Category Archives: Global Community

Atlas of Ocean Adventures

Written by: Emily Hawkins

Illustrated by: Lucy Letherland

For ages: 7 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: STEM, Nature, Natural World, Scientific Thinking, Discovery. 

Summary: This book is part of a larger set of atlas’ by Quarto as part of their Wide Eyed Editions books, focusing on curiosity and learning.  This is the only book in the series that we’ve seen (we won this in a giveaway) but the other books look amazing too!  We love to feature nature and science books as part of our beliefs that everyone can be a scientist, despite there sometimes being a single example of what a scientist is.  The world is an amazing place that needs diverse explorers and scientists to help solve life’s mysteries and to protect our precious natural resources and wild animals.

This is a massive book jam packed full of oceanic knowledge and adventure inspiration!  The entire book is beautiful and organized, with a helpful contents page at the beginning and an index at the end.  The illustrations make us want to grab some flippers and hop on into the water, searching for otters and whale sharks to befriend!  The atlas also does a lovely job of explaining the wonders of the aquatic world, and where they are in the world.  Lots of information is on the pages, but it doesn’t overwhelm the illustrations which are the star of the show here.  This is a great coffee-table book, and a must-have for the burgeoning marine biologist on your life!

There is even a “Can You Find?” section in the back right before the index!  There are a bunch of animals to seek out through the entire book, making another activity for readers.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

711233d6Lucy Letherland is an illustrator based in London, UK. She graduated from Manchester School of Art in 2011 with a First Class BA (Hons) in Illustration with Animation. Lucy’s work is strongly led by humour and narrative, creating a playful graphic quality. She uses a mix of hand-drawn and digital techniques to produce lively illustrations filled with detail.
In 2014 Lucy’s first picture book for children, Atlas of Adventures, was published by Wide Eyed Editions. It went on to win the UK Educational Writer’s Award 2015, and was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, The English Association’s 4-11 Picture Book Awards, and the UKLA Book Award 2016.
Her second, Atlas of Animal Adventures, won the Children’s Travel Book of the Year in the Edward Stanford Awards 2016.
B1LWRxb3lVS._US230_Emily Hawkins is a children’s author who loves making complicated things easy to understand. She has written books about all sorts of things, from cars, trains and ships to dinosaurs, magic tricks and mathematics. She co-wrote the Atlas of Animal Adventures (illustrated by Lucy Letherland), which won the Children’s Travel Book of the Year Award in 2016. Emily has also written several titles in the internationally popular Ology series, which has sold over 16 million copies worldwide. She holds a first-class English degree from Nottingham University, and lives in Winchester, England, with her young family.

Miep and the Most Famous Diary

Written by: Meeg Pincus

Illustrated by: Jordi Solano

For ages: 6-12 years

Language: English & very little German

Topics Covered: Historical Figures, Historical Events, Holocaust, Judaism, Global Community, WWII, Activism, Strength, Resilience. 

Summary: This book opens with Miep hearing the footsteps of Nazi soldiers, coming to arrest the 8 Jewish people that she’s been helping to hide in attic storage rooms for the past two years.  Miep manages to avoid arrest by realizing that she and the soldier are both from Vienna, and is left alone.  Miep is able to summon the courage to go upstairs to the secret annex where the Franks and others have been hiding, and she saves Anne’s diary.  She is able to hid the diary until the war is over and Mr. Frank returns, he is the only one that makes it out alive.  Eventually, the diary is published.

This book is somber, tender, and based on Miep’s autobiography.  It gives another facet of the WWII experience, this time from a non-Jewish activist committed to the anti-Nazi cause.  While the story of Anne Frank is well-known throughout the world, Miep’s story is lesser known.  In the back of the book is an author’s note, more information about Miep, and a timeline of her life.  She is a beautiful, courageous person.  Although she didn’t do any of the actions she’s famous for for glory, she did it to be a good person, not seeing herself as a hero but rather a person just doing her duty.  This is a beautiful book to add into any Holocaust education/curriculum, or world history learning.

This book was sent to us by Sleeping Bear Press as an entry in the Best Books of 2019 list, but all opinions are our own, as was the decision to review the book separately from the list project.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Meeg Pincus 2018 headshot tightMeeg Pincus is a “kidlit nonfiction author. Humane educator. Book editor. Library lover. The happily book nerdy list goes on.

I have a lifelong passion for nonfiction books. Reading them, writing them, editing them. I’ve been writing & editing nonfiction in some form or another for over 20 years—and I still love it. (Learn more about my writing/editing background—and my much longer, full name—here.)

