Came across this book at the library and was happy to see content like this making it mainstream (and not niche!).
It's well written, also real and optimistic.
"Mothers are superheroes when they're battling cancer, and this empowering picture book gives them an honest yet spirited way to share the difficult experience with their kids."
Image result for young gifted and black
A neat compilation of the lives and achievements of 52 heroes of color across borders and over many decades. Two things I really liked about the book:

1) the breadth of talents - we read about athletes, entertainers, astronauts, activists, leaders, and writers, and we also have a millionaire, an arctic explorer, a chess player, and a nurse
2) the countries we get to travel - from the U.S and UK to Jamaica, South Africa, France, Ghana, short bios introduce us to inspiring black achievers all over the world.
The illustrations are bold and colorful. My favorite spread however is the "Hall of Fame" that showcases real photographs. A final note - this book is wonderful but also important, almost necessary, because young dreamers of color need role models too. As the author puts it, "if you can't see it, you can't be it." #0andUp #RepresenationMatters #WeNeedDiverseBooks
Title: A Black Hole is Not a Hole
Author: Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano
Illustrator: Michael Carroll

We picked up this book on black holes around the time we lost one of Science's brightest stars, Stephen Hawking.
My 9 yr old and I have been thoroughly enjoying the fundamentals of something so absolutely intriguing, humbling, and fascinating! I highly recommend it to any adult or child that wants to get a first grip on the concept of black holes.  #PictureThis #0andUp

#PictureThis
"No, don't stop...keep reading, read more," my son insisted several times.
And when we got to the finish line, we slowed down...sighed...and smiled.

Outstanding. Thank you, Jason Reynolds.

Celebrating HIDDEN WOMEN: Multicultural Children's Book Day, 2018

HAPPY MULTICULTURAL CHILDREN’S BOOK DAY!
Here’s to bringing more books from around the world to bookshelves everywhere! #ReadYourWorld
This is my book review for MCBD 2018.

TITLE:
HIDDEN WOMEN – The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race (Ages 8 +)

AUTHOR:
Rebecca Rissman

PUBLISHER:
Capstone Press

On this exact same day (Jan 27th) in 1967, Apollo 1 swallowed up three NASA astronauts. NASA came out with a plaque: A rough road leads to the stars, to learn from the tragedy and to stay inspired. The quote, however, aptly captures the spirit in the lives of the women this book explores.

In a time of social and cultural oppression in America, in a time when few women pursued higher education or worked in STEM, in a time when racism was rampant, in a time when the nation raced to reach the moon, brilliant black women persevered and succeeded, but were never celebrated. This sums up why we need this book – why it is important for us, and children in particular, to read the book.

The chapters in this book offer detailed accounts of the invaluable contribution of six women in particular – Katherine Johnson, Miriam Mann, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, Annie Easley, and Christine Darden. They were “computers,” engineers, programmers, and excellent mathematicians. But they were also strong women that fought gender and color discrimination every single day at work, in spite of NASA’s scientific quest heavily relying on their technical expertise. As we read through their work spanning more than two decades collectively, from the 50s to the 70s, we get great insight into both America’s Space Race (with the Soviet Union) and into the era of segregation.

Rissman’s writing is lucid, making it a great read for children. The language is powerful and motivational in many instances. The book also does a good job of covering historical space-related events and provides the big picture where the work of these ‘hidden’ women made a difference. It also presents several anecdotes to show kids how racial bias affected their careers. The most wonderful feature is the inclusion of real photographs – they are fascinating, and help kids connect with the story. The epilogue is an overview of the work of women in recent times that continue to break gender barriers in Space Engineering. The book ends with relevant back matter.

My 9 -year-old son made some artwork right after we finished the book, and dedicated it to his grand-uncle, a mathematician, who contributed to India’s Space Research Organization for decades.

Similar in essence to the popular movie, “Hidden Figures,” and highly relevant in the current social and pollical climate, this book is a timely and empowering read for children. We need many such books to fill up our bookshelves in homes, schools, and libraries.

Note: This book was sent to me by Capstone Press towards MCBD, in an effort to promote multicultural literacy. But the decision to review it was mine.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors
BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal BoweGokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

2018 Author Sponsors
We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.
TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.
Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta
Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/
Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.



