Sep 172021
 

Pura Belpré was a champion storyteller and the first Puerto Rican/Latina librarian in New York City, but many of us only know her name from the award named in her honor. This Latinx Heritage Month (Hispanic Heritage Month) learn more about the trailblazing woman behind the famous children’s book award. Scroll down for a review of a new children’s book about her life!

Pura Belpré: Latinx Heritage Month | Alldonemonkey.com

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. I received a complimentary copy of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Pura Belpré: Latinx Heritage Month

Pura Belpré had a gift for stories and an especial love for tales from her native Puerto Rico. But when she became a children’s librarian in New York (the first Latina library in New York City), she saw that these stories were not being told to the children.

Pura Belpré filled that gap by telling the cuentos (or stories) that she grew up with. She also saw that many of the children of other immigrant families were not participating in the library and made an effort to invite and include them as well.

One of her innovative ideas was to create bilingual story times, something we have personally benefited from. She was the first librarian to hold bilingual story times in New York!

Today her legacy is honored in the Pura Belpré Award, given annually to the Latinx illustrator and author whose work best celebrates the Latinx experience. Here are the 2021 winners:

¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat (World of ¡Vamos!) (Read my review of other titles by the same author)

Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano Julio C. Tello / Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello

Efrén Divided

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez

Lupe Wong Won’t Dance

Furia

Pura Belpré: New Children’s Book

And for a lovely new book about Pura Belpré herself!

Pura’s Cuentos: How Pura Belpré Reshaped Libraries with Her Stories is a wonderful way to share the story of this Latinx heroine with children. This beautiful book pays tribute to this pioneering librarian, who made such a difference for so many children, not just in New York City but throughout the country. It tells of her early love of stories and her journey to bringing those stories into the library, and in turn bringing more children into the library as well.

The vibrant illustrations capture Belpré’s joy for storytelling, catching the reader up in the same enthusiasm that the children in the library must have felt on the rug at story time. The story of Pura Belpré is a wonderful way to teach our children the power of stories to bridge cultures.

And next Wednesday, September 22, at 3 pm ET, be sure to watch my interview – in English and Spanish! – of the both author and illustrator of this book: Annette Bay Pimentel and Magaly Morales. 

Sep 102021
 
 September 10, 2021  Book Reviews No Responses »

Children love to explore the world around them, whether it’s the neighborhood, a new park, or another culture. These wonderful fiction and non-fiction books for little explorers are sure to fuel their curiosity. Whether you’re stuck at home or able to get out to physically explore right now, these books will help open up your child’s imagination and see the world with new eyes.

Books for Little Explorers: Community and Culture | Alldonemonkey.com

Books for Little Explorers: Community and Culture

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Enjoy these books for little explorers!

What is more exciting for children to explore than the world of grownups? The gorgeous new volume The Who’s Who of Grown-Ups: Jobs, Hobbies and the Tools It Takes recognizes this curiosity and addresses it in the way that children often do: through dress up! Clothing is often the way that many children first begin to understand different jobs. This unique book takes 90+ occupations and hobbies and shows us the clothes and tools they require. For example, a chef needs chef pants, neckerchief, toque blanche, wooden spoon, ladle, saucepan, and tea towel. Here you’ll find the obvious choices, such as firefighter and police officer, as well as some you might not have thought of, like gondolier and secret agent. Delightful book for younger children to discover and imagine.

This is a book that I love to read as well! Who Invented This?: Smart People and Their Bright Ideas is a wonderful book for older children that teaches them the stories behind many inventions that they take for granted, like traffic lights and the internet. Did you know that “Bluetooth” was actually named after a tenth century Danish king? Or that post-its initially were yellow because that’s the only color scrap paper that the laboratory had? This page turning book will help children (and grownups!) look at the world around them in an entirely new way!

How could I not include Explore the World on a list of books for little explorers? Explore the World looks at the history of exploration itself and the discoveries that shaped it. Covering everything from ancient times to the space age, it looks at famous explorers, like Ibn Battuta, Zheng He, and Marco Polo. I love that it gives cultural context to explorers like Columbus, showing the good and the bad of these encounters. And we don’t just get the usual European perspective: James Cook, for example, is discussed along with his Tahitian navigator Tupaia. The book also shows the motivation behind many explorations, such as wealth and scientific curiosity. A welcome addition to any school or home library.

