Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Roots of Rap: Hip Hop & Childhood Meet, by Carole Boston Weatherford (ages 4-14)

"Bro!
This is actually kinda cool -- all about the artists who shaped hip hop.
Oh, it rhymes!
Is this supposed to be a song? a rap?
Bro, that's hecka cool!"
   -- Aya, 9th grade, reading The Roots of Rap
My high school students have loved reading The Roots of Rap. Frank Morrison's dynamic illustrations pull them in, and then Carole Boston Weatherford's text lays down the knowledge. This is a terrific new picture book to share with young readers all the way through high schoolers. I'm honored to have Carole share a little about how rap has inspired her.
The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip Hop
by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Frank Morrison
Simon & Schuster / Little Bee, 2019
Amazon / Your local library
ages 4-14
“Hip-hop and rap aren’t often featured in children’s books,” Swizz Beatz writes in his introduction. And yet, this music speaks to our children, fills their lives. With this picture book, Weatherford helps children see that their music springs from a long tradition of poetry and music. As Weatherford writes, "hip-hop is poetry at its most powerful."

I am honored to have Carole Boston Weatherford here to share a little about how hip-hop and rap have inspired her, and what planted the seeds for this picture book.

THE ROOTS OF RAP: HIP HOP & CHILDHOOD MEET
reflection by Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrator Frank Morrison’s oil paintings in the book have a vibrancy and vitality that borders on virtuosity. He honors hip hop legends and luminaries and shows the four pillars of graffiti, b-boying/breakdancing, emceeing and deejaying. I linger over the spreads showing youthful expression through hip hop, a culture young people are inventing.
Just as my son and daughter (now young adults) reintroduced me in the 1990s to children’s books, they also hipped me to the hip hop of the day on BET and urban radio. At Super Jam, my first rap concert, I tagged along as chaperone to my daughter and her friend. Was I in for a shock!? Unlike the jazz and R&B concerts that I attended, there were no bands at Super Jam--only a deejay scratching and the emcees spitting rhymes.

Then, there were the CDs that son and daughter bought. They’d mute explicit lyrics, so as not to offend their mother. Although their censorship meant that I rarely heard entire songs, I found much to like—especially cuts featuring choruses of children. Some of those pulsate with positivity. Here are a few of my favorites:
Enjoy this trailer for Roots of Rap:
Thank you, Carole, for sharing a little peek into what led to this book. Illustrations copyright ©2019 Frank Morrison, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Simon & Schuster / Little Bee. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Carter Reads the Newspaper, by Deborah Hopkinson -- important and timely picture book biography (ages 6-10)

It is essential that we teach Black History throughout the year, especially celebrating Black History Month in February. And yet, do we stop to ask who had the idea to create this special celebration? I highly recommend sharing Carter Reads the Newspaper with your children, and beginning a conversation about why it is so important to honor and learn about Black history.
Carter Reads the Newspaper
by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Don Tate
Peachtree, 2019
Amazon / Your local library
ages 6-10
*best new book*
Carter Woodson is known as the “father of Black history,” tirelessly encouraging others to study the history of Blacks in America. He was the second black American to receive a PhD in history from Harvard, after W.E.B. DuBois. In February 1926, Woodson created Negro History Week in Washington, D.C.

Deborah Hopkinson helps young readers see Carter Woodson's journey, helping them relate to his passion for learning. Carter was born on a small farm, and his parents had both been born into slavery. His father made sure Carter went to school and believed in staying informed about the world. Because his father couldn't read, he asked Carter to read the newspaper to him.
"Carter was born on a small farm in Virginia in 1875,
ten years after the end of the Civil War."
When Carter took a coal mining job at age 16, he was inspired by a Civil War Veteran he met there, Oliver Jones, who invited the other workers to come to his home as a reading room. Once again, Carter read aloud to others, informing them what was in the paper. He saw that Oliver was an educated man, even though he could not read or write. And he saw the power of the men's commitment to freedom, equality and knowledge.

