Ho’onani Hula Warrior

Written by: Heather Gale

Illustrated by: Mika Song

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English and Hawaiian

Topics Covered: Gender Identity, Hawaiian Culture & Traditions, Hula, Indigenous Voices, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Trailblazer, History, Historical Figure, Biographical, Self-Esteem, Family, Acceptance. 

Summary: 

This is an incredible book based on a real person!  Ho’onani is a young girl that feels in the middle of being a girl (wahine) and a boy (kâne) but still uses feminine pronouns.  Indigenous Hawaiians have a term for this, called mâhû. In the story, Ho’onani is accepted and encouraged by her family, except for her sister (in real life, this is not true!) who wishes Ho’onani would conform to traditional gender roles.  Luckily, one of Ho’onani’s teachers named Kumu Hina, (Kumu is Hawaiian for ‘teacher’) supports Ho’onani and allows her to be herself, in the middle.  Ho’onani wants to lead the boys hula performance at the end of the school year, something a girl has never done!  Luckily, Ho’onani’s community is supportive, and she makes history onstage, winning over the approval of her aforementioned sister that is on the fence with how openly Ho’onani embraces her identity.

There was a documentary made about the real Ho’onani by PBS in 2015!  Something that the documentary addresses that there isn’t enough room for in the children’s book is the fact that Ho’onani’s teacher, Kumu Hina, is a transgender woman.  The pair are very close, and Kumu Hina has developed her own terminology for the classroom to be more inclusive for gender non-conforming students mâhû students.

Indigenous Hawaiian gender identities are also discussed in the academic text, Critically Sovereign, which goes more in-depth about how colonialism shaped Hawaiian sexuality and gender identity, oppressing those that were not within the male-female binary.  The chapter about mâhû identity also takes into account the struggle for marriage equality within Hawai’i that started earlier than any other state, in the 1990’s.  The marriage equality debate is also wrapped up into the debate about Indigenous Hawaiian sovereignty, and if there should be a seceding from the greater government to create their own nation much like other Indigenous tribal nations found on the mainland.

You can watch the documentary about Ho’onani for free, here!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

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HEATHER GALE is a former orthotist and author originally from New Zealand. Heather loves stories of all kinds, but she especially loves those that feature real people like Ho’onani. She fell in love with the art of storytelling during long car rides, making up stories to go with the scenes flashing by. Heather has two sons and now lives in Toronto with her husband and their two dogs.

 

 

 

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MIKA SONG is a children’s author/illustrator who makes stories about sweetly funny outsiders.

Mika Song grew up in Manila, Philippines. As a child she wrote letters to a mouse who lived under her mother’s desk. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and cat.

The Escape of Robert Smalls: A Daring Voyage Out of Slavery

Written by: Jehan Jones-Radgowski

Illustrated by: Poppy Kang

For ages: 9-13 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Enslavement, Historical Figure, Historical Events, Abolition, POC-Centric Narratives, Resilience, Strength, Own Voices.

Summary: This book is phenomenal.  Robert Smalls was an enslaved man that was able to hold a job away from the person that enslaved him.  Because of this, he worked on a ship called The Planter during the Civil War and hatched a plan to save himself and many others.  Because Smalls was brave, intelligent, and cunning, he planned to impersonate the captain of The Planter and sail himself, his family, and around two dozen other enslaved people to the North where they would be free.  Robert set out and was able to sneak the large ship past several Confederate forts by carefully studying the actual ship captain’s movements, not raising suspicions of the soldiers stationed.

This book tells about the entire journey Robert Smalls underwent, and how his bravery also brought weapons to the Union army when the ship arrived.  After the story is an Afterword which talks more about enslavement and the Civil War.  I love the language that is used in the book, it is person-first and comprehensive without sounding like a lecture.  It puts forward Robert’s intelligence in carrying out his plan to help himself and others, rather than telling the story from a savior of abolitionist perspective, Robert is in charge of his own story.  There is also a glossary and a list of books that the reader can seek out to learn more, as well as a bibliography and a real photo of Robert!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

0*sEWcmQeqnzW8U7AWJehan Jones-Radgowski is a U.S. Foreign Service Officer. She has lived all over the world, including South Africa, Spain, Venezuela, Ghana, and the Dominican Republic. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Jehan currently lives in Germany with her family.

