Tag Archives: book review

MCBD: Books and Bricks

Books and Bricks by Sindiwe Magona, Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright

bricks.jpg

Published by Star Bright Books in 2017

A famous African proverb states “It takes a village to raise a child” but it also takes a village for a school to raise a school! Books and Bricks is based on a true story of Zerilda Park Primary School, in Cape Town , a community banding together to help their school succeed.

Manyano School is a school in Brown Veld Township, South Africa in a rough area. Many families are struggling to find work and there are issues around the school itself.  The fences have holes in them, vandals (skollies) are messing around in the school each night, breaking things, stealing things, until finally, they cut a whole in the school roof and steal computers. Everyone is devastated by the loss of potential education when these computers are stolen.

The principal invites the parents to come in the evening. He learns that the parents feel overwhelmed and unable to help the school with it’s vandalism and theft problem because they feel overwhelmed because of lack of work and other issues. The principal realizes that one way to help the parents is to allow them to use the school as a community center for meetings, and that’s when things get interesting. While discussing projects that the parents want to do for the community, it’s suggested that the fathers use the space to make bricks for the community. Then then fathers were able to sell the bricks and that allowed the community to make money. Once the whole community sees the school as a place FOR the community, the positive results radiated!

This is based on a true story, and afterword tells what Dr. Alistair Witten experienced while working to transform his school and community. He also gives a bit of a summary of what life was like under apartheid This book features Afrikaans phrases sprinkled throughout the books and a variety of historical notes and discussion questions.

The paragraph at the end of the afterword stuck with me. Educators are working to make sure that we meet our students needs, make them feel safe, and encourage them to stretch themselves, and it’s always empowering to hear voices speaking up for their students AND communities: “School should be a place where students feel safe and cared for. It should be a place where hard work and commitment are encouraged. And it should be a place where our children can dream their futures…and know that these futures can be achieved because their teachers and parents care and believe in them.”

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher, I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.  

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

HONORARY: Children’s Book Council, Junior Library Guild

PLATINUM:Scholastic Book Clubs

GOLD:Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Loving Lion Books, Second Story Press, Star Bright Books, Worldwide Buddies

SILVER:Capstone Publishing, Author Charlotte Riggle, Child’s Play USA, KidLit TV, Pack-n-Go Girls, Plum Street Press

BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal BoweGokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

 

2018 Author Sponsors

Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina

Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan Bernardo,  Author Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne Broyles,  Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and MysticPrincesses.com, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports Queen,  Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and  MFL Publishing  Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham  Author Natasha Yim

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

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MCBD Review: Mystery of the Min Min Lights

Mystery of the Min Min Lights by Janelle Diller

min min mystery.PNG

Illustrations by Adam Turner

A Pack-n-Go Girls Adventure published by WorldTrek Publishing in 2016.

 

When I was a young girl, I loved learning about history through the American Girl books. I loved how facts and other cultures were blended in a story. Mystery of the Min Min Lights brought back that nostalgia, but instead of teaching history we’re looking at contemporary characters that are relatable and learning about their culture.

This story focuses on Wendy, a Chinese-American girl, who moves from California to Australia. She meets her neighbor Chloe and her brother Jack. Their family runs the sheep station, but there’s been something odd lately. Is it aliens? Are their theives? What will happen to Chloe’s family if they can’t support themselves by running the sheep station?

In America, we forget how Australian English has some unique phrases! I loved that Diller put unfamiliar phrases in italics to help readers practice using their context clues to puzzle through the meaning.

After we finish the story, there is a section that provides information about Australia, key phrases mentioned, a recipe, weather, and a notebook for readers to plan an imaginary trip.

If you are looking for a light and fun intermediate book, this is a great read!

*FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the author, I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.  

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

HONORARY: Children’s Book Council, Junior Library Guild

PLATINUM:Scholastic Book Clubs

GOLD:Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Loving Lion Books, Second Story Press, Star Bright Books, Worldwide Buddies

SILVER:Capstone Publishing, Author Charlotte Riggle, Child’s Play USA, KidLit TV, Pack-n-Go Girls, Plum Street Press

BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal BoweGokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

 

2018 Author Sponsors

Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina

Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan Bernardo,  Author Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne Broyles,  Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and MysticPrincesses.com, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports Queen,  Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and  MFL Publishing  Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham  Author Natasha Yim

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Book Review: Refugee

Refugee by Alan Gratz

refugee

Published by Scholastic in 2017

Alan Gratz is incredible at telling a historical story in a way that forces you to care about the characters, with a storyline that never drags. Refugee is the story of three teenagers a different times. Josef lives in Germany in 1939, Isabel lives in Cuba in 1994, and Mahmoud lives in Syria in 2015.

Josef’s father is sent to a concentration camp and is released if his family leaves Germany. Josef and his family get on a ship and he notices how his father has changed. As they get closer to Cuba, there are rumors that they may not be let into the country. Where will they go? What will happen to them?

