The Night Is Yours

  • Title: The Night Is Yours
  • Author: Abul-Razak Zachariah
  • Illustrator: Keturah A. Bobo
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“This lyrical text, narrated to a young girl named Amani by her father, follows her as she plays an evening game of hide-and-seek with friends at her apartment complex. The moon’s glow helps Amani find the last hidden child, and seems almost like a partner to her in her game, as well as a spotlight pointing out her beauty and strength. This is a gorgeous bedtime read-aloud about joy and family love and community, and most of all about feeling great in your own skin.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I did find this activity PDF from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, but this really more for parents than for teachers. However, as I have mentioned in many of my previous posts, I like that this book is a diverse book that just shows many diverse families interacting in an everyday activity-their children playing together. I do not know whether there is any particular curriculum this could fit into so maybe this is a book better suited for a public library.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – Bobo’s illustrations in my opinion are not stunning. I think the real gem of this book is the words by Zachariah. I did think the choice to make this a narrated second-person point of view was interesting and could get children thinking on writing in other point of views.

Dancing Hands

  • Title: Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln
  • Author: Margarite Engle
  • Illustrator: Rafael Lopez
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Simon & Schuster-“As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War. Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the White House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa’s music bring comfort to those who needed it most?”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – Because this is a moment in the life of a real person, and the historical context is The Civil War, this could be taught in a variety of ways. Perhaps students could read about the real Teresa Carreño before or after reading this book. Perhaps students could read about Abraham Lincoln and about his life the moment Teresa met him. I found this lesson plan from Atheneum Books that has an extensive discussion guide and activities to do with students.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I was interested to read this book after the group presentation on illustrator Rafael Lopez. Like many of the books I have picked out with him as the illustrator, I am stunned by his colorful, whimsical illustrations. Particularly in this book, where as Teresa plays, the music is personified as waves of color, tropical birds and flowers soaring around her. I think that is a beautiful interpretation as many people (adults and children) imagine music in many ways.

Hey, Water!

  • Title: Hey, Water!
  • Author: Antoinette Portis
  • Illustrator: Antoinette Portis
  • Publisher: Neal Porter Books/Holiday House
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Holiday House-“Join a young girl as she explores her surroundings and sees that water is everywhere. But water doesn’t always look the same, it doesn’t always feel the same, and it shows up in lots of different shapes. Water can be a lake, it can be steam, it can be a tear, or it can even be a snowman. As the girl discovers water in nature, in weather, in her home, and even inside her own body, water comes to life, and kids will find excitement and joy in water and its many forms.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this book could be used to teach children about the water cycle, about the different forms of water, and even geographically, where we can find water on the earth. So I think this would be ideal for young children in elementary school. This lesson plan from Library Lessons With Books suggests this activity: forming groups after reading to designing a water conservation campaign, perhaps creating posters with art based on Portis’s illustrations. So in this way, this book could be used for multiple teachers/multiple disciplines.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –Portis’s illustrations are fast-paced; there is some level of action going on with each page flip, which I believe would keep a child’s interest. I liked that Portis subtly indicates each body of water with text that is next to the illustration, but does not overpower it, in fact, there is white space enough around the word and illustration that it does not look clumped together. I think was a great choice by the editor. I also want to note that our professor wrote this article about Hey, Water! for The Horn Book that you should read if you (as a teacher/librarian) are considering this book. Portis includes a brief note on water forms, the water cycle, and how to conserve water at the end of this book. I think this is a candidate for me for my Best 50 list.

When the Storm Comes

  • Title: When the Storm Comes
  • Author: Linda Ashman
  • Illustrator: Taeeun Yoo
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2020
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“When stormy skies threaten, people stock up on supplies, bring in their outside toys, and check the news for updates. And during the storm, if the power goes out, they can play games and tell stories by candlelight. But what do animals do? They watch and listen, look for a cozy den or some other sheltered spot, and hunker down to wait. After the storm, while the people are cleaning up their yards, making repairs, and checking on the neighbors, the animals emerge from their hiding places and shake off the rain. And everyone is happy to be out in the sunshine again, grateful for better weather and the company of friends.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I think this book could be used in a science class, while children are learning about the weather, storms, and how to prepare in case of an emergency.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –What I do really like about this picture book is the diversity present. We see different families preparing and hiding for the storm. I think my favorite set of illustrations is the two-page spread at the end that shows the whole neighborhood banning together to clean up and get things back to normal.

Blue Sky White Stars

  • Title: Blue Sky White Stars
  • Author: Sarvinder Naberhaus
  • Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2017
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“Wonderfully spare, deceptively simple verses pair with richly evocative paintings to celebrate the iconic imagery of our nation, beginning with the American flag. Each spread, sumptuously illustrated by award-winning artist Kadir Nelson, depicts a stirring tableau, from the view of the Statue of Library at Ellis Island to civil rights marchers shoulder to shoulder, to a spacecraft at Cape Canaveral blasting off.  This book is an ode to America then and now, from sea to shining sea.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – There are so many ways to use this book in the classroom or library. This could be used for a history class, and English class, or a government class. I found this instructional guide from the website TeachersFirst that has helpful activities and questions to ask students after reading this book. I also think this article from The Horn Book which eloquently says everything I wish I could say.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I was interested in reading this book for myself and covering it after hearing the group presentation on Nelson. I love Nelson’s impactful illustrations in this book, I think they are profound. I think this should be on my Best 50 list.