The Hundred Dresses



by Eleanor Estes and illustrated by Louis Slobodkin
Ages: 7+
Realistic Fiction


Polish-American Wanda Petronski is the target of ridicule in her school, mostly for her name. But more significantly for wearing the same shabby blue dress to school every day. When picked on, Wanda claims to have a hundred dresses lined up in her closet. Popular classmate Peggy is in the habit of grilling Wanda about this every morning for harmless pleasure. The silent accomplice to this, Maddie, on the other hand can see how the ritual can impact Wanda. However she chooses to do nothing, to simply stand and watch. Until one day Wanda and her family move away to the big city where they think they will be better accepted. When the "hundred dresses" finally surface, Maddie     feels awful. Sleepless and restless she wishes she could have done something. Maddie and Peggy go on a mission to let Wanda know how they truly feel, and in the process are in for a surprise!

Robi Dobi


By Madhur Jaffrey, Illustrated by Amanda Hall
Age:7+
Fantasy, Adventure

It starts off with Kabbi Wahabbi (the mouse) running around frantically for help. It's understandable considering he is drenched in smelly orange paint so much so that he is unrecognizable! And who did it? The wicked Slimey Kimey. Robi Dobi, the genial elephant, promises to help him. And that's how an exciting adventure gets kicked off! An escapade in which a horde of engaging characters join the caravan, like Kamla-saurus (The Great Painter) and Maya Wishkaya (of The Dancing Butterflies). There is also an edge-of-the-seat segment when the entire team joins General Aman and his Great Parrot Army to rescue Princess Tara from The Wicked Purple Panthers. The journey continues steadily with two more brave rescues enroute, and that of course includes the downfall of Slimey Kimey!

Junonia

By Kevin Henkes
Age:8+
Realistic Fiction

It is a tradition for Alice to vacation in winter and celebrate her birthday with other regulars, in a seaside cottage in Florida. But on her 10th birthday things are a little different. Some of her "extended family" is missing. Instead, 6 year old Mallory enters the scene, and makes everything less perfect for Alice. But Mallory's own story has a tinge of sadness. Henkes authentically brings out Alice's struggle, swinging from girlhood to adoloscence - a trip into the internal psyche trying to balance genuine conflicting emotions. Wrapped tightly around all of this is Alice's passion for shells and the hunt for the rare junonia shell she covets. Kevin Henke's writing - choice of words, similies, simplicity, and style of language. The beach backdrop filled with sky, sea gulls, sun, pelicans, dolphins, cottages, sand and shells!

Picture:HarperCollins

Island of the blue dolphins


By Scott O'dell

Age:10+
Based on a true story
Newbery Medal in 1961


Riveting. Powerful. Moving. Classic. Timeless.
Twelve year old Karana who jumps off a ship to rescue her little brother, only to find him dead on the shore. While the ship and her clan sail away for safer shores, Karana is left stranded on the desolate island for several years. Her survival saga is shrouded in hope, loneliness, courage, perseverance and strength, to stay alive and live beyond!
Scott O'dell is a master - a three time Newbery award winner and the recipient of the highest global honor, the Hans Christian Anderson Author Award. Need I say more?
Picture: Author Website

Paddle-to-the-sea

By Holling.C.Holling
Age:7+
Geo-fiction
Caldcott Honor in 1942


 I am grateful to destiny for leading us to this book. I am duly presenting it here. As my 7 year old promptly adds Paddle-to-the-sea to her list of favorites, I see us both recommending and reading this book several times in the future, and not many books are thatcompelling.

The book was published in 1941. It was a Caldecott Honor Winner. The movie version was an Oscar nominee as well. Holling.C.Holling is generous with natural details in the story and fluent in writing it with a geographic pitch.

A young native American boy carves a wooden man-figure on a canoe and names him Paddle-to-the-sea. After addressing the mechanical needs, he etches the words Please put me back in water – I am Paddle to the sea, along the underbelly of his “toy”. He sets him on a mound of snow in the wild, in Nipigon country in Canada. He hopes and waits for Paddle to start his travel when the ice thaws in spring and the stream takes him along. It is an innocent escapade born out of the boy’s longing for nautical travel and adventure.

