Tag Archives: education

Family is a Superpower

Written by: Michael Dahl

Illustrated by: Omar Lozano

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English 

Topics Covered: Family, Superhero, Love, Kindness, Compassion, Education, Strength, Global Community, LGBTQ Families.

Summary: This book embodies the third characteristic we wish to take into 2020: Family (Chosen and/or Biological)! This book pairs superhero traits with traits families and individuals can take into their daily lives to help others and be the best they can be for their community.

We really like how the book it setup, one page showing DC superheroes helping and the other showing a regular family doing the same.  Standing up to bullies, cleaning up their community, a dad staying home with his kids while their mother goes to work.  The narratives are showing real, diverse, and multifaceted look at the families that make up our community.  The juxtaposition between the two world, DC and real, shows readers that they can be real-life superheroes and help others (whether that be welcoming someone to dinner or showing strength through a hard time.

One thing we wish from this book: On the jacket flap it says the families in the book are based on real life diverse families, and we wish they were pictured!  Recognizing the families maybe in a compilation in the back, actual photos and names, or something else would have really tied the whole book together and drawn parallels to the real world.

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:

Michael-DahlMichael Dahl is the author of more than 100 books for children and young adults. He loves to write mysteries His five-book Finnegan Zwake mystery series published by Simon & Schuster won rave reviews. He also wrote a creepy series called The Library of Doom and another called Dragonblood. His nonfiction has won the AEP Distinguished Achievement Award three times. Not once, or twice, but three times! His Finnegan Zwake books were shortlisted for the Edgar and the Anthony Mystery Awards twice. He speaks at schools, libraries, and conferences across the country on graphic novels, mysteries, and books for boys, and has been a featured speaker at ALA, AASL, NYAEC, TLA, NOLA, EncycloMedia and IRA.

OmaWEFrFrom Omar Lozano’s website:

Hello there and welcome to my portfolio!

My Name is Omar, commonly known as ‘Omarito’. I started my professional career as assistant for colors in a studio called Graphikslava where we used to paint comic books for Marvel, DC, IDW and Stonearch. There I had the chance to work as illustrator in the remake of the 90’s mexican comic ‘Ultrapato’ (Ultraduck) and right after that I had the chance to enter CGBot where I worked mostly making art for mobile games. Then I became freelancing for various companies being Capstone the one I have worked with the most, making several children books with them led me to the chance to work in some DC IP’s such as Wonder Woman, Superman and Supergirl. Recently I have worked on ‘Valiants’ (Again a remake of a 90’s Mexican comic book and spin-off of Ultraduck). As of now I’m still loking to give my best in each book or character I make!

Ezra’s BIG Shabbat Question

Written by: Aviva L. Brown

Illustrated by: Anastasia Kanavaliuk

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English & Hebrew (glossary included)

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Judaism, Family, Love, Education, Culture & Traditions, Global Community, Jewish Culture & Identity. 

Summary: This book is so great!  The world of children’s literature desperately needs more diversity, and this book fills several gaps.  Having more main characters of color, especially a family that is Jewish is much needed.  Ezra’s family is interracial, and celebrate Shabbat weekly.

Ezra is a bright, curious character.  He loves being Jewish, and asking questions.  One of his favorite days is Shabbat, because no one does any work.  This gets Ezra thinking, what is considered work?  Can knots be tied?  Can Ezra even tie his shoes on Shabbat??  Wandering around the house, Ezra asks each of his siblings his BIG question but none of them can enlighten him.  Ezra’s mother says she will look it up, and then his dad arrives home just in time for Shabbat.  His BIG question will have to wait!  The reader is introduced to a few vocabulary words and concepts related to Shabbat, as well as the blessing that Ezra’s mom sings.  The next morning, shoes still untied, Ezra is able to track down Rabbi Andy to ask his BIG question.  Rabbi Andy explains that people follow Judaism all over the world, and everyone interprets the rules a little differently.  This makes sense to Ezra, but he’s still unsure on if HIS family is allowed to tie knots, even temporary ones, on Shabbat.  As Ezra goes into the sanctuary for the start of services, he bumps into his dad who tells Ezra to tie his shoes.

This book does a great job of explaining the nuances of the religion, and presenting a simple question that adults may not consider but is very important to young people.  Another small side plot of this story we found particularly funny is that in the beginning Ezra wonders if the cat thinks in English, but in several places throughout the story we see thought bubbles above their two cats and they’re in fact NOT thinking in English!  This book does a fantastic job introducing a young audience to Judaism without knocking the reader over the head.  The story is believable, the illustrations are adorable, and the reader is left wanting to know what other BIG questions Ezra has.  We can’t wait to see what this author publishes next!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

web+bio+picAviva Brown and her children converted to Judaism in 2017, but during the preceeding years of Jewish study, she noticed a lack of diversity among Jewish children’s literature.  In late 2018, Aviva read a quote by author Beverly Cleary: If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.  So, she did.

