New Course Added: TTA 101

Are you interested in learning more about anti-bias anti-racist education, and how to infuse social justice into more aspects of you and the tiny humans in your life?

Come learn with us in a setting that prioritizes mindset shifting and reflection over 6 weeks and have a greater understanding of how to use books in early childhood for social justice education and conversations.  The topics and goal-setting will be heavily tailored to specifically discuss read-alouds, choosing books, early literacy, etc., which we truly believe is a powerful vehicle for change.   We will meet as a group on Thursday evenings for collaborative learning, for approximately 75 minutes per session.

Who should take this course?

  • Parents and caregivers looking to learn more about how systemic oppression operates within education and how literature can either reinforce or disrupt this. 
  • Individuals interested in using literature to introduce social justice topics and conversations with early childhood-aged children.
  • Educators looking to improve the discussions used during read aloud opportunities.
  • Individuals looking to improve the strategies they use for ABAR goal-setting.
  • Individuals interested in integrating more thoughtful lessons into their social justice education. 
open book on white table in library
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand how the publishing industry impacts the unbalanced representation of protagonists.
  • Learn conversational strategies to engage in meaningful conversations with young people about social justice, oppression, and what is needed for systemic change.
  • Set a personal goal about what would be most beneficial to your life in terms of ABAR strategies.

Course Dates & Times:

Thursdays from 8:00-9:15 pm EST

2/4, 2/11, 2/18, 2/25, 3/4, 3/11

Saturdays from 3:00-4:15 pm EST

2/6, 2/13, 2/20, 2/27, 3/6, 3/13

Facilitator: Corrie Locke-Hardy
Facilitator: Corrie Locke-Hardy

Corrie Locke-Hardy (she/they) is a former classroom teacher who is dedicated to examining and working against the Eurocentric heteropatriarchy of school systems and many of the most visible books for children. She lives on unceded Massachusett/Nipmuc land. 
An alum of the University of Massachusetts Boston and Simmons University, Corrie’s work is informed by her master’s in Gender and Cultural Studies. Corrie is the content creator and curriculum writer for a website she and her spouse Lee started in 2018 called The Tiny Activist, which reviews children’s books and has an emphasis on social justice education and BIPOC narratives. Corrie also co-hosts a podcast called Picture Bookstagang which takes a deep dive into the world of literacy, books, and publishing.

Thursday Sessions

Saturday Sessions

Total Course Price: $60-$80 on a sliding scale

What is sliding scale?

You’ll notice some of our offerings are available at different price points.

We put together this ‘sliding scale’ in an effort to undo some of the economic barriers that are built and reinforced by the systemic inequalities in our society which may prevent some individuals from accessing the same opportunities as individuals with more privileges and fewer systemic barriers in their way. 

How does a sliding scale work? 

We ask folks to consider their own individual situations and pay based on which of the price points makes the most sense for them. If you’re not sure which of the price points makes sense for you, we recommend checking out this helpful infographic created by Alexis J. Cunningfolk.

To learn more about the theory and practice of sliding scale systems, check out their incredibly informative blog post here.  

Accommodations:

If you need any course accommodations for a disability please contact Alex or Corrie and we will do our absolute best to facilitate the request. 

Feedback:

We actively seek out feedback for improvement.  Feel free to email Corrie Locke-Hardy at: lockehardy@thetinyactivist.com or Alex at hello@thetinyactivist.com for questions, comments, compliments, or indignations. 

Still have questions? Let’s get in touch.

Love You Head to Toe

Written & Illustrated by: 

Ashley Barron


For ages: Infants & Up (Board Book)


Language: English

Topics Covered:

  • Family
  • Early Literacy
  • Babies

 

Summary: 

This adorable board book celebrates babies and their attributes similar to animals! Happy babies yawn like hippos, stretch like starfish, and munch like chipmunks.

I love the papercut illustrations and the diverse families portrayed. Each page has a short rhyme comparing animals and babies in a buoyant and joyful way. The text is a little lengthier than some board books, which I also think makes for a lovely read aloud with toddlers.

For those of you on a constant hunt for baby shower gifts, this one makes a sweet contribution to any shelf! Author Illustrator Ashley Barron imbues love and adventure on every page.