Thus begins Paddle’s aquatic journey. The destination is the ocean, Atlantic Ocean. The small river where he sets off eventually leads him to the Great Lakes – the five lakes - Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario. Transiting through the St.Lawrence river to Newfoundland, he journeys to the ocean. Each chapter celebrates an encounter, a gamble, a risk. Sometimes it is a slow struggle. Sometimes it is a quick squirm out. Most times Paddle is just plain lucky. Interspersed are passages of serenity, nothing but the quietness of the still water or the murmur of a brook.

It is not an easy ride for Paddle. He rides a log into a saw mill and escapes by the skin of his teeth. He gets trapped in a marsh. He weathers wind and rain and storms to keep sailing. Sometimes he is washed ashore and later tossed back into the lakes. He even finds himself netted. Passing many pairs of human hands, the message underneath constantly evolves. Paddle also spends a winter with a coastguard. Then there is the wrong detour and the forest fire... he even nosedives in the Niagara Falls. Rivers, lakes, streams, creeks, beaches and bays – Paddle meets every body of water on his trip.

What makes this book wondrous is that every textual page on the left carries informative black-and-white diagrams. Sometimes with little hand written notes and markings. This helps a lot with mastering the topographical details of the lakes and the region, and with visualizing the details of Paddle's intricate risks – be it a saw mill, a canal lock, a lake freighter or a buoy. All these also fuel a sense of proximity to the chaos that we often see on a dock or by the pier. Like these aren’t enough to get ourselves entangled with Paddle and his nail biting water adventures, the pictures on the right burst with color, in striking images of the sky, lakes, wilderness, woods, boats, birds and Paddle himself.

A chapter runs a page, making it a great transitional book for younger readers. It is an engaging resource for learning about the Great Lakes and thus makes wonderful classroom material. The visual support we get through maps, trail markings, one-liner-facts and detailed drawings with named parts is invaluable. It is great literature, in print for generations to learn and enjoy. Offer it to a child who is ready for this kind of a package. More of Holling's geo-historic fiction that tell the story of a journey while celebrating nature are SeabirdMinn of the MississippiPagoo and Tree in the trail.

But was all the drama that Paddle survived worth it at the end? Does Paddle finally make it into the Atlantic ? Does the Indian boy know it? Where is he now? Does he get to see Paddle again? Where is Paddle now?

And in the same vein, has my review done justice to the book? I doubt it. But I feel good, the kind of feeling-good that comes from sharing. And sometimes from discovering something magnificent and glorious. Like the waters of the deep oceans and the dark seas....
Picture: Paperbackswap

Sarah, plain and tall


By Patricia Maclahan
Age:7+
Realistic Fiction
Newbery Medal in 1986


Sarah, plain and tall, comes to join the family in the Prairies, in response to Jacob's ad for a wife, for a mother to his two motherless children Anna and Caleb. However Sarah misses her own home back in Maine - the smell of the ocean, the gulls, and the mist over the cliffs. The children fall in love with Sarah but are soon overcome by fear of being abandoned once again. At one point, it seems like Sarah might never come back. However Sarah comes back and reassures them how much she'll miss them (even more than Maine!) if she left. Narrated in the voice of Anna, this is a story of love and hope in small children,  it is gentle and heartwarming.

Skylark, Caleb's Story, More perfect than the moon, Grandfather's dance, all belong to a series following this book. Patricial Maclahan has several wonderful novels to her credit.

Picture: Wikipedia

Charlotte's web



By E.B White, Illustrated by Garth Williams
Age: 8+
Fiction
Newbery Honor in 1953


The realization that he is going to be slaughtered for a meal one day, leaves Wilbur, the naive and fun loving little pig, in a stupor. While the other gabby animal neighbors are supportive, Charlotte an affectionate and wise spider, goes to great lengths to protect friend Wilbur. She promises to save him. And she keeps it up by making him an overnight celebrity. Wilbur soon becomes the pride of the Zuckermans' and the talk of the town. But Charlotte's passes on doing what she does best - weaving magic words that keep Wilbur alive! A heartwarming tale about friendship and commitment.

Picture:HarperCollins

Mood swings - Books on Wind and its moods for every age!