 

 

 

CTNPT_1258Poppy Kang is a freelance Illustrator and Visual Development Artist based in Los Angeles, California.

They Called Us Enemy

Created by: George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, Harmony Becker

For ages: YA-Middle and High School

Language: English, some Japanese. 

Topics Covered: Japanese Internment, Historical Figures, Historical Events, WWII, Growing Up, LGBTQ, Japanese-American Experience, Own Voices, Graphic Novel. 

Summary: This is an incredible graphic novel, telling of historical events that are rarely taught in schools. Deciding to post it today, February 19th, acknowledges a day that Japanese Americans call Remembrance Day, commemorating the passage of Executive Order 9066.  This executive order decreed that “excluded persons” could be removed from active military zones (the entirety of the west coast) and interned elsewhere.  While 9066 never said specifically what types of people were excluded, this became the basis for the removal of Japanese and Japanese Americans into camps for the next several years.  National Treasure George Takei and his family were just 5 of the 120,000 individuals relocated (several times) into internment camps.

George and his family were shuttled around for several years, his father engaging in community-building work and becoming elected barrack manager several times.  Upon release, the family moved back to Los Angeles and rebuilt their life.  The graphic novel also covers George growing up and becoming an actor, including emotional scenes where he visits the house of the president that was a proponent of the camps in the first place.

They Called Us Enemy is woven together with George’s memories, discussions with his father when he was a teen, and a Ted Talk.  This memoir describes events as perceived by a child, thinking they were going on vacation, as well as the political climate at the time of WWII and life in the camps.  The United States is no stranger to committing atrocities against people it fears.  Having a personal account of what happened to citizens in recent years gives a look into what can still happen today, if control over the democratic process is not regained by citizens.  We highly recommend this book, it’s crucial that young people today learn about what can happen when fear takes over and human rights are forgotten.

About the Creators:

249949f3-4100-4acc-8e36-67150780c4b1._CR266,0,1059,1059_PT0_SX300__George Takei is known worldwide for playing Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek: The Original Series. But Takei’s story goes where few have gone before. After a childhood spent in Japanese American internment camps during WWII, he has become a leading figure in the fight for social justice and LGBTQ rights. Mashable named him the most influential person on Facebook, with 10.4 million likes and 2.8 million Twitter followers.

Justin Eisinger is Editorial Director at IDW, with over twelve years in graphic storytelling. He seeks to create engaging, impactful non-fiction stories.

Steven Scott has worked in comics since 2010, and has written for Archie, Arcana Studios, and Heavy Metal, among others.

Artist Harmony Becker has created Himawari Share, Love Potion, and Anemone and Catharus. Part of a multicultural family, she has lived in South Korea and Japan.

My Mama is a Mechanic

Written & Illustrated by: Doug Cenko

For ages: 3-6 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Family, POC-Centric Narratives, Gender Stereotypes, Women in STEM. 

Summary: 

This book is absolutely adorable!  Our narrator is a young boy, describing all of the things his mother is.  Through the eyes of a child, his mother is a chemist, a monster truck driver, and treasure hunter.  The reader sees in the illustrations all of the activities that the duo does together like baking, searching for things in the couch cushions, and making things out of cardboard.  We find out at the end of the book that the boy’s mother is actually a mechanic!

This is a simple storyline for little ones that both subverts gender stereotypes and showcases the love that the boy has for his mother.  The illustrations are really cute, and show the mother and her son just having fun around the house together.  We particularly enjoyed the “Momster Truck” that said “eat your vegetables” on the side!