Isabel’s father is being targetted by the police. Isabel teams up with a neighbor and her family to take a small boat to Miami. If they get caught before they hit the beach, they will be sent back to Cuba.

Mahmoud’s family is apartment is destroyed by a mortar strike. He and his family leave Syria to get to Turkey and then Greece. Mahmoud has learned that you survived in Syria by not being noticed, but that may be the death of them as refugees.

Although these stories take place at different times, they have common threads. And I’m struck by how Gratz weaves these stories together and shows how easily everyone’s tables can turn.

There was one thing that annoyed me. Each character has a different religion, and instead of having the Muslim character talk about Allah, the Jewish charcter talk about G-d, and the Christian character talk about God, he has them all talk about God. A part of me realizes that he is trying to show that all these characters are very similar, but I worry that he’s not being thoughtful of these character’s identity.

Overall, I loved this book! It is a fast paced story that tries to humanize a crisis that is hard for our students to wrap their mind around. In the author’s note, he makes a point to tell readers what they can do.

Quotes:

“What if her life was a song? No, not a song. A life was a symphony, with different movements and complicated musical forms. A song was something shorter. A smaller piece of life. This journey was a song,” (p. 155)

“You can live life as a ghost, waiting for death to come, or you can dance.” (p. 239)

“It was better to be visible. To stand up. To stand out.” (p. 282)

*I recieved this ARC from the publisher, I recieved no monetary compensation for this review. Quotes may change in the final publication.

Book Review: Race to the Bottom of the Sea

Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eager

race to bottom

Published by Candlewick Press, expected release date 10/17.

Fidelia’s parents are successful scientists studying sharks, and are killed in a freak story when the submarine capsized. Fidelia feels responsible, because she encouraged them to put off coming the the surfaceand the submarine was one she designed. While staying with her aunt, a trio of pirates led by Merrick the Monstrous come to rob her home and kidnap her. In order to earn her freedom, she has to go underwater to a cave with poisoned flowers to retrieve a lost treasure. As they get closer to the cave, Fidelia learns the backstory of the pirates. It turns out that there is more to Merrick than meets the eye. Will they successfully find the treasure? What is Merrick’s secret?

One thing I struggled with was the geography. When I read contemporary books, I try and look at where in the world the story takes place and to be aware of the culture when reading. I had a hard time figuring out where in the world the story takes place. Some preliminary searches of some of the locations in this book produced limited results. The author does a good of blending modern life with the traditional notion of pirates, but it didn’t jive when you look at modern day piracy.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It blends modern life and the folklore that our teens love with “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Quotes:

“Sorry was a blanket that left your feet cold, a thin soup that couldn’t fill the aching hunger in your bones. Sorry was the only thing people could offer, and it was a cruel, false replacement for what she had lost.” (p. 206)

“What’s life without a few scars?” (p. 228)

“people don’t always act the way you expect them to.” (p.268)

*I recieved this ARC from the publisher, I recieved no monetary compensation for this review. Quotes may change in the final publication.

Book Review: Wizards of Once

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

wizard of once.jpg

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in October 2017

When I was growing up, I was a big fan of Roald Dahl (especially The Witches). I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this book up, but the writing style and illustration style brought me back to intermediate school when I was gobbling these books up.

This is the story of a world where there are two main “tribes,” the warriors and wizards. There was a war where witches were removed from the face of the earth. (witches are not what we think of with broomsticks and hats. These witches are monsters). The wizards control the magic and the warriors control the iron and the groups stay away from each other. We are challenged in the book to find the “unseen” narrator and figure out how they fit in the story. (I have my suspicions, but we’ll see as the series progresses 😉 )

Our story follows 2 characters, Xar (a wizard who hasn’t gotten his magic yet and will do ANYTHING to make it happen) and Wish (a warrior who has found a magical object). Both characters don’t fit in in their communites. Xar is trying to catch a witch, even though everyone knows all the witches are dead. He’s hoping he can steal some of it’s magic (knowing full well that he will be cursed forever). Wish has found a magical spoon and a magic sword that says, “There once were witches, but I killed them…”

Wish goes for a walk with her bodyguard and is captured by Xar. It turns out that he has found a feather with some witch blood on it. Some of the blood drops on Xar and his sprite Squeezjoos. It turns out it didn’t affect Xar, but it is affecting Squeezjoos. He will die or turn evil if he can’t get rid of the blood. Wish informs them that her mother, Queen Sychorax has a stone that takes away magic. Can they break into the warrior’s fort to save Squeezjoos? What’s going on with the witches? Are they back? Read to find out!

