where this whole idea came from, when I noticed my children were getting these two words confused.
Las partes de la casa. For a more complicated game, call out a different part of the house each time, and the children must jump there as quickly as they can. For example, our house had a door, windows, roof, and chimney. We later added to the outside of the house, with a patio, tree, and clouds in the sky.
If your children enjoy this game as much as mine did, you can try different variations, like numbers, colors, and so on.
July 19, 2019Book ReviewsComments Off on Fun New Picture Books to Engage Your Kids
I love discovering new books with my kids. It makes story time so much fun! Here is a whole crop of fun new picture books to engage your kids and make reading together a blast!
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Fun New Picture Books to Engage Your Kids
Stop! Bot! is a great book that manages to convey a relatively complex story with only a few words. Yet while it’s simple enough for very young readers, older kids will enjoy the humor in the drawings and the twist ending. This is one of the fun new picture books that my three year old loves to read over and over. She not only requests it every night at bedtime, each time she wants to read it at least 5 times in a row! My favorite part is when the bot flies through a woman’s huge hairdo! A unique book sure to engage young readers.
I Am a Wolf is a funny tale with an important message. Sometimes even the most prickly personalities cover tender hearts. A tough little puppy does not want any friends. She is a wolf, she insists, because she isn’t cute or cuddly. But at the animal shelter, they can see past her tough exterior to the scared, lonely pup beneath, until one special little girl decides to take her home to show her the extra love and kindness she needs. A book that many children will be able to relate to!
I Am Not a Fish! is my seven year old’s current favorite. When I asked him why he loves it so much, he said because it’s so funny. Edgar the jellyfish is tired of being so misunderstood. He’s not jelly or a fish, after all. He joins a support group for “mislabeled” sea creatures, finally coming to understand that no matter what anyone calls him, he’s special just as he is.
A fun way to introduce kids to space is with a beautiful picture book like Birthday on Mars!. Its sweet, colorful pictures of the Curiosity rover really engage very young readers, who will love the idea of celebrating a robot’s birthday – on Mars! Even better is the fact that this is based on a true story! The Curiosity rover really did sing itself happy birthday in 2013, to mark one year of being on Mars. Older kids will enjoy the “fun facts” about Curiosity and Mars at the back of the book.
My oldest loves reading I’m Trying to Love Math. He adores math, so he enjoys this funny book about an alien trying to convince a professed math hater that math really is fun! This book manages to cover a great deal of math facts in a humorous way, showing how math is relevant to our everyday lives – from music, to cookies and pizza! Fun whether you already love math or still need some convincing.
Looking for more great summer reading for your kids? Here are some wonderful middle grade books we’ve discovered this summer. And big bonus! They are all by diverse authors! Some address race and culture directly, while for others it is more part of the background. Either way, I can promise that your child will not want to put these books down, plus you will enjoy reading them yourself!
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Awesome Middle Grade Books by Diverse Authors
My son read New Kid four times before I was able to wrestle it away from him to read it myself. This graphic novel from award-winning author and illustrator Jerry Craft centers on a seventh grader just starting at a new school. Jordan finds himself at a prestigious private school where suddenly he is one of only a few students of color in his entire grade. This book brilliantly captures the ways that Jordan must learn to navigate his new school, dealing with both the wealth of most of his peers, and the many small ways that racism seeps into school culture. For example, he is often mistaken for other students of color, even if they are otherwise nothing alike – and teachers are often some of the worst offenders. Beyond just highlighting these microaggressions, the book shows – often through use of Jordan’s own artwork – how hurtful they can be. Highly readable book that manages to tackle the big issues in a nuanced way and still end on a high note.
I was already a big fan of The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora (see my full review), so I was excited to find Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish, a new book from author Pablo Cartaya. Marcus Vega is often misunderstood. He’s big, he’s tall, and he already has the start of a mustache. So people assume that he is a bully, just like they assume because of his name that he speaks Spanish. But the truth is that Marcus barely remembers Spanish or his Puerto Rican father, who left years ago. The only time Marcus gets aggressive is when someone insults his younger brother, who has Down Syndrome. When just such an insult leads to a fight and a possible suspension from school, Marcus’s mother decides it’s time for a family vacation to Puerto Rico. To Marcus this means the chance to finally find his father, yet he ends up discovering much more, like the true meaning of family, and when it is time to let go of someone. He even learns a little bit of Spanish!
