Review: Celebrate Chinese New Year

“When Asians immigrated to countries like the United States and Canada, they brought these traditions with them.” page 7

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Celebrate Chinese New Year by Carolyn Otto and Haiwang Yuan.
National Geographic Kids, Washington, D.C., 2009, my edition 2015 reprint.
Picture book informative nonfiction, 32 pages.
Lexile:  740L  .
AR Level:  3.6 (worth 0.5)  .

How Lunar New Year is celebrated around the world, especially in China.

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This is a very comprehensive book.  You could easily do a short unit study using just this text.  The format works for a variety of ages or abilities.  The book is divided into two parts – first the picture book, then the last six pages are mostly text with “More About the Chinese New Year”, a variety of supplemental activities and further information for parents, teachers, or older children.

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Review: Chef Roy Choi

“Trying different foods is a bridge into the many food cultures that make us collectively American.” page 28

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, illustrated by Man One.
Readers to Eaters, Bellevue, Washington, 2017.
Picture book biography, 30 pages.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  4.0 (worth 0.5 points)  .

This is the story of Chef Roy Choi, who’s best known for his Kogi food trucks that combined traditional Korean food with popular street foods like tacos or barbecue in a unique and delicious way.

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Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, illustrated by Man One.

It’s kind of funny that I found this book through the Diverse KidLit linkup.  Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table has been on my wishlist for some time.  But honestly, neither of these books would have been on my radar at all without the internet.

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Five Picture Books About African-Americans

Here are five books for the youngest readers that focus on different African Americans.  Some you may have heard of before, others may be new to you!
(Perhaps these will help you go beyond the big five.)

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Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier.

Dave must have been very strong, as he was able to create pottery that not many could.  He knew how to read and write, because he wrote poems on the side of some of his pottery.  This book shares the beauty and artistry of his life without ever ignoring the harsh reality that he was a slave.

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Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told by Walter Dean Meyers, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen.

This picture book does a great job of presenting the life story of Ida B. Wells, including difficult topics such as lynching.  Because of the subject matter, I’d recommend this for older picture book readers, or as a family read so parents can address any questions children might have.

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Major Taylor: Champion Cyclist by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome.

Did you know that Major Taylor was the first black world champion bicyclist?  He used hard work and athleticism to prove that race did not determine ability at a time when the world was determined to prove him otherwise.  This would be a great book to read before or after a bike ride, or when the weather keeps you indoors!

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Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story by Ruby Bridges.

This nonfiction early reader is actually written by Ruby Bridges herself, and includes photos of her historic integration of a New Orleans elementary school.  This is one of my earliest reviews for this blog, so I was hesitant to link it, but there aren’t enough diverse early readers and this book should be better known.

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When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip-Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III.

I’m not much of a music person, so it’s surprising how much this book delighted me.  The story of DJ Kool Herc is fascinating and covers topics like immigration, community, and of course music!  The illustrations never fail to delight new readers and this remains a favorite in our house.
(Note: technically Kool Herc is a Jamaican-American, but he’s seen as part of the African-American community, which is why I included him on this list.)

Review: Major Taylor

“Asked by reporters how he managed to keep calm despite attacks by other cyclists, Marshall answered ‘I simply ride away.’ ” page 19

Major Taylor: Champion Cyclist by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome.
Antheneum Books for Young Readers imprint, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2004.
Picture book biography, 32 pages.
Lexile:  AD1020L  (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  5.7 (worth 0.5 points)

Major Taylor became the World Champion of cycling in the early 1900s.  He combined perseverance, an incredible athleticism, and a little luck to set world records and popularize the sport of bicycling in America.  Yet his story is largely unknown today.

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Review: Visiting Day

“I go to sleep and don’t wake up again until the bus pulls up in front of the big old building where, as Grandma puts it, Daddy is doing a little time.” page 19

Visiting Day, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James E. Ransome.
Puffin Books, Penguin Group, New York, 2002.
Realistic fiction picture book, 32 pages.
Lexile:  AD1150L  .  ( What does AD mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  3.6 (worth 0.5 points)  .

An unnamed little girl describes her favorite day of the month, when she and her grandmother visit her father in prison.

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Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome.

If you had to visit a prison, it probably wouldn’t be your favorite day.  But what if your very favorite person was in prison?  What if your Daddy that you loved more than anyone in the world was a person you only got to see once a month?  For this little girl and her grandmother, Visiting Day is a celebration that causes them to wake up with a smile, and sadness only comes when they get off the bus home, alone without Daddy.

This book is full of vivid imagery that engages all the senses as grandma passes peppermints and kisses.  Teeth are brushed and hair done in preparation for the visit.  Woodson’s writing is, as always, lyrical and beautiful.  Although it’s not presented as poetry, this book would also make a wonderful poem.

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Review: The Answer

“But that was what was supposed to happen, so Sapphire didn’t mind. Sapphire had already accepted everything that would ever happen to her.” page 6

The Answer, written by Rebecca Sugar, illustrated by Elle Michalka and Tiffany Ford.
Cartoon Network Books imprint, Penguin Random House, New York, 2016.
Fantasy picture book, 30 pages.
Not yet leveled.

This is the story of Sapphire, a wise gem who knows the future, and Ruby, a brave little gem who fights to the end.  Sapphire would say it’s a short and sad story, but Ruby disagrees.

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While the Steven Universe TV show’s mythology and storyline bring some hefty worldbuilding to this picture book, you can read and enjoy it with no prior knowledge.  We rarely watch TV, so I learned about the show from writing this review.

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Review: This Day in June

My thoughts about this book were complicated. It has great promise but falters in some of the execution.

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten.
Magination Press, American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C., 2014.
Informative fiction, 36 pages.
Not leveled.

The story of Pridefest presented through a parade for family discussion.

This Day in June
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten.

This was one of the picture books Husband bought that I mentioned before.  I struggled reviewing it since my feelings are mixed.  While characters of color are included in this book, it struck me that all the couples included seemed to be either white, or of mixed race.  None of the families had two adults of color.

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