This month Color Online asked book bloggers to read and review books featuring people of color. The Color Me Brown Challenge has pulled together more than eighty reviews so far, and hopes in this last week to reach one hundred titles. Well, here are three more:
by Eun-hee Choung
This book comes to Kane/Miller publishing from South Korea, but it could just as easily be set in any of the bustling Korean neighborhoods in America. While her mother is getting her hair colored and styled, Minji follows suit with her own customer a black dog and in her own way. The child’s desire to do grown-up things is universal, and is captured well in this simply worded picture book. The illustrations are engaging, especially when capturing the expressions of Minji and her mom. Enjoyable, lovely book.
The Secret Oliva Told Me
by N. Joy, illustrations by Nancy Devard
Olivia tells her friend a secret, and the friend lets the secret slip out. From there the secret passes along and gets bigger and bigger. In the end, the friend has to tell Olivia the truth and apologize, because it was the right thing to do. The story is good, though I could have done without the rhyming couplets. The cover is gripping with its black silhouettes with white accents against the red brick wall. The silhouette style continues throughout the book with the addition of a red balloon that gets bigger and bigger throughout representing the secret that is also growing. The end of the book includes a section to discuss the story including what secrets kids shouldn't keep. The artwork is simply wonderful, especially in capturing a diverse group of children only in silhouette.
by Pooja Makhijani, illustrated by Elena Gomez
As a little girl turns seven, she watches her mother unpack saris to wear to her birthday party. While helping her mother choose just the right one for the special day, she pleads to wear a sari herself. Knowing that young girls like her aren’t old enough for the lovely garments, she reflects on their beauty. But sometimes birthday girls get special treats, and in this case it is getting to dress up like mama. A sweet book universal in a daughter’s desire to be like her mother whether it's walking in her high heels or wearing her bindi. Reference is made to the mother’s every day working clothes, implying the that the story takes place outside of India. A helpful glossary makes the Hindi words accessible to all readers, while beautiful illustrations bring magic to the story.
With the end of summer upon us (Wahhhh!), here are some going-to-school picture books.
Splat the Cat,
by Rob Scotton
A fun, clever book that will be appreciated by a wide range of readers. Scotton, of Russell the Sheep fame, brings his humorous and fantastically off-beat illustrations to the world of cats plus a mouse. Splat is worried about his first day at Cat School. If you’re not sure that he’s really worried, look at his big, wide eyes. He tries to hide, and stall, and even hang onto the gate, but his mom gets him to school. There he learns that cats chase mice. Hold it! Splat has a pet mouse! That he brought to school! This isn’t going to be good for anybody. But of course it is, and all the cats learn a new lesson. All-around wonderful book.
Jake Starts School
by Michael Wright
When we last saw Jake, his parents were trying to get him to sleep by going everywhere around the house with him. Well, Jake is still having separation issues at school, where he cannot let go of his parents. He literally clings to them through the whole day, making the seesaw hard and bathroom breaks impossible. The teacher is finally able to engage him with a book with the same name as his dog, and Jake finds his school groove. Bright and wacky illustrations fit the silly and sometimes strained rhyming text. (“There it was, Room Number 1/where Jake would join his class./It looked so big, he felt so small,/he passed a little gas.”) I can't call this my favorite book, but kids will enjoy the silly take on starting school.
Keisha Ann Can!
by Daniel Kirk
This isn’t Keisha Ann’s first day at school, but she shows how it’s done with cheer and confidence. She catches the bus, waits in line, passes out paints, shares with classmates, and takes turns. This book represents an interesting and needed approach to going-to-school literature by focusing on the positive. I also liked that the girl was African-American, as I would like to see more children of color in books. Newest reports say that 44 percent of children in the United States are now minorities. Perhaps we might want to show more of them in books. Not just for them, but so all children can see kids of different races featured in stories. Keisha Ann Can! is simple in language, making it best for the preschool or first day of kindergarten crowd.
