Jan 192022

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to diversify your bookshelf, or simply to read more? Join our ADM Global Reads for Grownups online book club! Our multicultural book club is kicking off a new year with great reads from around the globe. Check out our 2022 booklist below, and come explore with us by joining us in our Facebook group!

Diversify Your Bookshelf: ADM Global Reads 2022 | Alldonemonkey.com

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

Diversify Your Bookshelf

ADM Global Reads for Grownups 2022

Join in the discussion of the books below by joining our online book club. It is a wonderful way to diversify your bookshelf this year!

January 2022

Sabrina & Corina: Stories

February 2022

Within: Short Stories for the Evolving Multicultural Woman

March 2022

The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi

April 2022

Crying in H Mart: A Memoir

May 2022

Sista Sister

June 2022

There There

July 2022

The Island of Missing Trees

August 2022

The Island of Sea Women

September 2022

The Hate U Give

October 2022

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina

November/December 2022

The Other Black Girl

Dec 172021
 December 17, 2021  Book Reviews, Christmas 2 Responses »

Grab some cocoa and wrap up in a blanket! It’s time to snuggle up with great New Christmas books for kids! This collection includes re-tellings of classic tales as well as modern stories, but all are perfect to read together again and again.

Christmas Books for Kids to Read This Season | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclaimer: 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.

New Christmas Books for Kids to Read This Season

Christmas Books for Kids to Read This Season | Alldonemonkey.com

Here are our favorite new Christmas books for kids to enjoy together!

Are your kids fans of the Where’s Waldo books? Then they will love Where’s Waldo? Santa Spotlight Search, a special Christmas edition! Use the spotlight slider to search for Waldo, Santa, and other festive characters. This fun book features the searches these books are known for, as well as puzzles and games. It’s a great activity for the holidays!

What set of Christmas books would be complete without ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas? In this new edition, this beloved Christmas tale is now accompanied by gorgeous illustrations from P.J. Lynch, which are fresh and original yet still have a classic, timeless feeling. This wonderful new edition of this classic poem is sure to find a place in your family’s Christmas traditions.

Another gorgeous retelling of a classic tale is the new edition of The Robin and the Fir Tree. This beautiful story of friendship is inspired by a story by Hans Christian Andersen. The fir tree tells his friend the robin of how he longs for adventure and freedom. One day, his dreams appeared to come true when he is chosen to be the town’s Christmas tree, but the robin worries for her friend. What will happen when Christmas is over and the town no longer needs him? This thought-provoking tale is enhanced by the incredibly detailed, stylized illustrations.

This Christmas, why not take a trip to the African savanna and celebrate with the animals? The Twelve Days of Christmas Safari is author Wakanyi Hoffman’s beautiful tribute to the animals of her home country of Kenya. Accompanied by the beautiful wildlife paintings of Kenya-based Milena Weichelt, it is a wonderful way to take children on an imaginary Christmas adventure!

In The Nick Of Time is a wonderful story about the true meaning of the season. Nick, like most kids, is excited about Christmas because of all the toys he’ll be getting! Yet when a note intended for St. Nick is accidentally delivered to him, he realizes that life is not so easy for other children. Nick must figure out a way to make Christmas special for a classmate and his family that don’t have a home of their own. Author Deedee Cummings has woven a heartwarming tale that help children see Christmas in a new way, and encourages them to appreciate the power of small acts of kindness. It is also so refreshing to find a Christmas story that centers a Black boy! A lovely story for the whole family.

May Your Life Be Deliciosa is a wonderful story about the importance of traditions and family stories. Based on the author’s own experiences, it shows a family making tamales together at Christmas. As the abuela (grandmother) teaches the children how to make the tamales, she also imparts her wishes for them. For example, as she folds the corn husks over the masa, she recites, “May you always have many hugs.” A powerful example of how food is so often infused with love, and of the importance of passing on our family heritage.

