Review: Choosing Brave : How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy and Janelle Washington is a stunning picture book biography that captures a difficult lesson in American history for young readers in a remarkably age-appropriate way. Choosing Brave follows the life of Mamie Till-Mobley, who was the mother of Emmett Till. Emmett Till was a young Black boy who was murdered after he allegedly whistled at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955. Mamie Till-Mobley’s response to this tragedy ignited the Civil Rights Movement and caused her to become The Mother of The Movement.

Title: Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and
Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement

Author: Angela Joy
Illustrator: Janelle Washington
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan Kids)
Published: September 6, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Choosing Brave documents Mamie’s childhood in which her family moved from Mississippi to Illinois during the Great Migration and follows along as she excels at school and graduates at the top of her class. Mamie becomes what many considered an “old maid” when she is unmarried at 18, so she is pressured to marry Louis Till. They have a little boy named Emmett shortly before Louis joins the army and leaves Mamie a widow at the age of 23.

Emmett is raised by Mamie and her mother, who cares for him while Mamie works. When he contracted polio as a child, Emmett recovered but developed a stutter. Mamie taught him a trick to help – by whistling, Emmett could take a moment to stop and get the words out. When he was 14, Emmett Till traveled to visit family in Mississippi, where his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River a little over a week after he arrived.

Since 1955, there have been many versions of the events that lead to the murder of Emmett Till. As someone who writes non-fiction, I know the challenges this kind of historical ambiguity can create for authors, but Angela Joy handles it flawlessly. She addresses the shifting story, but holds fast to the facts.

Even more impressive to me is the way that Choosing Brave handles the murder of Emmett Till in an age-appropriate way. When I say age-appropriate, I don’t mean that it is skipped over or minimized in any way. Angela Joy does not shy away from the brutality and injustice of Emmett Till’s murder, but directly addresses horrible truths that are too often left out of history books with poetic text. The juxtaposition of the beautiful lyrical language with the horrible act of violence is absolutely haunting.

The illustrations by debut illustrator Janelle Washington are absolute perfection. The paper-cut illustrations are so unique and incredibly moving on every single spread.

Choosing Brave captures the bravery, resilience, and grace of Mamie Till-Mobley, who shared her unimaginable grief and pain with the world. She bared her soul to the country and turned a tragedy into a movement for change. I have a feeling this book is going to win a lot of awards this year, and I cannot recommend it enough.

With extensive backmatter, including an author’s note, illustrator’s note, soundtrack, glossary, and timeline of the events of Emmett Till’s death (including the passing of The Emmett Till Antilynching Act in 2022) Choosing Brave is an absolute must-have for classrooms. I believe this is especially true for the classrooms of white children whose ancestors’ brutality and hatred are so often hidden from them “for their own good”.

It will be officially released next week (September 6, 2022), but you can preorder today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Roaring Brooks Press and Macmillan Kids for sending me a review copy of Choosing Brave. I am honored to share Mamie Till-Mobley’s and Emmett Till’s stories today.

About The Author:

Before graduating from the University of Minnesota, Angela Joy attended NYU and Spelman College. Angela then traveled as a background vocalist, also working in television and movie soundtracks. She lives in southern California with her family. To learn more about Angela and her work please visit her website at angelajoyblog.com.

About The Illustrator:

Janelle Washington is a self-taught paper-cut artist from Virginia. She has permanent silhouettes housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and Downing-Gross Community Arts Center in Newport News, Virginia. Please visit Jannelle’s website washingtoncuts.com for more information about her and her work.

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Review: Fighting for YES!: The Story of Disability Rights Activist Judith Heumann

Today I’m sharing a stunning picture book biography that captures the impact and influence of one of America’s greatest living activists. Fighting for YES!: The Story of Disability Rights Activist Judith Heumann celebrates the life and work of disability rights activist and icon Judith Heumann, highlighting one of her landmark achievements—leading the historic 504 Sit-in in 1977.

Title: Fighting for YES!: The Story of Disability Rights Activist Judith Heumann
Author: Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Illustrator: Vivien Mildenberger
Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers
Published: August 9, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Beginning with her childhood in New York, Fighting For Yes! highlights the many ways the world often told Judy “No”. As a child, she was turned away from multiple schools because she used a wheelchair. Though her family never treated her differently, the world held different expectations for her, and those expectations often meant she was not allowed to participate in the same activities as other kids her age.

