“I’m also incredibly proud of my Puerto Rican heritage, but at first I wasn’t sure why everyone was talking about it. Then I realized that as I was growing up, there hadn’t been any Latina role models in gymnastics!” page 149
I Got This: To Gold and Beyond by Lauren Hernandez.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperCollins New York, 2017.
YA biography, 231 pages.
AR Level: 6.8 (worth 5.0 points) .
Laurie Hernandez was a bit of a dark horse. Just turned 16 and only recently eligible for the US Olympic team, she not only was part of the winning 2016 gymnastics team, she also won the silver medal in balance beam. Fresh off her Olympic win, she went on to win Dancing with the Stars, a nationally televised ballroom dancing competition.
This book is definitely a teen read. Apparently Hernandez’s nickname in the press is the Human Emoji, and she embraces that as each of the 20 chapters has a different emoji associated with it (a few do repeat). However, she also manages to pack in information about gymnastics and some startlingly good life advice, coming from a 16-year old.
Book intended to promote self-esteem for all children is highly problematic for children of color – not recommended.
I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts, 2004.
Board book, 32 pages.
I Like Myself is the story of an exuberant and imaginative little girl* and her dog. The girl states in first person narration that she likes herself in a variety of ways and circumstances.
Each page spread has at least one sentence and some as many as three. The text is rhyming, but the rhymes are at times spread over multiple pages. This book reads like a Seuss imitation, with additional words at the end as padding. It felt like some of Seuss’ affirming early readers, but with a larger vocabulary and a huge disconnect between the words and the pictures. The pace was uneven and relied heavily on the pictures to form a cohesive story. Unfortunately the pictures were even more of a disappointment.
A welcome winter addition to a collection of diverse board books – our second book.
Snow by Carol Thompson.
Child’s Play (International) Ltd., Swindon, UK, 2014.
Picture book in board book format, 10 pages.
Winner of the Best Book Award from Oppenheim Toy Portfolio.
Snow is part of a series on different types of weather. This book features a very young African American (possibly mixed race) boy seeing snow, preparing to go outside, experiencing and interacting with the snow in different ways, and finally returning inside as he gets cold.
This was another Target pick that I found completely delightful. As I’ve mentioned, I’m working on building a board book library for the littlest member of our family. This book is square and larger than the typical board book, although it doesn’t have many pages. It definitely needs to be held by bigger hands at first, or laid on the floor for a child to turn pages.
The words are sparse and written into the pictures on the white areas. Most of the words are onomatopoeia, with a few no more than five word sentences. The book could easily tell a complete story to a child even if the words were never read aloud to the child (although of course I encourage you to read the words and enrich your child’s experience).
The illustrations are delightful. In particular, I felt that Thompson appropriately visualized the way a very young child’s hair grows in, how as the strands of hair get long enough they begin to curl but there is a stage of tight curls mixed with wavier or even straight strands that haven’t grown in enough yet. The graphics also convey a sense of delight, and the use of mixed media (with drawn characters) adds depth and interest without overwhelming the young reader.
Overall I was pleased with this book. The bigger kids had a look and seemed to enjoy it, but it didn’t hold their interest long as the simple story is quickly conveyed with a single read-through.
The pages are significantly thinner than what I normally would think of as a board book. That combined with the larger than normal size makes this look a little more like a “real” book. This is a transitional board book – one that Baby could listen to sitting in an adult’s lap but not one to play with independently because it would get all chewed up! Toddlers seem to be the intended age group for this book – able to hold and interact with the bigger size, less destructive on a book, and could sit and look through the pictures to understand the story.
This book is part of a series but the pictures online didn’t really make it clear whether the others are all diverse. They don’t all feature the same characters, so I won’t be ordering any others unless I can flip through a copy beforehand.
However, I can recommend this book as a welcome addition to your home or kindergarten classroom library, or a gift for a toddler.
Starting our diverse board book library out right, The Snowy Day is our first board book for baby!
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.
Viking, the Penguin group, board book edition 1996.
Picture book realistic fiction adapted to board book format, 30 pages.
When we found out about Baby, of course there was a lot to do to get ready. But one thing stuck in my head, bibliophile that I am – we didn’t have any board books! Well, a few that the younger ones use for church, but not much for regular reading. I didn’t quite get it together enough to have books ready before he arrived (practicalities came first), but the first week of the new year, I got busy!
This book takes place over one very intense day. Natasha is a serious girl who loves science and music. Daniel is a romantic boy who loves poetry but works diligently to meet his parents high expectations. When they meet on the streets of New York City, love is destined, except for one catch: Natasha’s family is about to be deported. Can she stay in America? Can they somehow make it work? Is love really about fate or just a chemical reaction in the brain?
As Natasha and Daniel are telling their story, there are interludes from a third person perspective that give more information about various details and background about people in their lives.
“I never forgot my Indian mother and family – and I never will – but being separated from them didn’t create a block that somehow prevented me from pursuing a full and happy life. I’d learned quickly, as a matter of survival, that I needed to take opportunities as they came – if they came – and to look forward to the future.” p. 154
Lion by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose.
New American Library imprint, Penguin Random House, 2013.
Adult memoir, 273 pages + photo inserts.
NOTE: Previously published under the title A Long Way Home.
Born into an impoverished but loving family in rural India, Saroo accompanied his brother to a nearby train station and got lost, ending up asleep on a train which took him to Calcutta. Six emotional months later, he was adopted into an Australian family, the Brierleys. Along the way, he told many people his story. Some didn’t believe him, others tried to take advantage of him, but none were able to find his family based on his five-year old recollections.
As an adult with the help of Google Earth, he began an obsessive search to find his home town. Twenty-five years after he got lost, he came home again. But is any of his family still there?
“everyone in our school has afterschool activities.//mine is going home.” p. 27 (David Levithan)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.
Speak, a Penguin Random House company, New York, 2010.
Realistic YA fiction, 310 pages + extras. 2011 Stonewall Book Award honor, and New York Times bestseller.
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 11.0 points)
NOTE: This book is marked as a Target pick, but I bought it ages ago in a John Green set. It wasn’t an intentional diverse buy.
Will Grayson is struggling with love, life, and friendship, specifically his best friend Tiny Cooper. will grayson is struggling with the will to live, his undying love for his boyfriend isaac, and his sort-of-friendship with maura, who wants to date him.
They don’t go to the same school, or live in the same place, or have very much in common at all, until suddenly their worlds collide.
It’s always hard to buck a trend. I didn’t particularly like this book. First I tried to read it when a friend recommended it, but didn’t get very far. Then I stubbornly purchased a copy and made myself read it while working through all of John Green’s novels. Finally, I reread it for this review. I still don’t like it that much, although there are high points.