Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Inclusive and Diverse Summer Reading: Picture Books, Early Readers and Chapter Books

If you haven't downloaded your copy of the We're the People Summer Reading List yet, do it now! Here is a brief review of all of the books under the Picture Book section of the list.
  • A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara. I like the idea of sharing your beliefs with your children, but I think this book is slightly ridiculous. Number one, this is a board book. The words on the pages are very high level words. I read this book with a third grader and she didn't understand what was going on! If you want to make a board book touching on social issues it should be understandable for young children. The only thing the third grader liked about this book was looking for the cats hidden on each page. I liked that it provided a learning opportunity with a third grader. I would not purchase this book unless it was in regular book form or made more understandable. 
  • Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan and Sophie Blackall. Rubina is invited to her first ever birthday party and she is beyond excited! Rubina's mom doesn't know what a birthday party is and insists that Rubina takes her little sister Sana. Sana is a pain at the party and a pain when they get home. Rubina doesn't get invited to more birthday parties for a long time. One day Sana comes home from school with her own birthday party invitation. Will she have to bring little Maryam with? Or will Rubina save the day? This is a wonderful story of sisterhood and forgiveness. I would recommend this book for older picture book readers. 2nd and 3rd grade students would enjoy the story and empathize with Rubina.
  • Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki and Qin Leng This book tells the story of little Hana. Hana has just begun to learn how to play the violin. She has also just signed up to play her violin in the talent show. Although her brothers laugh at her, Hana perseveres. She practices every day and on the day of the talent show, the memory of her grandfather's encouraging words pull her through. This is a great story of working towards your goals. I would recommend it for a read aloud with kindergarten and first grade students.
  • Hungry Johnny by Cheryl Minnema and Wesley Ballinger. This was a very sweet little book about a boy named Johnny. Johnny is Ojibwe and his community is going to have a feast. The problem is Johnny likes to eat, eat, eat! At the community feast, Johnny learns that it is important to let the elders eat first out of respect. Johnny finally gets to the table to eat when his grandmother's friend arrives. She is an elder. Johnny jumps up and gives her his chair. She lets him sit on her lap and they both eat their fill. The story teaches respect and patience.

  • Imani's Moon by Janay Brown-Wood and Hazel Mitchell. Imani is the littlest girl in the village. Everyone teases her about her size, but her mother believes she can do anything. When Imani doubts that she will succeed, her mother tells her that she believes in Imani. Imani wakes each morning more and more convinced that she will be able to touch the moon. Because her mother believes in her, Imani is finally able to touch the moon. She comes back with a lovely story to tell. This story about overcoming fear, believing in yourself, and reaching for your dreams is beautifully illustrated and well told. It will certainly inspire students to reach for the moon.
  • Jonathan and His Mommy by Irene Smalls and Michael Hays. This book is about a young African American boy and his mother taking a walk around town. They make all kinds of crazy steps as they walk around what appears to be New York City or maybe Chicago. They make reggae steps and bunny steps, running steps and crisscross steps. This book is a sweet story and easy read. I would recommend it as a book for moms to read with their little boys in preschool, kindergarten, or first grade. After reading the book, maybe you can walk about town and see what kind of steps you can make.

  • Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales. I read this book with a third grade student. She absolutely loved it. She enjoyed how the grandma was preparing for something, and in the end, it turned out to be the grandmothers birthday party. Unfortunately, she didn't catch the trickster part of the story. The story begins with Grandma getting a knock on the door and telling the visitor to wait just a moment as she does a number of small chores to prepare for the party. The visitor is unaware of what is about to happen. He is invited to sit down and enjoy the party. At the end, the visitor has simply left a note that he will not miss Grandma's next birthday party for any reason. Grandma has tricked death into giving her another year to live. The student did not catch that the visitor was death. If I were to read this story to students aloud, I might consider including it with a Dia de los Muertos lesson, or at least giving some clue as to who the visitor is. Either way, this book was certainly a fun, quick read.
  • Lailah's Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi and Lea Lyon. This book is a great way to introduce the concept of Ramadan to elementary students. I read this book with a fourth grade student who understood that it was about being thankful and fasting. This book would be great to include in an upper elementary classroom, especially one in which there are both Muslim students and students who are not Muslim.

  • Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match by Monica Brown and Sara Palacios. This was a fun little story of a little girl who just doesn't seem to fit in. She is different from everyone around her. She has red hair, but dark skin. She never wears matching clothes. One day she decides she wants to match, but in the end, she realizes that being different is the best. This story has a great message that most kindergarten through second grade students would understand.
  • My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best and Vanessa Brantley Newton. Zulay is blind, but her Mama just bought her brand new pink running shoes. Zulay cannot wait to try running. When the classroom teacher announces the upcoming field day, Zulay quickly announces that she wants to run in the race. This class doesn't believe at first, but with the help of her special teacher, Zulay is able to run the race. I appreciate the message of overcoming obstacles that this story tries to communicate. Unfortunately, I felt the story was very bland and went very quickly from the new pink shoes to the race without much depth in between. This isn't a book I would be excited to read again.

  • One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul and Elizabeth Zunon. I read this book with a third grade student. There was some challenge reading the African names, however she really enjoyed this book. She liked that these women were clever enough to solve the problem of plastic bags laying around in their desert home. I loved that this book was easy enough for a second or third grade student to read and interesting enough to keep their attention. I also loved the extra information at the back of the book. I would recommend this book to second through fourth grade students interested in Africa, recycling, or crafts.
  • Tía Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina and Claudio Muñoz. This book was very sweet. It would be a great book to read aloud with a class. It teaches the value of hard work and waiting for something good. The story of the little girl helping to raise money for a car for her aunt also shows children can make a difference. This would be a great book to share with children living away from their family and those who are immigrants.

  • The Third Gift by Linda Sue Park and Bagram Ibatoulline. This books tells the story of a boy and his father walking through the desert collecting tears of sap from trees. At the end of the story, we find out that what they were harvesting was myrrh. Three men meet the boy and his father at the market to purchase a gift of myrrh for a baby. This book is a subtle twist on the story of the three wise men and includes information in the back about who the three wise men might have been. The information page also tells a bit of information about what myrrh is and what it was used for. The pictures in the book are not photographs, but they are very detailed and realistic.
  • We March by Shane Evans. This book is a simple, concise description of the Civil Rights March. It is easy enough for a kindergarten or first grade student to read and understand on their own, but it could also be used to lead to deeper discussions or lessons on civil rights. The best part about this book is that it leaves the reader feeling hopeful in the end.

These books were not yet available at my local library. I will review them when I am able to get a copy.
  • Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza by J. L. Powers, George Mendoza, and Hayley Morgan-Sanders
  • I love Ugali and Sukuma Wiki by Kwame Nyong'o
  • Jazz by Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers
  • My Colors, My World by Maya Christina Gonzalez 
  • The Phoenix on Barkley Street by Zetta Elliot