Category Archives: Books

Friday Five: Back to School

Friday Five BannerFriday Five is a series that suggests five books around a theme. You can use them to jump off into a themed homeschool unit, guide your reading around an interest, or just as a ready-made set of books to read. 

Back to School

School's First Day of School1. School’s First Day of School written by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson

This book is equal parts funny and sweet. A recently built school worries about the first day of school and meeting the children. While waiting for that fateful day it talks to the janitor. When the first day finally arrives things don’t go exactly as expected, but the school learns a lot and comes to appreciate his place. 

A Hand to Hold2. A Hand to Hold written by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Purple Wong

A little girl takes comfort in the solid presence and support of her dad. They go everywhere together, the store, the library, and one day, school. But here the girl learns that her dad won’t be playing with her. At first she’s sad and scared, but the teacher steps in a pairs her up with another little girl struggling. Fortunately the little girl knows just what to do to help both of them feel brave enough to run off to play. Just try not to get misty eyed by the end of this one. :) 

I'm New Here3. I’m New Here written and illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Three immigrant children narrate their experiences of starting out at school in the US. They don’t speak English, can’t read or write in English and haven’t made friends, but come to jump all these hurdles with the help and encouragement of their peers and teachers. This one isn’t technically the first day of school, but it is about starting out in a new school. 

First Day Jitters4. First Day Jitters written by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love

This is an older book, but it’s great for the first days of school. It flips the traditional narrative of kids afraid to start at a new school and follows a teacher worried about all the same things kids usually worry about (getting lost, not knowing anyone or anything, etc.). The fact that the character is the teacher is not revealed until the end of the book and makes for a good laugh when kids realize they aren’t alone in their fears. 

5. Ming Goes to School written by Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Maja Löfdahl

This is not technically a back to school book, but a book that follows Ming through the school year. The text is very spare and simple, but makes for a really beautiful story of Ming growing up through the year at school (parents, get your tissues ready!). The illustrations are just beautiful watercolors that make the story feel that much more sentimental. The soft lines and bright flowing colors really give you a sense of the passage of time. Well worth a read at the beginning of each school year. As a side note, Ming may be adopted? She looks Asian (she’s fairly generic) plus her name is Chinese, but the man, who drops her off, looks white. And the first part of the text says that school is where she learns to say hello which could simply mean she’s shy, but to me seemed more literal. Just a thought. That could be more of an interpretation based on the illustrations combined with the text rather than something actually implied by the text. She could also be bi-racial. My point being, children may be able to read a little more diversity into the story and see some representation. 

Parenting for Social Justice: World Pizza and Subtle Messages

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We recently came into possession of a book titled World Pizza. It came as a part of a book subscription service we use. My daughter was excited to read it and we sat down one evening to do that. The book is about a misheard wish for world peace that becomes world pizza. It’s silly and sweet and on a level that young children can grasp the meaning of world peace. 

And yet as we were reading I came across this illustration:

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As you may notice the text that accompanies this spot illustration doesn’t specifically call for this depiction. I immediately stopped reading and told my daughter, “I don’t like this picture.”

She asked why and I explained that it was showing a stereotyped image of people in Africa that was neither culturally accurate, flattering, nor historically accurate. My daughter said she thought some people in Africa might look like that. I was kind of horrified by the response, but figured she was extrapolating from images of various indigenous people in Africa she’s seen in books and on TV shows. 

I told her that it was true some people still dress in their traditional clothing and live in ways that reflect their traditional cultures. I then explained that the picture was not showing any of those people, or if it was it was not identifying them. Either way the illustration was wrong. It would have been better if it had showed someone in a specified African country living in a modern city or if it had specified which culture they were from and depicted their dress accurately. 

Frustratingly she has asked to read the book again several times. Or at least I was frustrated at first. But during each reading I have taken the opportunity to stop there and have a shortened version of the same conversation again. Certainly her thought that it could be accurate was a call to me to ensure that she sees more images of people across the African continent living much as we do. And to draw attention to that to counteract the stereotyped images she has clearly absorbed. 

IMG_4844The bigger issue here is that these kinds of subtly incorrect depictions turn up everywhere in children’s books. Sometimes it’s the fact that an older book has been republished or reprinted again and again so those images are still with us. Sometimes it’s just plain ignorance on the part of the author or illustrator. Whatever the case maybe for the appearance of problematic content, it’s how children quietly internalize these ideas and that’s why it’s so important to call them out when we see them. To name them and make it explicit that they are not okay.  

Friday Five: The Tooth Fairy

Over the past six months Cam has lost six teeth. Six! All right in front which makes eating pretty difficult. We don’t actually believe in the tooth fairy here, but Cam likes to read about her and pretend we believe. Here are five books about tooth fairies of varying stripes, although be aware none of them are overly pink and sparkly.

Anna and the Tooth FairyAnna and the Tooth Fairy written by Maureen Wright, illustrated by Anna Chernyshova

This one is funny. Anna has a loose tooth and a newish little sister. As she tries to draw a picture of the tooth fairy she realizes the tooth fairy and her baby sister have a lot in common (they both stay up all night, they have wands- or rattles, they have pink and frilly outfits). This can only mean one thing, her baby sister must be a tooth fairy in training. Anna decides she has to keep her tooth in so her sister won’t have to leave to become a real tooth fairy, but in the process of keeping her tooth in she discovers how fun it is to play with the baby which makes the idea of parting so much worse. Fortunately her mom helps set Anna straight, or does she? Part book about loose teeth, part book about siblings/new baby this one is definitely worth checking out. 

Tallulah

 

Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO written by Dr. Tamara Pizolli, illustrated by Federico Fabiani 

I have plugged this one before both here on my parenting blog and on my library blog. If you haven’t checked it out yet, what are you waiting for?! Tallulah runs a tooth fairy industry and she is ultra cool. She’s also black, something I have yet to see elsewhere in tooth fairy books. The illustrations are to die for if you love clean and modern design and the story is quite amusing. I’ve seen a fair number of tooth fairy books that allow there to be more than one fairy that goes around and Tallulah trains fairies as part of her dental empire. 

Tooth Fairy Cat

 

Here Comes the Tooth Fairy Cat written by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Claudia Rueda

I haven’t read any of the other books featuring this cat, but I know he is beloved. I found the story to be very funny as the cat tries to prank the Tooth Fairy and ends up getting pranked himself. It’s the perfect story for the little tricksters loosing teeth in your life. It might also help you discourage any tricks your kids might have up their sleeve to catch the Tooth Fairy in action…or not. It’s also a good title for the animal lovers in your house. I know Cam prefers stories with animals over people (and I did too as a kid), so it might appease those kids who would otherwise not be too interested in reading Tooth Fairy books. 

The Untold Story of the Tooth FairyThe Untold Story of the Tooth Fairy written by Jose Carlos Andres, illustrated by Betania Zacarias

This book is particularly interesting for how it weaves together several myths around the Tooth Fairy and an undersea world. Lady Oyster has lost her pearl and she is very distressed. To help her out a series of sea and then land creatures go in search of the pearl. A mouse finds a tooth and decides that should do as a replacement for the pearl and passes it along down the chain of animals until it reaches Lady Oyster who is overjoyed with the find. The story has the opportunity to make up voices for all the different characters and also has a some interesting repetition and cumulative narration that make is especially engaging and a prime read aloud candidate. The book was originally published in Spanish.

I Lost My Tooth in Africa

 

I Lost My Tooth in Africa written by Penda Diakite, illustrated by Baba Wague Diakite

Another interesting take on what to do with a lost tooth. This story is based on what actually happened to Penda Diakite’s sister when they went back to Mali to visit family. Amina’s tooth is loose when they set out on their long trip to their home in Mali. Her father tells her if it falls out there she can place it under a gourd and she will get her very own chicken. This piques her interest and Amina wiggles and wiggle the tooth trying to get it to come out. When it does fall out she gets not one, but two chickens- a hen and a rooster. She diligently cares for them and the eggs they lay. But will they be in Bamako long enough to see the chicks hatch? An end note from the author and illustrator, a daughter-father team, reveals the story and culture it represents. There is also an adorable photograph of the real Amina holding her chicken and proudly showing off the hole where her tooth was. Chickens and loose teeth, what’s not to love?

Book Club: I Love the River by Maya Christina Gonzales

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Book Club is a series dedicated to extending the reading experience either through an activity. Activities will tie in with other areas of study or cross over subjects. 

Today we’ll be looking at art style. Maya Christina Gonzales is a phenomenal author and illustrator that you should know about. She and her husband run Reflection Press which publishes diverse stories that promote equality, peace, and freedom. The website has some sobering and incredibly important statistics about the state of children’s publishing and while this is only tangentially related to the activity in this post, I encourage you to check them out and reflect on what that means for you as a parents, educator, and consumer. 

I Know the River Loves MeWe were particularly drawn to her book I Know the River Loves me when we ran across it on display in our library. The white space and bold illustrations with bright, vibrant colors were really inviting.  On picking it up I discovered it was written with the Yuba river in mind, which is near where we live and somewhere we’ve been. The story of the connection between the little girl, nature, the river, and the seasons was especially appealing. The activity below is how we used the book to extend the learning experience. 

What You’ll Need:

  • Paper (drawing paper, scrap paper, whatever is around the house)
  • thin markers or Sharpies
  • I Know the River Loves Me written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzales

Together read the book I Know the River Loves Me written and illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzales. Pay particular attention to the art style as you read. Point out colors, patterns, and lines. While the illustrations appear simple, they are incredibly beautiful and impactful.  

When you are finished reading get out your art supplies. Together you can think of pieces of nature that speak to you. for the drawing prompt we filled in the sentence “I know the ________ loves me.” Maybe it’s mountains. Maybe it’s a river like the little girl in the book. Maybe it’s clouds, the sun, or the rain. Using simple shapes and lines draw an outline of that thing. Then fill the shapes in with swirls, colors, dots, and waves just as Gonzales does. Flip through the book and study the pictures as you draw. 

Here is a glimpse of how Gonzales uses lines and patterns to embellish her illustrations.

Here is a glimpse of how Gonzales uses lines and patterns to embellish her illustrations.

Not only does this encourage your child to look closely at the art in the picture book, but it also helps them draw connections between their own lives and experiences and the story. Take it a step further and get outside! Is there are creek nearby that you can walk to? A hike you can go on together? Or a park to visit? The point is not to find a secluded nature area, but to find a natural space that can welcome you. If you have a pad of paper and a bag to pack up your markers, head over there to draw what you see using patterns like Gonzales.

Friday Five: Lighthouses

Maybe it’s the cheerful colors of lighthouses or the fact that they’re so iconic of costal places, but they signify summer time to me. In honor of July here’s a Friday Five dedicated to lighthouses.  

Hello LighthouseHello Lighthouse written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Watch the days and seasons pass as the wind blows, the fog rolls in, and icebergs drift by. Outside, there is water all around. Inside, the daily life of a lighthouse keeper and his family unfolds as the keeper boils water for tea, lights the lamp’s wick, and writes every detail in his logbook.

We recently bought this one and love it. I have mixed feelings about Blackall since the fiasco with A Fine Dessert, but this one is a winner. It’s got intricate, beautiful illustrations and the story is fun too. The form factor of the book is especially neat- long and tall like a lighthouse itself and many of the illustrations contain circles and circle motifs echoing the rooms of the lighthouse.

 

Keep the Lights BurningKeep the Lights Burning, Abbie written by Peter and Connie Roop, illustrated by Peter E. Hanson

In the winter of 1856, a storm delays the lighthouse keeper’s return to an island off the coast of Maine, and his daughter Abbie must keep the lights burning by herself.

I remember reading this book in either first or second grade. I loved it then because it was such an exciting story and I was so struck by how brave and tenacious Abbie was. Even better, the story is based on a real storm and a real girl- the end has a note about the true events. Cam and I pulled out our copy of this after we stayed in a lighthouse keeper’s quarters back in February of this year. Keep the Lights Burning is actually an easy reader, which might make it good for emerging readers to partner up with a parent or older sibling to read through. But even if your child isn’t reading yet, give it a try. 

 

Little Red LighthouseThe Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge written by Hildegard H. Swift, illustrated by Lynd Ward

If you like sentimental, classic stories this is one to try. A little red lighthouse happily keeps watch over the mouth of the river in New York City until one day a large gray bridge it built, towering over the little lighthouse. The new bridge also has a bright light on the top of one of its towers. Feeling forgotten and replaced the lighthouse believes it is no longer needed until a storm blows in a familiar tug boat wrecks on the rocks. The bridge calls out to the lighthouse telling it the light on the tower is for planes and that the lighthouse is still needed. The lighthouse keeper also appears and is grumbling about his keys being hidden by some naughty boys. The lighthouse beams out once more and finds its purpose again. The full sentiment of the story may be lost on most children, but I don’t think that will take the enjoyment out of the story. To me it’s reminiscent of Virginia Lee Burton’s books and it is from the same era so it isn’t surprising that it does bring those to mind. I love that the book is a small nearly square rectangle much like the little lighthouse squatting on the edge of the river. 

 

The Abandoned LighthouseThe Abandoned Lighthouse written by Albert Lamb, illustrated by David McPhail

This was such an interesting book. It felt a little existential, a little dreamy, and a little magical. Definitely give it a read if you like gentle, but exciting stories. Also, strangely, most of the lighthouse books I have read feature girls (not complaining) or animals. This book has a little boy (and a bear) as the protagonist. The two are brought together by a row boat and an empty lighthouse for a quick overnight adventure.

 

 

 

Gracie the Lighthouse CatGracie, the Lighthouse Cat written and illustrated by Ruth Brown

Gracie is a great study in how illustrations can convey an entire story not written in the text. This is even more interesting as that second story shown in the pictures is a true story of a ship wreck and a lighthouse keeper and his daughter rescuing the stranded survivors. The text in this book is short and simple, but also very dramatic. Be aware that the kitten is swept out in the storm and the mother looks frantically for it. But all is well in the end, for both the cats and the people. 

The Diverse Bookshelf: Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO by Tamara Pizzoli

 

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The Diverse Bookshelf is a series that shares a book we are enjoying at home. Some of the content may be from my library blog At Home Librarian. 

TallulahTalullah the Tooth Fairy CEO written by Tamara Pizzloi, illustrated by Federico Fabiani

From Goodreads: Tallulah the Tooth Fairy is not only the founder and CEO of the largest teeth collecting organization on the planet, Teeth Titans, Incorporated, she’s a clever and wildly successful business woman with an affinity for all things dental. A natural innovator and problem solver, Tallulah finds herself unexpectedly stumped when six year-old Ballard Burchell leaves a note instead of his tooth under his pillow. What’s a Tooth Fairy to do when there’s no tooth to take?

This book is amazing! It’s got great illustrations, excellent text, tons of humor that will appeal to both kids and the adults reading it to them, wonderful vocabulary and lots of details relating to teeth that are fun to spot, not to mention a good story.

I bought the book for Cam when she was intrigued by mythical people like Santa and the Easter Bunny. We don’t actually use any of those conventions, but for whatever reason she keeps hoping we will. I wanted to get it because, well, look at her! Tallulah is amazing with her Afro and huge sunglasses and she’s a CEO! Cam got her first loose tooth a few months ago and has since lost four more. Every time she has a new tooth to tuck under her pillow she’s got her fingers crossed that Tallulah will pay her a visit.

