All posts by lockehardy

We are married educators living in Massachusetts who are passionate about bringing anti-bias and social justice narratives to children of any age!

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!

Maisie’s Scrapbook

Written by: Samuel Narh

Illustrated by: Jo Loring-Fisher

For ages: 3-7 years

Language: English and some Ghanian 

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Family, Biracial Family, Love, Imagination. 

Summary: This is a really cute story about a young girl named Maisie and her parents.  Her father is African, and while the ethnicity of her mother is not specifically mentioned,  she appears to be of European descent.  The story is a celebration of the fact that while sometimes Maisie’s parents wear different clothes or call items by different names, they love and hug her the same.  Maisie’s father tells her African stories and her mother comforts her when she gets scared.

The story reads much like a collection of memories, or a scrapbook (calling back to the book’s title).  We absolutely love the illustrations, especially the grumpy looks of Maisie’s face when her parents are nagging her.  Overall, we liked this book and it’s lovely to see a culturally blended and multiracial family represented in a children’s book without that being the entire plot of the story, bashing the reader over the head.  The book is about the memories that Maisie has with her parents, and the love she feels from them.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

7791Samuel Narh was “immersed in many folktales from the African continent and beyond as a child. Narh was born and raised in Ghana. For that reason, he is a natural storyteller. Narh enjoys using words to paint beautiful stories. He brings these attributes to the craft of writing picture books for young children. Narh’s stories are alive and they are meant to touch and move people. The messages are fashioned to enrich the lives of both young children and adults.”

 

 

JoPromoStudio1Jo Loring-Fisher is an “artist, illustrator and graduate of Cambridge School of Art’s MA in Children’s Book Illustration. She lives with her husband and two youngest daughters close to Stonehenge on Wiltshire’s beautiful Salisbury Plain in England.

Jo loves the countryside, and enjoy creating images using a range of materials including collage, ink, paint and printmaking. Much of her inspiration comes from observing nature and everyday life. 

Jo loves the scope of subjects that children’s books cover, from light-hearted, to tackling the challenges we all face. She will sometimes favour difficult subject matter softened by the use of her chosen materials.  Jo enjoys illustrating the texts of others, as well as my own material.” 

 

Little People Big Dreams: Ella Fitzgerald

Written by: Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara

Illustrated by: Bàrbara Alca

For ages: 4-7 years

Language: English 

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Historical Figures, Women in Music, Musicians, Trailblazers, Biography, Black Culture & Identity. 

Summary: Ella was a young girl fascinated with performing and music.  When she was 15, her mother died and radically changed her life.  Running away from a reform school, she began performing.  Two years later Ella won a contest at a nightclub and was discovered by Chick Webb, a big name in jazz at the time.  This jumpstarted her career, turning her into the First Lady of Song, as she is now known!

This is a basic overview of the prolific singer that is Ella Fitzgerald, and a good book for an introduction to the subject.  We really love the timeline in the back of the book with the photos of Ella throughout her career.  This book, like the other books in the series, is adorable!

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.

DeHda4TXUAAg0LNBàrbara Alca is an “extremely beautiful and enthusiastic Graphic Designer, Comic Artist and Illustrator based in Barcelona.

I make my own zines, work as a freelance illustrator for press such as El País, Ajuntament de Palma, El Jueves, Revista Cactus, and for editorial projects with Planeta, Alba Editorial and Sapristi.

Most of my work is mixed media, hand drawn lines with digital colouring.

I have a dark sense of humour, but I also love lace and bows which results in an eclectic style.”

Pies From Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Written by: Dee Romito

Illustrated by: Laura Freeman

For ages: 5-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Modern Black Freedom Struggle, Segregation, Historical Figures, Historical Narratives, POC-Centric Narratives, Black Culture & Identity, Activism, Community Organizing. 

Summary: Georgia Gilmore is both a mother of 6 and a cook at a lunch counter during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  She is inspired to do more fundraising for the boycott, and for the community organizing and activism surrounding segregation.  Georgia spearheaded efforts of local women who cooked secretly in their homes and then sold it to others in the local community.  The profits were then used in the fundraising efforts and donated to the cause.  Georgia operated under the utmost secrecy and through her efforts she was able to donate huge amounts of money, always saying that “it came from nowhere” in order to not implicate herself or anyone else.  However, when her job finds out she’s involved with the organization efforts, she is fired.  MLK Jr. helps Georgia update her kitchen and open a home restaurant, where she is able to continue the fundraising and hold meetings for key Civil Rights leaders!