Naturally, Judy turned to activism in her adult years. She spoke out against the unfair treatment of people with disabilities and the lack of accessibility at her university. When the New York Board of Education told Judy she couldn’t be a teacher because she used a wheelchair, she had finally had enough of the “No”s. She decided to sue the Board of Education, bringing the first disability civil rights case to a federal court. She contacted the media and rallied support for her cause. Because Judy fought back, she finally got a “Yes” instead of a “No”. She won her case and the New York Board of Education could no longer discriminate against teachers with disabilities.

But this wasn’t Judy’s major accomplishment. She went on to become an advocate for the disabled community, leading and founding organizations like Disabled In Action and The American Coalition of Citizens With Disabilities. It was with the support of this community of activists that Judy and her fellow demonstrators were able to successfully organize a sit-in lasting twenty-four days to pressure Congress to sign Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – an amendment that paved the way for the American Disabilities Act.

Fighting For Yes! wonderfully captures the fighting spirit of a woman who changed our country for the better, but I absolutely love the way it highlights the ways we can all fight for one another. Judy was a wheelchair user, but her activism didn’t stop at wheelchair access. She wanted to include ALL disabled people in her activism. This kind of inclusion is so necessary in every fight, and I love that Fighting For Yes! shares it with young readers.

Fighting for Yes! would make a wonderful addition to classroom and school libraries. The back matter contains an educational Author’s Note, as well as a note from Judith Heumann herself, giving young readers a personal look into her reflections on her achievements.

Though Fighting For Yes! officially releases next week (August 9, 2022), you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Abrams Books For Young Readers for sharing this inspiring picture book biography with me. I am so honored to be able to share Judith’s story with my readers today!

About The Author:

Maryann Cocca-Leffler is an award-winning author and illustrator of more than 65 books for children, including The Power of Yet and We Want to Go to School! The Fight for Disability Rights. She lives and works in Portland, Maine. Visit her at http://www.maryanncoccaleffler.com. 

About The Illustrator:

Vivien Mildenberger is the illustrator of a number of books for children, including All in a Drop and The Voice that Won the Vote. She lives on a lovely farm just outside of Nashville, where she works on her illustrations, pottery, and other general magic-making.

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Review: Kind Like Marsha

Today I’m sharing a book that I’m certain will be on my list of favorites for 2022. Kind Like Marsha: Learning From LGBTQ+ Leaders by Sarah Prager and Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday is a fantastic book that fills a huge hole in the picture book market.

Title: Kind Like Marsha: Learning From LGBTQ+ Leaders
Author: Sarah Prager
Illustrator: Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Published: August 2, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Kind Like Marsha is a picture book biography collection that shares the accomplishments of LGBTQ+ leaders throughout history for readers ages 4-8. I’ve seen lots of picture book biography collections with biographical information in the backmatter, but Kind Like Marsha is the first one I’ve seen that presents biographical information upfront in an approachable way for the youngest readers.

Beginning with Marsha P. Johnson, a trans woman whose activism supported LGBTQ+ youth in her community in New York, each spread has a portrait on the left and a biography on the right. The biography includes the subject’s name, dates, one sentence explaining their accomplishment, a quote from the subject, and the lesson we can all learn from them. I absolutely adore this format because it is SO approachable. Nonfiction can feel intimidating for so many young readers, but Sarah Prager has laid the information out in a way that invites young readers in.

The illustrations by Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday pair perfectly with the biographies, not just giving the reader a face to put with each name, but capturing each leader’s work in such a beautiful way.

Kind Like Marsha officially releases on August 2nd, and I can’t recommend it enough! You can pick up a copy wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Running Press Kids for sharing this amazing book with me. I can’t wait to read this one over and over to my little one.

About The Author:

Sarah Prager is the author of Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World and Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBTQ+ People Who Made History. She came out as lesbian when she was fourteen and feels grateful for her extended LGBTQ+ family and loves telling the stories of our shared history. She’s written for the New York TimesNational GeographicThe Atlantic, and many other publications about LGBTQ+ topics. Sarah lives with her wife and two children in Massachusetts.