North and South: A Tale of Two Hemispheres is a cleverly designed book to get kids thinking about the similarities and differences between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Each page spread covers one month, contrasting what is happening with particular animals in each hemisphere during that time. In addition, each page spread also has a theme, like mothers and babies, or building a home. For example, in February, the focus is on extreme environments: Japanese macaques in the Northern Hemisphere deal with the cold by soaking in thermal pools, while in the Southern Hemisphere, flamingo chicks and their parents gather in the summer sun to feed. Packed with information, North and South: A Tale of Two Hemispheres is a gorgeously illustrated book that children will enjoy poring over.

The beautiful book Australian Baby Animals has been part of our regular bedtime rotation. My animal loving daughter adores it, especially the illustrations of the adorable baby animals. She also loves learning what the babies for each species are called. Did you know that “joey” is used for animals other than kangaroos? This book is aimed at a slightly younger audience than many of the other non-fiction books on this list and is a wonderful introduction to these intriguing animals.

The Walloos’ Big Adventure is the only fiction book to make this list. (Though I easily could have included Ergo, which was part of my recent Courage booklist). The Walloos’ Big Adventure is a cautionary tale about the importance of taking care of the environment when we travel to new places. It takes a lot of courage for the Walloos to leave their homes and explore the world around them. And what they find is an ideal home, yet soon it begins to lose its charm, thanks to their own activity. Can they save it from themselves? This is not just a conservationist message, but also one about being a respectful traveler.

Is anyone else ready to get out and have some adventures?? Whether you are able to travel now or not, it’s the perfect time to start planning for your next big trip. Family Adventures: Exploring the World with Children  is a comprehensive travel guide for families. It includes real life stories from diverse families about their own travel experiences, complete with beautiful full color photos. It also includes tips for travel with children, broken down by age groups. I really appreciate this now that my kids are getting older, since most advice tends to be only about traveling with very young children. A beautiful book to help with your daydreaming and planning!

Tales of the Rails: Legendary Train Routes of the World is a fascinating book, whether you love learning about other countries or you simply love trains, as so many children do. It is such a unique angle to teach children about other cultures and a form of travel that dominated for so many years. Covering every continent, Tales of the Rails takes us to some of the most iconic railways of the world, such as the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Namibia Desert Express, and PeruRail. These railroads cross mountains and deserts and show us the northern lights and the Australian Outback. This book shows the diversity of the land covered as well as of the trains themselves, which vary from freight trains to high-speed commuter trains. A wonderful book that lets children imagine themselves as travelers on these iconic railways.

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Aug 202021
 
 August 20, 2021  Back to School, Book Reviews, Education Comments Off on Back to School Books for Kids of All Ages

The start of a new school year means another new crop of great back to school books for kids! This collection ranges from picture books to early chapter books and middle grade novels. They tell the stories of children starting school for the first time as well as those who have moved to a new school. Some are dealing with the normal first day of school jitters; some have an added layer of feeling “different” than the other kids. All of the children wonder if they will make new friends.

These back to school books are a wonderful way to help kids prepare for and process those exciting and nerve wracking first days!

Back to School Books for Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Back to School Books for Kids

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some 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.

Enjoy these new back to school books for kids!

School Is Cool! is another wonderful picture book from the authors of Hello! Lucky books (read my recent review of their book Go Get ‘Em, Tiger!). Just like all the books in this series, School Is Cool! is bright and colorful, with adorable animal characters. Its rhyming text fairly bounces off the page, contributing to the cheerful, upbeat feel of this joyful book. A great way to get kids excited about their first day.

Sounds Like School Spirit is the perfect book to get your kids pumped up about starting school! The rhyming text takes the form of a chant, so it would be great to read out loud, especially at circle time! I love that the students and teacher are so diverse, and that there is an emphasis on working together to have a great school year. Go team!`

Emily D. and the Fearful First Day is the third book from Sivan Hong, who has dedicated herself to writing books that include neurodiverse kids. As in Hong’s first two books, the main character, Emily D., is neurodiverse, and the book shows how she is successful at tackling a challenging situation, in this case a new school year. The story incorporates elements that often help neurodiverse kids, like fidget toys. I love that the author took such care to make sure that the book was appropriate for neurodiverse kiddos, like making simple illustrations for kids that are easily distracted, and choosing a font that is easier for kids with dyslexia. Hong was also careful to challenge our stereotypes about neurodiverse kids (usually thought of as white boys) by making the main character a Black girl. A great book for all kids to read!

If you are interested in this topic, be sure to watch my interview with author Sivan Hong on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, at 3 pm ET on the Instagram for Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

What Should Danny Do? School Day is part of the Power to Choose series, where children help the main character choose what to do in various situations. Depending on their choice, they follow the story in one direction or another to see the consequences of that action. So each book is really 8 stories in one! It is a brilliant didactic technique, as children get to see how different scenarios work out. (Read my recent review of What Should Darla Do?). This latest book, What Should Danny Do? School Day, focuses specifically on situations that children often encounter in school, such as being picked for the losing team at basketball, or how to help a classmate that’s sad. I love that the scenarios are so realistic to what kids will face at school. My kids read this book over and over to try all the different storylines. Wonderful book to teach children that they have the power to choose how they respond to the challenges they face.

