Tag Archives: bravery

Kaia and the Bees

Written by: Maribeth Boelts

Illustrated by: Angela Dominguez 

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social-Emotional Growth, Fear, Lying, Beekeeping, Environmental Conservation, Family, Education, Emotional Regulation.

Summary: 

Kaia’s family has a pretty unique hobby, especially for living in an apartment building.  Her dad keeps bees!  He is very passionate about beekeeping, and bee conservation, especially since honeybee numbers are dwindling globally.  Kaia knows it’s important, but unfortunately she has One Big Fear: bees! Kaia’s small interracial family has thousands of bees, and Kaia is quick to brag to her friends how she’s also a beekeeper like her dad.  They’re impressed…until a bee comes along and she panics.

This story is all about Kaia’s journey through fear, emotional regulation, and bravery.  Her dad doesn’t push her to be around the bees, but continually opens up opportunities for her to interact and help out with them.  I love how interwoven into this story of facing fears is a very real fear that many scientists have-that the bees will disappear and bring ecosystems to a screeching halt with the lack of pollination that bees provide.  This is an adorable story perfect for nature, environmentalism, or social-emotional units in a classroom, or at home!

This book was generously sent to us by Candlewick Press, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

maribeth-boelts-2020-honey-01Maribeth Boelts has been writing stories since kindergarten and began writing for kids over 25 years ago when her own children were young. Lots of picture books and three children/four grandchildren later, Maribeth enjoys not only the process of story writing but also meeting kids and adults who like to write. Maribeth and her family took on the challenge of beekeeping, and enjoyed this fascinating hobby for several years. The stings aren’t fun, but the work that honeybees do in pollinating is absolutely essential, and they were thrilled to play a tiny part in it. She also loved harvesting honey! Maribeth is so happy any time she can be in the woods, on a trail, on a river, or watching a sunrise or sunset. Nature has a way of changing us, healing us, and giving us all sorts of creative ideas!

authorspic_websizeAngela Dominguez was born in Mexico City and grew up in the great state of Texas. She now resides on the east coast with her boyfriend, Kyle, and petite dog, Petunia.

She is also the author and illustrator of several books for children and a two-time recipient of Pura Belpré Illustration Honor. Her debut middle grade novel, Stella Díaz Has Something To Say, was a New York Public Library and a Chicago Public Library pick for Best Books for Kids in 2018, Sid Fleischman Award winner, and an ALA Notable. When Angela is not in her studio or visiting schools, she teaches at the Academy of Art University, which honored her with their Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013.

Angela is a proud member of SCBWI, PEN America, and represented by Wernick and Pratt Literary Agency. As a child, she loved reading books and making a mess creating pictures. She’s delighted to still be doing both.

The Degenerates [released 3/17]

Written by: J. Albert Mann

Cover Art by: Design: Rebecca Syracuse; Illustration: Sarah Maxwell-Folio Art

For ages: YA (14 years and up)

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Fiction, LGBTQ, Growing Up, Mental Health, Disability, Own Voices, Interracial Love, Family, Friendship, Institutionalized Lives, Courage, Bravery, Love. 

Summary: 

This book is incredible.  I truly hope this book review does it justice, I couldn’t put it down.  We were given the opportunity to read the book before it’s released on 3/17 and I am so appreciative!  Four young girls (Rose, Alice Maxine, and London) are all institutionalized at the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded, also known as the Fernald School.  Set in 1928, readers get a look inside the dismal and regimented existence that these girls as well as the rest of the inmates are subjected to.  The book is told in the four voices of the girls mentioned above, and the reader learns the schedule of the “school” and why they were abandoned there.  Using the language of the day, you can anticipate outdated terms for Down syndrome as well as learn about the eugenics movement that drove the incessant testing and measuring of intelligence leading to categories that we no longer use (but that many still use as ableist insults today).

I don’t want to give away too much, but The Degenerates is a slow burn, and made my little gay heart go pitter patter all the way until the last pages.  It’s a fantastic historically accurate book, and I’ve already told several people how much they need to read it!