This book is incredibly funny and poignant, and its characters are wonderfully complex but very relatable at the same time. Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish is a beautiful tribute to Puerto Rico and its people. It is set before the Hurricane Maria, and Cartaya wrote that it is meant to honor the memory of the lives lost.
We are currently in the midst of reading The Last Last-Day-of-Summer. You couldn’t get more contemporary, as it is set in August 2019 – hopefully we’ll finish well before the story actually takes place! The legendary Alston cousins are just looking for one more adventure before school starts, when a mysterious stranger shows up to offer them a gift of a camera. Yet this gift has a sinister side, as it has the effect of freezing time! Now Otto and Sheed must find a way to save their town, before it’s too late! A great read for anyone who likes science fiction or adventure. I love having kids of color front and center in a genre where they are often overlooked. This isn’t a “gritty” urban drama about escaping poverty or gang life, it’s just a clever, funny story about some amazingly heroic kids – who are about to save their small town from extinction!
NewsPrints and its sequel EndGames follow the adventures of Blue, a newsboy with a big secret – he’s actually a newsgirl. Fearing rejection (and losing her job), Blue disguises herself as a boy, which also lets her have many more adventures than she would be allowed as a girl. Indeed, much of the plot of the book focuses on going deeper than the surface, as Blue discovers that many of those around her are hiding secrets, including her own government. In the midst of an ongoing war, Blue and her new friend Crow must learn to trust each other with their true identities in order to save themselves.
A great adventure story that challenges young readers not to judge by appearance but to find out the truth for themselves and trust their instincts, particularly when it comes to knowing whom to trust.
June 26, 2019Book Reviews, STEMComments Off on Moon Landing Books for Kids: Celebrate 50 Years!
Are you excited about the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, coming up next month? Celebrate with your kids with these wonderful moon landing books, including some that were just recently published! From picture books to middle grade works and graphic novels, you’ll find something for everyone and are guaranteed to learn something new yourself!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Moon Landing Books for Kids
Teach your children about the first lunar mission with these wonderful moon landing books for kids!
I adore Margaret and the Moon. First of all, Margaret Hamilton, whose story is told here in a very readable, engaging format, is my new hero. She is completely fearless, despite being one of the only women in computer science back in its very earliest days. The field was so new, that Hamilton herself is credited with inventing the term “software engineer” to describe the work she and others were doing. Thanks to her early success and innovations, she was chosen to lead the team whose coding guided Apollo 11 (and other Apollo missions). Keep in mind, she was only 32 when the moon landing took place in 1969! (For even more on Hamilton, don’t miss this great article, which includes a photo of Hamilton posing with the stacks of coding for the lunar mission).
This book does a great job of explaining the technical side of Hamilton’s innovations (and how her team’s coding saved the moon landing). It also places it in the context of a lifetime of being curious about the world and courageous enough to do what others say cannot be done.
What could be more thrilling for a child than to take part in one of the most momentous events in history? Marty’s Mission: An Apollo 11 Story (Tales of Young Americans) tells the story – based on actual events! – of a young boy who helps Apollo 11 land safely back on Earth after its moon landing. Marty lives on Guam, where his father manages the NASA tracking station. This tracking station relays signals back and forth between the astronauts and Houston, so it is absolutely critical to the mission. When the equipment begins to malfunction during the Apollo 11’s return to Earth, Marty’s father and the other engineers must act quickly. And so they turn to Marty, who is small enough to reach inside and fix the antenna. This story is really eye-opening, making you think about all of the people that made the Apollo 11 mission possible, including a 10 year old boy on Guam!
Moonwalk: The Story of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing is a great non-fiction introduction to the moon landing. Each page spread consists primarily of a large photo, making it seem almost like a coffee table book. Tells the story of the moon landing in a very cohesive narrative appropriate for younger readers.