I’m also passionate about education & making our world a kinder, healthier place. This led me to the field of humane education: teaching people to be “solutionaries”—problem-solvers who help people, animals & the planet.

Nowadays I write “Solutionary Stories” for elementary-age children—nonfiction & informational books that inspire kids to make a difference.

I’m a former newspaper journalist & scholar-in-training (four years of graduate school in cultural studies/communication—focusing on race/class/gender—at UW-Madison & UC-San Diego). So I have a background in, and love for, research that means I dive deep & attempt to be incredibly accurate in every topic I write about.

And I’m grateful to have a diverse family (with a mix of religions, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, and abilities), so I’ve always incorporated diversity of many kinds into my writing. For me, part of being a solutionary is focusing first on compassion for all beings, and giving voice to those who are marginalized.

I’m active in SCBWI (San Diego chapter) and have participated in the Highlights Foundation Nonfiction Master Class, nonfiction workshops with the Writing Barn, 12×12, and more, to always keep improving my craft. I’m also the co-founder of 19PBbios, a promo group of 19 diverse picture book biographies releasing in 2019 from diverse creators.”

Solano_JordiJordi Solano was born in Barcelona and although he still lives there, he likes to visit and stay in almost every other country. He studied fine arts and illustration and has been illustrating books for the last ten years. Recent projects include Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark; Beyond the Sixth Extinction; and iDoyle: The Interactive Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – A Scandal in Bohemia, an interactive book. Stories are his very favorite thing in the world: watching, reading, or telling them, so he’s very happy with the job he has.

A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett Coverley Found Her Voice

Written by: Nadia L. Hohn

Illustrated by: Eugenie Fernandes

For ages: 4-8 years 

Language: English & Jamaican/Caribbean Patois 

Topics Covered: Historical Figure, POC-Centric Narratives, Poetry, Global Community, Trailblazer, Black Culture & Identity, Jamaica, Language, Literacy. 

Summary: Louise is a young girl living in Kingston, Jamaica.  She loves words and writing poetry, but the words get stuck when she tries to speak.  Louise gains inspiration for her poetry by listening to the sights and sounds of those around her, but she is shamed for it at school.  Louise ends up going to another school, but has trouble reciting the poems she memorized out loud.  Instead, she musters up courage to speak the lyrical flow of Jamaican Patois that she hears on the streets and in her house, rather than the formal English that she feels might be expected of her in school.  To her surprise, her classmates and teachers love Louise’s poem!  

This book is amazing for several reasons.  First, it introduces young children not only to poetry but also to an accomplished poet that they might not be familiar with if they don’t live in Jamaica!  Second, it helps normalize the linguistic cultural funds of knowledge that students bring into the classroom with them.  Many times, children of color that might speak a patois, pidgin dialect, or AAVE outside of the classroom are shamed for bringing it into school.  This invalidates their experiences and furthers the elitism associated with formal/standard English.  We should be embracing the lived experiences of students, and having this book that celebrates such a prolific woman is a great addition to bookshelves!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

4635690Nadia L. Hohn is a dynamic “story lady” who has presented to audiences in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jamaica, and Trinidad.  From the age of six years old, Nadia L Hohn began writing stories, drawing, and making books. Her first two books, Music and Media in the Sankofa Series were published by Rubicon Publishing in 2015.  Her award-winning first picture book, Malaika’s Costume was published in 2016 and its sequel Malaika’s Winter Carnival 2017 by Groundwood Books.  Nadia is also the author of Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter, an early reader by Harper Collins published in December 2018.  A Likkle Miss Lou: How Jamaican Poet Louise Bennett-Coverley Found Her Voice, nonfiction picture book about the performer, playwright, author, and Jamaican cultural ambassador, Louise Bennett-Coverley otherwise known as Miss Lou, will be published in 2019 (Owlkids). Nadia was 1 of 6 Black Canadian Writers to Watch in 2018 and the first SCBWI Canada East Rising Kite Diversity Scholarship recipient in 2018. Nadia  will be a touring in Alberta as a presenter in the TD Canada Children’s Book Week in 2019.  In summer 2019, Nadia will be the writer in residence at Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver, British Columbia. Nadia is an elementary school teacher in Toronto and has taught early years music in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Nadia L. Hohn studied writing at the Highlights Foundation, Humber College School of Writers, George Brown College, and the Voices of our Nation (VONA).  She holds an honours arts degree in psychology from the University of Waterloo as well as Bachelor and Master of Education degrees from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT).  Nadia is currently working on two young adult novels, a play, the next Malaika… book, and others.  She lives in Toronto she teaches, reads a ton, and crafts stories. She also loves to write (songs, blogs, journals, stories), play piano, cook vegan dishes, travel, study arts and cultures of the African diaspora especially Caribbean folk music, Orff music education, and run.

