Multicultural Children’s Book Day Blog Post and Book Review

I am excited to take part in this year’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day! The MCCBD team have asked me to include a ton of great information in this blog post (including info about a book drive with First Book) so (deep breath) here goes.

Book Review: She Doesn’t Want the Worms

As part of this book day, I received a free multicultural picture book directly from the author to review.

She Doesn’t Want the Worms

by Karl Beckstrand, illustrated by David Hollenbach

She Doesn’t Want the Worms is a bilingual picture book about a girl who is offered a bunch of creepy, crawly insects and for some reason she refuses to eat them! The text is in both English and Spanish, and the book also includes a pronunciation guide.

Preschooler Monkey really enjoyed this book. She loved counting the critters and talking about how yucky they were. (Toddler Monkey listened, but I don’t think she was quite ready for this one.)

For me, the highlight of this book was the incredible, fascinatingly grotesque collage illustrations that are at once intense and playful. These images are just so unique, I couldn’t stop looking at them. Really, it almost felt like an art book.

The text, however, didn’t quite match up to the quality of the illustrations. I think the story was meant to be a mystery in the vein of the classic children’s book The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, but instead, the story just felt incomplete rather than mysterious, leaving a fun-to-read, but somewhat clumsy rhyming poem. (And in Spanish it does not seem to rhyme or flow as well as it does in English, but bear in mind that I am not fluent in Spanish.)

She Doesn’t Want the Worms Activity

There is so much you can do with this book–but to me the most natural thing to do is to go outside and find some bugs.

If you live in a warmer part of the world, all you need is a shovel or even just a plastic cup to use as a shovel. Go outside, dig into the dirt with your shovel, and see what you can see! If it’s a nice day, you can spend quite a bit of time out there, and maybe even take a crayon and paper to draw your findings (hint: worms are pretty easy to draw even for toddlers…). What words would you use to describe the bugs you found?

Unfortunately, here in Boston it is currently winter and most days, it is wicked cold and usually not ideal weather for bug hunting (I can usually find at least one inside my house though…). You might want to check out a local science museum. For example, the Museum of Science in Boston has a ton of bugs to look at and even an indoor butterfly exhibit. If this is a little too far or too expensive for you, an alternative suggestion is to choose one bug from the story and simply talk about it. What color is it? How many legs does it have? Do a little research and find out how many varieties the bug comes in and how they are different. Which one is your favorite? Have you read other books about the book you chose? Can you sculpt it out of play dough?

More about Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Multicultural Children’s Book Day was created by Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press.

Their Mission: Despite census data that shows 37%  of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

More info from them: “MCCBD team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.”

MCCBD’s Sponsors

MCCBD’s  2015 Sponsors include Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, Gold SponsorsSatya House,  MulticulturalKids.com,   Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Silver Sponsors: Junior Library GuildCapstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books,  The Omnibus Publishing. Bronze Sponsors:Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing,  Rainbow Books,   Author FeliciaCapers,   Chronicle Books   Muslim Writers Publishing, East West Discovery Press.

Virtual Book Drive with First Book

MCCBD is also partnering with First Book to offer a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found HERE.

Children’s Book Council

MCCBD is collaborating with the Children’s Book Council to highlight wonderful diversity books and authors on an ongoing basis all year.

Co-Hosts

MCCBD Collage

The following list is a select group of bloggers who will assist in extending the reach and spreading the word of Multicultural Children’s Book Day.

Africa to America

All Done Monkey

The Educators’ Spin on It

Growing Book by Book

InCultural Parent

Kid World Citizen

Mama Smiles

Multicultural Kid Blogs

Sprout’s Bookshelf

 

Phew! I hope that’s everything! If I’ve forgotten something, I may update this page occasionally. As a grand finale I’m going to include their little graphic with information on how you can participate too:

 

ways to celebrate

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Guest Post and Giveaway: The Gossip File by Anna Staniszewski

9781492604631-PR

Happy 2015 from Monkey Poop!