This book was a submission for the #bookstagang_bestof2020 list, and was sent by OwlKids. However, all opinions are my own!


Ashley Barron

From her website: “I graduated from OCAD in 2007, and have been working with cut-paper collage ever since. I’ve illustrated several picture books, including the Math in Nature series, Kyle Goes AloneUp! (Owlkids) and Birthdays Around the World (Kids Can Press), with a couple more on the go.

My most recent books include: Love You Head to Toe (Owlkids), My Forest is Green and My Ocean is Blue (Kids Can Press).

In addition to my freelance work, I enjoy teaching art classes and presenting my books to libraries and schools.  

In 2017, I was Toronto Library’s Illustrator in Residence: a program organized by IBBY Canada honouring children’s book illustrator Joanne Fitzgerald.

In 2019, I got the chance to tour Vancouver as part of the CCBC’s TD Children’s Book Week.

I live in Toronto with my partner, Kevin, and our three cats.”


Amari and the Night Brothers

Written & Illustrated by: 

B.B. Alston


For ages: MG


Language: English

Topics Covered:

  • Black Protagonists
  • Women in STEM
  • Fantasy
  • Magic
  • Single Parent Families
  • Bravery
  • Courage

 

Summary: 

Ya’ll, especially after this past summer filled with gross transphobic tweets from JKR, I’ve been on the hunt for a Harry Potter replacement. Let me tell you, I’ve found it. As soon as I finished it, I wanted a second book to dive into. It’s. That. Good. Technically, the book hasn’t even been released yet and I’m already impatient for another!

Amari and her mother live in low income housing, and her older brother Quinton has gone missing while working at the secretive new job that he got right out of high school. The police seem to think that he just got into some trouble, and are skeptical that he even had a job in the first place. One evening, Amari gets a Wakeful Memory message from Quinton and find out that he recommended her for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. She gets there for the summer program, finds out that Quinton is an internationally renowned agent AND her magical ability is illegal. It’s a lot to handle.

I love the way B.B. Alston weaves the fantasy aspects of the story with other issues like racism and socio-economic status. Making friends is hard, even harder when you’re trying to make it through Junior Agent tryouts and your superstar brother is missing. I love it when a book surprises me, and this one did. I am fully invested in Amari developing her magic and becoming an agent. This book had everything I look for in a good fantasy book: a Black heroine, social-emotional character development, badass magical abilities, and facing fears in order to help others.

This book was kindly sent by Harper Kids, and will be released tomorrow, January 19th!


B.B. Alston

B.B. Alston started writing in middle school, entertaining his classmates with horror stories starring the whole class where not everyone survived! After several years of trying to break into publishing, he had just been accepted into a biomedical graduate program when a chance entry into a twitter pitch contest led to his signing with TBA, 20+ book deals worldwide, and even a film deal. When not writing, he can be found eating too many sweets and exploring country roads to see where they lead.

BB was inspired to write AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS because he couldn’t find any fantasy stories featuring Black kids when he was growing up. He hopes to show kids that though you might look different, or feel different, whatever the reason, your uniqueness needn’t only be a source of fear and insecurity. There is great strength and joy to be found in simply accepting yourself for who you are. Because once you do so, you’ll be unstoppable.


The Whatifs

Written & Illustrated by: 

Emily Kilgore & Zoe Persico


For ages: 4-8 years


Language: English

Topics Covered:

  • Mental Health
  • Social Emotional Learning
  • Anxiety
  • Own Voices

 

Summary: 

I have OCD and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). I was officially diagnosed in college but these two facets of my personality have been around for as long as I can remember. Getting this diagnosis was a relief. It helped me understand why my brain works the way it does, and helps the mental health professionals I work with give me strategies to combat my Anxiety Brain (who is really quite rude, tbh). These two acronyms do not define my entire personality, but they do play a part in helping me understand my reactions and my childhood.

In this story, Cora is plagued by Whatifs constantly. Her Whatifs aren’t positive, they make her nervous and scared that bad things will happen. As Cora’s piano recital date gets closer, the Whatifs provide Cora with lots of worries about what could go wrong while she’s onstage. On the night of the performance, Cora meets a girl named Stella who asks Cora if maybe some of her Whatifs could be positive instead of negative.

