Tag Archives: self-respect

I’m Gonna Push Through [released Feb. 18th]

Written by: Jasmyn Wright

Illustrated by: Shannon Wright

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Empowerment, Self-Confidence, Resiliency, Disability, Diverse Experiences, Growth Mindset.


This book is awesome!  I’m Gonna Push Through! delivers an empowering message for young people to step into their power and overcome anything in their path.  The book is based on a mantra that the author developed for her classroom, it embraces challenge head-on and encourages students to see themselves as masters of their own story.

This story is spectacular for so many reasons!  The illustrations are incredible and diverse, featuring many people I’ve never seen featured in a children’s book before.  Students that use mobility aids, a child using a white and red cane (signifying low or no vision), a girl with a prosthetic leg, as well as a child with vitiligo!  Reading through the book, the reader learns about how many famous adults (LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Jillian Mercado, and Jamie Brewer and more) pushed through any potential roadblocks on their journey, and conquered.

In the back of the book is a lengthy author’s note about Jasmyn’s journey as a teacher and the phenomenon of her Push Through campaign that became known globally.  There is also information about most (not all, unfortunately) of the people mentioned that pushed on through and achieved greatness.  Overall, this is an amazing book that should be used in classrooms everywhere!  I don’t think our review can do justice to this storyline, I urge everyone to find a copy immediately and take in the beauty that is this book.

This book was sent to us by our friends at Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Jasmyn Wright, a globally recognized educator, was born in Philadelphia, PA, but grew up in Pennsauken, NJ. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Spelman College in 2009, and her Master of Education from Christian Brothers University in 2012. IN 2015, Jasmyn was awarded the Teachers for Global Classrooms Professional Development Fellowship, in which she spent one year taking a global educational course, and learning ways to bring the awareness of global education to her school community. The fellowship required her to create a global education unit plan, and spend three weeks in Manila, Philippines, sharing best practices with government officials, administrators, and educators. She spent her Spring 2009 semester studying abroad at the University of Legon in Accra, Ghana.

A Teach for America alumna and elementary teacher of 9 years, Jasmyn taught in under-served and disadvantaged communities. She’s very passionate about instilling self-awareness and life-skills in her students, and is best known for helping them develop confidence, grit and resilience to overcome adversities, accomplish goals, and maximize their potential.

Jasmyn brought creativity and innovation in her classroom by creating affirmations, programs, and global learning projects that left her students feeling empowered and excited to learn. By fostering growth mindset, she encouraged them to be strong and limitless. Her inspiring and “out of the box” teaching approach allowed her to build authentic, healthy relationships with each of her students, and create a strong classroom culture.

November 2016, Jasmyn uploaded a video to her Facebook page, leading an original call and response mantra called #PushThrough with her then third grade students. This mantra instantly became a social media sensation, reaching over 3.7 million views within one week. Since then, her classroom style of teaching has been recognized and featured in The Huffington PostThe Today ShowBuzzfeed News, NPR News, Fox, NBC, etc. Recently, Jasmyn and her class had the opportunity to film and be a part of a 2017 GAP Kids back to school commercial and campaign, using a shortened version of her infamous classroom mantra, ‘Push Through’. The commercial was also coupled with a 5 minute mini documentary. Her ‘Push Through’ mantra is now permeating throughout classrooms and communities all over the world, and has been translated into 4 languages.

Jasmyn is a global educator and professes that the world is now her classroom. In addition to traveling and leading various inspirational keynotes, youth empowerment workshops, and teacher professional developments across the globe, she also serves as an educational consultant. Jasmyn travels to multiple countries and partners with organizations, leading, facilitating, and organizing teacher training programs. Sharing her best practices and innovative and sincere teaching methods, she’s impacting and transforming educational communities around the world.