About The Illustrator:

Cheryl “Ras” Thuesday is an illustrator originally from London and who grew up in New Jersey. Her illustrations are heavily influenced by her Caribbean and Asian heritage and she’s created artwork for various worldwide publications and companies. Cheryl lives in the Tri State area.

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Review: ‘Twas the Night Before Pride

I can’t believe Pride Month is only two days away! While I was trying to figure out where the month of May went, I thought of the perfect book to share as Pride approaches. ‘Twas The Night Before Pride by Joanna McClintick and Juana Medina is a beautiful picture book that honors the history of Pride.

Title: ‘Twas the Night Before Pride
Author: Joanna McClintick
Illustrator: Juana Medina
Published: May 10, 2022
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Format: Picture Book

‘Twas the Night Before Pride was one of my most anticipated picture books of 2022, and it did not disappoint! Told with the familiar rhyme scheme of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, this wonderful book tells the story of a family preparing to celebrate Pride. Sitting on a couch with one mom on each side, the oldest sibling prepares the youngest sibling for their first pride by telling them the history of this celebration.

This joyous story combines a comprehensive history with honest representation, creating the perfect Pride celebration for young readers. Discussing topics like the Stonewall Riots and the AIDS March in simplified terms for young readers, Twas the Night Before Pride pays respect to those in the LGBTQ+ community who fought against injustice and inequality throughout history.

The illustrations by Juana Medina are an absolute treat! Each page perfectly captures the joy and belonging I feel every year at Pride, allowing me to share it with my little one any day of the year. He will be attending his third Pride this year, and I can’t wait to share this wonderful book with him because I know he’s just as excited to celebrate as I am.

You can pick up your very own copy of ‘Twas the Night Before Pride wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Candlewick Press for sharing a review copy of ‘Twas the Night Before Pride. I already know this will become a beloved title in our home that we will read year after year, and I’m so grateful to be able to share it with everyone today.

About The Author:

Joanna McClintick is a debut children’s book author and a licensed social worker at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in Manhattan. When she was dreaming about building her family, she wrote this poem to honor Pride’s history of resistance and imagined sharing it with her future child one day. It has become a tradition to read it at their annual brunch the day before the Pride March with family and friends. Joanna McClintick lives with her wife and child in Brooklyn. You can learn more about Joanna and her work at her website, joannamcclintick.com.

About The Illustrator:

Juana Medina is the author-illustrator of Juana & Lucas, which won the 2017 Pura Belpré Author Award; Juana & Lucas: Big Problemas; Juana & Lucas: Muchos Changes; and many other titles and has illustrated numerous picture books, including Smick! by Doreen Cronin and I’m a Baked Potato! by Elise Primavera. Born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, Juana Medina now lives with her family in the Washington DC area. To learn more about Juana and her work, please visit her website at juanamedina.com.

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On Book Banning: An Interview with Banned Book Authors Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

In the last year, the US has seen a dramatic rise in book banning. Schools and libraries across the country are removing books about gender, race, sexual health, sexual orientation, and even the holocaust. It’s hard to discuss the rise in book bans without discussing the introduction of bills restricting schools from holding classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity. HB 1557 or the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” and others like it are being introduced in 22 different states.

These bills are said to, “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner”. In other words, these bills were written to allow parents to decide when their children should learn about the existence of LGBTQ+ people.

While some may believe these laws will protect their children, I’m here to tell you that they are dangerous for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they strip access from children who need these books. For many children, these books represent them, their families, and their community. What message are adults sending these children when they say those books don’t belong in school?

The conversation around these bills also implies that adults are harming children, and that children must be protected from the influence of queer adults. We see the lie that queer people are predatory repeated more and more with every bill that’s introduced. It’s a very old rhetoric gaining steam in the mainstream again. Rhetoric that I know to be false as a queer person who writes picture books.

I can’t speak for all queer writers, but I know that I write queer books because I know the pain of feeling “different”, “wrong”, or even just “other”. Growing up in rural Alabama (the same state that just passed their own “Don’t Say Gay Bill” with Bill 322), teachers didn’t read books about bisexuality. Not because it was illegal, but because we didn’t talk about identity at all in my community. In fact, no one said the word “bisexual” to me at a young age at all. I didn’t even have the words for what I was until I was a teenager. But that silence didn’t stop me from becoming who I am today. It didn’t stop my queerness. It just made me feel alone and broken. Today I write the books that I needed in my childhood, because there are still children who need them.

So, understandably, this whole topic has been hard for me to wrap my arms around lately. I knew I wanted to talk about it here, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach it. To my luck and delight, one of my favorite publicity contacts who works at Simon & Schuster reached out to me with the perfect idea. He asked if I would like to interview Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, the authors of one of the American Library Association’s most frequently banned books, And Tango Makes Three.

Title: And Tango Makes Three
Authors: Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Illustrator: Henry Cole
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Published: June 1, 2015
Format: Picture Book

This delightful picture book is based on the true story of two male chinstrap penguins who paired themselves up and tried to hatch an egg in their nest. When another penguin couple laid two eggs, a zookeeper stepped in to save the abandoned egg by giving it to the penguins. They hatched that egg and made their family grow by one. This wholesome book provides readers ages 4-8 with an approachable introduction to the concept of diverse family structures and creates “representation” for kids who might have two moms or two dads (who are obviously humans and not penguins).

Though it was originally published seventeen years ago, And Tango Makes Three continues to be included in the American Library Association’s list of most frequently challenged books.

Justin Richardson, MD, is the coauthor, with Peter Parnell, of the award-winning picture book And Tango Makes Three. Dr. Richardson is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia and Cornell and the coauthor of Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask). Dr. Richardson and his advice have been featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post, on the Today show and NPR’s Morning Edition, and in numerous magazines. Dr. Richardson lectures to parents and teachers on parenting and the sexual development of children.

Peter Parnell is the coauthor, with Justin Richardson, of And Tango Makes Three. He is a playwright whose plays have been produced at the Public Theater and Playwrights Horizons in New York City, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and the Seattle Repertory Company, among others. His play QED was produced on Broadway. He has written extensively for television as a producer for both The West Wing and The Guardian; he has also written episodes of Maurice Sendak’s series Little Bear. He lives in New York City.

Justin, Peter, thank you both for joining me today. I’m going to start with the question I always ask. What inspired you to write And Tango Makes Three?  

Justin had a longstanding interest in parenting and in children’s sexual development. Around the writing of his book with pediatrician Mark Schuster, Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know about Sex (But Were Afraid They’d Ask), he’d spoken widely with parents across the country about their challenges in talking to children about a range of issues related to kids and sex. One of the things that impressed him was the way parents, even those who wanted to raise their children with progressive ideas about sexual orientation, were haunted by the fear of speaking them about topics or with language that wasn’t “age-appropriate.” When we read the new coverage of Tango and her two dads, it was instantly clear that telling this story would give many parents the way in they were looking for to talk about the diversity of families in the world. 

More personally, we were working on having a child of our own at the time. We so wanted to be able to share literature that depicted a family like ours with our little one.

This title has been in ALA’s annual top 10 banned book list 9 times since it was originally published back in 2005. Did you ever imagine your adorable story about gay penguins would get this much backlash when you wrote it back then?

We thought there might be some resistance to Tango from conservative parents. But we never imagined the scale it would reach, nor could we have predicted how broadly the book would be celebrated and defended around the world. At first, there was nothing. The conservative press was almost eerily quiet. Then the documentary March of the Penguins came out. It was a huge hit, and conservative writers pointed to the movie as proof that monogamy was right and abortion wrong. Others countered, pointing to our book and arguing that by the same token, penguins also proved that homosexuality was natural. Michael Medved called Tango propaganda in USA Today, Frank Rich rebutted him in the Times, and the challenges began to roll in. Did we ever imagine that it would become the single most banned book in the United States or that the government of Singapore would decide to pulp every copy in its library system? Some things you just don’t anticipate.

As both a writer and reviewer, I generally try to stay focused on the target audience of children. Because that’s really who these books are for, right? When you interact with your audience, what kinds of reactions do you get from children? Have you ever had a child get as upset about the book as the adults around them seem to be?

If Tango works as a picture book, it’s because it offers children a story they understand and enjoy returning to. Two little birds, different from the others, deeply want something they probably can’t have. They try and fail. Then a kindly grownup gives them just what they need. And their dream comes true. When we turn the page and children see Tango burst out of her shell with her silly beak and feathers, there is always such joy in the room! Most of the questions we get from children are about penguins. Some about how you make a book. Occasionally a child will make the connection to their own family structure, or a friend’s. With older children, starting in the fourth grade, we may mention that the book has been banned. The looks of incomprehension are the most powerful rebuttal to the rhetoric we’re hearing from Florida legislators and their defenders. 