In 2019, Aviva founded SpringLight Publishing to publish her books, with the goal of eventually publishing diverse picture books by other independent authors.

Aviva currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, two cats, and four wild animals who sometimes pretend they’re well-mannered children.  When she’s not writing, editing, or reading diverse kidlit, she can be found hiding from housework (well, you can try, but she’s super good at hiding), eating popcorn, or singing show tunes.

Screen Shot 2019-08-23 at 11.03.42 AMAnastasia Kanavaliuk is hard to find on the internet!  Her Instagram handle is here, and we think she’s so incredibly talented! 

Sound Off Saturday Featuring: Mama Tortuga!

Happy Saturday!  We are thrilled to have been able to connect this week with Johana, also known as Mama Tortuga!  She is a powerhouse of bilingual and herbal activism and knowledge, with a flair for business.  Johana is a hustler and has tons of fantastic projects that she’s currently working on.  We hope you enjoy learning about them as much as we did!
The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself/your organization!f70d4b_5e94206b839e4548ac290c241396f086~mv2_d_1836_3264_s_2

Mama Tortuga: Hello, hola!! I am Johana usually called Mama Tortuga. I have created a bilingual website called www.mamatortuga.org to support and provide resources to families around the world, that want to raise free, eco-conscious, multilingual, global citizens. Our perspective is multicultural. We love to create community and to support communities that are working to create a better and improved world!!! I have a very eclectic point of view, from music and arts, to activism, to freedom, our family is here to support this and amplify those voices that need to be amplified!!!

TTA: What are you passionate about?

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Johana and her family- Photo Credit: @R Dot Photography


MT: Very passionate about a wholesome approach to live!! From intersectional feminism, mindful parenting, sustainability, arts, and love!!! I am a student of life!! I am also a lover of nature and work alongside my family in our small backyard garden.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!


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“Parenting is a spiritual practice. Social Activism is a spiritual practice”

MT: Right now I am working on creating ways to support myself, an immigrant Latina mother, and support other women in my community in learning and healing. Always looking for ways I can generate funds and spaces for us to grow!! Locally, I am offering Spanish and English social classes in the area of West Palm Beach, Fl. I am also on a local Spanish radio, where I support ancestral knowledge on herbals and multicultural traditions. Online, I am offering platforms to support resources for global and conscious families. Also, I am documenting much of my adventures, because I believe our voices are important, even if my English is not perfect!! Always showing solidarity with oppressed groups and searching for a different mindset for our world!!! Right now working on a class to be offered at the Florida Herbal Conference of next year in Spanish!!!


TTA: How can people support you on your journey?


“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need”

MT: Thanks for asking this!! We offer a line of wonderful and original Mama Tortuga T-shirts on all sizes for you $21 for sizes S, M, L and $18 for children, includes shipping, we also offer custom orders for bigger sizes or special merchandise. Also, I would love to be offered jobs on translation, multicultural consultant and talks, that are paid. I had been doing a lot of these jobs in the past decade. Sadly, many times, we are not being acknowledged. Also, I would love to be part of online collabs and convos. It is about forming a supporting community!!!


TTA: What book was your favorite in 2019 so far?

MT: So hard to choose!! Going to mention some: The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Andrea Tutu, The Holly Wild by Danielle Dulsky and Jambalaya by Louisa Teish

Screen Shot 2019-07-27 at 11.55.22 AMTTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

MT: For my website to keep growing and new connections that make a reality the dreams I have about having a supportive community. That the passion that I have for justice and solidarity and healing can come to fruition in abundance of resources and love!!!f70d4b_6ed50d5703164302a09e00d41ac84851mv2.jpg


Stay Connected with Mama Tortuga!

Green, multicultural and mindful family

Spanish Conversational Groups 

Introducing: Biracial Bookworms!

Happy Saturday!  We are so excited to have gotten to know Bethany Edwards, the driving force behind Biracial Bookworms!  Bethany cares passionately about education and traveling, and even has a course she teaches (link below).  We hope you enjoy the post, and can help Bethany on her journey to create allies and make a better world!

The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself!

Italy.family.pictureBethany Edwards: Hi my name is Bethany Edwards. I am an international educator and reading and literacy specialist. I am from California, but I always knew I would see the world. As of now I have taught in 6 different countries, and traveled to 56 countries total.

I am also a freelance writer and founder of Biracial Bookworms. On my website, I focus on different areas of human rights and education.

TTA: What are you passionate about?