Her goal with The Push Through Organization is to continue to use her voice and gift to spread empowerment, speak up and advocate for what society labels as broken, remind people their they were birthed with a purpose and limitless, and positively impact change around the world. For more on Ms. Jasmyn Wright, please visit her website at: http://www.jasmynwrightglobal.weebly.com

Photo by Sarah Schultz Taylor

Shannon Wright is an illustrator and cartoonist based out of Richmond, Virginia. Some of her clients include The Guardian, TIME Magazine, NY Times, Mother Jones, NPR, Google and Scholastic. Her first picture book, My Mommy Medicine, is out on shelves.

Her work tends to explore social issues like race and gender through a slice-of-life lens. She makes personal and original stories invoking nostalgia rooted from her own childhood and life around her. Represented by Writers House. For book inquiries contact Hannah Mann.

Care Giver Fatigue

Free to be Incredible Me

Written by: Joelle-Elizabeth Retener

Illustrated by: Connor DeHaan

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English 

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Self-Expression, Gender Non-Conforming Youth, Acceptance, Family, Love, Social-Emotional Learning & Development. 

Summary: This book is SO cute!  It’s a quick read, the rhyming makes the pages turn quickly.  Manny returns from his first day of school pretty bummed, because he’s been teased for doing things “that boy’s shouldn’t do”.  Manny’s dad sees Manny’s heartache and sets about making sure Manny knows that boys can do anything.  They do their hair, have a dance party wearing bright colors, and try out different hairstyles.  Manny realizes that he can be himself and doesn’t have prove anything to anyone.  He can feel feelings, have confidence, and unlearn the negative thing society tries to push on young children in terms of gender expectations.

This book is so important.  Bookshelves are missing stories about young boys of color, and especially characters that are gender non-conforming.  Everyone needs to be seen, accepted, and loved for who they are.  Having these books that show parents and caregivers unabashedly celebrating who their children naturally are are CRUCIAL, we cannot overstate this.  This book shows how far we’ve come in the children’s literature world even in the last few years.  We do believe that other books with reticent parents have a place and are important, because that is a very real reaction that a lot of children face.  But it is just, if not even more, important that these are the books we’re reading to classrooms.  Check this book out and give it to everyone!

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever been told you couldn’t do something just because of who you are?
  • How did that feel?
  • Did someone help you find solutions to this dilemma?
  • Who helped you feel better?
  • How can you help someone that was told they couldn’t do something when you hear it?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

jer2“Hi! I am Joelle-Elizabeth Retener (she/her), a first generation Haitian-American from the DC metro area. I’m a proud graduate of Spelman College and American University, where I studied Spanish and International Studies. In my past life, I was a US diplomat and traveled the world promoting and implementing US foreign policies. I’m now taking a shot at writing kidslit while homeschooling my littles. I am passionate about promoting diversity & inclusion, and fighting for gender equality.”  She works tirelessly to ensure that all gender expansive children’s voices are heard, and that they are free to enjoy the same rights, and opportunities as their peers.  We think she rocks!

ProfileConnor DeHaan is a multifaceted designer based in upstate New York. Design has become a lifestyle for myself and progression my fuel. While Connor is away from his home studio, you can find him either cooking up some delicious plates, hanging with the pooch, and when the earth freezes over, up on the hill making some turns.

For more information on his work, to get in touch regarding employment opportunities, or to just say hello, feel free to reach out.


Keep Climbing, Girls

Written by: Beah E. Richards (Introduction by LisaGay Hamilton)

Illustrated by: R. Gregory Christie

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Self-Expression, Acceptance, Self-Acceptance, Independence.

Summary: This is a poem about girl power!  The main character is determined to prove her bravery and climb to the top of the tree, despite threats from the intimidating figure Miss Nettie that she’ll fall and break her neck.  She is called a tomboy, and that has a lot of negative connotations but our main character doesn’t care.   I would say there is much less negativity surrounding the term these days, and that it is generally more of a descriptor, but in the 1950’s when this was originally written there was a lot more stigma surrounding the term.