In an extensive note in the back, we learn more about the author and how she developed the book from actual records found from the Fernald School, which was finally closed in 2014.  We coincidentally live very near the Fernald, so this book was of particular interest to us!  Everything in the book that a doctor or nurse says to a character was pulled from hospital records, as well as the characters names and their conditions.  The author herself is disabled, giving a personal voice to the probability that she herself would have been committed to an institution such as this one should she have been born last century.  Honestly, we probably would have been committed too, due to the criminalization of queer people in addition to the other disabled and marginalized citizens.  This adds another layer to reading the book and the heinous “care” that these individuals committed for life were given.

The Degenerates will be released on March 17th! This book was sent to us by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own. This is a YA book everyone should devote a few hours to reading!

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

Jennifer+Mann_Author+Photo_2016+(1)J. Albert Mann is the author of six novels for children, with S&S Atheneum Books for Young Readers set to publish her next work of historical fiction about the Eugenics Movement and the rise of institutionalism in the United States. She is also the author of short stories and poems for children featured in Highlights for Children, where she won the Highlights Fiction Award, as well as the Highlights Editors’ Choice Award. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and is the Director of the WNDB Internship Grant Committee.

selfieSarah Maxwell is an American illustrator based in London. She was born and raised in Austin, Texas, only to then travel to Paris for studies. Having lived there for over 5 years, she has made the move to travel across the pond to the UK to start a new chapter of her life.

Her work ranges from fashion illustration to animated GIFs and comics. The best way to describe her work is summed up in 4 key words: nostalgia, tenderness, femininity, and 80’s electronic music.

0-3Rebecca Syracuse is a graphic designer and illustrator, highly experienced in children’s publishing and product design.

The Prince and the Dressmaker

Written & Illustrated by: Jen Wang

For ages: Young Adults and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Gender Expression, Growing Up, Love, Family, Acceptance, Friendship.

Summary: Prince Sebastian doesn’t particularly want to get married, but his parents are desperate for him to find a mate.  All Sebastian really wants to do is blow off steam and wear fabulous dresses as a disguise while out on the town.  He comes across Frances, a talented young seamstress and hires her to live in the castle and create one of a kind looks for him.  Frances begins to accompany him out on the town and the pair become best friends.  Frances is only one of two people that know the prince likes to wear dresses.  When the prince’s alter-ego Lady Crystallina begins to be recognized, and her fashions desired, the two reach an impasse because Frances getting recognized as the creator of these dresses could also mean the cover is blown for Sebastian.  This is a fabulous graphic novel about friendship, acceptance, and personal expression.  Definitely recommended for anyone who enjoys fashion design, or who wears anything unique and might get teased for it.

Reflection Questions:

  • How would you feel if you were Frances in the story, not being recognized for her work?
  • How do you think Sebastian feels, not being able to let people know his “secret”?
  • Who are the people in your life that you trust with your secrets?
  • How are you a good friend when someone tells you a secret?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Design your own perfect outfit-what makes you feel most comfortable?  Sebastian liked wearing pants and shirts as much as he liked wearing fancy dresses, and you can too!  But what matters most is that you’re dressing the way that makes you feel most comfortable.
  • Draw your own comic!  The land that Frances and Sebastian live in is fictitious, you can imagine a new place or write about one that already exists!
  • Think about what it means to be a good friend.  What is important to you in a friend, and how can you embody those characteristics for your friends as well? If it’s helpful, you can make a list or collaborate with someone.

About the Author & Illustrator:

2477793-jen_wangJen Wang is a cartoonist, writer, and illustrator based in Los Angeles. Jen is also a co-founder and organizer for Los Angeles based comics festival Comic Arts LA.

Lighter Than My Shadow

Written & Illustrated by: Katie Green

For ages: Teens and Up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Growing Up, Eating Disorders, Assault, Resilience, Bravery, Family, Friendship, Love, Acceptance, Mental Health, Recovery, Trauma, Graphic Novel.

Summary: This hefty 500 page graphic novel covers main character Katie’s life from childhood to college-first for biology and then for art school.  Katie has always had a problem eating, but things changed when she was a teenager and people started commenting on each others bodies.  She developed anorexia in high school, and had to take some time off before senior exams to gain weight back and try to recover.  Katie gets well enough to go back to school, but is constant turmoil, figuring out what she can do next.

