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Free Friday: One of a Kind, Like Me

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The book One of a Kind, Like Me tells the true story of author Laurin Mayeno’s son Danny. In the book, Danny wants to dress up as a princess for the school’s parade. The text follows his journey in finding and designing his costume, wearing it to school, and experiencing his classmates’ reactions. The text is very unique in that it is written in both Spanish and English, translated by Teresa Mlawer. This works to promote inclusivity both in form and content, in making a story that is so clearly about acceptance available to people who speak different languages. The book also provides essential representation to Spanish-speaking families and communities as the text in Danny’s classroom is in Spanish and his mom uses Spanish words in conversation in both translations.

The book’s simplistic and beautiful watercolor illustrations with soft lines evoke nostalgia and themes of childhood, but also allow the reader to focus largely on the text. Robert Liu-Trujillo’s illustrations greatly supplement and support the story.

This book is incredibly valuable because it explores defying gendered expectations from the perspective of a child. Danny never questions whether or not he should dress as a princess. Instead, he works with steadfast determination to find all the pieces that he needs for his costume. The text builds suspense when Danny cannot find a purple outfit that matches the drawing he made for his family at the beginning of the book. He demonstrates clear creativity – turning a shower curtain into a beautiful skirt.

The book then follows Danny to school, where he excitedly waits to put on his costume. When he does, he is met with confusion: a child in his class says, “‘I’ve never seen a boy princess before.’”  Danny responds with wisdom, reflecting on their costumes: “‘Well, I’ve never seen a walking pineapple or a talking butterfly.’” He lands on the conclusion, “‘I guess we’re all one-of-a-kind!’” and is met with smiles from all of the children.

The book provides a model for families, teachers and communities in supporting a child’s self-expression. Danny’s family is extremely supportive – helping him find and make his costume. His teacher tells Danny that his costume is fantastic, and helps him get dressed. The children in his classroom, while initially confused, end the story smiling and dancing with Danny. The story depicts the acceptance of Danny and the joy that he finds in his unhindered ability to dress however he would like.

The book would be a great way to introduce the idea of self-expression and individuality to a classroom. It would also provoke an interesting conversation to promote more understanding among children, highlighting the concept that everyone is truly “one of a kind.” I really enjoyed One of a Kind, Like Me. It supplements an area often lacking in children’s literature and provides essential representation to Latinx families.

The ending page of the book is beautifully written – Mayeno writes about her experiences supporting Danny’s desire to wear the costume and the importance of embracing and supporting gender diversity in children. Her website www.oneofakindlikeme.com has a learning guide and resources for parents, educators and community members.

– Olivia Horne

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Trendy Tuesday: Caroline’s Comets A True Story

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For Trendy Tuesday, I chose the book Caroline’s Comets A True Story written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully. As someone who genuinely loves astronomy and owns a telescope, picking up a children’s book about comets was a rather easy decision. This book is a biography of the German astronomer, Caroline Herschel, who discovered numerous comets during the 1780s. Through her scientific research and scientific discoveries, Herschel is one of the first women to make a true and important impact on science.

Herschel’s story starts off in 1750, where she was born in Hanover, Germany. With siblings and a father who were all royal musicians, Caroline learned more practical skills like knitting because she was a girl. She spent most of her childhood and young adult life as the family maid. Her older brother, William invited her to England after he left to conduct a chorus and give piano lessons. Living in a new country with broken English, Caroline aided her brother by becoming a housekeeper, a popular soprano, and even his assistant inventor of the telescope. William had questions about the solar system that he needed answered, and with the help of Caroline, they were able to build a 5-feet long telescope with a six inched mirror that magnified 6,000 times. On March 13, 1781, William discovered Uranus. His discovery made him famous, which led to him becoming acquainted with King George III. King George appointed William to be his astronomer, and under William’s wing, Caroline trained to become an assistantastronomer. Caroline discovered 14 nebulae, star clusters, two galaxies, and her most famous comet, “the Lady’s Comet.” With her new recognition and fame, she refused to be William’s paid assistant because she wanted a salary from King George like William. Caroline Herschel became the first professional woman scientist who discovered comets.