What would you say you learn from your readers? Have any of the children who read the book taught you something?

One of the most moving experiences we had was receiving an award from three schools in New York City where the 5th graders spent a year reading books and together selecting a recipient for award to honor one book they felt honored the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.. We all sat in the gym of one of the schools and listened as students from each school stood up and read aloud their essays about TANGO, of the lessons of tolerance and understanding towards members of the LGBTQ community that it gave them. They were extraordinarily sensitive essays. For us, it was a lesson in how the proper kind of teaching can engender the most sophisticated thinking from young readers.

If you could say anything to the lawmakers who are writing and passing these laws, what would you say?

Please read our book. Just sit quietly and read it. Then meet a child with two moms or two dads and read it to them. And allow yourself to reconsider the effect on this child of eliminating our book from their classroom.

I saw your article for The Washington Post mentioning other classics that should be reconsidered under the vague terminology of the Don’t Say Gay Bill and I just have to say the rule follower in me loves this idea of fighting back with malicious compliance. It’s brilliant! Do you think this could be a tactic teachers in Florida who are opposed to the bill could use in their classrooms to highlight the vague language of the bill?

Absolutely. The dead serious joke of our piece was that, since the law prohibits discussion and instruction about “sexual orientation,” countless books, including Make Way for Ducklings, which depict heterosexual animals forming and raising a family are just as impermissible as Tango. The law empowers parents to sue if these books are taught. Countless frivolous lawsuits over the reading of Ferdinand (“gender identity”) and Make Way for Ducklings seem very much in order. Have at it!

What other banned books would you recommend to parents who want to support the titles that are being challenged and banned in schools across America?

We are big fans of anything written by Robie Harris!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with Mutually Inclusive’s readers?

Thank you all for caring about literary freedom and standing up, in small ways or large, for books like ours!

Thank you so much to Justin and Peter for their thoughtful answers to all my questions. I also want to thank my friend, Alex, for making this interview possible and giving me a productive outlet for all my complicated feelings about these dangerous bills and the book banning they are encouraging.

If you would like to learn more about bills like these being passed in your state, check out openstates.org to track and follow your local legislation. You can also find your local representatives at commoncause.org and speak out about any bills you think will be harmful to your community.

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Celebrate Earth Day With These Books and Activities!

As we all celebrate Earth Day today, I wanted to share a few books that are perfectly paired with activities to bring some fun to everyone’s Earth Day celebrations.

Big Ideas For Little Environmentalists Series by Maureen McQuerry, Illustrated by Robin Rosenthal

Up first is a fantastic new board book series from Putnam Books For Young Readers called Big Ideas For Little Environmentalists. Perfect for fans of the Baby Scientist series, the BabyLit series, and the Feminist Baby series, Big Ideas For Little Environmentalists encourages small children to make a big impact. The series includes four titles written by Maureen McQuerry and illustrated by Robin Rosenthal, each highlighting a real life environmentalist and the impacts they made.

Inspired by each of the iconic environmentalists covered in the BIG IDEAS series, here are four Earth Day Activities from Maureen perfect for every Little Environmentalist!

Explore an All-Senses Scavenger Hunt with Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold’s childhood love for nature led to a life dedicated to protecting and preserving the environment, encouraging others to appreciate nature with all senses and without harmful activity.

Create an Earth Day bingo card with written prompts of things for your child to find around the neighborhood. When they find something that fits a description, have them draw a picture in the correct box. Make sure to include all senses, encouraging your child to touch, smell, see, and listen to the world around them. For example: find something that feels rough; find three things that are blue; identify an animal by its sound; describe three different scents from nature. Decide on a reward for completing the scavenger hunt.

Make a Nesting Ball with Rachel Carson

Some of Rachel Carson’s earliest observations of nature were of the birds in her yard. In the spring, birds look for material to build their nests.

For this activity, find a kitchen whisk and a piece of string or yarn to hang it from a tree. With your child, fill the wires in the whisk with sticks, leaves, moss, pet hair, and small strips of string, cotton fabric, or yarn. Hang it where birds can find it. Then watch and see which birds come. What do they look like? What materials do they like best? Draw a picture or tell a story about the birds that visit.