As soon as I heard about Becoming Vanessa, I knew I had to have it. Vanessa Brantley-Newton is one of my favorite author-illustrators. She has illustrated such celebrated books as The King of Kindergarten (another great back to school book!) and The Youngest Marcher. She is also the author and illustrator of a number of wonderful books, such as Just Like Me and Grandma’s Purse. And now, we get to learn about her own childhood!

In Becoming Vanessa, we experience the excitement of young Vanessa as she heads off to her first day of school – only to discover she is not like the other children, who don’t wear flamboyant clothes or have unusual names. Vanessa decides that she no longer wants to be “special.” The next day she wears a more muted outfit, and she announces that she has changed her name. Then her mother tells her the story behind her name, which means “metamorphosis,” just like a butterfly. With her parents’ encouragement, Vanessa learns to take pride in her name and in herself. A beautiful story for children who feel like they don’t quite fit in, especially knowing that the book is inspired by a true story!

When the pandemic hit in 2020, children everywhere had to learn how to do school at home. For many, it meant adjusting from a classroom setting to remote learning in front of a computer. Back-to-School at Home! is a wonderful book that addresses this new reality, incorporating some of the common challenges as well as the surprising joys. And I love that this series was created by a mom who was frustrated because she didn’t see multicultural families like hers (with heritage from Togo & Japan) represented in picture books. A great book that children will easily relate to.

One of the biggest milestones of starting a new school year is making new friends. How to Spot a Best Friend follows a young girl confident that she will make a new best friend at school that year. She recounts to her mother all the ways you can recognize a best friend, such as someone who holds your hand during a scary story and who celebrates your successes. But most of all, to find a best friend you have to be a great friend, too!

1, 2, 3, Off to School! is about Pom, a child so excited to start school that she decides to get a sneak peek a year early! Pom visits the different animal schools of all the woodland creatures, from the mice and hedgehogs to the bears. At each school, Pom learns more about how schools work and what students do there. Now Pom is ready for kindergarten! This is an adorable book with detailed illustrations that children will love to spend time exploring.

I Wish You Knew is a poignant book that reminds us that children don’t come to school as clean slates. They bring with them all of the problems and trauma that they have experienced. Factors such as poverty and loss mean that many children are burdened with fear, anger, hunger, and sadness that make it difficult for them to learn. In I Wish You Knew, Estrella misses her father terribly after he is deported. When her teacher begins an “I Wish You Knew” sharing circle at school, Estrella feels her own burden lighten as she realizes that she is not alone. A must read for teachers and students alike.

Every child has experienced nervousness on the first day of school, especially when starting at a new school, but has anyone actually turned into a turtle because of it?? That’s exactly what happens to Tally in this first book of a wonderful new early chapter book series. In Tally Tuttle Turns into a Turtle, an already nervous Tally is overwhelmed when her new classmates make fun of her full name, Tallulah. She is just wishing she would shrink and disappear, when she turns into a turtle! Through her experiences as a turtle, Tally gains the confidence she needs to get to know the other students (when she’s a human again!) That is the magic of Mrs. Norrell’s classroom – in each book of the series, a different student will transform into an animal to learn important life lessons (and some science facts as well). A fun way to let children look at their problems from a different perspective.

Starting at a new school is never fun, but when you are a Muslim kid, there is an extra layer of fear and uncertainty. The award-winning middle grade novel Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet tackles this tough situation. Omar has all the usual worries about how tough the schoolwork will be or if the new kids will be mean. But then a school bully makes his life miserable, including telling him that Muslims were going to be kicked out of the country! Omar is such a lovable character, with his incredible imagination, and he is so relatable, whether you are Muslim or not. It is a great book for teaching us to see past our differences and get to know people beyond just the stereotypes. It’s also a great book for reluctant readers, as it mixes a lot of graphics into the text.

Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year, another Own Voices book, takes on a similar situation, as Ahmed and his family move from Hawaii to Minnesota because of his father’s illness. On top of the stress of his father’s health, Ahmed has to deal with a bully and being one of the only minority kids in a very white school. Ahmed has always been an underachiever, so he is surprised to enjoy the assigned books from school, learning important lessons from literature about courage and being confident in yourself. A thoughtful read that also has a lot of humor.

