Category Archives: Culture & Traditions

The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero

Written by: Amalia Hoffman

Illustrated by: Chiara Fedele

For ages: 8-12 years old

Language: English and some Italian

Topics Covered: Judaism, WWII, Holocaust, Activism, Global Community, Historical Events, Historic Figure, Sports, Cycling. 

Summary: Gino Bartali was a small and sickly child, but he loved riding a bicycle more than anything else.  He got a part-time job at a bike shop to learn more, competed in his first race at the age of 12, but didn’t get his parents’ proper blessing to be a full-time professional cyclist until age 17.  Gino worked incredibly hard and in 1938 got a spot to compete in the Tour de France.  Even though he crashed his bicycle trying not to hit some spectators that decided to cross the road, Gino won! In his speech, he didn’t mention Mussolini who had taken control of Italy, and this angered the authorities.  Mussolini had teamed up with Adolf Hitler, and many years of hardship had begun.

When Gino returned home, he received a call from his good friend who also happened to be a cardinal and the archbishop of a church in Florence.  The cardinal had a plan to smuggle false papers into the country to help the Jewish folks assume non-Jewish identities for the duration of the war, keeping them safe from deportation to the concentration camps.  Gino doctored his bicycle frame to hide papers and went on long training rides back and forth through the mountains, shuttling papers back and forth to help the cardinal.

This is a fantastic book about a historical figure in multiple arenas!  We had never heard of Gino Bartali before reading this book, and are so glad his story was published.  After the story is finished there is an Afterword containing a photo of Gino and more detailed information about his life.  Overall, this is a fantastic book for elementary school students and we highly recommend it!

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:

600F95C74AA-483A-43AE-862BEF470200BF66Amalia Hoffman an author/illustrator. Her board book, Dreidel Day is scheduled for publication by Lerners Publishing Group/ Kar Ben Publishing for Fall, 2018.
She also wrote and illustrated The Klezmer Bunch and Purim Goodies. (Gefen Publishing House) Both books were chosen as notable stories for children by the Association of Jewish Libraries. The Klezmer Bunch was selected by the Tony Award winning choreographer/producer, Elizabeth Swados for inclusion in her play, Jewish Books Cooking.
Amalia’s article, Queen Esther and Me, was published in the March 2016 issue of  Highlights Magazine for Children.
Amalia designed and illustrated Rose Bud, on oversized book with pop-up elements, created as prop for Israel’s children’s theater, The Train.
Amalia received the SCBWI portfolio award in the category of Fantasy in 2005. Her art was voted best at the illustration display in the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference in 2014 and she received 2nd place at the 2016 conference.
She actively promotes her books with entertaining presentations and was voted as
finalist in SCBWI storytelling competition.
Amalia is a teaching artist affiliated with ArtsWestchester. She is a member of SCBWI and Children’s Books Illustrator Guild.

22282107_1986392834938384_4822018181978824675_nFrom her website:

Hi,
I am Chiara
I was born in Milan in 1973. I live in a little village 50 km far from Milan where I live with my family and my pets.

I attended Art School in Milan and took a degree in Illustration at La Scuola del Fumetto in Milan. I had also attended several workshops with illustrators such as Gianni DeConno, Arcadio Lobato, Svjetlan Junakovic and a course with the publisher Paolo Canton (Topipittori) called Projecting Books.
I work mainly for children publishers all around the word, storyboarding for advertising and movie. Magazines. I use a combination of mixed traditional media and digital.
My artwork is varied and I feel my style is always evolving.

WORK EXPERIENCE
Freelance illustrator, editorial designer, storyboard artist for advertising and movies.

I work with big and small Publishers in Italy, Greece, USA, UK, France, Germany.

I am currently represented by  illustration Agency ASTOUND.US

Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade

Written by: Lyla Lee

Illustrated by: Dung Ho

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English & some Korean

Topics Covered: Korean-American Experience, Lunar New Year, Culture & Traditions, Holidays, Friendship, Single-Parent Family, Lunar New Year, Safety, Social-Emotional Development, Own Voices. 

Summary: 

Happy Lunar New Year!  This book was released on January 14th, but we decided to wait to feature it until the actual holiday.  Mindy Kim is back for another adventure, this time taking the plunge and attending a parade in Orlando with her dad and friend Sally.

