Friday, November 28, 2014

30 Days of Diverse Picture Books - Ruby's School Walk by Kathryn White

It's Day 27 of our 30 Days of Diverse Picture Books. You know, sometimes I go along in my little bubble, forgetting how hateful the world can be. And then I'm brought up short by something like social media, where I was informed yesterday that I am "close minded", prejudiced and raising my son to have racial biases. All of which was said "in love". And that reminds me why it's necessary for us to have diverse books - because there are many, many points of view, and intolerance has no place in this world.

So, moving on. Tonight's book is Ruby's School Walk by Kathryn White, part of the series of Ruby books published by Barefoot Books. Sprout saw me preparing to write about Ruby's School Walk and wanted to make sure I mentioned that he likes the pictures best. They really are super adorable, so there wasn't much need for the reminder! Still, he's a fan of illustrator Miriam Latimer's style, as am I - whimsical yet realistic, a great accompaniment to White's story about all the crazy things Ruby sees on her walk to school.

For this is no ordinary school walk, ladies and gentlement. Oh no - Ruby's seeing crocodiles and witches and tigers (where there actually are innocuous, everyday things, of course. Right?). This makes the walk all that more adventurous, but we soon see that Ruby's repeated phrase, "I must be brave, I must be strong" has more to do with the reassurance she needs to get through the school day. Luckily her sweet mama's got Ruby's back, giving her a gentle boost that helps strengthen Ruby's flagging confidence.

Ruby's School Walk is equal parts fun and affirming, a great blend in a package that will make kids smile. And really, in a world that can be unkind, isn't that what we all can use?

Ruby's School Walk by Kathryn White, published by Barefoot Books

Thursday, November 27, 2014

30 Days of Diverse Picture Books - Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Today is Day 26 of our 30 Days of Diverse Picture Books. This post is coming up a bit late tonight because we had a full day of food, family and time to relax. I did intend to get to the blog this morning, but Sprout wanted to do puzzles - and I never turn that down!

Tonight's pick is one that appears on almost every best-of diverse books list out there, and for good reason. Trish Cooke's Full, Full, Full of Love is a colorful, cheerful celebration of a family gathering that's perfect for holiday time or anytime really. The story surrounds Jay Jay's experiences at Grandma's house, getting ready for Sunday dinner. It's a place Jay Jay adores, mostly because it's bursting with delicious smells, family and friends, and a whole lot of love. Jay Jay himself is clearly the apple of Grandma's eye, and both old and young thoroughly enjoy every minute of their day together.

I love these kinds of happy, sweet stories of family sharing and togetherness. The warm world created by Cooke's text sparks to life with illustrations by Paul Howard, particularly that cover image of Grandma holding Jay Jay close to her heart. Sprout has always liked the center spread of Grandma's table groaning under all that food (who can blame him - makes me want to pull a chair right on up and dig in!). The repetitive text makes Full, Full, Full of Love a great choice to share with emergent readers, who will absolutely be clamoring for more by the end.

Whether you wrap up this book for your kiddos, or add it to your library list, find a way to get your hands on Full, Full, Full of Love for the holidays. It'll make your family celebrations, big or small, all the richer!

Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke, published by Candlewick Press

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

30 Days of Diverse Picture Books - Buffalo Song by Joseph Bruchac

It's Day 25 of our 30 Days of Diverse Picture Books. Tonight's Thanksgiving Eve, and there's a lot of excitement in our house thanks to a four-day break from work and school. I don't know about you, but these days I feel more pressure and more busy-ness every day - it's exceedingly wonderful to know we have a few days to rest, relax, enjoy one another's company.

Tonight's pick is Joseph Bruchac's Buffalo Song, a title that honors the Native peoples of our land, and commemorates the work they did to rebuild the great buffalo herds that once called North America home. It's important to note that Bruchac is himself Abenaki, which makes him a cultural insider and therefore capable of avoiding all the stereotypes that so frequently surround depictions of Native Americans in children's books. Bruchac's title is one I've been anxious to share, not only because it comes highly recommended by sources I trust, but also because it's sensitive and thoughtfully written.

Expect some questions with Buffalo Song -- after all, in the opening pages, a young calf is orphaned by white hunters who kill her mother and herd. But the story, ultimately, is one of hope and honor, as it tells of Salish tribal member Walking Coyote and his wife Mary, who among others gave much of themselves to foster the then-declining buffalo population in the late 1800s. Bruchac examines the obstacles Walking Coyote faced, and doesn't gloss over the difficulties, which makes this a great title for discussing how we as individuals can remain committed to a vision and follow it through to an ending that really can change the world.

Buffalo Song carries a message that I think we all really need to hear right now. And that it celebrates Native peoples makes it an essential title for any diverse collection.

Buffalo Song by Joseph Bruchac, published by Lee & Low

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

30 Days of Diverse Picture Books - Snug by Carol Thompson

It's Day 24 of our 30 Days of Diverse Picture Books. I'm struggling today, in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury non-indictment. My heart is heavy for my son and for all the sons and daughters of Black America. But we press on, working for justice, inclusion, representation, equality. So, diverse books - because that's where my hope lies, for the next generation to change this world.

Tonight's pick is a gentle one, because that's what my spirit needs right now. Snug by Carol Thompson is a board book, one that seems the kind of book that a toddler would seize on and need to have read over and over. It makes me a little sad that Sprout's outgrown these types of books - time was, he would have obsessed over Snug, I'm pretty sure. But it's definitely something I'll be giving to friends for their little ones, because it's not only sweet but very inclusive.

With Snug, Thompson describes the snugness of various things in nature, starting of course with the bug in the rug, but then branching out to include a bulb deep in the earth, a mouse in a house, even a slug in the mud (why not?). Thompson juxtaposes the images of nature with adorable chubby-cheeked kiddos exploring the world, whether that's burrowing under a quilt or digging in the soil. And the pictures show a range of ethnicities and genders, plus even abilities, with one girl in a wheelchair. Love!

Check out Snug if you want a simple and sweet title for bedtime with your kiddo. And hold them close as you read it, just as I'll be holding my kiddo tonight.

Snug by Carol Thompson, published by Child's Play

Monday, November 24, 2014

Praying for Ferguson

No book tonight, I'm sorry. Instead: 

"Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." 

Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", April 1963