The Little Bell That Wouldn’t Ring: A Christmas Story has the magical quality of a fairy tale, with its gorgeous illustrations of a traditional European village. There is a new little bell in the belfry, but an attentive dove can’t figure out how to help the little bell find its voice. As it collects loving words (“snowflake,” “cake crumbs,” “chocolate”), the dove learns about the spirit of the season, until finally she and her friends discover the key to helping the little bell sing.

Don’t you love seeing the tree at Rockefeller Center every year? It is such a wonderful sign of the season! But did you know the story of the little owl that got caught in the tree one year? The Christmas Owl: Based on the True Story of a Little Owl Named Rockefeller shares the tale of the owl that found itself in the tree that was chosen to be in Rockefeller Center that year and traveled in its branches to Rockefeller Center, much to everyone’s surprise! A sweet story and a tribute to the workers at the rehabilitation center that cared for the owl once it was discovered and released it back to its forest home.

We love the Jasmine Green Rescues chapter book series! You may remember earlier this year when I reviewed A Lamb Called Lucky and A Goat Called Willow. (If not, read my review). Jasmine Green Rescues: A Donkey Called Mistletoe is the Christmas installment of the same series about a young girl who aspires to be a vet. Although her parents have told her absolutely no more pets, Jasmine is determined to find a way to save a beloved donkey whose owner can no longer care for it. A lovely early chapter book for any young animal lover.

I haven’t forgotten about older kids! I recently discovered the Sophie Washington series, about a diverse middle grade series about tween Sophie and her friends and family. In Secret Santa, Sophie must discover who is the mysterious person behind the gifts she starts receiving near Christmas time. This is a feel good story aimed at kids ages 8 – 12. I loved the main character of Sophie and her family, as well as how diverse her group of friends is. The author also does a wonderful job of incorporating issues that many kids face, like dealing with younger siblings, balancing the needs and interests of different friends, and learning to overcome their fears.

Nov 192021
 November 19, 2021  Book Reviews 2 Responses »

Shabbat, or Sabbath, is the Jewish day of rest. This holy day begins as sundown on Friday and lasts until sundown on Saturday. If you’d like to read more about its history and significance, chabad.org is a wonderful resource. Here are wonderful picture books about Shabbat: some are meant to teach children about Shabbat, while others are just for fun!

Picture Books About Shabbat | Alldonemonkey.com

Picture Books About Shabbat

Enjoy these picture books about Jewish Shabbat, or Sabbath

Shabbat Shalom! and its companion We Go to Shul are both wonderful introductions to Shabbat for very young readers. Shabbat Shalom! focuses on how a young family celebrates the Friday evening meal together, while We Go to Shul shows children what to expect when they go to shul, or synagogue, on Saturday. Both show a more traditional Shabbat (the women wear head coverings, for example) and showcase the warmth and joy of celebrating Shabbat with your family and community.

Shabbat Is Coming! is part of a series of books to introduce young children to Jewish life and traditions. The simple rhyming text helps children experience the excitement that comes from getting ready for Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom, Hey! is based on a popular children’s song (which can be heard via a QR code on the back cover). It is an adorable book for very young readers, with jungle animals preparing for and celebrating Shabbat together.

The Schmutzy Family is a family that loves to get “shmutsik” (dirty). All week long, Mama Schmutzy is tolerant of the mess, even when the kids make mud pies in the kitchen or when they paint their clothes with tomato sauce. But come Friday morning, Mama Schmutzy makes sure the kids and the house are spic and span. Everyone pitches in as they get ready for Shabbat that evening and head to the synagogue the next morning. And when Sunday comes, it’s back out to the puddles and mud – and even Mama enjoys making a splash!

Chik Chak Shabbat is a lovely multicultural story about the power of fellowship to bring together people of different backgrounds. Every Shabbat Goldie cooks her famous cholent stew for her neighbors, so one week when the delicious aromas don’t fill the building as usually, everyone knows something is wrong. Even though they have to throw together a meal “chik chak” (in a hurry), the love and generosity they reflect back towards Goldie makes it a perfect Shabbat.