Mindy is feeling a little apprehensive because it’s the first Lunar New Year since her mom died, and she’s not quite ready to have as much fun as in years prior.  She insists on wearing her old hanbok (a ceremonial Korean garment) despite it being too small, because it was the last one her mother bought her.  This book, like the last one, offers a multitude of conversation options about Mindy’s feelings and events that happen at the parade.  Sally is a great character too.  Despite being white, she’s very excited to try Korean foods and learn different customs like how to bow properly.  She embraces the unfamiliar with gusto, and is excited to learn more about her friend.

Lunar New Year Parade normalizes the bicultural experience that so many kids and families live.  We love having an early chapter book that seamlessly weaves in Korean vocabulary and social-emotional learning into it’s story.  Definitely excited to see the next installment in the series!

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

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lyla-lee_author-photo-e1563250956805Lyla Lee is the author of the Mindy Kim series as well as the upcoming YA novel, I’ll Be The One (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins). Although she was born in a small town in South Korea, she’s since then lived in various parts of the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Inspired by her English teacher, she started writing her own stories in fourth grade and finished her first novel at the age of fourteen. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying Psychology and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching kids, petting cute dogs, and searching for the perfect bowl of shaved ice.

7ef4bf2895977.57c98c564f341Dung Ho is an illustrator based in Viet Nam. I’m focused on children books, game design, character design.

Common Threads: Adam’s Day at the Market

Written by: Huda Essa

Illustrated by: Mercè Tous

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Global Community, Family, Diversity, Kindness, Clothing, Islam, Culture & Traditions. 

Summary: Adam and his parents go to the outdoor market one day, and he sees a bright blue jay.  Following it, Adam doesn’t realize he’s left his parents behind until he tugs on what he thinks is his mother’s tunic but it turns out to be a nun’s dress.  Adam tries to identify his parents clothes in the crowd, only to realize that many different types of people dress in similar ways!  The individuals that Adam mistakes for his parents work together to bring them back together, and connect to each other in the process.

This book has few words, and the rich illustrations do the majority of the plot development.  Adam and his parents live in a diverse community that is wonderfully represented by the similarities in clothing that Adam mistakes for his parents.  The emphasis on community in this story is timely, some people live in fear of differences or the unknown.  In the beginning as well as the end of the book are statements about the power of community and diversity, and how we are stronger together.  This is a really beautiful book that can teach fantastic cultural vocabulary about garments along with the other messaging it promotes.

This book was sent to us by Sleeping Bear Press as an entry in the Best Books of 2019 List, but all opinions and decision to review were our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

huda_finalHuda Essa has been a teacher since she was a child. Her first students were her stuffed animals. When she became a teacher as a grown up, she loved finally having human children as her students! Now, as a speaker and author, Huda is a teacher to adult humans, too. Huda’s debut book, Teach Us Your Name, and her TEDx Talk, “Your Name is the Key!” teach us to use our names to learn more about ourselves and to embrace our wonderful human diversity. Huda teaches all over the world, but lives in Michigan. You can visit her LinkedIn here!

pintant-300x292Mercè Tous lives and works “in Barcelona, my place of birth. I love being near the sea and make the most of the wide range of cultural activities and opportunities for social networking this cosmopolitan city offers. However, whenever I can, I return to nature, my main source of inspiration.

Since I was a child I have always liked drawing, painting and immersing myself in pictures and illustrated books. My grandfather was my first art teacher, who passed on to me the passion for art, instilled in me the curiosity, the value of hard working and the satisfaction of doing a good job. I like all the art disciplines, and I have discovered with illustration a means to search beauty, to tell stories and to express my particular perspective of what surrounds me. I think that having an artistic profession is a chance to make a journey to discover the depth of oneself and, at the same time, to open to the world.

I graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Barcelona in 2008. Then I obtained the Art Teacher Certification in the same university. I carried on my education pursuing a postgraduate course specializing in children’s and youth’s book illustration at “Escola Eina” (Autonomous University of Barcelona) as well as three annual courses of illustration at “Escola de la Dona” lead by Ignasi Blanch and other great illustrators such as Cristina Losantos and Roger Olmos. I’ve also participated in several illustration workshops in Barcelona and Italy leaded by illustrators that I admire such as Octavia Monaco, Rebecca Lucciani, Mariona Cabassa and Joanna Concejo. Nowadays I work as a freelance illustrator.”

