My name is Jennifer and I’m a 30-something with a doctorate in Cultural Studies and a MA in Literary Studies. I also have a toddler. I didn’t give children’s picture books much thought until I was pregnant; until then my research focused on “grown-up” culture: films, literature, even pornography. But, as a Lefty mama with a PhD I understood the role cultural texts, like picture books, play in shaping how we perceive ourselves, the world, and all the people in it (and the animals, environments, ideas, ext.). I wanted the hours a week I knew we’d spend reading to help my child understand the most important lesson I think a parent can teach – you are good if you do good.
This blog reviews some of our favorite children’s books. I hope it helps other parents find awesome books! Feel free to email recommendations, comments, and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Publishers and Authors: I review diverse, LGBTQ* inclusive, and social justice themed children’s picture books, early chapter books, middle grade books, and young adult books. I prefer hard copies (especially for children’s picture books and graphic novels). But, I understand the cost can be prohibitive and accept E-books. *It is currently taking me 4 – 6 weeks to review picture books and 8 – 12 weeks to review MG and YA. Email me with requests at email@example.com.
How to use the blog: Scroll down, discover great books, buy the books, read the books!
Written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation, provides a creative take on the nurturing team of Black intellectuals and activists King surrounded himself with as he worked to make meaningful social and economic change. The important picture book offers an inventive behind-the-scenes look at King before, during, and after his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Continue reading
The Dragon Thief is Zetta Elliott’s follow-up to her middle-grade urban fantasy novel Dragons in a Bag. Elliott’s second installment picks up where the first book in the series left off, taking readers on a fantastical journey through the culturally diverse streets of New York City as children and elders work together to bring balance to material and magical realms by returning a not-so-little dragon to its home and family.
Dragons in a Bag is told from the point-of-view of Jaxon, a clever and kind boy who discovers magic for the first time and learns to be courageous in the face of otherworldly adversity. Jaxon remains an important character in The Dragon Thief, but he is joined by Kavita, his best friend Vik’s little sister. In Dragons in a Bag, Kavita stole one of the three baby dragons Jaxon was supposed to transport to the magical realm, so he can only transport two dragons. Because of this, his mission is incomplete. In The Dragon Thief Jaxon struggles to find the third dragon so he can keep it safe and reunite it with its family. Continue reading
Lindsay Lackey’s All the Impossible Things (2019) swept me away like a discarded paper bag on a windy day. It’s a beautiful story that is skillfully written and carefully paced with brave characters who love each other the best they can. I enjoyed it immensely and think you will as well.
At the center of the story is twelve-year-old Ruby “Red” Byrd. Red is in foster care after losing her grandmother to cancer and her mother to addiction. Reuniting with her incarcerated mother is a hope that lingers throughout the text, as do reminders of her relationship with her grandmother. This is a little girl who has known fierce love, even if the two women who loved her ultimately couldn’t care for her. Continue reading
Michael Willhoite’s Daddy’s Roommate was published in 1990 by Alyson Wonderland, the children’s literature imprint of Alyson Books, and was one of its top grossing children’s books of all time.
The simply told story is narrated by a young boy about a year after his parents’ divorce. His father has moved in with a man named Frank. Colorful illustrations show Frank, the boy’s father, and the boy in typical family scenes. Additionally, several images paired with brief descriptive text show Frank and the boy’s father engaged in everyday household activities from cleaning and eating to sleeping, all of which they do together. Continue reading
Welcome, Otis!, written and illustrated by Laurie Ingersoll, is a quirky picture book that delivers an important lesson about loving someone with special needs even when it is difficult.
Readers are introduced to Otis when a cat named Mouse and a mouse named Moose startle him while on a walk. Mouse understands that they must have alarmed the “bundle of feathers” with a “bright colored tail” and has the foresight to stay calm and be gentle with the nervous Otis. Once Otis relaxes he shares his story with them. It turns out Otis fell from a tree before learning to fly and is now all alone in the world. Mouse and Moose decide they will let Otis live with them so they can help him. Continue reading
Have I mentioned how much I adore Penny Candy Books?? I have never met a Penny Candy Books’ publication I haven’t loved.
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I reviewed their amazing upcoming release by Danni Gabriel, Sam!, about a transgender boy coming out to his Latinx family as well as other titles, like the much needed A Card for my Father by Samantha Thornhill. Thornhill’s book explores how incarceration influences families from the point-of-view of a little girl who has never met her father.
If you are not familiar with Penny Candy Books, check them out. They offer dozens of titles that explore socially relevant topics told with brilliant and beautiful cultural specificity.
A Tale of Two Daddies, written by Vanita Oelschlager and illustrated by Kristin Blackwood and Mike Blanc, tells the story of a young girl and what life is like with her Daddy and Poppa. A friend asks her a set of questions about which dad has which role in her life, ie which makes breakfast, which coaches soccer, etc. She answers with either Daddy, Poppa, both, or neither. The questions and following answers are all told in rhyme, which is catchy for kids. Continue reading