For my very first blog post this year, I’m excited to have a Q&A guest post from Anna Staniszewski, author of the The Gossip File (Book 3 in the super fun Dirt Diary series). This post is part of a whole virtual book tour, and the publisher is offering a giveaway of the entire series (see the Rafflecopter widget at the bottom of this post). Without further ado, here’s the question for the author.

Q: In The Gossip File Rachel is pretending to be someone she’s not to hang out with the cool kids. What’s your advice to kids and teens about finding a group to hang out with?

Anna Staniszewski: When I was Rachel’s age, I tried on various personas and interests in an attempt to figure out where I fit. Was I was one of those girls who spent her life at the mall? Was I into moody music and all-black outfits? Or was I a runner who hung out with the cross country team? I wound up testing out each of these versions of me, seeing which one felt the best.

The truth was, I could feel comfortable in different groups—I loved hanging out with the cross country team and sometimes a trip to the mall was fun—but I eventually realized I was at my happiest when I was doing theater and music. Those were the interests that I’d had for most of my life, and it was when I found other people who were as into them as I was that I finally accepted the fact that they were the biggest part of me.

But I’m glad I tried out those different versions of me because it helped show that I wasn’t just one thing, and it helped me to get to know different kinds of people. But I’m also glad that I eventually was honest with myself about what mattered most. I could have spent my teenage years shopping instead of writing plays and making music, but I think that time would have wound up feeling a little empty because I wouldn’t have been doing what I really loved.

I suppose that’s my advice: It’s great to try out different groups and interests, especially if you’re not sure where you fit best, but you also want to make sure the things you wind up doing and the people you end up hanging out with are ones that make you feel the most like you. If you spend all your time pretending to be someone else, it can be fun at first, but (as Rachel discovers) it can also be exhausting. Ultimately, you want to make sure you don’t lose the things about you that make you who you are.

Book synopsis from the publisher:

The Gossip File:

•Chandra lets little kids pee in the pool.

•Melody stole $ from the café register.

•Ava isn’t who she says she is…

Ava is cool. Ava is confident. Ava is really Rachel Lee who is lying her butt off.

Rachel is visiting her dad at a resort in sunny Florida and is ready for two weeks of relaxing poolside, trips to Disney World – and NOT scrubbing toilets. Until her dad’s new girlfriend, Ellie, begs Rachel to help out at her short-staffed café. That’s when Rachel kinda sorta adopts a new identity to impress the cool, older girls who work there. Ava is everything Rachel wishes she could be. But when the girls ask “Ava” to help add juicy resort gossip to their file, Rachel’s not sure what to do…especially when one of the entries is a secret about Ellie.

About the Author:

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and eating far too much chocolate. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series, the Dirt Diary series, and the forthcoming Switched at First Kiss series, all published by Sourcebooks. Visit her at www.annastan.com.

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The Best Books I Read This Year (2014 edition)

This has been a great year for kid’s books and as usual I was completely conflicted about which books to choose! I’m at the point in my writing career where I’ve met some very spectacular published authors, soon-to-be authors, as well as aspiring authors. Knowing so many great people makes it tough to maintain a professional distance in writing my reactions to the book, so I’ve decided to include a few more categories.

Now all of these books are books I either read this year or came out this year, so these are not necessarily newly published. I’m ashamed to admit there were some books by friends that I wasn’t able to read this year (So sorry guys! Maybe next year?), and unfortunately I’m sure this will continue to happen. Each list is in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.

Spectacular Books by Author Friends

 

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi


Something Real by Heather Demetrios

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

Top 3 Books for Young Adults

Willow by Tonya Cherie Hegamin

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

 

I also really loved Cinder by Marissa Meyer but have since been informed by a friend that many Asian Americans find this book offensive or at the least, just not a good enough representation of Asians in children’s literature due to its mixing of Asian cultures without many actual Asians in the storyline. I personally really loved this book, but I respect this opinion and can definitely see why they have said this. Still worth checking out if you love scifi and fairytales retellings!