BB: I have had a front seat to so much injustice and inequality as I have traveled around the world.

I feel it is my obligation to fight for equality and the safety of others, especially as a White woman with an American passport. We cannot just sit back, ignore our privilege, and expect things to change. Change is now.

View More: http://myp.pass.us/edwardsEveryone has a part to play in creating change. My passion is to help teachers and parents raise readers, activists, and leaders though reading, traveling, and learning multiple languages. Reading more books means more empathy. I believe empathy is the key to change the world.

Helping others become better allies and accomplices to marginalized groups of people is a part of my daily life, because the lives of my own two daughters depends on it.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

BB: I am currently working on spreading the word about my new online and self-paced course for parents and caregivers called Teaching Kids to Read Ages 0-5.

It is a how-to guide on encouraging your baby, toddler, or preschooler to have extraordinary reading, writing, speech, listening, and motor skills before they turn 5 years old.

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Take a Look At Bethany’s Course!

It is not simply reading strategies but 10 lessons on how to create a literacy-rich and diverse environment to instill a love and passion for reading through brain based learning. However, I will also help you teach children how to read the world by  exposing kids to different cultures, languages, and travel (in your own city or around the world).

The course is guaranteed to be authentic. No gimmicks or shortcuts with “magic” curriculum. Plus, you are guaranteed your money back if you aren’t completely satisfied.

The first 5 years are the most important years of a child’s life. I want to help you develop strong habits during the most crucial years of brain development.

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

BB: Subcribe to my weekly emails full of resources and helpful tools for raising readers, activists, and leaders.

TTA: What book was your favorite in 2018?

becomingBB: Hands down for myself it was Becoming by Michelle Obama. There is a very good reason she is beloved by people from all over the world. Like so many heroes before her, she values family and believes education is our most powerful weapon.

let the children march

As for a children’s book, Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson and Frank Morrison which is about the tiny and mighty freedom fighters in the Civil Rights Movement was extremely powerful. Listening to the voices of children has always been the most powerful way to make change. This picture book is a must read. You can also read my interview with the author here.

TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

BB: I have dedicated 2019 to hone my craft as a writer. I work every day on polishing and crafting new children’s books about my experiences as a teacher around the world and I am determined to put in the work they need to see them in print.

Kids need a push to want to be stronger than fear and go see what they do not understand. Books are one of the most powerful tool to get children out of their comfort zone.

Stay Connected with Biracial Bookworms:

Teaching Kids to Read. Biracial Bookworms Academy

Biracial Bookworms

Biracial Bookworms on Instagram

Biracial Bookworms on Facebook

Biracial Bookworms on Twitter

Biracial Bookworms on Pinterest

Introducing Fitz Between the Shelves

Happy Weekend! We have another Sound Off Sunday post this week, because of another conference!  Both of us had an incredibly busy but educational time with conferences on back to back weekends.  We love to continue to grow and learn, which is why we absolutely loved talking with Sarah FitzHenry, who is the brains behind Fitz Between the Shelves.  Sarah gave us an amazing list of books to check out which will you have running to your local library too!  We hope you have as good of a time learning more about Sarah as we did!

The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself! 

Screen Shot 2019-03-31 at 2.52.03 PMSarah FitzHenry: Hi! My name is Sarah FitzHenry, but my students call me Ms. Fitz. I’m a school librarian working with grades K-8 at an independent school in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m the voice behind Fitz Between the Shelves, my happy little corner of the internet where I talk about the power of school libraries, diverse stories, dynamic teaching and learning, and the amazing impacts these things can have on childrens’ lives. I’m also a tech geek, aerial yoga instructor, lifelong learner, lover of animals, puns, and board games, and a very dedicated and messy mistake-maker.

TTA: What are you passionate about?

SF: How much time do you have? I’m passionate about the way the right book at the right time can change a reader’s life. I’m passionate about the fact that libraries and librarians are critical tools for helping to create the next generation of leaders that will shape our world. I’m passionate about doing whatever it takes to make libraries safe, exciting, and nurturing spaces for every single child. I’m passionate about diversity and

“Books Are” by Grant Snider

representation in children’s’ literature, because every child deserves stories that act as windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors. I’m passionate about empowering kids to show up, stand up, and speak up – to make sure they know that they’re never too young or too small to use their power and drive to make change. There’s more, but you probably have other things to do today, so I’ll wrap it up.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

SF: Books are such powerful tools to help kids think curiously and critically about the world around them, especially when they’re shared and discussed with a trusted adult. I’ve been working on a Family Book Club series designed to bring families together to talk about complex or sensitive topics that might normally be avoided around the dinner table, but that kids need guidance to understand. This fall we read Out of My Mind, by Sharon Out_of_My_Mind_novel_by_Sharon_Draper_book_coverDraper. At our Family Book Club meeting, we heard from Kara McClurken of Bennett’s Village, and she really lit a spark in my students about making Charlottesville a more inclusive place where all kids can play together. They are now determined to help build a playground that’s accessible and fun for everyone. They’re working on fundraisers, design projects, marketing strategies, and more. At our last lunch meeting, I watched them pitch a school-wide fundraiser to administration by explaining why the mission of Bennett’s Village is important. It has been really incredible to see how Bennett’s story has inspired them! I am continuously moved by my students’ big hearts and limitless empathy.

