Who Are Your People? by Bakari Sellers

Who Are Your People?

Bakari Sellers, Author

Reggie Brown, Illustrator

Quill Tree Books, Fiction, Jan. 11, 2022

Suitable for ages: 4-9

Themes:  African Americans, Family, Ancestors, Pride, Community, Dreams

Opening: When you meet someone for the first time, they might ask, “Who are your people?” and “Where are you from?”

Synopsis:

In these pages is a timeless celebration of the individuals and experiences that help shape young children into the most remarkable and unique beings that they can be.

New York Times bestselling author and CNN analyst Bakari Sellers brings this inspiration, lyrical text about family and community to life with illustrations from Reggie Brown.

Why I like Who Are Your People?

Bakari Sellers’s beautiful picture book celebrates who we are and the people we become. It depicts an African American father who encourages his two children to know their descendants and be proud of the things they accomplished as great activists who struggled for justice, equal rights, voting rights and the hope for a brighter future.  Sellers’s prose is eloquent and it beautifully transitions from the past to the present community that shapes us and encourages dreams. Reggie Brown’s richly textured and vivid illustrations carry the story. Lovely collaboration. Be prepared to read this uplifting book again and again. It is a perfect class read aloud. 

Resources: Although this book is for Black children, it really is a book for ALL children.  We all stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and do the best we can to make a contribution in the world.  So challenge kids and ask them what they dream about and what they want to do to make their world better. Encourage them to interview their grandparents and family members.  Ask them to draw pictures or share their stories. 

Bakari Sellers made history in 2006 when, at just twenty-two years old, he defeated a twenty-six-year incumbent state representative to become the youngest member of the South Carolina state legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the nation. He has been named to TIME’s 40 Under 40 list the The Root’s 100 Most Influential African Americans list. Sellers is the author of the New York Times bestseller My Vanishing Country. He practices law, hosts The Bakari Sellers Podcast, and is a political commentator at CNN. Visit Sellers at his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

Omar Rising by Aisha Saeed

Omar Rising

Aisha Saeed, Author

Nancy Paulsen Books, Fiction, Feb 1, 2022

Suitable for ages: 10-14

Themes: Pakistan, Family Life, Education, Boarding school, Dreams, Courage, Social Injustice

Synopsis:

In this gripping companion to New York Times bestseller Amal Unbound, Amal’s lifelong friend Omar shows the world that he’s not going to accept being treated like a second-class citizen at an elite boarding school.

When Omar is chosen for a scholarship to the prestigious Ghalib Academy Boarding School, it is a game changer. It  will give him, the son of a servant, a once-in-a-lifetime an opportunity for a better future — and his whole village is cheering him on.

Omar can’t wait to dive into his classes, play soccer, and sign up for astronomy club — but those hopes are dashed when he learns first-year scholarship students can’t join clubs or teams. Instead, they must earn their keep doing menial chores. Even worse, it turns out the school deliberately “weeds out” scholarship kids by requiring them to get grades that are nearly impossible — better than kids who can pay tuition — making it almost impossible for scholarship students to graduate.

While Omar is devastated to find such odds stacked against him, the injustice of it all motivates him to try to do something else that seems impossible: change a rigged system. He and the other scholarship students begin to study and work together, forming their own study group and “family.” There is power in numbers. 

Why I like Omar Rising:

Fans of Aisha Saeed’s Amal Unbound, will eagerly devour Omar Rising, a courageous and hopeful story about believing in yourself and finding courage to change an unfair educational system. Saeed’s rich and bold storytelling, coupled with a complex look at the social injustices between classes, makes this story an uplifting contemporary tale for middle grade readers. And look at that beautiful cover!