Top 3 Middle Grade Books

 

A Hitch at the Fairmont by Jim Averbeck – while there were also some Asian American stereotypes portrayed in this one, I felt this was appropriate for the time period and for the main character’s POV.

Dumpling Days by Grace Lin

The Interrupted Tale (The Incorrigible Children Book V) by Maryrose Wood

 

Best Graphic Novels (Young Adult and Middle grade)

 

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

 

If none of the above appeal to you, you might find some more goodies in this more complete list.

The Best Books I Read This Year


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Why Writing is So Important (Grammarly Infographic)

One of the most popular blog posts on my blog was kind of a throwaway post: 10 Reasons Why Books are Better than TV. I don’t think people are responding to this post because my reasons are so startlingly unique and hilarious, but because people genuinely want to know why reading is so important, and why reading is better than TV. While this is a fascinating area of research, to be honest I’m not interested in doing the work required for an exhaustive research article on the topic (especially not just to be published on my fabulous but not research-oriented blab-filled blog). Instead, here are links to a few articles I’ve found interesting:

Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Still Read Fiction

Maths advantage for pupils who read for pleasure

Making Good Decisions: Television, Learning, and the Cognitive Development of Young Children

(You may also note that sitting and reading burns more calories than sitting and watching TV.)

Now I don’t have the research to prove this, but it seems like common sense that the more you read, the better you become at writing. But why is writing so important?

I was approached by Grammarly.com to include their new infographic on my blog (in exchange for a $20 donation to Reading Is Fundamental) about a study they did of Elance profiles. They proofread 400+ freelancer profiles for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors and selected freelances with high quality of work ratings and looked at the correlation between their earnings and the number of mistakes they found on the profiles.

As someone who is horrible at catching my own typos, I’m not sure that correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation necessarily equals good writing, but still, I think this might be an interesting study and at the very least it’s a snazzy looking infographic :)

writing_skills_matter

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Minorities in Publishing podcast

Minorities in Publishing is a brand new podcast featuring interviews with publishing professionals. I’m making it sound formal and boring, but it’s wonderful and inspiring and funny and I really, really love it so far. I particularly loved their interview this week with Preeti Chhibber. A *must* listen for you fellow writers and publishing people out there.

 

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Willow by Tonya Cherie Hegamin

Willow by Tonya Cherie Hegamin

Fifteen-year-old Willow is a resourceful, intelligent young girl who spends her days reading, writing, and taking care of her horse Mayapple. But unfortunately, Willow lives in 1848 Maryland. And Willow is a slave. Though Willow’s life is relatively easy compared to the lives of other slaves in her community, she yearns to go to school and learn to write. Meanwhile, Cato, a headstrong teenager lives a free, but still oppressed life, in Haven, Pennsylvania. Against his father’s wishes, Cato gets involved with smuggling slaves to freedom, and on his first naive attempt, he gets into more trouble than he expected. When Willow and Cato finally meet, their lives and everything they thought they believed about freedom and prejudice are completely changed forever.

With this unique novel Tonya Cherie Hegamin explores life as a slave on a plantation with a “kind” owner–the hypocrisy, the lies, and the secrets that remain hidden. She explores what it means to be not only a slave, but a female slave. What do family obligations mean when you know you are related to your master? What does “home” mean when your  family helped build the plantation where you live enslaved? What does “escape” even mean when there is nothing and no one to escape to?

Even while bringing up all these fascinating questions, Hegamin’s writing is lyrical and poignant, but most importantly it’s incredibly compelling. I connected with Willow from the very first few pages and did not want to put this book down.

Though Cato’s voice is not as strong as Willow’s and the romance between the two characters–though wonderful and believable–often felt besides the point, this novel is heartfelt, thought-provoking, and so, so good.

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Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

I can’t believe it took me so long to read Nnedi Okorafor! I can see why everyone raves about her whenever talking about diverse SFF done right.

Akata Witch is about a twelve-year old girl named Sunny, who discovers she has magical powers and can see the future reflected in a candle’s flickering flames. Sunny has always felt different from other kids–she has albinism and because of this has been ostracized her whole life. But when Orlu, a boy from her school, introduces her to a whole new world of magic, she makes new friends and discovers her own powers all while trying to take down a serial killer terrorizing the children of her city.

