Category Archives: religion

Becoming Brianna [released 5/5]

Written & Illustrated by: Terri Libenson 

For ages: 8-12 years

Language: English, some Hebrew. 

Topics Covered: Jewish Culture, Judaism, Bat Mitzvah, Growing Up, Friendship, Anxiety, Bravery, Family, Single-Parent Families, Divorced Parents, Financial Strain, Own Voices. 

Summary: 

Brianna is about to have her bat mitzvah, and she can’t quite seem to remember why she let her mom guilt her into it.  Brianna doesn’t speak Hebrew very well, and she hasn’t gone to a private Jewish school in a few years, or even to the synagogue for classes.  She also doesn’t like attention all that much, and is having a lot of anxiety about it.  It also addresses important topics that many of us have experienced but don’t often see in books like divorced parents, shared custody, and financial strain.

We really enjoyed this graphic novel, it’s so rare to find one about a big life event like a bat mitzvah!  Brianna is a smart and funny feminist spitfire, which we couldn’t get enough of.  She isn’t afraid to question her own beliefs, and raise religious questions that she has during her study preparing for the big event.  Neither of us are religious at all, and I really love how openly the book addresses feeling unsure about commitment to a religious community.  It’s a very realistic representation of growing up, and all of the anxieties that come with agreeing to something months in advance that a person might not be completely onboard with.

This book was kindly sent to us by HarperCollins, but all opinions are our own! This graphic novel is being released on May 5th.

About the Author & Illustrator:

DSC_0001-square-300x300Terri Libenson (pronounced LEE-ben-son) is a bestselling children’s book author and award-winning cartoonist of the syndicated daily comic strip, The Pajama Diaries, which ran from 2006-2020. She was also an award-winning humorous card writer for American Greetings.

Terri graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a BFA in illustration and a minor in art history. She developed her first professional comic strip, Got a Life, in 2000, which was distributed by King Features Weekly Service. The Pajama Diaries launched with King Features in 2006 and ran in hundreds of newspapers internationally until its retirement in January, 2020. Pajama Diaries has been nominated four times for the Reuben Award for “Best Newspaper Comic Strip” by the National Cartoonists Society and won in 2016. You can read the Pajama Diaries archives daily on ComicsKingdom.

Muslim Girls Rise

Written by: Saira Mir

Illustrated by: Aaliya Jaleel

For ages: 8-13 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Muslim Women, Trailblazers, Historical Figures, Self-Empowerment, Feminism, Sports, Culture & Identity, Global Community, Own Voices. 

Summary: 

This book is a lovely book, almost anthology-like, of 18 Muslim girls (and women) that are changing the world and blazing trails.  Some are well-known public figures like Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, and champion fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.  Others, like Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah and comedian Negin Farsad might be less known.  The beauty of this book is that the short single page profiles of these strong and intelligent women is that they span the globe and professional career market.  Sports, fashion, legislation, and STEM.  These women are fantastic role models for any job aspirations!

Muslim Girls Rise is a wonderful addition to any bookshelf, and having these women as inspiration to pursue one’s own interests and dreams.  Unfortunately also, Islamophobia is so prevalent that this book can also serve as a line of defense.  Collecting stories of strength and resilience helps a person develop their own, and have individuals to look up to in times of hardship or perhaps deciding on what career trajectory to take.  Either way, these short stories will inspire any reader to change the world in their own way!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

SARIA MIR is a Muslim physician from Washington, DC, who has searched far and wide for books to help her daughter find feminist role models who share her heritage. Saira wrote Muslim Girls Rise for her, and hopes to share it with other children eager to learn more about these extraordinary, path-breaking women.

 

 

 

 

aaliya-45AALIYA JALEEL is a freelance illustrator, character designer, and visual development artist. She is currently majoring in animation at the University of Texas at Dallas with plans to work as a visual development artist after graduation.

Lilah Tov Good Night

Written by: Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G)

Illustrated by: Noar Lee Naggan

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English and some Hebrew

Topics Covered: Refugee, Growing Up, Lullaby, Family, Nature, Love, Social-Emotional Learning, 

Summary: 

This is a very sweet book that delicately explains the refugee experience of a family in a lullaby style.  A young girl happily plays outside and then eats dinner with her family, a shiny menorah on their windowsill.  When night falls, the foursome set off walking into the forest.  The young girl says goodnight, “Lilah Tov” to the animals she sees on their walk, bundled up in the snowy weather.  She is shown happy and smiling for the entire book, optimistic and reverent of the natural world surrounding her.

While this is one refugee experience represented, it is not so detailed that it couldn’t be used to generally explain the big picture concept of the refugee experience to young readers.  The book itself is beautiful, and the main character is thrilled to wish all things, creatures and non, a good night.  The majority of the family’s travel takes place at night, including a long boat ride underneath a large starry sky.  This would be a great story for people looking to introduce these lived experiences to younger audiences, or before reading other books that have more violent aspects for fleeing. Four Feet, Two Sandals; My Name is Sangoel, and The Banana Leaf Ball are all books that would fall under this second category. All in all, we enjoyed this book very much and would be happy to have it on any bookshelf we encountered.