The all-Pakistani cast of characters is authentic. Omar has his turn in the spotlight when he’s accepted to Ghalib Academy, Omar has the support and pride of his village cheering him — a lot of pressure for this serious and diligent and “stubbornly optimistic” 12-year-old.  Omar’s is pleased that his Ghalib roommate is fellow scholarship student, Kareem. He also makes friends with Naveed, a star scholarship student ready to graduate, who advises the boys throughout the year. The threesome will come to depend upon each other if they are going to survive.  When other students learn about the unfair treatment of the scholarship students, they want to help. With the support of all the students, they may have a chance to make real change for themselves and others. 

The chapters are short, with 4-5 pages. With such a compelling and suspenseful plot, it is a real page-turner. This book belongs in every school, and home library. It is a thought-provoking story that will lead to some very interesting discussions among readers. It’s important that readers learn about the educational barriers other kids face globally.

Aisha Saeed is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Amal Unbound, also and Indie Next Pick and a Global Read Aloud selection, and Yes No Maybe So (co-authored with Becky Albertalli). Her other highly acclaimed books include Written in the Stars, and the picture book Bilal Cooks Daal. As one of the founding members of the much-talked-about #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, she is helping change the conversation about diverse books. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons. Visit Aisha at her website

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

Mermaid Dreams by Janet Lucy

Mermaid Dreams

Sueños de Sirena

Janet Lucy, Author

Colleen McCarthy-Evans, Illustrator

Seven Seas Press, Fiction, 2019 (bilingual version 2020)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Mermaid, Dreams, Caribbean Tale, Overcoming fear, Courage

Opening: Maya dreams of being a mermaid. / Her long dark hair hangs / in silky strand / down her back / nearly reaching the top / of her favorite skirt – / the one her mama made / with seven tiers of turquoise net. 

Synopsis:

Maya is a dark-skinned girl who dreams of being a mermaid. She dances to Caribbean mermaid music as her favorite skirt rises and falls about her. She loves swimming and diving for coins in the pool. But she is afraid of swimming in the ocean and has frequent nightmares.

She listens to her mother’s bedtime stories about living on an island in the Caribbean sea where the beaches are sandy and the water is turquoise. One night, her mother tells her about her namesake, Yemaya, a river spirit and mermaid of the Yoruba people and a Goddess of the Ocean. That night she meets Yemaya in her dreams and they go on a magical undersea journey together. Mermaid Dreams shines a light on the universal fears of children and the vastness of the ocean.

There is now a bilingual version of Mermaid Dreams/Sueños de Sirena, 2020.

Why I like this book:

Janet Lucy has penned an enchanting and magical tale about a girl who wants to be a black mermaid, like her namesake, Yemaya, from a Caribbean legend. Yemaya is courageous, kind and full of wisdom. Lucy’s lyrical and richly textured prose invokes both the turbulence and beauty of the ocean. Colleen McCarthy-Evans illustrations are dreamy and have a mystical quality to them.

The story empowers children to face their fears, no matter what they may be. For Maya, it is an overwhelming fear of the ocean — even wading in shallow water. She lives along the California coast, where the waves are big and crash loudly onto the beach. One of the lessons Maya learns is that she has the power to change the ending of her scary dreams and take baby steps to dealing with her fear.

The author was inspired to create Maya after a real little girl who is a beautiful blend of her Caribbean and American parents. Her heritage reaches back to Africa, Europe and the Americas, “representing multiple threads of the extraordinary tapestry of humanity.” I love that quote. Visit Lucy at her website.

Resources: There is a Discussion Guide with 15 questions to help parents and teachers to continue a discussion with children about Mermaid Dreams.  There is also a list of fun activities for children ranging from drawing pictures of a mermaids and their dreams to listening to Caribbean or Yoruba music on the Internet. And there is a list of resources and a note from the author.

Janet Lucy is an award-winning writer and poet, and author of Moon Mother, Moon Daughter – Myths and Rituals that Celebrate a Girl’s Coming of Age and The Three Sunflowers/Los Tres Girasoles. Janet is the Director of Women’s Creative Network in Santa Barbara, California, where she is a teacher, therapist/consultant, facilitates women’s writing groups and leads international retreats. She has lived in Mexico, Costa Rica and Italy, connecting with the Divine Feminine in all her glorious guises and cultural richness. Janet is the mother of two radiant daughters.

