With summer winding down, I’d like to share a beautiful picture book that has me wishing for one last summer vacation. Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal are back at it again with the third installation of the Over and Under series, Over and Under The Canyon—a stunning picture book that captures all the wonder the desert has to offer.
Title:Over and Under The Canyon Author: Kate Messner Illustrator: Christopher Silas Neal Publisher: Chronicle Books Published: September 7, 2021 Format: Picture Book
Like the previous books in the series, Over andUnder The Pond and Over and Under the Snow, this new addition combines lyrical prose with incredible illustration, creating an engaging and highly visual narrative.
Inspired by Kate Messner’s experiences camping with her family at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California, Over and Under the Canyon takes young readers on a tour of a desert canyon ecosystem as they follow a mother and her child on a hike. On their hike, they see the variety of animals that call the desert home, from the hawks flying over the canyon to the harvester ants burrowing underground. The pair hikes on through the sweltering sun to find a field of wildflowers, then back to their campsite where the father waits for them. The family then spends the night under the stars, listening to the sounds of the desert canyon.
Those of you who know me well already know that I am not the outdoors type (well, not in the Gulf Coast humidity, anyway), but Over and Under the Canyon made me want to get up and go see the wonders of nature. I’ve forgotten the magic that can be found in an afternoon hike, and this lovely book illustrates it perfectly. The illustrations by Christopher Silas Neal are absolutely stunning. Seriously, they had me ready to pack a bag and find the nearest desert!
I also appreciate it when nonfiction doesn’t feel like work. The progression of the story introduces all the various aspects of the ecosystem so effortlessly, making this both an educational and entertaining read for children. The back matter contains further detail about the 24 animals found throughout the hike for young readers who would like to delve deeper. Over and Under the Canyon is perfect for parents, nature lovers, educators, and librarians looking to add engaging nonfiction to their collections, and of course fans of Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal’s previous work on the Over and Under Series.
Over and Under the Canyon officially releases next week (September 7, 2021), but I would highly recommend preordering your copy today. You can preorder anywhere 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 Chronicle Books for sending a review copy of Over and Under the Canyon. I cannot wait to read this one to my little one and nurture his love of the great outdoors.
About The Author:
Kate Messner is the award-winning author of Over and Under the Snow, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, Over and Under the Pond, The Brilliant Deep, Over and Under the Rainforest, and How to Read a Story, as well as more than a dozen other books for young readers. Kate lives on Lake Champlain with her family.
Christopher Silas Neal is the award-winning artist of Over and Under the Snow, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, Over and Under the Pond, and Over and Under the Rainforest. His work has been published in a variety of books and magazines and featured on television. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn.
Did you know that the peace symbol was developed in 1958 by an activist in London protesting nuclear weapons? Well, I didn’t until I read Three Lines in a Circle by Michael G. Long. This wonderful picture book provides young readers with a history behind the peace symbol and the man who created it.
Title: Three Lines in a Circle Author: Michael G. Long Illustrator: Carlos Vélez Publisher: Flyaway Books Published: August 31, 2021 Format: Picture Book
ThreeLines in a Circle introduces young readers to Gerald Holtom, the man who designed the popular symbol, and the many peace movements that the sign has been a part of. Beginning with the London to Aldermaston March against nuclear weapons, all the way to nationwide protests for racial justice in 2020, readers will follow along as the world embraces Gerald’s symbol and demand peace, justice, and equality.
The illustrations by Carlos Vélez are so wonderful! I love the way the peace sign is sprinkled throughout the illustrations, creating a perfect opportunity to engage readers by finding them throughout the story.
The back-matter contains an informative author’s note, along with a timeline of peaceful protests across the world. Opening the door to further history lessons, Three Lines in a Circle would make a great addition to classroom and school libraries.
Three Lines in a Circle officially releases next week (August 31, 2021), but you can preorder your copy today at 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 Flyaway Books for generously providing an advance copy of Three Lines in aCircle for me to review!
About the Author:
Michael G. Long has written books for all ages on civil rights and peacemaking in mid-century America, including the stories of Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin, Jackie Robinson, and Mister Rogers. He lives in Pennsylvania.
About The Illustrator:
Carlos Vélez has illustrated more than twenty books for children and has been recognized with illustration awards from the Catalog of Illustrators of Children’s and Youth Publications and the National Fund for Culture and the Arts. He lives in Mexico City.
