Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction

Zion Unmatched: A Photo Essay of a Champion

Zion Unmatched, by Zion Clark and James S. Hirsch, (Aug. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536224184

Ages 8-12

Zion Clark is an athlete and musical prodigy. Born in 1997 and raised in the foster care system, he dealt with abuse and the dual stigma of being African-American and disabled. But, as Zion Clark states in the introduction to his book, Zion Unmatched, “I love to defy expectations”. The Paralympian wheelchair racer and wrestler will be competing for gold in both 2021 and 2024. Zion Unmatched is a photo study, with quotes from Zion Clark and people who have influenced him, from his mom (who adopted him as a high school senior) to his coaches, that will inspire anyone who reads it. Gorgeous, full-color photos chronicle Zion’s childhood all the way through his current training regimen; quotes are bold, a testament to mental and emotional strength. An incredible profile of an incredible athelete, this is the first in a planned trilogy of books Clark has planned to release with Candlewick.

Learn more about Zion Clark at his website; see his profile on the Paralympics website.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s Your World Now! gives kids Three Golden Rules

It’s Your World Now!, by Barry Falls, (July 2019, Pavilion), $16.95, ISBN: 9781843654315

Ages 3-7

Written as a love letter from a parent or caregiver to a child, It’s Your World Now is all about giving kids the three most important things they need to know: 1) the world is full of marvelous things; 2) things won’t always go their way; and, most importantly, 3) above all else, they are loved. Teaching kids to shoot for the stars, to be resilient, and to know they are loved above all things, It’s Your World Now is this generation’s Oh, The Places You Will Go! It’s us, handing the world over to our kids, letting them know that they can do anything; be anything; urging them to strive for everything, but to be realistic and understand that sometimes, things just aren’t going to go the way they want. That people are going to talk down to them, or assume that they know more. That’s okay – it’s been happening since the dawn of time. But the narrator reminds our kids that their lives are theirs, to do their own thing, and trust in themselves at the end of the day. And through these ups and downs, the knowledge that they are loved – so, so, very much – is something that will never change. It’s an inspirational, loving story that’s meant to inspire and lift our kids up, while giving us the nudge that we may need to keep going, too.

Bright, bold artwork throughout the book features kids and grownups alike, walking together in an exciting riot of color and images: Michelangelo’s David with a keyboard guitar; giant rubber ducks float in the water. Children see themselves as judges, doctors, deep-sea divers in old-fashioned bell helmets, or ride on a rocket ship through the stars. Endpapers sports birds, planets, and books, letting readers know that something exciting is about to happen.

It’s Your World Now! is a nice storytime selection and a great gift idea for the kid who means the world to you.

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Preschool Reads

Introducing Peace Dragon Tales!

Peace Dragon Tales is a little imprint with a big mission: to spread peace and to channel our energies into “peaceful and productive outlet[s]”. Author Linda Ragsdale has two Peace Dragon books: How I Did It, and a fun twist on a beginner’s dictionary: Alpha Better.

How I Did It, by Linda Ragsdale/Illustrated by Anoosha Syed, (Apr. 2017, Flowerpot Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1486712113
Recommended for readers 3-6

In How I Did It, the letter I breaks out of its spot in the alphabet and sees things from different points of view. The other letters don’t always support I‘s being different, but I won’t be stopped – and ends up inspiring a friend: U. Told from I‘s point of view, it’s an inspiring read-aloud to young audiences. The cartoony, primary colored artwork is fun and lively, and kids will have fun guessing the words the letters act out on the endpapers.  (Psst… the front and back endpapers have different words.) It’s a fun story of embracing differences and trying new things. Pair this one with Kathryn Otoshi’s books, like One and Zero.


Alpha Better, by Linda Ragsdale/Illustrated by Martina Hogan, (Apr. 2017, Flowerpot Press), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1486712106
Recommended for readers 4-7

Alpha Better is a fun spin on a dictionary – it’s a Fabularictionary! (Fabulous + Hilarious + Dictionary) Loaded with words that go above and beyond our usual exclamations – awesome, fantastic, excellent – Alpha Better is loaded with positive word mashups for kids to introduce to their vocabularies. Words like absomemendous (absolutely + tremendous), lovuggable (loving + huggable), phenomenational (phenomenal + inspirational) will have kids laughing and coming up with their own words. I can see bebud ( best + buddy) being a popular one in elementary school. This is a great book to inspire a writing exercise where kids can make up their own Alpha Better words. Think of it as a fun companion to Eats Shoots and Leaves.