While recovering, Katie meets an alternative healer and becomes infatuated with him and his family, truly believing that he wants to help her.  He encourages Katie to leave her family and friends behind as part of her healing process, and to spend time with him instead.  Katie accompanies the family to a music festival, and he assaults her.  Suddenly, Katie realizes that he has been doing this while “healing her energy” and Katie’s world comes crashing down.  She becomes stuck in a cycle of college classes, disordered eating, and trauma processing.

This is an honest look at living with an eating disorder, and if a person can ever truly be healed or not. Beautiful illustrations and even more beautiful words make up this fantastic book.  Due to mature themes it is a book for older teens, but it is a book that absolutely should be read!

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Katie was impacted by her friend’s reactions to her, both before and after she revealed her anorexia to them?
  • What makes you feel vulnerable? Have you ever made a choice you later regretted because of your feelings of vulnerability?
  • If you have survived trauma of any sort, do you believe that someone can truly be healed?
  • Katie’s relationship with her parents runs the gamut from supportive to strained. Have your parents helped you through hard times? How have they supported you?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Katie draws her anxiety and disordered thinking as a dark cloud over her head. How do you envision your negative thoughts? Draw yourself and those thoughts.
  • Katie spends a lot of the movie hating her body and the way it looks. Write a letter to your body, and let your emotions flow. How does it feel to write to your body like this?
  • Being vulnerable with other people can be uncomfortable, but valuable if you find trusted resources. If you have such a person in your life, start a conversation about your relationship and its joys.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

bwportraitKatie Green grew up in the London suburbs and moved to Bristol in 2002 to study, where she lived for ten years before moving to her current home in Devon. After completing a degree in Biology she studied Sequential Illustration, graduating with first class honours in 2009.

Her graphic memoir, Lighter Than My Shadow, began as a degree project and was signed up by Jonathan Cape in early 2010. The completed work, some 500 pages, took almost 5 years to complete.

Since the publication of her first book, Katie has worked on zines, short comics and illustrations for select clients as well as her own self-directed creative work. Her work has been featured in several exhibitions, and Katie and gives workshops and presentations around the UK and overseas.

Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? The Story of Ada Lovelace

Written by: Tanya Lee Stone

Illustrated by: Marjorie Priceman

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Women in STEM, Historical Figures, Women in Science, Feminism, Bravery, Courage, Individuality.

Summary: Ada was a young girl who lived in the English countryside.  She had a wild imagination and a mother who thought a wild imagination was dangerous.  Ada’s father was the famous poet, Lord Byron.  Ada’s mother was fed up with Lord Byron’s wild behavior, and moved home to her parents house when Ada was 5 weeks old.  Ada never saw her father again, because he fled England owning large sums of money.  Ada’s mother wanted Ada to have a brain like a mathematician, not a wild imagination.  She had tutors that taught her every subject, and she loved music in addition to math, drawing, and singing.  When Ada was 12, she became obsessed with inventing a flying horse with bird wings, and asked her mother for bird-drawing books.  Ada’s mother made her study math for longer hours everyday instead;  she also wanted Ada to get married to a suitable man.  Ada was presented to the king and queen when she was 18, but was not interested in solely becoming a housewife.  Ada became fascinated with the scientists Charles Babbage, and his inventions.  She began to visit with him, and became enchanted with his number calculation machines he was building.  Ada realized that math and imagination could work together, unlike what he mother tried so desperately to teach her.  Ada and Charles became good friends, and often wrote letters and visited each other, walking about math and philosophy together.  Charles was busy trying to build a calculation device that could solve any problem, called the Analytical Engine.  He was trying to base it off a loom that used punchcards to design what the woven design would be.  He didn’t know how the loom worked, but Ada did.  Ada was also able to help translate scientific papers written in French, and Charles encouraged Ada to write her own papers.  She was thrilled at the idea, women in her time did not become scientists and write papers!  Although she was often ill, she worked very hard and wrote many letters to Charles.  When she finished the paper, it turned out to be very long and a huge success!  Ada had a brain that could imagine mathematical processing that had not been discovered yet.  Charles was never able to build his machine, but if he did the entire world of computer programming history could be different from what it is today.  A huge contribution would have been Ada’s work, with her wild imagination!

In the back, there is also more historical information about Ada’s life.  An important scientific contributor that is relatively unknown by most, this is a great book!