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TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

SF: I’d love for you to join the conversation on Fitz Between the Shelves, or to introduce yourself on Instagram or Facebook. The more people I connect with, the more I learn! Offline, we can all join in by reading books by and about people that are different than us in every conceivable way. Families, read ‘em together and talk about the big stuff (your kids can handle it, and it will make them better people). Ask questions, and actually listen to the answers. Use the libraries in your community. And never be afraid to change your mind and your behavior as you learn!

TTA: What book was your favorite in 2018?

SF: You know you’re asking this question to a librarian, right?! I read almost 300 books per year (not including picture books)! I’ll have to break it down into categories for you.


Books that I share with my readers over and over again, that they always love:

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusty Bowling

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 10.56.48 AMLong Way Down by Jason Reynolds

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Books that have moved me the most in the past year, not including the titles above:

THE-POET-X-e1542251351500The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

Forever or a Long Long Time by Caela Carter

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

Here to Stay by Sara Farizan

Pretty much anything by Gary D. Schmidt or John Corey Whaley

TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

SF: There’s a quote by Maya Angelou that is always in the back of my mind:

Do the best you can,

until you know better.

Then when you know better,

do better.

This coming year, I look forward to knowing better, so that I can do better, in a million new ways.

Stay Connected with

Fitz Between the Shelves!

Screen Shot 2019-03-31 at 3.41.55 PMFitz Between the Shelves

Fitz Between the Shelves on Instagram

Fitz Between the Shelves on Facebook

Introducing: Minds Hearts Books!

The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself!Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 3.31.02 PM

Katie Spear: Hi! My name is Katie Spear and I’m a 4th grade Humanities teacher in Richmond, California. I’m a reader, a feminist, and mom to a very active toddler.

TTA: What are you passionate about?

KS: I’m passionate about so many things. As a teacher, I’m passionate about creating a classroom community that facilities learning because my students feel safe and loved. I work from the idea that the space in which I teach is our classroom, not my classroom, and I strive to give my students as much ownership and responsibility as possible. I’m passionate about helping my students learn about the world through a social justice lens in order to help them become active citizens in the world. This means teaching them about current events, providing space and language to discuss challenging topics, exploring identity, and using history to guide critical thinking about the world. Of course, I’m also passionate about reading! Books were my escape as a child, and as an adult I’d still prefer to read over any other activity, so instilling a love of reading with my students and my own child is a huge passion of mine.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!

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by Yvette DeChavez

KS: This is the first year I’ve taught just two subjects, so this year I’ve really been trying to increase my own understanding of history in order to be a more effective Humanities teacher. Social Studies is such an important subject, one that is often less prioritized in favor of Science (I’m guilty of this). However, there is so much that history can teach us about the world and help us understand about why we still live in a society that is racist and patriarchal. My current big project is to decolonize my curriculum and ensure that as many diverse perspectives are included as possible when I’m teaching Social Studies. I’m finding that there are huge gaps in my own understanding of history, so part of this is just educating myself around the history I teach, thinking beyond the dominant narrative we’ve all been taught about history, and trying to hear as many voices as possible

Personally, I’m working towards diversifying my own world as a reader. At the end of Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 3.19.53 PM2018 I inventoried the books I read to see who I was reading, and I noticed that most of the books I read were written by white women. My goal this year is to read more books written by BIPOC authors. In connection with this, I’ve really been trying to amplify the voices of non-white authors and illustrators in my classroom, and I’ve been very transparent about this with my students

TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

KS: I love recommendations of books and articles to read. I joined Instagram this last year as an educator, and I’m astonished at how much I can learn from my fellow educators through a social media application. Please reach out if you have something to share or recommend, or even if you want to collaborate on a project.

TTA: What book was your favorite in 2018?

KS: Some books I loved in 2018 were Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill and The Between by Tanarive Due.


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TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?

KS: My path as an educator has always been one of reflection and growth, so moving forward into 2019 I’m looking forward to continuing my own journey of self reflection and learning, especially around anti-bias and social justice education.

Stay Connected with MindsHeartsBooks!

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MindsHeartsBooks on Instagram


MindsHeartsBooks Linktree