For Grampa, Shabbat shalom, or Sabbath peace, means a nice quiet walk with his grandson Noah. Every week, Noah asks to bring his puppy along, but Grampa says no. How could they find Shabbat shalom with a noisy puppy? Finally one morning, Grampa relents. He is skeptical of finding much peace, but when the puppy saves a baby bird who has fallen from its nest, even Grampa realizes that even a bouncy, wiggly dog can help find Shabbat shalom. The Shabbat Puppy is a sweet book for little animal lovers.

Bim and Bom: A Shabbat Tale is inspired by a well-known song, Shabbat Shalom (for which the piano music is included at the back). A brother and sister work hard all week, but on Shabbat they hurry to meet each other and celebrate Shabbat together! Also a great way to introduce the concept of doing mitzvah, or good deeds, for Shabbat.

Lights Out Shabbat is the story of a very special Shabbat a young boy celebrates with his beloved grandparents when the lights go out during an unexpected snowstorm. Being together with the grandparents helps the boy to overcome his fears, and in the end they decide that the electricity need a Shabbat rest, too!

Clarence’s Topsy-Turvy Shabbat is a wonderful book for word play. Poor Clarence wants to make challah for Shabbat, but he keeps making silly mistakes! For example, he buys flower instead of flour and brings home a bunny instead of honey. Yet, despite the narrator’s skepticism, Clarence still hosts a wonderful Shabbat for his friends.

An Egg for Shabbat is by well-known Israeli author Mirik Snir and illustrated by her daughter Eleyor Snir. Ben wants to help his mother fetch eggs from the chicken pen, but each day he breaks it before he gets back to the house. His mother is kind and patient with him, as Ben learns how to be more careful with the eggs. Finally, on Friday he manages to bring the egg home, and they use it to help make their challah for Shabbat.

Picture Books About Shabbat | Alldonemonkey.com

Nov 052021
 November 5, 2021  Book Reviews, Native American Heritage Month Comments Off on Books by Native Authors and Illustrators

Celebrate indigenous creators with these wonderful picture books by Native authors and illustrators! Perfect to share for Native American Heritage Month or any time of year!

Books by Native Authors and Illustrators | Alldonemonkey.com

Books by Native Authors and Illustrators

Books by Native Authors and Illustrators

We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know presents issues faced by Native peoples in the past and today, such as assimilation and self-determination. The main message is that Native peoples are still here; they are not a relic of the past! I love how the book highlights the diversity of Native Nations. There is also a wealth of additional information at the back of the book on each of the topics covered. Best of all? I recently got to present on this wonderful book at the monthly Multicultural Children’s Book Club meeting from Walking in Other People’s Shoes! We even had a visit from award-winning author Traci Sorell, a citizen of the Cherokee nation. Check the website soon for a recording of the event.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing author Sherri Maret about her wonderful book The Cloud Artist. Written to celebrate Maret’s Choctaw heritage, The Cloud Artist is about learning to listen to your own inner voice. It also teaches children that beauty is meant to be shared, not sold. What makes this bilingual English-Choctaw book even more special is that it is is illustrated by Choctaw artist Merisha Sequoia Clark – who, they discovered later, is Maret’s cousin!

We Are Water Protectors is a powerful call to protect the Earth and its natural resources. Its vibrant illustrations earned illustrator Michaela Goade a Caldecott Medal, the first Native American to do so. This best-selling picture book is a must read to help children understand the urgency of taking action to protect our precious resources from harm.

Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know: Niibing, dgwaagig, bboong, mnookmig dbaadjigaade maanpii mzin’igning / A Book about the Seasons is another bilingual book, this time told in English and Anishinaabemowin. In it we experience the wonder of changing seasons through the eyes of a young girl. With each season, she notes the signs in the natural world: the ripe blueberries in summertime, the departure of Red-winged Blackbird in fall, when hungry animals in winter, and the green shoots peeking through the snow in spring. A wonderful book to help children sharpen their observation skills and appreciate how to “read” nature.