My 9 year old discovered Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon first, and for a while would lug it around everywhere, which is saying something because it is a large book! But it’s easy to see why he loved it so much. This award-winning book is full of glossy photos and presents a great deal of information, but in a narrative format that draws the reader in. It’s no wonder that the Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine included it on their “Best Children’s Books” list!
With so much attention on the astronauts who first landed on the moon, I really love the emphasis of Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon. It’s a great lesson for children to see that with the moon landing as in almost all endeavors, there are so many unsung heroes working behind the scenes. This book gives them their proper due, even including direct quotes from many of them! There are so many interesting stories in here, such as how the fear over germs from the moon meant that scientists had to work for 18 months to come up with a reliable method of decontaminating the film the astronauts brought home effectively – and quickly! – since everyone wanted to see the photos right away.
Author Steve Kortenkamp has written a number of books about space for young readers, one of which is The First Moon Landing, part of a series by Capstone Press of books for young readers about the solar system. This non-fiction work for younger readers is a great introduction to the topic, with lots of color photographs, larger text, and “fun fact” inset boxes. Includes a glossary and internet resources to learn more.
Neil Armstrong and Traveling to the Moon is a more detailed look at the first moon landing, interweaving the history of the space race with the story of the man who would ultimately be the first to walk on the moon. This is not a biography, strictly speaking, but it does give a personal dimension to the wealth of scientific information. For example, we learn details about the spacecraft as well as the tests and training the astronauts had to go through. Personally, I was interested in the section at the end on life after Apollo 11, and how Armstrong was careful not to profit from his celebrity.
The Space Race (Blast Back!) is an early chapter book that gives an overview of the space race, including a chapter on the first moon landing. It is a good way to help children see the moon landing from the perspective of the politics of the time as well as learn about the history of the science behind it. Very engaging format, with black and white illustrations.
Older children will enjoy Moon Mission: The Epic 400-Year Journey to Apollo 11 for an in-depth look at the history leading up to the moon landing. But it doesn’t read like an ordinary history lesson. Instead, it is organized by the timeline of lunar mission itself, taking each stage and explaining the science (and the scientists) behind the principles and discoveries at work, such as learning about gravity during the “lift-off” stage.
I always love learning about the lesser known stories of historic events, so I really enjoyed the graphic novel Far Side of the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11’s Third Man, which focuses on Michael Collins. While Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon, Collins had the less flashy but essential job of commanding the lunar orbiter so they could all safely return to Earth. We learn about his background, and the twists and turns of fate that resulted in his selection for the lunar mission. What would it have been like to be totally out of contact with the other astronauts and mission control as he orbited the far side of the moon? He later became the director of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and, though he may not be as famous as his fellow astronauts on that first lunar mission, his role was just as critical.
Another graphic novel about the moon landing is Rocket to the Moon!: Big Ideas that Changed the World 1, a brand new book that covers everything from the history of rockets to the politics of the space race. It is “narrated” by Rodman Law, who in 1913 became the first person to attempt to travel by rocket. Incorporates direct quotations from many historical figures into a highly readable story that I found difficult to put down.
Inspire your children to follow their dreams, whether in science or the arts, with these wonderful new STEAM biographies! These beautifully done picture books teach children (and adults!) about pioneers in painting, dance, astronomy, and marine biology. But more importantly, they encourage children to be brave enough to pursue their interests, no matter what obstacles they may face.
Disclosure: I receive a complimentary copy of Dancing Through Fields of Color for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
STEAM Biographies for Kids
Great collection of STEAM biographies for kids, perfect for summer reading!
If you have a child who loves to color outside the lines, you must read Dancing Through Fields of Color: The Story of Helen Frankenthaler together! At a time when girls especially were meant to follow the rules, Helen Frankenthaler persisted in following her own path, letting her colors run free. She was in love with color and movement, from the swirl of blue waves around her in the ocean to the sunset rays streaming in their apartment windows.