I absolutely love that the story challenges the usual idea and imagery of the tooth fairy that shows her as white, blonde, and medieval. In fact, the story tackles that head on. In the note written by Ballard, he has drawn the tooth fairy in that way despite being black himself. Tallulah reads the note and the first comment she makes is “that looks nothing like me”. She does comment in the next sentence that she isn’t that small, but between those lines is the unspoken fact that she is also clearly not white.

The text is longer, so unless you think your child or younger audience is motivated to listen, or is good at listening, I would recommend it for 1st through 3rd grade (my third grade class last year had a superb sense of humor and would have LOVED this book) which are prime tooth-losing years. The vocabulary is pretty sophisticated too. The vast majority of it makes perfect sense in context and shouldn’t cause a problem. It very much brought to mind William Steig, particularly Dr. DeSoto and Shrek and how he uses language.

The language also ties into the humor of the story. There are plenty of funny asides for parents and kids and the twist at the end is both a great message and satisfying. Do not miss the boardroom scene wherein Tallulah asks for advice about what to do with Ballard’s note. Her board is made up of all black women, except for one white dude, who is complaining about the lack of diversity and wearing an All Fairies Matter shirt. Hilarious nod to current events and again a subtle nod to defaulting the Tooth Fairy to white.

The illustrations appealed to me because of their clean modernity which made Tallulah seem all the more cool. The colors are bright without being garish or saccharine. The art appealed to my daughter because each picture has lots of tiny tooth details and invite long looks (I highly recommend flipping through the pictures before reading it through the first time because they are so captivating).

If you are looking for general books to add to your collection this is well worth it. Move it to the top of your list or gift it the next time a tooth falls out.

*I edited this review from what ran on my library blog.

Friday Five: Families

I’ve talked before about how different our family structure looks when you take in all the grandparents. Even though divorce seems to be fairly common it isn’t the majority of families and I think this generation of children is seeing it in the grandparent generation more than, say, my generation did. That being said, there are all kinds of family structures out there when it comes to parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. Today I’m going to feature five books (plus a bonus book) that reflect different family structures. Be sure to share these with kids who have a “traditional” family structure, too. Even if their home doesn’t look like these, their friends’ homes might and we need to build awareness, empathy, and competency around that for those kids.  In other words, don’t hesitate to read this even if you have a “traditional” family. 

families-families-families1. Families, Families, Families written and illustrated by Suzanne and Max Lang

We got this one out of the library and it was a hit. Instead of using people the book uses animals to reflect all kinds of families- step, adoptive, “traditional”, same sex, single parent, grandparent, lots of kids, only children, etc. Each family is shown in some kind of portrait or snapshot that is framed on a mantel or wall and it’s fun to pay attention to the decor in each house you glimpse. After seeing all the different families the point is made that it’s love that binds families together, not what they look like. As much as I hate the idea that animals can count as diversity, I think it’s handled well here and I know for my animal-loving, people-shy kid this book hit home more than any other. 

 

two-is-enough2. Two is Enough written by Janna Matthies, illustrated by Tuesday Mourning

As you might guess from the cover and title this book features families that have only two people. I actually bought this one for my library and haven’t spent a lot of time with it. As you can see there is racial diversity in the families as well as gender. Some are single dads and some are single moms. What I don’t remember is if this book implies that any of the single parent families are single because of divorce. Either way I think a child living with one parent at a time would also find themselves in the pages of this book. 

 

 

one-family3. One Family written by George Shannon, illustrated by Blanca Gomez

This is an interesting take on the counting concept book. Instead of a simple 1-2-3 counting pattern One Family counts parts of a whole. Everything is always one family, but then it counts up to ten looking at things like cookies shared in a family. While kindergarten and younger children will enjoy the predictability of the pattern of the text, older kids (up into first grade) will enjoy the peek into such a range of families. My daughter enjoyed finding all the animals and pets in the pictures, but she also really enjoyed “checking” the math and counting the objects shown in the illustrations. I find the sharp digital illustrations really modern and appealing, too. 

 

 

stella4. Stella Brings the Family written by Miriam B. Schiffer, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Stella’s first grade class is going to have a Mother’s Day celebration, but Stella doesn’t have a mother in the traditional sense. She thinks a lot about what she’s going to do about the party. In the end she brings all the people who “mother” her and it ends up being the whole family. I particularly like the message that we needn’t be so rigid in how we view parental roles. A mother is someone specific, but mothering people can be done by many people in our families. And I think Stella’s dilemma will familiar to single parent families and families where it isn’t a mother or father who cares for the children (like a grandparent or aunt/uncle family). Be sure to notice the little boy thinking of his two moms on one of the last pages when the kids take home an invitation to a Father’s Day celebration.

 

home-at-last5. Home At Last written by Vera B. Williams, illustrated by Chris Raschka

This one just released a week or so ago and I haven’t had a chance to read it, but it’s about a little boy adopted by two dads. It unabashedly shows the little boy crawling into bed with them when he’s scared at night, just like any child with a mom and a dad would. The little boy, Lester, is scared at night and needs help feeling secure. Despite all his dads’ efforts to make him comfortable and secure it’s the dog who solves the problem. Nighttime uncertainty and fear are not reserved for adopted children and while the story may have special significance for two-dad families and adoptive families, I think plenty of kids will know how Lester feels. 

 

 

After creating this list I realized I have two books with two dads and no books with two moms. (I was going for adoption with Home At Last.) in-our-mothers-houseNecessary Bonus Book: In Our Mothers’ House written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco.

I have not read this one, but I do know Polacco’s work. She often writes books that are a bit longer and deeper than picture books traditionally are. That being said I don’t think there is any reason you can’t share this will young children. I think it really means that it will have appeal much further up the age range. Here the children of two moms are challenged by a lack of acceptance in their neighborhood. They need to rely on the love their family has built to help them feel confident and secure. As I haven’t read it, I can’t be sure, but knowing Polacco I suspect this is a lot more about the love and fun in the house than it is about the negative attitudes of the neighbors.

 

misadventures-of-the-family-fletcherBonus chapter book: If you’re looking for a read aloud that is funny and sweet be sure to check out The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher. It features two dads and their adopted kids. It follows them through all kinds of hilarious and eye-opening situations during the course of a school year. It’s what you would expect from a funny family book, but just happens to feature a two-dad family. It’s well worth reading.  

The Diverse Bookshelf: The Parakeet Named Dreidel by Isaac Bashevis Singer

Parakeet Named DreidelThe Parakeet Named Dreidel written by Isaac Bashevis Singer, illustrated by Suzanne Raphael Berkson

Today the book I’m sharing features religious diversity. While we have a lot of holiday picture books that line up with the religious and cultural celebrations that are specific to our family, but I also love to expose Cam to other holidays and celebrations. Since we aren’t about to crash Friday prayer or someone’s shabbat, I try to share books with Cam that give her a peek inside other families traditions. 

We are bird people in our house with all the chickens and ducks and the conures, so I thought this one sounded interesting. The author is very well known for his works for adults, too. That can be hit or miss with children’s book because, contrary to popular belief, writing good books for children is hard. I was delighted by the story, though.

One cold, snowy Hanukkah night a small parakeet turns up at David’s window. The family lets the bird in and spends a few weeks trying to locate the owner. The only real clue is a Yiddish phrase the bird can say (“Go to sleep, Zelda”). When no one comes forward the family keeps the bird and enjoys his company for nine years. Then, when David is off at a Hanukkah party in college, he tells the story of how they found Dreidel, the parakeet. A girl at the party, a girl David has been taking out on dates, excitedly tells him that she is the Zelda the bird knew. The next day the two families meet and Zelda’s family is overjoyed to see their beloved pet again. Except, with two attached families, who will keep the bird?