Georgia Gilmore is a lovely example of how a person can partake in solid on the ground  organization efforts and create incredible ripples of change throughout a community.  So many organizers and activists have been erased from retellings in favor of uplifting a few key individuals in a simplified narrative.  Having these stories told showcase how intricate community efforts are, and how everyone can become involved in making change.  This is a crucial message to get across in times of political and social change, we have much to learn now about the efforts of those before us.  Students today are incredibly lucky to have children’s books like this to learn about heroes such as Georgia.  After reading this book, we have hope that young people will have better access to these stories instead of learning about organizers like Georgia Gilmore as adults.

This book was sent to us by little bee books but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

sleeves_2_origDee Romito is an author of books for young readers and a former elementary school teacher. She’s also an active PTA parent, Co-founder of the Buffalo-Niagara Children’s Writer’s and Illustrators (BNCWI), and the PAL Coordinator (for published members) of West/Central NY SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).

​Dee has lived in Buffalo, NY for most of her life and loves it there. (There’s a lot more to this place than winter snow and it truly is The City of Good Neighbors.) She’s had her share of travels around the world and short stints elsewhere, including a semester in London, a summer waitressing near the beach in North Carolina, and a first year of teaching in Atlanta.

Freeman-headshot-G54sml_800Laura Freeman is originally from New York City, but now lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. Laura received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and began her career working for various editorial clients. Laura has illustrated over thirty children’s books, including Hidden Figures written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the Nikki & Deja series by Karen English and Fancy Party Gowns by Deborah Blumenthal. In addition to illustrating books and editorial content, her art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards.

Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons: An Enslaved Woman Fights for Freedom

Written by: Gwendolyn Hooks

Illustrated by: Simone Agoussoye 

For ages: 9-12 years old

Language: English

Topics Covered: Enslavement, Historical Figures, Historical Events, POC-Centric Narratives, Black Culture & Identity, American History. 

Summary: Ona Judge is a woman enslaved by George Washington.  Yes, that George Washington.  Ona is very intelligent, and in moving around with the Washingtons to various cities, she becomes aware that she could be freed and live amongst other free Black individuals.  Ona gets word that she is going to be given as a wedding present to a relative, and knows the time to escape is upon her.  Ona hid on a ship, stowing away to Portsmouth and frees herself.  This book is a story of a strong woman who refused to endure a life of enslavement, even when she was found by associates of Washington, she did not surrender herself and instead led a fulfilling life on her own terms.

Simone Agoussoye is an incredibly talented artist, you should definitely check out her website below!  Our only concern with the style of art in this particular book is that readers may interpret the story as being for younger children.  The cover art is stunning, we wish all of the illustrations were done in that style.  Because of the seriousness of the subject matters covered in the book, and the sophisticated language inside of it, we would love for the illustrations to match it. However, we love this book very much and the story of Ona Judge is one that everybody should be exposed to. 

This book was sent to us by Capstone for consideration in the Best Books of 2019 List put on by the Read With River book club, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Gwendolyn-BrooksGwendolyn Brooks is one of the most “highly regarded, influential, and widely read poets of 20th-century American poetry. She was a much-honored poet, even in her lifetime, with the distinction of being the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize. She also was poetry consultant to the Library of Congress—the first Black woman to hold that position—and poet laureate of the State of Illinois. Many of Brooks’s works display a political consciousness, especially those from the 1960s and later, with several of her poems reflecting the civil rights activism of that period. Her body of work gave her, according to critic George E. Kent, “a unique position in American letters. Not only has she combined a strong commitment to racial identity and equality with a mastery of poetic techniques, but she has also managed to bridge the gap between the academic poets of her generation in the 1940s and the young Black militant writers of the 1960s.”

artist_simone_agoussoye_art_480x480Washington, DC born artist, Simone Agoussoye, “has been honing her skills in portrait artistry for the past several years. Always known for her creative depiction of people, Simone blended her portrait skills with new non conventional techniques which has driven her to become more of a contemporary artist.

Simone’s evolution in portrait artistry has allowed her to explore using materials such as broken crushed glass in her portrait work. The use of this material has sharpen her craftsmanship and execution proving that she is very talented and creative having a drive to continue to grow and develop as an artist. Although known for her portrait artistry her subject of paintings vary from animals, to landscape, and abstract art.

As a child and throughout her life Simone received prizes for her artistic ability and creative talent. From a young age she knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up which was an artist. She pursued her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Art Institute of Washington and graduated class of 2011. She is also the recipient of various Awards from Country Fairs and State Competitions.

Simone’s artwork has been showcased at exhibitions in Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD and more including “Artist Evolutions” at the Art Avenue Gallery located at the National Harbor, Oxon Hill, MD. Her artwork is included in numerous private art collections throughout the U.S. and U.K. She has also created many commissioned works of art.”