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Ada felt when her mother tried to stifle her imagination?
  • How do you think she felt when Charles encouraged her to pursue her passions?
  • What do you think Ada would think about computers today?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about basic computer coding.  There are tons of websites that teach coding skills to kids, and introductory courses with robots.  Ada would be proud!
  • Lots of other famous names are mentioned in the story.  Pick one out and learn more about them!  Charles Darwin, Lord Byron, who are you interested in learning about?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

916WD-xjo1L._UX250_Tanya Lee Stone is best known for telling little-known or unknown stories of women and people of color. She writes MG/YA narrative nonfiction such as Girl Rising, Almost Astronauts and Courage Has No Color, and nonfiction picture books such as Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? and The House that Jane Built. Her work has been recognized by the NAACP Image Award, Robert F. Sibert Medal, Golden Kite Award, Bank Street Flora Straus Steiglitz Award, Jane Addams Honor, YALSA Nonfiction Finalist, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, NPR Best Books, and NCTE Orbis Pictus Honors. She is also the author of the YA verse novel, A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, which was a Top Ten Banned Book. Stone studied English at Oberlin College, later earned a Masters Degree, and was an editor of children’s nonfiction for many years before becoming a writer. She teaches writing at Champlain College. Forthcoming books include A Story of War, A Story of Peace, Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? and Pass Go and Collect $200: The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented.

marjorie-priceman-1536996Marjorie Priceman, illustrator of many acclaimed picture books, has won Caldecott Honors for her illustrations in Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin! by Lloyd Moss and Hot Air: The (Mostly) True Story of the Frist Hot-Air Balloon Ride, which she also wrote. She lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Spring After Spring; How Rachel Carson INSPIRED the Environmental Movement

Written & Illustrated by: Stephanie Roth Sisson

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Historical Figures, Women in STEM, Activism, Environmental Activism, Trailblazers, Bravery, Courage.

Summary: Rachel is a little girl that LOVES nature.  She loves walking through the woods and listening to all of the sounds that animals create around her.  Birds, frogs, bats, and bugs!  Rachel explores the world around her from every angle, staring at the sky and through a magnifying glass at the earth below her feet.  She draws pictures and dreams of the ocean.  Rachel’s favorite time of year is spring, when the animal sounds are most plentiful!  When Rachel went to college, she was convinced she would be a writer, until she looked through a microscope.  Rachel was blown away by the tiny life contained in a single drop of ocean water, and from then on she was hooked.  Despite never having been to the ocean, Rachel wanted to learn as much as she could, and began to study biology.  She became a scientist gathered information about the ocean, it was her job to swim around underwater and learn!  Rachel also began to write books about the creatures that lived in the sea, and became very well-known.  Around this time, Rachel also began to notice that nature’s voice was going quiet.  Now Rachel had a new task, she wanted to figure out what was happening to the animals that used to be so loud and numerous.

Rachel began to learn about all of the ways scientists were using chemicals to kill bothersome insects, in attempts to help farmers have better crop yields.  These chemicals seemed to be safe, but no one really knew for sure.  Rachel started doing research, and found out that these chemicals were NOT safe, and harmed forest life.  Rachel wrote a book entitled Silent Spring to let everyone know the dangers of using these chemicals.  The book caused a huge stir and Rachel was even invited to speak with President Kennedy about her book!  She was scared, but she did it anyway, just like all those years ago when she began going underwater for her job.  Rachel was incredibly brave, and used this bravery to help let people know the dangers of putting chemicals into the environment.  Because of Rachel’s testimony, some of the most harmful chemicals were banned, and animals began to return to the forest!

This book is a fabulous introduction to environmentalism, and a famous scientist!  It repeatedly introduces bravery, and how bravery doesn’t mean a person isn’t scared when they do something.  In the back there’s an Author’s Note, notes about specific pages with more detailed information, as well as sources for more information.  Would definitely recommend to any group or classroom learning about nature or science!

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever listened to the sounds of nature in the forest before?
  • What is something brave that you have done before, just like when Rachel went underwater even though she was scared?
  • What would you like to do when you get older?
  • Do you think it’s important to protect animals and natural habitats like Rachel?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Make your own coffee-can “microscopes” and see what you can find in a nearby pond or puddle.  Draw your view!
  • If you live near a town forest or woods, try taking a quiet nature walk once or twice every season and make notes about what you hear and see.  Compare the notes of different seasons together and see if you can figure out which animals migrate and which ones hibernate!
  • Learn more about what you can do in your community to help nature throughout the year.  It might be making bird feeders to hang up, picking up litter on the bike path, or making sure that signs where animals cross the road frequently are visible from the road.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

A1lskN991IL._UX250_Stephanie Roth Sisson has been a traveler her whole life and these journeys have been physical (actually going places) and imaginative (through wonder and books) .  Both are just as real. Her website is mostly photographs, which bring her adventures to life!