This story normalizes talking about anxiety with kids, as does the author’s note in the back where Emily Kilgore talks about her own childhood anxiety. Mental health is just as important and physical health, and ensuring that kids don’t feel alone in their struggles by talking about it. Personally, I thought everyone felt like this and they were just better at handling it than I was, and that I was weak. I didn’t know how to talk about it because I didn’t know that it was something to talk about. I’m so glad this story is around to help reflect the experiences of others, so we can name those pesky Whatifs that float around all of us.

This book was a submission for the #bookstagang_bestof2020 list and sent by little bee books. However, all opinions are my own!


Emily Kilgore

From Emily’s website: “I have been surrounded by the magic of books all my life. I am an elementary teacher and earned my master’s degree in Education: Curriculum & Instruction, Emphasis in Children’s Literature through Penn State University. I strive to instill a love of reading in all children.


I currently live in Minneapolis, Minnesota with my husband and kitty. When not writing, I enjoy traveling, running, and doodling.”

Zoe Persico

Zoe Persico is an illustrator with a love for the wild, the wondrous, and the whimsical. When she’s not working she enjoys hiking, playing board games, imagining in Dungeons & Dragons, hunting for good finds at the thrift store, and petting her dog. She currently resides in sunny Florida with her significant other and their dog named Zombie.


Stompin’ at the Savoy: How Chick Webb Became the King of Drums

Written & Illustrated by: 

Moira Rose Donohue & Laura Freeman


For ages: 4-8 years


Language: English

Topics Covered:

  • Historical Figures
  • Musicians
  • Jazz
  • Black Culture & Identity
  • Trailblazers

 

Summary: 

Tippity-Tappity Scritchedy-Scratchedy, William Henry “Chick” Webb was always on the drums…even when he didn’t own any! Diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis and accidentally falling down some stairs when he was a child caused William to need surgery and stunted his growth. His doctor suggested Chick play the drums to regain arm strength, and a lifelong career was catalyzed.

Nicknamed “Chicken” initially, it was shortened to Chick. Chick used wooden spoons and beat out rhythms everywhere and on anything he could, until selling enough newspapers to buy drumsticks and a drum set. By the time he was a teenager, four feet one inch tall Chick was regularly playing gigs onstage. After a fateful battle of the bands at the Savoy Ballroom, Chick became infamous for his band beating Benny Goodman and his band.

Chick Webb was a staple of the Harlem Renaissance, and this story gives a wonderful overview of his life, culminating in his big win against Benny Goodman. The illustrations are brightly colored, conveying music and movement. I love the way artist Laura Freeman shows Chick’s hands blurred because he’s drumming so quickly. It makes the reader feel like they’re in the front row, watching and bopping to the music that these Jazz greats are so well known for.

This book was kindly sent by Sleeping Bear Press and is out today! All opinions are my own.


Moira Rose Donohue

Moira writes mostly nonfiction books at the third grade level. She never thought I would fall in love with nonfiction, but once Moira wrote her first biography, she couldn’t stop writing it. She lives in Florida!

Laura Freeman

From her website: “Originally from New York City, I now live in Atlanta with my husband and our two children. I received my BFA from the School of Visual Arts and began my career working for various editorial clients. I have 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, my art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards.”


Love

Written & Illustrated by: 

Corrinne Averiss & Kirsti Beautyman


For ages: 4-8 years


Language: English

Topics Covered:

  • Social-Emotional Learning
  • Anxiety
  • Family
  • Starting School
  • Love

 

Summary: 

Not only are the illustrations in this book truly resplendent, but it also addresses a topic that nearly everyone has experienced in some capacity or another: separation anxiety. In the best of times, children often feel anxiety about starting school. In the next couple of years once vaccination and school schedules are attended to more in-person, I expect a massive uptick in these feelings.

Tess lives with her family in a cozy little house that also doubles as her father’s workshop. They all love each other and go everywhere together. When it comes time for Tess to go to school alone, her mother gives the beautiful analogy that their love is connected by a string. Tess goes about her day, and also comes to find out that other strings might start to appear as she meets new people as well.