If you’re looking for a picture book biography about a lesser known artist with a unique story, I have the perfect pick for you today. Make Meatballs Sing: The Life and Art of Corita Kent by Matthew Burgess and Kara Kramer shares the remarkable life story of Corita Kent, an artist, educator, nun, and activist who unapologetically spread a powerful message of love and justice.
Title:Make Meatballs Sing: The Life and Art of Corita Kent Author: Matthew Burgess Illustrator: Kara Kramer Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books Published: August 24, 2021 Format: Picture Book
Make Meatballs Sing introduces readers to Corita Kent when she was known as Frances Elizabeth Kent, a young girl who loved to read, draw, and daydream throughout her childhood in Hollywood, California. As a teenager, young Frances shocked those closest to her by following her religious calling and joining the Order of The Immaculate Heart, becoming Sister Mary Corita. Through her duties as a nun, Corita continued to follow her passion for art and creativity, teaching young children and eventually joining the art department of the Immaculate Heart College, where she studied art history and printmaking. Corita became an accomplished teacher, sharing the art of serigraphy, or silkscreen.
Corita’s religious beliefs had a great influence on her work, but she was also inspired by the Civil Right Movement. She often spoke out against poverty, war, and injustice in her work, which didn’t always go over well with the leaders of the Church, but did make her a recognized and celebrated public figure who left a mark on the world.
The illustrations in Make Meatballs Sing are fantastic! Kara Kramer perfectly captures the spirit of Corita Kent’s work. The range of bright colors, textures, fonts and patterns on every page mirror Corita’s prints, providing the perfect backdrop for her fascinating story.
The extensive back matter featuring a timeline and informative author’s and illustrator’s notes also make this a fantastic selection for classroom and school libraries.
Make Meatballs Sing will officially be released next week (August 24, 2021), but you can preorder your copy today. Preorders are 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 Enchanted Lion Books for sharing a review copy of Make Meatballs Sing with me. I am so honored to share this loving tribute to Corita on Mutually Inclusive today!
About The Author:
Matthew Burgess is a full-time professor at Brooklyn College and a part-time teaching artist in New York City public schools. He was fascinated by the lives of saints as a child, and now he loves sharing the stories of his artistic heroes with young readers. Matthew is also the author of Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings and Drawing on Walls: A Story of Keith Haring. He lives with his husband in Brooklyn and Berlin.
Kara Kramer is a mixed media artist, and illustrator who loves to PLORK with all mediums. She has taught creative art workshops for both children and adults. Ever since she was little, her happiest hours are spent moving her hands to make something new. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her family.
Today marks the 65th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and I can’t think of a better title to share for Flashback Friday than The Teachers March: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace. Originally released in September 2020, this picture book shares the story of Reverend F. D. Reese and the 1965 Selma Teachers’ March.
Title:The Teachers March: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History Author: Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace Illustrator: Charly Palmer Publisher: Calkin’s Creek Published: September 29, 2020 Format: Picture Book
Reverend F. D. Reese was a science teacher at R. B. Hudson High School who encouraged 104 Selma, Alabama teachers to march from the school to the county courthouse to demand the right to register to vote. The Teachers March follows his journey, along with the other teachers who were often seen as “respectable” members of society who had “better sense than to march”. The teachers were afraid they would lose their jobs or be arrested if they spoke up, but with the help of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Reverend F. D. Reese convinced the teachers that the vote was worth fighting for and organized the Teachers March of 1965.
The teachers of R. B. Hudson High School were not granted the right to register to vote on that January day in 1965, but they did inspire others to march, including beauticians, barbers, undertakers, and even their own students. That summer, with Selma jails filled with thousands of citizens who demanded the right to vote, including many schoolchildren, the Voting Rights Act was passed.
Though The Voting Rights Act was passed back in 1965, voting rights are still under attack today. Since 2013, The US has seen a rise in voter suppression laws, including discriminatory voter ID requirements, polling place closures, blocking access to voting by mail, and even a law that prohibits providing water to voters waiting in line. It is imperative to share the stories of how freedoms were won with children today so they can understand what is at stake. When my son learns of the voter suppression that is taking place in this country, I want him to know that it is a direct affront to the thousands of men and women who put their jobs, bodies, and lives on the line to stand up for “freedom and justice for all”. The Teachers March is a wonderful resource to help him make that connection.
Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace carefully detail the events of the march, and do not omit the “uglier” truths of injustice faced by Black citizens in the sixties. They highlight the fact that teachers taught their students the Constitution every day, though they were not granted the freedoms promised in it. They do not shy away from the rage, hatred, and violence faced by the protestors who were demanding equality.
The backmatter provides both an Authors’ note and Illustrator’s Note. The Authors’ note provides further detail on several teachers who participated in the March, highlighting their lives after the march. I especially appreciated the Illustrator’s Note from Charly Palmer. In this note, he shares that he hired a photographer to restage images from the Teachers March, which he used as his source material. I found the idea so creative, and it clearly worked! The illustrations instantly take readers to that day in 1965, proving an authentic atmosphere for the story.
I am ashamed to admit that I never heard of Reverend F. D. Reese until I read The Teachers March. As a child in an Alabama public school, I was required to take Alabama History in the fourth grade. Regretfully, I did not learn about the Teachers March of 1965 or Reverend Reese back then. This is a prime example of the need to explore an accurate and inclusive history lesson in our classrooms today. The Teachers March fills a gap left in many textbooks, and is an absolute must have for the classroom.
You can find a copy of The Teachers March 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 Boyds Mills & Kane for providing me with a review copy of this amazing book. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to share it with the children in my life, ensuring they know more about the history of the state they live in than I did at their age.
About The Authors:
Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace are award-winning writers of nonfiction titles including First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great and Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and His Sacrifice for Civil Rights, which won the International Literacy Association’s Social Justice Award and a YALSA Award nomination for Excellence in Nonfiction. Sandra’s picture-book biography Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery is the NCTE 2019 Orbis Pictus winner for Outstanding Nonfiction. You can find them online at sandraneilwallace.com and richwallacebooks.com.
About The Illustrator:
Charly Palmer is an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator. He also teaches design, illustration, and painting, most recently at Spelman College. His two recent picture books are There’s a Dragon in My Closet and Mama Africa, which won the 2018 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award. Please visit Charly online at www.charlypalmer.com.
It’s time for another Author Spotlight, and I am so excited that today’s Author Spotlight is also a Book Tour Stop for Rochelle Melander’s newest release Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing.
Rochelle Melander wrote her first book at seven and has published 11 books for adults. Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing is her debut book for children. She’s a professional certified coach, an artist educator and the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for young people. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband, children, and two dogs. Visit her online at writenowcoach.com or rochellemelander.com
Thank you so much for joining me today! I am so excited to chat with you today, but I was hoping you might start us out by introducing yourself, and telling us a bit about your latest release Mightier Than The Sword: Rebels, Reformers& Revolutionaries Who Changed The World Through Writing.
Thanks so much for welcoming me to your blog! I’m excited to be here.
Let’s start with the important things: I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, not far from Lake Michigan with two dogs, two kids, and my husband, who is also a writer. My family keeps me grounded.
I own the business, Write Now! Coach and coach writers and students who struggle to overcome procrastination and distractions to get their work done. I also edit and do freelance writing. Mightier Than the Sword is my 12th book, and my first book for young people. I’ve wanted to write for young people for a long time, and I am delighted to finally have that chance!
Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing is a middle grade social justice book that tells the stories of historical and contemporary writers, activists, scientists, and leaders who used writing to make a difference in their lives and the world. The stories are accompanied by writing and creative exercises to help readers discover how they can use writing to explore ideas and ask for change.
Title: Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World through Writing Author: Rochelle Melander Illustrator: Melina Ontiveros Publisher: Beaming Books Published: July 27, 2021 Recommended Ages: 8-13 Years Format: Hardcover
What inspired you to write Mightier Than the Sword?
I’ve been teaching writing to young people for many years. I often use mentor texts as writing prompts—maybe the poems of Richard Wright or Langston Hughes. I tell them stories about the writers, too. Young people liked hearing stories of people like Maria Merian, who at 13 designed an experiment to study the life cycle of silkworms. I also found stories online about young people who wrote to change the world—people that wouldn’t normally be included in a book. After using these stories for years, I felt like it was time to create a resource so that I could share these stories and writing exercises with young people.
Mightier Than the Sword is such a unique book in that it’s both a biography collection and a collection of writing prompts. How did the idea for such a unique format come to you?