A particularly profound stanza of the poem which continues to ring true today is: “But Miss Nettie hadn’t reckoned with the wisdom of little girls. For even they know little boys have the upper hand in this world. The only way to make a bid for a girl’s equality is to climb right up to the toppermost bough of the very tallest tree”. The main character realizes that in order to gain respect, she must do something that would impress the group in power-in this case, the neighborhood boys.  She shows remarkable bravery, both in climbing the tree branches and defying an authority figure (risking punishment after her feat is accomplished).

The poem overall is framed within this tree climbing experience, but can be applied to other experiences in life.  In a patriarchal world, women (especially women of color) are expected to be exemplary in order to be seen as equal.  This poem ages well, and is still both an anthem for tomboys and a call for daring adventures.

Reflection Questions:

  • When have you done something that required bravery?
  • What do you think the main character was thinking about when she was climbing?
  • Do you like climbing trees?
  • What other animals like to live in trees?
  • If you were building a tree house, what type of tree would you like to live in?

About the Author & the Illustrator: 

Beah RicardsBeulah Elizabeth Richardson (July 12, 1920 – September 14, 2000), known professionally as Beah Richards, was an American actress of stage, screen, and television. She was also a poet, playwright, and author.  The poem which serves as the text for the book was originally written in 1951!

Richards was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her supporting role in the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 1968, as well as winning two Primetime Emmy Awards for her guest roles in the television series Frank’s Placein 1988 and The Practice in 2000. She also received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the 1965 production of The Amen Corner.

LisaGay_HamiltonLisaGay Hamilton (born March 25, 1964) is an American actress who has portrayed roles in films, television, and on stage. She is best known for her role as attorney Rebecca Washington on the ABC‘s legal drama The Practice (1997-2003). She also portrayed Melissa Thoreau on the TNT comedy-drama Men of a Certain Age (2009-2011), Celia Jones on the Netflix series House of Cards (2016), Suzanne Simms on the Hulu series Chance (2016), and Kayla Price on the Hulu series The First (2018).

Hamilton’s film credits include roles in 12 Monkeys (1995), Jackie Brown (1997), Beloved (1998), True Crime (1999), The Sum of All Fears (2002), The Soloist (2009), Beastly (2011), Beautiful Boy (2018), and Vice (2018). Her theater credits include Measure for Measure (Isabella), Henry IV Parts I & II (Lady Hotspur), Athol Fugard’sValley Song and The Ohio State Murders. Hamilton was also an original cast member in the Broadway productions of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson and Gem of the Ocean. In 2005 she won a Peabody Award for creating and directing the 2003 documentary film Beah: A Black Woman Speaks.

4724_29061686R. Gregory Christie is a multi-award winning children’s book illustrator with more than 60 traditionally published books to his credit. He is also the owner of GAS-ART GIFTS (Gregarious Art Statements) an Atlanta based traveling children’s bookstore that provides art services to private and public groups.  R. Gregory Christie received a Caldecott Honor for his illustrations in Freedom in Congo Square, written by Carole Boston Weatherford. He is a three-time recipient of The New York Times’s 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of the Year Award, a six-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor Award in Illustration, and a winner of the Boston Globe­–Horn Book Award, the NAACP’s Image Award, and the Once Upon a World Children’s Book Award from the Museum of Tolerance. Visit Mr. Christie’s website at Gas-Art.com!

10 Things You Might Not Know About R. Gregory Christie

  • He is an NAACP Image Award Winner.
  • The 2013 Kwaanza Stamp designer.
  • A Caldecott Honor Winner
  • A Six time, Coretta Scott King Honor recipient.
  • Has won many awards from The New York Times and Boston Globe.
  • An artist for a New Orleans Jazz Festival poster.
  • Has films on Netflix through Karyn Parson’s “Sweet Blackberry” projects.
  • He’s done many album covers including John Coltrane’s and Joe Sample’s.
  • One Billion people saw his artwork on the New York City subway cars in 2013.
  • He’s lived in many places including Sweden, Germany, Canada, and Australia

Not Quite Snow White

Written by: Ashley Franklin

Illustrated by: Ebony Glenn

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Self-Acceptance, Racism, Self-Esteem, Social-Emotional Development, Family, Love, Friendship, Perseverance, Theatre, Own Voices.

