Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Multicultural Books for MCBD ~ by Christy Mihaly

Multicultural Children’s Book Day is celebrating its ninth year! MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of kids’ books that celebrate diversity. Read about the MCBD's history HERE. This year's Big Day is Friday, January 28.

This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, two diverse book-loving moms who wanted to shine a spotlight on multicultural books and authors, and get those books into the hands of educators and young readers.

I'm privileged to be a MCBD book reviewer for the eighth year. I received four wonderful #ownvoices books to review today. Just look at these beautiful books! Let's get them (and lots of diverse books!) onto kids' bookshelves. Keep reading after the reviews for info about MCBD resources and programming -- and a Twitter party on Friday.

Written and illustrated by Australian artist Maxine Beneba Clarke, When We Say Black Lives Matter (Candlewick) is a poetic anthem complemented with powerful art. A Black child's parents explain the BLM movement with moving lines like: 
"Darling, when we sing that Black Lives Matter, and we're dancing through the streets, we're saying: fear will not destroy our joy, defiance in our feet." 
Clarke has said she created this book to introduce the worldwide Black Lives Matter movement and its underpinnings to young children -- and she has succeeded admirably. This book was published in Australia in 2020 and in the U.S. last year.

Dinner on Domingos, written by Alexandra Katona and illustrated by Claudia Navarro (Barefoot Books) invites us to enjoy the Sunday traditions of an extended Ecuadorian-American family. All the tias, tios, and primos gather at abuelita's house for playing, dancing, remembering, and dining on yummy locro (potato soup) and other delicacies. Spanish words are used naturally, with context to signal their meanings. Lively prose and colorful illustrations show how each room in abuelita's home has a special purpose and meaning, and how together they help turn Sunday into "Domingo, the best day of the week." Katona's author's note adds depth and detail and includes photos of the author and her abuelita, along with a recipe for locro. Yum!

Farah Rocks Floridaby Susan Mauddi Darraj with illustrations by Ruaida Mannaa, is the fourth book in the "Farah Rocks" series published by Capstone (Stone Arch Books), for ages 8-12. In this installment, when Farah's brother needs surgery, Farah is sent to stay with her Palestinian grandmother in Florida. She faces her Sitti's many rules and expectations, and deals with a cranky neighbor and homesickness. Farah's curiosity and positive energy help her overcome the trials of being the only kid in the retirement community. The author gracefully incorporates Farah's Palestinian heritage into this story of how Farah develops a new understanding and closeness with her grandmother. 

The Kayla: A Modern Day Princess picture book series is created by Make A Way Media (Super Platinum MCBD sponsor), written by Deedee Cummings and illustrated by Charlene Mosley. Inspired by the life of Cummings' own daughter, actress Kayla Pecchioni, these books follow the story of a Black girl who dreams of singing and dancing on Broadway. I was able to review the final book in the series, "A Little Magic," in which Kayla finishes college and is ready to fly. Kayla explains to her mom that rather than getting married, she's heading off to follow her Broadway dreams. In this sweet tale, Mom is surprised but ultimately supportive. Mother and daughter reflect on the lessons and milestones from her childhood that have enabled Kayla to make her own plan for her life, and then to follow it. An inspirational read for all.

MCBD 2022 is Supported by these Medallion Sponsors:


PLATINUM: Language Lizard

GOLD: Barefoot Books, KidLitTV, Candlewick, Capstone, Abrams Books

SILVER: Pack-n-Go Girls, Charlotte Riggle, Kimberly Gordon Biddle  

BRONZE: Carole P. Roman, Patrice McLaurin, Dyesha and Triesha McCants/McCants Squared,, Redfin Canada, Redfin Mortgage, Redfin/Title Forward, Create & Educate, Star Bright Books, Vivian Kirkfield, Dr. Eleanor Wint, Kind World Publishing, Snowflake Stories, Lisa Wee, SONGJU MA, Melissa Stoller, J.C. Kato and J.C.², Crystel Patterson, Audrey Press, Pragmaticmom, TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales 

MCBD 2022 is Supported by these Author Sponsors:

Charlene Mosley (official MCBD2022 Poster Creator)

Illustrator Isabelle Roxas (Class Kit Poster Creator)

Alva Sachs, Brianna Carter, Ebony Zay Zay, Rita Bhandari, Gwen Jackson, Lois Petren/The 5 Enchanted Mermaids, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Josh Funk, Afsaneh Moradian, Eugenia Chu, Maritza Martínez Mejía, Diana Huang, Kathleen Burkinshaw, CultureGroove, Sandra Elaine Scott, Dorena Williamson, Veronica Appleton, Alejandra Domenzain, Lauren Muskovitz and Sandfish Publishing, Tonya Duncan Ellis, Kimberly Lee, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher, Nancy Tupper Ling, Winsome Hudson-Bingham, Amanda Hsiung-Blodgett, Sivan Hong, Michael Genhart, Debbie Dadey, Elizabeth Cureton, Stephanie Wildman, Maryann Jacob, Sherri Maret, Rochelle Melander, Dia Mixon, Kiyanda and Benjamin Young, Shereen Rahming, Linda Thornburg and Katherine ArcherRebecca Flansburg and BA Norrgard , Maxine Schur  Natalie McDonald-Perkins

MCBD 2022 is Honored to be Supported by our CoHosts and Global CoHosts!