 

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business

Written by: Lyla Lee

Illustrated by: Dung Ho

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English & some Korean

Topics Covered: Parent Loss, Korean-American Experience, New Experiences, Moving, Growing Up, Family, Social-Emotional Learning, Friendship, Single-Parent Families.

Summary: 

This is an adorable early chapter book that we are so excited to bring you on Korean-American Day! Min-jung Kim, who also goes by Mindy, has just moved with her father from California to Florida.  The book follows Mindy trying to make friends and fit in, using her classmates’ interest in her seaweed snacks to start a business.

I really enjoyed this book!  Mindy is a clever and enjoyable narrator, I found myself chuckling at her phrasing of things.  This series is an important contribution to chapter books in this age group because it introduces a lot of the reasoning behind social-emotional skill development.  Mindy thinks about what she says and does, and the reasoning behind doing something that she doesn’t wholly want to do (like apologizing to a friend).  Mindy also takes careful note of how she’s treated by her teacher, which can open up opportunity for discussion about microaggressions and being a minoritized student.  There is definitely a void in Own Voices literature about the Korean-American experience, and maintaining one’s cultural identity when faced with disdain or confusion from peers.  Mindy is also coping with the loss of a parent, another family situation that isn’t common in many books that we’ve read.  Overall, this book is a fantastic resource for multiple experiences and opportunity for classroom and family discussion about tricky topics.

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

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lyla-lee_author-photo-e1563250956805Lyla Lee is the author of the Mindy Kim series as well as the upcoming YA novel, I’ll Be The One (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins). Although she was born in a small town in South Korea, she’s since then lived in various parts of the United States, including California, Florida, and Texas. Inspired by her English teacher, she started writing her own stories in fourth grade and finished her first novel at the age of fourteen. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying Psychology and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching kids, petting cute dogs, and searching for the perfect bowl of shaved ice.

7ef4bf2895977.57c98c564f341Dung Ho is an illustrator based in Viet Nam. They are focused on children books, game design, character design.

Peace, Love, Action!

Written & Illustrated by: Tanya Zabinski

Foreward by: Ani DiFranco

For ages: Middle Grades to read, ages 4 and up to listen.

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social Justice, Activism, Historic Figures, Historic Narratives, POC-Centric Narratives, Global Community, Call to Action, Kindness, Peaceful Activism, Gratitude, Resilience, Social Change.

Summary: For our last day in our Week of Intention we have Peaceful Action.  We found it important to begin and end this week with our central vision and mission for The Tiny Activist: activism.  It’s important for children (and adults!) to have lots of examples and options for how to engage in activism and organizing for causes themselves.

Peace, Love, Action! is an amazing book in a multitude of ways and provides examples of peaceful activism and kindness by the boatload.  Set up like an alphabet book but for middle grades, each letter represents a central theme to the activism of a person being profiled.  Zabinski’s illustrations are gorgeous, resembling (or potentially being) linocuts, one of our favorite artistic styles!

F is for Feed, and the reader learns about Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm (an organization we love!) that centralizes ancestral farming practices to help folks of color reconnect with their past through education as well as growing food for donations to local families.

Something else we really love is after each person profiled, there is a list of things that the reader can do to get involved, whatever their passion may be.  Having a myriad of options and critical self-reflection questions accompanying each letter.  With examples like Pete Seeger, Rachel Carson, Black Elk, and Azim Khamisa every person who picks up this book will become inspired to make the world a little better.

Peace, Love, Action! was kindly sent to us by Parallax Press, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & Illustrator:

indexFrom Tanya Zabinski’s website: “I was a tomboy. My nickname was Tinkerbell. I liked riding bikes, creek-slogging and playing flute. I liked reading, drawing and making puppet shows. I liked camping with my family. Those likes have never changed. My artwork and stories are rooted in the things I loved in childhood.

In college, I studied art, design, music and philosophy. I went to Buffalo State College, to an exchange program in Japan for a year, and to Parsons School of Design. I L-O-V-E-D college.