I love books that are interactive, that invite the reader to participate in some way. My last book, Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination, and Increase Productivity invites readers to take on quests to understand and improve their work habits. I wanted Mightier Than the Sword to share the stories about mentors and then encourage young people to write. The writing prompts enabled me to do that.
You cover so many wonderful writers in Mightier Than the Sword, (I think I counted 140 including the mini-biographies peppered throughout) spanning from 978 to present day. There are so many people throughout history who have changed the world with writing. I know it must have been hard to narrow down your selection. How did you select the writers you included?What was the research process like? It must have been quite an undertaking!
I have been collecting names and stories for years. To develop the list, I read many anthologies, searched online, and talked to history and English professors. Then I chose an array of people based on three criteria:
Representation. I wanted children to find a diverse cast of people from a wide range of cultures, life experiences, and writing styles.
Diverse disciplines. I wanted young people to see the unique ways people use writing in their work.
Recognizability. I wanted young people to open the book and recognize some of the writers.
Once the book was accepted by the publisher, we worked together to finalize the list.
Then, I started reading and writing. For each person or document, I read an article on Wikipedia or a history website (https://besthistorysites.net/general-history-resources/). If possible, I read primary sources. Next, I turned to biographies and other history books. After I wrote the chapter, I would often go back through these resources to check my facts.
I wrote the book during the pandemic. I was very lucky. When I had a sense that the libraries were going to close, I spent a wild weekend running around to various libraries in town, checking out books. I think I had over 100 books checked out during that time. And during the research process, I purchased a few books as well.
I know it sounds like a lot of work, and it was—but I really enjoyed digging into the lives of these writers!
Not to ask you to play favorites, but were there any standout subjects that were more fun to research or write about?
I found Charles Darwin’s story to be helpful and inspiring. He goofed off in grade school, skipping out to wander the woods or do chemistry experiments with his brother. (Don’t think he was being studious—he made laughing gas!). He went to college to study medicine but didn’t like it. Then he tried divinity studies (Rev. Darwin?). All along he was chasing after beetles, which was a popular pastime in his day. His father thought he was a failure. A trip around the world launched his career as a naturalist. He spent the rest of his life doing experiments and writing books—while working about 3 hours a day. He was a great dad, keeping detailed journals about their development (they may have been a science experiment to him). And when On the Origin of the Species was published, he spent much of his time promoting his book: by writing letters! I was inspired that Darwin wasn’t the typical overachiever and yet, when he followed his passion, he achieved so much.
The portrait illustrations by Melina Ontiveros are so great, and I love that we get a face to put with the names and stories of each writer featured. I believe Mightier Than The Sword is your first illustrated title? How was your experience working with an illustrator?
Melina is wonderful! I didn’t actually work with her—all the briefings went through my editors. But we’ve gotten to know each other on Instagram and email. She’s going to be a guest on my blog next week (writenowcoach.com/blog). And I hired her to make a Mightier-like portrait of me!
You’ve been writing since you were young, and now assist young writers through your writing workshop Dream Keepers. What books or authors inspired you to write the most as a child?
Hands down, Madeleine L’Engle. In second grade, I fell in love with A Wrinkle in Time. When I was in my first job, I learned she was going to be presenting at a conference in a town nearby. I was lucky enough to meet her. I was also inspired by poets and playwrights. When I was 6, a friend gave me the book, I See a Poem. I read that book so many times. As a teen, I read the play, The Belle of Amherst by William Luce, and fell in love with Emily Dickinson and her poetry. (My favorite was, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”) I kept a commonplace book, where I copied down quotes and poems I liked. And, I had notebooks where I wrote bad poetry!
Mightier than The Sword is a perfect selection for classrooms with so many writing prompts to choose from. If teachers and young readers only take one thing away from Mightier Than the Sword, what would you want it to be?
I want young readers to see that there are many different kinds of writers and many ways to write. I want Mightier Than the Sword to be an invitation to them, letting them know that the world needs their ideas and stories and activism.
I hope teachers will be inspired by the many types of writing—and use the book as a supplement to their curriculum.
Those are all of my questions. Thank you again for taking the time to answer them all! Is there anything else you’d like to share with Mutually Inclusive’s readers?
Thanks so much for having me. I have a blog where writers talk about how to use their books in the classroom. Feel free to stop by: themightywriters.com.
It’s Flashback Friday again, and today I am sharing one of my favorites genres—a picture book biography! Originally released in April 2020, Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera is a stunning example of the powerful way picture books can bring historical figures to life for young readers.
