Posts tagged ‘multicultural’

January 23, 2014

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac (Multicultural Children’s Book Day)

The Great Race, Story Chinese ZodiacTitle: The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

Author: Dawn Casey
Illustrator: Anne Wilson
Publisher: Barefoot Books, 2006
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 5-8
Themes: Folktale, Chinese Culture

Opening Lines:
“Many moons ago, the people of China had no calendar. With no way to measure time, nobody could tell one year from the next.

Synopsis (from Barefoot Books website):

Race with the animals of the Zodiac as they compete to have the years of the Chinese calendar named after them. The excitement-filled story is followed by notes on the Chinese calendar, important Chinese holidays, and a chart outlining the animal signs based on birth years.

Activities:

There are tons of Chinese Zodiac and New Year’s activities on the Internet. Below is just a sampling.

Snake Mobile Craft
Chinese New Year’s Activities for Kids – Pinterest Board
Chinese New Year Lesson Plans, Printables, and Crafts
More Chinese New Year Printables – puzzles, word searches, coloring sheets.

Why I Like This Book:

A simple, colorful re-telling of the origin of the Chinese zodiac and why cats hate rats.

The Jade Emperor decided to name each of the 12 years after an animal. To decide the order he announced The Great Race, the order in which the animals finished would determine the order of the calendar. Cat and Rat were best friends and also the smallest animals in the race. Clever Rat got them a ride on Ox. However, over-ambitious Rat pushed his friend Cat in the water and later ran-ahead of Ox to win. Cat never gets over the betrayal and this is why cats hate rats.

The text and artwork do a great job of engaging young readers. The artwork is done with paper collages and acrylics which works well in keeping the artwork simple, colorful, and childlike. The back matter contains information on Chinese festivals and more characteristics about the twelve animals and the people born in those years.

GreatRace_HC3

(Click to see a larger picture)

As a picture book writer, I know every word has to be carefully chosen to convey the right meaning and tone. For this reason I was somewhat bothered by the line below, which follows the scenes of Rat consciously pushing his friend cat into the water and running ahead of Ox to win the race.

“Rat may be small but he is also smart!” the Jade Emperor laughed.

I do realize the author can’t deviate from the original story, however it’s the subtext (probably unintentional) that it was okay for the rat to be mean and sneaky that bothered me. Maybe if the cat gave chase to the rat at the end I would have felt a little better.

Regardless of my pet peeve I do think this is a lovely book and is still good for introducing kids to the Chinese zodiac. Perfect timing with the Chinese New Year coming up.

This is review is a part of Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) and Multicultural Children’s Book Day! To see additional PPBF recommended books please visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book.

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I am very excited  to be a book reviewer participating in Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature on January 27th, 2014Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump into a Book have organized this event to raise awareness for children’s books that celebrate diversity and to get those books into more classrooms and libraries so more little eyes can see them. Proudly sponsored by Lee & Low Books, Wisdom Tales Press, Chronicle Books, and author Susan Fayad.

Why is Multicultural Children’s Book Day so important?

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

More than 60 bloggers are joining together to share books and ideas to celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day.  Please join us on January 27, 2014 for book reviews and multicultural activities.

Visit our collaborative Pinterest board, Multicultural Books for Kids, to see more great books and check out all of these amazing blogs participating in the event!

2GirlsLostInaBook · 365 Days of Motherhood · A Bilingual Baby · A Simple Life, Really? · Africa to America · After School Smarty Pants · All Done Monkey · Andi’s Kids Books · Anita Brown Bag  · Austin Gilkeson · Barbara Ann Mojica ·  Books My Kids Read · Bottom Shelf Books · Cats Eat Dogs · Chasing The Donkey · Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac · Children’s Books Heal · Church o Books · CitizenBeta · Crafty Moms Share · Discovering The World Through My Son’s Eyes · Early Words · Flowering Minds · Franticmommy · Gathering Books · GEO Librarian · Gladys Barbieri · Going in Circles · Growing Book by Book · iGame Mom · I’m Not The Nanny · InCulture Parent · Itsy Bitsy Mom ·Just Children’s Books– Kid World Citizen · Kristi’s Book Nook · Mama Lady Books · Mama Smiles · Mission Read · Mother Daughter Book Reviews · Mrs AOk · MrsTeeLoveLifeLaughter · Ms. Yingling Reads · Multicultural Kids Blog · One Sweet World · Open Wide The World · P is for Preschooler · Rapenzel Dreams · School4Boys · Sharon the Librarian · Spanish Playground · Sprout’s Bookshelf · Squishable Baby · Stanley and Katrina · Teach Mama · The Art of Home Education · The Brain Lair · The Educators’ Spin On It · The Family-Ship Experience · The Yellow Door Paperie · This Kid Reviews Books  · Trishap’s Books · Unconventional Librarian · Vicki Arnold · We3Three · World for Learning · Wrapped in Foil 

