Posted in picture books

My Footprints addresses family, bullying, and imagination

My Footprints, by Bao Phi/Illustrated by Basia Tran, (Sept. 2019. Capstone), $19.99, ISBN: 9781684460007

Ages 5-8

Thuy is a biracial child with two moms who feels “double different”. Walking home one winter afternoon, she tries to ignore the bullies who go at her, but she’s frustrated – and then she sees a bird, which takes her away from the bullies and into the air, soaring like the bird; from there, she wonders about taking on characteristics of other animals: sprinting like a deer; roaring like a bear; anything that can help her channel her frustration. She arrives home to her moms, Momma Ngoc and Momma Arti, and talks with them as the three walk together, creating all sorts of footprints: a phoenix, a Sarabha from Hindu mythology, even a new creature that leaves heart-shaped footprints in the snow, as Thuy walks between her mothers.

This is a quietly captivating book about imagination and family; about taking power away from bullies by talking things out with family, and gaining strength from coming together. Using mythological animals like a phoenix, which rises from its ashes, and a Sarabha, a powerful beast with the ability to leap great distances, is a nod to both Thuy’s and her mothers’ Asian and Southeast Asian backgrounds. These animals also let readers follow Thuy further into an imaginary world where she – and we – can channel the strength of these creatures into ourselves when faced with adversity.

Beautifully told, beautifully illustrated, My Footprints is a solid addition to picture book collections.

Posted in picture books

Sensitive Storytelling: A Place to Stay

A Place to Stay: A Shelter Story, by Erin Gunti/Illustrated by Estelí Meza, (Aug. 2019, Barefoot Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781782858249

Ages 5-9

A young girl and her mother seek housing at a shelter. The girl is uncomfortable with her surroundings: this isn’t her home, her bed, her kitchen, but her mother tries to smooth over the situation using positive visualization and imagination. No, it’s not her home; it’s a grand palace! The beds become rocket ships that shoot into space, and the dining room becomes a banquet hall, where people from all over come to break bread together. In between fantasy trips of the mind, the girl’s mother tries to put her daughter’s mind at ease, telling her that they are lucky to have a place to stay, encouraging her to greet others she meets at the shelter. Mother and daughter befriend another mother and her children at a nearby table; the two girls discover they are reading the same book at school. The protagonists are white, but there is a multicultural group of residents at the shelter, and the family she and her mother meet are brown-skinned.

A Place to Stay is sensitive to a child’s concerns over staying in a shelter, using the main character to communicate those fears, and her mother, to assuage them. A Place to Stay also explains what a shelter is, what purpose one serves to the communities, for those families that may have a pre-existing notion of the “kinds of people” that stay in shelters. Back matter includes notes on shelters and homelessness, including how shelters help and why people stay in shelters. A Place to Stay is an important addition to your libraries.

Author Erin Gunti wrote A Place to Stay: A Shelter Story after working as a child abuse and neglect investigator, to open a dialogue between adults and children about childhood homelessness. Her experiences come through with subtle nuances throughout the book: the use of creative visualization to ease anxiety and fear; having moments like the “treasure room” for kids in the shelter, where they can play and be children not defined by their situation; meeting other families and bonding over common ground like a book from school. Artist Estelí Meza uses soothing, soft colors to bring her story to life.

Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Hector’s Favorite Place shows kids how to face their fears

Hector’s Favorite Place, by Jo Rooks, (Aug. 2018, Magination Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781433828683

Ages 4-7

Hector is a hedgehog whose favorite place is home. He doesn’t go out that often, because everything he needs is home; home is “cozy and snuggly and safe”. At the same time, though, Hector wants to do things with his friends! He’s invited to the most exciting things: playing in the snow, ice skating, going to a party. But every time Hector accepts an invitation, he starts thinking about all the things that could go wrong, becomes anxious, and cancels plans. He decides to confront his anxiety, be brave, and head to the Winter party in the forest; when anxiety rears its ugly head again, he closes his eyes and imagines himself having fun and dancing at the party – and discovers that he’s having fun! After the party and some hot chocolate, Hector’ decides that he’s ready to take on new adventures outside of his home.

Hector’s Favorite Place is a child-friendly look at getting past fear. The author uses cute animals and age-appropriate text to communicate situations that may make kids nervous. Having Hector use creative visualization by imagining himself having fun is a great way to communicate this strategy to kids, giving them the tools to tackle worry and fear of everything from going to a friend’s party to starting the first day of school. Back matter gives parents some helpful advice on managing worry in kids and how to model helpful behaviors.

Magination Press is a publishing imprint of the American Psychological Association. The publisher’s website offers links to brochures and research from the APA, links to social media, and and links to the APA Book and APA Style blog. KidPsych is a kid- and parent-friendly site with games and activities.

I’ve been enjoying the Magination Press books for toddlers and kids. I like the topics the authors explore, and I love the way the authors and illustrators come together to create a story that appeals to kids and speaks to them in a way that respects and understands their feelings and challenges. So far, every book I’ve seen from Magination Press earns a spot in my library.