El Cucuy Is Scared, Too!

If you’re looking for a book for a child who’s scared to try new things, I have the perfect pick for you today. El Cucuy Is Scared, Too! by Donna Barba Higuera and Juliana Perdomo is a wonderful picture book teaching young readers to face their fears.

Title: El Cucuy Is Scared, Too!
Author: Donna Barba Higuera
Illustrator: Juliana Perdomo
Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers
Published: July 13, 2021
Format: Picture Book

El Cucuy Is Scared, Too! follows a young boy named Ramon who is settling into his new home, but is feeling nervous about his first day at school. El Cucuy (the Mexican Boogeyman) comes to scare Ramon at night, but Ramon has too many other fears to be afraid. But as it turns out, El Cucuy is scared, too. El Cucuy misses their home just like Ramon—he doesn’t like the new sounds of their home or that there are fewer dark spaces for him to hide in. Ramon and El Cucuy share their worries and build each other up to face the school day, realizing they are both brave and strong. I absolutely love El Cucuy Is Scared, Too! for all those young reader who need a reminder that they can do hard things.

The illustrations are fantastic, too. The bold colors throughout are eye catching, but I think my favorite part is how cute El Cucuy is. I never thought the Boogeyman could be so adorable!

There is quite a bit of Spanish peppered throughout the English text, but it is done seamlessly. It doesn’t read like a forced Spanish vocabulary lesson, but simply like a conversion between two bilingual friends. Presenting the opportunity to discuss Mexican folklore and the Spanish language, El Cucuy Is Scared, Too! would be a great addition to school and classroom libraries—especially for a first day read aloud.

El Cucuy Is Scared, Too! is officially releasing tomorrow (July 13, 2021), but you can preorder 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 Abrams Books For Young Readers for sending me a review copy of this adorable book. It was such a lovely read!

About The Author:

Donna Barba Higuera grew up dodging dust devils in the oilfields of central California. She was a daydreamer, constantly blending life experiences and folklore into stories. Now she weaves them into picture books and novels. Higuera currently lives among the spiraling mists of the Pacific Northwest with her husband, four children, three dogs, two frogs, and hundreds of wild birds who flock to her backyard birdfeeders every day. El Cucuy Is Scared, Too! is her debut picture book. She is also the author of the middle-grade novel Lupe Wong Won’t Dance.

You can find Donna online at her website dbhiguera.com, and on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About The Illustrator:

Juliana Perdomo is a Colombian illustrator and writer, with a background as a psychologist and art therapist. Her work is joyful and heartfelt, folkish, and a bit retro with a Latin touch. She has participated in different projects as an illustrator, this book being her debut in the United States. Perdomo lives in Bogotá, Colombia, with her amazing son Luca and a crazy old dog named Menta.

You can find Juliana online at her website julianaperdomo.com and on social media at Twitter, and Instagram.

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Flashback Friday – Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

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.

You can find Suzanne online at her website suzanneslade.com and on Twitter (@AuthorSSlade) and Instagram (@authorsslade).

About The Illustrator:

Cozbi A. Cabrera holds a BFA from Parsons School of Design. She has illustrated several books for children and is also well known for her handmade cloth dolls. Cabrera lives in Evanston, Illinois.

You can find Cozbi online at her website cozbi.com and on Twitter (@CozbiHandmade) and Instagram (@cozbi).

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Bella’s Recipe For Success

They say the most successful people in life fail the most. I always try to remember this when I run into roadblocks in life, and today I want to share a book that illustrates this growth mindset perfectly for young readers. Bella’s Recipe for Success by Ana Siqueira is a wonderful picture book all about patience, practice, and polvorones.

Title: Bella’s Recipe for Success
Author: Ana Siqueira
Illustrator: Geraldine Rodríguez
Publisher: Beaming Books
Published: July 13, 2021

Bella’s Recipe for Success follows a young Latinx girl named Bella who is trying to figure out what she’s good at. Her sister is a talented gymnast and her brother is a talented musician, but Bella is struggling to find her hidden talent. She tries baking polvorones with her abuela, but her first attempt goes all wrong. Though she struggles, Bella learns that being good at something takes hard work, perseverance, and patience.

The illustrations by Geraldine Rodríguez are so fun! The way she captures the facial expressions of each character brings so much emotion and personality to every single page.

With Spanish vocabulary peppered throughout, Bella’s Recipe for Success would be a fantastic addition to classroom libraries. Plus, there’s a recipe for polvorones con dulche de leche that I can’t wait to try. My baking skills are not great, but I will take a lesson from Bella and practice.

