Flashback Friday – Rainbow Village

It’s finally Friday! That means it’s time for another Flashback Friday here at Mutually Inclusive, and today, I’m thrilled to share Rainbow Village by Emmi Smid with you all!

Title: Rainbow Village
Author/Illustrator: Emmi Smid
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Published: August 21, 2020
Format: Picture Book

This delightfully whimsical picture book shares the concept of diversity with very young readers through a story of imaginary characters. It all starts in a village where the Sproggles, Flinkerdunks, Mimplets, and Wapsies all live in their individual neighborhoods. But one day, a stranger arrives in town, and no one is quite sure where he should live. The traveller doesn’t feel welcome by anyone in the community. But luckily for the village, the traveller knows just what to do after a huge storm destroys the village. He tells the villagers of his travels and they use his knowledge of inclusion to rebuild the village in an even better way than it was before the storm.

The illustrations are lovely. Of course I love all the colors incorporated throughout, but I especially loved the imagination put into each of the characters. The Sproggles, Flinkerdunks, Mimplets, and Wapsies are all uniquely different, though they are all adorable—even the angry Flinkerdunks.

Rainbow Village also includes a fantastic Parent’s Guide in the back with discussion questions to spark conversations about diversity with young readers. I love that this book can be used to discuss diversity on many levels, whether you’re discussing gender, race, religion, culture, ability, or any other aspect of diversity, Rainbow Village can help you illustrate your message.

You can pick up your own copy of Rainbow Village 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 Jessica Kingsley Publishers for providing me with a review copy of Rainbow Village. I know I will be reading this one to my own toddler for many years to come!

About The Author:

Emmi Smid is the author and illustrator of Luna’s Red Hat, the translator of Big Tree is Sick, and the illustrator of Minnie and Max are OK! She lives in the Netherlands. You can find her online at emmismid.com.

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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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Lala’s Words: A Story of Planting Kindness

We are starting the week out with a beautiful picture book about two of my favorite things: kindness and plants. Gracey Zhang’s debut, Lala’s Words, teaches young readers a powerful lesson about the magic of kind words.

Title: Lala’s Words
Author/Illustrator: Gracey Zhang
Publisher: Scholastic
Published: July 6, 2021
Format: Picture Book

Lala’s Words follows a young girl named Lala, who is a bit messy and boisterous. Lala’s mother wants her to be stiller, quieter, and calmer, but Lala can’t help running around leaving a mess behind her. Her favorite place to be is a vacant concrete lot where weeds grow. While Lala hears discouraging words from her mother, she gives her plants nothing but kind words of encouragement. One day Lala’s mother has had enough, and she keeps Lala indoors all day. Lala worries about her plant friends all day, but wakes up in the morning to find that her plants have grown large enough to shade the whole neighborhood, cooling the summer day and showing Lala’s mother the power of positive words.

I absolutely adored the illustrations in Lala’s Words. Everything has a muted grey color scheme with vibrant pops of green and yellow that become more and more prominent as the story progresses. It’s such a genius way to provide young readers with a visual contrast between kind words and unkind words.

Lala’s Words officially releases tomorrow (July 6, 2021), 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!)

Thank you so much to Scholastic for providing me with a review copy of Lala’s Words. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share this wonderful book.

About the Author/Illustrator:

Gracey Zhang is an illustrator and animator with a love of storytelling and verse. She was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, and received her degree in Illustration from RISD. She is now based in Brooklyn, New York, where she can be found window watching from the train when she’s not scribbling away at her desk. Lala’s Words is her first picture book. You can visit her at graceyzhang.com.

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Princesses Can Fix It!

I’m so excited to share my review of Princesses Can Fix It! by Tracy Marchini, a delightful retelling of Twelve Dancing Princesses with a STEM/STEAM spin, complete with princesses, alligators, and a king with pink hair.

Title: Princesses Can Fix It!
Author: Tracy Marchini
Illustrator: Julia Christians
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Published: May 4, 2021
Format: Picture Book

Princesses Can Fix It! follows the Princesses Margaret, Harriet, and Lila as they attempt to help their father solve his alligator problem. The King does not approve of princesses who build, invent, or experiment, but fortunately, the Princesses have a secret lab where they get to work on a solution for the alligator problem.