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Barefoot Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

September 27, 2012

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) again. This week you will get not one but TWO in-depth reviews for this week’s pick GANESHA’S SWEET TOOTH.  So why two reviews this week, you ask? Upon receiving this book from the publisher, I was completely speechless regarding the unique illustrations, I did not have a clue as to how to describe the beautiful artwork. Luckily, I know the awesome Carter Higgins who runs an awesome blog, Design of the Picture Book, where she discusses everything related to illustrations; I roped her in to doing a joint review. After you read today’s post, hop on over to Carter’s blog for the rest of the review.

I would also like to thank Julie from World of Julie for this book recommendation. Thanks!

Title: Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth

Authors: Sanjay Patel & Emily Haynes
Illustrator: Sanjay Patel

Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2012
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Hindu Mythology

Excerpt:

“I look lopsided!” he said. “Everyone will laugh at me.”

“No, they won’t,” said Mr. Moue. “Everyone loses their teeth. And besides, you already have an elephant’s head and your friends still love you.”

Synopsis (from Chronicle Books Website):

The bold, bright colors of India leap right off the page in this fresh and funny picture book adaptation of how Ganesha came to write the epic poem of Hindu literature, the Mahabharata. Ganesha is just like any other kid, except that he has the head of an elephant and rides around on a magical mouse. And he loves sweets, especially the traditional dessert laddoo. But when Ganesha insists on biting into a super jumbo jawbreaker laddoo, his tusk breaks off! Ganesha is terribly upset, but with the help of the wise poet Vyasa, he learns that what seems broken can actually be quite useful after all. With vibrant, graphic illustrations, expressive characters, and offbeat humor, this is a wonderfully inventive twist on a classic tale.

Activities:

Recipie for making laddoos.

Ganesha coloring pages.

Online links on Ganesha and Hinduism for Kids

Traditional re-tellings of Ganesha.

Other books my Sanjay Patel on Hindu Mythology

Brief Background on Lord Ganesha:

Lord Ganesha is one of the most worshipped gods by Hindus, since he is the remover of obstacles. He was given this task by the deities to help the people on Earth, hence he is kind of like the people’s God. Hindus say prayers to Lord Ganesha before important events such as weddings, starting a new planting season, or opening a store. People will give the god offerings such as Indian sweets, fruit, and nuts.

Why I Like This Book:

A colorful, modern, humorous, loose-retelling of how Ganesha broke his tusk. This book is full of kid-appeal that can serve has a good first introduction to the elephant god.

I find traditional retellings of Hindu mythology or folktales to be strong in the action and morality aspects but very dry when it comes to character, and somewhat un-relatable. It if for this reason that I love this modern take of Ganesha, even with its deviations from the actual story.

Ganesha is cute and like an ordinary Indian boy. He plays cricket (British sport like baseball), dances, rings temple bells, and cruises around on his mouse (which reminded me of skateboarding). A child character is not complete without discussing his favorite sweet; for Ganesha it’s the laddoo. I love the idea of the “Jawbreaker Laddoo”; I think it is hilarious, especially since it comes out of a gumball machine. Genius! (fyi – a real laddoo would fall apart if it came out of machine) And when Ganesha breaks his tusk, I like that he tries to re-attach it with tape. Vyasa the poet helps Ganesha learn how he his broken tusk can still be useful. Ganesha does assist Vyasa by writing down the epic Hindu story, the Mahabharata. (this part is true) I like the off-beat humor of Mr. Mouse acting as Ganesha’s lawyer.

This book would work well for storytime, it provides a first glimpse into Hindu mythology for young kids. For classroom settings, I would recommend supplementing this book with other traditional retellings.

