Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks. ~ Dr. Seuss

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My Forgotten Self

My Forgotten Self
by Lynyetta G. Willis PhD (Author), Michele Phillips (Illustrator)
My Forgotten Self cover

 My Forgotten Self is the story about a girl Tiev and her journey into self discovery. The story begins with Tiev wondering what she would be when she grew up. She discovers many wonderful things that she wants to do. An explorer or a performer, maybe an artist or a teacher. However, she discovers that every time she shares her dream with her near and dear ones, they discourage her or demotivate her. Finally, one day she shares her dream with her grandmother who encourages Tiev to do “more”. Tiev hears her own inner voice re-assuring her that she could succeed at many things.

I struggled hard to enjoy this story line. I also didn’t find kid appeal in the book. I like the idea or the theme of self-discovery, however, the predominant negative theme that the book opens with was not appealing. The author clearly had good intentions and a strong desire to empower children in the face of negativity. However, there was so much lacking that it left me disappointed.

First, this was a story of a young girl of color deduced only through artwork. This book was also presented as a “Diversity” reading. However no where in the story does the character stand out based on her background or culture. Just because the book is about a child of color, does not equate to building an understanding of culture. It did seem like a lost opportunity.

Secondly, the title “My Forgotten Self” itself felt misrepresented. I expected the child to follow a path not of her choosing and then course correct as a matter of self discovery — hence the title “Forgotten Self”. However, that was not the case.

Also, I really failed to see the kid appeal. To relate such a challenging abstract concepts as “self discovery” or “empowerment” and “enlightenment”; there needs to be extremely strong story telling AND character building.

Finally, I would love for this work to really come to life. The idea of showing choices but being beaten down by reality .. the theme had such potential. I wish the illustrations had brought that to life.

Overall, I felt really let down by “My Forgotten Self”. I wish there was more and that the author / illustrator had put more thought into the character building as well as showcasing the situation better.

FTC DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of the above books from the publishers for an honest opinion. I have NOT received any compensation for this review. All reviews and opinions are entirely my own!

 From MCCBD team:

Our Mission: The MCCBD team’s mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia and Valarie here.

Sponsor Mentions

Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld

Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books*Lil Libros

Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk*Candlewick Press

Silver: Lee and Low Books*Chronicle Books*Capstone Young Readers

Bronze: Pomelo BooksAuthor Jacqueline Woodson*Papa Lemon BooksGoosebottom Books*Author Gleeson Rebello*ShoutMouse Press*Author Mahvash ShaheghChina*

CoHostsMulticultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Host and you can view them here.

Classroom Reading Challenge:Help spread the word on our  Classroom Reading Challenge . This very special offering from MCCBD offers teachers and classrooms the chance to (very easily) earn a free hardcover multicultural children’s book for their classroom library. These books are not only donated by the Junior Library Guild, but they are pre-screened and approved by them as well.

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Ira’s Shakespeare Dream

Ira’s Shakespeare Dream
by Glenda Armand (Author) , Floyd Cooper (Illustrator)

Dreams DO come true!

 Ira Aldridge, born in the late 1800s, had always known that he wanted to become an actor. Specifically, he wanted a role in William Shakespeare’s plays. Standing high on the balcony, Ira would watch and memorize the lines of the current Shakespeare play. In his school, Ira would pace back and forth and recite lines from Hamlet expertly. Listeners would heartily compliment his skills and his delivery.

Ira's Shakespeare Dream reciting

Ira was convinced that he wanted to pursue a career performing. But his teacher reminded him that only white actors performed in plays in America at that time. Ira decided to share with his pa, his big Shakespeare Dream. But Pa was less than convinced about his son’s chosen path. He even called Ira’s Shakespeare dream foolish. Despite all the negativity, Ira wouldn’t give up on his dream. He would sneak out to watch plays in the new theaters nearby.

One day Ira decided to leave home in pursuit of his dream. He headed to London where he found work running errands at small theaters. He also became an understudy and finally after waiting for months, Ira got his chance.