As a homeschooler, I was drawn to Lily’s Promise instantly, as it tells of a girl starting at the local elementary school after years of being homeschooled. Still reeling from the death of her father, Lily struggles to keep her promise to him to speak her mind. When she and her new friends face bullying, Lily learns to overcome her anxiety in order to stand up for herself and others. The heaviness of the story is given a humorous counterpoint with an innovative element: commentary from Libro, the book itself, whose voice is snarky and funny. A beautifully told story of grief and courage.

What are your favorite back to school books for kids?

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Aug 132021
 
 August 13, 2021  Book Reviews, character building for kids, parenting Comments Off on Inspiring Picture Books About Courage

The start of a new school year – especially during these uncertain times – is a perfect opportunity to remind kids about the inner strength they possess! Here is a batch of new picture books about courage to inspire the little ones in your life.

Inspiring Picture Books About Courage | Alldonemonkey.com

Picture Books About Courage

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 charge to you.

These picture books about courage are wonderful tools to inspire and encourage your little ones!

Go Get ‘Em, Tiger! is part of a collection of positive, values-driven children’s books created by two sisters. I’ve been lucky enough to review several of their books, including Kindness Rules! (read my review). Go Get ‘Em, Tiger! is color-tastic inspirational book that would be perfect for any child reaching a major milestone, such as starting a new year of school. This board book celebrates those wonderful values the child has developed, like kindness and curiosity. It also gives them a confidence boost for the next chapter, when they will be bold in exploring, make new friends, and show courage as they lead the way for others.

Ship in a Bottle is the story of a little mouse who just wants a safe place to live. She is forced to leave her first home because of a cat constantly on the prowl, and thus begins an epic journey that will draw on all Mouse’s courage and perseverance. She makes several stops at potential homes, but at each one her meager resources, which she shares so generously, are taken by selfish animals. In the end, she finds a new home in a city park with a diverse group of friendly animals. A poignant allegory about refugees that will help children find their own courage.

Lion Needs a Haircut is a fun story about a little lion who refuses to go to the barber. His loving father tries to convince him by guessing at his possible objections: Is he scared it will hurt? Worried about how it will look? The young lion only agrees to go if his father gets his mane cut, too. As it turns out, the big lion is worried about getting a haircut, too! With gentle humor, the little lion teaches his father that fears are best faced together.

Willow the Armadillo wants nothing more than to be a superhero in a picture book. She works harder than anyone else at the Picture Book Academy but is rejected at every audition. No one takes her seriously! Her determination finally falters, and Willow is forced to accept the fact that maybe she wasn’t meant to be a picture book hero. But an emergency at the library shows that, thanks her selflessness and courage,  Willow is definitely a hero in real life!

This Way, Charlie is a story of the power of friendship to overcome barriers. When Jack the goat arrives at Open Bud Ranch for rehabilitation, everyone can see that he wants his space. Over time, he reluctantly forms a tentative friendship with Charlie, as Jack serves as a guide for the horse, who is slowly going blind. Yet one day Charlie’s optimism wears on Jack’s nerves, and he takes out his long buried anger on his only friend. But when a powerful storm overtakes them, Jack is forced to confront his fears and summon help to save Charlie.

Ergo is a relatable story about a little chick who is just trying to figure out the world and her place in it. At first Ergo thinks her little egg is all that exists of the world, but she soon realizes that there must be more outside of it. However, trying to imagine what that might be only frightens her, and she must summon all of her courage to break her shell. A wonderful metaphor for the rewards of stepping beyond your comfort zone to explore the wider world.

What little kid doesn’t dream of being an astronaut? In Goodnight, Astronaut, astronaut Scott Kelly shares his own journey from just dreaming about adventures to living them! In this sweet bedtime story, Kelly shows children all of the interesting places where he’s slept over the years, from the bottom of the ocean to the top of Mount Everest and, of course, in space! A wonderful book to send children off into their own dreams of adventure.

It’s important to teach our children about the hidden figures of history, whose stories are too often forgotten. People like Anna Strong, a real life hero of the American Revolution who helped win the war by doing the dangerous work of spying on the British. The new picture book Anna Strong: A Spy During the American Revolution tells about the ingenious methods she devised to pass on her secret messages – such as how she hung her wash. No British soldier suspected that a housewife would be relaying coded messages just by how she hung her clothes to dry! It wasn’t only the generals that won the war, so let’s share these stories of lesser known bravery.

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Jul 292021
 
 July 29, 2021  Book Reviews, food 2 Responses »

Would you like to try cooking with your kids or is it something you already enjoy? Either way, these beautiful cookbooks for kids and families are sure to provide inspiration as well as practical tips, along with recipes galore that the whole family will love. These books were all chosen because they are engaging and accessible for a range of ages. They include several with a multicultural focus, so you can explore cultures together through food!