As the Princesses toil away day after day, showing up for breakfast sleepier and sleepier, the Prince (who has his own problems with their father’s gender stereotypes) tries to provide the King with proof of the Princesses inventions. Despite the King’s doubt, the Princesses come up with the perfect solution to get all the alligators back in the moat—the King sees the error of his ways and allows all of his children to be themselves unapologetically.

Sure to please lovers of fairy tales, science, and technology, Princesses Can Fix It! is a wonderful selection to challenge gender stereotypes and encourage more modern ideas about gender roles. The illustrations by Julia Christians are absolutely delightful! They are so expressive and capture the personalities of each character, even the alligators.

Perfect for fans of Rosie Revere, Engineer and Not All Princesses Dress in Pink, Princesses Can Fix It! 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!)

I would also like to thank Page Street Kids for sending me a copy of Princesses Can Fix It! It was such a treat!

About the Author:

Tracy Marchini has worked in many areas of the children’s book industry, including as a freelance editor and a children’s book reviewer, and currently as a literary agent and author. She received her MFA in writing for children from Simmons College, and is the author of Chicken Wants a Nap (which received a starred review from Kirkus).

You can find Tracy online at Instagram (@tracymarchini), Twitter (@TracyMarchini), and her website at tracymarchini.com.

About The Illustrator:

Julia Christians studied communications design at the University of Art in Brunswick, focusing on illustration, and works as a full-time illustrator. She lives with her husband, kids, and a pack of dogs in a small town in the Harz Mountains of Germany where she grew up.

You can find Julia online at Instagram (@juliachristiansart), Facebook (@juliachristiansart), Behance (@juliachristiansart), and her website juliachristians.de.

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Flashback Friday – Our Little Kitchen

Happy Friday! It’s time for another Flashback Friday, and today we’re talking about Our Little Kitchen, a stunning picture book by Jillian Tamaki that celebrates both food and community.

Title: Our Little Kitchen
Author/Illustrator: Jillian Tamaki
Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers
Published: September 22, 2020
Format: Picture Book

Following several neighbors as they work in a community kitchen to prepare a meal for their neighbors, Our Little Kitchen teaches young readers how to be a good neighbor and take care of the people around you. From gathering produce in the community garden, to finding a creative way to use cans of beans from the food bank, Our Little Kitchen encourages resourcefulness and sustainability.

The illustrations are fantastic, and they capture the chaos of a busy kitchen perfectly. The pages are filled with a diverse cast of characters preparing and eating lots of food. While Our Little Kitchen is a great pick to open up conversations about food access, sustainability, volunteering, and community, I wouldn’t recommend reading it on an empty stomach. You might need a snack after reading, because everything looks delicious!

Our Little Kitchen is a beautiful story of a community pooling their resources to care for one another, and would be a wonderful addition to any young reader’s shelf. 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!)

Abrams is donating $5,000 of their proceeds from Our Little Kitchen to the Greenpoint Hunger Program, which supports the community kitchen that inspired this story. I would like to thank Abrams both for the charitable donation and for providing me with a review copy of this lovely book.

About The Author:

Jillian Tamaki is an illustrator, author, and comics artist living in Toronto, Ontario. She is the co-creator, with her cousin Mariko Tamaki, of the young adult graphic novel This One Summer, which won a Caldecott Honor in 2015. She makes books and comics for people of all ages, including They Say Blue, a picture book about looking and thinking.

You can find Jillian online at: Instagram: @jilliantamaki Twitter: @dirtbagg Website: jilliantamaki.com

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Arlo Draws an Octopus

If you’re looking for a book that discusses creativity and self doubt, I have the perfect pick for you today! Arlo Draws an Octopus by Lori Mortenson is a humorous, uplifting picture book perfect for young readers who might be struggling to believe in themselves.