Quotes:

“That’s the problem with adventures. They bring out parts of you that you never knew were there.” (p. 201)

“The trouble with stories is: you have to know what they mean.” (p. 295)

“Actions have consequenses, you must pay the price of making amends, and some things happen that cannot unhappen.”  (p. 319)

“This isn’t the dark ages you know…’ (well it was, actually, but nobody ever thinks they are living in the dark ages)” (p.327)

*I recieved this ARC from the publisher, I recieved no monetary compensation for this review. Quotes may change in the final publication.

 

Theme: Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is always a concept that is fuzzy to our teens. As much as we try and relate it to their lives (imagine someone stole your project…), sometimes it’s good for them to see an example in a nonschool setting. Lately, I’ve been reading some great books that hit on intellectual property, copyright, and plagiarism in a way that isn’t preachy.

Girl versus Boy Band by Harmony Jones

girl v boy band

Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens in 2016.

Lark has been dealing with her parent’s divorce, but her mother makes life more painful. Her mother is an agent trying to discover the next big music group. She’s convinced it’s this boy band from the UK named Abbey Road and invites them to move in with her and Lark as they try to make it in the music business. Lark loves music and writing, but is crippled by stage fright. She and her friends are trying to help her overcome that when one of the boys steal her lyrics!

Sasquatch in the Paint by Kareem Abdul-Jabar

sasquatch

Published by Disney-Hyperion in 2015

Theo is a quiet, smart kid who enjoys the “Acalympics” with his friends. In 8th grade, he has a growth spurt and everyone wants him to join the basketball team. The problem is something that many teens face, it’s fun to be involved in many different things, but it’s hard to do something extremely well when you are stretched thin. In addition, Theo also has to deal with his father beginning online dating after the death of his mother. Even though some teens would assume this is just a sports book, there’s a lot of subplots with Theo’s friends and family. The part that stuck with me was about Theo’s cousin, Gavin. His cousin had a mixtape stolen and leaked online by another artist. Gavin is not a likeable character, but everyone admitted that he was good at music. How will our characters set things right?

Slacker for Gordon Korman

slacker

Published by Scholastic in 2016.

Cameron is has one dream…to make it to the East Coast Gaming Championships and defeat his nemesis Evil McKillPeople. He doesn’t care about anything else, and that gets to be a problem when he almost burns his parent’s house down. Now, he is grounded from video games until he can prove that he is doing good for the community. So he and his buddies Pavel and Chuck make a fake page on the school website called the “Positive Action Club” and put themselves as the club’s leaders. Unfortunately, the school and community think it’s a real club and they have to start doing community service to keep up the ruse. Then things get really out of hand when someone else starts editing the page and making the boys do more and more community service. Who could have possibly outwitted our heroes? Then the high school students want to compete with our middle school heroes to see who helps the community more!  This book isn’t as directly related to copyright and intellectual freedom, but it does have a hilarious way of informing that you can’t get credit without doing the work.

Book Review: Ghosts

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

ghosts

Published by Scholastic in 2016.

This book took me a long time to get to. It happened to come out during my book fair in November, and I book talked it during our raffle and so many kids jumped on the waitlist for my libray copies! It’s take me this long to for it it be back on the shelf!

Catrina and her family are moving to Bahia de la Luna because the air will be better for Catrina’a sister Maya to breathe. Catrina misses her friends, but is hoping that that her sister can be healthier. As they wander around, they meet Carlos who gives ghost tours. Maya is so excited about the idea of meeting a ghost. Cat is not. Telgemeirer doesn’t shy away from the reality of degenerative conditions.

ghosts page.jpg

Page 72, Dying isn’t pretend. It’s real.

Carlos realizes that Maya’s best chance of meeting a ghost is by going to the mission. Once there, Carlos explains that ghosts need a little encouragement to interact with the living. They love the smell of foods, and need a breath from a living person before they can speak. The ghosts are so excited by Maya’s youthful energy that she’s overwhelmed by their attention. Carlos and Cat have to run her to the hospital.

Months pass, and Cat is still angry at Carlos for endangering her sister. She goes to school as her sister recovers, starts making friends, and worries about when and if Maya will recover. Her mother reminds her that Cystic Fibrosis is something that gets worse over time, not better.

Dia de los Muertos rolls around and Maya has to stay in. Cat ends up going trick or treating with her friends, then they go to the party downtown. Cat realizes that ghosts are not terrible and finds a way to share them with her sister.

I love that literature opens the door for hard conversations. Even in a happy, fun graphic novel, these issues that we really don’t want to deal with can be discussed. In these books Maya’s CF doesn’t define her, but it’s still THERE. Life is like that. We all have a perspective that colors the way we view the world, but it is only a small part of who we are.

My only complaint is that the ghosts are protrayed as constantly happy, like eager puppies grateful for attention. Several others have pointed out that California missions have a complex history and many of the ghosts wouldn’t have been pleasant. I understand that sometimes we are restricted by story length and sometimes it’s hard to add nuance to everything. If we are able to generalize things in stories, (like all ghosts are nice and helpful), it becomes easier to generalize things in real life and encourages stereotyping.