Art Coulson’s Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army (2018)

Cover of the book Unstoppable by Art Coulson showing an illustration of Jim Thorpe running with a football

UnStoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army

Written by Art Coulson

Illustrated by Nick Hardcastle

Published by Capstone in 2018


Capstone, the publisher behind Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army, approached its author, Art Coulson (Cherokee), about writing a non-fiction children’s picture book focused on a 1912 college football game between Carlisle Indian School and West Point. In an interview for the blog Cynsations, Coulson notes: “This was a game that the press built up as a rematch of the Battle of Little Big Horn.” Coulson and illustrator Nick Hardcastle do a wonderful job making this snapshot of US history available to young readers in vivid detail that accounts for the difficult circumstances that led Jim Thorpe to the Carlisle Indian School. Coulson maintains a serious tone, at points just shy of celebratory, to bring the unstoppable Jim Thorpe’s story to life.

Coulson takes readers on a journey through Jim Thorpe’s life introducing him as a twelve-year-old football fan excitedly watching a college football game and imagining himself playing. Jim’s challenging childhood is noted but not lingered on, as is the lengthy history of Native American boarding schools which existed to force assimilation, often without the consent of children or their families.

Coulson focuses on Jim’s athleticism, the area of his life in which he truly was unstoppable. For instance, after leading Carlisle to victory against Army, his coach, Pop Warner, helped him train for the Olympics where he won many events, several in a pair of shoes he found in a trash can after his were stolen.

Coulson is generous with his praise, not only of Jim, but other members of the team and coach Warner. He details the creative plays they brought to the field and describes the team’s skill as strategy-based.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story but would have liked to see the historical significance of the game elaborated on. Perhaps I am just a greedy reader!

I appreciated the back matter, including an accessible description of Jim’s post-1912 accomplishments, short biographies of other Carlisle players, and a description of Carlisle Indian Industrial School that details the real horror of boarding schools.

I recommend this book for personal and school libraries. It is a well-researched and descriptive biography of Jim Thorpe that foregrounds the social, political, and familial hardships he negotiated in his remarkable life.

The publisher sent me a copy of the book for review

I reviewed the book for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019.



Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board!

*View our 2019 Medallion Sponsors here:

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Medallion Level Sponsors

Honorary: Children’s Book Council, The Junior Library Guild,

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat Babies, Candlewick Press, Chickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcito, KidLitTV,  Lerner Publishing Group, Plum Street Press,

SILVER: Capstone Publishing, Carole P. Roman, Author Charlotte Riggle, Huda Essa, The Pack-n-Go Girls,

BRONZE: Charlesbridge Publishing, Judy Dodge Cummings, Author Gwen Jackson, Kitaab World, Language Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ Languages, Lee & Low Books, Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, Redfin, Author Gayle H. Swift,  T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s Daughter, TimTimTom Books, Lin Thomas, Sleeping Bear Press/Dow Phumiruk, Vivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board

Honorary: Julie Flett, Mehrdokht Amini,

Author Janet Balletta, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Josh Funk, Chitra Soundar, One Globe Kids – Friendship Stories, Sociosights Press and Almost a Minyan, Karen Leggett, Author Eugenia Chu, CultureGroove Books, Phelicia Lang and Me On The Page, L.L. Walters, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Hayley Barrett, Sonia Panigrah, Author Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing Dreidels, Author Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu Kid, Tara Williams, Veronica Appleton, Author Crystal Bowe, Dr. Claudia May, Author/Illustrator Aram Kim, Author Sandra L. Richards, Erin Dealey, Author Sanya Whittaker Gragg, Author Elsa Takaoka, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo, Anita Badhwar, Author Sylvia Liu, Feyi Fay Adventures, Author Ann Morris, Author Jacqueline Jules, CeCe & Roxy Books, Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, LEUYEN PHAM, Padma Venkatraman, Patricia Newman and Lightswitch Learning, Shoumi Sen, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci Sorell, Shereen Rahming, Blythe Stanfel, Christina Matula, Julie Rubini, Paula Chase, Erin Twamley, Afsaneh Moradian, Lori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls Revolution, Soulful Sydney, Queen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Biracial Bookworms, Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon Reads, Educators Spin on it,  Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin Lee, Jump Into a Book, Imagination Soup,Jenny Ward’s Class, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Raising Race Conscious Children, Shoumi Sen, Spanish Playground

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual @McChildsBookDay Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party ( a prize every 5 minutes!). GO HERE for more details.