Even though I loved art, as I learned of poverty in the world, I felt that being an artist was selfish. How could I justify something so seemingly insignificant as making pictures, when other people can’t eat or have an education? When I was 18, I saw “From Mao to Mozart,” in which the famous violinist, Isaac Stern, visited China. It took place after Mao’s reign of terror, when China first opened its doors to the west. Isaac Stern’s passion for music was clearly visible, as was his ability to share it and coax it out in others. His music became a bridge for peace. By following his passion and sharing it, he was more useful to the world than if he squelched his passion for something more seemingly practical. That became my model. Later, I found this quote from Howard Thurman that encapsulates this view: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

These are things that make me feel alive: nature, the seasons, swinging on swings (or grapevines!), biking, hiking, kayaking, cross country skiing, gardening, watching birds and whales and clouds and my dog’s ears flopping as he walks in front of me, my supportive family, free-thinking people with open hearts, belonging to vibrant communities like Waldorf and Suzuki, yoga, meditation, books, music, cultures, learning about people who buck norms and pioneer their lives being true to an inner wisdom, swimming in the stream of ever-flowing love and funneling those feelings into my life and my art and the world.

Where have all these influences taken me? From working in a library, to waitressing, music-making, organic farm work, teaching, mural-making, becoming a partner in a local artists boutique, meeting my husband, travelling in Mexico, getting married, and having two sons. Today my husband and I have our own company called Planet Love in which we hand print clothing and sell it at art and music festivals, shops and online. We live in the hills south of Buffalo with a furry, black, thick-tailed, big-hearted dog.

Thank you for a heart open to read this. May you gravitate to the things that make you feel alive!”

Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock

Written by: Dallas Hunt

Illustrated by: Amanda Strong

For ages: 3-8 years

Language: English & Cree

Topics Covered: First Nations, Indigenous Voices, Family, Problem-Solving, Accountability, Love, Animals, Nature, Natural World, Bilingual Stories, Social-Emotional Learning, Own Voices. 

Summary: More skills we wish to take into the new year are found in this book, and they are: accountability and problem-solving!  We really enjoyed how Awâsis knew she had to fix the issue of losing the bannock, and didn’t try to pass blame onto someone or something else, or make excuses.  We strive for accountability, and it’s exemplified beautifully in this story!

Awâsis loves spending Sunday with her Kôhkum (grandmother).  One day she asks Awâsis to deliver some of her world-famous bannock to a relative, and Awâsis is happy to do so, skipping and hopping her way through the woods.  Unfortunately, she drops the bannock into the river. Awâsis decides to continue her walk through the woods and ask her animal friends for help.  They can provide single ingredients, but none have anymore bannock.  Will Awâsis be able to make bannock to deliver to Kôhkum’s relative?

This is a very sweet and simple story. Awâsis remains positive and wants to solve the problem of having no bannock by taking responsibility to fix it herself.  The book introduces a lot of great introductory Cree vocabulary words and has a pronunciation guide in the back!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Dallas_Hunt-e1568993042384DALLAS HUNT (he/him/his) is a teacher, writer, and member of Wapisewsipi (Swan River First Nation) in Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta, Canada. As a proponent of language revitalization, his debut book for children, Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock, includes words in Cree. Dallas teaches at UBC and enjoys reading great books to his nieces and nephews.

 

Amanda_Strong-e1541180498767AMANDA STRONG is a Michif, Indigenous filmmaker, media artist, and stop motion director currently based out of the unceded Coast Salish territory also known as Vancouver, British Columbia. She has exhibited work and screened films worldwide, including at the Cannes Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival, and the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Check her out at: www.spottedfawnproductions.com

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

Written by: Traci Sorell

Illustrated by: Frané Lessac

For ages: 3-7 years

Language: Cherokee, Romanized Cherokee, English. 

Topics Covered: Own Voices, Indigenous Voices, Cherokee Nation, Culture & Traditions, Love, Appreciation, Kindness, Family, Nature, Vocabulary, Literacy. 

Summary: For our next trait we’re taking with us into 2020: Gratefulness and Appreciation!  We honor and cherish the experiences we’ve had in the past and look forward to the future.  