*Review copy provided by the author.

Delivery Bear by Laura Gehl

Delivery Bear

Laura Gehl, Author

Paco Sordo, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction, Sep. 1, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-5

Themes: Animals, Bear, Pursing dreams, Courage, Being yourself, Empathy

Opening: Even as a tiny cub, Zogby knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Synopsis:

Delivering Fluffy Tail Cookies has always been Zogby’s dream job. One day he reads a job notice for a delivery animal in the grocery store window. But he’s a bear and all the other delivery animals are cute bunnies with fluffy tails. The manager is skeptical, but gives Zogby a one-day trial.

When Zogby rings a doorbell and sings the delivery song, he scares the customer again and again! Wearing bunny ears, whiskers, and a fluffy rabbit tail doesn’t fool his customers. Blinking back his tears he rides back to the factory singing the last verses from his song, “Please remember when you chew…You are special. You are you!”

Suddenly, Zogby has a BIG idea. When Zogby realizes it’s best to just be himself, he discovers a clever way to get the job done.

Why I like this book:

You can’t help but fall in love with Zogby. His customers — a rabbit, beaver, raccoon, porcupine and chipmunk — all yell a frightful “AAHHHHHH!” as they open the door and meet Zogby. Readers will commiserate with Zogby with each rejection and lost dream. But they will cheer this huggable bear as he picks himself up, sells cookies his way and realizes his dream.

Laura Gehl’s uplifting story is about learning to be yourself.  It has many teachable moments about empathy and compassion. This story is brimming with heart and connection.

Paco Sordo’s brightly colored illustrations really bring this story to life and showcase its message. The animals expressions and reactions are priceless. Take a good look at the lively book cover. Kids will love turning the pages. Great collaborative effort between author and illustrator. This book is a winner!

Resources:  This is a very useful discussion book for home and school — along with baked chocolate chip cookies. Ask children how they respond when they see someone who may not look or act like them — a homeless person, someone with a disfigurement or a child who is differently abled.  Are they curious? Are they frightened? Do they avoid the person? Are they friendly? Do they feel compassion?

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by publisher.

The Theory of Hummingbirds by Michelle Kadarusman

The Theory of Hummingbirds

Michelle Kadarusman, Author

Pajama Press, Fiction, Oct. 16, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Club Foot, Differences, Abilities, Self-Acceptance, Dreams, Friendship

Publisher Synopsis: “Hummingbirds and angels don’t need two good feet. They have wings.” That’s what Alba’s mother always says. Of course, Alba doesn’t have wings or two good feet: she has Cleo. Cleo is the name Alba has given to her left foot, which was born twisted in the wrong direction. When she points this out, though, her mother just smiles like the world has some surprise in store she doesn’t know about yet.
Well, Alba has her own surprise planned. After one final surgery and one final cast, Cleo is almost ready to meet the world straight on―just in time to run in the sixth grade cross-country race. Unfortunately, Alba’s best friend Levi thinks there’s no way she can pull it off. And she thinks there’s no way he’s right about the school librarian hiding a wormhole in her office. Tempers flare. Sharp words fly faster than hummingbirds. And soon it looks like both friends will be stuck proving their theories on their own.

Why I like this book:

Michelle Kadarusman has crafted a richly textured story about Ada, who has a leg that is directionally challenged. It is a powerful and captivating story about differences and abilities and “learning to love who you are and what you can do.” It is emotionally honest and filled with heart.

It is important for readers to see themselves in realistic characters like Ada. You don’t feel sorry for Ada because of her determination and resilience.  She is believable and won’t let anyone put limitations on her. I love how she names her club foot “Cleo,” out of kindness. Her best friend Levi spends recess indoors with her because of his asthma. His obsession with time travel and wormholes provides a lot of comic relief.