Title: Gilberto and the Wind
Author & Illustrator: Mary Hall Ets
Publisher: Puffin Books
Age group: Preschool or 4-8 yrs

Little Gilberto runs outside with a balloon hearing the wind call him you-ou-ou. But Wind snatches his balloon away and leaves it on top of a tree. Just like he takes away the clothes from the line or the umbrellas in the rain. Or sometimes Wind is so moody that he wouldn’t even help his kite go up high! But then we also read of all the good times, of how Gilberto and Wind play together with paper sailboats, bubbles and pinwheels. The book ends with a picture of Gilberto flat, with face to ground saying,
Oh Wind! Where are you?
Sh-sh-sh-sh
, answers the Wind, and he stirs one dry leaf to show where he is.


A small boy, a list of fun things, and the friendly breeze thrown in – what more to lift the spirits in a child? Sketches using just three colors, the illustrations more than “capture” the invisible friend for us. Personifying wind with all its temperaments opens up a relationship even for us . Winner of several awards, Mary Hall Ets enables this very gently, playfully and beautifully.

Picture Courtesy: www.librarything.com



Title: The Wind Garden
Author: Angela McAllister
Illustrator: Claire Fletcher
Publisher: Lothrop Lee & Shepard
Age group: 5-8 yrs

The finesse that is evident in the narration probably comes from authoring many dozens of books for Angela McAllister. And Claire Fletcher’s sweeping illustrations of oil paintings in soothing colors (of the invigorated wind, windy places and windblown things) mesh perfectly well!

Ellie pots a few seeds on a city rooftop for old Grandpa who misses walking in the park. But the wind stifles the sprouts. She even tries the strongly stemmed sunflowers. But again the wind ruins it all, crushing Ellie’s desire for a rooftop garden. This leaves an upset Ellie wondering why the wind would do such a thing. But the night she spends at Grandpa’s, something magical happens - she is airlifted and deposited on a lush mountaintop. There she sees a big tree festooned with everything that the wind has carried away for itself, like balloons, lost laundry, Ellie’s lost kite, hats and hankies! Back to reality, Ellie knows what to do. She sets up a wind garden for Grandpa. The two string together windmills, flags and bells. And when the wind blows, it glitters, chimes, shines, rustles, swings and shimmers, enough to make Grandpa very happy!

I love the story for the ending, of how Ellie eventually figured out something that embraces than rebels. It also demonstrates how children can solve in creative ways. Besides, it reminds me to be more accepting of the nature of nature (and to not whine when my pickled lemons don’t get sun-dried on a cloudy afternoon!)

Picture Courtesy: www.abebooks.com



Title: Make Things Fly: poems about the wind
Edited by : Dorothy M. Kennedy
Illustrator: Sasha Meret
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Age Group: 9-12 years

We surge and soar with the wind blowing in every mood in every poem. From rocking a cradle to lifting people off the ground! Snatching things away and rattling doors. There is also a poem for every kind of wind - a tornado, the May wind, the autumn wind and wind on the hill.

The poems are all simple and sized right. There is a pleasing variety that encompasses the different ways in which wind manifests and affects. Sasha Meret’s line drawings in sepia carry the apt quality of imagination and dynamism.

There is also a good mix of poets - American poets like John Ciardi, Margaret Hillert, William Stafford – poets of African-American descent like Countee Cullen, Sundaria Morninghouse, and of Asian descent like Kazue Mizumura. Personally, some brought nostalgia like Christina Rossetti, A.A.Milne and R.L.Stevenson, while some others were new discoveries. Overall, this anthology of 27 poems, suitable for both adult and children, turned out great for read-aloud and was definitely a delight! Here is a sample (an excerpt), and one that we enjoyed -

From "Conversation with a Kite" by Bobbi Katz -
Where are you going my beautiful kite,
flying so high in the sky?
I’m going to visit the lost balloons
that made little children cry.
When I hold your string, oh my magical kite,
why do I feel the wind in my hand?
The wind is a taste of the sky, my young friend,
that I give to a child of the land.

Picture Courtesy: www.amazon.com

A Tree is nice



Title: A Tree is nice
Author: Janice May Udry
Illustration: Marc Simont
Publisher: Scholastic
Age Group: 4-8
Picture : Wikipedia

A Tree is nice seems rather too plain for a title for children. Nothing fancy or funny. But its this quality that's held in all earnestness up until the end that also makes the book enjoyable, without laboring to interpret or analyze.


