Library Lions

 

I recently visited New York city. The highlight of our trip was a stop at the New York Public Library. I was thrilled to finally meet the famous lion sculptures. Edward Clark Potter’s lions have stood proudly at the entrance of the New York Public Library since it’s opening in 1911. Their names have changed however. They were first nicknamed Lady Astor and Leo Lenox, after The New York Public Library founders John Jacob Astor and James Lenox. Later, during the 1930s, the mayor changed their names to Patience and Fortitude, qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the economic depression. These names have stood the test of time.

The New York Public Library itself is worth a visit, if you are in New York. The Rose Reading room with its vaulted ceiling and rich decorations, paintings and murals is nearly the length of a football field. The children’s department also features the lions, made entirely out of legos, as well as the original stuffed animals that inspired the Winnie-The-Pooh stories.

I love to visit libraries when I am on a trip. We also recently visited San Antonio (a 3 hour drive from our new home in Waco, TX). The San Antonio Central Public library is so different from the one in New York. The Mexican Modernist enchilada-red building features multiple angular geometric shapes, plazas, water fountains and playful architectural details. People tended to love it — or to hate it. It was recently named one of 27 most fascinating libraries in the world. What do you think? Love it or hate it?

Many of you have told me that one of the things you miss the most about living in the US is your local library, and your weekly trips there to stock up on books. Today, as a tribute to libraries and librarians everywhere, I want to share with you some books about libraries. The first one, Library Lion, was inspired by the New York Public Library lions:

 

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Genre: Fiction

Age Level: 6-9

Inspired by the lion statues at the New York Public Library, Library Lion tells the tale of a real life lion who wanders into the public library one day, and nestles himself into the life and hearts of the children and even the staff. But there are rules in libraries and when the lion breaks a rule, he knows he will not be allowed to return, or will he? A New York Times bestseller, this gentle, cozy tale, with warm, and evocative illustrations is sure to become a favorite.

 

 

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

Genre: Fiction

Age Level: 2-5

Lola loves Tuesdays. Tuesday is the day Lola and her mother visit the library. This preschool picture book featuring an African-American girl, is filled with bright and colorful illustrations and is a great way to instill the love of books and reading in your child

 

My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the Worldby Margriet Ruurs

Genre: Nonfiction

Age Level: 6-9

In this fascinating picture book filled with photos, maps and fun facts, we learn about the many different ways that books are housed and shared around the world. This book includes libraries in 13 different countries. A multicultural book perfect for third culture kids who love books.

 

 

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story From Iraq by Jeanette Winter

Genre: Nonfiction, Biography

Age Level: 6-9

This is a great picture book about a librarian who saves books from the library of Basra from destruction during the war in Iraq. She moves over 30,000 books to a neighboring restaurant just in time before the library bursts into flames. The books are safe and Alia can only wait and dream of a new library where once again the people of Basra can come to read, learn and share ideas. The simple drawings, with a mix of bright colors, filled with details of war and Middle Eastern culture, brings this dramatic and heroic story to life.

 

Tomás and the Library Lady by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raul Colón

Genre: Nonfiction, Biography

Age Level: 6-9

Tomas, and his family are migrant workers. They must travel from California to Iowa to pick fruit. In Iowa, Tomas is lonely. At the urging of his grandfather, Tomas visits the local library to gather more stories for their evenings around the fire. There he meets a young librarian who not only shares books, but a cool glass of water, and a quiet place to read, as well as encouragement and friendship. This story is inspired by the life of writer and educator, Tomas Rivera. This is a tribute to all librarians out there who quietly share their love of reading and impact the lives of children.

 

 

 

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra

In this colorful picture book, we learn about a little girl in a remote village in South America who loves to read, but only owns one book. One day, a man arrives with his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto, loaded with books. He’s a traveling librarian. Ana is so excited to borrow books to read. While waiting for him to return weeks later, she decides to write a story of her own. The librarian returns, shares her story with the other village children and takes her book with him so other children can read it too. The book includes words in Spanish. At the back, there is a glossary of Spanish words as well as the true story of a librarian in Colombia that this book is inspired by.

Quote:

A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people – people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.

E.B. White

What is your local library like? Please share with us in the comments.