MCBD 2022 is Honored to be Supported by these Media Partners!

Check out MCBD's Multicultural Books for Kids Pinterest Board!

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Diversity Book Lists & Activities for Teachers and Parents

Homeschool Diverse Kidlit Booklist & Activity Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Activism and Activists Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Empathy Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Kindness Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Physical and Developmental Challenges Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Poverty Kit

FREE Homeschool Diverse Kidlit Booklist & Activity Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Raising Awareness on Systemic Racism in America Classroom Kit

Gallery of Our Free Posters

FREE Diversity Book for Classrooms Program

oin the MCBD celebration on Friday, Jan 28, 2022, at 9 pm EST for the 9th annual Multicultural Children's Book Day Twitter Party!

This epically fun and fast-paced hour includes multicultural book discussions, addressing timely issues, diverse book recommendations, & reading ideas. MCBD will be giving away an 8-Book Bundle every 5 minutes plus Bonus Prizes as well! *** US and Global participants welcome. ***

Follow the hashtag #ReadYourWorld to join the conversation and connect with like-minded parents, authors, publishers, educators, organizations, and librarians. And, follow MCBD and Make A Way Media on Twitter. And don't forget that Twitter party!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Writing Life: Three Tips for (and in praise of) the Fallow Times by Carol Coven Grannick

The wintering of Illinois farm fields remind me of my current writing life. After twenty-two months of intense work—creating, revising, organizing poetry into collections (wow, that's hard!), putting final touches on submission-worthy children's manuscripts and an adult 'verse narrative' story coming out in July 2022, I am in a period that feels fallow. And it's good.

I am not 'growing' anything new, but I am drawing nourishment from the mulch of a pleasantly unfocused, relaxed, dreamy kind of state filled with less intense activity and new. 

I can't speak for all writers, but I've come to cherish this time. And I've come to view it as a quieter complement to more intense writing hours and months. It doesn't feel like I'm not writing or temporarily not a writer. Instead, it feels like a nourishing, significant, and necessary part of my writing life in between bigger projects.

I know my brain likes it, and within it, I experience an ebb and flow that guides me. Some things don't change during these times, and some do.


I've created these 'tips' for myself, and they seem to serve to nourish me, like mulch in the corn fields:

1. Keep your basic morning 'scaffolding', whatever ritual eases you into the rest of the day. Create, revise, or keep a structure that works for you. Mine? Coffee and reading an email newsletter integrating history and politics, bike or walk, shower, then breakfast of soft-boiled eggs and whole grain crackers (yum). 

2. As much as possible, continue to block out creative time or times that would otherwise be writing times. Use those times to do other writing life-related things. My post-day-job-retirement years give me time I never had before. Researching, submitting, end-of-year tax prep, website tweaking, webinars, and so much more.

3. Keep your brain open to 'surprise' and to 'new', trusting that every idea or activity or feeling is nourishment (a/k/a, mulch) for whatever is next, and quite possibly the key to things never previously imagined.


Advice I give is advice I've used myself, so I'll tell you some of the assorted and (mostly) new things I did during the fallow  times:

  • Applied for and was accepted as a Cybils 2022 Round 1 Panelist—read almost 40 books and believe I may have taken a major step in healing some mild PTSD that took the form of having trouble losing myself in books. For a partial introvert who has had trouble reaching out in the past, this was an accomplishment. Not totally new, but still not a total habit.
  • Watched some old and well-written sitcoms. I'm going to say pure distraction and entertainment, here, and not claim I was studying dialogue!
  • Began driving out to a farm 1-1/2 hours from home where I could learn to feed and water castoff thoroughbreds. Thus the open fields, the deep breaths, the incredible joy of being in the countryside. And a reconnection to my cowgirl dreams of childhood. Ideas bubbled up for—maybe—

    a new project...?
  • Returned a little bit to piano practice, but without my teacher. Another idea for maybe a new project?
  • Bought a jigsaw puzzle. Haven't used it yet. ANOTHER idea...?
  • Following a long-held urge to paint (I can't draw) since working in an early childhood center, I signed up for an inexpensive watercolor class. I needed brushes and colors, as opposed to actually drawing something. It was interesting how I knew I needed to hold a brush, instead of watercolor crayon-type paints. I definitely needed something other than pens, pencils, and a computer keyboard.
  • Scribbled on scraps at home, at stoplights, parked on a country road what ended up being a bundle of poems from here, there, and everywhere.

There's one more tip I'll share, but it's not from me. It's one I've loved for years, from the talented, prolific, and wise Norman Lear. In a wonderful interview with NPR some years ago, he validated the treasure of the in-between times. His comments were in response to a conversation about his ongoing prolific body of work, seemingly going from one project directly to the next. But he didn't see it quite that way:

“I think what I’m saying – and it’s something I’ve come to over a number of years – is I do enjoy the moment,” he continues. “There are two little words that couldn’t be more true – ‘over’ and ‘next.’