We follow along as a young boy named Arlo sets out to draw an octopus. He gets off to a rocky start when he thinks his octopus’s head looks too much like a hill, and he doesn’t feel any better about things as he draws the legs and suction cups. Despite his attempts, Arlo just can’t seem to draw his octopus quite the way he sees it in his head. I don’t want to spoil the twist in this one, so I will just say that Arlo thinks he can’t draw an octopus until he meets one in real life.

The illustrations by Rob Sayegh Jr. are wonderful and really bring the story to life. My favorite pages are the ones with Arlo’s drawings, but I really love the way the crayon drawings are incorporated throughout the entire book.

Arlo Draws an Octopus is told with humor and encourages young readers to roll with the punches when things don’t turn out how they expected. It is a great addition to any child’s library, but I think it would be a very helpful resource in classrooms. You can pick up your copy of Arlo Draws an Octopus 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!)

Lori Mortenson is an award-winning children’s author of more than 100 books who lives in Northern California. Please visit her website at lorimortensen.com to learn more about her work.

Rob Sayegh Jr. is an author, illustrator, and former toy designer based in San Francisco. To learn more about him and his work, please visit his website at robsayart.com.

Thank you to Abrams Books for Young Readers for sending me a copy of Arlo Draws an Octopus. It was a delight, and I can’t wait to see what Arlo draws next.

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Strollercoaster

Buckle up and get ready for a ride! Strollercoaster by Matt Ringler is a fun-filled picture book featuring a dad and daughter duo who take an exciting stroll through their neighborhood to shake a cranky mood.

I think all my fellow parents know how important time outside is after the lockdowns we all experienced during the pandemic. I don’t know about you, but daily family walks have become one of my favorite ways to take a break from the day, and Strollercoaster captures the fun of a neighborhood stroll perfectly!

With lots of clicks, clacks, and whooshes, we follow along as the father and daughter discover their diverse urban neighborhood with a narrative that mirrors the ups and downs of a roller coaster. The ride comes to an end as the pair arrive back home just in time for a nap.

The illustrations by Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay are fantastic! Every page is so fun, from the vibrant colors, all the way down to the font for the onomatopoeia. I love all the detail they put into the neighborhood, especially the Spanish words throughout the illustrations!

Strollercoaster would be such a fun read for Father’s Day coming up this weekend. You can pick up a copy of your own 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!)

Matt Ringler is a children’s book author and Executive Editor at Scholastic Books. To learn more about him and his work you can visit his Twitter @doesntmattr.

Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay have been making art together since they met. Raúl is an award-winning illustrator and author, and Elaine is multi-disciplinary artist and colorist. They are both based in Boston where they live with their son. Please visit raulthethird.com to learn more about their work.

Thank you so much to Little Brown Books For Young Readers for providing me with a review copy of Strollercoaster. It was an exciting ride and I can’t wait to share it with my favorite little stroller partner.

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Jenny Mei Is Sad

Jenny Mei Is Sad by Tracy Subisak is a heartfelt picture book that discusses the complexities of sadness and how friends support one another through hard times. With each spread averaging one sentence, this is a deceptively simple book with so much heart!

In Jenny Mei Is Sad, our narrator introduces us to her friend Jenny Mei and explains that it’s not always easy to tell when she’s sad. Some days, Jenny plays well with others; other days, not so much. But luckily our narrator knows how to support a friend in need. Whether it’s waiting patiently while Jenny talks to an adult or sharing her favorite food on the long walk home, the narrator provides a wonderful example of friendship for young readers.

The illustrations are absolutely wonderful. They beautifully capture all the complex emotions we feel throughout a single day, “the fun and not-fun and everything in between”.

Jenny Mei Is Sad is the perfect selection to teach young readers about friendship, empathy, and caring for the people they love. It officially releases tomorrow (June 15, 2021), 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!)

Tracy Subisak is an author and illustrator based in the Pacific Northwest. Though she has illustrated many books, Jenny Mei Is Sad is her author/illustrator debut. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at tracysubisak.com.

Many thanks to Little Brown Books for Young Readers for generously providing me with a review copy of Jenny Mei Is Sad. It is such an important lesson for young readers, and I’m so grateful to be able to share it today.

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