Summary:  Tameika was born to perform.  She sings, dances, and taps everywhere she goes.  With a fantastic imagination, she breathes life into a myriad of characters such as a space cowgirl and even a pickle! Tameika has never been a princess, but luckily one day at school she spots the audition poster for Snow White-finally this is her chance!  After the audition, Tameika hears her classmates talking about her.  She can’t be a princess, she’s too tall.  She’s too chubby. Tameika is too brown.  Her heart sinks.  Is she all of those things?  Tameika slouches and sucks in her tummy, but the brownness remains.  Tameika slumps home and doesn’t sing through dinner like usual.  Before bed, her parents are finally able to get what’s wrong out of her.  Tameika’s father assures her that Snow White isn’t real, but Tameika is his real-life princess.  Her mother tells Tameika that she’s the one who has it wrong-she’s just tall enough, just brown enough to be a princess.  Heartened by this, Tameika begins to feel better.  At the second day of auditions, Tameika sings her heart out.  She is in fact, perfect amounts of everything to be a princess. Specifically, Snow White.

This book is so important.  It nails the crux of the issue-there is too little representation in the media that children consume.  We are used to seeing white princesses that are petite and beautiful with flowing blond hair.  Without diverse role models, children believe that they can’t in fact be what interests them.  We see this dilemma of the single story with fairy-tales, women in STEM careers, and men in careers that are deemed “feminine” like nursing and dancing.  The racial diversity or lack thereof is a plague that children subconsciously become imprinted with, and this develops into beliefs like the ones that Tameika’s classmates were spouting off behind her back.  By having these conversations in books and with young children, coupled with reading and creating an intentional bookshelf we can begin to combat these harmful notions that not everyone can achieve anything.

Reflection Questions:

  • What would you say to someone that you overheard talking about someone else?
  • Has there ever been a time that you felt the way Tameika did when she heard others judging her appearance?
  • What do you think a princess looks like?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Have you ever acted in a play?  You can turn your favorite classroom stories into short and fun plays to perform for other classes or each other.  Some ones that have been popular in classrooms we have been in are King Bidgood and The Book With No Pictures. These were adapted from the books into short plays with simple lines that 4-5 year old students could memorize and perform.
  • Have class visitors that would be deemed “unconventional” visit your class.  A female pilot, male dancer, a non-binary actor.  Begin to show the representations you feel are lacking in books and the media that your classroom or family consume.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Ashley.Franklin headshotAshley Franklin is the author and this is her debut book!  Here is a fantastic interview with KidLit TV, which I bet you’ll enjoy! Ashley Franklin is represented by Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Her debut picture book, NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE, was published in Summer 2019 by Harper Collins. Ashley received her M.A. from the University of Delaware in English Literature. She currently resides in Arkansas with her husband and two sons, ages 6 and 4.



IMG_2487-copyEbony is also the proud recipient of the 2018 Wonders of Childhood Focus Fellowship, an award given by AIR Serenbe, a nonprofit artist residency program of the Serenbe Institute in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia.  We’ve even talked about Ebony before when reviewing the book Mommy’s Khimar as well as featured her on one of our Sound Off Saturday posts!

A passion for the arts, great storytelling, and advocating diversity in children’s books, she aims to create illustrations that will foster a love of reading in young readers.  She also loves to create joyful and heartwarming crafts to satisfy her endless need to always make new things.

When Ebony is not giving in to her creative itch of art-making, you may find her lost in the pages of a good book, learning some new hula-hooping tricks, or going on an adventure with her pups, Louie and Gabby.

Introducing: Annahita and her Hot Air Balloon Adventures!