This is also a sweet book in that so often we see protagonists of color in a historical narrative context, or in a story with a strong moral.  My Mama is a Mechanic celebrates family but at the same time is just a cute story with a lovely lesson that anyone can do any job!

This book was sent to us by Blue Manatee Press, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & Illustrator:

headshot-2Doug Cenko has been working as a creative professional for over 15 years. His work has been seen by millions of people worldwide on dozens of concert tours, films and television shows.

He grew up in Northwest Indiana raised by two wonderful parents and an Atari 2600. His first job was at a comic book shop where he spent the majority of his $3 an hour income on the very thing he was selling. The rest, of course, went towards fireworks.

After college, Doug interned at StarToons, one of the animation studios behind the Animaniacs, making even less money than at the comic shop. From there, he combined his love of illustration and fireworks and started working at Strictly FX, a live special effects company. While at Strictly FX, Doug has designed special effects for shows including Wrestlemania, the Academy Awards and Pitch Perfect 2.

Doug is currently living in the city of Chicago with his two harshest critics – his beautiful wife and daughter.

Granddaddy’s Gift

Written by: Margaree King Mitchell

Illustrated by: Larry Johnson

For ages: 5 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Modern Back Freedom Struggle, Voting Rights, Family, Activism, Racism, Strength, Resilience, Education, Own Voices, Historical Fiction. 

Summary: This story is told from the perspective of a young girl, who everyone calls Little Joe on account of the fact that she follows her grandfather Joe around everywhere. She and her siblings live with their grandparents on a farm in the South.  Little Joe tries to skip school one day, but her grandpa catches her and on the drive to school she complains about the ragged books the school gets handed down from the white schools.

Things change a bit for the family when Granddaddy volunteers to try and register to vote, agreeing to take the test on the state constitution.  He studies and passes, but the community church is set on fire and burns to the ground as retribution for exercising the right to register.  Undeterred, more members of Little Joe’s community vow to study and register themselves to vote.

This story is an introduction to the struggles that African-Americans faced trying to register to vote before the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.  The violence within the story is light, with no one being injured in the church fire and instead using the arson as reason to have more folks register to vote.  The story is appropriate for children, and we would consider the book a primer about the Modern Black Freedom Struggle for younger audiences, to prepare them later for more complex storylines surrounding the topic of both the struggle and the voting registration activism that took place (ex: SNCC, bussing, boycotts, etc.). Great read with beautiful illustrations!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

FullSizeRender-1-624x468Margaree King Mitchell is the author of Uncle Jed’s Barbershop (Simon & Schuster), Granddaddy’s Gift (Scholastic), When Grandmama Sings (HarperCollins), The People In The Park (Watershed Books), and Woman In The Pulpit (Castlewood Books). From her “about” section of her website:

She has been “featured on the PBS show Reading Rainbow, Uncle Jed’s Barbershop is on a multitude of school lists of required reading throughout the United States. It is also reprinted in several international textbooks.

The team of David Wohl, Kenneth Grimes, and Susan Einhorn has adapted Uncle Jed’s Barbershop into an award-winning musical featuring Broadway veteran Ken Prymus as Uncle Jed.  Uncle Jed’s Barbershop was a featured show in the New York Musical Theater Festival and won the National Music Theater Network’s Directors Choice Award.

In my books for children I use history to encourage students to shoot for the stars with aspirations for their lives.  If they can see the accomplishments of people who lived long ago who achieved their dreams in less than ideal situations, I hope students will be inspired and know they can do even more with their lives.

Several years ago I visited with students who didn’t believe they were special.  They certainly didn’t believe they had special gifts to share with the world.  I was surprised that no one in the entire room thought they had within them the power to change the world.  I asked why.  They said no one had ever told them so.  Therefore, whenever I speak to children, I try to inspire them to dream big dreams for their lives and believe those dreams can come true.

In my teen fiction book, The People In The Park,   I explore what happens in the lives of teens when something devastating happens through no fault of their own.  Teens are blamed for lots of what’s wrong in the world.  But there are teens who are good students and good citizens who  successfully navigate life changing situations.  I thought it would be interesting to show through a story how they work through their issues and return to normal, while becoming better for having gone through the experience.