eugenie_fernandes-2Eugenie Fernandes has illustrated a myriad of books for a whole slew of publishers!  Here is a brief blurb about her from the Kids Can Press website: “My world is yellow and blue and green. I grew up on the beach. I painted with my father — comic-book illustrator Creig Flessel. We made up stories sitting on the front porch. Birds flew down from the sky and sat on my shoulder. Cats purred. Frogs hopped. I have always lived on islands …a house on Long Island, an apartment on Manhattan Island, a thatch hut on an island in the middle of the South Pacific, and now … I live and work in a little house … on a little island … in a little lake in southern Ontario. Summer and winter …starting at the crack of dawn, I paint every day. Sometimes, I write stories. Sometimes, I sell the stories. Then I paint again … I paint my stories … I paint other people’s stories. Sometimes, I paint paintings for myself … abstract paintings … big … free … Sunshine fills my studio.I am surrounded by water and birds and trees.My world is yellow and blue and green. Eugenie graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1965. Her paintings from Earth Magic and One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference are at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.”

The Hero Next Door

Written by: Each short story is written by someone different!  Edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich.

Covert Art by: Michelle Cunningham

For ages: YA middle grades

Language: English. Some Spanish, some Arabic.

Topics Covered: Growing Up, Neurodiversity, Domestic Violence, POC-Centric Narratives, Own Voices, Sports, Supernatural, Adoption, Friendship, Family, Love.

Summary: This book is awesome!  Each story takes a unique viewpoint and has a hero in it, but an unexpected one.  There are stories about adoption, ghosts, sports, brilliant robot engineer twin sisters, and even one with an autistic main character who loves aikido!

This book is special because everyone can find something to connect with in these stories.  They are diverse in viewpoint, in interests, and storylines.  In one story, the hero is a camp counselor that buys something for a town zombie.  In another, the hero is a young girl who realizes she must use fairy magic to stop a war between worlds.  It’s hard to describe all of these stories without giving away everything!  Trust us, this book is fantastic and the author list stellar.  It’s a great introduction to a huge array of talented authors, and a jumping off point into their works.  Highly recommend you check this book out and have at least a few copies for you classroom!

About the Authors & the Cover Artist:

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is the author of the 8th Grade Superzero, which was named a Notable Book for a Global Society and a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. She also writes nonfiction, including Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow, and Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins. She is the coauthor of the middle grade novel Two Naomis, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award and is a Junior Library Guild selection, and its sequel, Naomis Too. She is a member of the Brown Bookshelf and the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. She has contributed to numerous anthologies for children, teens, and educators, holds an MA in education, and writes frequently on literacy-related topics for Brightly. Visit her online at olugbemisolabooks.com!

Rita Williams-Garcia is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels for young adults and middle grade readers.  Her most recent novel, Gone Crazy in Alabama ends the saga of the Gaither Sisters, who appear in One Crazy Summer and PS Be Eleven.  Her novels have been recipients of numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award, National Book Award Finalists, Newbery Honor Book, Junior Library Guild, and the Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction.  She served on faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children MFA Program and she resides in Queens, New York.   

Ronald L. Smith is the award-winning author of the middle grade novel, Black Panther: The Young Prince and The Mesmerist, a supernatural Victorian fantasy. His first novel, Hoodoo, won the 2016 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award. His latest is The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away, a Junior Library Guild Selection. Ronald grew up on Air Force Bases and has lived in Japan, Maine, Alabama, Michigan, South Carolina, and a bunch of other places he doesn’t remember. As a boy, he loved to read, especially fantasy and science fiction, and this inspired his lifelong passion of the fantastical. The book that inspired him to write more than any other was The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron.

Linda Sue Park was born in Urbana, Illinois on March 25, 1960, and grew up outside Chicago. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old, and her favorite thing to do as a child was read.In 1997, she started writing her first book, Seesaw Girl. It was accepted that same year and published in 1999. Since then, Linda Sue has published many other books for young people, including A Single Shard, which was awarded the 2002 Newbery Medal. She now lives in western New York with the same Irishman; their son lives nearby, and their daughter lives in Brooklyn. Besides reading and writing, Linda Sue likes to cook, travel, watch movies, and do the New York Times crossword puzzle. She also loves dogs, watching sports on television and playing board and video games. When she grows up, she would like to be an elephant scientist.

