Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Books About Kindness

We’re heading toward the holidays, which means my library system is gearing up for their annual “It’s Time for Kind” campaign, where we encourage our communities to show kindness to one another. This year, it means a LOT. I won’t get on too much of a soapbox here, but I will say that I live in a state where people are arriving scared and alone, and need kindness more than ever. These books have been out for a few months, so consider these when you’re putting together readers advisory lists or book displays, or planning storytimes this season.

All You Need, by Howard Schwartz/Illustrated by Jasu Hu, (Apr. 2022, Neal Porter Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823443291

Ages 3-7

Written as a poem, All You Need is a meditation on what one needs for a fulfilling life, from the basics – sun and rain, food and water – to the higher needs, like “a place where you are welcome” and “words to share your thoughts”. Illustrator Jasu Hu tells the story of a young woman who grows to be an artist, nurtured by the land and the people around her. Inspired by Schwartz’s story, illustrator Jasu Hu’s watercolor illustrations bring a tenderness to the work that fits beautifully with the gentle lyrics and leaves touches of Chinese culture throughout the story, including a swallow, ever-present in the tale, to deliver words of happiness and homecoming. Back matter from Schwartz and Hu each explains their motivation. The main character presents as Asian, with touches of Asian culture and landscape throughout. All You Need is a reminder of how simple and fragile our needs are and is a beautiful opening story for storytimes.

All You Need has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

 

Luli and the Language of Tea, by Andrea Wang/Illustrated by Hyewon Yum, (May 2022, Neal Porter), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823446148

Ages 3-7

A group of parents file into an ESOL (English as a Second Language) class, while their children head into the free childcare area while their parents are in class. The children play alone, not understanding English, until Luli decides to bring everyone together with one word that they all understand: tea. She sets up a tea party around a table and calls out “Chá!”, the Chinese word for “tea”; the children recognize the word, which sounds similar to the word for tea in their languages: Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Spanish, German, Swahili, and Portuguese. The children sit together and share tea while the caregiver watches, delighted. Showing that language brings us together more than it divides us, Luli and the Language of Tea features a group of children from all over the world coming together in friendship. Each time the word “tea” is spoken it is illustrated in a colorful font with a phonetic spelling in parentheses. Endpapers feature colorful cups of tea from different countries. Colored pencil illustrations add a childlike innocence to this joyful story. Back matter includes an author’s note, a note on the languages spoken in the story, and notes on immigrants living in the U.S. and how they enjoy their tea. Author Andrea Wang’s website includes a bibliography of sources and audio of various children’s literature creators speaking the word for “tea” in their own languages; there’s also a downloadable educator’s guide. An excellent storytime choice.

Luli and the Language of Tea has starred reviews from Booklist and Shelf Awareness.

 

 

La Casita de Esperanza, by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2022, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823452033

Ages 4-8

This is the Spanish translation of a book I fell in love with when I reviewed it in July. Terry Catasús Jennings writes about a little home that welcomes a family new to the U.S., and how that family turns that little house into a sanctuary where they, and their extended family, can come, be safe, and begin a new life. The Spanish text is lyrical and makes for a beautiful readaloud; Pura Belpré medalist Raúl Colón’s pencil and watercolor artwork frames pivotal moments in the characters’ lives to create powerful moments, from arriving home to a bustling household to people coming together to forge a new life when they’ve been forced to leave the old one behind. I have copies of both the English and Spanish translations on my shelves. One of the best books you’ll read this year.

Visit Terry Catasús Jennings’s webpage to see more of her books and read her own story; the inspiration for La Casita de Esperanza.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Little House of Hope is the story of America

The Little House of Hope, by Terry Catasús Jennings/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2022, Neal Porter Books/Holiday House), $18.99, ISBN: 9780823447169

Ages 4-8

A family arrives from Cuba and finds a home to call their own as they build their new lives in America. In time, La Casita – the little house – welcomes other family members and later, a family who needs a place to call home; together, they all work toward making the casita and America their new home. Terry Catasús Jennings was inspired by anger to write this story, after a realtor claimed to never rent to “Hispanics because they lived four families to a house and always destroyed the properties where the lived”. She was also inspired by the memories of growing up in her own casita. Here, the Definitely Dominguita author tells the stories of families who come here to be safe. In quietly passionate storytelling, she tells readers about the fears that spurred these people to leave their homes and come to the States, and she tells readers how these families all worked together to turn the house into a warm, loving casita: adults and children coming together to paint and clean, to mow lawns and make artwork, and how the casita inspired them. A father starts their own landscaping business. A mom starts a daycare in the casita. Another mother secures a job as a high school Spanish teacher, and a father becomes an accountant. A daughter uses her passion for collage to welcome new families to the casita, and when they’re ready to move on, sends them off with artwork to display in their home.

Pura Belpré medalist (2006) and Eric Carle Honor (2021) illustrator Raúl Colón pencil and watercolor artwork uses perspective and soft color to create beautiful moments: a family, looking up at la casita; gathered around a table, smiling; confiding in one another; a father, looking through the window and seeing a full home ready to welcome him. The Little House of Hope reminds us all that this is what America should be when we’re at our best.

 

Posted in picture books

Celebrate World Meditation Day with Already a Butterfly

It’s World Meditation Day, and to relax and ease yourself into a meaningful day, I’ve got a gorgeous book to share with you, by Julia Alvarez and Raúl Colón.