From reading Caroline’s story, one could tell that she had a very lonely childhood. As the only daughter in her family, her parents had no high expectations for her especially after her face scarred and her growth stunted due to typhus and smallpox. She was meant to just be a housemaid, a hopeless girl with no bright future. Caroline, like most of us, started with no sense of direction and the feeling of hopelessness. She worked at home until she was twenty-two years old. She never got the support from her parents. She felt like nothing good would happen in her life. However, she makes a brave choice to step out and cross borders in order to better her life. The year 1772, when Caroline chose to leave her home for a newer beginning, was just a fresh start to the life that Caroline will create for herself. Caroline proves to us that we can take control of our own lives, change the course of things, and find a passion that defines our lives. She proves that wandering without any navigation does not mean you are going to be lost forever.

I admire how she wanted nothing short of the finest career, and she was willing to speak up about what she wanted in a time when women were not viewed equally. During a time when women had no true occupation, Caroline became a symbol for who women can be and what they are capable of achieving if they are willing to go at something with all their heart. She knew what she wanted and how much she worked to get to where she was. This led her to stand alone as a woman, scientist, and a true astronomer without being under someone’s wing for the very first time. Her courage to passionately pursue more discoveries in science paved the groundwork for future discoveries of comets. Through her catalogue of the sky, succeeding astronomers were able to use her work as a resource. She was admired and consulted by scientists for her work for the rest of her life.

The reason I chose this book to be a Trendy Tuesday book is because there is a huge movement in children’s books that now focuses on female protagonists. Women are now becoming the driving force for our children’s stories not just men. Caroline Herschel’s true story brings to light of her childhood, her discoveries, and the impact she made in astronomy. Her story can resonate with so many young girls teaching them that they can achieve and gain distinction through one’s passions and discoveries. Young girls can be taught that women can make a difference even in a field where women never genuinely gained recognition. We can come from terrible childhoods and sad upbringings, but like Caroline, we can find an eagerness to follow our dreams and make a difference in any field we choose.

Chelsea Yang

Traditional Thursday: King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub

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kingbidgood1In 1986, when the Polar Express won the Caldecott, a royally funny runner-up grabbed an Honor Medal. King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, a story about a king who refuses to leave his bathtub and rule his kingdom, was written by Audrey Wood and illustrated by her husband Don Wood. The story is wonderfully imaginative, but most successful are the carefully illustrated spreads of wacky characters and detailed absurdities.

Over the course of the book, a full day passes, and every so often the Page of the castle cries the same phrase: “King Bidgood’s in the bathtub and he won’t get out! Oh, who knows what to do?” Various members of the court try telling the king it is time to do his duties, which include anything from battling to fishing, but the king insists on doing all these things in the tub. For many years, kids have loved the predictable nature of this story, and the repetition of the Page’s question is valuable especially for very young children. Additionally, because the bathtub is a place of imaginative play for many children, the king’s antics are highly amusing.

The illustrations draw the reader in with every page turn. Each illustration takes up an entire spread and plays with the use of color to reflect the time of day. At first, “when the sun came up,” the page is bright, the sky yellow outside the window and the royal court’s clothes lit by sunshine. The late afternoon spread is full of warm pink hues, while the evening spread is almost entirely shades of blue. Every page depicts the court of characters in incredible detail, down to their ostentatious neck ruffles. Their facial expressions are baffled, aghast, and always overly dramatic.

The real gem of this book is the bathtub pages. Looking down from above at the king and his ridiculousness, great attention has been given to making the tub appear to overflow with all the things that you would not usually expect to be in a tub. These too are colorful, elaborate and detailed. For example, the lunch in the tub is complete with a castle-shaped cake topped with a miniature bathtub.

"Today, we lunch in the tub!"

“Today, we lunch in the tub!”

King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub is a perfect bedtime story from the past for kids who love to play in the tub. It is simultaneously funny and elaborate, topped off with impressive illustrations.

 

Trendy Tuesdays: Bear and Squirrel are Friends

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A bear and a squirrel are friends…? It’s true! Bear and Squirrel are Friends by Deb Pilutti tells the story of two unlikely friends – a big bear and a little squirrel – that form a beautiful, loyal friendship.

giveBear and Squirrel, like true friends, help each other with things that the other can’t do alone! When Bear and Squirrel gather blueberries and nuts together, Bear shakes the trees with his strong arms and Squirrel scurries around to pick up the berries and nuts on the ground. Bear helps Squirrel gather leaves and sticks for a nest, and Squirrel helps Bear clean up his den. These two make a great team, despite their differences!

And best of all…both Bear and Squirrel LOVE to play games!

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But…Squirrel’s friends aren’t so sure if Squirrel’s friendship with Bear is such a great idea. They warn Squirrel that Bear might try to eat him up for a snack! But Squirrel insists that Bear would never do such a thing. Bear is his friend.

