Songs In A Rainstorm – The Story of Musical Prodigy Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins

Songs in A Rainstorm by Glenda Armand is an amazing picture book biography of Thomas Wiggins, also known as Blind Tom.

I have to admit, I didn’t know much about Thomas Wiggins before I read this book, and I’m so disappointed in myself because his story is so incredibly inspiring!

Thomas Wiggins was born without sight to enslaved parents in 1849. Thomas was what we would today call a musical savant.

Shortly after Tom was born, his parents learned that their owner, Wiley Jones, planned to sell some of his slaves. Fearing for their son, Tom’s parents secretly reached out to General James Bethune to prearrange their sale to him, due to his reputation as a “fair man”. The family was sold together, and Jones threw Tom in for free, calling him a “useless burden”

But Jones was wrong. Tom was blind, but he was never useless.

At the age of four, General Bethune’s daughters began to teach Tom to speak, and eventually to play the piano. When Bethune heard how well Tom played and how quickly he learned, he saw a business opportunity and began to manage Tom’s career as a professional musician.

Against all odds, Thomas Wiggins followed his passion for music. Tom wowed audiences across the world and was the first African American to perform in the White House.

I absolutely love the illustrations in this book. Brittany Jackson really brought Tom and his story to life.

But my favorite part of Songs In a Rainstorm has to be the honesty. It doesn’t shy away from the ugly truths, like the reality of slavery or the fact that Bethune took the majority of the fortune Tom earned.

I would highly recommend this book, especially for any little ones who are showing an interest in music.

Songs in a Rainstorm is officially released on January 1, 2021, but you can preorder it anywhere you purchase books, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. I will receive a small commission from purchases made using these links, at no additional cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you.)

I would like to thank Albert Whitman & Company for providing me with a review copy of Songs In a Rainstorm. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about Thomas Wiggins and his story.

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Our Era Is Now – A Diverse And Inclusive Feminist Biography Collection

Teen author Zoe Yu hopes to inspire young girls and relay the message that women of all colors can achieve what they put their minds to. I think she has done just that with her debut Our Era Is Now.

As the title implies, Our Era is Now is a wonderful collection of mini-biographies of 14 remarkable women who “rewrote history”, paired with fun portraits of those women. Written and self-published by teen author Zoe Yu, I couldn’t help but feeling like I was reading the words of a remarkable woman in the making.

Though she’s only sixteen-years-old, Zoe saw a need for a diverse collection of strong female protagonists, so she decided to write one herself.

I have read quite a few of these feminist/girl power biography collections, but I have never seen one that provides such a diverse collection of women. From scientists and doctors to artists and singers, Zoe has highlighted powerful female stories from women across the board.

If you’re looking for a book to inspire young readers, I would definitely recommend this one. You can pick up your own copy of Our Era Is Now on Amazon. (Please note: This is an affiliate link, from which I will receive a small commission. This commission allows me to maintain this website and continue to bring content to you on a regular basis.)

Thank you to Zoe Yu for reaching out and providing me with a copy to review this book. I look forward to seeing what she writes next!

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Ways To Say I Love You – A Book About Love for the Budding Biologist

Ways to Say I Love You by Marilyn Singer is an adorable book, perfect for young readers who are beginning to show an interest in biology or animals.

In this book, we learn of the mating rituals of certain animals and compare those behaviors to the actions humans take to say, “I love you”. There isn’t any information about reproduction; just a simple explanation of how humans and animals show love to one another. Children will see peacocks showing off their tail feathers, frogs puffing out there throats, and humans doing the waltz. The target audience for this book is 4-6 years old, so the text is a bit on the sparse side.

What Ways to Say I Love You lacks in text, it makes up for with beautiful illustrations by Alette Straathof. I also love that we have examples of both interracial and same sex couples represented in the illustrations!

I will say, I have a slight issue with the first page, which reads, “It’s the truth. There’s no debate. Every creature wants a mate”. Obviously, there are people in the world who prefer to be alone and are absolutely fulfilled human beings without a partner. Ultimately, I believe the exclusion of single people in a book about love just gives us a great opportunity to discuss self love, platonic love, and the aromantic experience.

The back of the book has an informative section with a little more detail on the courtship of all the animals mentioned, further explaining the mating habits of snakes, bowerbirds, whales, and more.

You can pick up a copy of Ways To Say I Love You anywhere books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links, from which I will receive a small commission. These links are free to use and allow you to support the blog.)

I would like to thank Quarto Books for providing me with a digital copy of this book to review! I’m sure this one will spark plenty of interesting conversations with my little guy when he’s a bit older.

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Nonfiction November Inspired by a Board Book

A few weeks ago, my mother stopped by for a visit and surprised us with a board book. My mom obviously knows about my passion for building an inclusive library for my son, and likes to contribute her own picks occasionally, which I am forever grateful for. This particular book was called Little Heroes of Color: 50 Who Made a BIG Difference by David Heredia. It’s a great nonfiction selection for children highlighting lots of different POC (People of Color) who changed the world. My only real complaint about this book is that every person highlighted only has one sentence dedicated to their accomplishments. I was left wanting so much more!