Plant a Seed of Hope with Wangari Maathai:

Realizing trees are important for the health of the land and all who live on it, Wangari Maathai worked to plant millions of trees to make the land healthy again.

To watch how seeds grow, you’ll need a small sealable plastic bag, some dry beans, tape, and a damp paper towel. Soak the beans in water overnight to get them ready to grow. The next day, dampen a paper towel, fold it, and place it in the bag. Add a few beans and seal the bag. Then tape it to a window that gets plenty of light. In three days to a week, the seed should split and begin to sprout. Every day the seed will grow and change. Soon there will be leaf buds and it will be time to plant it in the ground or in a flowerpot! Encourage your child to draw and journal changes in the plant and share with friends.

Build a Wonder Box with Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall taught others how to enjoy nature while also making sure the homes of animals aren’t suffering, saying “A naturalist looks for the wonder of nature.”

To create your child’s Wonder Box, find a box to hold small treasures, and decorate or label it with your child. Then, take a walk around your neighborhood, guiding your child to collect five special things; a feather, rock, piece of bark, flower petal, seed, etc. For objects that are too big or fragile to collect (a spiderweb, sunset, mountain peak), draw pictures or snap photos to put in the box. Continue to add to your child’s Wonder Box with each new nature adventure!

Apple and Magnolia by Laura Gehl, Illustrated by Patricia Metola

The second title I want to share is a beautiful picture book that celebrates unlikely friendships, and introduces young readers to the fact that trees can communicate with one another. Apple and Magnolia by Laura Gehl and Patricia Metola follows a young girl named Britta and her two favorite trees, Apple and Magnolia. I won’t spoil the story on this one, so I’ll just say Britta notices Magnolia’s branches drooping one day so she comes up with a creative way for Apple to help Magnolia make it through the winter.

The publisher, Flyaway Books, has kindly provided a free discussion and activity guide on their website with more information about tree communication. Flyaway Books and Laura Gehl have also provided this entertaining storytime for young readers to enjoy for Earth Day.

You can learn more about Laura Gehl and her other work by visiting her website lauragehl.com.

One Little Lot: The 1-2-3s of an Urban Garden by Diane C. Mullen, Illustrated by Oriol Vidal

Last but certainly not least is One Little Lot: The 1-2-3s of an Urban Garden by Diane C. Mullen and Oriol Vidal. This sweet counting book chronicles the transformation of an empty lot in an urban neighborhood as it becomes a beautiful community garden. Loosely based on the author’s experiences with her neighbors and their community garden in Minneapolis, One Little Lot celebrates community and the way we can come together and care for nature, even in a bustling city.

The backmatter contains an Author’s Note with information about honeybees and the ways they help plants grow, breed, and produce food. You can also visit Charlesbridge’s website at charlesbridge.com for a free activity kit including a discussion guide and four unique activities.

What activities are you taking part in for your Earth Day celebrations? Be sure to share in the comments below!

As for me and mine, we will be attending a local plant sale to support Teacher Appreciation Day at a school in our neighborhood. My little one got a cute gardening set as an Easter present last weekend, and we will be putting it to good use in the backyard of our new home.

However you choose to spend Earth Day, I hope you have a good one!

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Flashback Friday: Sylvia and Marsha Start A Revolution

No Women’s History Month should go by without commending the brave transgender women of color who started an LGBTQ+ revolution. So for today’s Flashback Friday, I am sharing Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution by Joy Michael Ellison and Teshika Silver, a picture book that does just that.

Title: Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution
Author: Joy Michael Ellison
Illustrator: Teshika Silver
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Published: November 19, 2020
Format: Picture Book

Though there are many versions of the story that kicks off the Stonewall Rebellion, Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution centers around the two transgender women of color who were at the the center of the revolution: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two activists who dedicated their lives to fighting for transgender rights. In this retelling, we follow along as Marsha stands up to a police officer at her birthday party on the night of June 28, 1969, inspiring others to do the same.

But the story doesn’t end there. Unlike most stories about Marsha and Sylvia, Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution highlights the fact that the pair founded a group called STAR to house transgender girls in need of housing, making this a great book to read to encourage children to make an impact in their communities.