I love how Tess’ mom is drawn, she looks like a real person. She has tattoos and wears off the shoulder tops, much like lots of parents my own age. The metaphor of the golden string signifying love is also so sweet, as is the idea of it wrapping around someone like a warm scarf. It’s completely reasonable and natural to have this anxiety about starting school, and this sweet story is the perfect beginning of the year read aloud.

This book was a generous surprise from Quarto, but all opinions are my own!


Corrinne Averiss

Corrinne is a writer of tender and humorous stories for children.

Her work includes critically-acclaimed CILIP Greenaway-nominated, A Dot in the SnowFloss the Playground BossThe Boy on the BenchJoy,  and Sorrel and the Sleepover. Corrinne has spent much of her life being a professional silly person in children’s television; she created the four-time Children’s BAFTA-winning Share a Story competition and has an animated series under commission from CBeebies. She currently lives in Manchester, England, with her husband, daughter and cat.

Kirsti Beautyman

Kirsti Beautyman works from her studio in Newcastle Upon Tyne, using a range of mediums to build layers of texture and detail which are combined digitally to create her illustrations. She finds inspiration within mundane observations and is often staring vacantly into the distance thinking up narratives and ideas. Kirsti won Picture Hooks Illustrator of the Year Award in 2017.


Off to See the Sea

Written & Illustrated by: 

Nikki Grimes & Elizabeth Zunon


For ages: 4-8 years


Language: English

Topics Covered:

  • Black Protagonists
  • Own Voices
  • Imagination
  • Family

 

Summary: 

In this followup story by the pair that brought you Bedtime for Sweet Creatures (winner of the #bookstagang_bestof2020 Future Classics category!) now brings Off to See the Sea, another installment of our favorite mischievous tiny human trying to avoid inevitable events. Before, it was bedtime. Now, our main character is off on an aquatic adventure right in their very own bathtub!

Nikki Grimes has the most lyrical text narrated by the child’s mother, and onomatopoeia abounds while she describes the bath time adventure that is fueled by imagination and her willingness to play along to get her child clean. The illustrations are joyful and fun. I love the comparison of the bathtub being a temporary sea, and the collaged illustrations are a gorgeous blend of fantasy (like the giant rubber duck) and actual bath time events like hair washing. The story focuses on just one event (much like the first) but it embodies Black familial happiness and the love they have for each other. This poetic story has alliterative vocabulary and left me smiling after it was over. I definitely recommend checking it out, Off to See the Sea is a wonderful example of Black joy; something we need more of on all of our shelves.

This book is out today! It was kindly sent by Sourcebooks Kids, but all opinions are my own.


Nikki Grimes

Nikki Grimes does not consider herself a bona fide storyteller, but, as she told an audience at the Library of Congress, she is happy to own the title Poet. Born and raised in New York City, Nikki began composing verse at the age of six and has been writing ever since that time.

A bestselling author and a prolific artist, Nikki has written many award-winning books for children and young adults including the Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade; the Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s NotebookTalkin’ About BessieDark SonsThe Road to Paris, and Words with Wings; Horn Book Fanfare for Talkin’ About Bessie; ALA Notable books What is Goodbye? and Words with Wings; the popular Dyamonde Daniel chapter book series, and numerous picture books and novels including The New York Timesbestseller Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope and, most recently, Garvey’s Choice and One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance.

In addition to her work for children, Ms. Grimes has written articles for such magazines as Essence, Today’s Christian Woman, Book Links, and Image, Journal of Arts & Religion.

An accomplished and widely anthologized poet of both children’s and adult verse, Grimes has conducted poetry readings and lectures at international schools in Russia, China, Sweden and Tanzania, while short-term mission projects have taken her to such trouble spots as Haiti.

During the 1970s, Nikki coproduced and hosted The Kid’s Show on WBAI FM in New York. Later, during a six-year stint in Sweden, she hosted their radio program for immigrants, Grunslöst, and another for Swedish Educational Radio.

In 2005, Ms.Grimes was awarded the Golden Dolphin Award by the Southern California Children’s Book Association, recognizing her body of work.

