Tag Archives: family dynamics

Around the Table that Grandad Built

Written by: Melanie Heuiser Hill

Illustrated by: Jaime Kim

For ages: 3-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Family, Cooking, Cultural Identity, Traditions.

Summary: This is a very sweet book about the preparations of a large family dinner.  Each piece of the meal, starting with the table that grandad built, tells a story of significance and family meaning.  The kids busily set out plates from a wedding, handmade cloth napkins, and carry foods that are traditionally made every year like samosas, tamales, and vegetables.  The illustrations are adorable and diverse, showing a blended family excited to spend time together.

We see this book a lot around the big holidays in the fall and winter, but the book itself doesn’t have strong holiday themes.  It would be great to use all year round because of the focus on family traditions and spending time together.  We like these books that can be applied to a wide range of events, because not everyone celebrates specific holidays.  Perhaps the characters in the story have this meal together weekly, or monthly!  The story itself builds on past pages, when each new item added to the table, it is reiterated with past items ending with the table that grandad built.  It’s very cute, and we love the art style!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

ph_hill_melanie_240px_72dpi_rgbMelanie Heuiser Hill is a graduate of Hamline University’s MFA program in writing for children and young adults. She lives in the Twin Cities with her husband and children. Giant Pumpkin Suite was her debut novel. Her first picture book, Around the Table That Grandad Built, was published in Fall 2019.

 

 

 

JKIM_headshotJaime Kim was “born and raised in South Korea before moving to the USA when she was 18.

Although she was a timid child who was afraid of just about everything, she discovered a sense of serenity in drawing. As a grown-up, Jaime finally stopped being afraid of everything, but kept on drawing and painting. She works with gouache, watercolors and acrylics to create nostalgic and dreamlike illustrations, inspired by childhood memories of her family, as well as movies, art, and the outside world. Her favorite things are the sun, the moon, the sky and stars – which is why they always creep into her artwork. Her debut illustrated picture book, Take Heart, My Child, was a #1 New York Times-bestseller.”

Ho’onani Hula Warrior

Written by: Heather Gale

Illustrated by: Mika Song

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English and Hawaiian

Topics Covered: Gender Identity, Hawaiian Culture & Traditions, Hula, Indigenous Voices, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Trailblazer, History, Historical Figure, Biographical, Self-Esteem, Family, Acceptance. 

Summary: 

This is an incredible book based on a real person!  Ho’onani is a young girl that feels in the middle of being a girl (wahine) and a boy (kâne) but still uses feminine pronouns.  Indigenous Hawaiians have a term for this, called mâhû. In the story, Ho’onani is accepted and encouraged by her family, except for her sister (in real life, this is not true!) who wishes Ho’onani would conform to traditional gender roles.  Luckily, one of Ho’onani’s teachers named Kumu Hina, (Kumu is Hawaiian for ‘teacher’) supports Ho’onani and allows her to be herself, in the middle.  Ho’onani wants to lead the boys hula performance at the end of the school year, something a girl has never done!  Luckily, Ho’onani’s community is supportive, and she makes history onstage, winning over the approval of her aforementioned sister that is on the fence with how openly Ho’onani embraces her identity.

There was a documentary made about the real Ho’onani by PBS in 2015!  Something that the documentary addresses that there isn’t enough room for in the children’s book is the fact that Ho’onani’s teacher, Kumu Hina, is a transgender woman.  The pair are very close, and Kumu Hina has developed her own terminology for the classroom to be more inclusive for gender non-conforming students mâhû students.

Indigenous Hawaiian gender identities are also discussed in the academic text, Critically Sovereign, which goes more in-depth about how colonialism shaped Hawaiian sexuality and gender identity, oppressing those that were not within the male-female binary.  The chapter about mâhû identity also takes into account the struggle for marriage equality within Hawai’i that started earlier than any other state, in the 1990’s.  The marriage equality debate is also wrapped up into the debate about Indigenous Hawaiian sovereignty, and if there should be a seceding from the greater government to create their own nation much like other Indigenous tribal nations found on the mainland.

You can watch the documentary about Ho’onani for free, here!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

I'm glad you've stopped by!