Already a Butterfly: A Meditation Story, by Julia Alvarez/Illustrated by Raúl Colón,
(June 2021, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781627799324

Ages 5-9

Mari Posa is a young butterfly who has way too much to do and not enough time to do it: she has to gulp down nectar, pollinate a whole field, do her wing exercises, and then she has her future to think about! There’s just no time to enjoy being a butterfly, or take in the beautiful flowers she meets through her day… Luckily, a flower bud named Bud is there to teach Mari the secret with feeling happy “being just who I am”. Raúl Colón’s watercolor, pencil, and crayon artwork is dreamlike, with gorgeous images of nature and person-butterfly hybrids cascading across the pages. Together, Julia Alvarex and Raúl Colón have created an story with purpose, where a child of color is not only the star of the book, but one who experiences joy simply by acknowledging her own existence. Her name, Mari Posa itself, is a lovely nod to Latinx culture; mariposa is a Spanish term for butterfly. Helpful meditation techniques help lead kids and caregivers through the process, from breathing, to visualization, to being aware of one’s surroundings. I love this beautiful story. Perfect for a yoga and/or mindfulness storytime, before bedtime, or celebrating the beautiful beginning to a new day.

An author’s note on author Julia Alvarez’s own experience with meditation and her granddaughters, while volunteering at the Marisposa DR Foundation, describes her inspiration for Already a Butterfly and includes photos of Ms. Alvarez with her Mariposas in training. Colorful endpapers sprout flowers that readers will want to stop and enjoy again and again.

Print out some copies of the author’s Tips for Meditation, and make them available to your families! If there was ever a time to encourage our kids to practice mindfulness and meditation, this is it.

 

Julia Alvarez (@writerjalvarez) is the author of numerous bestselling and award-winning novels including How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of Butterflies, collections of poems, and works of nonfiction as well as picture books. She has won the Pura Belpré Award, the Américas Award, the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature, and the National Medal of Arts.

Raúl Colón (@raul.colon.7140) has illustrated several highly acclaimed picture books, including Draw!; the New York Times-bestselling Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt; Susanna Reich’s José! Born to Dance; and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Bookjoy, Wordjoy, Reading Joy!

Bookjoy, Wordjoy, by Pat Mora/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (May 2018, Lee & Low), $17.95, ISBN: 9781620142868

Recommended for readers 5-9

Fans of words and language will enjoy this book of poems by award-winning author and poet Pat Mora, beautifully illustrated by award-winning children’s book artist Raúl Colón. Each spread presents vibrant, colorful artwork with accompanying wordplay celebrating books, words, and the fun of playing with language; English and Spanish words come together like old friends; or, as Mora would have it, “toast and jelly/o queso y tortillas”. Most of the poems flow in free verse, and every selection is upbeat and loaded with a sense of play. Artist Raúl Colón’s images have a lovely Mexican influence, with bright colors coming together and communicating in rich visuals.

This is a great jumping-off point for introducing younger readers and writers to poetry, particularly free verse poetry, which demands less rigor and allows more freedom and imagination. Give kids visual points and ask them to think up their own poems, or flip the tables and introduce them to mural art by taping some butcher paper (or the blank side of an old roll of wrapping paper) across a wall, a table, or another long, flat surface. Let them go wild, and then ask them to talk about what they see. You’ll be amazed at a kid’s natural poetry.

Posted in Non-Fiction

Portrait of an American Activist: Listen – How Pete Seeger Got America Singing

Listen – How Pete Seeger Got America Singing, by Leda Schubert/Illustrated by Raúl Colón, (June 2017, Roaring Brook Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626722507

Recommended for readers 5-10

Leda Schubert and illustrator Raúl Colón create a lyrical and beautiful tribute to singer, songwriter, and activist Pete Seeger. From the beginning of his career, strumming his banjo or guitar, Seeger led by example; first, by singing and encouraging his audience to chime in; later, through his activism: standing in peace lines to support unions, protest war, marching for civil rights, and caring for the environment. Whether he was talking to grownups or the children that loved his songs, Seeger always encouraged participation – “That’s what gonna save the human race” – and awareness. Schubert weaves Seeger’s song titles with the story text to highlight the relationship between Seeger’s songs and the causes he supported.

Raul Colon’s art is beautiful. His technique provides both beautiful texture a vintage glow to his images, and his spread featuring Seeger’s boat, the Clearwater, sailing down the Hudson River, is breathtaking. Beautiful artwork and stunning images make Listen a great addition to picture book biography collections and a great read when explaining social justice activism to younger readers.

Leda Schubert holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children and Young Adults and was a core faculty member until 2012. She is the author of many award-winning titles, including The Princess of Borscht, Ballet of the Elephants, and Monsieur Marceau, winner of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction. Leda lives in Plainfield, Vermont, with her husband and two dogs. To learn more, and to download a curriculum guide, visit ledaschubert.com.

 

 

Raúl Colón has illustrated several highly acclaimed picture books, including Draw!; the New York Times-bestselling Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt; Susanna Reich’s José! Born to Dance; and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.

Leda Schubert provides some great links to recordings and videos of Pete Seeger here.

Praise for Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing

★“Schubert and Colón ably demonstrate one of their book’s final assertions: ‘there really was nobody like Pete Seeger.’”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“A rousing tribute to a singular musician and activist who ‘walked the talk.’” —Publishers Weekly

“This inspiring picture book biography about one of America’s greatest folk heroes is sure to get a new generation of children singing.” —School Library Journal

“An inspiring and heartfelt tribute to, as Schubert calls him, a ‘true American hero.’” —Horn Book

Giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Listen: How Pete Seeger Got America Singing (U.S. addresses; one entry per person.) Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance!