I’m thrilled to be participating in the book tour for A Sari for Ammi by Mamta Nainy and Sandhya Prabhat today! This precious picture book is all about working hard and appreciating the people who mean the most to us.
Title:A Sari for Ammi Author: Mamta Nainy Illustrator: Sandhya Prabbhat Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids Published: November 9, 2021 Format: Picture Book
Following a young girl as she hatches a plan to buy her mother a gift, A Sari for Ammi teaches young readers about the traditions and cultures of Kaithoon, a town in Rajisthan known for it’s traditional saris. The young narrator explains that her Abba (father) dyes thread, and her Ammi (mother) weaves it into beautiful saris, but she never wears one of her beautiful saris herself. She enlists her sister Sadaf in her plan to save up enough money to buy one of her Ammi’s saris for her. A Sari for Ammi is a heartwarming story about the ways we support our family
The illustrations by Sadhya Prabhat are fantastic. Every page is filled with bold colors, but I especially appreciated the patterns and texture in the saris themselves.
The backmatter also contains a lovely authors note with information about Kaithoon and the saris that are made there, as well as a glossary.
A Sari For Ammi is available wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Amazon Crossing Kids for providing me with a review copy of this beautiful book!
About The Author:
Mamta Nainy is a children’s writer, editor, and translator based in New Delhi, India. She is the author of many children’s books, including A Brush with Indian Art, illustrated by Aniruddha Mukherjee, which won the Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award in 2019; and Bioscope, illustrated by Shanti Devi, which was named to the IBBY Honour List in 2012. Follow the author on Instagram @mamtanainy.
About The Illustrator:
Sandhya Prabhat is an independent animator and illustrator from Chennai, India, who resides in the United States. She has a master’s degree in animation and digital arts from New York University. She has illustrated nearly a dozen picture books, including her recent book I Am Brown, written by Ashok Banker. She animates for TV and movies and creates content for social media websites such as Facebook, Google, and Snapchat. Follow the artist on Instagram @sandhyaprabhat.
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.
I can’t think of a more timeless topic for a picture book than food, so for Flashback Friday this week, I am thrilled to feature Hot Pot Night! by Vincent Chen. This delightful picture book celebrates food, community, and diversity while capturing the joy of sharing food with your neighbor.
Title:Hot Pot Night! Author/Illustrator: Vincent Chen Publisher: Charlesbridge Published: September 8, 2020 Format: Picture Book
Vincent Chen’s debut follows a young Taiwanese boy as he invites the residents of his apartment building over for a communal meal, portraying the way communities can come together to care for one another. Each neighbor brings a different ingredient that combines into one amazing meal, creating a lovely metaphor for the way that each individual neighbor adds up to a greater whole of the community. With the rhythmic text, Hot Pot Night! is also a fantastic choice for a read aloud, encouraging young readers to chant along.
The illustrations are wonderful, too. I have to admit, my toddler got his hands on this one before it made its way to my desk, and he literally carried it around saying “Mmmm!” asking the adults in the house to read it to him all day. If you can make a toddler hungry with your illustrations, you’re doing something right!
Complete with a hot pot recipe in the back, Hot Pot Night! is a wonderful addition to bookshelves everywhere. You can pick up a copy wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Charlesbridge for sending me a review copy of this wonderful book. I can already tell this will be a new favorite in our household!
About The Author:
Vincent Chen is a recent graduate of Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in illustration. He enjoys watching films, collecting art books, and eating copious amounts of potato chips. Ever since he was a kid, he has loved sharing hot pot with his family and friends. This is his first book.
It’s time for an Author Spotlight again, and I am so excited to be interviewing Rajani LaRocca, the brilliant and prolific author who is taking the kidlit world by storm. Rajani has published six books since her debut in 2019 in both middle grade and picture book categories.
Rajani, I am thrilled to be chatting with you today! I was originally introduced to your writing when I reviewed Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers, but you have so many other titles! Would you mind introducing yourself to Mutually Inclusive’s readers and tell us a bit about the kinds of books you write?
Thanks so much for having me! I was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now live in the Boston area, where I practice medicine and write books for young readers. I’ve always been an omnivorous reader, and now I’m an omnivorous writer of fiction and nonfiction, novels and picture books, in poetry and prose. I’m inspired by my childhood and background, science and math, nature, cooking, and just about everything I see.
Your latest picture book, Where Three Oceans Meet, is being released this month. Can you tell us a bit more about the book?
Where Three Oceans Meet is about a little girl named Sejal who travels to the tip of India — Kanyakumari, where they say three oceans meet — with her mom and grandmother. It’s a fun road trip, where the three women see interesting sights, visit people they care about, and eat delicious food. And Sejal discovers what’s at the “end of the earth” is what she’s had all along: the love between mothers and daughters, love that transcends distance and transcends time.
