Thursday, January 10, 2019

Hey-Ho, To Mars We'll Go, by Susan Lendroth

This book is a perfect read for any child obsessed with space travel or outer space (or Mars in particular, like my son).  Featuring 4 children (two of them children of color) on a hypothetical trip to Mars, there are several ways to read this book.  The fun illustrations accompany the song "to Mars we'll go" (sung to the tune of Farmer in the Dell) - with verses such as "We sleep on the walls, We sleep on the walls, Hey-ho, to Mars we'll go -- We sleep on the walls."  My son usually joins in with me after the first line.  For younger kids, or when you're in a rush, singing through the book is quick and fun.  For older kids (or when you're not trying to rush your kid to bed), each page contains interesting facts about what would be necessary for such a journey - like growing fresh vegetables in bags, or how it would be easier to build and launch a spaceship to Mars in space.

BUY HERE (or request at your local library!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, by Jill Twiss

It took me some time to pick up this book, it got a lot of media attention when it was published and I thought there was no way such a high profile children's book would actually be an enjoyable read.  But I was wrong.  It's delightful and funny and conveys a great message without being preachy and our family adores it so much that our son insisted we read it to his whole preschool class! 

Marlon Bundo (the grandson of Mike Pence, the Vice President) leads a repetitive life until he encounters Wesley.  Wesley and Marlon quickly fall in love and make plans to "hop together Forever."  All of their friends are thrilled except for the (hilariously) grumpy Stink Bug, who is unfortunately in charge.  As the most important, Stink Bug proclaims that boy bunnies can NOT marry boy bunnies because being different is bad.  All of their other friends think up ways in which they are different as well (Mr. Paws the dog likes to sniff butts) and decide to vote the Stink Bug out of office and Marlon and Welsey live happily ever after.  Like I said, the best!  And with enough funny parts that a roomful of 4 and 5 year olds won't be able to contain their laughter.

BUY HERE (or request at your local library!)

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Day Santa Got Sick, by Deanne Samuels

Finally!  A Christmas book that features a black Santa.  I stumbled across this on Amazon and instantly ordered it.  And even better, the two other main characters are also black -- Mrs. Claus ("Coretta" in this book) and Ella Elf.  My son and I were both thrilled when this book arrived and read it immediately. 

The story itself is fine.  Santa gets sick and has to find someone else to deliver the presents, but there are drawbacks to all the volunteers (a Snowman would melt in the hot countries, for example).  The main twist hinges on the fact that elves aren't an option because they can't read the list -- they never learn because they are so focused on making toys.  However, Ella Elf can read (it's not clear why), and she successfully teams up with Mrs. Claus to deliver the presents and saves Christmas.  I guess the message is that learning to read is important?  But given that this is a book for younger kids who presumably cannot read yet, it seems off.  Another odd twist is that there are words in other languages sprinkled throughout without explanation ("How would you place all the regalos around the Christmas tree?"), presumably because Santa speaks all languages.  However, aside from translations in the beginning it's never addressed and confused my son (and honestly, me). 

All that aside, the book is pleasant enough and given the bold illustrations featuring a black cast at the North Pole I recommend it without hesitation!

BUY HERE (or request at your local library!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Hallelujah! A Christmas Celebration, by W. Nikola-Lisa

A brief, lyrical retelling of the Christmas story featuring a black Mary and Joseph and, repeatedly emphasized, a black baby Jesus.  I suspect that the bright, simple illustrations and poetic text appeal more to adults (in our case, my 5 year old listened impatiently and tossed the book aside when we were done), but it really depends on your child - may work best for younger children.

BUY HERE (or request at your local library!)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll, by Patricia C. McKissack

Another lukewarm endorsement of a Christmas book.  This one featuring a black family living during the Great Depression, written by a black author and illustrated by the amazing Jerry Pinkney, a black illustrator. 

Laura wishes for a Baby Betty Doll more than anything, and miraculously receives on one Christmas morning.  She refuses to share the doll with her sisters, but finally realizes that she'll have more fun if they all play with the doll together - eventually throwing a tea party and proclaiming it the best Christmas ever.  My son found this story a bit of a downer for Christmas -- it's so hard to find books featuring black kids that it stands out when they are the ones that feature a family in hard times.  Though this if a function of the scarcity of books featuring black families rather than a criticism of the story itself.  In addition, a very minor point, but Santa is referred to as "Santy Claus" throughout which I find incredibly grating, though perhaps appropriate for the period of time the book is set in? 

BUY HERE (or request from your local library!)

Friday, December 7, 2018

5 Best Christmas Books for Black Children

Here are our 5 absolute favorite Christmas books featuring black children that we read over and over, enjoy!  

1. Jackie's Gift, by Sharon Robinson: Read more here!

2. The Night Before Christmas, by Rachel Isadora: Read more here!

3. The Nutcracker in Harlem, by T.E. McMorrow: Read more here!

4. Christmas for 10, by Cathryn Falwell: Read more here!

5. Corduroy /A Christmas Wish for Corduroy, both by Don Freeman: Read more here!

I Got the Christmas Spirit, by Connie Schofield-Morrison

A somewhat reluctant endorsement for this book.  For two reasons - first, the book features a white Santa (see photo below).  And second, there isn't much of a story - a young black girl wakes up on a day leading up to Christmas and goes about festive activities: holiday shopping, caroling, ice skating, visiting Santa (all beautifully illustrated).  However, the text focuses on the spirit of the holiday.  "I sparkled in the spirit of the lights.  Bling Bling!  I felt the sprit deep down in my soul... "  We read it once and it's going back to the library because my son concluded that he didn't enjoy the story.  However, if your child (and you) is more tolerant of picture books that aren't plot-driven or if you're just desperate for a beautiful holiday book that features a black girl then definitely check this out. 

BUY HERE (or request at your local library!)

Hey-Ho, To Mars We'll Go, by Susan Lendroth

This book is a perfect read for any child obsessed with space travel or outer space (or Mars in particular, like my son).  Featuring 4 chi...