While this book contains a lot of familiar fantasy elements–especially for Harry Potter fans–because the setting and world-building are so unique, the book still felt very fresh and exciting. (Spells that require a knife instead of a wand?!? So awesome.) My biggest issue was with the pacing, which didn’t build smoothly to the climax, but rather moved in fits and starts. You very much get sucked in to the main character and her world, but not so much the overall plot.

Definitely recommended for older MG/young YA readers who want a brand new fantasy world to read about. I’m going to have to check out her books for adults!

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Picture Book Review: Kayla the Great and the Magic Red Dress by Stephanie Davis

Kayla the Great and The Magic Red Dress

by Stephanie Davis; Illustrated by Robert Paul, Jr.

Kayla the Great and the Magic Red Dress is about a little girl named Kayla and what happens when she loses her favorite red dress. Despite the fact that I could tell this book was self-published from first glance at the cover, I was interested to read this book because it was the first picture book I’d been asked to review that featured a biracial child.

Both my kids liked the story. Pre-K monkey specifically told me, “I love this book!” when I asked for her opinion to put on my blog. However, after the first read, she wasn’t really interested in reading it again. Likewise, toddler monkey sat quietly when I read it to her, but the book was slightly too long to hold her interest. My impression was that neither the text nor the illustrations were as polished or tightened as they could’ve been, and the book design was very poor (especially the font choice).

However, this is an okay story with a simple, easy-to-understand storyline, and I have a feeling that families with a “Kayla” in their life may very well be happy with this one. The main character looks a lot like one of my friend’s daughters, and I do love that about this book.

Disclaimer: Review based on free copy provided by the author.

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Mommy Read it Again: Apple Pip Princess by Jane Ray

The Apple-Pip Princess by  Jane Ray

Intricate illustrations combine with a gentle, earth-friendly storyline in this fairytale picture book.

I took this home from the library, figuring my Pre-K Monkey would be drawn to the pink cover and “Princess” title, and I also ended up falling in love with it myself. Sadly, this appears to be one that you’ll have to request from the library!

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YA Book Review and Giveaway: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Lies We Tell Ourselves

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Set in 1959 Virginia, this unforgettable novel tells the story of Sarah Dunbar, a member of the first group of African American students to integrate her town’s public high school. Extremely bright and ambitious, Sarah faces numerous threats, verbal abuse, and physical violence so she can further her education in one of the best schools in town. Complicating matters is the unexplainable attraction she feels for Linda Hairston, the daughter of one of the most vocal white segregationists in town, a girl who despises Sarah and her black classmates.

Told in alternating viewpoints, Sarah’s and Linda’s, the novel shows us how their romantic relationship grows despite racism and discrimination from their peers. Though the story is set in a fictional town, it feels unflinchingly true-to-life, as we see through Sarah’s eyes the fear and unreasonable hatred she faces from her fellow students. Sarah is a religious Christian, and because of this feels very confused about her sexuality and is unsure of what it all means. While the budding friendship and romance between Linda and Sarah feels realistic, I wasn’t quite sure I believed the love-at-first-glance chemistry that the two girls felt for each other. They meet on Sarah’s first day of school, and I had trouble understanding how Sarah, who was terrified for the physical well-being of herself and her sister, was even psychologically able feel attracted to anyone, much less one of the meanest girls at school. I also wished that we could’ve learned a little more about Sarah’s home life as there are so few stories about everyday life for African Americans in the 1950’s.

But those minor points aside, Lies We Tell Ourselves is an eye-opening and compelling novel. I am really in awe of Robin Talley’s bravery in telling this story.

My review is based on a free copy I received from the publisher, and now you have a chance to win your own! The winner of the Rafflecopter giveaway below will receive 1 free copy of Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley from the publisher. Click the “Terms and conditions” button on the Rafflecopter widget for more information.

Edited to add: This giveaway is open to US residents only.

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