Yet her whole life she had to fight against those that wanted her to do things as they always had been done, and who relegated women artists to small, less experimental exhibits. But she followed her instincts and went on to become a leader in the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1950s. She pioneered the revolutionary “soak-stain” method of letting paints actually soak into the canvas, thus ushering in the Color Field movement in painting.
A wonderful book to encourage children to follow their hearts and be courageous enough to color outside the lines. Outstanding illustrations capture the lush, vibrant colors of Frankenthaler’s work, plus a reproduction and photos of the artist at work can be seen at the back.
Mexican folkloric dance is ubiquitous these days, but it was not always so celebrated. Danza!: Amalia Hernández and Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet by the award-winning Duncan Tonatiuh, celebrates the achievements of dancer and choreographer Amalia Hernández. Accomplished in both ballet and modern dance, Hernández was moved to study traditional dances of her native Mexico, and she soon began to incorporate them into her pieces.
She founded the world famous dance company, El Ballet Folklórico de México, renowned for integrating elements of these regional dances into ballet and modern dance. It is largely thanks to Hernández’s efforts that Mexican dances are so well known around the world today. Hernández and her dance company (which still performs and tours internationally) helped celebrate the diversity of Mexican heritage and win recognition of Mexican traditions as art.
I adore Tonatiuh’s illustrations, which themselves are known to integrate elements of pre-Columbian art. Gorgeous book published on the 100th anniversary of Hernández’s birth.
Caroline’s Comets: A True Story is one of those stories that I read and think, “Why did I never learn about this in history class?” before answering my own question, “Oh wait! Because she was a woman…” Caroline Hershel was the first woman to discover a comet and the first woman to be paid for scientific research. Along with her brother William, she helped make astronomy into a modern science. Between them they found 2,500 nebulae, along with a number of comets discovered by Caroline. Yet as a child no one expected much from her. As a girl, she was taught “practical skills” rather than the arts and sciences taught to her brothers. She was often no better than a scullery maid for her family and was only allowed to go live with her older brother William – to whom she was devoted – when he paid for a maid to replace her.
When William began to focus on astronomy, Caroline joined him in his pursuits, becoming an assistant inventor and helping him build what was at the time the best telescope in the world. All of this, of course, while serving as a maid and accountant for her brother. It reminded me of the old saying about how Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in high heels! While William is best known for discovering the planet Uranus, Caroline is famed as the Hunter of Comets. Fascinating book about the early history of modern astronomy, as well as the practical problems faced by female scientists.
Today we take for granted deep sea diving and all of the discoveries that have come from it, but Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere reminds us that it is really a very new field of exploration, one still full of danger and mystery. Otis Barton and Will Beebe were an unlikely pair. Beebe was a renowned explorer who saw the sea as another adventure. Barton was a young engineer who came up with a plan to make a deep sea dive a reality. Barton’s contraption, the Bathysphere, was a hollow metal ball just big enough for the two explorers – only four and a half feet! So many things could go wrong, and in fact, when they first went down in 1930 something several things did go wrong. First it was a small leak, but more serious was when sparks from a searchlight cord showered over them, threatening to reach the oxygen tanks. Luckily Barton was able to stop the sparks and save the dive…and their lives.
This was the first of 19 deep sea dives the men would do together in the Bathysphere. They were the first humans to see deep sea creatures alive, swimming in their own environment. Thanks to their courage, people began to see the ocean as a complete habitat, one that deserved study and protection. One of the great mysteries is that Beebe named four new species on his dives that have never been seen since. Did he imagine them, mistake existing species, or, since 95% of the oceans remain unexplored, have we just not come across them again?
Includes actual photos of the Bathysphere at the back of the book. And also I loved the note at the back from Beebe’s former assistant (and later Head of Science Reference at the Library of Congress, Constance Carter). She states that Beebe would often ignore letters from well-known scientists, instead focusing on answering letters from children, saying that it was more important to inspire a child.
