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Decolonize Your Bookshelf: We Are Grateful by Traci Sorell

Decolonize Your BookshelfWe Are Grateful

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga written by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frane Lessac

From Goodreads: The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the new year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. 

This year we decided to go camping instead of celebrate Thanksgiving. I have mixed feelings about the holiday and my husband is not a holiday person so it worked out. While I like the idea of being grateful, I want a day to do it that doesn’t celebrate a flat out historical lie and that celebrates genocide. If you are like me (and us, because my husband agrees with the idea of not celebrating genocide), but do want to share books about gratitude with your children here is a phenomenal book to do that with. 

For starters, this book celebrates contemporary Cherokee. So many. SO. MANY. kid’s books show Native Americans as something from the past. The stories are set in the past. Their clothing is historical. Their way of life is historical. And this translates into children believing that Native Americans are all gone. Which both erases their current struggles and oppression and continued colonial violence against them, as well as erasing their past struggle and resistance. These stories are never more prevalent than in November with the confluence of the Thanksgiving myth/lie and Native American Heritage Month. We Are Grateful shows Cherokee people today in clothes they would wear today. Sure, some of them are traditional looking and maybe they aren’t the street clothes a suburban, white mom or dad would wear, but they are clearly recognizable as people who are alive right now, celebrating. The settings are modern looking too, if rural or pastoral. It’s beautiful and modern and one of many stories we need showing Native Americans alive and unapologetically embracing their culture. 

Second, this book is #ownvoices. It’s written by a member of the Cherokee Nation. This is an essential criteria for books that feature Native Americans. Yes, other people can write about Native Americans, but the books in which someone other than an Indigenous person writes a story about them without it being a total and utter travesty are few and very far between. I think in this case it is much better to ere on the side of caution and ensure your books about Native peoples are #ownvoices. Which isn’t to say those can’t be flawed (communities aren’t a monolith and there can be disagreement about representation), but you’re getting closer to having books that do the people justice. 

Finally, the book is about gratitude in a lovely and organic way. It’s not about trips to Disneyland or scads of money. It’s not about one big meal once a year. It’s about the little things in life that make up a life well lived and appreciated. I am sucker for books that travel through the seasons and children’s books are often framed with this cycle. We Are Grateful shows us that there are things to be grateful for all year round. 

Be sure to add this one to your bookshelves this season and read it throughout the year. 

Storytime: Shapes

Theme Storytime Banner

Storytime is a series that you can use to get your homeschool day going. If you don’t open with a circle time (we don’t), keep it in your back pocket for one of those days when you need something to fill 20-30 minutes or when you want an enriching activity but don’t want to plan anything yourself. See this post for more detailed information about the series. 

Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom, as a printable/downloadable pdf version of the storytime is available there. In the pdf are some extra books in case you don’t have access to the ones listed here or need more, as well as extra songs and rhymes.

Shapes

Opening Song

“If You’re Ready for a Story”

Sung to the tune “If You’re Happy and You Know It”

If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands.

If you’re ready for a story, clap your hands.

If you’re ready for a story, if you’re ready for a story,

If you’re ready for a story clap your hands.

(nod your head, sit so still)

Book

City Shapes written by Diana Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Draw attention to the collage style art. At the end ask how they think the art style lends itself to the theme of the book and the setting.

Flannel Board

“Five Little Hot Dogs”

Five little hot dogs frying in a pan,

One got hot and it went, “BAM!!”…

Four little hot dogs frying in a pan,

One got hot and it went, “BAM!!”…

Three little hot dogs frying in a pan,

One got hot and it went, “BAM!!”…

Two little hot dogs frying in a pan,

One got hot and it went, “BAM!!”…

One little hot dogs frying in a pan,

It got hot and it went, “BAM!!”…

No more hot dogs in a frying pan!

Book

Wild About Shapes by Jeremie Fischer

Wiggle Break

“Shake Our Sillies Out”

We’re gonna shake, shake, shake our sillies out,

Shake, shake, shake our sillies out,

Shake, shake, shake our sillies out,

And wiggle our waggles away.

We’re Gonna jump, jump, jump our jiggles out,

Jump, jump, jump our jiggles out,

Jump, jump, jump our jiggles out,

And wiggle our waggles away.

Shape Search

Now that we are standing let’s take a few minutes to look around and see if we can see any shapes. Do you see any circles? Does anyone know what a 3 dimensional shape is? Put out printed & laminated shapes on the flannel board. Name them so the kids know what to look for.

Goodbye Song

Remind them of the signs for “good bye” and “friends”. Sing through twice. Sung to the tune “Goodnight, Ladies”

“Good Bye Friends”

Good bye, friends.

Good bye, friends.

Good bye, friends.