For an in-depth look at the gorgeous illustrations that just “pop”, please head over to Design of the Picture Book.

Find Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth at the following spots:
Kitaab WorldAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1452103623
ISBN-13: 978-1452103624

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth from the publisher Chronicle Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

June 8, 2012

One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

Title: One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

Author & Illustrator: Demi
Check out the interview at Paper Tigers

Publisher: Scholastic Press, 1997
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 5-10
Themes: Folklore, India, Social Responsibility, Math, Cleverness

Synopsis (from book jacket flap):

Long ago in India, there lived a raja who believed that he was wise and fair. But every year he kept nearly all of the people’s rice for himself. Then when famine came, the raja refused to share the rice, and the people went hungry. Then a village girl named Rani devises a clever plan. She does a good deed for the raja, and in return, the raja lets her choose her reward. Rani asks for just one grain of rice, doubled every day for thirty days. Through the surprising power of doubling, one grain of rice grows into more than one billion grains of rice — and Rani teaches the raja a lesson about what it truly means to be wise and fair.

Activities:

Math Focus:

  • Comprehensive lesson plan for older elementary aged students, focusing on math. Elements from this lesson plan could be used for younger grades such as the activity chart to keep track of the rice.
  • Additional math focused lesson plan.
  • Mathwire – has other picture book recommendations similar to One Grain of Rice and lesson plans.

Indian Culture Focus:

Why I Like This Book:

This is a multi-layered story that teaches math, introduces Indian culture, and has a great moral story. I especially loved that the village girl outsmarted the raja using her intelligence, and distributed the rice not only to the villagers but to the nearby animals as well. The story can also be used to discuss social responsibility by discussing the raja’s role during the famine.

The first half of the story introduces the  raja and his relationship with the villagers. The reader watches the demise of the raja’s morals as he becomes selfish during the famine. Rani is clever in asking for just 1 grain of rice on the first day, 2 grains on the second day, 4 grains on the third day, and so on. Rani requested she receive double the amount of rice from the day before for 30 days. The second half of the book is about the math. In the beginning the grains of rice can fit in a small pouch, which becomes 1 heavy bag, to later requiring 8 royal deer to carry the rice bags, culminating on the final day with 256 elephants full of rice bags.The endpage contains  a chart showing exactly how much rice Rani received each day.

I normally think today’s kids aren’t interested in folktales, I was wrong. Apparently, my 6-year old had already heard this story in her pre-school and KG classrooms. When she saw it in my tote bag she ran to me with this and another Demi book, The Empty Pot (also really great, a tale of honesty) telling me how she loved both books and couldn’t wait to read them to me. I was pleasantly surprised. I asked my daughter what she liked most and it was the math – seeing the rice go from 1 grain to hundreds of thousands. She especially enjoyed the the fold out flaps needed to depict the 256 elephants on the last day.

Find One Grain of Rice at the following spots:
Kitaab WorldAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 059093998X
ISBN-13: 978-0590939980

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

March 6, 2012

The No. 1 Car Spotter and the Firebird

Title: The No.1 Car Spotter and the Firebird
Author: Atinuke
Illustrator: Warwick Johnson Cadwell
Publisher: Walker Publishing 2011
Themes: Family, Village Life, Understanding the world around
Ages: 6-10
Pages: 95

This is the second book in a planned series. In the previous book, we were introduced to village life in Africa through the eyes of a youthful, inventive, courageous boy, called No. 1. This book has a similar format of four stories with one leading into the next.

In the first story, No. 1 and the Catapult, we learn about village dangers when a leopard enters the village at night to steal goats. No. 1, who is ridiculed by friends and even family for not being able to use a catapult to help defend the family’s property, uses his noggin once again to come up with a clever, spicy idea which rids the village of the predator.

In the second story, No 1 and the Flood, a small flood in the region halts traffic that runs past the village. Once again, No 1 comes to save the day when he brings the Cow-rolla (from Book 1) to help transport people from one side of the road to the other. This story lightly touches upon class tensions. I did enjoy when Grandfather responded to the rich people “we only have public transport solutions here. People with private cars and aeroplanes have to find their own way. Unless you want to take the bus?