Nikki has been honored with the NCTE Award for Poetry and the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award from Kent State University. In 2017, she was presented with the Children’s Literature Legacy Award for her “substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”

Elizabeth Zunon

Elizabeth Zunon was born in Albany, NY and spent her childhood in a hot, sunny, tropical country in West Africa called the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), where people speak French (and many other languages). Elizabeth’s Mom read Elizabeth’s little brother and Elizabeth a lot of bedtime stories in English after they came home from speaking French all day at school. As a little girl, she loved to draw, paint, make up dances and play dress-up, and as Elizabeth grew up, that didn’t really change! After returning to the United States, Elizabeth attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and graduated in June 2006 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration.  She’s now back in Albany, where every day she might draw, paint, collage, sew, silkscreen, make jewelry, purses, and ponder the endless possibilities of chocolate! Her work is largely influenced by the people, places, and things from her childhood in the Ivory Coast as the product of two cultures.  You can also follow her blog-Lizzie Blogs!


Empowering Identities: A Roundup

Written & Illustrated by: 

Various, check out the individual posts below!


For ages: 4-8 years


Language: English

Topics Covered:

  • Historical Figures
  • Own Voices
  • Bicultural
  • Trans Experience
  • LGBTQ
  • Social-Emotional Learning

 

Books are wonderful things. They reflect our own experiences and provide portals into the experiences of others. I wanted to provide a short roundup of recent releases that empower identities that are not normalized in the media as often as the white heterosexual Eurocentric one is. Below are 5 books that cultivate joy and resilience that I have truly enjoyed reading recently, and I hope your library list grows a bit longer by the end of this roundup!

If you, like me, have decided that you can’t live without any of these books, our Bookshop is linked here. We do make a small commission off of sales at no additional cost to you.

The Heart of Mi Familia: This book follows a young girl as she talks about the two different sides of her family: her father was born in Central America and her abuela still lives there; her mother was born in the US, after her family immigrated several generations ago. 

Our main character is helping both her abuela and grandma get together a special birthday surprise for her younger brother. The story beautifully weaves together a bicultural family, Spanish, and happy memories from various events with grandparents. In the back in an author’s note from Carrie Lara, PsyD, she draws on both professional and personal experiences to talk at length about empowering bicultural children to embrace their unique identities and experiences. It includes tips about supporting students and children, as well as dealing with discrimination. The story overall is beautiful and focuses on the similarities between the different family members houses, and what she does with her cousins.

Written by: Carrie Lara, PsyD & Illustrated by: Christine Battuz

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners: This book is stunningly beautiful in artwork and text. This empowering story has a main character that loves that her eyes are the same as her family members, their eyes all kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea. The story focuses on joy and loving family; the things they do together, the happy moments they relish, and their eyes that glow like a revolution. 

In a society that has very entrenched Eurocentric beauty standards portrayed in the media, self-esteem and confidence is truly a revolutionary act. The illustrations that Dung Ho brought to life phenomenally support the text. The colors are bright, and the pictures are a mix of actual family moments and abstract imaginations from our main character.

Written by: Joanna Ho & Illustrated by: Dung Ho

The ABC’s of Black History combines effortless rhyme, alliteration, and history to bring readers on a journey of learning and empowerment. 

Rather than have one or a small list of words that go with the particular alphabet letter, author Rio Cortez has created a whole scene that gives context and names to various events that often go untaught in schools. There are so many tiny details, like the bookshelf filled Black writers (surely lengthening anyone’s reading list) and the extra information about Kwanzaa. The illustrations by Lauren Semmer are gorgeous, matching perfectly with the powerful text. The blending of joy and history walks a line that doesn’t sugarcoat the past and emphasizes achievement.

Written by: Rio Cortez & Illustrated by: Lauren Semmer

The Fighting Infantryman: This book is so important and shows the existence of the LGBTQ community has been around throughout history, and there have always been those that accepted and celebrated us. This story is beautiful, it tells the multifaceted existence of Albert. Albert was transgender, and he was also a veteran. He passed the physical examination when enlisting by just having his hands and feet inspected. Albert worked and was a part of his community for decades afterwards, living his life quietly and comfortable in his identity. When Albert injured his leg in an accident in 1911, word soon spread that he was transgender. It became national news, and his army pension was threatened. But, in a show of active ally ships and true friendship, veteran friends of Albert’s wrote letters on his behalf. Affirming his identity and bravery in the war, they plead with the government to reinstate Albert’s pension. This would both help Albert financially and ensure that he was recognized by the correct name both in life and afterwards in history.