Anna Dobbin is a writer, copy editor, and proofreader. She owns an adorable Italian greyhound named Pintxo. In middle school she played soccer three hundred days a year and also loved singing, reading and making art. Anna is Linda Sue Park’s daughter, and this story is just one of their second professional collaboration after they contributed to the collection Totally Middle School, edited by Betsy Groban.

hena khanHena Khan is a Pakistani-American Muslim who was born and raised in Maryland, and enjoys sharing and writing about her culture and religion. She has also written about a bunch of other topics, from spies to space travel, that take her out of her reality and on adventures. While not quite as thrilling, she’s had a few adventures of her own, managed to get to some pretty fantastic places on our planet, and met incredible people. She’s slightly obsessed with Spain, ceramic tiles and pottery, food, flamenco, and good coffee. When she’s not cooking up a story, she’s often actually cooking food or baking treats. She also spends time writing and editing for international organizations that work to improve the health and lives of people around the world.


Suma Subramaniam works with children globally to promote education and is a WNDB volunteer. After a successful corporate career for many years, now, instead of chasing technical talent in the hi-tech industry, she chases characters in her fictional work for the most part of her time. Suma has an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, a Certificate in Popular Fiction from the University of Washington, and advanced degrees in computer science and management.

Photo by Eric Jenks

For over forty years Joseph Bruchac has been creating literature and music that reflect his indigenous heritage and traditions. He is a proud Nulhegan Abenaki citizen and respected elder among his people. He is the author of more than 120 books for children and adults. His best selling Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children series, with its remarkable integration of science and folklore, continue to receive critical acclaim and to be used in classrooms throughout the country. 

Photo: Silvia Baptiste, 2013

Juana Medina was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. She is the author and illustrator of the Pura Belpré Award-winning chapter book Juana & Lucas. Juana is also the author and illustrator for Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas1 Big SaladABC Pasta, and Sweet Shapes. She illustrated Smick! By Doreen Cronin, Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous by Keith Calabrese, and I’m a Baked Potato! by Elise Primavera. She has participated in two recent anthologies: We Are The Change (Chronicle, 2019) and The Hero Next Door (Crown Books, 2019). Juana has been lucky to earn recognitions from the Colombian Presidency, the National Cartoonists Society, the National Headliner Award, International Latino Book Awards, and Ridgway Award honors, among others — which is quite impressive for someone who was a less-than-stellar student and who often got in trouble for drawing cartoons of her teachers. Despite all trouble caused, Juana studied and taught at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and the Corcoran College of Art + Design (where students had plenty of chances to draw cartoons of her). She lives in the DC area, with her wife, twin sons, and their dear dog, Rosita.

Mike Jung is the author of Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities and Unidentified Suburban Object. He is a library professional by day, a writer (and ukulele player) by night and was a founding member of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks team. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife and two children.

Cynthia Leitich Smith (“Leitich” is pronounced Lie-tick. First a long “i,” then a short “i,” followed by a hard “k.”) is best known as an award-winning, bestselling author of fantastical and realistic fiction for young readers. She is the New York Times best-selling YA author of Hearts Unbroken and both the Feral trilogy and Tantalize series. These novels were released by Candlewick Press in the U.S., Walker Books in the U.K. and Australia/New Zealand, and additional publishers around the globe. She also is the author of several award-winning children’s books, including: Jingle Dancer, Rain Is Not My Indian Name, and Indian Shoes, all published by HarperCollins. In addition, she has published short stories, nonfiction essays, and poetry for young readers. She is based in Austin, Texas, and a citizen of Muscogee Nation /ma(:)skó:k-î/. She holds both a bachelor of science degree (with majors in news/editorial and public relations) from the William Allen White School of Journalism at The University of Kansas and a J.D. from The University of Michigan Law School, where she was president of the Native Law Students Association and co-founded The Michigan Journal of Gender and Law. She also serves on the core faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She is both a member of the Advisory Board of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and a member of the Honorary Advisory Board of We Need Diverse Books. Order books by Cynthia Leitich Smith.

Ellen Oh is a former adjunct college instructor and lawyer with an insatiable curiosity for ancient Asian history. She loves martial arts films, K-pop, K-dramas, and cooking shows, and is a rabid fan of the Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra series. Ellen is the co-founder of We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in children’s literature. She is the author of the middle grade novel The Spirit Hunters, Book 1, and Book 2, Island of the Monsters, and the YA fantasy trilogy The Prophecy Series. She is the editor of WNDB’s middle grade anthology Flying Lessons and Other Stories, and the YA anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings out in June 2018. Originally from New York City, Ellen lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband and three children and has yet to satisfy her quest for a decent bagel.