The third and fourth stories seemed like one larger story. Mama Coca-Cola’s traditional mud hut has a leaky roof and is in need of a new house. She jumps at No 1’s suggestion of building a modern concrete house. It seems that neither Mama Coca-Cola nor No 1 really understand everything about modern houses and concrete. No 1 almost gets stuck in the concrete when he tries to help out. Mama Coca-Cola realizes there are some unexpected downsides to having an iron roof and a four-cornered house, maybe Grandmother was right about traditional huts. Not to worry as No 1 figures out how to help Mama Coca-Cola and help her become the No 1 Chop House (restaurant).

In the end No 1 does get his dream come true when the university professor stops at the Chop House and wants to hear all about No 1’s ideas and gives him a ride in the famous red Firebird. What child doesn’t want to be discovered.

Overall the stories were entertaining, but I had a harder time relating to some of the situations. For instance the first story with the leopard, I felt that the villagers should have been more scared. Also, in the last story Mama Coca-Cola complains about flies liking the concrete house which is why her babies keep getting bitten at night. Why are the flies not an issue later when the house is used as a chop house (restaurant) instead of living quarters. In this book, I had a lot more questions like this and found it harder to just go with the flow of the story. Still a good book, and a series I would recommend.

This book was not available in the US libraries at the time of the interview. You can check WorldCat. I was able to get this book through the Interlibrary Loan system at my local library. Here is the most awesome thing, I think my copy of the book came from Great Britain!!! I love the public library system.

November 21, 2011

Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus

This book is the fourth book in the Anna Hibiscus series written by Nigerian author, Atinuke.

Anna Hibiscus is a young helpful, caring, brave, adventurous girl who lives in Africa. She has never been away from Africa, where she is surrounded by her parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Anna Hibiscus is going to go to Canada to visit her grandmother. There are a number of first experiences in this book for Anna Hibiscus: traveling on a plane, seeing snow, having a dog in your home, meeting Granny Canada, playing with kids from a different background. Anna Hibiscus beautifully handles the ups and downs, that come with experiencing a new culture and place. When it is time to return home to Africa she is sad to leave, but is anxious to tell her family about all the wonderful things she did like sledding, her best friend Qimmiq, and of course chocolate cereal!

This book has a great balance telling a story that any child could relate to and introducing aspects of multiculturalism.

Anna Hibiscus may be from Africa, but some of the experiences she has such as seeing snow, trying to make new friends, being around a dog for the first time. She could have easily been a girl from Florida visiting a cold, snowy, Canada for the first time. The author does a great job at capturing the excitement and the not so great things that come along with being in a cold environment. For instance being in a cold place means getting used to wearing lots of layers of clothing and being cold when you first get out of bed in the morning. But being able to see snow falling or go sledding makes it all worthwhile.

Aspects of multiculturalism can be observed, when you see Anna Hibiscus adapt to Western food which comes in packages and isn’t quite as spicy as her native food. But, she does love her new discovery chocolate cereal. She is afraid of dogs since in her hometown dogs are strays, running around carrying diseases. Neither she nor her family can fathom having a dog in your home. Anna Hibiscus learns a dog can be your best friend.

This book as so much heart, which is why I love it. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Anna Hibiscus responds back to a statement made about her inability to ice skate since she is African. Anna Hibiscus replies “My name is Anna Hibiscus … I could not skate because it was my first time. Not because I am African.” I love this line and only wish I had this book, when I was growing up in rural Pennsylvania as one of a handful of immigrant Indians. I love Anna Hibiscus’s courage to stand proud. One of the funniest scenes for me was early in the book when Anna and Auntie Jumoke are on the plane and Anna gets hungry. Auntie Jumoke comments on the food cart “That is not food … It is plastic, pretending to be food.” Auntie then pulls out of her bag boxes filled with their native food. This totally reminded me of my grandmother and Aunty who take food with them whenever they travel.

I think this book is applicable to all young girls no matter whether they be Caucasian, African, Asian, Latino, or any other place in the world. It has something for everyone.

Recommendation: Add to Home Library

Author: Atinuke
Illustrator: Lauren Tobia

Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus

This book is not readily available in many public libraries. If your local library does not have it I recommend using your library’s interlibrary system if possible. It is well worth the wait.

NOTE: This book was nominated by Madigan McGillicuddy for the 2011 Cybils Awards in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category. I am a first-round panelist in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!

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