HEATHER GALE is a former orthotist and author originally from New Zealand. Heather loves stories of all kinds, but she especially loves those that feature real people like Ho’onani. She fell in love with the art of storytelling during long car rides, making up stories to go with the scenes flashing by. Heather has two sons and now lives in Toronto with her husband and their two dogs.

 

 

 

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MIKA SONG is a children’s author/illustrator who makes stories about sweetly funny outsiders.

Mika Song grew up in Manila, Philippines. As a child she wrote letters to a mouse who lived under her mother’s desk. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and cat.

Maisie’s Scrapbook

Written by: Samuel Narh

Illustrated by: Jo Loring-Fisher

For ages: 3-7 years

Language: English and some Ghanian 

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Family, Biracial Family, Love, Imagination. 

Summary: This is a really cute story about a young girl named Maisie and her parents.  Her father is African, and while the ethnicity of her mother is not specifically mentioned,  she appears to be of European descent.  The story is a celebration of the fact that while sometimes Maisie’s parents wear different clothes or call items by different names, they love and hug her the same.  Maisie’s father tells her African stories and her mother comforts her when she gets scared.

The story reads much like a collection of memories, or a scrapbook (calling back to the book’s title).  We absolutely love the illustrations, especially the grumpy looks of Maisie’s face when her parents are nagging her.  Overall, we liked this book and it’s lovely to see a culturally blended and multiracial family represented in a children’s book without that being the entire plot of the story, bashing the reader over the head.  The book is about the memories that Maisie has with her parents, and the love she feels from them.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

7791Samuel Narh was “immersed in many folktales from the African continent and beyond as a child. Narh was born and raised in Ghana. For that reason, he is a natural storyteller. Narh enjoys using words to paint beautiful stories. He brings these attributes to the craft of writing picture books for young children. Narh’s stories are alive and they are meant to touch and move people. The messages are fashioned to enrich the lives of both young children and adults.”

 

 

JoPromoStudio1Jo Loring-Fisher is an “artist, illustrator and graduate of Cambridge School of Art’s MA in Children’s Book Illustration. She lives with her husband and two youngest daughters close to Stonehenge on Wiltshire’s beautiful Salisbury Plain in England.

Jo loves the countryside, and enjoy creating images using a range of materials including collage, ink, paint and printmaking. Much of her inspiration comes from observing nature and everyday life. 

Jo loves the scope of subjects that children’s books cover, from light-hearted, to tackling the challenges we all face. She will sometimes favour difficult subject matter softened by the use of her chosen materials.  Jo enjoys illustrating the texts of others, as well as my own material.” 

 

When Aidan Became a Brother

Written by: Kyle Lukoff

Illustrated by: Kaylani Juanita

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English 

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Gender Identity, Family, LGBTQ Youth, Trans Experience, Gender Stereotypes, Growing Up, Pregnancy, Siblings, Social-Emotional Learning, Empathy.

Summary: Since it’s Corrie’s birthday, she wanted to post a book that she’s currently loving and can’t stop talking about.  This book is SO cute, we’re a bit obsessed with it.  It tackles several issues all at once, and each is incredibly well-done and easy for young readers to understand.  This is a book that belongs in every classroom as soon as possible, and we are so grateful to the author and incredibly talented illustrator for bringing this story to life.

Everyone thought that Aidan was a girl when he was born, and when he was young it was frustrating to be so misunderstood.  Eventually, he figured out a way to express himself and his parents helped make the adjustments he wanted so he could feel more comfortable in what he wore and what his bedroom looked like.  Now that Aidan’s mother is pregnant again, Aidan wants to make sure he’s the best big brother possible and this includes making sure that the new baby isn’t misunderstood like he was.  The book goes through a lot of the preparations a family makes when getting ready for a new addition, with special care taken not to gender the new baby or put any stereotypes in place in terms of a name or room color.  A particularly adorable illustration shows Aidan researching names in a baby name book, but he has changed the title from “boys and girls” to “babies and babies”, specifically wanting a neutral name.

The care that Aidan takes shows an immense amount of empathy for his new sibling, wanting them to feel wholly loved and cared for without any of the pressures that gender stereotyping places on a new life.  In the back of the story is an author’s note about Kyle Lukoff’s own journey to being his authentic self, and it adds another level of tenderness to the story itself.

This book was sent to us by the Lee & Low for review, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

head+shot+copyKyle Lukoff writes books for kids and other people, here is a bit more about him from Kyle’s website! “Right now you can read A STORYTELLING OF RAVENS and WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER. Soon you’ll be able to read the MAX AND FRIENDS series, and also EXPLOSION AT THE POEM FACTORY.

I’m also a school librarian. When I’m not helping my students finds books I review professionally, assist in sensitivity readings and consultations, and present on the importance of children’s and youth literature all across the country.

I was born outside of Chicago, and moved to Washington State when I was five. I moved to New York City for college in 2002 and never left, except for an extremely brief attempt at law school. I got hired at Barnes and Noble when I was sixteen, and have been working at the intersection of books and people for over half my life. I write about transgender kids, collective nouns, poetry, and queer lives.”

juanitaKaylani Juanita is an illustrator based in Fairfield, CA who illustrates inclusive picture books, editorial art, and afros. Some of her clients include Chronicle Books, Cicada Magazine, and DEFY. Her work has been recognized by Society of Illustrators, The Huffington Post, as well as BBC. California grown and raised, she’s studied at Cal Arts and CCA for a BFA in Illustration. Her mission as an artist is to support the stories of the under represented and create new ways for people to imagine themselves. You can find her lurking in public secretly drawing strangers or writing nonsensical stories about who knows what.

Barely Missing Everything

Written by: Matt Mendez

Cover Art by: Dana Ledl

For ages: Young Adults

Language: English

Topics Covered: Growing Up, Latinx Identities, Racism, Sports, Alcohol & Marijuana Use, Family, Incarceration, Filmmaking, Friendship, Police Brutality, Pregnancy. 

Summary: This book was one of those stories that everything I anticipated to happen did not happen, I was constantly surprised at the deft storytelling of Mendez’s plot line.  Told from three viewpoints, the reader gets the full scope of what life is like for these characters.  Barely Missing Everything is a text that normalizes the experiences of working Latinx families barely making it, and the dreams that accompany hardly making ends meet.

Juan and his best friend JD are almost out of high school, and both love basketball. (I don’t particularly even like sports, but this book is incredible!)  Fabiola is Juan’s mom, and she’s just holding on while trying to balance raising Juan, their awful landlady, a surprise pregnancy, and Juan getting arrested after a party he attended got broken up by police.  So many of these moments in the book made me cringe and think “No! Why that decision?!” but the plot is so believable the reader can imagine knowing these characters and caring about them, wanting what’s best for them in the long run, which led to those protective thoughts.

Each character we come across has hopes and dreams, desperately wishing to escape their situation for a better one.  This is a book that normalizes the experiences of marginalized populations, and allows for diverse experiences to be broadcast to a wide audience.  Barely Missing Everything is emotional, raw, and impossible to put down. I mean Jason Reynolds said the book is “sure to bring a quake to the literary landscape” so really what else can we say to convince you to read it?

Simon and Schuster were kind enough to send us this book, but all opinions are our own along with the decision to review the book!

About the Author & Cover Artist:

rs=w-1240,h-620,cg-trueMatt Mendez has worked on airplanes all of his adult life and is the author of the YA novel Barely Missing Everything and the short story collection Twitching Heart.  He earned his MFA from the University of Arizona where he also taught creative writing.  His work has appeared in Pank, The Literary Review, Huizache, and other places.  Matt is from El Paso, Texas but now lives with his wife and two daughters in Tucson, Arizona.  You can visit him at mattmendez.com or follow him on Twitter @mgmendez.

 

me-ondrej-szollos_1000Dana Ledl is the cover artist for Barely Missing Everything! She lives in Prague, and is a freelance graphic designer.

Patina

Written by: Jason Reynolds

Cover Art by: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

For ages: YA Middle Grades

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Family, Grief, Death, Social-Emotional Growth, Sports, Women in Sports, Growing Up, Coping, Friendship, Black Culture & Identity.

Summary: Patina is just trying to do her best at a new school and on a new elite track team that she is now a part of.  Patina, or Patty for short, can run like a flash.  But what is she running from?  A lot of things.  She’s running to deal with the new rich kid school she now attends, ever since her aunt and uncle adopted Patty and her younger sister Maddy. She’s running because her mom doesn’t have legs anymore, and that’s why she can’t care for Patty and Maddy anymore (even though they see her regularly).  She’s running to prove to everyone that she belongs on the team.

This book is fantastic.  It is the second of a four-part series about the track team Patina is a part of, each book profiling a different member of the team in the same friend group.  Patty is dealing with a lot in her life: a new family structure, caring for her sister and both of their hair (since their aunt who they call Momly (mom+Emily) is white), a brand new school AND a crummy group project.

The reader is privy to Patty’s innermost thoughts, and how she just wants to successfully navigate her life and responsibilities.  Her father’s death and her mother developing the diabetes that eventually took her legs is still very raw.  Patina is struggling to understand that her mother developed diabetes because during the grieving process she would bake all of Patty’s father’s favorite treats constantly, eventually losing toes, feet, and legs.  When Momly and Maddy get into a car accident, can Patina imagine life without them both?  The accident and subsequent injuries coupled with a huge track meet for Patty is the culmination of the plot, and leaves the reader wanting to immediately begin the next book in the series!

About the Author & the Cover Artist:

180314_FastCompany_JasonReynolds-7Jason Reynolds is one of the most important YA authors right now, he has such finesse and talent with words.  Here is the About section from his website, because we can’t say it any better than he already has:

“Well, if you’ve made it here, that means you’ve survived the huge picture of my face! Congrats! And to reward you, I’m going to tell you all about…me. Sorry. No cake. No confetti. No money falling from the ceiling…this time.

So, I’m a writer. And when I say I’m a writer, I mean it in the same way a professional ball player calls himself an athlete. I practice everyday and do the best I can to be better at this writing thing, while hopefully bringing some cool stories to the world. The stories are kinda like my slam dunks. Except, I’m dunking words. In your FACE! Ha!

I graduated from the University of Maryland (where I spent about 65% of my time writing and reciting poetry all over campus…yeah, that was me) with a B.A. in English, then packed my bags and moved to Brooklyn because somebody told me they were giving away dream-come-true vouchers.

And if I ever find the person who told me that… let’s just say, no one was giving away anything. ANYTHING. Lucky for me I had all these crazy stories to keep me going. Ten years later, here I am, doing my best to string together an “ABOUT” section on my own website about my own books. Crazy.

Here’s what I know: I know there are a lot — A LOT — of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom. If you are reading this, and you happen to be one of these boys, first of all, you’re reading this so my master plan is already working (muahahahahahaha) and second of all, know that I feel you. I REALLY do. Because even though I’m a writer, I hate reading boring books too.”

vanessa-new-225x300-2Vanessa Brantley Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. She was part of a diverse, tight-knit community and learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment at early age.

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, Vanessa includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants allchildren to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.

​Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz. Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art.

The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody.

Juliet Takes A Breath

Written by: Gabby Rivera

Cover Art by: Cristy C. Road

For ages: YA Book

Language: English

Topics Covered: LGBTQ, Queer Theory, Racism, White Feminism, Growing Up, Relationships, Family, Love.

Summary: Ya’all this book is SO IMPORTANT.  Juliet is a young Puerto Rican woman on her way to the internship of her dreams.  All she has to do is come out to her entire family at her going away dinner and then hop on a plane.  Once in Portland Oregon, this Bronx girl gets the culture shock of a lifetime.  Hippies, White Feminism, learning how to be both an intern and away from her girlfriend for the entire summer-it’s a doozy.  Juliet is able to take the time to get to know herself, navigate growing up and getting a crash course in queer theory politics takes up most of her time.  Not to mention there’s dealing with the emotional fallout of a mother who thinks her sexuality is just a phase, and getting to know the very cute librarian Kira during her research as well.

This book is something everyone can relate to.  Having a book that centers queer brown voices is something that youths today need.  It openly calls out racism found within white feminism, and how it permeates every space.  Juliet learns a lot about the world, her place in it, and how sometimes running away isn’t going to solve things.  Juliet wrestles with emotions, long-distance relationships, and idolizing mentors that don’t turn out to be exactly what she expected.  Everyone should read this!!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

5b05dd521e00007d038e66b1Gabby Rivera’s critically acclaimed debut novel Juliet Takes a Breath was called “f*cking outstanding” by Roxane Gay and will be published in hardcover for the first time in fall 2019 by a new publisher. Gabby has also written in the Lumberjanes universe for Boom! Studios. Her latest short story O.1 can be found in Victor LaValle’s recent anthology A People’s Future of the United States. Gabby is currently working on her next novel.

When not writing, Gabby speaks on her experiences as a queer Puerto Rican from the Bronx, an LGBTQ youth advocate, and the importance of centering joy in narratives as Latinx people and people of color at events across the country.

Gabby is signed with the LAVIN agency speakers’ bureau. She’s represented by Jo Volpe and Devin Ross at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.

Gabby Rivera is so damn thankful she was able to finish this book. She wants queer brown girls to see themselves everywhere and to be proud of who they are. Gabby was a nerdburger who always wrote in journals, on stray napkins, and even on her sneakers when it was cool to do that. She’s been published in anthologies and journals put together by other radical, creative folks who also see a world that strays far from the mythic norm. Gabby has worked with Autostraddle for almost five years. In that time, she’s written about feminism, kissing girls, Nicki Minaj, radical politics and falling in love with queer brown communities. She is currently the Youth Programs Manager at GLSEN and is developing their National Student Council and curriculums for GSAs across the country. She’s fostered other LGBTQ youth groups and taught as a multi-media artist for organizations such as the DreamYard Project. She’s gonna write more books, y’all. Please read them. It’s very important. Be on the lookout for her latina punk band sci-fi epic, Supermoon. Coming some time in the distant but gorgeous future.

cristy-roadCristy C. Road is a Cuban-American artist, writer, and musician. Through visual art, storytelling, and punk rock music, C.Road has thrived to testify the beauty of the imperfect since she began creating art in her hometown of Miami, FL. She grew up as a self-taught figure drawing artist with a penchant for all things that questioned society and began publishing Green’Zine in 1997– a fanzine which was originally devoted to the punk rock group, Green Day. Merging with the anti-authoritarian intentions of the punk rock community, the zine transformed into a manifesto about being a queer Latina abuse survivor, and her journey towards self-acceptance. Her preferred visual art mediums are Micron Ink pens, Chartpak markers, acrylic paint, Gel Pens, white-out, (and sometimes Photoshop). While taking both writing and visual elements to a more serious level, her diagram of lifestyle and beliefs remain in tune to the Greenzine’s foundations.

C.Road graduated from the the Ringling School of Art and Design in 2004 with a BFA in Illustration, in order to support her ambition to eventually teach. Although, at a private art school in a red state, she was fairly infamous, as the punk feminist who changed her legal name to a Green Day song and spent most of her time protesting the representation of gender and race in art. Now, C.Road has almost 20 years of independent publishing under her belt, along with years of creating countless illustrations for a slew of magazines, record albums, event posters, and social justice organizations; as well as years of teaching through workshops, proffesorships, and lectures across the nation.

In early 2006, C.Road released her first illustrated novel, Indestructible (Microcosm Publishing), a 96-page narrative about high school. In 2008, she released Bad Habits (Soft Skull Press), an Illustrated story about healing from abuse; and lastly in 2013, her most recent book, Spit and Passion (Feminist Press, 2012), a coming-out memoir about Cuban identity, discovering Green Day, and survivng in the closet. C.Road’s most recent project is The Next World Tarot (2017), a 78-card tarot deck detailing themes of justice, resilience, accountability, and reclaimed magic; illustrated, written, and initially self-published by C.Road.

Aside from creating art; Road is a songwriter and guitarist, having fronted the pop-punk group, The Homewreckers from 2008-2016. She currently fronts Choked Up, a project that doesnt stray too far from the Homewrecker’s foundations, but proves a departure in style and bilingual lyrics.

Having organized entire tours for The Homewreckers, Road has been performing readings, workshops, and lectures since first touring with her art in 2005. She’s traveled nationally and internationally on her own, and namely with The Homewreckers, Sister Spit: The Next Generation (an all queer spoken word performance tour), and Race Riot! (A national tour hosted by The People of Color Zine Project). Cultivating a performance trajectory with a consistent show of defiance, she performs at bookstores, record stores, basements, bars, college campuses, and beyond. Some notable presentations have been held at The New Museum, The Latina Health Summit, Smash it Dead Fest, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, La Mama Theatre, Yale University, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Cristy C. Road is a Gemini Sun with a Moon in Cancer and lives in Brooklyn, NY