The story is set on a backdrop of Hanukkah, but it isn’t a particularly religious story. It’s really a book about how attached we can become to our pets and the joy they bring to our lives. This is a perfect theme for our family with all our animals. I like that it gives a glimpse into Hanukkah, but I wouldn’t use it as my only book about Hanukkah to teach Cam about the holiday and its significance to Jews. Still, we enjoyed the story. 

I had a couple complaints about the story. There are a few places where the text is a little overly descriptive or includes details that seem important to adults, but will just annoy kids. I think this may be a function of the story being written by an adult author or the book was originally a short story forced into picture book format. Also, it’s unlikely that the bird described would be a parakeet. They don’t live particularly long and rarely learn to speak understandable words. Its more likely that this would be a conure.

All told, I’ll be adding this to our collection and repertoire of holiday books. It was such a heartwarming story.

Diversity Swap: Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

Ten, Nine, EightTen, Nine, Eight written and illustrated by Molly Bang

From Goodreads: Bedtime! A happy game to lure the most persistent sleep evader. A warm and reassuring countdown to the land of dreams.

I am not sure how many parents are aware of this title. I don’t tend to see it out on baby shelves at large commercial bookstores and it hasn’t come across my Amazon account so I’m guessing it isn’t as well known. This was apparently one of my favorite books as a child, but I have little recollection of loving it even though I do remember the book. 

It’s just a simple countdown book. As a little girl gets ready for bed you are taken around her room seeing different important objects and parts of the room, much like the rabbit in Goodnight Moon. Slowly she moves toward her father who picks her up and snuggles her before putting her in her crib. The colors are bright and inviting. It’s a quick story to read just before bed, but has a lot to look at if you want to extend the reading. 

If you read and enjoy Goodnight Moon try this one out too. It’s in the same vein of quiet bedtime book, but features a black father and daughter pair. 

The Diverse Bookshelf: Gordon Parks by Carole Boston Weatherford

Gordon ParksGordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jamey Christoph

From Goodreads: His white teacher tells her all-black class, You’ll all wind up porters and waiters. What did she know? Gordon Parks is most famous for being the first black director in Hollywood. But before he made movies and wrote books, he was a poor African American looking for work. When he bought a camera, his life changed forever. He taught himself how to take pictures and before long, people noticed. His success as a fashion photographer landed him a job working for the government. In Washington DC, Gordon went looking for a subject, but what he found was segregation. He and others were treated differently because of the color of their skin. Gordon wanted to take a stand against the racism he observed. With his camera in hand, he found a way.

Don’t let the heavy-sounding description deter you from this fantastic little book. It does tackle some very difficult issues, but it does it in such an accessible way for young audiences. Carole Boston Weatherford tends to write picture books in verse, collections of poems that tell a story, and they are usually fairly lengthy books. I was surprised to discover that Gordon Parks was fairly sparse in terms of text. Each page has just a few short sentences with fairly easy vocabulary.

Of course, the simplicity of the text belies the difficulty of subject. Parks grew up and lived in a segregated country, and he was not living in the South. When he became a photographer he decided to document the racism and inequality he saw between the black and white communities. It’s here in the story that the book really shines. So much is said with so little and it leaves us, as parents and educators, with the perfect entree into asking open ended questions about these hard topics. Topics like racism and inequality that seem to be so front and center lately. Things that kids notice, but we (and by we I mean white parents), often try very hard not to look to directly at. 

The art in the book is wonderful. It has that vintage and modern feel to it, but instead of featuring buildings and classy inanimate objects, the focus of each illustration is the people. They fill the frame, they draw the eye. And that ties in so beautifully with the story itself. One about seeing blacks as human. Seeing working class people as human. The color palette is limited which makes it feel sophisticated, but also warm, inviting, and cozy. 

If you’re looking for a book about an interesting Renaissance man, this is it. If you’re looking for a book to help you start difficult conversations, this is it. Or just read the book and let your child make inferences. The message is there.