Happy Saturday folx!  After a few waterlogged days here in New England, we were graced with a sunny afternoon.  Naturally, we spent it inside doing boring but necessary things like cleaning, laundry, and of course working on the website!  Now it’s time to go outside and look for important favorites of ours like pretty rocks and soft moss.  Hope you’re having a great Saturday, whatever is happening! 

The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself!

Screen Shot 2019-06-22 at 12.13.01 PMAnnahita: Hi! My name is Annahita, I was born in the UK to an Iranian mother and Welsh father. I moved to Switzerland 11 years ago to be live with my German husband, and together we have two girls (5 and 6 years old) who haven’t got a clue if they are Swiss, German or British 🙂

TTA: What are you passionate about?

A: I am passionate about naturally inclusive children’s books. I believe that fear and prejudice grow out of a lack of knowledge and exposure, and I feel that books are a wonderful way to broaden children’s minds, and introduce them to topics or people that they may not necessarily come across in their daily lives. I also believe that girls should be FAR better represented in children’s books. They need more inspiring role models in positive fictional stories that they can go to sleep dreaming about.

TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!Screen Shot 2019-06-22 at 12.20.51 PM

A: I am working with a wonderful illustrator, Jennifer Kirkham, to produce a series of books called the Hot Air Balloon Adventure series. The stories are about three cousins who go on adventures in a hot air balloon, exploring exciting destinations around the world. I wanted children to be reading stories about girls who do fun and physical stuff (like snowboarding and climbing), girls who encourage each other to be brave and work together to overcome obstacles, girls who have a passion for our beautiful world.

Screen Shot 2019-06-22 at 12.15.22 PMI am also working on re-writes of the traditional princess fairy tales, trying to keep the original magic and delight of the original stories, but just changing silly storylines being all about meeting a prince and getting married. In all of my books I ensure that the characters in the story are a mixture of skin colours, because I believe it’s important not just for children of colour to see themselves in the pages of books, but for white children to see themselves in the pages of books, alongside children of colour with equally important roles in the stories.

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TTA: How can people support you on your journey?

A: Follow me on social media (follow the links below!), sign up for updates on the website to know when new books are released, but most importantly buy the books, review the books, and spread the word about them to people who you think would also enjoy them! 🙂 At the moment, every penny of profit I make in book sales goes towards the cost of illustrating the next story.

The Girls
TTA: What book was your favorite in 2018?

A: Really?!? Only one?! Oh this is so hard. Well obviously I would like to say my own, but I will stop myself and instead say: I absolutely loved The Girls by Lauren Ace and Jennie Lovlie. It just says so much, so naturally with it’s illustrations and simple but powerful storyline. I cried the first ten times I read it to my children!

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

A: The third and fourth hot air balloon adventure stories coming out! Footprints in the Snow is coming out on 1st June; in this one the girls fly to Iceland to go snowboarding, and end up making a very large-footed friend. It’s a lovely story with a message about treating everyone as equals. In the fourth story, the girls go with Grandma on a mountain climbing expedition in Switzerland in search of some long lost treasure. So much adventure!!

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Stay Connected with Annahita!

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MDLM Books Instagram

MDLM Website


Stay Connected with Jennifer!

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Jennifer’s Portfolio

@jmk.ilus on Instagram


Who I Am Inside:Exploring Trans-Feminine Heroes Through Multimedia Art

Happiest of Pride months to everyone!  In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Corrie decided to share a lesson plan that she made and presented last year at the Gender Spectrum Conference in Moraga, California.

It is critical that we remember and honor the trans women of color that brought about the modern gay rights movement.  Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and many other activists worked tirelessly on our community’s behalf.

This lesson was designed for 4-6 year olds, but can easily be adapted for older aged groups.  The pictures included were designed as posters to hang up in a classroom or office!  Feel free to use this lesson, and let us know how it goes!!


Overview & Purpose

This presentation and lesson plan involve a multi-media art lesson, beginning with some background history on important trans-feminine figures from history including Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P Johnson, Christine Jorgensen, and Lili Elbe. The lesson plan is an adaptable program for a wide range of ages and includes two parts. One part being best suited for grades K-2, and the other building on that basic information and extending knowledge to create a lesson for grades 3-5.  