Title:Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks Author: Suzanne Slade Illustrator: Cozbi A. Cabrera Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers Published: April 7, 2020 Format: Picture Book
Exquisite details the life of Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize, from her childhood surrounded by books to her celebrated career sharing the stories of the people of the neighborhood she grew up in. We follow the ups and downs of Gwendolyn’s life, including the struggles her family faced during the Great Depression, Gwendolyn’s struggles to feel seen amongst her peers, her marriage and the birth of her first son, wrapping up in 1950 when she won the Pulitzer Prize.
Gwendolyn Brooks’ story is especially inspiring to young writers, because Gwendolyn herself started writing when she was only seven years old. Children will find an example in Gwendolyn’s childhood to observe the world around them and find the poetry there.
The illustrations by Cozbi A. Cabrera are absolutely stunning. The color and composition of the acrylic paintings are so beautiful throughout, and every page breathes life into Gwendolyn’s story. It’s no surprise that Exquisite was a 2021 Coretta Scott King Book Award Illustrator Honoree.
The back matter contains a wonderful Author’s Note with additional details about Gwendolyn Brooks, as well as a timeline of her life, making Exquisite a great selection for classroom and school libraries.
You can pick up your own copy of Exquisite 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 again to Abrams Books For Young Readers for sending me a review copy of Exquisite. This book is a beautiful example of why picture book biographies are my some of my very favorites.
About The Author:
Suzanne Slade is the award-winning author of many books for children, including several about other groundbreaking women, such as Dangerous Jane and A Computer Called Katherine. Slade lives in Libertyville, Illinois.
I can’t think of a better selection for Memorial Day weekend than A Day For Rememberin’ by Leah Henderson. This beautiful picture book is a fictionalized account of a true historical event that many believe to be the first celebration of Memorial Day. Though today we honor veterans of all wars, Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in Charleston, South Carolina when newly freed citizens marched to honor the Union soldiers who fought for their freedom in the Civil War.
During the Civil War, the Confederate Army converted the Washington Race Course in Charleston into a prison. They imprisoned captured Union soldiers and subjected them to inhumane treatment. Though the prison was only open for seven months, 257 Union prisoner died there due to exposure, disease, and starvation.
Shortly after the end of the civil war, twenty-eight newly freed men volunteered their time and labor to create a permanent resting place for the Union soldiers who fought for their freedom. On May 1, 1865, the first free May Day – in a time when Black people weren’t allowed to congregate freely – 10,000 Charleston residents gathered to march, sing, and spread flower petals to honor the lives of those soldiers. While some may not agree with Leah Henderson’s assertation that this was the first Memorial Day celebration, it’s hard to argue with the dates.
In A Day For Rememberin’ we follow ten-year-old Eli, a (fictional) son of one of the men who worked to build the cemetery. Eli longs to join his father in his work, but he must attend school, now that he has the freedom to do so. On the tenth day, Eli and other boys his age are allowed to help whitewash the fence. The next day, newly freed citizens, abolitionist, missionaries, and more all gather at the racecourse to honor the fallen soldiers.
A Day For Rememberin’ is an essential history lesson with a whole lot of heart. The back matter contains a fantastic Author’s Note, further detail about the history of Decoration Day, and a timeline. I would highly recommend this title for classrooms and school libraries.
The illustrations by Floyd Cooper are fantastic. They perfectly capture Eli and all the residents of Charleston, taking readers back in time.
A Day For Rememberin’ is available now 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!)
Leah Henderson is an award-winning author of multiple titles for young readers, including one of my personal favorites: The Teacher’s March. Please visit Leah’s website at leahhendersonbooks.com.
Floyd Cooper is the award-winning author and illustrator of Max and The Tag Along Moon, Jump, and many other children’s books. To learn more about Floyd and his work, please visit his website at floydcooper.com.
Thank you so much to Abrams Books For Young Readers for sharing a review copy of A Day For Rememberin’ with me. I am so honored to share this story with my readers today.
Sarah and the Big Wave by Bonnie Tsui is a wonderful picture book biography that tells the story of Sarah Gerhardt, the first woman to surf Mavericks.
Young readers will learn about Sarah’s journey to become a pioneer for women in surfing, including her challenges, such as finding gear in the right sizes and finding a welcoming group of friends to share her passion with. Sarah and the Big Wave shares a wonderful lesson of following your passions and persevering through challenges. And of course, this is a great pick for young surfing enthusiasts.
