Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, picture books, Preschool Reads, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

National Native American Heritage Month

November is National Native American Heritage Month. I am eternally grateful to people like Dr. Debbie Reese, whose blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature, has reviews and writing on Native writing, problematic phrases and stereotypes, and advocacy and activism. I am grateful for authors like Nancy Bo Flood, Joseph Bruchac, and Cynthia Leitich Smith, whose work has introduced me to the realities and beauty of Native culture. I commit to expanding my reading horizons, and the horizons of the kids in my life, by promoting Native literature at every opportunity.

The Horn Book has a list of comprehensive links dedicated to Native American Heritage Month, as does Lee and Low’s blog. Teen Vogue has an article on avoiding offensive stereotypes and being a better ally to indigenous people. The National Native American Heritage Month website has a wealth of information, including a calendar of events; links to exhibits and collections including the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives. The First Nations Development Institute has comprehensive resources, including printables, largely produced by and for Native people. The American Indian Library Association (AILA) is an affiliate of our national organization, the American Library Organization, and advocates for the information- and library-related needs of Natives. The AILA distributes information about Native culture to the library community, and works to develop programs that will improve Native library, cultural, and information services in school, public, and research libraries on reservations (from the AILA website).

Some books to read and add to your collections follow.

Encyclopedia of American Indian History & Culture: Stories, Time Lines, Maps, and More, by Cynthia O’Brien,
(Oct. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 9781426334535
Ages 8-12

This encyclopedia features over 160 Native American tribes, organized by location: Arctic and Subarctic; Northeast; Southeast; Plains; Southwest; Great Basin and Plateau; Northwest Coast, and California. Each section includes maps, timelines, and a traditional story from the region’s people, along with profiles of each tribe and biographies on key Native Americans in history. The photos are gorgeous, and the information is comprehensive. There’s a glossary, index, list of federally recognized tribes, and list of consultants who contributed to the book.

There’s no reason not to have this available to your library kids. I have a collection of books by tribe, by nation, that’s helpful for my younger kids, but this is an invaluable resources for my middle graders and middle schoolers. I hope NatGeo expands on this and works on other indigenous peoples, including Central and South American peoples.

The Encyclopedia of American Indian History & Culture has a starred review from Booklist.

 

Hearts Unbroken, by Cynthia Leitich Smith,
(Oct. 2018, Candlewick), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763681142
Ages 13+

After breaking up with her insensitive boyfriend, a Native high school senior focuses on her school year and advocating for her younger brother, who lands a key part in the school production of The Wizard of Oz, when a group of parents react to the play’s diverse casting by promoting hate speech and putting pressure on local businesses that support the play. A strong #ownvoices story with an outstanding heroine, Hearts Unbroken is unputdownable reading. Read my full review here.

 

First Laugh Welcome, Baby!, by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood/Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson,
(Aug. 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580897945
Ages 5-8

I adore this celebration of life and family. The First Laugh Celebration is a Navajo tradition where a child’s first laugh marks their entry into the physical world from the spiritual one. First Laugh Welcome Baby is a lyrical story about a family’s wait for that first joyful laugh and the celebration that follows. Navajo words and images fill the pages and invite us readers to spend time with a family as they welcome their new baby into their lives. When I read this at storytime, parents are delighted by such a wonderful way to rejoice. Read my full review here.

 

We Sang You Home, by Richard Van Camp/Illustrated by Julie Flett,
(Oct. 2016, Orca), $9.95, ISBN: 978-1-4598-1178-2
Ages 0-3

This board book, by Canadian First Nations author and illustrator Richard Van Camp and Julie Flett, is a poem to a child from loving parents who use a song to tell their child how much they are loved. The story is a beautiful illustration of what we, as parents and caregivers, give our children, and what we receive from them: “We sang you home and you sang back… As we give you roots you give us wings / And through you we are born again”. It’s such a simple, powerful book, with gouache paintings and digital college illustrations that put every feelings about loving a child into words. We Sang You Home is in my regular storytime rotation, and always receives a great reception.

 

Soldier Sister, Fly Home, by Nancy Bo Flood/Illustrated by Shonto Begay,
(Aug. 2016, Charlesbridge), $16.95, ISBN: 9781580897020
Recommended for ages 10+

A 13-year-old girl struggles with her part white, part Navajo identity while coping with her sister’s deployment shortly after attending a memorial service for a Native member of her community. By caring for her sister’s semi-wild horse, she discovers a well of inner strength and learns about herself. A novel of family, identity, and loss, Soldier Sister Fly Home is an incredible book. Read my original review here.