I hope teens groups use The People In The Park for discussion.

Teens throughout the country are weighing in on Lauren (the main character in The People In The Park) and her situation.  Lively discussions are taking place on whether teens agree or disagree with Lauren and the decisions she makes.

I wrote Woman In The Pulpit after listening to several friends, who are female ministers, talk about their experiences in the pulpit. Through the book I attempt to show the challenges women in the ministry face as they seek to carry out their calling.”

6923840Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Larry Johnson attented The Boston Museum School of Fine Arts.  For over thirty years Johnson was the Editorial Sports cartoonist for The Boston Globe, The National Sports Daily, ESPN’s Quickie page and Weei.com.

Larry has been an illustrator for over twenty five years in book  publishing, magazines and agencies. His work includes assignments for Fortune magazine, Lee Low, Scholastic, Little Brown, The Boston Globe, ESPN.com. Hill Holiday and the Sporting News.  He has illustrated biographies on Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph and The Wilt Chamberlain story.  His work has been acknowledged in New York’s Society of Illustrators.

As a Fine Artist, Johnson has had much success selling his original work to celebrity clients such as Oprah Winfrey and Vernon Jordan.  Corporate clients include Pepsi-Cola, Hallmark and The National Football League. His work has been seen on The Cosby Show and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Johnson works in all mediums.  His ability to capture a likeness as well as draw people of every ethnicity makes him very sought after talent for commissioned assignments. His greatest asset is his ability to work in a plethora of styles from a literal rendering to wonderful children’s books.e to edit.

I’m Gonna Push Through [released Feb. 18th]

Written by: Jasmyn Wright

Illustrated by: Shannon Wright

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Empowerment, Self-Confidence, Resiliency, Disability, Diverse Experiences, Growth Mindset.

Summary: 

This book is awesome!  I’m Gonna Push Through! delivers an empowering message for young people to step into their power and overcome anything in their path.  The book is based on a mantra that the author developed for her classroom, it embraces challenge head-on and encourages students to see themselves as masters of their own story.

This story is spectacular for so many reasons!  The illustrations are incredible and diverse, featuring many people I’ve never seen featured in a children’s book before.  Students that use mobility aids, a child using a white and red cane (signifying low or no vision), a girl with a prosthetic leg, as well as a child with vitiligo!  Reading through the book, the reader learns about how many famous adults (LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Jillian Mercado, and Jamie Brewer and more) pushed through any potential roadblocks on their journey, and conquered.

In the back of the book is a lengthy author’s note about Jasmyn’s journey as a teacher and the phenomenon of her Push Through campaign that became known globally.  There is also information about most (not all, unfortunately) of the people mentioned that pushed on through and achieved greatness.  Overall, this is an amazing book that should be used in classrooms everywhere!  I don’t think our review can do justice to this storyline, I urge everyone to find a copy immediately and take in the beauty that is this book.

This book was sent to us by our friends at Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Jasmyn Wright, a globally recognized educator, was born in Philadelphia, PA, but grew up in Pennsauken, NJ. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Spelman College in 2009, and her Master of Education from Christian Brothers University in 2012. IN 2015, Jasmyn was awarded the Teachers for Global Classrooms Professional Development Fellowship, in which she spent one year taking a global educational course, and learning ways to bring the awareness of global education to her school community. The fellowship required her to create a global education unit plan, and spend three weeks in Manila, Philippines, sharing best practices with government officials, administrators, and educators. She spent her Spring 2009 semester studying abroad at the University of Legon in Accra, Ghana.

A Teach for America alumna and elementary teacher of 9 years, Jasmyn taught in under-served and disadvantaged communities. She’s very passionate about instilling self-awareness and life-skills in her students, and is best known for helping them develop confidence, grit and resilience to overcome adversities, accomplish goals, and maximize their potential.