           The “Who I Am Inside” project focuses on the fact that how we present on the surface, from our clothes to our outward appearance is only one facet of our identity. The art activity centers the idea that we each have qualities that others cannot see unless we tell them; reinforcing with younger children that while it’s important that we are empowered to present ourselves the way we want to be seen, our inner feelings matter just as much. When someone has the courage to tell you their truth, whether it be about liking a “boy” color or not always feeling like a “girl”, it is important to believe them and honor the strength it took to expose a part of themselves they may not be comfortable with. For younger children that could sound like “thank you for sharing, I like you just the way you are!”

           Children are given a human outline, they cut out magazine pictures of “what they are inside” (favorite food, colors, activities) emphasis on things others cannot see (hair color for example, is something others can usually see).

           The “Trans Heroes” lesson extension has accompanying posters to illustrate the individuals highlighted. Younger children’s (grades K-2) lesson has emphasis on positive community impacts, extension for older children (grades 3-5)  involves more detailed vocabulary as well as understanding created community and how these individuals chose their families and helped others that experienced rejection from their biological family.

Education Standards

  1. Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework: Overview of Scope and Sequence, Grade 2: To help students understand that American citizenship embraces all kinds of people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and national origin.
  2. Massachusetts Arts Curriculum Framework Core Concept: In visual arts, people express ideas and emotions that they cannot express in language alone.
  3. Guiding Principles for English Language Arts and Literacy Programs: 5: Students should read a diverse set of authentic texts balanced across genres, cultures, and time periods.


  1. Students will be introduced to various trans-feminine heroes
  2. Students will become familiar with the importance of a strong internal identity that can connect them to the world around them.
  3. Students will become comfortable with vocabulary and concepts surrounding community organization, chosen family and validation of their whole identity-both internal and external.

Materials Needed

  1. Blank human outline
  2. Magazines for collaging
  3. Scissors; Tape or Glue.
  4. Informational posters (provided below)


The activity opens with a group discussion led by the teacher about how there are multiple facets to personal identity, not just how you present on outside but also how you feel on the inside and how you think about yourself. The teacher will start by modeling, and then children will be given the opportunity to identify one thing that they feel on the inside, and how they express that on the outside, verbally, artistically or through their appearance. An example: a student raises their hand and says “My favorite sport is basketball, I show that by wearing my team t-shirt and inviting people to play basketball at recess.”

Teacher shows example of completed collage, highlighting some of the pictures inside the human outline which could include favorite foods, colors, or hobbies.  Students will be given their outline and access to magazines to cut out their own images to express their internal identity. Students that have difficulty with fine-motor skills such as cutting or gluing can be paired with another student to assist, or with an aide.  All students are encouraged to share images to promote the discussion of similarities between classmates as well as materials. Upon completion of collage, students may write what the images inside represent. Examples: a heart representing love for animals or a spoon representing cooking.  

While collages are drying, the third part of the lesson is introduced. A question is asked about why it’s important for people to know who you are inside and why it’s important for people to believe and validate how you feel inside. Students can be asked how they might feel if they weren’t believed when they shared personal things about themselves. The teacher introduces the concept of having to fight to have your identity validated, teacher gives personal examples about how girls were not always allowed to play soccer like boys were. But by finding other people, both girls and boys (and people who don’t feel like a girl or a boy) who believed that girls could play soccer, people got together and made it possible for everyone to play. People who work really hard to change the rules are called activists, and they create their own family with people who love and believe them.