The author’s use of hummingbirds as a poignant metaphor to help Alba embrace her life in a meaningful way and pursue her big dream. “Hummingbirds don’t sit around moaning about their tiny feet and that they can’t walk,” she says. Like Ada, the author was born with talipes equinovarus (CTEV), more commonly called club foot.

The plot is paced well with the perfect amount of tension to keep readers intrigued, engaged and guessing.  This is an excellent book for any school library.

**I won on Rosi Hollinbeck’s wonderful website The Write Stuff. Check if out. She always has gifts and tips for her writer friends.

Greg Pattridge is the permanent host for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

Imani’s Moon

Imani's Moon9781934133576_p0_v1_s260x420Imani’s Moon

JaNay Brown-Wood, Author

Hazel Mitchell, Illustrator

Charlesbridge Publishing, Fiction, Oct. 14, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Maasai tribe, Maasai mythology, Moon, Belief and doubt, Self-confidence, Determination

Opening: “Imani was the smallest child in her village.”

Book Synopsis: Imani may be the smallest child in her Maasai village, but she is big in heart. The more she hears the ancient stories of her people, the more she longs to do something great. Imani wants to touch the moon, like Olapa, the moon goddess of Maasai mythology. Despite the teasing from village children, Imani isn’t about to give up on her dream.

What I like about this book:

JaNay Brown-Wood’s heartwarming story is filled with hope, ambition and big dreams. Even though Imani is tiny, she is strong in spirit. She endures the teasing of the village children daily. But they don’t deter her. For Imani there are no limitations, only possibilities and dreams to touch the moon. This richly textured story is charming, magical and begs to be read repeatedly. Hazel Mitchell’s cover with Imani’s outstretched arms in front of the big moon is engaging and draws the reader into Imani’s story. Her vibrant watercolor and graphite artwork includes a lot of Maasai detail.  The night scenes of Imani and the moon are dazzling and magical. Great collaborative work between the author and illustrator.

Resource: There is a lovely Author’s Note about the culture of the Maasai people living on the plains of Tanzania and Kenya. Passing along stories and mythology is an important part of the culture. You may want to visit JaNay Brown-Wood at her website. She has a Teaching Guide available for teachers and parents.

Marathon Mouse

Marathon Mouse9781616089665_p0_v1_s260x420Marathon Mouse

Amy Dixon, Author

Sam Denlinger, Illustrator

Sky Pony Press, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4 and up

Themes:  Pursue your dreams, New York City Marathon, Mice, Running, Determination

Opening“Every New York City mouse dreamed of living under the bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island.  They didn’t have to dodge taxicabs or escape hungry sewer cats…But there was one day each year that their life under the bridge was not so dreamy…Marathon day!”

Synopsis:  Most of the New York City mice thought Marathon Day was the worst day of the year because they had to be careful they wouldn’t get stepped on.  Everyone except Preston, who dreamed of running the big marathon.   Preston wanted to be extraordinary.  His papa told him that “mice scamper, not run.”  So he started training for the marathon in secret.  When the day arrived he got up early and lined up with all the big sneakers.  The starting gun sounded and he began to run and run and run!  As he reached the last few miles he started to stumble and his body ached.  But an unexpected surprise awaited him at the end.

Why I like this book:  Amy Dixon wrote a charming book that carries a big message for children — pursue your dreams.  The story is fun, inspiring and engaging.  Children will cheer Preston to the finish line.  Sam Denlinger’s illustrations are colorful and lively.  I love how the cover shows such confidence in Preston’s face.  My favorite illustration is Preston at the starting line looking at a sea of over-sized sneakers and hoping he doesn’t get squashed.  This is a very clever idea for a book!  I don’t believe I’ve seen a picture book about a marathon!  Kudos to the author for creating a fun read for children.   And, this is a great book for parents to use to encourage their young ones to run and exercise.  Teacher’s can check out a discussion guide here.  Visit Amy Dixon’s website for more information.