When I Was Young in Nunavut is a celebration of the author’s own childhood and Inuit heritage. It looks at all the activities she enjoyed growing up, such as finding the flowers blooming on the tundra in the summer, or harvesting berries in the fall. And of course, there were the glorious northern lights to watch stream across the sky. When I Was Young in Nunavut is a joyful look at the seasons and the natural world, as well as a warm remembrance of family and simple pleasures.

Books by Native Authors and Illustrators | Alldonemonkey.com

Oct 142021
 October 14, 2021  Book Reviews, Halloween Comments Off on New Halloween Books for Kids

It’s almost Halloween, which means new Halloween books for kids! Here are some of our favorites, from board books and to a middle grade novel about a zombie cat!

New Halloween Books for Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received 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. 

New Halloween Books for Kids

Enjoy these new Halloween books for kids! What is your favorite Halloween read?

Owl Has a Halloween Party is an adorable Halloween book for little ones. It is a sweet story that follows Owl as he visits all of his friends to invite them to his Halloween party. At each stop, we get to preview the animals’ costumes by using the sturdy pull-tabs, which are chunky enough for little hands to grab. A cute first book about Halloween that young readers will love to read again and again.

Vegetables in Halloween Costumes is a fun story that addresses that classic childhood dilemma: what to wear for Halloween? The vegetable friends help us think through all the different possibilities, and children will love the indecisive Carrot’s creative solution to the problem! A fun book all kids will be able to relate to.

Poultrygeist is my daughter’s new favorite book! It has been on constant rotation at bedtime and often a few times during the day as well. It is a fun twist on why the chicken crossed the road – and what happened when he got to the Other Side (thanks to a passing truck).

New Halloween Books for Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

The illustrations are spooky without being too scary, and the story is so cleverly done that my older kids enjoy it as well.

Twitchy Witchy Itch is a great read to help children appreciate that everything doesn’t have to be perfect to be perfectly bewitching. Itch the Witch rushes around to get her house ready for visitors, but when they arrive she gets a lesson in accepting imperfections – in herself and in others.

Eenie Meenie Halloweenie is another adorable new Halloween picture book. It is another look at the difficulty of deciding what Halloween costume to wear. I love that it gives children (and grown ups!) lots of ideas for DIY costumes, as the main character thinks through all the different animal costumes she could make. In the end she comes up with a creative solution that incorporates all of her favorite animals!

Trick or Treat, Crankenstein a follow up to the popular book Crankenstein. Kids will relate to the awful feeling of being cranky on a day, like Halloween, that you’ve been really forward to. Somehow it is much worse than being cranky on any other day! The illustrations are so clever, that kids will love poring over them for all the fun details. And it is a good way to talk to kids about how sometimes things don’t go as planned, but in the end it can still turn out to be fun after all.

Older kids will enjoy reading Return of ZomBert, a middle grade read that is the follow up to Rise of ZomBert. When Mellie adopted a stray cat, she didn’t realize that he had actually escaped from a laboratory. The lab was secretly testing on animals, which would explain the cat’s amazing strength and smarts. While Mellie is just focused on getting Bert ready for the pet contest at the local Harvest Festival, the lab workers (backed by a powerful corporation) are working on re-capturing their prize experiment. Can Mellie discover the plot in time to help Bert stay free of the lab’s clutches? A great read that incorporates a lot of science (some of it a little gross!) and sensitive portrayals of family dynamics and bullying.

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Sep 172021
 September 17, 2021  Book Reviews, Hispanic Heritage Month, Literacy, parenting Comments Off on Pura Belpré: Latinx Heritage Month

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


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 Comments Off on Books for Little Explorers: Community and Culture

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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