R. J. Palacio lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two sons and two dogs (Bear and Beau). Her debut novel, Wonder, has been on the New York Times bestseller list since March, 2012, and has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. The book’s message of kindness has inspired the Choose Kind movement, and has been embraced by readers, young and old, around the world. A first generation American (her parents were Colombian immigrants), Palacio was born on July 13, 1963 in New York City. Her birth name is Raquel Jaramillo (Palacio was her mother’s maiden name). Palacio attended The High School of Art & Design in Manhattan, and then majored in illustration at the Parsons School of Design. She spent her junior year at The American University in Paris, where she traveled extensively before returning to NYC with an eye toward making her career in illustration. Her early works appeared in The Village Voice and The New York Times Book Review, which eventually segued into her storied career as the art director of several major book publishing companies. In addition to designing book covers, Palacio illustrated several of her own children’s books that were published under her birth name, including Peter Pan: The Original Tale of Neverland; Ride Baby Ride; Look Baby Look; The Night Before Christmas; The Handiest Things in the world; and Last Summer. Palacio also invented a baby toy called The Bobo Glove, a portable, wearable, washable activity toy for infants.

William Alexander writes fantasy, science fiction, and other unrealisms for young readers. Honors include the National Book Award, the Eleanor Cameron Award, two Junior Library Guild Selections, a Mythopoetic Award finalist, an International Latino Book Award finalist, a Cybils Award finalist, and the Earphones Award for audiobook narration. Will is Cuban-American. He studied theater and folklore at Oberlin College, English at the University of Vermont, and creative writing at Clarion. He currently serves as the faculty chair of the VCFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults and is represented by Marietta B. Zacker of the Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2019-10-08 at 12.52.44 PMCover Art Designed by Michelle Cunningham. She is a designer at Penguin Random House working on the Middle Grade team. When she’s not playing around with book cover layouts, she’s also a freelance illustrator.

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

The Boy Who Grew A Forest

Written by: Sophia Gholz

Illustrated by: Kayla Harren

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Environmental Activism, Nature, Historical Figure, Trailblazer, POC-Centric Narratives, Global Community, India, Natural World, Growing Up, Hard Work, Community Involvement, Independent Thought. 

Summary: The next intention we are taking into 2020 is Environmental Conscientiousness.  We’re always looking for ways to reduce our single-use plastics, recycle more efficiently, and take public transportation or walk most places. But another thing everyone can be more conscious about is planting trees and supporting the initiatives that do.  Although we believe that too much onus is put on the individual while global corporations are not always held accountable, but we are stewards of the land we inhabit and should be working with it rather than controlling or continuing to colonize it.

This book is lovely, and based on a true story!  Jadav Payeng was a boy who lived in India and noticed that when trees were getting cut down, it was impacting the animals that lived around the village.  He went to the elders and they gifted him with some bamboo to plant, so he could begin to rehabilitate the land.  Jadav worked very hard watering and caring for the bamboo and it grew into a thicket.  Jadav wanted to provide better soil for the bamboo so he began to dig up worms and bugs in addition to the water he hauled, and bring different types of seeds.  After years of hard work, animals returned because Jadav had grown a forest where there was once barren wasteland.

This book is inspirational because it’s not only based on a true story, but Jadav is still alive and currently planting on his second island!  We think the book would be improved with some real photos of Jadav and his forest, to help younger readers understand that he is still doing this important work for the earth.  Definitely a future classic and important story to be told, it reinforces that hard work might take years but the impact is great enough that we should all start as soon as possible!

This book was sent to us by Sleeping Bear Press as part of the Best Books of 2019 List but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Sophia Gholz 2Sophia Gholz is an award-winning children’s book author, music lover, magic seeker, and avid reader.  As a child, Sophia was a passionate reader and artist. When not reading or drawing, she could be found at the farm riding horses or out causing mischief with her brothers.  As an adult, Sophia is still an avid reader, art fanatic, and mischief-maker. When she’s not writing, you can find Sophia on Twitter, in her cave (aka office) or running around after the kids, dogs or any combination of the two.  Sophia grew up in Florida, went to art school in California, and met her husband in Manhattan. She’s now enjoying life by the beach with her family. 

website+headshotKayla Harren graduated from the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City with a BFA in illustration.  Books she has illustrated include A BOY LIKE YOU (winner of the 2019 EUREKA gold award) and THE BOY WHO GREW A FOREST (winner of the EUREKA silver award.) Kayla’s work has been featured in the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Communication Arts, 3×3 Magazine, and she’s won the Highlights for Children Pewter Plate Award.

Kayla loves animals, playing volleyball, hiking, and eating cookies with frosting. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, Peter Harren, and their adorable dogs.