Friday, February 16, 2018

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison

I'm always super ambitious about Black History Month, but never feel like I'm doing a good enough job.  This year, thanks to Little Leaders, our son is obsessed with reading about "amazing black people."  We stumbled onto a really fun and easy approach about a week ago when we bought this book, each day (or, more honestly, most days) we let our son page through the book and pick one person he wants to learn more about.  Then we read that page to him, along with a lot of discussion, and then supplement!  For example, when we read the Nina Simone entry we listened to her music during dinner.  The day we read about Dominque Dawes we watched her gymnastics routines on YouTube.  Some are more difficult to add to, but that hasn't decreased our son's interest so far.  His favorite entry was that of Mary Bowser (pictured below), in part because we have recently started to discuss slavery with him (and read him Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad for the first time), but more importantly because she was a SPY, which is like one step away from being a superhero.  

(And if you're looking for other books about black history, 
our favorite remains Ron's Big Mission, which I wrote 
about previously here.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Alfie, by Thyra Heder

Nia is a black girl who receives Alfie, a pet turtle, for her sixth birthday.  On the morning of her seventh birthday, he disappears in search of a present for Nia.  Alfie reappears the day of Nia's eighth birthday with a turtle keychain he discovered during his quest.  The story is told alternately from Nia's, and then Alfie's points of view, and is a quick and enjoyable read.  Not a story we'd buy, but one we enjoyed reading several times when we checked it out of our local library.

BUY HERE (or request at your local library!)

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Airport Book, by Lisa Brown

I love this book because it features a loving (and frazzled) family with a white mom, black dad, and two mixed kids.  My son loves this book because OH MY GOSH IT ILLUSTRATES EVERY SINGLE PART OF TRAVELING BY PLANE AND CAN WE READ IT AGAIN FOR THE SEVENTH TIME IN A ROW?  Seriously, there was a period when he was particularly obsessed with air travel when this was the only book he wanted to read, and it is a testament to the readability of this book that I do not hate it with every fiber of my being.  We have brought this book on every single plane trip our son has taken since this book was purchased and acted out the nuances of air travel portrayed in the book approximately 47 times (that is my realistic estimate).  The illustrations are incredibly detailed and allow you to follow the trip not only of the family at the center of the book, but many of the other passengers as well. 

(For awhile, this book was our go-to birthday gift for 3 year olds!)

Friday, January 26, 2018

Please, Baby, Please, by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee

Please, Baby, Please is our family's favorite book.  We read it daily when my son was younger, and even though he's now 4 we frequently return to this book with fondness.  It follows a willful toddler as she generally creates chaos for her parents and they repeatedly beg her to stop - "please, baby, baby, baby." 

We also love it because of Kadir Nelson's gorgeous illustrations.  It's our dream to own one of his prints and we always have one of his New Yorker covers on our refrigerator.  His illustrations bring to life the vivacious, curious, and mischievous girl at the center of this story, as well as her loving and exhausted parents.

You without doubt need to own this book.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Story of Martin Luther King Jr., by Johnny Ray Moore

I looked hard to find a book about Martin Luther King Jr. appropriate for a young child.  At first, I didn't think this was it - at age 3 this book was a bit beyond my son given the topic matter.  But when we pulled it out to read this year for MLK Day, my now 4 year old son was engrossed and it lead to a lengthy discussion.  It's good for younger children in that it doesn't touch on how he died, but is clear about some of the wrongs Mr. King was seeking to right (segregated schools, restaurants, water fountains) and shows him experiencing discrimination as a young child.  My only complaint is that it doesn't touch any of the actions that Mr. King took to to achieve his goals, aside from referencing his 'I Have A Dream' speech - though we typically supplement and discuss his marches and meetings with politicians.  This is a board book and is therefore very short, but given that we ended up having a discussion about nearly every page is a great length for somewhat older children.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Bippity Bop Barbershop, by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

Every time my husband takes my son to the barbershop, they reenact this book - my husband does a silly knock on my son's door ("Bippity-be-bop-bop"), they get dressed together, and then stop for coffee and pastries on the way (though I've been informed the new cupcake shop has been more of an attraction lately).  Coincidentally, my son has the same haircut the boy and his father get in this story.  My son was initially terrified of the barbershop, and much preparation and many, many readings of this story went into his first trip. 

However, this isn't merely an occasion book.  We read it constantly.  It's an appealing story about a boy overcoming his fears with his dad's assistance (similar to Jabari Jumps) and, though this may seem like an odd compliment - a great length.  It was one of the first big-boy books we read with our son and he was so drawn into the story that he didn't notice that it was substantially longer than the books we typically read.

I Love My Hair! was created by the same author and illustrator team.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Ron's Big Mission, by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden

Ron's Big Mission strays from the primary mission of this site, in that rather than being a book that just happens to be about a child of color going about his life, it's a book that is that centers on race.  We generally avoid children's books about race.  They're frequently just bad books.  Preachy and boring with no real plot, they're not books that anyone would reach for if reading purely for pleasure. We have many, and my son never wants to read them (and I don't blame him).  I also dislike using children's books as a crutch for discussing race with children.  Discussions about race need to be frequent, frank, and ongoing - but all too often when parents are urged to discuss race and racism with their children they ask for a book recommendation.

All that said, Ron's Big Mission is an incredible book.  Ron McNair wakes up and bravely heads to South Caroline's Lake City Library - which bans black patrons from obtaining library cards.  Once there, he single-handedly stages a protest and refuses to leave until he is allowed to check out a book.  The head librarian realizes that the library's policy is wrong, and Ron becomes the first black person to check out a book from the library.  Ron's Big Mission is based on a true story, and the real Ron McNair went on to become an astronaut.

There are so many reasons we love this book.  For one, it's actually a good book, with beautiful pictures and an engaging fast-moving story that we've read over and over.  My son has pretended to be Ron McNair during several readings - standing on our coffee table and refusing to leave until he is allowed to check out a book.  Ron's bravery and intelligence is tied to his later accomplishments, and we've poured over the Author's Note detailing Ron's career as an astronaut.  Finally, while in our family we openly acknowledge racism is ongoing and protests are often long and violent and not always successful, this book provides a clear and easy to understand portrait of a single protest and it's a joy to revel in Ron's victory with our son.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison

I'm always super ambitious about Black History Month, but never feel like I'm doing a good enough job.  This year, thanks to Littl...