What inspired you to write Where Three Oceans Meet?
I was inspired by a trip I took when I was a kid with my family, including my mom and grandmother, through South India to Kanyakumari. I thought about all the beautiful things we saw on that trip, and how what I treasured most was the little moments we spent together along the way.
If young readers only take away one thing from Where Three Oceans Meet, what message would you most want them to walk away with?
Even if they are far away, the people we love are still with us, giving us strength and joy.
Title: Where Three Oceans Meet Author: Rajani LaRocca Illustrator: Archana Sreenivasan Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers Published: August 24, 2021 Format: Picture Book
All of your books seem to have mathematical themes, and I was so glad to see the pattern continue with the theme of three in Where Three Oceans Meet. Was there any significance to the number three, or was it a stylistic choice?
I hadn’t really thought about the fact that there was a number in this book, but now that you point it out, of course there is! Three is an important number which symbolizes unity in many cultures. Because this book was inspired by a trip to Kanyakumari, where three oceans meet — The Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean — I decided to craft the story about three women in a family making a journey together. I also use the metaphor of a braid, which involves three strands of hair woven together, to symbolize the characters’ relationships.
Archana Sreenivasan created such beautiful illustrations to match your gorgeous story of love and family. This is your second book to be illustrated by Archana. Did the process differ between Where Three Oceans Meet and Seven Golden Rings?
I first worked with Archana for my debut picture book, Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math, which was published by Lee & Low Books in October 2020. That book is set in ancient India and involves a math puzzle and an explanation of binary numbers in the author’s note. It won the Mathical Award for Grade 3-5!
The process was very similar for both books in that I had minimal involvement while Archana was doing her work! Archana is such an incredible artist, and her sensibility for each book was perfect—which is even more impressive, since the styles of these books are very different. In Seven Golden Rings, her style is more cartoon-like, and Archana illustrated the math puzzle and the thinking that went into it in the most precise and ingenious way! The writing in Where Three Oceans Meet is more lyrical and emotional, and Archana’s style and use of color matches perfectly. I know that Oceans reminded her of her own family—especially her grandmother—and this shines through in all the little details she included to make this family seem real.
Do you have a standout spread that is your favorite? If so, which one?
I love ALL the spreads—they are overflowing with love and joy! My favorite is about three fourths of the way through the book, when Sejal isn’t feeling well and overhears her mom and grandmother talking about how much they miss each other, since the grandmother lives in India and Sejal and her mom live in the U.S. Archana depicts memories and longing and love so beautifully on the page that it brings me to tears.
Where Three Oceans Meet is your fifth release in 2021! I’m blown away at the amount of work you can produce in a year, especially considering your job as a doctor and role as a wife and mother. Do you have any advice for writers (like myself) who struggle to keep producing new work consistently?
I always recommend that people find ways to write in the “nooks and crannies” of their days. We don’t need to write for hours at a time; sometimes writing for a few minutes is all we can do, and that’s fine! As a working mom, I have written in my car (while parked!) and at piano lessons, early in the morning and late at night, on my laptop, scrawled on napkins, and dictated into my phone. It’s important to catch the muse while you can and to put in the time even when the muse is in hiding!
I also find that setting small goals helps me, as well as making lists of current projects and their statuses.
Can you tell us what is next for you? Do you have any upcoming 2022 release we should know about?
After Where Three Oceans Meet, I have two more picture books coming in 2021! My Little Golden Book About Kamala Harris will release on August 31, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have written a Little Golden Book about our wonderful Vice President!
The Secret Code Inside You: All About Your DNA releases September 14! This is my first nonfiction picture book (and the first picture book I ever drafted!), written in rhyming verse and explaining the basics of genetics to kids. It also touches on the limits of our genes and how our actions also determine who we are.
In March 2022, I have a picture book coming with Candlewick called I’ll Go and Come Back. This story of my heart is about a girl who visits her family in India and feels lonely and homesick. Then her grandmother makes her feel better through play and reading and food. When the grandmother visits the girl in the U.S. and feels homesick herself, her granddaughter makes her feel better. The story is built around a phrase people use in Tamil: they never say “goodbye,” but instead “I’ll go and come back,” which holds the promise of return.
My second middle grade novel with HarperCollins comes out in fall 2022. It’s called Switch, and it’s about musical twin sisters who grow apart, impersonate each other at their summer camp on a dare, and find that music helps them find their way back to each other.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with Mutually Inclusive’s readers?
These past two years have been so hard for so many reasons. That makes the stories we tell, the art we create, more important than ever. But it’s also important that we practice self-care and give ourselves a break, too. Take the time to bring yourself small moments of joy, and remember that reading and thinking and spending time with loved ones nourishes the creative spirit.
That is such a great reminder, and one I really need to hear. Thank you for that, and for taking the time to answer all my questions!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.