Jasmyn brought creativity and innovation in her classroom by creating affirmations, programs, and global learning projects that left her students feeling empowered and excited to learn. By fostering growth mindset, she encouraged them to be strong and limitless. Her inspiring and “out of the box” teaching approach allowed her to build authentic, healthy relationships with each of her students, and create a strong classroom culture.

November 2016, Jasmyn uploaded a video to her Facebook page, leading an original call and response mantra called #PushThrough with her then third grade students. This mantra instantly became a social media sensation, reaching over 3.7 million views within one week. Since then, her classroom style of teaching has been recognized and featured in The Huffington PostThe Today ShowBuzzfeed News, NPR News, Fox, NBC, etc. Recently, Jasmyn and her class had the opportunity to film and be a part of a 2017 GAP Kids back to school commercial and campaign, using a shortened version of her infamous classroom mantra, ‘Push Through’. The commercial was also coupled with a 5 minute mini documentary. Her ‘Push Through’ mantra is now permeating throughout classrooms and communities all over the world, and has been translated into 4 languages.

Jasmyn is a global educator and professes that the world is now her classroom. In addition to traveling and leading various inspirational keynotes, youth empowerment workshops, and teacher professional developments across the globe, she also serves as an educational consultant. Jasmyn travels to multiple countries and partners with organizations, leading, facilitating, and organizing teacher training programs. Sharing her best practices and innovative and sincere teaching methods, she’s impacting and transforming educational communities around the world.

Her goal with The Push Through Organization is to continue to use her voice and gift to spread empowerment, speak up and advocate for what society labels as broken, remind people their they were birthed with a purpose and limitless, and positively impact change around the world. For more on Ms. Jasmyn Wright, please visit her website at: http://www.jasmynwrightglobal.weebly.com

Photo by Sarah Schultz Taylor

Shannon Wright is an illustrator and cartoonist based out of Richmond, Virginia. Some of her clients include The Guardian, TIME Magazine, NY Times, Mother Jones, NPR, Google and Scholastic. Her first picture book, My Mommy Medicine, is out on shelves.

Her work tends to explore social issues like race and gender through a slice-of-life lens. She makes personal and original stories invoking nostalgia rooted from her own childhood and life around her. Represented by Writers House. For book inquiries contact Hannah Mann.

Care Giver Fatigue

Little People Big Dreams: Josephine Baker

Written by: Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara

Illustrated by: Agathe Sorlet 

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Biography, Historical Figure, Musician, Women in Music, Trailblazer, Segregation, Racism, Activism, Modern Black Freedom Struggle, WWII. 

Summary: Josephine was a born performer, and found her fame dancing on a chorus line in New York City.  Due to ongoing segregation and general racist American society, she moved to France to work on a new show.  Josephine became incredibly famous, becoming the first African-American woman to star in a film.  She also adopted a bunch of animals and a dozen children!  During WWII, Josephine became a spy in the French Resistance.  She’s really just an overall badass. Josephine eventually moved back to the States and became engaged in activism for the Modern Black Freedom Struggle.

We love Josephine and are so glad this book exists that also talks about all of her achievements besides being an amazing performer!

This book was sent in consideration of the Best Books of 2019 list by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (an imprint of Quarto), but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

maria-isabel-sanchez-vegara-2Mª Isabel Sanchez Vegara was born in Barcelona, Spain, and she is a writer and creative director perhaps best known as the author of much of the Little People, Big Dreams series. Six years ago, she decided to self-publish a book that had been in her mind for a long time. One day, one thousand copies of arrived at her home – she had no idea what she was going to do with them! She opened a little online shop, placed them to some pretty stores in her neighborhood and, one by one, she sold them all. Soon, publishing houses started to approach her to write books, but she was working on another idea of her own: a series about little people with BIG dreams. Each book tells the childhood story of one of the world’s female icons in an entertaining, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers, allowing them to identify with the characters in each story.

50.jpgAgathe Sorlet is an illustrator based in Paris, France!