So in honor of Nonfiction November, I decided to take matters into my own hands and locate children’s biographies for heroes featured in the book. These biographies are all still a bit over Sully’s head, but I definitely plan on picking them up so we can learn more about each hero’s accomplishments as he gets older.

If you’re looking to add a bit of Nonfiction to your little readers library you can pick these titles up at my Bookshop Affiliate Shop. Please know that Mutually Inclusive does receive a small commission on purchases made through this link (and the links for each title on this post). This commission allows me to purchase more books to review and share with you.

Ernie Barnes

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery by Sandra Neil Wallace, Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Born in the Jim Crow era in Durham, North Carolina, Ernest Smalls grew up to be both a professional football player and an artist. This picture book shares with us both his struggles and his successes throughout his life. I love that this story tells children they don’t have to choose between arts and sports. They can absolutely enjoy and be successful at both!

Henry “Box” Brown

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Henry’s Freedom Box tells the story of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who escaped slavery in a very creative way. Henry was torn from his mother at a young age. He grew up to be married and started a family of his own, only to have them sold away from him. In the end, Henry comes up with a plan to mail himself to freedom, earning him the nickname Henry “Box” Brown.

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull: Lakota Warrior and Defender of His People by S. D. Nelson

S.D Nelson, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, brings us the story of Sitting Bull. Told through Sitting Bull’s voice, this book focuses on the injustices faced by the Lakota tribes throughout our nation’s history. Just a note: this one is recommended for a slightly older audience (middle grade) as the illustrations do depict death and violence.

Joseph Boulogne Chevalier De Saint George

Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George by Lesa Cline Ransome Illustrated by James Ransome

This book chronicles Joseph Boulogne’s life from a plantation in West Indies to studying music in Paris, and his rise to fame in Europe. Joseph overcomes great adversity and finds success as the first black composer. A great story for any music lover, and a great reminder that the classical music world isn’t as white as we’re led to believe.

Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm a Verb by Veronica Chambers, Illustrated by Rachelle Baker

Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman to be elected to the United States Congress. This picture book touches on Shirley’s early life, but it truly highlights her many accomplishments, including creating the Head Start and WIC programs, and her work to help create the Congressional Black Caucus. This is a fantastic pick to discuss determination, and speaking up for yourself. I also LOVE the illustrations in this one. They really gave Shirley a personality throughout the book.

Bessie Coleman

Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger Illustrated by Teresa Flavin

This is the picture book biography of Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman and Native American woman to receive a pilot’s license, This book chronicles the famous aviatrix’s life from her childhood in Texas all the way to her death in Jacksonville, Florida. My only complaint was that I felt the book glossed over Bessie’s Native American heritage. Her father’s “Indian” heritage is mentioned, but only in passing.

Fannie Lou Hamer

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

This stunning biography is told through a collection of poems. Written from Fannie Lou Hamer’s perspective, these poems detail her journey from a sharecropper’s daughter in Sunflower County, Mississippi to a renowned civil rights activist. This book does not shy away from the events of the Civil Rights Movement, but details the injustices that freedom fighters faced during these times. Note: There is a racial slur used in this book.

Maya Lin

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

This is a lovely little biography of Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. This one isn’t too heavy on history or Maya’s childhood, but reads as an inspiring story for any budding little artists or architects.

Dr. Ronald McNair

Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden, Illustrated by Don Tate

Dr. Ronald McNair was a Black NASA astronaut and physicist who lost his life in the Challenger mission. This picture book relates a fictionalized version of a real-life event from Dr. McNair’s childhood in South Carolina. In this book, Ron wants to check books out from the library, which is only allowed for white children. This is a great book to engage children in conversations about civil disobedience, and help them understand that unjust “rules” can and should be challenged.

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was a Black Puerto Rican historian, collector, and writer who was determined to discover and share Black history and achievements. This book contains a collection of 20 poems detailing his quest for knowledge that eventually led to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and his lifelong fight against the whitewashing of history, but it also relates much of the Black history he discovered along the way.

Sonia Sotamayor

Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor, Illustrated by Lulu Delacre

Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the first Hispanic and Latina member of the Supreme Court of The United States. This autobiography details her childhood, specifically highlighting her love of reading. Justice Sotomayor shares how her love of reading impacted her life, and lead her to her career as a lawyer, judge, and Supreme Court Justice.

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path by Joseph Bruchac, Illustrated by S. D. Nelson

Jim Thorpe was an accomplished athlete and the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal. This biographic picture book discusses his childhood on the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation , specifically focusing on how his education influenced his path to his athletic achievements. A great reminder for young readers of the importance of education.

I wish I could share biographies for all 50 heroes mentioned in Little Heroes of Color: 50 Who Made a BIG Difference but unfortunately, I couldn’t find one for everyone. There are a few others I hope to share another day, along with some other great biographies I found featuring heroes not mentioned in David Heredia’s collection. I hope you found one or two books to add to your readers’ shelves.

Have you read any of these biographies? Have you read other biographies about any of the heroes in Little Heroes of Color: 50 Who Made a BIG Difference? Be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!