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Bear’s friends aren’t so sure if Bear’s friendship with Squirrel is such a great idea either! They are hungry and tell Bear that Squirrel would make a very yummy snack. But Bear says he would never do such a thing! Squirrel is his friend.

When Bear falls into a loooong winter nap, Squirrel waits for him…

And waits…

And waits…

Until finally, spring is here again and Bear wakes up from his nap!

But when Bear wakes up…Squirrel looks awfully yummy…

So what would a true friend do??? Find the book at your local bookstore or library to find out!

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Though their friendship is unlikely, Bear and Squirrel defy stereotypes about them and become great friends despite what those around them tell them to do. They are loyal to each other through and through and are always helping the other and playing together. Seeing Bear and Squirrel’s friendship shows us that, just because two people are different does not mean they can’t be wonderful friends! Being different brings so many benefits to a friendship; friends help each other when in need, learn from each other, and share their strengths to work as a team!

The simple colors and illustrations are the perfect complement to the story because they don’t distract from the important messages. The pictures match the narration on each page, creating a nice parallel between illustrations and text. Although they may be simple, the pictures are very cute, so children love to look at them and see where the story goes next!  The illustrator uses pastels and lighter colors that appeal to younger children, and the variety of images and shapes is good for a child’s visual stimulation.

This picture book was written for children ages 4-8 and communicates some of the most important messages to learn during childhood. To have a friend, you have to be a friend! It’s wonderful to have friends who are different from you! And, if someone is a good friend to you, you should be their friend in return!

– Madi Goeringer

Winner Wednesdays: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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Throwbacks usually happen on Thursday, but this Wednesday’s winner is an oldie but a goodie. This Wednesday, I’m talking about Mildred D. Taylor’s novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. 

Published in 1976 and winner of the 1977 Newbery Medal, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry tells the story of the Logan family in 1933 Mississippi during the Great Depression. Unlike many of the other black families in this area during that time, the Logan family owns their own land. However, this ownership does not stop the family from being subjected to racial injustice.

Cassie, the narrator, protagonist and second oldest Logan child learns about racism in various manners, be it riding the bus to school or hearing about another lynching in the community. Papa, Cassie’s father, sets fire to his own land, hoping to distract the lynch mobs coming for T.J, a friend of Cassie’s oldest brother Stacey. Cassie awakes to see her black and white neighbors working together to fight the fire.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is an excellent book for older children. The book can be read individually or in a classroom settings. The text allows for conversations with parents and teachers about the historical Great Depression, discrimination in the South, family and friendship.

I loved this book; I was Cassie’s age when I got involved in the series and I enjoyed how much I could still relate to her and her family although we were separated by 70 years, and the amount I learned about history. Once you read it, you’ll fall in love with the Logan family, so Mildred Taylor has prequels and sequels to keep you involved! This Wednesday, throw back time with Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. You’ll be surprised about how much you learn and can relate.

 

–Shae Earl

Trendy Tuesday : Bedtime Without Arthur by Jessica Meserve

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Bedtime Without Arthur is the perfect book for helping children overcome their fears of going to sleep at night. Bella is able to sleep only because all during the night her stuffed bear, Arthur, fends off all the monsters that come alive when she goes to sleep. However, when Bella learns Arthur is missing she is absolutely distraught, she simply cannot fall asleep without him. Eventually Bella discovers her younger brother Freddy has had Arthur all along. At first Bella is furious and immediately takes Arthur back, then she realizes Freddy might need Arthur more than she does and so she reconsiders her decision.

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 11.25.16 AMThis is a book many children can relate to, as many kids absolutely must have their stuffed animals to fall asleep. The depiction of Bella’s reaction when she could not find her stuffed animal was completely realistic. This book is a useful tool that not only helps children learn to be brave without their stuffed animals, but it also teaches them kindness towards others. When Bella decides her brother needs Arthur more than she does, she shows much empathy and compassion. I believe children struggle with learning to share to make others happy, this is an important lesson that the book illustrates very well. Bedtime Without Arthur can teach children that they can be brave at night without anyone protecting them. The dreamlike illustrations in this book enhanced the message of the story. During a bad dream the illustrator makes use of dark colors that create an air of mystery. During a good dream however the illustrations are full of bright colors making the dreams seem magical. Bedtime Without Arthur  is truly a trendy book that is enjoyable and meaningful for children and adults alike!

By Isabelle Despins