After three years working in the mines, Carter returned home to complete high school, go to college and become a teacher. At the age of 37, he earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. "Carter was the first and only Black American whose parents had been slaves to receive a doctorate in history."
Deborah Hopkinson helps young readers see the power of knowledge and the importance of sharing that knowledge, and she makes Carter a relatable character. I especially appreciate how she focuses on the challenges Woodson faced as a young boy, and what he learned from his family and mentors.

Don Tate's illustrations use warm earth-tones tones and the stylized characters convey the humanity of the situations without making the frightening moments overwhelming.

I highly recommend adding this book to your school or home library. It helps begin the conversation about why we celebrate Black History Month. For adults, I also found the following essay very informative: Knowing the Past Opens the Door to the Future The Continuing Importance of Black History Month, from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Illustrations copyright ©2019 Don Tate, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Peachtree. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968, by Alice Faye Duncan (ages 8-12)

As we get ready to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I want to share a powerful new book about his work. Alice Fay Duncan's powerful picture book gives context for King's work, helps explain his assassination, and provides inspiration to keep dreaming big.
Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968
by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Calkins Creek / Highlights, 2018
Amazon / your local library
ages 8-12
*best new book*
We often talk about Dr. King's legacy leading nonviolent protests and fighting for civil rights, but I'm not sure we talk enough about his commitment to fight for workers' rights for fair wages and better working conditions.
"Men, women and children contributed to the strike in 1968. Whole families sacrificed their comforts. They suffered for the cause. However, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. paid the highest cost. He gave his life to the struggle for freedom and justice."
Duncan brings young readers into this story centering it on Lorraine Jackson, whose father was a striking sanitation worker. Duncan bases her character on Dr. Almella Starks-Umoja, whose father helped organize the strike. The author deftly moves between helping readers connect to Lorraine and providing information about the bigger issues at stake.
"I remember Memphis and legions of noblemen.
I remember broken glass and the voice of a fallen King."
As the story begins, we learn about the sanitation workers' strike and the tragic deaths of two black garbagemen because of old, unsafe equipment. "Daddy told Mama, 'It ain't right to die like that.' Mama shook her head, and I saw a new storm rising up. I saw it in their eyes." This detail helps young readers feel the tension and understand the injustices. Throughout, Duncan highlights the dedicated efforts of community and the personal cost of striking.
"My daddy marched in that number. He marched for better pay. He marched for decent treatment. My daddy marched for me."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Memphis to help the striking men, inspiring them to keep fighting for better pay and working conditions. Through young Lorraine's voice, Duncan tells about King's "Poor People's Crusade" to fight for the working poor, using the Memphis strike to draw national attention to the larger problems.

I especially appreciate Duncan's poetic language throughout, both in her prose and poems:
  • "But as Daddy's soles wore think on his mountain climb, there came a spark of light. Good news filled the air."
  • "Since Martin had conquered giants in the valley of injustice, Reverend Lawson believed his powerful friend could help the striking men."
  • "I was there on that stormy night Dr. King returned. Clouds blotted out stars in the Memphis sky. Wind whipped through the bending trees."
Illustrations copyright ©2018 R. Gregory Christie, shared by permission of the publishers. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Calkins Creek, an imprint of Highlights. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2019 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Ten graphic novels to read again & again (ages 8-15)

Graphic novels have hooked many kids on reading. Kids find their favorites, reading them again and again, but I also love to encourage my students to read widely. I also encourage parents to read aloud graphic novels with their kids -- these stories are full of things to talk about and enjoy together.

Here are ten of my favorite graphic novels--some are silly, some are out of this world, and some will make you think and wonder. Check out my Graphic Novels shelf on Goodreads for more. All of them have terrific characters and stories that make you want to keep reading.

