Thursday, November 20, 2014

30 Days of Diverse Picture Books - Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges

It's Day 20 of our 30 Days of Diverse Picture Books. The National Book Awards were presented last night, and I was thrilled to see Jacqueline Woodson take home the honor for her spectacular memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. It is seriously magnificent, people - review coming when Picture Book Month is at an end.

Tonight's pick is one that often ends up on best-of lists, and for good reason - Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges, like Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming, honors a connection to the past and all those who've paved the way for future generations. Bridges tells the story of her grandmother, Ruby, a little girl growing up in China during a time when education was the province of boys, not girls. Ruby loves the color red, and she loves to learn, even putting in extra hours doing her domestic tasks just so she doesn't have to give up her studies when all the other girls do. And her grandfather sees Ruby's dedication and rewards it in a way that's most unusual for girls of that time period.

Ruby's Wish shines with the pride and love a granddaughter has for her grandmother, a message that young readers will no doubt find inspiring. Sophie Blackall rendered the exquisite watercolors for the book, and her art captures the time and place beautifully, as well as providing a gentle backdrop for the relationship between grandfather and granddaughter. (That cover - just amazing, no?) Modern readers may be surprised to learn of the restrictions on education - it's a great way to talk about how those limits continue in many countries, and discuss what we as global citizens can do to help broaden education worldwide.

Ruby's Wish is a stand-out addition to any home or classroom library. Read it for inspiration and history, in equal measures.

Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges, published by Chronicle Books

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

30 Days of Diverse Picture Books - Rain! by Linda Ashman

It's Day 19 of our 30 Days of Diverse Picture Books. Can't quite believe that the month is going as quickly as it is, but the weather certainly seems like November. We've had some beautiful (but cold) days here in the Pacific Northwest, though I hear rain is not that far off. Sprout's anxious for snow, but I think that's going to be a while yet.

Tonight's pick is a weather-related one: Rain! by Linda Ashman. We seem to find a lot of books about rain in our travels - not sure if that's just because there's a good audience for such titles in our area, or if there really are a lot of them out there. No matter, though, because they've been some of our favorites, and Rain! definitely can be added to that list. This jubilant title is the perfect way to make a dreary day turn around.

Ashman's written a great intergenerational story, and she's done it with the fewest of words, making this a terrific choice for emerging readers. The two main characters are an older gentleman who's in a grumpy mood because of the weather, and a young boy who just loves it, even pretending to be a frog. I love the contrast here, and the way that the boy's infectious attitude manages to turn the grouchy guy completely around. Christian Robinson's art accompanies Ashman's text, and the graphics truly couldn't be better. If the real world looked like Robinson's version, no one could possibly be in a bad mood, even on a rainy day.

Next time the weather turns gray, don't pout - instead, grab a copy of Rain! and figure out how to turn all those puddles into opportunities for play!

Rain! by Linda Ashman, published by Houghton Mifflin

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

30 Days of Diverse Picture Books - Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

It's Day 18 of our 30 Days of Diverse Picture Books. I'm often asked where I find so many great diverse titles to share. The truth is, they are out there but it sometimes takes a little bit of digging to find them! I have an advantage, being that I get paid to spend 40 hours a week working for the library (pinch me!). But I have begun to compile a list of recommended resources -- still a work in progress, so check back often.

Tonight's title is by the incredible artist Yuyi Morales: Viva Frida, a picture book homage to the artist Frida Kahlo. When this book arrived at my library, we really wrestled with where to put it, as it's an unusual take on a biography. We ended up putting it in the picture book section because frankly it's absolutely brilliant and I wanted it to get the widest audience it could, not be buried in biography. So there.

Morales's artwork is on full display here as she pays tribute to Frida Kahlo's life and work. There's an appearance by Diego Rivera, her self-portraits, her mystical realism, all of it. And the arresting imagery is accompanied by snippets of poetry that speak volumes. The final spread merely reads, "Vivo - I live!", but that's all the text that's needed, as Morales's image of Frida surrounded by animals and light and wearing vibrant clothing captures the essence of the artist entirely. It's a tremendous title, and would be the perfect starting place for an art unit inspired by Frida Kahlo's work. (An afterword fills in more details about Frida Kahlo's life.)

Pair Viva Frida with other art-infused picture books like Georgia's Bones or Vincent's Colors for an exploration of life, art and the world at large.

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, published by Roaring Brook Press

Monday, November 17, 2014

30 Days of Diverse Picture Books - Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth

It's Day 17 in our 30 Days of Diverse Picture Books. This morning I read a terrific post by Angie at Fat Girl Reading, on Librarians and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks initiative. Bottom line: if you want diverse books, and your library doesn't have them, ASK! (Angie says it much better.)

And now on to tonight's pick, Tiger in My Soup by the ever-terrific Kashmira Sheth. I love this one because it illustrates just how fun diverse books can be - they need not be heavy and lesson-oriented, though those titles have their place, but can be imaginative and full of fancy. And Tiger in My Soup definitely fits that description!

The story revolves around a young boy whose sister is in charge of him. Sis is preoccupied and won't read the book our hero wants, though she will microwave him some soup. And that's where the trouble begins, for out of the steam of the boy's lunch comes one big hungry tiger! Naturally the story spins off from there, and it's a whole lot of crazy adventure that will keep your kiddos scrambling to turn the page. Jeffrey Ebbeler did the illustrations for Tiger in My Soup, and he manages to perfectly capture not only the bored vibe of the older sister, but also the frenetic energy of the boy (and, of course, the tiger!).

Tiger in My Soup is terrific to show kids how exciting reading can be - but don't be surprised if they're looking carefully at the next book you read, to see if the characters are literally leaping off the page!

Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth, published by Peachtree Publishers

Sunday, November 16, 2014

30 Days of Diverse Picture Books - What's So Yummy? by Robie H. Harris

Today's Day 16 of our 30 Days of Diverse Picture Books. Nope, we haven't run out of picks yet - in fact, as always with this series, I'm starting to wonder if I'll get everything included! 

Tonight's pick is nonfiction, and I chose this one specifically because I think it's important to remember that nonfiction choices should also be inclusive. It's really easy to focus on the topic and worry less about diversity when choosing informative titles, but in my opinion, we need to be just as mindful there, if not more so. Fortunately there are plenty of good choices, such as What's So Yummy? by Robie H. Harris. The latest entry in the Let's Talk About You and Me series by Harris and Nadine Bernard Westcott, this title focuses on healthy eating and exercise, so it's a great choice to share with preschoolers on up!

Harris writes What's So Yummy? with an informative yet never boring tone - including plenty of facts that kids will find intriguing. There's even a discussion of allergies, something Sprout found relevant as two of his best school friends have significant allergies. But for me the icing on the cake with this title is the pictures - the main characters are a transracial family, a huge bonus for us. And the background is populated with folks of different ages, races, genders, and abilities. It's really a lovely recognition of the fact that our world is diverse and books for children should acknowledge that, no matter what their topic.

Teachers, librarians and parents: you can't go wrong with any of the titles by Harris and Westcott, but What's So Yummy? is especially delightful. Hats off to quality, inclusive nonfiction!

What's So Yummy? by Robie H. Harris, published by Candlewick Press