“When something is over, you gotta get used to knowing that it is over. Nothing is going to bring it back. It is just a memory. What about ‘next’?

If there’s a hammock in the middle, then that’s what they mean about living in the moment."

That hammock—or for the purpose of this post, those fallow times—can be safe, comforting places, gifting you the time you need 'between'. A place to rock. Open space filled with the  'mulch' of different and new directions and activities. Things that have to be done, and things that nourish, open our brains, and ready us for whatever will become 'next' in the more intense, deep, vulnerable, risk-taking work we strive to do. 

                                             I wonder what my next project will be?

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Stories for Math Literacy

 by Sue Heavenrich

Welcome to a new year of GROG posts and reflections. We're starting off with MATH. So grab your pencils and protractors... nah, just grab a cuppa joe and let's talk about how- and whether - we include math in our stories.
Research shows that reading aloud to children has an impact on their language development and literacy. Same thing applies to math. Kids are mathematical thinkers and their play reflects this. As they sort and stack, fill containers, portion out marshmallows to plastic dinosaurs, it’s important to talk with them about what they are doing. Research shows that even a small amount of math talk every day, such as asking how many blocks will they have for a tower if they add one more, has a positive impact on developing their math literacy. 

So I was thrilled when Charlesbridge started publishing their Storytelling Math series. The series includes four board books by Grace Lin. Each book explores a basic math concept that toddlers encounter on a daily basis. How tall is the flower I planted? What shape is this? Who gets the last marshmallow? Will this thing fit in that basket? Grace helps model the sorts of language parents can use to talk with a young child about comparing, measuring, dividing, exploring volume, and spatial reasoning. 

So far, there are six books aimed at the pre-school to first-grade crowd. I love them, in part, because of the aesthetics. The books are square, 25 cm on a side, and 1 cm deep, providing a surface area of 625 square centimeters and leading one to wonder: how many books would you need to stack to get a cube? But… I digress.

And then there is the artful way the authors present math concepts. For example, in The Animals Would Not Sleep! Marco needs to put his stuffed animals away. He tries sorting them into three baskets based on where they spend their time: flying animals in one basket, swimming animals in another, and land animals in the third. He sorts by color, by size, and then comes up with the perfect solution. Not only is this a great math book – full of comparisons and grouping – but it’s a wonderful introduction into STEM. Biologists divide animals into groups using defining characteristics: does it have a backbone, feathers, scales, six legs? 

In Lia & Luis, Who has More? a sister and brother are trying to one-up each other, each insisting they have more treats. They use different ways to measure and compare their snacks: the size of the package, the number of chips inside, the weight of the package.  Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum is all about division and fractions. Given a limited number of buns, how can Luna make everyone happy?  And spatial relationships and perspective are at the center of Usha and the Big Digger.

Then there’s Bina, who wants to make bracelets for each of her brothers (Bracelets for Bina's Brothers). But one brother loves blue, another loves green, and the third loves orange. Bina’s challenge is creating fun patterns from a limited color selection.

In the most recent addition, Look, Grandma! Ni, Elisi! a boy needs to find the best container for displaying his marbles for Cherokee National Holiday. It needs to big enough to fit all the marbles, but not too big to fit on the table in his family's booth. 
Alyssa Mito Pusey edits the books and credits Marlene Kliman for the series idea. Marlene is a scientist at TERC, a non-profit dedicated to research on learning and teaching. “Marlene noticed that the majority of math picture books feature white human characters, or animals,” said Alyssa. Too often, the math seemed more important than the story.

Books in the Storytelling Math series offer a different vision of what math is, and who can be a mathematical thinker, says Alyssa. “They feature main characters of color, and nearly all are by authors writing about their own culture. We also sought out illustrators who shared the same culture as the author and the characters.”

Engaging storytelling is an essential element, too. “Our books feature emotionally resonant stories in which math is used to solve real problems a kid might face,” says Alyssa. The goal is to present a story kids will want to read again and again. “In a great picture book, we connect with the characters, root for them, and care about them. The story sticks with us because it has heart. So why not expect the same of math picture books?”

One of the things I like about the Storytelling math books is the back matter – activities for exploring the math concepts included in the book as well as author notes that provide cultural context. 

“Who creates that material?” I asked.

“Marlene,” says Alyssa. “She works with an educational expert to develop activities and conversation starters that make exploring math fun and easy and don’t require math expertise or special materials.” Marlene also writes activities for the free downloadable activity guides on the Charlesbridge website

If you’re interested in writing a math story, know that Charlesbridge  puts out calls for submissions to Storytelling Math on WNDB and the Brown Bookshelf. “To date, we’ve issued three calls for submissions,” Alyssa says. “We received more than 500 in response to our first call!” At this point they’re assessing manuscripts and aren’t seeking additional submissions at this time. “But hopefully the series will continue growing, and we’ll issue another call soon,” Alyssa says.