 

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Picture Book Roundup: Cats and Dogs, Bears, Birds, and Dinosaurs!

I’m still going through my BookExpo bags (okay, I’ve moved them from one area of my room to another), but in the meantime, I’ve got picture books to talk about! Some are available, some are up-and-coming, all are a pleasure to read. Let’s take a look at what’s good!

SumoKitty, by David Biedrzycki, (Aug. 2019, Charlesbridge), $18.99, ISBN: 9781580896825

Ages 5-9

A stray cat hangs around a sumo training center, hoping for some food. He’s about to be thrown out by the manager when one of the sumo shrieks: a mouse! Looks like the kitty has a new job and a new home, which he quickly becomes accustomed to. But the good life makes him lose his edge: he’s gained weight and the mice come back with a vengeance. Tossed back out into nature, Kumo, a kind sumo, lets the cat back in, but levels with him: the mice have humbled the cat like the sumo’s main opponent, the yokozuna, has humbled him. From there, SumoKitty starts a faithful training routine, inspired by Kuna’s disciplined regiment. When a mouse dares show up in the dojo next time, SumoKitty is there, pushing and tossing the mouse and his friends around until they clear out for good. He’s rewarded by not only being welcomed back to the dojo, but he’s given a sweet topknot haircut, too. He also gets a front row seat at the next sumo tournament, where he watches his friend Kumo face his own demons and takes on his longtime opponent.

A sweet story about overcoming challenges, SumoKitty is loaded with Japanese sumo terms and wise observations like “Fall down seven times; get up eight” and “Even monkeys fall from trees”. Adorable SumoKitty is cartoonish with large, expressive eyes and exaggerated facial expressions, while the sumo artwork appears inspired by Japanese woodblock paintings. The black and white endpapers give readers a before-and-after glimpse into the story, with a mouse running in a Zen garden as someone maintains the area; later, SumoKitty is fast asleep on a rock in the same Zen garden, no maintainer, and no mouse present. It’s a sweet peek into sumo culture and an all-around fun read. Jon J. Muth’s Zen Shorts, Zen Ties, and Zen Happiness are nice readalikes to SumoKitty; for a good giggle and a more madcap take on sumo, you can’t go wrong with David Wisniewski’s Sumo Mouse, which has been a favorite in my home since my eldest (now 20) was in Kindergarten and continues to be required reading with my first grader.

 

Hey, Dog, by Tony Johnson/Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, (June 2019, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580898775

Ages 4-8

A boy finds a dog hiding in a bush. The dog is afraid, runs, but the boy returns, time and again, to care for the dog, leaving him food, water, even an umbrella propped up to cover him in the rain. The boy confides in his mother that the dog is skinny and has scars; he refuses to give up on Dog, determined if not to earn his trust, then to care for him.

Hey, Dog crushed me. It’s just gorgeous writing that packs an emotional punch. The boy’s relationship with his mother, who is nervous – her son is trying to care for a strange dog that could very well bite him, right? – but supports her empathetic child, helping him in any way she can and the boy’s quiet resilience in the face of Dog’s fear and mistrust will make you have hope for people after all. The boy is written so wonderfully, whether he’s asking a shopkeeper if his dog food “is the most luscious” or when he drops to his knees, tears “warming his face”, as he tries to comprehend how anyone could have it in them to hurt an animal. Dog is illustrated to provoke another emotional gut punch; his cringing and reticence come through so viscerally, it’ll bring tears to your eyes. Seeing this poor pup, single paw raised, ribs poking through his coat, and trusting once more to lick the boy’s hand make this story a powerful, must-have book for you collection. Read this, hand this to kids, talk about the need for empathy in our world.

 

 

Bear’s Book, by Claire Freedman/Illustrated by Alison Friend, (May 2019, Templar Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536205718

Ages 4-8

Bear loves to read, but his favorite book of stories has been read to bits! He decides to create his own story, but holy writer’s block, he can’t think of anything! He decides to go for a stroll and see if inspiration hits, and meets several friends along the way. When he returns home and goes over his day, he realizes that the best inspiration comes from one’s own adventures!