The book is a Caldecott winner and this calls for dissecting the illustration. Color and black-and-whites alternate; ink drawings draped in gray, follow and precede beautiful watercolors. Especially the watercolors, they glorify the foliage in varying seasons with splurges of warm greens, sometimes with flaming reds and bright yellows in their midst. The book is 11x7 inches in size. This allows for generous detailing of the trunks and twisted branches in varying dimensions, in browns that remind us of barks of dark chocolate. Something about the book gives us that warmth - the thick dirty white paper with rawness resembling recycled material, and the uncomplicated content of the drawings and writing, I think. The fact that is was published in 1956 connects the dots.


Trees are very nice. They fill up the sky.
Every detail about a tree that might seem insignificant or intuitive to the adult fills up the pages alongside illustration that obediently portrays the discussed detail. The text will suit a read-aloud to the little ones, without fuss or frolic. The writing will also make it an encouraging experience for an early reader.


Even if you have just one tree, it is nice too.


Perfect for a swing, a playhouse, as a pirate ship, for nests, for shade, for picnics, or to even rest a hoe - gathering and presenting the obvious truths in succession makes my preschooler nod mirthfully with a new found appreciation for something taken granted. He sometimes pauses his play in the backyard to enlist nice things about a tree, with confidence and care.


A tree is nice to plant......
....
....
You say to people, "I planted that tree."
They wish they had one so they go home and plant a tree too.


Without much ado, we celebrate our planet that bears the trees.

Earth Mother



Title: Earth Mother
Author: Ellen Jackson
Illustrator: Leo & Diane Dillon
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Age Group: 4-8
Picture:

Mother Earth is Bhoodevi, bejeweled and fertile, in Hindu mythology. She is a young African woman in this book. Both epitomize Earth, like a mother - gentle, beautiful, giving.


Earth Mother wakes up and walks across deserts and mesas, touching the lives of bugs, flowers and birds. Soon she meets Man. Man is preparing to catch a frog for breakfast. He thanks Mother for Frog. But he goes on to complain about the Mosquito that annoys him. Nonchalantly, Earth Mother moves on to savannas and plains, tending and caring for her creations on the way.


She filled the water holes and sharpened the thornbushes. Her hand guided a sunbird to a blossom sweet with nectar.


In the north, Earth Mother powdered the trees with snow. Tiny crystals gleamed in the air like diamond dust.


The depth and beauty with which the writing evokes calmness and vigor, that ultimately creates a sense of wonder (for nature), is accomplished in childish simplicity in this book.


Moving on, Mother meets Frog biting into an insect. Frog while thanking her for the Mosquito, whines about Man. Interspersed with these encounters is Earth Mother devoutly "touching" things and lives, in different forms and places. The final meeting with the Mosquito follows the pattern. But Mother walks on unperturbed.


Then she went to sleep....And the world, in its own way, was perfect.

The illustrations meet the standards of the text with an additional quality of mystique. Colorful but in a muted way, a plethora of geometric patterns work in harmony with many diverse landscapes and creatures.

Ellen Jackson's talent is distinct in her attempt to keep the subtle humor intact and apt in the midst of an overwhelming serenity. The circle of life cannot be more interestingly explained to children. And when a book leaves one convinced and spell bound, it is a good piece of work.

There is more information, educational stuff and ideas for Earth Day celebration for children on the author's website here.

Salutations to Earth and her children - man and all things living and lifeless. May we share her and protect her in kind ways. Happy Earth Day!



P.S:
This book reminded my family of a lovely Native American chant we learnt at a music class, that also ended up as a lullaby for a long time for us. You can listen to, or watch it here. I have also added the lyrics below.

The Earth is our Mother
adapted from a Hopi chant

The earth is our mother, we must take care of her (2x)
Hey yana ho yana hey yan yan (2x)

Her sacred ground we walk upon, with every step we take (2x)
Hey yana ho yana hey yan yan (2x)

The earth is our mother, she will take care of us (2x)
Hey yana ho yana hey yan yan (2x)

The sky is our father, we must take care of him...
The rivers are our sisters, we must take care of them...
The trees are our brothers, we must take care of them...