Amulet series, by Kazu Kibuishi: This series combines mystery, adventure and fantasy as Emily and her younger brother search for their mother, captured in an alternate universe. Em and Navin follow their mother into an underground world full of demons, robots, and talking animals. A favorite series with its epic fantasy and adventure. (ages 9-14)

The Baby-Sitters Club series, by Ann M. Martin, illustrated by Raina Telgemeier and Gale Galligan. These graphic novel adaptations add energy and humor to Ann Martin’s classic Baby Sitters Club series. Four best friends help each other deal with everything from crabby toddlers, enormous dogs and prank calls. With relatable characters and straight-forward plots, these make a great entry into graphic novels for developing readers. Definitely check out the two new books in this series, just released this year. (ages 7-12)

Giants Beware!, by Jorge Aguirre, illustrated by Rafael Rosado: Claudette, a feisty warrior-in-training, is determined to follow her father's footsteps and slay a giant. Never mind that she's tiny, hotheaded, and a girl--she is absolutely sure she's perfect for the job. Aguirre and Rosado weave in surprises, tension and plot twists throughout the story. Best of all, Claudette constantly defies the expectations society sets for her. (ages 8-12)

El Deafo, by Cece Bell: When she was four years old, cartoonist Cece Bell became severely deaf after she contracted meningitis. This delightful, heartfelt memoir shares her journey through school, searching for friends, trying to fit in and dealing with her deafness. She mixes warmth and humor with complex issues. (ages 8-12)

Hilo series, by Judd Winick: D.J. Lim’s life turns from ordinary to exciting when he discovers Hilo, an extraterrestrial boy wearing nothing but silver underpants. This story is full of action and humor, as Hilo and D.J. battle robots and giant insects intent on destroying Hilo’s home planet. (ages 8-12)

The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang: Prince Sebastian feels comfortable identifying both male and female, often wearing dresses and going out as his alter ego, Lady Crystallia. When he hires Frances, a young seamstress, to make him a wardrobe of boldly beautiful, dazzling dresses, Frances hesitates at first, but they soon discover a shared passion for fashion. Incorporating the feel of classic fairytales, Wang creates a story that revolves around friendship, following your dreams and speaking your truth. (ages 10-15)

Princeless series, by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated by M. Goodwin: When Princess Adrienne’s parents lock her away in a castle guarded by a dragon to await rescue by a prince, she decides to take matters into her own hands. I love this feisty heroine--we have so few stories with characters of color, where race isn’t an issue. Readers are able to enjoy classic fairy tale setting in this graphic novel, while turning so many stereotypes and tropes on their heads. (ages 8-12)

Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson: Astrid joins a roller derby boot camp the summer before middle school, making new friends and navigating this rough-and-tumble sport. My students love the way Astrid deals with friendship issues and discovers her own strength and stamina. (ages 9-13)

Secret Coders series, by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Mike Holmes: Hopper isn’t sure she’s going to like her new school, especially with its creepy birds and crazy janitor, but things turn around as she and her new friends use logic and computer programming to discover the school’s secrets. Kids love the way they’re drawn into figuring out logic puzzles right alongside Hopper. (ages 8-12)

Smile, by Raina Telgemeier: Raina Telgemeier’s memoirs Smile and Sisters are absolute favorites. She draws readers in with her relatable situations and humor, creating a real bond as she reflects on family relationships, friendship dramas and the pressures tweens face at school and at home. This remains one of my family's all-time favorite read alouds. (ages 8-14)

The Witch Boy, by Molly Ostertag: This graphic novel will appeal to readers with its magical setting and strong protagonist. In Aster's village, there are very clear expectations: girls will learn witchcraft and spells, while boys will learn to become shapeshifters. Yet Aster longs to learn spells and is not interested in the other boy's aggressive play. When several boys go missing, Aster tries to use his developing magical abilities to solve the mystery. I especially appreciated the way Aster questions society's gender expectations and stays true to himself. A delightful graphic novel -- I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, The Hidden Witch, which has just come out. (ages 8-12)

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ten funny books to get you laughing (ages 4-13)

We all like doing the things we have fun with. Psychoanalysts might call this the "Pleasure Principle," but I call it common sense. So how do we help our kids discover the fun in reading? Here are ten books that tickle my funny bone, especially when reading them aloud with kids.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things, by Lenore Look: Asian-American second grader Alvin Ho is afraid of everything: elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. He’s so afraid of school that, while he’s there, he never, ever, says a word. This first book in the series is full of everyday adventures and misadventures -- from trying to get chicken pox, to hanging from a tree branch in a desperate attempt to grow taller. A great read aloud. (ages 6-10)