The illustrations by Teshika Silver are bright and fun despite the heavy themes of transphobia and police brutality, reminding readers of the joy Sylvia and Marsha brought to the community despite the hate they faced.

You can purchase a copy of Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much the Jessica Kingsley Publishers for providing me with a review copy of Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution. I’m thrilled to be able to share Sylvia and Marsha’s story for Women’s History Month.

About The Author:

Joy Michael Ellison is a queer and non-binary trans writer, whose creative writing has appeared in publications including Columbus Alive, Lunch Ticket, the Baltimore Review, Story Club Magazine. They are a PhD candidate in Women’s and Gender Studies at Ohio State University, where they are researching transgender history.

About The Illustrator:

Teshika Silver is a queer, Black illustrator and designer. She is also teaching artist and facilitator and strives to create cultural work that uplifts, heals and promotes the resilience of marginalized people. She lives in Chicago with her dog, Penny.

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Review: Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers

I’m sharing another one of my Most Anticipated Titles of 2022 today, and I’m happy to report that it lived up to all my expectations. Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers by Lina AlHathloul, Uma Mishra-Newbery, and Rebecca Green is a stunning picture book inspired by Loujain AlHathloul, one of the leaders in the Saudi Women’s Rights movement.

Title: Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers
Author: Lina AlHathloul and Uma Mishra-Newbery
Illustrator: Rebecca Green
Publisher: mineditionUS
Published: March 1, 2022
Format: Picture Book

The real Loujain AlHathloul has been arrested four times for her activism, beginning in 2013 when she shared a video that her father filmed as she was driving (an illegal act for women in Saudi Arabia at the time). This fictionalized version of Loujain’s story follows a young Loujain as she yearns to fly like her Baba. Baba tells Loujain of a meadow filled with sunflowers, and it’s all Loujain can dream of. Though her peers don’t believe Loujain can fly, she knows she can learn and inspire other girls like her to learn in the process. This beautiful story is sure to inspire young readers to reach for the stars…or sunflowers.

The illustrations by Rebecca Green are absolutely incredible. Fans of How To Make Friends With a Ghost will find her familiar illustration style paired with bold color work this time around. I loved the warmth of the colors throughout, and especially the sunflower field.

Complete with backmatter that gives further information about Loujain AlHathloul and her work in the Saudi Women’s Rights movement, Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers is a wonderful selection for Women’s History Month lesson plans.

Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers is available wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to mineditionsus and Astra Publishing for providing me with a review copy of this empowering book. I am so thrilled to be able to share it with everyone today!

About The Authors:

Uma Mishra-Newbery and Lina AlHathloul are human rights activists. Lina is the sister of Loujain AlHathloul, the women’s rights activist formerly imprisoned by the Saudi government. Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers is their debut book. Learn more at loujaindreamsofsunflowers.com.

About The Illustrator:

Rebecca Green is the New York Times best-selling illustrator of Becoming a Good Creature, written by Sy Montgomery, and several other picture books, and the author/illustrator of How to Make Friends With a Ghost. Visit Rebecca at rebeccagreenillustration.com.

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Review: The Faith Of Elijah Cummings (PLUS GIVEAWAY!)

For the last day of Black History Month, I want to share another picture book biography celebrating the life of an icon of Black History. The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice by Carole Boston Weatherford and Laura Freeman shares the inspiring life story of Elijah Cummings.

Title: The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Publisher: Random House Kids
Published: January 11, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Beginning with his childhood in South Carolina as a child of sharecroppers, young readers follow Elijah’s journey all the way to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Congressional Black Caucus. Growing up in America in the 50’s, Elijah Cummings was no stranger to discrimination, segregation, or racism, and this picture book does not shy away from those subjects. Instead, Carole Boston Weatherford beautifully highlights Elijah Cumming’s faith and the way it allowed him to persevere and become a warrior for equality and change.

Laura Freeman’s illustrations pair perfectly with Weatherford’s text and bring Elijah’s story to life with every page turn. Fans of Standing on Her Shoulders and The Highest Tribute will be happy to see the familiar way she captures emotion in the faces of her subjects.

As Carole Boston Weatherford’s titles always do, The Faith of Elijah Cummings includes a wonderful backmatter. The timeline and excerpt from the Congressional Black Caucus would make a great addition to history lessons. The Faith of Elijah Cummings is a must have for school and classroom libraries!