Back of the Bus - For MLK Jr.day


Title:Back of the bus
Author: Aaron Reynolds
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Publisher: Philomel
Age group:4-8

Last year my daughter and I had read Woodson's "The other side" during the week of MLK Jr. day. It had served our intent very well, while ensuring that we stayed in the comfort of Subtlety, and the warmth of a story of two little girls in the countryside. I remember how the girls of different skin tones, afraid of crossing "boundaries", had rightfully chosen to sit on the fence together. I had immediately reviewed it here.

This week we brought home a few books celebrating MLK Jr or what he stood for. Among them I found a gem. It was perfect for us, in that, it helped me inch forward in the right direction on the same subject. This, it did, in two solid ways. For one, we read about actually "crossing a boundary" this time around. Secondly, it was more than subtle. It carried a bit of history and eased me into introducing civil rights and the fight for it. Yet, it was not too big a leap because we still stayed with a boy her age, his perspective and a simple narration of a true incident.

A child is riding the bus that Rosa Parks rode on December 1, 1955, Montgomery, Alabama. And the last trail of italicized words is how the book begins - verbatim. The combination of a boy's perspective of the historical incident while the boy is a piece of fiction, makes it a good book for young children.

We're sittin' right where we we're supposed to - way in back.

The boy's words allowed me to give her the background. The boy is seen peeping out the window of a bus on a wintry morning. That morning ( she later learned) witnessed a solitary act of defiance that sparked a movement, that later changed America. Quite immediately we seem to be looking at a playful boy slouched on the backseat, rolling his marble on a groove on the floor of the bus. In fact Mrs.Parks sitting upfront returns his runaway marble for him. More people get in. The bus is now packed. But in a little while, the boy senses tension. The driver is arguing. It is getting very humid inside because the crowded bus is not moving. The boy's mama does not let him distract himself with his marble, so he sends it back into his pocket. But soon, he gets a grasp of what's happening - of Mrs.Parks not willing to give up her seat for Mr.Blake, the white rider.

But she's sittin' right there,
her eyes all fierce like a lightnin' storm,
like maybe she does belong up there.
And I start thinkin' maybe she does too.


Beside this is a portrait of the lady, her chin up and looking out the window. This is probably the right time to glorify the illustrations. They are generous in earth tones and are extremely realistic and beautiful. They bear the quality that takes us back in time - whatever that is! Floyd Cooper's work is amazing.

Getting back on track, the debate ends inside the bus. The boy sees a handcuffed Rosa Parks being escorted by a policeman. His mama murmurs something to herself and also reassures him that everything is alright. But he feels different, in a good stronger way. He takes his marble from its hiding place and holds it against the sunlight.

That thing shines all brown and golden in the sunlight,
like it's smilin', I think.
'Cuz it ain't gotta hide no more.


I did not labor to explain the marble metaphor to her. The incident was already simmering the idea. History imparted with a childish attitude was very helpful. There was also a lyrical quality to the text that made the read-aloud powerful. The language was African-American and that added authenticity. I had pointed out how, many basic rights, now taken granted, were once forbidden. We went over areas that might have been segregated, like schools and transportation. We went on to predict what now seemingly normal practices carried the potential to be protested one day.

I read elsewhere that Rosa Parks was probably not the first to be arrested for such a "crime", but she was the first prominent figure to have disobeyed, and that probably influenced and motivated many in the nation. Martin Luther King Jr. initiated and continued the bus boycott that Rosa Parks' act had triggered. He was eventually instrumental in bringing social change in America, adopting Gandhian principles.

The other books that we are reading to celebrate history and change, in the context of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday are -
Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change by Michelle Cook

Dad, Jackie and me by Myron Uhlberg.

GIRL WONDER



Title: Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator: Terry Widener
Age Group: 4-8
Publisher: Atheneum/Anne Schwartz Books
Pictures: Amazon (front and back cover images)

When the Independent's crusty old coach took one look at her long, blue skirt, he spit hard on the ground. "Go home missy. You're a girl - and this is baseball".

Athletes and sports figures, and their stories are always inspiring. They are invariably people of determination and hard work. But if they are also people who have fought for change, then to say that their stories are empowering almost becomes an understatement. And I am caught up in such a predicament to describe this book.

Alta Weiss was the first female pitcher in an all-men semipro baseball team in 1907 in Ohio. This book has been inspired by her life. The story itself is laid out as nine "innings", pointing to various time segments in her life.