This book was generously sent by the author, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Ben7833-800-x-534It’s hard to say which has been more of a driving force for Ben Gundersheimer: music or storytelling. Throughout his career the two crafts have intertwined, propelling him as a performer and author. By age nine he was writing his own original songs, and as the son of children’s book author/illustrator Karen Gundersheimer, composing stories was a constant activity as well.

Ben went on to receive a scholarship from Berklee College of Music, travel the world as a singer/songwriter, and earn a Masters of Education. During his student teaching days he engaged his fourth graders through music, and it was this experience that transformed him into MISTER G, inspiring him to relaunch his career to focus on performing for children and families.

A decade later, the Latin GRAMMY Award-winning musician, activist, author and educator, is still fusing music and storytelling. The latest permutation of these two interwoven passions is as a picture book author, with two new books based on his original, multilingual songs. Señorita Mariposa chronicles the extraordinary migration of the monarch butterflies from Canada to Mexico, while Lilah Tov Good Night is a lyrical lullaby celebrating the beauty of the natural world and the spirit of resilience in a refugee family.

From illustrator Noar Lee Naggan’s website: “Hi! I’m an illustrator living in New York, chiefly interested in children’s books. I also have a great passion to tell stories, and do it through my illustrations. I aspire to one day write my own books and illustrate them.

I was born in Israel and graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. I previously worked mostly in animation and graphic design with major companies in Israel, but several years ago I found my calling in illustration and I never looked back.”

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Written by: Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed

Illustrated by: Doug Chayka

For ages: 7-10 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Refugees, Friendship, Empathy, Immigration, Global Community. 

Summary: This is a very sweet and emotional story of two friends that meet in a refugee camp when each gets only one sandal from a supply truck.  Lina and Feroza become friends and begin to share the sandals, alternating days wearing them.  The girls spend almost all of their time together, talking about their dreams of leaving the camp and completing chores.  When Lina’s family is put on a list to leave the camp, who will end up with the 2 shoes when there are 4 feet?

This book was inspired by a camp that author Khadra Mohammed worked at in Peshawar, Pakistan.  Despite being published in 2007, it is even more prescient today given the current crises today regarding immigration and loss of homes, resulting in forced migration of various peoples across the globe. The accompanying illustrations by Doug Chayka are beautiful, looking painted rather than drawn.  These stories are important for children to learn, and to learn about the privilege that we live with in many parts of the United States.  If able, this book can be used as a jumping off point for more education about global refugees, activism, or lived experiences.

About the Authors & the Illustrator:

klw2Karen Lynn Williams (right) was born in Connecticut, and received her Master’s degree in deaf education. She has lived in Africa and in Haiti. Karen had an early dream to be one of the youngest published authors, starting a writing club at ten. However, Karen’s published works came later in life, after extensive travels and family experience. Karen’s ability to draw from personal experience and adapt into writing forms for all ages and interests expresses her true gift.

The Pittsburgh Refugee Center‘s Executive Director, Khadra Mohammed (left) is a native of Somalia and has over twenty years of experience in working with refugee populations, both in the US and in refugee camps in Pakistan and Kenya. In Pittsburgh, for the past eight years, she has advocated on behalf of local refugees and brought awareness of refugee issues to the attention of the greater Pittsburgh community. Ms. Mohammed is also a published author of several children’s books. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction in 2005, and was honored with PUMP and Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2005 40 under 40 Award.

638133_102_120_LTE2MDQzNzE2NDMtOTAxMDgyNjExDoug Chayka is a “freelance illustrator based in New Jersey and also travels frequently to Berlin, Germany, where he works for part of the year. His clients include The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Nation, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, NBC News, Politico, Pentagram, Wired, and many others. Doug has also taught illustration full-time at Ringling College of Design (2009-10) and Savannah College of Art and Design (2010-12), and on an adjunct basis at Pratt Institute, City College of New York, Rochester Institute of Technology, and The Illustration Academy.

Doug grew up in Weedsport, New York and attended Rochester Institute of Technology to study illustration and graphic design. Shortly after graduating, he moved to Kansas City to study further under one of my illustration heroes, Mark English, his first big influence and an early mentor. Doug began freelancing there in the late ’90’s and landed my first editorial assignments at the Kansas City Star while also working on his first picture book projects. A few years later Doug began to travel extensively in Europe and eventually stayed in Berlin, where he studied painting and printmaking as a Fulbright scholar at The Berlin University of the Arts from 2000-2002. Many different people and places have helped shape Doug’s point of view as an artist. Doug believes that it’s a process that is ongoing and grows with every new client and each unique challenge.”

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

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.”

 

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.