Bella’s Recipe for Success is available next week (July 13, 2021), but you can preorder your 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 Beaming Books for sending me a review copy of Bella’s Recipe For Success.

About The Author:

Ana Siqueira is a Spanish-language elementary teacher and an award-winning children’s book author based in Tampa, Florida. Before Bella’s Recipe for Success, she published children’s books in Portuguese in Brazil and in Spanish for the foreign language educational markets. Ana is also a global educator, a PBS Media innovator, and an SCBWI member.

You can find Ana online on Instagram (@asiqueira1307), Twitter (@SraSiqueira1307), and at her website anafiction.com.

About The Illustrator:

Geraldine Rodríguez is a Mexican illustrator and digital artist who enjoys telling stories through colors and lines. In addition to Bella’s Recipe for Success, Geraldine is the illustrator of Cinco de Mayo and the Adventures of Samuel Oliver series.

You can find Geraldine online on Instagram (@geryrdzart) and Twitter (@GeryRdz).

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Flashback Friday – When We Are Kind

I am so excited to announce an additional feature here on Mutually Inclusive called Flashback Friday! I know so many amazing books were released during the pandemic, but because everyone’s life was turned upside down, many titles didn’t get the level of attention they deserved. So starting this week, I will share a review for a previously published title every week. I think this will be a wonderful reminder about those books that might have flown under the radar, especially with the chaotic year and a half we’ve all had.

My first Flashback Friday selection is When We AreWhen We Are Kind / Nihá’ádaahwiinít’íigo by Monique Gray Smith. Originally published back in October, this wonderful bilingual picture book provides examples of kindness for young readers with text in both English and Diné (translated by Mildred Walters).

Funny story: I actually wanted to request When We Are Kind back when I first started Mutually Inclusive, but I was just figuring out how review copy requests worked, and I thought I missed out because I didn’t request it before the publication date. I’m so glad I was wrong!

In this precious picture book, we follow a group of Indigenous children as they tell us all the ways they give and receive kindness. When We Are Kind encourages readers to be kind to our families, our communities, our elders, the earth, and ourselves, but I love that it also talks about how being kind makes us feel. I feel like we often tell children to be kind for the sake of others’ feelings, but we overlook the way being kind to others can be a kindness to ourselves. When We Are Kind encourages young readers to evaluate their own feelings, creating an awareness that it so necessary for social and emotional development.

The illustrations by Nicole Neidhardt are wonderful! I love the way they capture the connections we all have to our families and our communities. You can feel the love and kindness on every page.

You can pick up your copy of When We Are Kind 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!)

Monique Gray Smith is a mixed-heritage woman (of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish ancestry), an international speaker, and an award-winning author based in Victoria, British Columbia. Please visit her website at moniquegraysmith.com to learn more about her and her work.

Nicole Neidhardt is a Diné (Navajo) artist of the Kiiyaa’áanii Clan based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at nicoleneidhardt.com.

I want to thank Orca Book Publishers for sending me a review copy of When We Are Kind. I’m so grateful to have a second chance to review this beautiful book.

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A Day For Rememberin’: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day

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.

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Anita and The Dragons

I’m happy to announce that another selection from my Most Anticipated Titles of 2021 has lived up to my expectations. Anita and the Dragons by Hannah Carmona and Anna Cunha is a gorgeous picture book following a young Dominican girl named Anita as she prepares for her family’s immigration to an unnamed country.

Anita tells us about the dragons in the sky over her home – how they will carry her away today, and how her brother calls them planes. She doesn’t really believe the dragons are real, but she does believe she will always be the princesa on her island, even when she is far away from it. She will miss her home, and her Abuela, who is staying behind. Even the promise of hot water, a real dryer, and restaurants doesn’t seem to shake Anita’s doubt.

But with the help of her family, and the realization that she will one day return to her home, Anita bravely enters the belly of the beast and flies to her new home. Anita and the Dragons is a wonderful story of love for your home and bravery in the face of tough transitions. It provides both a window for children who have not immigrated, and a mirror for those who have.

The illustrations are absolutely wonderful. I’m a huge fan of Ann Cunha’s style and can easily see why she won the AEILIJ Prize for her previous work. The pastel color scheme is so lovely and provides a calming backdrop for all of Anita’s anxieties.

Anita and the Dragons 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!)