Baseball was in her blood, clearly demonstrated by an incident of hurling a corncob at a pesky cat in the barn when she was only two. By six, she was throwing ball for hours. And mostly she was bang on target. Those who witnessed it knew she was a "girl wonder" right then. Nothing stopped her. She would wake up just to practise in the barn during the wee hours. Throwing a ball with skill and style came to her quite naturally , be it with the boys in town or amidst grown men on the field.

One day, Alta met the coach of the town's semi pro team, the "Independents". He did nothing but doubt her, and her gender. Desperate to find a place in the team, she reminded the coach of the crowd her female presence in the game would draw. The ticket-sales pitch worked and Alta joined the team! Rest of the story is how she made jaws drop at the ball park. The crowd exploded in shock and excitement as she pitched for the first time during the summer of 1907, while she was still a teenager.

Alta Weiss went on to become a doctor, like her dad. But she never ceased to share her story or play ball with any little girl who had a cap pulled down and overalls full of mud.

The book carries illustrations in bold and bright acrylics. The drawings have exaggerated features and dimensions that bring in more power and drive to the narration. This book won the Parents Choice Gold Award in 2003. Also, both the author and the illustrator have many wonderful books on their resume.

My own little girl's gross motor skills are not sometimes good enough to catch a forceful ball. I would not be surprised if girls like her shy away when the boys at the park or on the street come out with a ball. Reading this book might help. All the more since the back cover of the book (see below) held her attention for quite sometime.

When Mommy Was Mad


TITLE: When Mommy was mad
AUTHOR: Lynne Jonell
ILLUSTRATOR: Petra Mathers
AGE GROUP: 3-5 yrs
PUBLISHER: G.P.Putnam's Sons
Picture: fantasticfiction.co.uk

Don't some of us, sometimes, hang up on an annoying telemarketer and carry over the frown to the innocent one demanding a snack? Or nod in affirmation to an interrogative from the little one while we are pensive or depressed. Or realize we just said yes to using the permanent marker while we were busy playing back in our head an incident from work! For a multitude of reasons, and sometimes not involving kids, we just don't seem to be our usual selves. And to make it worse, we are made to realize this by our own children.

Picture books are wonderful when the child can relate to it. This book accomplishes that and more - it actually makes the parent and child exchange perspectives. While it can be difficult to see how parental moods impact children, it can also be important for children to see how it can be a struggle for parents to suppress situational emotions and act normal.

I fell in love with the stick-figured illustrations in crayon coloring, outlined and framed with sharpened color pencils I suppose. It complements the child-centric incident with ease. The text, kept simple and casual, works in unison as well. For the issue dealt in this book, I would imagine it would be hard to stay away from a serious tone or a counseling approach. But neither happens here. The text, font inclusive, works well with the voice and mind of a child.

She burned the toast. She banged the pots and pans. And she forgot to kiss Daddy good-bye.

The book introduces Mom as not being in her usual mood. And her boys Robbie and Christopher are quick to sense that. The little ones are often the first to sense and react to aberrations in the household. And this book lightheartedly discusses the discomfort that children face when parents are just different at certain times or certain days.

Now, Robbie, the younger one, questions his own behavior. Guilt is one of the primary emotions. Having crossed that out, Robbie and Christopher try to impress Mom, who still seems retracted. The boys are confounded. After a while, Robbie gets frustrated and turns cranky himself. Mom's mood is rubbing off on him. But not for long - his funny ways finally win Mom over. She smiles and jokes - Mom is back! She even plants that overdue kiss on Dad when he walks in sullen that evening.

Normalcy is almost a need for growing children. And as parents it can be harder for some of us, to remind ourselves that the effect of our moods (or body language) can extend and encompass those in our aura. I liked this book because of how the emotions, while still being naked and honest, seemed lighter and upbeat in spirit. No tensed drama or drudgery. A book-next-door (book) if I can say:)

More of Robbie can be found here, on Lynne Jonell's website here.

Tacky and the winter games - Winter Sports II


TITLE: Tacky and the winter games
AUTHOR: Helen Lester
ILLUSTRATOR: Lynn Munsinger
AGE GROUP: 4-8
PUBLISHER: Sandpiper
Picture: Amazon.com

Penguins in training for the Olympics. Of course it has to be the winter Olympics! Add loads of wit. And we have an entertaining, educational and athletic package!

