Board Book Review: My Heart Fills with Happiness

Our tenth board book will bring joy to your heart.
And has narwhals!

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My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrations by Julie Flett.
Orca Books, 2016.
Board book, 24 pages.
Lexile:  AD280L  ( What does AD mean in Lexile? )
AR Level: Not yet leveled.

This simple book asks us “What fills your heart with happiness?” and gives many examples of things that might make us happy.

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My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett.

Julie Flett is one of my favorite children’s book illustrators.  She has a great sense of color and space.  As soon as I saw the review at AICL, I wanted this book!  Most of the libraries I work at don’t circulate board books, so this was high on my wish list, but it took a while to arrive which is why this and We Sang You Home were not in use sooner.

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Web: Board Book Lists

Some other diverse board book lists.

So, a while back I mentioned that when I started reviewing board books, it was difficult to find diverse board book lists.  That wasn’t so much because they don’t exist, as because most of the ones I found have problematic content, or are board and picture books mixed together.  Here are a few pretty good ones.

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We Sang You Home back cover with text “When wishes come true.”

AICL has a great list of Native board books.

This is important because most other lists (including some I’ll share) have poor indigenous representation.  I always look for a review from AICL or an #ownvoices reviewer, and check if the author/illustrator are Native.

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Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin.

PragmaticMom has a good top ten of multicultural board books.  The caveat is that I would NOT recommend Mama, Mama, Do You Love Me? – see above for better Native books.

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It’s Ramadan, Curious George by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young.

While it wasn’t recommended as a “diverse books list”, I loved that most of the books on this list are diverse, including Hawaiian, Native, and specialty religious books that are diverse.

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Whose Knees Are These by Jabari Asim, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

And finally, Drivel and Drool has a list broken down by ethnicity of the main character, with again the caveat to please check the Native books against AICL’s listing as some are problematic.  I like that this book includes some nonfiction board books.

 

Board Book Review: We Sang You Home

Just go buy this book. I’ll wait.

We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrations by Julie Flett.
Orca Books, 2016.
Board book, 26 pages.

This lyrical book is the story of a family – two parents, and the baby they sang home and love.

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The book starts with a couple on a blanket in the forest, singing.  Then they are joined by a tiny baby as they go about their day.  Baby sleeps and snuggles and grows teeth and crawls and gardens with mom and even walks until eventually they are back in the forest singing with baby.

The text is a poem or a prayer written in the second person, which normally I dislike, but works perfectly for this book intended to be read from parent to child.  There are two lines on the left page of every two-page spread except the final one, which ends with the final picture across from the copyright page.

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Review: The Warriors

“Although everyone at Weltimore wore the same school uniform, it somehow made the differences more obvious.” page 73

The Warriors by Joseph Bruchac.
Carolrhoda Books, Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2003.
Middle grade sports fiction, 127 pages.
Lexile:  810L  .
AR Level:  5.5 (worth 3.0 points)  .
NOTE: Although I’m not reviewing this on Fiction Friday, it is a work of fiction.

Jake’s mother has finally decided they need to spend more time together.  He whole-heartedly agrees, but doesn’t like that this means moving off the reservation, being the only Native in a fancy school, and giving up lacrosse.  Is there any way to make his new classmates understand the true spirit of the game?

The Warriors
The Warriors by Joseph Bruchac.

Well, it had to happen eventually that I would read a book I didn’t love!  So far all the books I’ve reviewed for my #100indigenousbooks project have been great, I must really have been picking them!

To be fair, this is a sports novel, and I dislike most sporting fiction.  I felt about the same as I would about a Matt Christopher sport novel, which is pretty similar to this book.

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New (to me) Books I’m Excited About

So, I posted a while ago about books that I was excited to read – namely two books I pre-ordered (something I rarely do).  Now that it’s the end of May, both books should be arriving at my door soon!

Lately I’ve been on a bit of a buying spree, so I’m not pre-ordering any more books, but there are a few books that I’m excited about.  Most are new or recent releases, but a few are new-to-me.  Two I already own (so you can look for reviews later this summer). Continue reading “New (to me) Books I’m Excited About”

Review: Absolutely True Diary Part-Time Indian

“Traveling between Reardan and Wellpinit, between the white town and the reservation, I always felt like a stranger. // I was half Indian in one place and half white in the other.” page 118

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: A Novel by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2007, my edition 2009.
YA realistic fiction, 230 pages not including extras.
Winner of many awards including a National Book Award.
Lexile:  600L  .
AR Level:  4.0 (worth 6.0 points)  .
NOTE: Due to content, this is not generally recommended for middle school students.

Junior is a Spokane Indian with a life from a Greek tragedy – medical woes, funerals, poverty, and picked on, he still tries to find the humor in life and look for the hope in his future in this semi-autobiographical novel.

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Despite all the accolades, and my recent positive experiences of Alexie’s work, I did not expect to love this book the way I did.  Alexie seems mostly known for his literary fiction.  Diary is a YA book still interesting to the general adult fiction reader.  Unlike The Sun is Also a Star, which I might recommend to certain adults, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian is a teen coming-of-age story that I would recommend to almost any adult reader.  Arnold Spirit, Junior, is a Spokane Indian with hydrocephalus, a stutter, and a few other challenges, like dire poverty and 30-year-old textbooks.

Despite a life where the cards seem stacked against him, Junior perseveres, chasing his hope through tragic deaths and ridiculous logistics (how do you get to school 22 miles away when you’re incredibly poor and there’s no bus?  Answer: sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes you walk.)

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Review: The Outside Circle

This gorgeous and gritty graphic novel will educate everyone, not just indigenous Canadians, about institutional racism and other topics.

The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, illustrated by Kelly Mellings.
House of Anansi, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2015.
Adult graphic novel, 120 pages.
CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature Winner.
Not leveled.

Pete and his younger brother Joey only have each other and their drug-addicted mother to get through their violent, gritty urban life.  But when their mother’s boyfriend pushes them too far, Pete ends up in jail and Joey in foster care.  What will happen to their family?  Can Pete’s gang become their new family?

The Outside Circle

This book is about Canadian urban aboriginals.  Because I am American and not indigenous, I was surprised by the way it sucked me in as we read about generational poverty and the systematic dehumanization and institutionalized racism that had affected Pete’s entire family.  So much of what I read applies to so many other groups, and reading about Pete and his family was an easy way to absorb how these things can alter a family for generations at a time.

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