Hannah Carmona is a writer, actor, director, and children’s book author based in Tennessee. Please visit her website at hannahcarmona.org to learn more about her and her work.

Anna Cunha is an award-winning artist based in Brazil. You can learn more about Anna and her work by visiting her website at www.annacunha.com.

Thank you to Lantana Publishing and Publisher Spotlight for sending me a review copy of Anita and the Dragons. I’m so grateful to share this beautiful story.

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Last Gate Of The Emperor

If you’re looking for a book for a middle grader, I have a treat for you today.

Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen could be described as Black Panther meets Ready Player One set in a mythical Ethiopia in outer space. With elements of both science fiction and fantasy, this page turning Afrofuturist tale follows a young boy named Yared as he joins the Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk – an augmented reality game that will change his life forever.

Yared lives a lonely life in the city of Addis Prime. He was raised by his nervous Uncle Moti, who moved them around a lot growing up. Uncle Moti tells him tales of an empire called Axum and war that spans the galaxy. Yared’s only friend is the bionic lioness Bessa gifted to him by his uncle when he was a small child. Despite his isolated life, Yared is a typical quick-witted kid, full of bravado.

Our story begins as Yared sneaks out of school to join The Hunt For Kaleb’s Obelisk. He learns that some of the rules have changed – not only is he required to enter his real name into the game to play, but he is also forced to partner up with his biggest rival in the game, a young girl called the Ibis. Suddenly, nothing goes according to plan, and instead of jumping to the top of the leaderboards, Yared and the Ibis find themselves in the middle of an attack on the city.

The stories Uncle Moti has been telling Yared for years seem to be coming to life, but as Yared starts putting puzzle pieces together, he realizes his Uncle has disappeared. Yared and the Ibis decide to work together to find Uncle Moti, and along the way, Yared learns that his life as he knows it may not be exactly what it seems.

I don’t want to give everything away, but I have to tell you: this book as fantastic. I can easily see this becoming a very successful series, and even having comics, cartoons, or movies. The characters are all very relatable and likable (for the most part anyway).

With nods to Prince Joel Makonnen’s childhood experiences growing up as the great-grandson of the last emperor of Ethiopia, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, readers will learn about Ethiopia’s rich history in unexpected ways. I specifically appreciated the afterword that sheds light on that history and points out all the ways it influenced the book.

Last Gate of the Emperor 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!)

Kwame Mbalia is a New York Times bestselling author who lives in North Carolina with his family. Please visit his website at kwamembalia.com to learn more about him and his work.

Prince Joel Makonnen is a direct descendant of Ethiopian royalty, Co-Founder and CEO of Old World // New World, and a lawyer based in Washington DC. To learn more about him, please visit his website at princeyoel.com.

Thank you so much to Scholastic Books for sending a review copy of Last Gate of the Emperor. I can’t wait to see if the adventure continues in a sequel!

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On the Trapline

I have another wonderful intergenerational story for y’all today.

From David A. Robertson and Julie Flett, the creators of When We Were Alone, On the Trapline is a stunning picture book that highlights indigenous values, including the deep connections to family and the land.

In this book, we meet a young Cree boy who is accompanying his Moshom (grandfather) on a trip to visit a place that is dear to his heart. They are going to the trapline, a place where his grandfather grew up hunting game with his family.

Throughout the book, the boy sees the places his grandfather grew up, listening to the stories of his childhood. He sees the house by the lake that his family stayed in, the school his grandfather attended, and finally, they reach the trapline. He learns about the way the entire family slept in a tent, the food they ate, and the animals they trapped. On each page, young readers learn a Swampy Cree word, with pronunciation guides provided in the back matter.

As always, Julie Flett’s illustrates are absolute perfection. I really appreciated the way she captured both the past and present in the illustrations. My personal favorites are two mirrored illustrations in which one page captures the grandfather’s story of sneaking into the bush at school to speak Cree, and the next page shows our narrator, his Moshom, and his Moshom’s old friend in the same bush years later. I found myself turning the pages to compare the landscapes, noting how trees and mushrooms had grown in the grandfather’s absence.

The back matter contains both an Author’s Note and Illustrator’s Note detailing their personal connections with this story, highlighting the authentic voices that are present throughout the book.

On the Trapline would make for an amazing Father’s Day gift. It 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!)

David A. Robertson is a member of Norway House Cree Nation and an award-winning children’s book author based in Winnipeg. To learn more about him and his work, please visit his website at darobertson.ca.