Peace Dragon Tales is an imprint of Flowerpot Press; initially a project drawn from tragedy, the project now seeks to inspire people to focus “on the universal desire for peace presented in its many dragon forms… where truth and the celebration of diversity will build bridges” and encompasses dance, music, visual arts, food, and more. Learn more about The Peace Dragon Project at their website, where you can find printables that provide great starting points for discussion.




Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads, Women's History

Life in Motion: Misty Copeland’s inspiring autobiography, edited for young readers

misty-copelandLife in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina (Young Reader Edition), by Misty Copeland, (Dec. 2016, Aladdin), $17.99, ISBN: 978148147979

Recommended for ages 8-12

Misty Copeland is amazing. The first African-American principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre didn’t start ballet until her early teens and has faced poverty, racism, criticism, and injury to do what she loves. In this young readers edition of her autobiography, she tells readers about the trials and triumphs she’s lived, the hard work she’s put in, and the sacrifices she’s made to get where she is in the dance world. We read about the custody battle between her mother and ballet teacher when she was 15; the rampant racism she’s endured, and she holds up to the light the eating issues that run rampant in the ballet community. We also read about amazing achievements, like her dancing on tour with Prince and her joy at meeting the dancers that inspired her the way she inspires a new generation of children.

Misty does not shy away from diversity here: she embraces it, giving us the names of the African-American dancers that went before her. She also doesn’t hide the fact that she’s taken some heat for being “too mainstream”; that bringing ballet to the masses is looked down upon – thankfully, that’s something she disagrees with. Ballet and dance, the arts, are for all – if she can inspire another kid to put on a pair of toe shoes, or sign up for hip hop classes because it’s something they love, she’s done right. Copeland is all about embracing your passion. Her confidence and gratitude come through in equal measure, and she dispenses advice for living and building one’s self-esteem throughout the book. Embrace your strengths and never give up – these are the lessons that kids will come away with after spending some time with Misty Copeland.

There are photos in the finished book (I’ve got an egalley), and more on her home page. You can also find her on the American Ballet Theatre page, which also has a section on education and training for readers interested in learning more. Display and booktalk this with Copeland’s picture book (illustrated by Christopher Myers), Firebird.

This book is a must-add to biography collections. Booktalk and display this if, like me, you’ve got kids that need to see someone smashing stereotypes and making it to the top of her (or his) game. If you have dancers in your home or your life, give this book to them and let them watch this ABC Sunday Spotlight from 2014.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction

Colors of the Wind – “The wind is like a rainbow.”

Layout 1Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner, George Mendoza, by J.L. Powers (Sept. 2014, Purple House Press), $18.95, ISBN: 978-1930900738

Recommended for ages 7+

Colors of the Wind is one of those inspiring books that will take your breath away. Written for young readers and excellent for read-alouds in the classroom and the home, Colors of the Wind tells the story of George Mendoza, Olympic runner and painter.

As a child, George was always in motion. He was that kid that never stayed still; he wanted to be a basketball player when he got older. But his vision began to deteriorate, and he saw bursts of color. Suffering from a rare form of blindness called fundus flavimaculatus, his central vision has been destroyed, but he retains peripheral vision, which he refers to as “kaleidoscope eyes” because of the way objects reflect and are multiplied in his vision.

To take his mind off his blindness, George started running and ended up competing in two Olympics. He later began painting, remembering a priest who told him to paint what he saw. He uses fingerpaints, brushes – anything that will communicate to others the unique and beautiful way George sees the world.

This book is gorgeous. Illustrated with Mr. Mendoza’s paintings, this is a truly inspiring story of a man who literally changed his point of view. The text is enhanced with drawings by Hayley Morgan-Sanders. JL Powers presents Mr. Mendoza’s story with short sentences that are perfect for allowing young listeners to grasp the concepts presented and allows for deeper discussion on overcoming challenges and celebrating what gifts we have to work with.

The book includes a short biography on George Mendoza, and a list of paintings featured in the book. Two of my favorites are featured below: Purple Moon and Blind Man Touching the Sun.

purple_moon    blindmantouching

Colors of the Wind is available in stores now – ask your local bookstore, or order from Amazon!