You can purchase your copy of The Faith of Elijah Cummings today, wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Blue Slip Media and Random House Kids for sending me a review copy of this powerful book. I am honored to share Elijah Cummings’ story with readers today.

About The Author:

Carole Boston Weatherford, a two-time NAACP Image Award winner, is the author of the Newbery Honor Book Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom, as well as three Caldecott Honor Books, including Freedom in Congo Square and Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom. She also wrote Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins. Born in Baltimore, she first encountered Elijah Cummings when he was president of the Monumental City Bar Association, an affiliate of the National Bar Association, for which she was publicist. Weatherford teaches at Fayetteville State University, in North Carolina.

About The Illustrator:

Laura Freeman is a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honoree. Her work has been recognized with an NAACP Image Award, reached the New York Times bestseller List, and been honored by the Society of Illustrators, the Georgia Center for the Book, and in the annuals for Communication Arts and American Illustration. In addition to illustrating books, Laura’s art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards, and her editorial images are frequently seen in the New York Times and other periodicals. She invites you to visit her website, LFreemanArt.com, to discover more about her.


I am excited to announce that I am giving away a copy of The Faith of Elijah Cummings, along with a copy of Opal Lee and What it Means to be Free by Alice Faye Duncan and Keturah A. Bobo and My First Heroes: Black History by Silver Dolphin Books to help you bring Black history into your reading year round! You can find all the entry details on the Rafflecopter giveaway.

This giveaway is open to US residents only. One lucky winner will be notified via email on March 8, 2022. Good luck and happy reading!

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Review: Opal Lee and What It Means To Be Free

If you’re looking for a picture book biography to celebrate Black History Month, I have a great selection for you today. Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth by Alice Faye Duncan and Keturah A. Bobo is a beautiful picture book celebrating Opal Lee, a teacher and civil rights activist who led a movement to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

Title: Opal Lee and What it Means To Be Free
Author: Alice Faye Duncan
Illustrator: Keturah A. Bobo
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published: January 11, 2022
Format: Picture Book

In Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free, young readers follow along as Miss Opal Lee shares a Juneteenth story. Beginning with the history of Juneteenth, she recounts the stories passed down to her about June 19, 1865, when the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas were finally informed of their freedom two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was passed. Miss Opal Lee shares stories of Juneteenths from her childhood during the Jim Crow era, including the Juneteenth when her family’s Texas home was burned down by angry, racist neighbors.

Even through the discussion of the struggles faced by Black people throughout history, Alice Faye Duncan does a beautiful job of highlighting the joys in Opal Lee’s life and the celebration of freedom that Juneteenth is. As Miss Opal Lee says, “Good and bad work together like the sun and rain.”, and that balance is found throughout the entire book.

The illustrations by New York Times bestselling illustrator Keturah A. Bobo do not disappoint. She brings Opal Lee’s story to life on every page with her familiar style.

The backmatter contains a recipe for Juneteenth Red Punch, a timeline detailing the journey to Juneteenth being signed into law as a federal holiday by Joe Biden (With a 94 year old Opal Lee by his side), and detailed information about Opal Lee’s life, making it a great selection for classrooms, school libraries, and homeschoolers.

You can find your copy of Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free where books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Thomas Nelson for sharing this inspiring book with me. I am honored to be able to share Miss Opal Lee’s story with everyone today!

Abouth The Author:

Alice Faye Duncan is a National Board Certified Teacher, who writes for young learners. Memory is her motivation. She writes to help children remember important moments from African American history. Her books are celebrated for vivid imagery and lyrical texts that sound like music. Alice’s most popular titles include A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks; Just Like a Mama; Honey Baby Sugar Child; and Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which received a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Medal. Alice lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where at a young age, her mother nurtured her writing talent with prayer, poetry books, and praise. Her website is http://www.alicefayeduncan.com.

About The Illustrator:

Keturah A. Bobo is an artist and New York Times bestselling illustrator known for creating vibrant images that are relatable and distinguishable. She is passionate about creating art that inspires, uplifts, and advocates for her community. Keturah has received notable praises for her colorful illustrative style that brings the story to life and resonates with the viewer. She graduated with a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her family of entrepreneurs. Visit Keturah online at http://www.keturahariel.com.

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