Julie Flett is an award-winning Cree-Metis author, illustrator, and artist based in Vancouver. Please visit her website at julieflett.com to learn more about her and her work.

Thank you so much to Tundra Books for generously providing me with a review copy of this wonderful book. It was an absolute delight and I know I will be revisiting it many times.

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Sakamoto’s Swim Club: How A Teacher Led An Unlikely Team To Victory

Ya’ll know I love a picture book biography, and I have to tell you that Sakamoto’s Swim Club by Julie Abery might be one of my new favorites. With simple rhyming text, this book tells the little-known story of Soichi Sakamoto, a science teacher who dedicated his life to coaching hundreds of Hawaiian children on the Three-Year Swim Club.

Sakamoto’s Swim Club starts out simply enough. We see a sugar plantation and children swimming in an irrigation ditch, along with a police officer who chases them away as a teacher looks on from his classroom. I was hooked!

As the story unfolds, we follow Soichi Sakamoto’s journey to becoming a swimming coach. After coming to an agreement with Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company, Sakamoto began training children to swim in the plantation’s irrigation ditch. Though he was not a powerful swimmer himself, he used his background in science to develop training techniques.

After Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company built a community swimming pool, Sakamoto and his team began training daily to reach their dream of competing in the 1940 Olympics. Unfortunately, World War II kept the Three- Year Swim Club from reaching this goal, but in 1948, one of Sakamoto’s students, Bill Smith, took home the gold for the 400-meter freestyle race.

Sakamoto’s Swim Club is a wonderful story of determination and persistence, encouraging children to work hard for their dreams and never give up.

Chris Sasaki’s illustrations are absolute perfection. I love the vibrancy of the colors and the way they capture the beauty of Maui, but I really appreciate the way they pair perfectly with the sparse text. Sasaki’s experience in animation really shows in the way he tells a story through his illustrations.

This is such a unique picture book biography because it is told in simple verse, making for a great read aloud. The back matter contains a wonderful author’s note detailing the specifics of the Three-Year Swim Club’s journey to the gold.

Sakamoto’s Swim Club officially releases next week, but 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!)

Julie Abery is children’s book author and former illustrator based in Lausanne, Switzerland. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at littleredstoryshed.wordpress.com.

Chris Sasaki is an illustrator, animation art director, and writer based in Oakland, California. Please visit his website at csasaki.com to learn more about him and his work.

Many thanks to Kids Can Press for providing me with a review copy of Sakamoto’s Swim Club. I can’t wait to share this one with my little swimmer.

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Many Shapes of Clay: A Story of Healing

I am so happy to share Many Shapes of Clay by Kenesha Sneed with you all today. This wonderful picture book is not just about loss, but about healing through the creative process.

Many Shapes of Clay is a modern day fable in which we follow a young girl named Eisha as she works alongside her mother in her studio. Eisha uses clay to make a shape that makes her happy because it reminds of of her father whom she has recently lost. She brings her shape out into her neighborhood, where it shatters into lots of different pieces. When Eisha brings the pieces to her mother, she knows just how to make her shape into something new altogether.

I don’t talk about this often, but I lost my father back in 2008. I was 19 years old, newly married, and soon to move across the country when my entire world shattered like Eisha’s beautiful lemon shape. I know I wasn’t the target picture book audience when my father died, but I wish I had this book then. It took me and my three siblings years to figure out how to even begin healing. The way Many Shapes of Clay highlights that healing process through community and creativity is not only beautiful, but a vital message for those coping with loss.

I also appreciate the fact that Many Shapes of Clay highlights loss instead of death. Given the events of the last year, loss is on a lot of young readers’ minds — whether it’s the loss of a loved one, or losing playdates and in-person classes due to COVID. Because the focus is healing from loss, you can use Many Shapes of Clay as a resource to discuss the loss of our “normal” lives, making this a must have for any little reader’s library.

The illustrations are absolutely stunning. I love how the bold colors match both the powerful message of healing and the gentle atmosphere of the story.

Many Shapes of Clay is out next week (May 4, 2021), but I would recommend preordering it today. You can put your order in just about 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!)

Kenesha Sneed is an award-winning multidisciplinary artist and the founder of Tactile Matter, a line of stoneware ceramics. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her websites at keneshasneed.com and tactilematter.com.

I want to thank both Kenesha for sharing her story, and Prestel Junior for providing me with a review copy of this stunning book. I’m so grateful to share it with you all today.

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