Imani’s Moon

Written by: JaNay Brown-Wood

Illustrated by: Hazel Mitchell

For ages: 6-9 years

Language: English & Maa (Maasai)

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, African Culture & Traditions, Maasai People, Self-Esteem, Community, Bravery, Perseverance.  

Summary: Imani is the smallest in her village, and gets teased relentlessly for it.  To make Imani feel better, her mother tells her stories.  One night in particular, Imani learns about Olapa, the goddess of the moon who had to fight against the god of the sun and won.  Imani’s mother told her that she believe she could accomplish great things, but Imani was the one who had to believe it.  Imani goes to bed inspired, and decides she wants to touch the moon.  The next morning, she climbs a tree to try and reach the moon, but loses her footing and falls to the ground.  Imani’s mother tells her about Anansi the spider, who captured a snake in order to make a name for himself.  Imani’s mother assures her that a challenge is only impossible until it is achieved and that she is the one that must believe.  The next morning Imani crafts a set of wings out of leaves and sticks, trying to fly to the moon.  She is so small that a gust of wind takes her into the air momentarily, until she crashes into a tree.  Defeated, she returns to the village.  In the village, some warriors had returned home and were performing the adumu, the jumping dance.  Fascinated, Imani is unable to look away.  The next morning, Imani started to jump.  She jumps and jumps, launching herself higher into the sky.  Tired and exhausted, Imani jumps one more time and lands on the moon, calling for Olapa!  She picks up a moon rock, and floats gently home, back to the village.  That night, Imani presents the rock to her mother and told her the story of The Girl Who Touched the Moon.

This book is a fantastic story of resilience, but also an introduction to several African folktales.  Integral to the plot, it never feels forced. Instead, these folktales inspire Imani to have courage and persevere with her goal.  In the back is also an Author’s Note giving more information about the Maasai and their adumu.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Imani feels when she is being teased?
  • Why do you think the stories Imani’s mom tell her make her feel better?
  • How would you feel if you achieved a big goal you had been working towards, like Imani did?
  • How can you be a good friend to someone who is trying over and over to do something?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Imani is part of the Maasai tribe, but that’s not the only tribe that lives in Africa!  Learn more about some of the different tribes, or if you have a personal connection to one in particular share what you know and aim to learn even more.
  • What is a story that your family tells?  Share stories together as a class!
  • Imani learns a lot about the folktales that are important to the Maasai, and shape their culture.  Write your own tale about what is important to you and shapes who you are as a person.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

screen-shot-2016-08-11-at-8-46-02-pm_origSome say JaNay Brown-Wood came right out the womb filled with stories to tell and the unlimited energy and excitement to tell them.  She was the type of child that created long, drawn out plays with her Barbie dolls, teddy bears, and Polly Pockets—and these dramas always included singing.  In sixth grade, her teacher predicted that she would become a famous author, and JaNay is eagerly making her way down that path as a Teller of Stories.

JaNay grew up with the grapes of Fresno, California within a community overflowing with creative family members and stories to tell.  She has two loving and supportive parents, Lee and Marci, and two wonderful sisters, Erin and Taylor; and not to mention a gigantic extended family filled with a grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins, cousins, cousins galore!

1428005309219Hazel Mitchell is the author and illustrator of Toby from Candlewick Press. She is also the illustrator of Imani’s Moon (Charlesbridge), One Word Pearl (Charlesbridge), Animally (Kane Miller), Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? (Down East) amongst others.

Before becoming a children’s book creator Hazel served for several years in the British Royal Navy before working as a designer and commercial illustrator in England (her home country) and USA. She attended art college in Great Britain close to her birthplace of Scarborough, Yorkshire.

Now she lives in Maine and works from her home studio. She still misses fish, chips and mushy peas, but is learning to love lobster. She has two poodles, Toby and Lucy, plus a cat called Sleep.