Cookbooks for Kids and Families | Alldonemonkey.com

Cookbooks for Kids and Families

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some 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.

Enjoy these fun cookbooks for kids and families!

Tasty Treats: Easy Cooking for Children is a cute cookbook for kids, with classic kid-friendly recipes like French toast and veggie quesadillas. The emphasis here is on kids doing as much of the cooking as possible. Tasty Treats covers all the basics, with clear instructions and illustrations for every step of the way. It even includes ideas for the best ways to enjoy your dishes, like picnics and parties!

Okay, I’m cheating a little here because technically We Love Pizza: Everything you want to know about your number one food isn’t a cookbook. But because it focuses on the #1 food for most kids, I thought it was a perfect addition to the list. After all, it does include a recipe for making your own pizza! It also has tons of fun facts about everyone’s favorite food, like regional varieties and how much pizza is consumed by different countries. And did you know that pizza was once delivered to space?? With its colorful drawings and even more colorful topic, this is sure to be a favorite with young readers!

I’ve always thought that one of the best ways to explore other cultures with kids is through food, and Katie Chin’s Global Family Cookbook: Internationally-Inspired Recipes Your Friends and Family Will Love! makes it easy! Professional chef (and working mom of three!) Katie Chin has put together a gorgeous book, chock full of internationally inspired recipes, accessible even for busy families. My oldest had fun just looking through the pages of Chin’s favorite global spices and pantry staples. He especially loved all the different kinds of peppers! What really comes across throughout is Chin’s infectious enthusiasm for exploring good food from around the world and sharing it with those we love.

The Kids’ Multicultural Cookbook is one that I purchased when my oldest was little, and it’s gotten a lot of use over the years! It is a wonderful exploration of the world through cooking. It is organized by continent and includes recipes from a number of countries in each region, like sweet couscous from Tunisia and tapioca pudding from Brazil. Recipes are rated by difficulty, which I really appreciate. I also love that with each recipe is a photo of child from that country making the dish and sharing how they like to enjoy it with their loved ones. A wonderful way to help kids relate to other young cooks around the world!

When my daughter started getting into making cupcakes last year, I looked for a cookbook for kids that focused specifically on baking. One of the best reviewed was American Girl Baking: Recipes for Cookies, Cupcakes & More, and for good reason. It is full of recipes for everything from cookies and cupcakes to madeleines and more! We’ve tried a number of the recipes, all with great results. One of our favorites is for the strawberry cheesecake cupcakes! While it is geared more towards older kids, younger kids can easily make the recipes with help. The photography is just beautiful, and the treats are sure to be a hit.

Do your kids enjoy cooking?

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Jul 212021
 
 July 21, 2021  Book Reviews Comments Off on Adorable Picture Books About Cats

My daughter loves cats. Loooooooves cats. We don’t have one currently, so she and my son “borrow” the neighbor’s cat, who loves to come and play with them on our front porch. Needless to say, my daughter was thrilled to read these adorable new picture books about cats! They are fun and funny, plus they also teach concepts like counting and the alphabet.

Adorable Picture Books About Cats | Alldonemonkey.com

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.

Adorable Picture Books About Cats

Enjoy these adorable picture books about cats with the cat lover in your life!

123 Cats: A Cat Counting Book is part of a pair of books (see below) that use simple text and charming illustrations to teach young readers early concepts. In 123 Cats: A Cat Counting Book, we count along as we are introduced to new cats (and all their antics). The illustrations are so sweet, and I love that the book actually goes up to 12 instead of just 10, as this is often hard for kids to learn. After all, cats come better by the dozen!

ABC Cats: An Alpha-Cat Book covers all kinds of cats from A-Z, including an “Adorable cat with eyes of gold” and a “Baby cat just two weeks old.” My daughter loves poring over these illustrations, and she’s started to use the terms to describe cats that we meet. (“That must be an unusual cat just like in the book because it likes swimming!”) Although the book is designed to reinforce ABC learning, it also challenges children with its elevated vocabulary. The Dreaming cat doesn’t just snore, it has a thunderous snore. Cats are elegant, finicky, and hefty. The Rowdy cat has a piercing yowl, and V is for a Voracious cat.

This pair of books are wonderful for very young readers as well as older kids who love cats.

Atticus Caticus is a joyful read about a cat who loves to play. The book is so fun to read aloud because of all the plays on his name, like splat-a-tat-taticus and tummy so fat-ticus. Cat lovers will recognize all of his mischievous behavior, such as drinking from his owner’s glass or attacking him as he walks down the hall. The illustrations are just as fun as the text, with playful drawings that capture the energy of this spunky cat.

What are your favorite books about cats?

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Jul 152021
 
 July 15, 2021  Book Reviews, Spring, Summer Comments Off on Children’s Books about Flowers

It’s summertime, and everywhere we look we see flowers! Here are some of our favorite new children’s books about flowers that also help teach life lessons about patience, determination, and generosity.

Children's Books About Flowers | Alldonemonkey.com

Children’s Books about Flowers

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. I received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Enjoy these children’s books about flowers! What are your favorite blooms?

Oscar’s Tower of Flowers is a wordless picture book, so it’s great for sparking conversations with your child. When a loved one must go away on a trip, Oscar copes by focusing on growing flowers to share with his neighbors. He patiently waits for them to bloom, filling every nook and cranny of his apartment. Then, one by one, he takes them in his red wagon to each neighbor in the building to share the bounty. By the time his loved one returns, Oscar has learned the principle that we can help ourselves by helping others. The book also demonstrates the power of beauty and nature to lift our spirits and bring people together. My favorite illustrations are the end papers, which show the transformation of the apartment building thanks to Oscar’s flowers.

Sweet Pea Summer is another book about the therapeutic nature of gardening. A young girl stays with her grandparents while her mother is in the hospital, and gardening with her grandfather helps her to keep her mind off worrying and missing her mother. But soon she discovers that her sweet peas aren’t thriving. With determination, she works diligently to solve the mystery. Once she discovers the problem, can she save the flowers in time for the flower show? A sweet story with a happy ending that is sure to spark an interest in these beautiful flowers.

Little Dandelion Seeds the World is the only non-fiction book on this list. Ever wonder why there are dandelions everywhere you turn? This lovely book explores all the different ways that dandelion seeds travel: on the wind, in water, on clothing or fur, even in bellies! They are so successful that they bloom on every continent – yes, even Antarctica! This book shows how children around the world enjoy these playful flowers and help them seed the world.

Lucy’s Blooms also features dandelions, as a young girl learns what it takes to keep her favorite blossoms happy. With her grandmother’s help, she tends to them patiently, adjusting her methods each morning as she sees how they fared the night. Just like Sweet Pea Summer above, this is a wonderful book to teach children the science of carefully monitoring plants to see what they need to thrive. I also love that Lucy’s Blooms shows love to the often underrated dandelions, which are so cheerful and hardy, but which, as Lucy discovers, don’t win prizes. Lovely twist ending, as Lucy decides to give her beloved dandelions their own prize as Most Loved.

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Jun 252021
 
 June 25, 2021  Book Reviews, Summer Comments Off on Ocean Books for Kids: Beach Reads

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy these ocean books for kids. They make great reads for the beach – or for when you’d like to be at the beach! These picture books are a great way to find children’s curiosity about the ocean. They include fiction and non-fiction books.

Ocean Books for Kids: Beach Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Ocean Books for Kids: Beach Reads

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.

Enjoy these fiction and non-fiction ocean books for kids!

Ocean Lullaby is a beautiful bedtime read, perfect after a long day at the beach. The illustrations are dream-like, with soft colors yet realistic details. The lilting text adds to sense of being soothed to sleep with the waves. Young readers will love seeing the ocean creatures like dolphins and whales also settling down for the night.

Sophie’s Seashell Scramble is an adorable board book for the youngest readers. As the adorable Sophie the otter collects seashells, children sharpen their matching skills by recognizing shapes and colors. Little hands will love exploring the shaped pages and all those wonderful flaps to lift. There’s even a Sophie’s Seashell Scramble Game to go with the book!

Ride the Wind is an emotional journey set off the coast of Chile, about a young boy who has recently lost his mother. One day he finds an injured albatross and, against his father’s wishes, he secretly nurses it back to health. His empathy for the bird parallels his grief for his mother, and he cares for the bird as he wishes he could have cared for his mother. It is a story of redemption and hope, of a father and son torn apart by grief then reminded of what is really important. The watercolor illustrations are so evocative of the small fishing village, and the stormy skies reflect the emotions of this moving tale.

For kiddos that want to dive deeper into the science of oceans, Out of the Blue: How Animals Evolved from Prehistoric Seas is a fascinating book they will want to read again and again. It gives an overview of the ancient history of the oceans and how the creatures there evolved. The illustrations are wonderful, and there is so much scientific detail, yet all presented in a very accessible way, such as the timeline running at the bottom of the pages. I love how it compares the ancient creatures to those that can be found today. To be honest, I’ve spent a lot of time poring over this book myself!

What are your favorite ocean books for kids?