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Bey-Clarke and Clarke’s Keesha Series

I want to introduce readers to a small press worth following – My Family!/Dodi Press. My Family! specializes in reading material featuring diverse lesbian and gay parents swimming, vacationing, and preparing for science fairs with their happy children. The fact that the families are headed by same-sex parents is clear but not a theme explored.

Monica Bey-Clarke and Cheryl N. Clarke, the life partners, business partners, and co-writers running My Family! describe their goal as “creating a multi-cultural, positive and affirming library of children’s books that feature LGBT families.” They have succeeded and I think parents, educators, and librarians should take note. Along with books, My Family! offers diverse, LGB-inclusive coloring books and a board game.

A young black girl named Keesha and her two brown-skinned moms are featured in several books by the Bey-Clarke and Clarke, including the 2010 publication Keesha and Her Two Moms Go Swimming.

Keesha and Her Two Moms Go Swimming is a simple snapshot of a family’s day at a public pool. The book introduces readers to different family forms. For instance, Keesha’s best friend Trevor is at the pool with his two dads. It is a simple story with no major conflicts, which is refreshing in an LGB children’s picture book!

Keesha’s South African Trip is of a far better production quality. Although published six years after Keesha and Her Moms Go Swimming, Keesha seems to be about the same age. Her friend Trevor is reintroduced. The two children go to school together and learn about South Africa. Keesha is so excited she tells her moms all about what she learned and asks if they can go on a safari in Africa. They surprise her with the best birthday present ever – a trip to South Africa.

In South Africa, Keesha is introduced to new food and customs. She also gets to see some of the animals she learned about in school. When the family returns home, the bubbly and confident Keesha tells her class all about her adventure. Like Keesha and Her Moms Go Swimming, in Keesha’s South African Trip, Keesha is clearly a child with two mothers, but this fact is not commented on.

Keesha’s South African Trip is very engaging and warrants several reads. I appreciated the inclusion of South African foods and animals native to the region. It will be fun for young children, and many will appreciate the repetition of characters across texts in the two books.

The Keesha Series certainly serves an important niche in the LGB community and will be appreciated by many families for providing snapshots of same-sex couples parenting happy healthy children. Most books I come across with LGBT characters and themes deal with issues of inequality, shame, confusion, and bullying. It is important to be able to add books to the bookshelf that include lesbian and gay families without turning sexuality into a source of conflict.

Book Mail/Book Love

Book mail is one of my favorite things about blogging! I have stumbled upon some amazing publishers and authors creating important work that I am proud to add to my bookshelf and help promote!

If you are an author or publisher working on diverse, LGBTQ* inclusive, socially relevant books for children and young adults, please contact me!

I am happy to review and promote your work on my blog (1600+ followers), Twitter (1500+) followers, as well as on GoodReads and Amazon!

Zetta Elliott’s Dragons in a Bag

Dragons in a Bag by Zetta ElliottIf you or someone you know is over eight-years-old, you need a copy of Zetta Elliott’s urban fantasy Dragons in a Bag!

Dragons in a Bag introduces readers to Jaxon, a sweet and smart young boy with brown skin and unruly eyebrows. Jaxon’s father passed away and he lives alone with his mother who is estranged from her family. At the start of the book, the mother-son duo struggle to make ends meet and their landlord is trying to evict them. When Jaxon’s mother goes to court to fight the eviction, she drops her son off at the home of a woman she calls Ma. Jaxon reasonably assumes the surly woman is his grandmother, but family isn’t that straight forward in Dragons in a Bag – neither is anything else!