The transphobia he faced, and the comrades he had that acted on his behalf when he was ill and those that ensured he was buried in his military uniform with the correct name on his gravestone. All of our lives are beautiful and complicated, and the legacy of Albert Cashier is reflective of many identities today, a crucial read for young people everywhere.

Written by:  Rob Sanders & Illustrated by: Nabi H. Ali

My Rainbow: I love many things about this story, and the empowering language is probably the number one aspect that I can’t say enough about. DeShanna unequivocally supports and celebrates her daughter, knowing that everything that makes her unique adds to her beauty. DeShanna trusts her children and recognizes that they know themselves the best.  My Rainbow is a beautiful story that reflects Black trans youth and neurodiversity, and having Trinity and DeShanna write the book, and a QTPOC illustrator makes it that much more meaningful. Our literature should reflect the multifaceted lives of all global citizens, particularly those that are underrepresented and marginalized. I love the way DeShanna describes Trinity as a masterpiece, which is how every person should be described by the people that love them most. DeShanna is committed to ensuring her family is treated with love and respect both in and out of the home, and that other transgender children are understood and loved in their communities as well, which is truly such a beautiful goal that is unequivocally achieved by this book.

Written by: Trinity & DeShanna Neal & Illustrated by: Art Twink

The first four of these books were sent by the publishers, but My Rainbow was purchased with my own money.

Over and Under the Rainforest

Written & Illustrated by: 

Kate Messner & Christopher Silas Neal


For ages: 4-8 years


Language: English

Topics Covered:

  • Family
  • Kids Outdoors
  • Environmental Activism/Preservation
  • Nature
  • Pint-Sized Professor

 

Summary: 

I know I know, I’m late to the party on this one. But life is quite something in this day and age. Anywho, let’s stop talking about my life and instead let me heap praise upon this book, which is SO cool!

This is the type of book that I wish I could hop into. A child and their Tito are going on a rainforest walk together, seeking out elusive animals and eating snacks upon a hanging bridge. The pair are on nearly every page, but they’re not the focus. The illustrations focus on the vastness of the rainforest, and the menagerie of life that is being observed by the human pair. The reader’s eyes feast upon various green shades of a plethora of plants, and learn about all sorts of animals like basilisk lizards, sloths, and howler monkeys. When dusk falls, the pair must make their way home to Abuelita and the delicious dinner she’s made.

I’m sure you, kind reader, know how much I love Chris’s art style. If you want to learn more about it, I even interviewed him in a Picture Bookstagang episode! I’ll give a small spoiler here, Chronicle has a scientist that looks over his drawings for this series to make sure they’re anatomically correct and easily identifiable. Which honestly, sounds like a pretty badass job. This is the most recent book in the Over and Under series, and it’s sure to spark some excitement for young readers. And I must stick to my predictable closing line and also say I love very much the additional animal info in the back, which comes with a helpful drawing to remind us what it looks like. I also think this would be a fun way to try and find every animal pictured in the book, and talk about environmental preservation and climate justice about these delicate ecosystems that host such an array of unique animals.

This book was kindly sent by Chronicle Kids, but all opinions are my own!


Kate Messner

Kate Messner is passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder, too. Her titles include award-winning picture books like Over and Under the Pond, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, Over and Under the PondThe Brilliant Deep, and How to Read a Story; novels that tackle real-world issues like BreakoutAll the Answers, and The Seventh Wish; mysteries and thrillers like Capture the Flag, Eye of the Storm, and Wake Up Missing; the Fergus and Zeke easy reader series; and the popular Ranger in Time chapter book series about a time-traveling search and rescue dog.

Kate’s titles are frequently selected for One School, One Book and One School/One Author programs and other community-wide reads – especially The Seventh Wish, which deals with a family affected by heroin addiction, and Breakout, a novel inspired by a real-world prison break, which takes a look at privilege and perspective. Kate’s books have been New York Times Notable, Junior Library Guild, IndieBound, and Bank Street College of Education Best Books selections. Her novel The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. won the E.B. White Read Aloud Medal, and her science picture books have been finalists for the American Academy for the Advancement of Sciences/Subaru SB&F prize for excellence in science writing.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Kate was a TV news reporter as well as an educator who spent fifteen years teaching middle school English. She lives on Lake Champlain with her family and is trying to summit all 46 Adirondack High Peaks in between book deadlines.