It’s time to say goodbye.

 

Click here to download the Shapes Storytime

Friday Five: Transgender Awareness Week

Friday Five Banner

The second week in November is always Transgender Awareness Week. Below is a list of five books you can read with your child during that week. However, you should have these on your shelf throughout the year so as to dispel the idea that transgender people only pop up one week a year or need to be relegated to one week in November. It is doubly important this year with the current administration threatening to erase trans people and their rights. 

I Am Jazz1. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

This is a must-have for anyone creating or cultivating a decolonized bookshelf. With author Jessica Herthel Jazz Jennings explains how she grew up knowing she was trans. It’s incredibly simple yet complex and will likely open up conversations between you and your child. Don’t be afraid to have those conversations with your child (although read the parent resources at the back first) and don’t be afraid to tell your child you don’t know an answer and will have to get back to them once you’ve done some research for yourself. The illustrations in the book a so sweet and gentle with a bright palate that make it very inviting.  

They She He Me2. They She He Me: Free to Be! by Maya Gonzalez  

They She He Me is a very, very simple reader that has two-page spreads of a variety of children and people with pronouns repeated underneath. It’s a visual of how people who identify as one gender or pronoun can present so differently physically. Gonzalez is always good at being inclusive so there are disabled people as well as a variety of skin tones. This book is fine on its own and, as with I Am Jazz, can be a great jumping off point for talking about how gender is not binary and up to the individual to determine.  

The Gender Wheel3. The Gender Wheel: A Story About Bodies and Gender by Maya Gonzalez

If you want a lot more in-depth coverage of gender, read Gonzalez’ The Gender Wheel which is PHENOMENAL. Be aware that it is much longer and more text heavy than They She He Me which may make it less accessible to younger kids. But don’t let that be the reason you pass it up. You can break it up over a few days or nights or just dip in from time to time. If you are not familiar with talking about gender outside a binary or you are not comfortable with it, buy this book and read it again and again. And if you are familiar or comfortable with it, buy this book and read it again and again. While I personally talk all about bodies and body parts with my kids in an effort to avoid teaching shame around nakedness, your mileage may vary. There are two versions of the book- one with naked bodies and one without. I recommend you go for the naked bodies, but you’ll need to be the judge of that for your family. 

One of a Kind Like Me4. One of a Kind Like Me written by Laurin Mayeno, illustrated by Robert Liu-Trujillo

While this isn’t necessarily about a transgender child, it does show that clothing can be fluid and does not have to be limited to the narrow idea that girls wear dresses and boys wear pants. In One of a Kind Like Me, Danny wants to dress in a purple princess dress for school but he’s having a hard time finding the costume he imagined at the local thrift shop. After a little worrying Danny and his mom realize that they’ll have to get creative to make Danny’s idea a reality. Again, refer to The Gender Wheel to help you frame your conversations. Clothes may or may not be tied to gender for children, but it’s important to get away from the idea of a binary.

Sparkle Boy5. Sparkle Boy written Leslea Newman, illustrated by Maria Mola

This is in a similar vein as One of a Kind. Here Casey likes to wear things that are considered girly- bracelets and a sparkly skirt. What I like about this book is it shows Casey’s sister grappling with the idea of her brother not conforming to what she thinks boys should be wearing. Casey doesn’t seem to notice that he’s not conforming to gender norms which is great and while we don’t really need to center cisgender voices when talking about these things, it’s good to see how his sister struggles because some kids and people will and do struggle to wrap their minds around a new way of thinking about gender. By the end of the story Casey’s sister 

Books to warn against:

Jacob’s New Dress. The dad is kind of a dick in this one and I think the books above do a much better job addressing the issues. 

Julian is a Mermaid. This one just came out and it looked promising, but it’s written by a cisgender white lady and has a lot of problems. Read this critique by Laura Jimenez for more information. 

Decolonize Your Bookshelf: Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect by Jayneen Sanders

Decolonize Your Bookshelf

I have a few thoughts I need to get out before I get into a review of this book. First is that colonization goes hand-in-hand with patriarchy, so despite the fact that this book isn’t really about incorporating more diversity into your shelves, it does relate very closely. The second is, what the fuck, with the confirmation of our newest Chief Justice bodily autonomy is apparently still up for debate (to be honest, I knew it was, but it still feels weird).