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is almost over, but it’s always a good time to highlight children’s books that focus on Asian and Asian American cultures! I’m so pleased with the collection of books below because not only are they quite varied in style, they also show just how rich and diverse these cultures are. I also love that they explore Asian Pacific American heritage in ways that celebrate the past but are also very relevant to today’s readers.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of several of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Asian Pacific American Heritage: New Children’s Books
Enjoy this collection of new children’s books that celebrate Asian Pacific American heritage!
Sumo Joe is her debut book, and it is a delightful look at martial arts from a child’s perspective. Sumo is one of those sports that most Americans love to joke about without really knowing much about it, so it’s wonderful to have a book that actually teaches kids about it in a fun way. We watch as Sumo Joe teaches his friends sumo moves and training, and for those that want to know more, there’s an illustrated glossary at the back of the book. But what will Sumo Joe do when his beloved younger sister wants to join in what has traditionally been a male sport? A charming book that is sure to win fans young and old.
Soon after I received my review copy of When Spring Comes to the DMZ, our Global Reads for Grownups Book Club had coincidentally started to read The Girl with Seven Names, a memoir of a defector from North Korea. So it was incredibly poignant to look at When Spring Comes to the DMZ, a gorgeous new children’s book that contrasts the natural beauty of the demilitarized zone between the Koreas with the harsh reality of the razor wire fence and lines of marching soldiers that surround it. Because the DMZ is a no man’s land, it has become a wildlife refuge, though a precarious one that is still full of landmines, under careful watch of heavily armed guards.
This book shows clearly the absurdity of war and the need to make the DMZ an area of true peace with the potential to reconnect a divided peninsula.
Ming’s Adventure in the Mogao Caves is a real treasure for anyone who loves religious or art history. Young readers, of course, will just appreciate it as a young boy’s enchanted adventure! Ming is traveling through the Gobi Desert to visit the famous Mogao Caves – a holy site and a treasury of Buddhist art – when a sandstorm separates him from his parents. He is saved by a nine-colored deer, who leads him to the caves.
Once there, Ming finds himself inside one of the cave’s murals, where he discovers he can use his magic paintbrush to help restore the animals in the painting. A lovely adventure story as well as a beautiful introduction to this important historical site.
Gondra’s Treasure is a fun read for any child that loves dragons, but especially those that comes from a intercultural family. Gondra’s parents are both dragons, but one is from the East and the other from the West. Gondra teaches us about what it’s like to have parents from different places: while Mom (from the West) breathes fire, Dad (from the East) breathes mist. Gondra, of course, can do both! (Though no fire breathing unless Mom or Dad is around!) A cute look at mixing cultures, as well as a fun comparison of how differently dragons are imagined in the different parts of the world.
Mina vs. the Monsoon is another fun read that also has a more serious message. Mina, an avid soccer player, is not happy when the monsoon rains begin. Though most others in her village celebrate the arrival of the rains because of the bounty they bring to the land, Mina can only think about how the monsoon rains will keep her indoors and away from her beloved soccer. Is there anything she can do to stop the rains from coming?
I love that this book shows such a tender relationship between Mina and her mother – and Mina’s surprise when she finds out her mother used to be a soccer player! There is a guide at the back to the Urdu and Hindi words that are sprinkled throughout the book, as well as more about why the author chose to feature a soccer playing girl in her book. In several states in northern India, communities are trying to combat child marriages by teaching girls to play soccer! Learning a sport gives the girls a sense of accomplishment and helps them think they can do more with their lives.
Pashmina I discovered not because it was related to Asian Pacific American heritage but simply because I was looking for a great graphic novel for my son. Pashmina was highly recommended, so we ordered it from our local library. When it came, neither of us could put it down!
It is the story of a young girl intrigued about her past, especially about India, the country her mother is from but never wants to talk about. One day she discovers a magical pashmina (a type of scarf) in her mother’s old suitcase. When she puts it on, she is transported to an enchanted version of India, though one in which she is followed by a mysterious shadow. It is only when she dares to travel to the real India that she is able to confront the mystery of her birth and her mother’s past, as well as the reality of life for women in India.
A beautiful coming of age story that is also woven with growing awareness of the difficulties faced by women in many parts of the world.