This is a beautiful book about all of the reasons a person would be grateful: cool breezes blowing, community events, and time with family.  We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga is packed with breathtaking examples of gratefulness and community involvement that garner appreciation.  The illustrations are amazingly detailed and show groups of Cherokee people working together throughout the year.  We love the vocabulary and phonetic pronunciations on each page, ensuring that the reader knows how to say the words right off the bat.  Going through the seasons and some holidays, the reader gets a sense of the close-knit community and all of the reasons they are grateful.  It provides education into the culture if readers are unfamiliar with the Cherokee Nation, and there is an extensive definitions list, author’s note, Cherokee syllabary and alphabet in the back of the book.  We really love this book, and it will definitely be read for years and years to come!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Traci+Sorell+Home+PhotoTraci Sorell lives with her family in the Cherokee Nation, out in the country like she did as a child. Back then, she had geese, chickens, horses, dogs and cats. Her mother’s Cherokee family has been in the area since the removal of most Cherokee people from their southeastern homelands in 1838. Traci grew up hearing stories about her ancestors and looking at their photographs with her elisi (eh-lee-see), grandma. Now her son does that with his elisi in addition to fishing in the nearby lake and learning about Cherokee culture.

As a child, Traci spent a lot of time reading as well as singing and acting in musical theater productions. She also loved playing cars and school with her younger sister and brother. They spent hours driving little toy cars all over the towns they drew on large pieces of cardboard. They quizzed each other on state capitals and used old textbooks to teach each other new lessons. Away from home, they spent lots of time visiting family across the Cherokee Nation, elsewhere in Oklahoma and places farther west. Traci still loves to read, play, learn, and travel.

When Traci was a teenager, her family moved to Southern California. She did less acting and more writing, both in class and on the high school yearbook staff. She was the first in her family to graduate from college. Later, her mom, sister and brother got their degrees too.

Before she began writing for children, Traci’s work focused on helping Native American tribes and their citizens. She wrote legal codes, testimony for Congressional hearings, federal budget requests, grants and reports. She continues that work by writing stories for young people and encouraging other Native writers and illustrators to share theirs. When Traci was a child, she never read culturally accurate books about the Cherokee or any other Indigenous people. The stories and poems she writes now reflect her mission to add to the canon of literature showing that Native Nations and their citizens still exist and thrive today.

Frane Lessac photo 2.8.10From Frané Lessac’s website: 

I grew up in a small town on top of the Palisades in New Jersey. From my bedroom window, I could see the famous skyscraper skyline of New York City. In the hot summer months I could hear the shrieks of people riding on the roller coaster at a nearby amusement park.

As a child, I always wanted to be an artist or a veterinarian. By the time I was eight years old I had cats, dogs, fish, snakes, and a pet monkey named Hercules that used to sit on my shoulder. Hercules stank and had fleas and my mom finally said “either you or that monkey has to go.” I spent many weekends in New York City browsing through museums and galleries. I liked to explore New York’s Greenwich Village with my green snakes entwined around my arm. I loved watching the painters wearing their black berets and the poets reciting verse with the audience snapping their fingers in approval.

My cousin was the great writer and optimist Norman Cousins. Our Thanksgiving dinners were like United Nations meetings. I was surrounded by people of many different cultures and since been drawn towards people from around the world.

At eighteen, I headed for film school in California. My aim: to eventually make films about ‘primitive’ tribes before they were swamped by western culture. I borrowed camera equipment and, given film, took off on the road to the southwest, documenting a rodeo team, a long distance trucker, and even the birth of a baby. Home was a beach house in Malibu furnished with the discarded furniture of movie stars. We had Flip Wilson’s lawn chairs and Barbra Streisand’s settee. I worked hard to help finance my studies. My jobs included running the projector at the local Malibu cinema, chauffeuring the residents of Beverly Hills, and fertilizing cactus with a silver spoon at a desert nursery.

I moved from California to the small Caribbean island of Montserrat. Stunned by its visual beauty, I concentrated on painting the old-style West Indian architecture and its people.

Wanting to publish a children’s picture book about Montserrat, I next moved to London to be closer to publishers. I approached thirty publishers before one finally accepted the idea and the book was released as The Little Island in the United Kingdom. Six months later, it was published in the United States as My Little Island.

My work has led me on many adventures in numerous countries. Traveling continues to be a major source of inspiration for my work as I render my impression of a country and its way of life in oil and gouache paintings. My greatest ambition is to instill pride and self-esteem in children about their unique heritage and their own ability to capture in it pictures and words.