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Jun 172021
 
 June 17, 2021  Book Reviews, parenting Comments Off on Teaching Values: Picture Books to Raise Good Humans

Books are a wonderful tool to help children see the world in new ways. This collection of new picture books will help you in teaching values like kindness, inclusion, and compassion to raise good humans. It’s not easy to raise the next generation of world changers, but together we can!

Teaching Values: Picture Books to Raise Good Humans | Alldonemonkey.com

Teaching Values: Picture Books to Raise Good Humans

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 thorough and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Enjoy these new picture books that help with teaching values and raising good humans!

A key element to build a kinder, more just world is empowering kids to be world changers, through teaching them to be kind, loving, and confident. That is why I love this new collection by The Be Books, dedicated to raising a generation of self-confident, caring kids that are focused on BEing their best selves. These books, such as Be Who You Were Meant To Be, Love Grows LoveThe Light Within Me and Every So Often A Zebra Has Spots, inspire children to help create a better future by seeing the light in themselves and others.

Another must have in your toolkit to raise good humans is the beautiful new children’s book A New Alphabet for Humanity: A Children’s Book of Alphabet Words to Inspire Compassion, Kindness and Positivity. This ABC book focuses on heart-based values like kindness, self-love, empathy, compassion, and respect. We love its lovely illustrations (with diverse characters) and how it explains concepts like bravery, joy, and gratitude in simple ways that kids can understand. And for every book they sell, they plant a tree! Find out why a growing number of teachers, schools, and parents are using A New Alphabet for Humanity to bring out the best in children.

Another wonderful ABC book is The ABCs of Black History. It’s easy to get kids excited about history with a book like this! Learn about icons of Black history like Alvin Ailey and Toni Morrison, as well as holidays like Juneteenth and Kwanzaa. In this ABC book, letters of the alphabet stand for concepts important to Black history, like E for Education and V for Vote. This is a book that doesn’t shy away from difficult topics like enslavement and discrimination, but it also recognizes that Black history is so much more than that. More than anything, The ABCs of Black History is about empowerment: R is for Rise and B is for Beautiful, for example. A must read for every child.

One of the most common experiences among children of immigrants is the struggle between wanting to fit in and wanting to honor their heritage. For so many young children, this conflict comes to a head in the school cafeteria. In The Yuckiest Lunch Box: A Children’s Story about Food, Cultural Differences, and Inclusion, Nari is so excited for her first day of school, but when the other kids see her traditional Korean lunch, they laugh and turn up their noses. Nari is humiliated and asks her mother to pack her a “normal” American lunch instead. In this tender tale, we see as Nari not only grows in confidence but learns to stand up for another new student and his “weird” lunch. There is so much I love about this book, especially that in the end Nari herself becomes a force for change and shows the way to other students.

 

How to Apologize is a sweet book for young readers to learn that important skill, how to apologize. As the animal characters make plain, everyone makes mistakes, but what’s important is to say you’re sorry. I love that this book gives examples of how to apologize, which is so important when teaching values. What does an apology look like? What makes it a good apology, and not just something you say because you know you should? Kids will love these adorable characters as they learn this valuable lesson.

Making friends is also a skill, one that many of us need to brush up on after the pandemic! Let’s Play! A Book About Making Friends shows children how to do just that through the story of Sukie, who has just started at a new school. Soon she learns to pass on small acts of kindness and form genuine friendships. I love the emphasis on celebrating differences and standing up for one another. A wonderful book for children starting back to school.

FREE is a lovely book about loving and letting go. When a boy and his grandfather care for a sick bird, they make the difficult decision to let him go once he is better. But each time they try to set him free, the bird returns. The boy hopes this means the bird can stay forever, but his grandfather helps him understand that the bird will be happier out in the wild. And so they set off on an adventure to take the bird back into the mountains to its home. This magical journey helps the boy understand that even though it’s hard to let go, when we love someone we want what is best for them.

Thoughts Are Air is a beautiful picture book that teaches children the importance of turning their ideas into action. Thoughts are like air, but if they are put to work, they can power your plans. Young readers follow along as a group of children decides to help save a tree that needs some extra love. They turn their ideas into action and soon get the neighborhood involved. A lovely book to inspire children to transform their big ideas into reality.

Want to help your kids make better choices? Now there’s a fun way to do just that! The cool new book What Should Darla Do? Featuring the Power to Choose has 8 stories in 1! Young readers follow along as Darla, a self-proclaimed astronaut in training, faces everyday dilemmas that kids confront all the time, such as whether to ask before using someone else’s toys and how to handle jealousy among friends. In each situation, kids help Darla choose what she should do. Based on that, they turn to the corresponding page to see how that decision works out for Darla. It’s a great way to help children think through the consequences their own choices and learn to use the Power to Choose!