Using the materials and posters included with this lesson plan, the teacher begins outlining the experiences of some or all of the historical trans-feminine figures, in an age appropriate way. The teacher explains:

  • “Biological sex” has to do with private parts, the ones covered by a bathing suit.  This is how a doctor assigns “male” or “female” to a baby that’s just been born.
  • A gender identity” is how someone feels inside (a person can feel like a boy or a girl, but sometimes both or neither).
  • Gender expression is how people show the world how they feel inside.  This is done through clothing, haircut, etc.
  • “When somebody tells you that they are a boy or a girl, you should believe them, even if they don’t look like what you think a boy or a girl looks like, because they know how they feel on the inside, and they know themselves the best”.  Think about someone who grows their hair out, or maybe cuts their hair very short. They’re still the same person they just like their hair long instead of short. It doesn’t change who they are inside, it just helps to match their outside with their inside.  

The teacher continues, telling students that sometimes people may have trouble believing what they say, and that might not feel good, but the important thing is to believe in yourself, and what you know is true. Emphasize to students that they will find people who believe in them, and may already be family or friends, or they may be people you meet in your life who become like your family. You might call your mom’s best friend your auntie, but she’s not related to you, but she is very good friends with your mom, so she is a part of your family. The family you choose is just as important as the family you were born into.  

These activists fought for what they believed in, and helped people looking for their “Chosen Family”.  These women helped people in many ways; having a house where lots of people lived together, everyone had enough food and was loved and accepted for who they were.  All of these activists also had to change some things about their outside appearance to match their insides, and that’s ok. What matters about a person is that they are happy.  

Wrap-up: How can you be a good friend when someone tells you something about themselves?  What might you want a friend to say to you when you tell them something important about your inner-self?  What can we do everyday to make others feel comfortable to express who they are? Where are some places we could look to help us answer any questions we may have about any of these activist women we learned about today?


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Tan to Tamarind: Poems about the Color Brown

Written by: Malathi Michelle Iyengar

Illustrated by: Jamel Akib

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Self-Acceptance, Self-Esteem, POC-Centric Narratives, Poetry, Family, Community, Culture & Traditions.

Summary: This book is a collection of poetry that celebrates the different tones and shades of brown skin!  Each poem is titled with a shade: Bay, Sienna, Topaz, Sandalwood, and many more!  The poems are short and easy to read for young readers.  The illustrations are bright and beautiful, portraying happiness and community.

These poems intertwine cultural tradition and significance with skin color and celebration.  One boy’s grandmother soaks yucca leaves to make medicine for cuts, friends bake gingerbread together, and a wedding party dances together in a swirl of ocher.  Focusing on these joyous moments and celebration of family history is so important to build self-esteem and normalize experiences of marginalized populations.  Having poetry written specifically in admiration of different hues of skin increases the visibility of cultures often written out of history.  We love these diverse poems, letting the reader peek into the lives of others all over the world!

Reflection Questions:

  • Did you know all of these different words for the color ‘brown’?
  • Why do you think it’s important to have different words to describe our physical characteristics?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • What are some things your family does that has cultural significance?  When and why are these activities important?
  • How would you describe your skin color?  Go on a nature walk and look for natural objects that resemble you and your family.
  • Try your hand at writing poetry!  Write a poem about something that’s important to you, like the subjects of the poems in the book.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Malathi-199x300Children’s poet and author Malathi Michelle Iyengar grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She earned a BA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MFA in music at the California Institute of the Arts, and an MA in education at California State University, Los Angeles.

She is also the author of the children’s story book Romina’s Rangoli (2007, illustrated by Jennifer Wanardi). Iyengar lives in Long Beach, California, where she is an elementary school teacher. She is also an accomplished clarinet player.


imageThumbCat_91Jamel Akib was born in Leigh-on-sea, Essex, England, on the 4th November 1965 to mixed English and Malaysian parentage. He moved to Sabah, North Borneo at the age of five and returned to England to pursue further education at the age of thirteen. He gained a BA honors Degree in Illustration in 1989.

He began working for the London Observer newspaper while still a student at art college, and has since become an award winning artist involved in many exhibitions and commissions.

He has so far illustrated the covers for three booker prize finalists!
Jamel is represented by Illustration ltd. in London, New York and Singapore. He lives in Salisbury, England with his wife and two boys.