Bad Guys, by Aaron Blabey: Mr Wolf decides that he's fed up with always being the "bad guy," so he persuades Mr. Shark, Mr. Piranha & Mr. Snake that they need to do nice things for a change. The want-to-be good guys try hard to shed their carnivorous ways, rescuing a stranded kitty who's terrified of their point teeth. Kids are loving the hilarious antics, exaggerated illustrations and slapstick humor in this chapter book. (ages 6-10)

Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey: Kids can't get enough of George and Harold, and their superhero creation Dog Man. Originally of Captain Underpants fame, George & Harold show how Dog Man, with the head of a dog on the body of a police officer, battles crime and saves the day. Kids love the silliness, the explosions and fight scenes, and the encouragement to create their own outlandish stories. (ages 6-10)


Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon: Dory (called Rascal by her family) wants to play with her big brother and sister, but they complain that she's a pest. They try to scare her with a story about the witch Mrs. Gobble Gracker. Dory creates outlandish tales with her imaginary friend, tricks Mrs. Gobble Gracker and wins over her siblings. Families will recognize themselves in Dory's attention-getting strategies, her mom's exasperation or her siblings' bickering. A joyful, funny celebration of imagination and resilience. (ages 6-10)

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems, by Gail Carson Levine: Using William Carlos Williams's poem "This Is Just to Say" as her starting point, Levine spins a series of playful un-sorry poems. She uses famous characters like Snow White, Humpty Dumpty, the Little Engine that Could and Barbie to twist expectations and create laughs. "I, Rapunzel,/ and not the witch/ have lopped off/ my braid/ which/ you daily/ climbed/ to me/ Forgive me/ you're not worth/ the pain/ in my scalp." Subversively hilarious. Kids will love sharing this with friends, laughing together. (ages 8-12) 

Funny Girl, edited by Betsy Bird: As television comedy writers Delaney and Mackenzie Yeager explain in their opening entry, "Joke-telling is the greatest superpower a gall can posses." Being a comedian takes confidence--a combination of audacity and courage to put yourself out there. This collection of short personal essays, short stories and comics is terrific. In "One Hot Mess," Carmen Agra Deedy shares about the time her mother set a bathtub on fire to get rid of the germs, unwittingly melting the fiberglass tub in their new apartment. With this great range of stories, you're bound to find new authors you'd like to explore. (ages 9-13) 

Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein: One of my all-time favorite read alouds, a little red chicken keeps interrupting his papa's stories at bedtime, trying to save the day. When Papa starts reading Hansel and Gretel, little red chicken interrupts just as they are about to enter the witch’s house. Papa tries again with Little Red Riding Hood with exactly the same result. The interruptions bring laughter, and children love the repetition. Stein excels in comedic timing. A true crowd-pleaser. (ages 4-8)

Judy Moody, by Megan McDonald: Judy Moody is a favorite series because kids can relate to her struggles and her moods. Whether it's having a toad pee in her hand or losing her lucky penny,  Judy is always getting in a bad mood, at least for a while. Even better, each story ends with a satisfying climax. Judy realizes the power of friendships and keeps herself from throwing a tantrum. She rescues her homework, quite resourcefully, and even forgives her brother. (ages 7-10)

A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz: With dark humor, Gidwitz weaves together different Grimms' tales to create an original story starring Hansel and Gretel. I especially love the author's interruptions, where he pauses to talk directly to the reader. “This is when things start to get, well . . . awesome. But in a horrible, bloody kind of way." A terrific read aloud that will have readers alternating between laughter and suspense. (ages 9-13)

The Terrible Two, by Mac Barnett and Jory John: Miles Murphy is known as the best prankster in his school, but now his family is moving and he dreads building his reputation in a new town. When he gets to school on the first day and sees the principal's car has been parked at top of the steps, blocking the school doors, Miles knows that there's already a prankster at this school. Can Miles out-prank this whoever is doing this...or maybe they can join forces. Written by a comedic duo, this series excels in deadpan humor in a school setting. (ages 8-12)

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Ten favorite picture books (ages 3-10)

Picture books are truly for everybody. Read them together with young children, sharing a story together, savoring the joy of discovery. Encourage older children to take a break with picture books and savor the story. Here's a selection of old and new picture books I love.

Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal: Oh how I love this book. As one young reader told me, “it makes me want to learn more about my own name.” Alma helps us all feel like we are special for being unique. Alma Sofia Esperanza Josi Pura Candela worries about her long name until her father tells her family stories, one for each person she's named after. The illustrations are soft and gently sweet, showing the distinctive essence of each ancestor and the affections between Alma and her family. (ages 4-8)

Drawn Together, by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat: When a young boy visits his grandfather, they struggle to communicate because the grandson only speaks English and his grandfather only speaks Thai. After an uncomfortable dinner where the cultural divides are palpably painful, the boy pulls out a sketch he's made of a superhero. He's surprised when his grandfather starts drawing a Thai warrior. As they start drawing together, they build a new world layered and complex with both cultures. Not only is this a beautiful story, it is full of universal emotions: connecting across generations and cultures, relating to each other through art and storytelling, and discovering shared passions. (ages 4-9)

Duck! Rabbit!, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld: Is it a duck? Or a rabbit? What do you think? Turn it upside down - do you see anything different? The off-stage narrators argue back and forth, trying to convince each other that their perspective is right. Lichtenheld's illustrations, with absolute clearness and utter ambiguity, are perfect for encouraging your own kids to join the debate. (ages 4-9)

Firebird, by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers: A young African American girl looks up to Copeland saying, "the space between you and me is longer than forever"--how could I ever become as beautiful and graceful as you? Copeland turns to the young girl, reassuring her that she was once just as small, just as shy--and the magic comes when you pursue your dreams. (ages 6-10)

Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson: One night, Harold decided to go for a walk. Bringing only his giant purple crayon, Harold draws himself a world full of wonder and imagination, from a sailboat on a stormy sea to a picnic with a moose with nine kinds of pie! This classic picture book has inspired young children since 1955, but it captivates children still, showing them how far their imagination can take them. (ages 3-7)

Hello Hello, by Brendan Wenzel: This picture book will delight young readers, saying hello to different animals. Read the spare rhymes slowly, encouraging readers to notice how the animals are similar and different. "Hello Stripes. Hello Spots." Sure, tigers have stripes and cheetahs have spots, but what about fish and lizards? Which they have stripes and spots, too! I especially love the way Wenzel gives clues on each page of what's coming next--the whale shark's spotted tail, leads into: "Hello Giant. Hello Not." Wenzel's animals are full of life, and a key in the back will help eager readers to learn all of their names. (ages 3-8)

Julián Is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love: After Julián, a young Afro-Latinx child, sees three fabulous people dressed as mermaids, he creates his own costume. When Abuela discovers this, will she support him or chastise him? In this delightful story, Julian's grandmother embraces his creativity, helping him complete the outfit, and then proudly taking him to a parade. This story delights readers and never becomes too preachy, staying rooted in the joy of imagination and the importance of being seen and recognized. (ages 4-8)

Niño Wrestles the World, by Yuyi Morales: With a huge imagination and a love of luche libre, the popular Mexican wrestling sport, little Niño battles his own make-believe monsters. Whether he’s defeating the Guanajuato mummy or exploding the giant Olmec Head, this is one confident little kid. Morales brings humor, dynamic energy and vivid artwork to this terrific picture book. (ages 4-8)

Press Here, Hervé Tullet: This ingenious interactive book invites readers right into the action of this story, pressing dots to multiply them, blowing on them to scatter them across the page, clapping to make them blow up like a balloon. It is utterly simple and yet completely engrossing, showing readers that they are truly part of making any story come alive and leap off the pages of a book. (ages 3-7)

Rain, by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Christian Robinson: Have you ever noticed that a good mood can be contagious? One a rain day, a grumpy old man complains about his "nasty galoshes" and the "dang puddle." But not everyone feels that way. A little boy is so excited to put on his froggy hat and rain boots. When they bump into each other, the little guy's mood eventually rubs off on the old man. A delightful story, perfect for spreading a smile. (ages 4-8)

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books