Max and the Tag-Along Moon

  • Title: Max and the Tag-Along Moon
  • Author: Floyd Cooper
  • Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
  • Publisher: Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2013
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“Max loves his grandpa. When they must say good-bye after a visit, Grandpa promises Max that the moon at Grandpa’s house is the same moon that will follow him all the way home. On that swervy-curvy car ride back to his house, Max watches as the moon tags along. But when the sky darkens and the moon disappears behind clouds, he worries that it didn’t follow him home after all. Where did the moon go—and what about Grandpa’s promise?”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – As I just discussed for Daniel’s Good Day and several others, this is another book that could celebrate Black Joy, and a book that every child can relate to as we have all wondered at the moon. This guide from the website Reading to Kids has questions to ask children before and after the reading, and new vocabulary words for children to learn.  
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I think I like the illustrations in this book more than in Cooper’s other work, The Ring Bearer because I like that the moon has become its own character and its shadows are felt through each page turn.

The Ring Bearer

  • Title: The Ring Bearer
  • Author: Floyd Cooper
  • Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
  • Publisher: Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2017
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“Jackson’s mama is getting married, and he gets to be the ring bearer. But Jackson is worried . . . What if he trips? Or walks too slowly? Or drops the rings? And what about his new stepsister, Sophie? She’s supposed to be the flower girl, but Jackson’s not sure she’s taking her job as seriously as she should. In a celebration of blended families, this heartwarming story, stunningly illustrated by the award-winning Floyd Cooper, is a perfect gift for any child who’s nervous to walk down the aisle at a wedding, and shows kids that they can handle life’s big changes.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this could be used in a preschool through 1st grade setting simply for diverse children to see themselves in an everyday setting (thinking of the Black Joy movement). This book also explores blended families and the anxiety that comes before a family has meshed.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it– I really liked the muted, sepia toned colors in this book because it allowed for the characters to really stand out from their backgrounds.

A Scarf for Keiko

  • Title: A Scarf for Keiko
  • Author: Ann Malaspina
  • Illustrator: Merrilee Liddiard
  • Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Amazon-“t’s 1942. Sam’s class is knitting socks for soldiers and Sam is a terrible knitter. Keiko is a good knitter, but some kids at school don’t want anything to do with her because the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and her family is Japanese American. When Keiko’s family is forced to move to a camp for Japanese Americans, can Sam find a way to demonstrate his friendship?”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I definitely think this book could be used in a history class and in a discussion of WWII. I do not think the internment of Japanese Americans is discussed frequently or at length in our classrooms, rather brushed aside as a few sentences. I think is important that we as educators do not go past a significant grievance (among many) that this country has enacted on its own citizens. I think this book could go a long way to helping children understand the situation and feel empathy. I found this teacher’s guide from Kar-Ben Publishing that would be helpful in using this book in the classroom.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it –I was glad an author’s note at the end of the book, with real photographs from the time that were depicted in the book. But also there is an acknowledgement at the beginning of the book from Malaspina about where she gathered her information to write this book, such as the Japanese American National Museum’s book Los Angeles’s Boyle Heights, which is the neighborhood this book is based in.

Boundless Grace

  • Title: Boundless Grace
  • Author: Mary Hoffman
  • Illustrator: Caroline Binch
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, an division of Penguin Books USA, first Scholastic printing 1997
  • Publication year: 1995
  • Brief Summary: From Scholastic-“In a vividly illustrated sequel to Amazing Grace, an irrepressible little girl goes to Africa to meet her father’s new family. As enthusiastic and excited as she is in her new country, her loyalties are divided between her two families and she must find a way to belong to both. Nana says families are what you make them, and Grace decides to make the most of hers.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this book is unique (still, even though it was published in the 90s) in that it describes a divorced family, and the child’s perspective on having two families. I found a guide from two teachers, a Mrs. Kinsel and a Mrs. Barham, on the Springfield, IL District 186 School website that has a compare and contrast discussion to use after reading this book.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I was more than shocked to see that both the author and the illustrator of this book are white. However, I did find this review from Africa Access Review (A website that seeks to expand perspectives on Africa and has educated members as their officers) that says: “It is gratifying, however, to see a beautifully illustrated book that depicts an African country in a non-stereotypical and authentic manner. According to the book blurb, Binch traveled to Gambia twice to collect images for the illustrations. Her effort to achieve authenticity is evident to Gambians. Howard University professor Sulayman Nyang, a former resident of Banjul, found the illustrations accurate in almost every detail. This is a carefully crafted book.” I think this review changed my initial misgivings. Because I did find Binch’s illustrations quite vivid and very natural (not stereotypical).

Daniel’s Good Day

  • Title: Daniel’s Good Day
  • Author: Micha Archer
  • Illustrator: Micha Archer
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“The people in Daniel’s neighborhood always say, “Have a good day!” But what exactly is a good day? Daniel is determined to find out, and as he strolls through his neighborhood, he finds a wonderful world full of answers as varied as his neighbors. For Emma, a good day means a strong wind for kite flying. For the bus driver, a good day means pleases and thank-yous. A good day is bees for the gardener, birthdays for the baker, and wagging tails for the mail carrier. And, for Daniel’s grandma, a good day is a hug from Daniel! And when Daniel puts all these good days together, they make a lovely poem full of his neighbors’ favorite things.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –I think there a many points for adding this to a school library: it’s a new book, there are diverse characters and it has a simple message. I found this lesson plan guide from the website Learning to Give which includes discussion questions to ask before reading and after reading the book aloud.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – I was glad to see a story such as this with a diverse character/family present. I think it’s important that simple, everyday stories such as this have diverse characters so that children who may come from minority backgrounds can see themselves in the book and not only in books about history, and significant events. While those books are also important and have their place, I think simple books like this with a story about kindness and a child’s curiosity should also include diverse protagonists. I liked Archer’s whimsical, colorful illustrations that show Daniel running, walking and interacting with his neighbors. I think one of my favorite illustrations is of Daniel explaining the “perfect day” to his Grandma and mother.