I really love the illustrations by Sophie Diao! The way she captured both the beauty and movement of the ocean was really stunning.
The back matter also contains a wonderful timeline of the history women in surfing from the 1600’s to 2020, making it a great resource for educators.
Sarah and the Big Wave is officially out next week, but you can purchase it anywhere 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!)
Bonnie Tsui is an author and journalist who lives, swims, and surfs in the Bay Area. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at bonnietsui.com.
Sophie Diao is an artist and illustrator based in San Francisco, California. Please visit her website at sophiediao.com to learn more about her and her work.
I also want to thank Henry Holt Books For Young Readers for proving me with a review copy of Sarah and the Big Wave. I loved learning about Sarah, and I’m so glad to share her story with you all.
If you’re looking for a picture book about bravery and passion, I have the perfect pick for you today!
The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee by Julie Leung is a phenomenal picture book biography detailing the life of Hazel Ying Lee, the first Chinese American woman to fly for the US military.
Despite being born during a time when racial bias was rampant against Chinese people in the United States, Hazel Ying Lee wasn’t afraid of anything. Hazel fell in love with flying when she was in an airshow with a friend. She worked an “invisible job” as an elevator operator to pay for flying lessons. Regardless of both the gender and racial barriers of her time, she would go on to serve as part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II.
I appreciate that The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee doesn’t shy away from the obstacles faced by Hazel, specifically the racism she faced. From an encounter with a farmer who mistook her for a Japanese fighter when she crash-landed in a Kansas field mid-training, to Hazel’s family’s fight to bury her in a whites-only cemetery when Hazel died in service to her country at the age of 32, these examples give us a great introduction to talk to young readers about the racism directed towards Asian Americans, which seems to all too common during the time of COVID-19.
Even with these hard lessons of injustice, The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee is a beautiful book celebrating the accomplishments of a groundbreaking woman. I really appreciated the beautiful illustrations by Julie Kwon.
The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee is available wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These 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 continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)
Julie Leung is a children’s book author based in New York. She is also the author of one of my favorites: Paper Son: The Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at jleungbooks.com.
Julie Kwon is an artist and illustrator based in Brooklyn, New York. The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee is her debut picture book. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at julikwonart.com.
Many thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for generously providing me with a review copy of The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee. I’m so grateful to have a part in sharing Hazel’s story.
As we enter the second week of Black History Month, I want to share Opening The Road by Keila Dawson with you all.
This inspiring picture book biography details Victor Hugo Green’s creation and distribution of The Negro Motorist Green Book, or as most people call it today, The Green Book.
In the late 1930’s, Black Americans were not guaranteed safe travel throughout the United States. Segregation barred Black motorist’s access to establishments like gas stations, rest areas, or hotels. The high number of “sundown towns”, all white communities that excluded non-white individuals after dark though intimidating and often violent tactics, made it dangerous for Black Americans to travel long distances.
Inspired by a Jewish newspaper, Victor Hugo Green, a US Postal Service worker in Harlem, decided to write a book to help Black travelers find safe options. The Green Book allowed trips to be planned with hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and many other businesses that welcomed Black customers. This travel guide became an invaluable resource for Black Americans throughout the country, and it flew off shelves, eventually selling over two million copies.
I love that the illustrations by Alleanna Harris bring life not just to Victor’s story, but also to the stories of many Black families who were able to safely enjoy family vacations.
Victor’s story highlights the resilience Black Americans have shown amid the countless obstacles facing them throughout our nation’s history. In the face of enormous challenges like segregation and racism, Victor, Alma, and all of Victor’s Postal service friends found a way to distribute vital information throughout the country, allowing numerous travelers safe passage.
The back of the book contains a fantastic author’s note that includes more historical detail, context around why The Green Book is relevant to conversations about safety in Black communities today, and information on current projects inspired by The Green Book, as well as a timeline.
You can purchase a copy of Opening The Road wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These 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 continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)
Keila Dawson is an author, editor, and former teacher based in Cincinnati, OH. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at keiladawson.com.
Alleanna Harris is an artist and illustrator based in New Jersey. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at alleannaharris.com.
I would like to thank Beaming Books for sending me a review copy of this amazing book. I am so grateful to be able to share Victor Hugo Green’s story.