Christopher Silas Neal

Christopher Silas Neal is an award-winning author and illustrator of picture books including Over and Under the Snow with author Kate Messner, which was praised for its “stunning retro-style illustrations” (New York Times) along with Over and Under The Pond and Up In the Garden and Down in The Dirt. He makes books that feature animals, shapes, science, friendship and silliness, and strives to create diverse and inclusive characters that reflect the kids and parents who read his books. Neal’s author debut titled “Everyone” was praised by Publisher’s Weekly as “simple, honest, lyrical”. His board book series (Animals Colors, Animal Shapes) received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus. He speaks about his books, the art making process, and his career at schools, conferences, libraries and book festivals across the country. Neal is a Mexican/Eurpoean-American artist who lives with his wife and two boys in Brooklyn, NY.


Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon

Written By: Kat Zhang

Illustrated by: Charlene Chua

For Ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Family, Self-Esteem, Chinese Culture, Art, Creativity, Own Voices.

Summary: Amy is such a fun and buoyant protagonist, and I’m so glad she’s back for another adventure! After an exciting read aloud about dragons, Amy and her classmates set about creating their own. When Amy draws on that represents her Chinese heritage, some other students have questions about it. With the help of her grandma (who is everything I wish to be when I’m her age), Amy is able to make a plan to bring an unforgettable show and tell to school the next day that is celebratory and infused with her impressive problem-solving skills.

I love this own voices story, and it centers around a situation that’s happened in many classrooms around the globe but isn’t negative. Amy follows her creative heart first and foremost, and relies on what feels right for her. Instead of changing herself, she focuses on explaining to others and showing them the beauty of Eastern dragons. I also really like Amy’s teacher, Ms. Mary. She lets the kids express themselves creatively and celebrates all of their scaly interpretations! Overall, this is such a sweet and joyful story and the perfect sequel to the Perfect Bao that we were lucky enough to have published last year.

This book was kindly sent by Simon & Schuster Canada as a submission for #bookstagang_bestof2020 but all opinions are my own!

Kat Zhang

Kat Zhang spent most of her childhood tramping through a world woven from her favorite stories and games. When she and her best friend weren’t riding magic horses or talking to trees, they were writing adaptations of plays for their stuffed animals (what would The Wizard of Oz have been like if the Cowardly Lion were replaced by a Loquacious Lamb?). This may or may not explain many of Kat’s quirks today.

By the age of twelve, Kat had started her first novel and begun plans for her life as a Real Live Author. Said plans didn’t come into fruition until seven years later, when her agent sold her Young Adult trilogy, The Hybrid Chronicles, to HarperCollins. The series, about a parallel universe where everyone is born with two souls, concluded in 2014.

She has also published two Middle Grade novels with Simon & Schuster. The first, The Emperor’s Riddle, is about hidden treasure, lost aunts, and China. The second, The Memory of Forgotten Things, is about grief, solar eclipses, and misfit children. She also has two picture books, Amy Wu & the Perfect Bao and Amy Wu & the Patchwork Dragon, and is working on a series of books with Baobab Studios and Penguin Random House about the Magic Paintbrush legends.

Kat is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen of Stonesong. 

Charlene Chua

Charlene Chua (pronounced: CHOO-ah)  has illustrated many things over the years for kids of all ages.  Her illustration work has won several awards, while books she has illustrated have been nominated for OLA Forest of Reading,USBBY Outstanding International Books,OLA Best Bets, Shining Willow Award, and Kirkus Best books. Charlene’s author/illustrator debut, Hug? was published by Kids Can Press in 2020. Charlene was born and grew up in Singapore, and moved to Canada in 2007. She started work in 1998 as a web designer, and went on to become a senior designer, web producer and interactive project manager.  However, what she really wanted to do was draw pictures all day. In 2003, she decided to give it a go, and after a few years, she became a full-time illustrator.When she is not making art, she enjoys cooking, reading, and playing with her cats. She now lives with her husband (and cats!) in Hamilton, Ontario.

%d bloggers like this: