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Top 5 Books We Read in 2018

2018 was a rollercoaster of a year, with so many opportunities for growth and learning all over the place! We launched this site as a passion project, and we have been so lucky to connect with many people from all over the globe, sharing our mutual love of diverse literature!

We have no idea what 2019 will bring,

but we resolve to fight injustice,

to spread love and liberation,

and to lift up the voices of those most marginalized.

In 2019, we will educate to empower!

Without further ado, here are the Top 5 books we read in 2018:

5) A Day With Yayah  

Words by Nicola I. Campbell, Pictures by Julie Flett


Click here for more about Indigenous Voices!

Why We Loved This Book:

-It promotes multilingualism & discusses the cultural significance of certain traditions

-Teaches about respecting and revering natural resources

-Julie Flett’s illustrations are stunning

4) Captain Starfish 

Written by: Davina Bell, Illustrated by: Allison Colpoys

captain starfish

Click here for more about Neurodiversity!

Why We Loved This Book:

-The protagonist Alfie learns about himself from the natural world-the aquarium is the place for him!

-Alfie learns to manage his anxiety on his own timeline, with his parent’s support

-Anxiety is described in a very understandable way, so children can identify times that they may have felt anxious

3) Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

Poem by Maya Angelou, Paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat

life doesnt firghten me

Click here for more about POC-Centric Narratives!

Why We Loved This Book:

-It introduces poetry and art to readers at the same time

-It highlights two incredible artists of color and brings them together in a way that appeals to children

– It’s easy to use this book in a variety of ways in the classroom as well as the home (see our full review for ideas!)

2) Neither

Written & Illustrated by: Airlie Anderson


Click here for more about Gender Identity!

Why We Loved This Book:

– The imaginative illustrations draw the reader in, where they then encounter a lovable cast of characters

-Diversity and individuality is celebrated in a simple way that effectively communicates what can be a complex topic

-It opens the door for further conversation and self-reflection about identity!

#1 : Interstellar Cinderella

Written by: Deborah Underwood, Illustrated by: Meg Hunt


Click here for more about Social Emotional Development!

Why we loved this book the most:

-It has a strong female protagonist who thinks for herself, and an interracial friendship

– Cinderella is a STEM-loving role model for young girls who beats the odds

– It switches up the typical fairy tale ending of marriage being the ultimate goal- Cinderella gets the job of her dreams and a new best friend who understands her!

Happy New Year, and may the year 2019

bring you more amazing books!


Written by: Stacy McAnulty

Illustrated by: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

For Ages: 5-6 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Self-Expression, Individuality, Self-Acceptance, Inclusiveness.

Summary: This book takes the stereotypes fed to women and young girls through the media and turns them on their head with illustrations. Suddenly, “smiling sweetly” means enjoying sticky orange slices with friends rather than anything else! This book shows a diverse cast of young girls having fun outdoors, playing sports, and playing instruments for their community.

This book is fantastic. It shows girls catching frogs and planting flowers, covered in mud. It takes a statement about makeup and shows a group of friends dressed as pirates! An important part of any book collection that emphasizes kindness, individuality, and strong girls.

Reflection Questions:

  • What activities that are in the book are ones you do with your friends?
  • Do you think some people believe that girls can’t do things like play in the dirt or climb trees?
  • What would you say to someone that tells you what you should do based on if you’re a boy or girl?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Have a conversation about what it means to be “beautiful”, and make a list of different things some people might not consider beautiful. This can be tangible or intangible: kindness, healthy plants, a compost pile, etc.
  • Pick an activity featured in the book that you’ve never done, and try it! Did you meet any new friends? Would you try this activity again? If not, that’s ok! It’s very brave to try something new.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

stacy mcanultyStacy McAnulty is a children’s book author, who used to be a mechanical engineer, who’s also qualified to be a dog therapist (is that a thing???), a correspondent for The Daily Show (why not), and a Green Bay Packer coach (totally!). She has written dozens of books including her debut middle-grade novel, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl , a Junior Library Guild Selection, and the 2017 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor book Excellent Ed, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. Her other picture books include Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, illustrated by David Litchfield; Max Explains Everything: Grocery Store Expert, illustrated by Deborah Hocking, Brave and Beautiful, both illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite, illustrated by Edward Hemingway; and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath, illustrated by Joy Ang. She’s also authored the chapter book series Goldie Blox, based on the award-winning toys, and The Dino Files. When not writing, Stacy likes to listen to NPR, bake triple-chocolate cupcakes, and eat triple-chocolate cupcakes. Originally from upstate NY, she now lives in Kernersville, NC with her 3 kids, 3 dogs, and 1 husband.

joanne lew vriethoffJoanne Lew-Vriethoff was born in Malaysia and grew up in Los Angeles. After receiving her B.A in Illustration from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, she worked in the television industry as a character and concept illustrator for clients pitching children’s television shows.  She later moved to New York and trained as a graphic designer at a Design Studio working with various clients such as Columbia University, New School, and IJDG in NYC. Moving to Amsterdam gave her the opportunity to get back into making art again.  Many of her illustrations have themes of childhood nostalgia, humor, mischievousness, loneliness, love, social interactions friendships with an added touch of magic.. Her first published book, a Dutch poetry book set her on the path to becoming a children’s book illustrator.  Since then she has been illustrating picture books, middle grade novels, early readers, educational books, magazines,and for a toy branding company. Her favorite medium is pen and ink, mixed media. Joanne lives with her family in Amsterdam. Besides making art, she loves traveling and road trips with her husband and kids, photographing street art, cycling along the Amsterdam canals at midnight, snorkeling, day dreaming, collecting picture books.

Sparkle Boy

Written by: Lesléa Newman

Illustrated by: Maria Mola

For Ages: 4-8 years

Language: English, slight Spanish mention.

Topics Covered: Self-Expression, Gender Expression, Family Acceptance, Inclusiveness.

Summary: This book opens with two siblings, sister Jessie and younger brother Casey, in the living room of their home.  Jessie is dancing in a sparkly skirt, and Casey reaches out, wanting to wear it as well.  Jessie tells Casey he can’t wear a skirt because he’s a boy, but their mother says if Casey wants to he can.  His mother gives him a skirt that is too small for Jessie, and he is delighted to spin around.  Jessie is not so thrilled about this.  This scenarios happens again regarding nail polish, and sparkly bangles gifted to Jessie from their Abuelita.  Jessie is not happy, Casey is the happiest.  When the family plans a trip to the library a few days later, Casey wears all of his new sparkly things.  Jessie says Casey looks silly, but their mother says “Casey looks like Casey” and the family departs.  At the library, a young girl calls Casey a sister to Jessie, and Casey corrects her, saying he is a brother.  The girl says Casey is a girl, and can’t be a brother.  An older boy overhears the conversation and starts mocking Casey wearing a skirt, saying he looks weird.  Jessie comes to his defense, and they leave.  The final two pages of the book show Casey and Jessie sitting together, wearing all of their sparkles: skirts, nail polish, and bangles.  This is a realistic story, with some family members feeling reluctant to embrace someone that defies gender stereotypes.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why do you think Jessie feels like Casey shouldn’t wear what he wants to?
  • How do you think Casey feels when his mom lets him wear the different shimmery things that his sister gets to wear?
  • What do you think makes Jessie change her mind about what Casey wears when they’re at the library together?
  • Do you know anyone that wears things that not a lot of other people wear?  How do you think it makes them feel to have or wear them?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Think about what makes you the happiest when you wear it.  What does it look like, what colors are in it?  Draw yourself.
  • Think about what you could do if you saw somebody making fun of what someone was wearing the way the older boys were making fun of Casey.  How might someone feel when another person stands up for them?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

leslea newmanLesléa (pronounced “Lez-LEE-uh”) Newman is the author of 70 books for readers of all ages, including A Letter to Harvey Milk; October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard; I Carry My Mother; The Boy Who Cried Fabulous; Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed; and Heather Has Two Mommies. She has received many literary awards, including creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, two American Library Association Stonewall Honors, the Massachusetts Book Award, the Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Award, the Highlights for Children Fiction Writing Award, a Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fiction Writing grant, the James Baldwin Award for Cultural Achievement, the Cat Writer’s Association Muse Medallion, and the Dog Writers Association of America’s Maxwell Medallion. Nine of her books have been Lambda Literary Award Finalists. Ms. Newman wrote Heather Has Two Mommies, the first children’s book to portray lesbian families in a positive way, and has followed up this pioneering work with several more children’s books on lesbian and gay families: Felicia’s Favorite Story, Too Far Away to Touch, Saturday Is Pattyday, Mommy, Mama, and Me, and Daddy, Papa, and Me.

maria mola

Maria Mola  is a freelance illustrator and artist. She is from Barcelona, Spain, but she currently lives in Chicago with her husband and their two little children. She is passionate about bringing her art to the children’s picture book industry. Her clients include Lerner Publishing, Editions Anna Chanel, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill among others. Maria has worked in the educational field and for the trade market and she regularly collaborates with magazines too. Maria creates her work both digitally and in traditional media, often combining both. She specially enjoys bringing new characters to life. When not creating children’s book dummies, she enjoys playing with her children, reading and photography. Most of the times doing everything at once. With a cup of coffee, of course.

Pink is for Boys

Written by: Robb Pearlman

Illustrated by: Eda Kaban

For Ages: 4-7 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Gender stereotypes, Acceptance, Self-Expression, Individuality.

Summary: This is a simple book that explains how all the colors are for everyone, and gives plenty of examples!  These fun illustrations highlight the color of topic by giving more examples.  For example: Orange is for girls. And boys. And popsicles dribbling down sticky chins. The illustrations are fairly diverse and show many body types as well as ability levels.  A fun and quick read for young children, this would be a great book to begin a conversation within a classroom about gender stereotypes.

Reflection Questions:

  • What is your favorite color? Why is it your favorite?
  • Has anyone ever told you that you should wear a certain color because you are a boy, a girl, or somewhere else on the gender spectrum?
  • What does your favorite color make you feel?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Make a class list of as many colors as you can think of!
  • Choose a color that you don’t usually use in your art, and create a project just using that color, in it’s many variations. Talk about how it felt to use that color.
  • Talk about the color wheel and color theory, pointing out primary, secondary and tertiary colors.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

robb pearlmanRobb Pearlman is an author and associate publisher of pop culture and entertainment books including Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting, The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book, Anomalisa, Zombies on Film: The Definitive Story of Undead Cinema, Stuck on Star Trek, and The Princess Bride: A Celebration and a calendar program that includes major licenses as Star Trek, Game of Thrones, American Gods, Downton Abbey, Bob’s Burgers, and Family Guy. He has edited monographs of the work and lives of award winning animators Bill Plympton and Ralph Bakshi, the movie tie-in books to Burlesque and Amelia, The Joker, the first book solely devoted to the DC Comics super-villain, as well as children’s books including Grandma Moses’s The Night Before Christmas, John Patrick Byrne’s Donald and Benoit, and A Poem as Big as New York City, illustrated by Masha D’yans. Robb has had successful events and signings at San Diego and New York ComicCons, bookstores and comic book retailers in Los Angeles, New York, and New Jersey. He was featured as an on air commentator in National Geographic Channel’s “Generation X” series, contributed to HuffingtonPost.com, performed at the Nerdnite Nerdtacular, and has been featured on several pop culture blogs and SiriusXM radio shows. Robb serves on the Advisory Board of the MS in Publishing Program at Pace University and on the Board of Directors of Teachers & Writers Collaborative.

eda kabanEda Kaban was born and raised in Turkey with a great passion for drawing, reading, and monkey bars. She has traveled the globe wearing a backpack slightly larger than herself. Her travels brought her to the States where she studied illustration. Her work can be seen in a variety of publications. She has worked with clients such as Penguin, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, HarperCollins, Chronicle Books, Macmillan, Perseus, Lufthansa Airlines, Mattel, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe and The Village Voice among others. Her illustrations have been recognized by Society of Illustrators, Creative Quarterly, American Illustration and 3X3. She is represented by Shannon Associates and she continues to search for stories through love, laughter, and observations of the people around her. When she is not drawing, you can find her climbing some rocks, or biking the hills of the Bay Area. She currently resides in Oakland happily with her husband and their two Siamese cats, where they continually water their plants too much.

Julián Is a Mermaid

Written and Illustrated by: Jessica Love

For Ages: 4-8 years

Language: English and Spanish

Topics Covered: Self-Acceptance, Gender Expression, Latinx Family Life

Summary: Julián is a Mermaid is a vivid, fantastical celebration of family, exploration and most of all…mermaids! Julián LOVES mermaids, so when he sees the beautiful women of color in their mermaid costumes while heading home on the train with his abuela, he begins to imagine his own transformation into a mermaid.  Upon arriving home, Julián takes the opportunity to create his own mermaid costume while his grandmother is taking a bath.  When she catches him, he is afraid she will be angry.  Instead, she takes him to the Mermaid Parade on Coney Island where he can be with other mermaids!

This book has beautiful illustrations, and few words.  This allows the reader to be transported and really think about what Julián might be feeling in these moments.  His grandmother immediately embraces Julián for who he is, and introduces him to a whole new world where he can be himself.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Julián feels when his grandmother sees him dressing up like a mermaid?
  • How do you think Julián feels when she takes him to the Mermaid Parade?
  • Do you think anyone could be a mermaid?
  • What kind of fantasy creature would you like to be? (Ex: dragon, unicorn, phoenix, etc.)

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Hold a classroom parade of your own!  Have everyone dress up how they feel most comfortable, and take a lap around the school or bring the party to a nearby park.
  • Do some research on celebrations in the area where people dress up in costumes.  What are they?  What types of costumes do people usually dress up in?
  • Make watercolor paintings of your own transformation into a fantasy creature using the illustrations in the book for inspiration.

About the Author/Illustrator:Jessica Love

Jessica Love (she/her) is a published children’s book author and illustrator. Her first book, Julián is a Mermaid (Candlewick Press) is a New York Times Editor’s Pick. Jessica grew up in the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California, raised by a pair of artist parents. She studied printmaking and illustration at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and then went on to study acting at Juilliard. Jessica lives in Brooklyn, and splits her time acting in plays, and illustrating.