Ira’s performance was very well received. A few scoffed and remarked that Ira needed more training. And few more insisted that Ira should not play “white actor roles”. But Ira was not to be discouraged. He knew he had to work hard, study and prove that he was an actor worthy of any Shakespeare play.

Ira's Shakespeare Dream finally

This is a well written picture book biography of an African American actor, Ira Alderidge. This is the story of an actor who didn’t receive recognition for his excellent skills in America, but he earned his stars abroad. Ira Alderidge was considered one of the best Shakespearean actor of his time.

Beautiful oil painted illustrations capture the stage and drama in its splendor. We loved reading Ira’s spellbinding delivery of Othello on stage. This is a true story of grit, determination, hard work and above all a desire to pursue a dream amongst hardships.

Ira’s Shakespeare Dream is an excellent addition to any non-fiction collection. A well-researched, African American biography, a diversity read for every age group really.. Highly recommended!

Find it here: Library, Amazon

FTC DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of the above books from the publishers for an honest opinion. I have NOT received any compensation for this review. All reviews and opinions are entirely my own!

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In The New World

In The New World
by  Christa Holtei(Author), Gerda Raidt(Illustrator)

A Family in Two Centuries!

“In the New World” : A Family in two centuries is a fascinating story about a fictional German immigrant family and their 5th generation descendants. The story opens with an introduction to what life was in the 1850’s in the country of Germany. Lack of food due to various conditions had made it difficult for people to survive. Many people chose to migrate and come to the “New World”, America. The picture book introduces to us a German family of 4: Robert and Maragaret Peters (Dad and Mom), and their two children Johannes and Dorothea (son and daughter).

The story then intrduces to us life in the village and invites us into the home of Robert and Maragaret. We soon discover that the family faces many challenges and inevitably they are forced into making the decision to move to America. Preparations for departure begin. The family must sew cloth sacks to carry their possessions after selling off their belongings. They pack a large trunk to carry the rest. And they take a souvenir picture to take with them as a memory of their days in the village. Finally they are on their way..

In The New World inside3

The kids are excited about their voyage. The boat is a noisy place to be in. Space is cramped with everyone sharing sleeping bunks. Conditions are not sanitary and the air stinks! But despite everything, the people on the boat keep their spirits up. They play music and pass time by helping each other. Soon enough the 310 passengers arrive in the port of New Orleans.

But New Orleans is not the final destination for the Peters family. They must travel onward via the Mississippi to St. Louis, Missouri. From there they take the Union Pacific Railway to Omaha, Nebraska — their final destination.

In Omaha, the Peters family is allotted a square piece of land. In Omaha the family buys supplies and load up their brand new wagon to travel 10 long days to their allotted piece of land where they will finally settle down and re-build their lives.

Time goes by and the generations of Peters family who live in there now are the 5th descendants. One day they discover the photo sovenier of their ancestors and wonder where the family came from. To learn more the descendant family of 4 travel back to Germany to find out more…

In The New World inside2

This picture book is really a portrait of two generations of families highlighting immigrant experience from back in the late 1800’s. Through carefully crafter verse and beautiful pencil and color illustrations, the book brings to life a challenging experience for the many people who travel thousands of miles for a brand new start.

We really enjoyed reading through this book. This book is great as conversation starters for current immigrant families. I loved looking through the art which so beautifully captures the mood and period of the book.

“In The New World” is really a beautiful example of non-fiction and fiction, tender and insightful, emotive and informative for readers of all ages!

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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5 Graphic Novels we Loved!

5 Graphic Novels we Loved!

1. Fairy Tale Comics edited by Chris Duffy

Fairy Tale Comics page
This is a collection of 17 of your favorite fairy tales. And along with your well known favorites like “Snow White” and “Goldilocks”, there are some unique finds too, like “The Prince and the Tortoise: from 1001 nights and “The Boy who drew cats”. What is unique about this collection is that each tale has been illustrated by 17 different artists who put their own unique “signature” on the tales. It is a delight to re-read your favorite and new tales in such a diversity of art in one single book. From Raina Telgemeier’s straight bold line comic art work to Brett Helquist’s more parchment colored art, this book is truly a very unique collection.

2. Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci

Odd Duck cover
We fell in love with the very predictable Theodora and her new quirky “odd” friend Chad. This is a story about friendship, impressions and acceptance.
The author/illustrator duo have created a charming story in a “graphic novel” format. Word balloons, clear pastel colors and strong lines with lots and lots of whimsical, quirky details makes this book very endearing! This tale has an age old theme of “be yourself”. The unique twist however comes when the “Odd Duck” seems to think that their world is quite normal while the others are somehow “different”. At the end, however, the “Odd Duck” realizes that being different, isn’t that bad after all..

3. Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell 

Monster on the Hill page

Do you want to read a fun, goofy and super silly tale about monsters? If you answered with a resounding “YES” then this is the book for you !! Rob Harrell’s Monster on the hill is not scary at all. While other monsters in their other hometowns are scaring people silly, Stoker-on-Avon’s monster is moaning and groaning and sulking all day long. Bottom line: Stoker-on-Avon’s monster sucked! Now its up to two very unusual partners to solve this monster’s problems and get him back on his feet.

4. Hereville series by Barry Deutsch

Hereville series cover

Hereville, a contemporary Orthodox Jewish community, is the home of an 11 year old girl, Mirka. But Mirka is a restless soul. Her wise stepmother tries to quiet her restless spirit by teaching her to knit. Mirka, however, has other ideas. A talking pig encounter takes Mirka on an extra ordinary journey that ends up with Mirka having to sword fight an alien for her life! So what’s so unique about this series? We loved reading about the traditional background of a restless modern 11 year old girl. Her emotional tug of war with her upbringing, customs and her desire to do the “unthinkable” (such as fight aliens and save the world). The author does a superb job of blending the unreal and the real while keeping everything on track. Can’t wait for more of Mirka!

5. El Deafo by Cece Bell

El Deafo cover
One day little Cece falls ill with meningitis. As she recovers, the family and Cece realize that she has lost her hearing. Over the next few months, Cece has to get multiple hearing tests and then ends up having to wear a hearing aid for her life. As little Cece slowly settles into her “new” regular life as an hearing impaired child, she struggles to blend in, make friends and find something special. And one day she realizes that she indeed has a super power. Something that makes her special.. her hearing aid picks up voices from far away. A talent that no one else poses. And thus “El Deafo” is born. We loved this tale for all the conversation starters it provides. A serious subject told with so much heart, a little bit of humor and with a lot of poise, this book is a MUST read for everyone!

Are graphic novels “real” books? Should they count towards reading?

Prejudices: I have come across this question many times. Some parents and educators believe that graphic novels are not serious books or should not be counted as good reads or encouraged. Schools do not allow graphic novels for book reports and other literacy based projects. However, graphic novels have come a long way. They are smart, mature reads. As you can see from above examples, the story telling is very unique and fresh. The format lends itself beautifully for girls and boys. Topics range from serious (El Deafo) to quirky (Mirka) to good old fun (Fairy tales).

Here are a few benefits to reading graphic novels:

Foster love for Reading:  Graphic novels can be a great motivation for reading books. I know many kids tire from their regular reading and need a break. A graphic novel is a wonderful way to provide that break. It is a fun way to get reading done, diversify reading habits and work on reading longer too!

Story telling: The creativity that goes into building stories in this format is simply superb. Artists use so many different visual cues to send subtle messages to the readers. For example: Look at the picture below of Cece finally realizing that something was different. This single page is so powerful in the way it expresses the confusion and fear Cece feels. It is hard to imagine this being in any other format. Matt Phelan, a veteran graphic novel artist and store teller, explains it beautifully with his book “Bluffton”:

Struggling or reluctant readers: Graphic novels are dimply the best way to get reluctant readers excited about reading. It builds reading confidence and kids also end up reading longer!

What are your thoughts around graphic novels? Have you read one recently?