Jaxon and Ma get off to a rough start, but his warm personality and keen intelligence soon win her over. The two spend their day sharing a fantastic fast-paced adventure, and Jaxon learns a lot about family, himself, and MAGIC!

As it turns out, Ma is a witch and she is hosting dragons in her bag (hence the title). Ma and Jaxon travel through a gentrifying Brooklyn as well as more fantastical places in an attempt to safely deliver the dragons to their magical destination. Along the way, readers are introduced to many intriguing characters and ideas.

Jaxon’s emotional maturity and self-awareness of his race and class position will prompt young readers to consider the affects of stereotypes. For instance, Jaxon is a geography wiz and when this surprises Ma he reflects: “People never expect a kid like me to know anything about anything. I’m used to it, but it still bothers me sometimes” (9). This, along with the author’s sustained engagement with social and economic issues affecting lower-income urban black and brown populations will engage older readers and help prompt meaningful classroom and/or family discussions.

I am a huge fan of books that treat kids with dignity and respect, and Dragons in a Bag does this beautifully. It also provides readers with ways of thinking about the many forms family and community can take. All the characters work together and support each other creating a complex web of care.

This book will make a wonderful addition to personal and classroom libraries. I recommend it for readers between 8 and 12, although, older readers, like myself, will surely delight in it too!

Sequel, please!!

Learn more about the author.


Trying to make a list of my TOP 10 CYBILS AWARDS NOMINATED BOARD BOOKS/PICTURE BOOKS made me feel relieved I am not a Round 2 Judge! Unlike judges in this category I had not read all the titles, so take my list with a grain of salt. I DO love all of these books and I have reviewed most of them. I tried to create a list that reflects the diverse titles nominated.

10. All Are Welcome By Alexandra Penfold

9. The Book Tree By Paul Czajak; illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh

8. Islandborn By Junot Díaz

7. Julián Is a Mermaid By Jessica Love

6. C is for Consent By Eleanor Morrison

5. If You’re Going to a March By Martha Freeman, illustrated by Violet Kim

4. You Can Be By Elise Gravel

3. Drawn Together By Minh Lê

2. Prince & Knight By Daniel Haack

1. Families By Jesse Unaapik Mike and Kerry McCluskey; Illustrated by Lenny Lishchenko

Families is #1 by me. It’s published by Inhabit Media, an Inuit-owned small press that brings amazing #ownvoices children’s literature into the world. I love that the book celebrates diverse family formations and represents indigenous peoples in a non-romanticized contemporary setting that organically incorporates cultural specificity while dealing with universal issues.

Du8Fv8YXQAIbvg0.jpg largeThe Armchair Cybils Shortlist Contest

Demand Inclusive Children’s Culture, Get it from Flamingo Rampant

Flamingo Rampant is a small-press committed to producing racially and ethnically inclusive, feminist, and LGBTQ*-positive children’s picture books. The press was founded by S. Bear Bergman and j. wallace skelton. Over a dozen books are now available!

Flamingo Rampant is currently raising money through a Kickstarter campaign for their next set of six titles to be published August 2019.

The Lamestream Publishing Industry

In an interview with The Queue, Flamingo Rampant co-founder S. Bear Bergman stated that mainstream publishers rejected his books because they couldn’t imagine a market for radically inclusive queer positive children’s literature. Miriam Zoila Pérez troubles the assumption of mainstream publishers in an article for Colorlines noting: “While it may be conventional wisdom that white kids won’t read books featuring people of color, and that boys won’t read books featuring girls, there isn’t much research actually supporting it–meaning we may be able to turn the tide by introducing kids to a wider range of stories at a young age.”

I started blogging at because I believe all children deserve books that reflect their lives and all children deserve books that don’t. As adults we are accountable to our children. We need to demand inclusive children’s culture of the quality Flamingo Rampant delivers.

Queer World Making

When asked by The Queue how being a parent influenced his writing choices Bergman responded: “I started to think, what does this do to someone’s dreamscape? What does it mean to populate their imagination with stories? I also became very aware of my worldbuilding. I didn’t want to create an alternate reality in which children would feel alienated, or that they wouldn’t be able to access.”

I love this so much. In my academic work I often describe children’s literature, especially LGBTQ* children’s literature, as a world making project. Books give children vocabulary and vision. We should treat children and their culture, a culture adults are largely responsible for making, with dignity and respect, while empowering them to be world makers themselves. Flamingo Rampant will help them dream big and encourage them to put positive things into the world today! I mean that, really I do, check out these titles!

Why Should I Donate or Pre-Order?

In an article for Plenitude: Your Queer Literary Magazine, DJ Fraser describes why Flamingo Rampant crowdfunds: “Crowdsourcing startup money let Bear actually pay his team of producers, something that is often missing from many independent publishing venues. An important part of Bergman’s vision was initially to reward his artists for their work, and not force them into artistic burnout with no return.”

Flamingo Rampant is putting such important work into the world! Let’s support them. You can donate to their Kickstarter campaign or pre-order their next set of 6 releases! These books make great contributions to classroom, school, or public libraries. We need to help put these stories into the world!

Back the Project!



Bai Phi’s A Different Pond

A Different PondIn A Different Pond, author, Bao Phi, and illustrator, Thi Bui, both Vietnamese Americans, create a necessary and impactful story that is both a tribute to their working-class new immigrant childhoods and a valuable #OwnVoices contribution to children’s literature. The story is anchored in a purposeful fishing trip a father and son take to secure food for the family. Rich colors and a creative use of panels provide intimate portraits of the duo.

This accessible first-person narrative, told from the child’s perspective, unfurls like an intimate memory.

The story engages myriad social themes gently, enveloping them in the primary story of a father and son’s unique bond. But that doesn’t mean they are buried. Issues of war and death, poverty and hunger, immigration and xenophobia, are presented with sophistication and dignity.

The story begins with father and son quietly preparing to exit their home in the middle of the night. The two will go fishing to secure dinner, a trip they have taken before. On their car ride, the boy-narrator introduces an experience of xenophobia, noting that his father’s accent reminds his peers of “a thick, dirty river.” However, he doesn’t let this interpretation stand, asserting that to him it “sounds like gentle rain.”

The challenge of feeding one’s family is subtly explored when father and son stop at a bait store to purchase minnow and the “bait man,” himself at work in the middle of the night, asks why they are out. The father explains that he has begun working a second job on weekends and must catch fish for the family’s meal before he goes to work. In another instance, the boy-narrator describes his father’s hands as callused.

A sense of loss is captured when the father reminisces about fishing at a similar pond as a child and the boy asks if he fished with his brother. The father turns away at the mention of his brother. The boy-narrator confides: “Dad tells me about the war, but only sometimes. He and his brother fought side by side. One day, his brother didn’t come home.”

Father and son share a quiet intimacy gorgeously portrayed by Thi Bui. In one image they are represented facing the lake, father has one hand on a fishing pole and another on his son’s back, sweetly portraying their relationship.

When they arrive home the rest of the family is awake. The boy and his mother clean the fish before his parents must go to work, leaving the young boy in the care of his older siblings.

As the child sits on his couch waving good-bye to his father, who rides off to work on a bicycle, he shares that he is sad, but not too sad. Then he imagines the dinner his large family will share and is proud of his contribution.

Socially relevant, artistic, and lyrical, this book belongs on everyone’s bookshelf. A Different Pond is a story that needs to be told and both writer and illustrator render it with specificity and depth. This is an immigrant story like none I have read before and I am so glad books like this are available for young people.

(I am not the only one raving about it. A Different Pond is a 2018 Caldecott Honor Book).