Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

I Speak Peace talks mindfulness and respect for all

I Speak Peace, by Kate Carroll/Illustrated by Rainer M. Osinger, (March 2016, Ferne Press), $10.95, ISBN: 978-1-938326-46-2

Ages 6-8

I Speak Peace is a message to all from a first grade teacher who promotes peace, respect, and understanding in her classroom and wants to see that good in the world. The story is narrated by a young blond girl who talks about what peace means, and emphasizes that peace starts from within – “a feeling we have when we are calm and happy” – and how those feelings affect our outlook and how we work with others. Letting go of angry thoughts and mindful breathing come up here, teaching kids the importance of staying in touch with their own feelings. We live in a world where we may look different, speak different languages, and hold different beliefs, but we have just as much in common: we all need love; we all want to be happy; we all live on this planet, and we all need to work together to make it a better place. Kate Carroll promotes different ways of spreading peace that kids will easily recognize: smiling and listening to others; standing up for others; and being considerate are messages kids learn in their homes and classrooms, and go a long way toward making the world a better place. It’s an upbeat, positive message and it’s not that hard a message to spread. An author’s note explains how author Kate Carroll promotes peace in her classroom, and how she was moved to share her message in this contentious, high-strife society today. Kids can take a Peacemaker Pledge (nice library or classroom idea) and an original song, Peace Begins with Me, rounds out the book.

The artwork features children from different cultures and with different abilities working and playing together. The art is bright and positive, with primary colors and full-bleed pages.

I Speak Peace emphasizes an important message and makes for a good classroom, storytime, or cuddle time readaloud. I really like the Peacemaker Pledge and may put that up in my children’s room at the library at the start of the school year. You can visit Kate Carroll’s I Speak Peace page to learn more about the author and contribute your own I Speak Peace stories.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Peace be upon you: Salam Alaikum

Salam Alaikum: A Message of Peace, by Harris J/Illustrated by Ward Jenkins, (Sept. 2017, Simon & Schuster Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481489386

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young, British, Muslim artist’s YouTube hit reaches an even wider audience with this picture book that celebrates peace, love, and happiness. Called “the Muslim Justin Bieber” by NPR, Harris J’s words, combined by Ward Jenkins digital artwork, come together to create a story where peace is spread, hand to hand, via kind deeds: handing an umbrella to someone in the rain; a balloon; a cup of coffee – each recipient paying it forward and spreading kindness to another. The characters from the book come together to hold hands, forming a human chain of love and understanding that embraces the world.

“Salam alaikum” means “peace be upon you”; the formal and informal greeting, in both English and Arabic, greets readers at the beginning of the book. The response, “wa alaikuma salam” – “and upon you, peace” – leaves the reader in peace at the book’s close. The kindness spread from one hand to another is depicted as a golden glow that grows as it’s passed on. The story is optimistic, bright, and filled with hope more importantly, it’s a call to action for everyone who reads it, who witnesses this message, to be part of the change for good. That’s a message we really want to pass on, especially now. The cast of characters is diverse, and the text is bold, black, and stands out against the pages, making it an easy read-aloud. The refrain, “Assalamu Alaikum”, appears throughout in large, scripted font, the message standing out.

Salam Alaikum sends a positive message about peace and living together as a global community. It’s a strong and upbeat choice for storytimes and collections.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Feed your brain with picture book nonfiction!

There is so much good nonfiction out for younger readers this Fall!

Refugees & Migrants (Children in Our World), by Ceri Roberts/Illustrated by Hanane Kai
(August 2017, Barron’s Educational Series), $9.99, ISBN: 9781438050201
Recommended for readers 6-10

A hot-button topic today, Refugees & Migrants answers the tough questions that children ask: “Why would people leave their homes?” “What is a migrant – or a refugee?” Illustrations and concise text offer explanations that seek to foster empathy and empower kids to make a difference in the world around them. Barron’s Children in Our World series addresses difficulties that too many children in our world face today, and sensitively explain these issues to readers while giving them the power to make changes. Additional titles look at Poverty & Hunger, Racism & Intolerance (2018), and Global Conflict (2018). These books are a strong addition to elementary nonfiction shelves and provide a great opportunity to talk to your kids about what they see on the news, how they feel about it, and what we can all do, together, to make the world a better place.