I've always enjoyed reading books about summer during the summer. With lazy days, cold pools, and swinging hammocks, who wouldn't want a double dose of the perfect season? With many great books that take place in the summertime, let me share three pretty recent titles.
Lowji Discovers America
by Candice Fleming
When Lowji moves to America from India, he looks forward to making new friends and having a pet. Unfortunately, he and his family arrive in the middle of the summer and there are no kids around the neighborhood. Plus, his longing for a pet is thwarted by the cranky landlady who hates animals. Bright and inquisitive, Lowji doesn't let these obstacles get in his way with interesting and funny results. Sweet and humorous, the book lightly makes the point of keeping a positive outlook. The observations of American ways and slang are interesting from the view of this engaging character. Younger elementary kids can easily enjoy this charming story.
The Liberation of Gabriel King
by K. L. Going
Gabriel King is afraid of everything - spiders, robbers, cows - but his biggest fear is moving up to the next grade, where he'll be in the same school as the bullies who pick on him. His best friend Frita decides to take the summer to liberate Gabriel from his fears one by one. She's rarely afraid, but one of her biggest fears is about to confront the pair head on. Set in the deep south in 1976, this book is a drama, comedy, and historical fiction. It tackles fear, hatred, racism, but ultimately is about courage. And friendship. An amazing book intended for upper elementary readers.
After their father rents a guest house for a few weeks in the summer, four sisters explore the large estate grounds making friends and having adventures along the way. Absolutely delightful, The Penderwicks has a old-fashioned cover, title, and story, yet keeps a contemporary feel. It could take place anytime - though a few small references do set the tale in the present day - forming a large part of its appeal. The reading level is upper elementary, but would be a perfect read-aloud for younger elementary kids. Simply a perfect summer story artfully told.
Do you have a favorite summer book?
When my kids were little, I wanted to get them ready to read in a fun way. I looked to all the right books for activities. But if I decided to have my daughter write letters in a cookie sheet covered with shaving cream, I knew that the doorbell would ring and I'd return to a overturned tray on the good carpet and a preschooler with foamy cheeks declaring herself to be Santa Claus. Not like that happened or anything.
Anyway, there were tons of great ideas to introduce reading concepts, but I didn't need great ideas - I needed easy ideas. I have all sorts of respect for the moms who take Junior around photographing items to make a personalized alphabet book with a laminated cover. However, I was a bit energy-challenged, that is to say, lazy, and these are some games that worked for me.
1. Easy ABC's Maybe the shaving cream thing seems a bit involved, but there are many easy opportunities to learn the alphabet. Going to the beach? Take turns drawing letters in the sand and watch the waves wash them away. Need to get outside? Grab a big paintbrush and a bucket of water and "paint" letters on the sidewalk. Stuck coloring again? Draw multicolored letters for your preschooler to name or decorate. Since my three year old niece has been crazy about erasing things, I write letters lightly in pencil and let her erase them after she names them. She also likes scissors, so I draw words for her to cut out. Look for little chances to toss in some ABC's.
2. Storytelling 101 "How was your day, dear?" sounds cliche, but not to a preschooler. Take time to talk about the day's events. What did we do today? Then what did we do? Help your child find the words to describe his day and tell his story. Of course, you can also add some fun elements of your own. A phrase like "Is that when the dancing elephants came in?" can take the story in a whole new direction. Sometimes it can even thwart an oncoming case of the grumps. I've seen it happen.
3. Rhyme Time Even with my daughters in fifth and eighth grades, we still like to make up silly rhyming songs. We're just better at it now. But preschoolers won't judge your imperfect rhymes. In fact, the sillier, the better! Work together to think of the next line as you drive to the grocery store. Giggling is encouraged. While you're checking out, you can try my other favorite rhyme game. Pick a word and figure out which words rhyme with it. You can let them come to you, or you can go through the alphabet sounding out each letter. So, rose leads us to explore b-b-bows and d-d-does. This little time-killer works with phonics and stores up some rhyming pairs for your next silly song session.
Look for many more quick tips at PBS Parents and share some favorite games of your own in the comments.