Some of us are probably familiar with Tacky - Tacky the penguin. And this one belongs to the same series of books. It begins with Tacky's friends declaring The winter games are coming, we must must must be in shape to win win win.And that's when the riot starts! The next few pages show fluffy creatures with sharp beaks jumping ropes in a row, lifting weights, and even doing sit-ups. But not Tacky. He is digging into his junk food and watching too much TV while his counterparts are loading up on 'training meals' and good sleep. Its soon time for the opening ceremony and the athletes walk in with their chests thrust out. The anthem is played (which by the way goes With our beaks held high and our bellies held low...) And the medals are on display - not bad, pretty good, big winner.

The first event is the bobsledless race and our team is called Team Nice Icy Land. Tacky carries the team on his belly and slides down to reach the finish line in record time only to hear the official say This is bobsledLESS race. The ski jumping event follows. Picture helmet-ed penguins with frozen fish skis, and that's exactly what you will see. But Tacky, of course, is tumbling and crumbling - simply because his "skis" thawed when he was "warming up" near the fireplace right before the game. By now, we get the idea that Tacky is not helping his team win, at all, and his friends are annoyed with him. Is the riot over? Not as yet. In fact it peaks further down when Tacky actually swallows the baton during the relay race and ends up going under the x-ray machine!

But wait.
Had Team Nice Icy Land really won?
Did Tacky have the baton?
Without the baton, Team Nice Icy Land would be disqualified.


Suspense mounts and smiles fade away. Not for us. But for the little ones, it is a nail-biting finish.
Lynn Munsinger's illustrations are detailed, brimming with humor and intelligence, a combination that carries the story with ease. A light-hearted and yet glorious introduction to routines of official gaming events, training for games, the Olympics and particularly the winter Olympics. A gold winner shall I say?

Snowboard Twist - Winter Sports I


TITLE: Snowboard Twist
AUTHOR: Jean Craigbead Geroge
ILLUSTRATOR: Wendell Minor
AGE GROUP: 4-8 yrs
PUBLISHER: Katherine Tegen Books
Picture: Author website.

I picked up this book because, considering how books on sports and outdoor activities are relatively rare to find, one that involved snowboarding was hard to pass. The little one is taking lessons in ice skating and we do live just a few hours away from some generously snow covered ski slopes. These should qualify us I thought. I also succumbed to the seasonal temptation of a book sporting icy blues and whites, with evergreens all around. The more important rationale was to expose the little girl to adventure sports - to learn and enjoy the subtler details and experiences of such a sport while we safely resorted to accomplishing this through a picture book. At least for now:)

Axel is on his way to Glory bowl in the Teton mountains with his dad Dag and his dog Grit. The place has just received heavy snowfall and it seems perfect to bring out the skis and snowboards. But fresh snow with its weak slushy older layers beneath could trigger an avalanche. Dag is a snow patrol officer in the mountains and is testing the slopes for avalanche signs before the skiers came in. Kelly, Axel's snowboarding rival joins them there. Axel and Kelly start showing off their snowboarding moves, neglecting the potential for disaster around them. Just then, an unimportant event gets a snowball rolling, setting off an avalanche. However, Grit leaps into action and ensures that all ends well.

What we actually took away from the book was an interesting insight into ski slopes, snow conditions and the science of avalanches. Just the backdrop of the tall mountains and pines, piles of slush and snow brought out through impressive artwork left us thirsty for ruggedness. However, considering how the stage was set with all the action, the text as we approached the end seemed to be lacking in zest.

Jean Craigbead George has many books encompassing nature, for children and young adults, to her credit. But she still claims - "The list is not really long when you consider that there are almost 250 million beautiful plants and animals on this earth that I could have written about." This book is third in line, following two of her other "outdoor adventures" books called "Cliff Hanger" and "Fire Storm". If I were to come a full circle and jot down one more excuse, it seemed like a good book to celebrate another amazing form of nature and how giving it is. Inspired by the book, we are now reading up more on how the sport came about and about serious snowboarding races. And we like this book for having initiated just that. Also, Jean Craigbead George, Newbery medal winner (Julie of the Wolves), has an energizing website: http://www.jeancraigheadgeorge.com/. Now where is that backpack?