Lets Talk AboutLet’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect: Teach children about body ownership, respect, feelings, choices and recognizing bullying behaviors
written by Jayneen Sanders, illustrated by Sarah Jennings

It’s never really too early to talk to your children about body boundaries. You should also be teaching your children the correct anatomical terms for body parts. So yes, that means teaching your two year old the words penis, vagina, and vulva. There is nothing inherently bad or embarrassing about these words. This will be easier or harder depending on how you were brought up thinking about these words and the actual parts. There is no shame in bringing your own baggage to these conversations. But for the safety of our children we need to move through that discomfort and teach them to not be ashamed of their bodies (body positivity) or their feelings (sex positivity). Children who are taught correct body parts and boundaries (appropriate touches vs. inappropriate touches) and taught to set boundaries without shame will be able to share when someone has crossed those boundaries and exactly how. They will also learn to develop healthy, happy relationships. 

Not only does this book open those conversations for parents who may feel uncomfortable with talking about these topics, but it gives parents who are confused about where to start a good jumping off point. Despite my rant above, body parts are not mentioned. It’s primarily hugging and kissing of a very innocuous kind. And there aren’t any scenes with creepy adults crossing lines. But the concepts covered here are vitally important for a lifetime of needing to define and hold boundaries.

We found the illustrations to be engaging and fun and the text, while it got a little long overall, was also engaging. Do be prepared to stop and talk about the concepts covered here. There are a lot of notes at the end that can help you ask good questions and give you plenty of food for thought for each page of the book. This is immensely helpful, even for parents who know what they want to talk about. High five to the illustrator for including a child in a wheelchair and showing that that child’s body boundary includes the chair.  

Remember patriarchy is about power and by teaching girls to please above all else, as well as neglecting to teach them about body boundaries, we set them up in that power structure that takes advantage of them. Teaching boys that they have a right to women and girls gives them permission to use the power patriarchy mistakenly gives them. That’s not to say when girls don’t speak up assault or harassment is their fault or for boys that by going along with all the implicit messages we send them removes their culpability. It’s not and it doesn’t. Smash that patriarchy by reading this book with your daughters and your sons. Teach them that consent is sexy and that consent should always be enthusiastic.  Teach them: their body, their choice. And then be sure to back that up when relatives want a hug or kiss and they don’t want to give it.

A big shout out to Aisha Ray of Raising Luminaries/Books for Littles for bringing this book to my attention with her amazing review that I came across on Facebook. If you don’t already follow her, go do that now and then give to her Patreon. She works hard and is such an incredible resource for parents fighting to bring about change in this world. 

Friday Five: Interactive Books

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Friday 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. 

Interactive Books

Interactive books are books that invite the reader(s) to touch them, shake them and become part of the story. 

Tap the Magic Tree1. Tap the Magic Tree written and illustrated by Christie Matheson

Tap the Magic Tree follows a tree through the four seasons. Children are invited to rub, touch, tap and blow to help the tree change through the seasons. This is a really great way to introduce the change of seasons to young children as they help bring them about. I particularly like all of Matheson’s books with their clean, bright illustrations. This would also be a great addition to a nature or tree study unit. The real message here being that the tree isn’t actually magical, but that it can certainly seem that way. 

Mix It Up2. Mix It Up! written and illustrated by Herve Tullet

Press Here, Tullet’s first title, is sometimes heralded as being the start of this genre, but I prefer the author’s second book Mix It Up! This one focuses on helping children understand color theory through tapping, rubbing, and smashing the book closed. 

Don't Push the Button3. Don’t Push the Button written and illustrated by Bill Cotter

A little purple monster has been charged with not pushing a tempting little red button. But what will happen if it does?! Hilarity ensues as he gives in to the temptation and then tries to fix the results by pushing the button again and again and again. This one makes for a great read aloud, even in a large group. Kids will get a kick out of pointing out what has happened with each push of the button.

 

Don't Wake Up the Tiger4. Don’t Wake Up the Tiger written and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

Teckentrup is like catnip in our family. We love her stories and her illustrations. This one is no exception. Here a group of animals needs to get from one side of a sleeping tiger to the other. Readers help the animals across the page by blowing them across or helping settle the tiger back into a deep sleep. But with the final animal, a balloon pops. Uh-oh. What is tiger going to do?

This Book Just Ate My Dog5. This Book Just Ate My Dog! written by Richard Byrne

Bella is out for a walk with her dog when something unexpected happens. Bella makes it across the gutter of the book, but her dog does not. After her friend, an ambulance, and fire truck head into the gutter to find out what’s going on and don’t return, Bella has to take matters into her own hands. Except she slips into the gutter too! A page turn reveals a note thrown out by Bella that requests that the reader turn the book sideways and shake everyone and everything out. I have used this book in the library to draw attention to the physical aspects of books and use it to kick off a conversation about all the names of the parts of a book. But it’s also a good interactive book for storytime if you don’t want to be swarmed by children all wanting to tap here, swipe there, and push the button. 

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 Revolution: World Pizza and Subtle Messages

Parenting for Revolution

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:

IMG_4846

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

Book Club Banner

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.