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Jun 102021
 
 June 10, 2021  Book Reviews, Spanish Comments Off on Bilingual Books for Kids to Learn Spanish

Summer is the perfect time to reignite your child’s love of reading! If you are hoping to boost your child’s second language or just starting to expose them to one, you won’t want to miss these fun bilingual books for kids! Some are fully bilingual, with the complete text in both languages, while others are primarily in English with Spanish mixed in throughout.

Fun Bilingual Books for Kids of All Ages | Alldonemonkey.com

Fun Bilingual Books for Kids to Learn Spanish

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 charge to you.

Enjoy these fun bilingual books for kids, including picture books and early readers.

Nothing says summer like paletas (popsicles). Paletero Man is a tribute to these cool summer treats as well as to the generosity of the Paletero Man that sells them. This new picture book is filled the vibrant colors and flavors of paletas, including so many that we love (cherry, melon, and strawberry!) and some I didn’t know (corn??) We already love the music of Lucky Diaz, who has won multiple Latin Grammys and has been nominated for an Emmy six times. (See my review of his band’s last album, Buenos Diaz, and watch for their next one,
Crayon Kids, releasing soon!) The book is also a love letter to the diverse neighborhoods of Los Angeles, where Spanish words and phrases are sprinkled into conversations, just as they are throughout this book. Highly recommended.

Another beloved Spanish-language musician branching out into children’s books is 123 Andrés, the Latin Grammy-winning duo responsible for wonderful albums like Canta Las Letras (read my review). We were already big fans, so I was excited to see this new venture. Ten Little Birds / Diez Pajaritos is a board book based on a popular counting song from 123 Andrés. (We got to see them perform it live a few years ago!) This adorable book, told in both Spanish and English, helps children practice their numbers in Spanish, as they see birds fly away and then return to a city rooftop. Watch the music video, too!

Las vacas no pueden saltar (available in English as Cows Can’t Jump: Animal Actions) is part of a new series of bilingual books for young kids. These books – which come in English, Spanish/English, French/English, and Creole/English editions – are so fun and silly! They are great for very young children as well as beginning readers. They use animals to teach vocabulary and concepts like shapes and action verbs. The text and illustrations are humorous and engaging, especially for young animal lovers. They are a great way to keep language learning fun! Other books in the series include Las vacas no pueden graznar (Cows Can’t Quack: Animal Sounds), and Las vacas no pueden hacer burbujas (Cows Can’t Blow Bubbles: Animal Shapes).

 

Happiness Street – Calle Felicidad is a lovely picture book that celebrates summer and family. In it, a child looks back on her summer at grandmother’s house by the beach. That magical place truly is “happiness street,” as the children have named it. The paintings of the book are gorgeous. The bilingual version is a great opportunity to practice colors in Spanish! The story concludes when Mother comes to take the children back home, and they experience the bittersweet emotions that come with the end of vacation, though it is tempered by the promise of next summer on Happiness Street. A lovely way to celebrate the transition from vacation.

Meet the great luchador El Toro and his friends! This early reader series, including Training Day and Tag Team, is a fun way to get kids reading, all the while exposing them to Spanish. The graphic novel format makes it appealing even to reluctant readers. The mix of Spanish and English is great even for those with no Spanish knowledge. The book is primarily in English, with a heavy dose of added Spanish (though all these phrases are also given in English). I love that these books are a celebration of Mexican-American culture and particularly wrestler (luchador) culture. And of course, parents will love the themes of teamwork and working hard to achieve your goals. The illustrations are wonderful, with so many fun details to explore, including lots of captions in English and Spanish.

This new series is a spin-off series of the picture book ¡Vamos! Let’s Go Eat by Raúl the Third, for which Raúl was awarded the Pura Belpré Youth Illustrator Award.

Un Cubano in New York is a fully bilingual book (text in both English and Spanish) about a boy caught between two worlds, feeling like he doesn’t quite fit into either. His Spanish isn’t good enough for his Cuban relatives, and even though he is “white passing,” he is self-conscious about being different from his American peers. It is organized by sections, such as food and language, with the author’s reflections on his childhood. A wonderful book to understand what it is like to grow up as a child of immigrants.

Un Cubano in New York is a part of a collection of similar works (the fifty/fifty collection), including Un hȃfu à Paris, a French-Japanese book about a child of mixed heritage living in Paris. It also includes Little Yabani in Beirut, a memoir from a Lebanese-Japanese author. They give wonderful insight into growing up with mixed cultural heritage.

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