This is an adorable story of inspiration and friendship, and fits nicely with Small Moments writing prompts. Bear’s adventure is a series of small moments, pulled together to create a lovely adventure. He’s inspired by his friends, and they have all enjoyed their friend’s company for a day. A fold-out spread publishes Bear’s story for his friends – and our – enjoyment. Mixed media illustrations are gently rendered with soft earth tones.  This one is a sweet storytime pick, and good inspiration for a Summer Reading creative writing program.

 

 

My Name Isn’t Oof!: Warren the Warbler Takes Flight, by Michael Galligan/Illustrated by Jeremiah Tramell, (May 2019, Little Bigfoot), $17.99, ISBN: 9781632171931

Ages 4-8

A little bird tries to fly after watching his siblings take off, but he falls, landing with a giant, “Oof!” Naturally, every animal in the forest has an opinion, and to add insult to injury, they all call him “Oof”! The chipmunk says he forgot to jump; the Mouse says he needs to spread his wings; Squirrel says he has to flap. While they all have feedback aplenty on Warren’s flying prowess, they manage to bonk, push, and trip one another up, but Warren – who keeps protesting this new nickname – finally takes to the sky, to everyone’s cheering!

A cute story of perseverance with some hilarious physical comedy, My Name Isn’t Oof! will have younger readers giggling during a read-aloud, especially if you move around and act out the story. The repeated phrase, “My name isn’t Oof!” is a good discussion point to get kids talking about how unwanted nicknames can stick; you can also point out that while all the animals jump to find fault with Warren’s first flight, they’re just as clumsy as he is: no one is perfect! Back matter includes a paragraph on the Townsend Warbler, the kind of bird our star Warren is, and what readers can do if they find a baby bird fallen from a nest. Suggest Charlie Alder’s Daredevil Duck as a readalike for more humorous stories of overcoming obstacles.

 

 

How To Take Care of Your Dinosaur, by Jason Cockcroft, (May 2019, Nosy Crow), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536205688

Ages 3-6

Taking care of your very own dinosaur is a very big job! How to Take Care of Your Dinosaur is here to help. Written similar to a handy-dandy manual, the book takes a look at some of the more light-hearted moments in pet parenting a dinosaur. Taking your dino for a walk? Bring a bucket and a shovel, there’s no pooper scooper that’s built for this job. Dinos can be a little tough on sharing, so make sure to get them around new people and encourage them to make friends! The book stresses the importance of routine when caring for your dinosaur; something parents and caregivers will appreciate!

Digital illustrations are adorable and feature soft colors. The endpapers add to the fun: the front endpapers show a mailman struggling under the weight of a gigantic package (the egg); the back endpapers show a brick wall, papered with “Dino Sale” flyers, and feature the poor mailman laboring with two giant packages this time.

A fun storytime addition. Pair with Dragons Get Colds, Too for a fun, wacky pet-related storytime.

 

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, picture books

In First Laugh Welcome, Baby!, a family waits…

First Laugh Welcome, Baby!, by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood/Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, (Aug. 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580897945

Ages 5-8

A Navajo family waits for baby’s first laugh. Who will be the first to hear it? Will nima-sami (grandmother) hear it, as she tucks Baby in for a nap? Will it be big sister (nadi), who cooks Baby a tasty meal? Maybe it will be nima (mama), who sits weaving while Baby rests in a papoose. Or will it be cheii (grandpa), who splashes Baby with water? Everyone in the family is waiting, kissing, tickling, hugging, and singing, as Baby squirms, yawns, frowns, until… suddenly… a smile! Let the First Laugh celebration begin!

First Laugh Welcome, Baby is a beautiful look at a Navajo tradition; the First Laugh Celebration is a child’s first formal welcome into a family and clans. The lyrical story is filled with Navajo words and glimpses of Navajo life, woven into a story about the joy of a baby’s first laugh and the celebration it brings to families and communities. Jonathan Nelson’s pencil, acrylic, and Photoshop artwork create a loving portrait of a family that spends time together both in the city and on a Navajo reservation; they eat together, enjoy nature together, and socialize together in settings primarily illustrated with earthy tones and bold lines.

Back matter includes author’s notes from the late Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood, and an illustrator’s note from Jonathan Nelson; a note about the First Laugh Celebration, and ceremonies in other cultures, including Muslim, Nigerian, and Jewish families.

Nancy Bo Flood’s Soldier Sister, Fly Home is a powerful middle grade story about a Navajo family; First Laugh is a wonderful picture book that introduces younger readers to First Nation families. Please, please, please, put these and other books by indigenous authors and illustrators in your bookshelves and in front of your readers.