Where’s Your Hat, Abe Lincoln? (Young Historians), by Misti Kenison,
(Sept. 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492652502
Recommended for readers 2-5

Poor Abe Lincoln can’t find his hat, and he needs it in time to read the Gettysburg Address! Harriet Tubman is leading slaves to freedom, and Frederick Douglass is writing a book. Can any of his friends help him? This is the second in Misti Kenison’s Young Historians board book series (the first, being Cheer Up, Ben Franklin!). Each book features historical figures from periods in American History, with cartoony expressions and simple, one-sentence character actions that lay the groundwork for future learning. Everything ends on a happy note, and the end of the book includes historical figure profiles and a timeline. Fun for every historian’s library, no matter what your age.


Dangerous Jane, by Suzanne Slade/Illustrated by Alice Ratterree,
(Sept. 2017, Peachtree Publishers), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-56145-913-1
Recommended for readers 4-8

Jane Addams was an activist for the poor and for peace. She founded Hull House, a settlement house in Chicago, where she took care of her neighbors by providing food, childcare, English lessons – anything anyone needed to live their lives with dignity. When World War I broke out in Europe, Jane organized the Women’s Peace Party, and led the International Congress of Women, to talk about ways to bring the war and suffering to an end. She endured angry press from those who would call her a traitor; that she cared more for people overseas than in her own home – she was even named The Most Dangerous Woman in America by the FBI! Ultimately, Dangerous Jane was the first American woman to receive the Nobel peace prize. Through all the press, good and bad, Jane maintained her dignity and continued caring for others until the end of her life. Dangerous Jane is an inspiring story rendered in washed-out watercolors that communicate quiet strength, like the book’s subject. Jane stands out in her green dresses and skirts, against the bleak landscape of war and poverty. A biography, timeline, and selected bibliography completes this book.


Baby Animals Playing, by Suzi Eszterhas
(Oct. 2017, OwlKids Books), $14.95, ISBN: 9781771472975
Recommended for readers 0-6

Wildlife photographer and advocate Suzi Eszterhaus put together one of the cutest books ever. It’s all right in the title: Baby. Animals. Playing. Who wouldn’t squeal at just the expectation of what’s to come? Full-color photos of baby animals (and their parents) at play will make anyone fall in love, instantly. Brief nonfiction text gives some background information on how Momma bears teach their cubs to fish for salmon, or how jackal pups fight over who gets to play with a ball of elephant poop. Which will, doubtless, be most kids’ favorite part of this book (it was for my 5 year-old). Eszterhas invites readers to connect with animals and nature by looking at photos, reading books, and going outside and immersing themselves in nature, just like baby animals do; it’s a nice call to get the kids outside and away from TV and electronics.


Bugs From Head to Tail, by Stacey Roderick/Illustrated by Kwanchai Moriya,
(Oct. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771387293
Recommended for readers 3-7

The third book in the “From Head to Tail” series gives readers an up-close look at bugs. We get rhinoceros beetle horns and luna moth antennae; tarantula hair (eeeek) and millipede legs, and a trick question! There are more facts to discover (tarantulas flick hair from their bellies at attackers… I know it would make me run screaming), with cute, wide-eyed bugs to attract readers. Kwanchai Moriya’s paper collage art continues to be visually exciting, popping off the pages. Additional bugs profiled at the end, plus a note about arthropods – the bugs profiled in this book – make this a great addition to bug books in primary collections. And if you have a kid like this young lady, whose love of bugs got her published in a scientific journal at 8 years old, you definitely want this book around to foster them!


Animals at Night, by Anne Jankéliowitch/Illustrated by Delphine Chedru
(Oct. 2017,Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $19.99, ISBN: 9781492653196
Recommended for readers 6-10

This is a fun look at nocturnal animals in 12 different habitats, from the forest to more urban settings. You know when you see a museum display, with information about each animal in the display? That’s how nocturnals are presented here; each spread shows animals interacting in their environment, with a descriptive paragraph about each creature in the margins. Glow in the dark adds some more fun to the mix: a question is presented in each spread, answerable when readers turn off the lights to reveal the answers (answers are also at the back of the book, for any party poopers). With bright, bold animals that stand out against their night time backgrounds and glow in the dark challenges to find answers, it’s a fun addition to nonfiction collections for intermediate readers. Originally published in French in 2016. Pair this one with Tracey Hecht’s Nocturnals books for a nice fiction/nonfiction display.