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Anne Sibley O’Brien

Anne Sibley O’Brien – Part 4 of series on third culture kid children’s book authors



Wow, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last posted a blog entry!!! These last few months have been a whirlwind of book orders going out around the world. In 2016, Kids Books Without Borders has sent out over 4,000 books to more than 32 countries. It has been a joy to provide books to so many families.

 
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I wanted to start off the new year with another third culture kid children’s book author that I have come to love: Anne Sibley O’Brien.
Anne’s art and writing is a celebration and love of the world’s diversity of cultures and ethnic backgrounds. I would love to someday see an exhibit of her artwork, how she lovingly paints children of all races with tenderness and warmth, as a mother would depict her own children. Anne works primarily in watercolor, watersoluble pastel, and brush and ink.
Anne Sibley O’Brien (1952-) is a third culture kid who moved to Korea with her family (Anne has 2 older brothers and a younger sister) when she was 7 and spent the rest of her childhood there.  

Anne Sibley O’Brien is a children’s book creator who has illustrated thirty-two picture books, (14 of which she also wrote) including Jamaica’s Find and six other Jamaica titles by Juanita Havill, picture books about a young African-American girl, her life in her family and her community.  

She has also illustrated Talking Walls and four other titles by Margy Burns Knight. In Talking Walls, Knight and O’Brien explore notable walls the world over as both symbols and vehicles for cultural connection. Titles by Margo Burns Knight include:

Talking Walls (1992) an exploration of walls around the world, from the Great Wall of China to Aborigine All Art in Australia. Includes 14 different walls. (For ages 8-11)

 

Talking Walls – The stories Continue (2003) The exploration of walls from around the world continues in this sequel, with another 17 walls from Hadrian’s Wall in England to the fence surrounding the Isla Nebraska home of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Both these books are a great introduction for children about culture and history around the world. A map in the back of the book shows the location of each wall. These two books would make a great unit for homeschooling. (For ages 8-11)
Inside the cover of Talking Walls – The stories Continue, Anne describes her painting on the cover:

“Students in Kent Clady’s sixth grade class at the John Marshall Middle School in Indianapolis, Indiana, studied walls in a social studies unit, with the book Talking Walls as their focal point. As a community service project, they offered to repair the entrance wall at a nearby apartment complex. The sixth graders worked hard, scraping and painting the wall. The residents of the apartment complex were so pleased with the students’ work that they contacted local T.V. stations and even invited the sixth graders to use their pool at the end of the school year for a cookout.”


Africa is not a Country (2002). In this non-fiction book about Africa, the author describes the daily life in some of its fifty-three nations on the African continent. A great book to introduce children to that part of the world and our many Western misconceptions. (For ages 8-12)

Welcoming babies – (2003). Welcoming Babies shows the diverse ways we treasure new life around the world, focusing on the routines and rituals of a child’s first year. A beautiful show case for Anne’s love of babies. A celebration of babies around the world! (Ages 5-8)

Who belongs Here? An American Story (2003)

Based on a true story of a young boy fleeing war-torn Cambodia, this story highlights our need to better understand and accept others who are different from us. This book can lead to a great discussion on immigration, refugees, compassion and tolerance, a topic in center stage right now.  (For ages 8-13)
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Anne with her son, Perry


She has also co-written After Gandhi – 100 Years of Non-Violent resistance with her son Perry. This non-fiction book won the Maine Literary Book Award.

I would encourage you to check out all the books mentioned above, in addition, I will highlight three other favorites here:

A Path of Stars written and illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien (for ages 5-8)

If you have ever grown up in another country, now just a distant memory, if you have ever loved and lost, then this book will bring it all back to life, both visually and emotionally. Anne Sibley O’Brien has captured some of those poignant memories of love and loss, scooped them up and painted them in vibrant and warm colors for children to understand and empathize with. This book was inspired by the stories of her friends Vaensa and Peng Kem, who were born in Cambodia and had to leave the country because of the war.

 

I’m new Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Being the new student in a classroom is difficult enough, but when the child comes from another culture and speaks a different language, it can be extremely stressful and lonely. Three youngsters enter a new school—Maria from Guatemala, Jin from Korea, and Fatimah from Somalia—and each one experiences the feeling of not fitting in. But as they begin to share their own gifts with the classroom, they begin to start to feel accepted and affirmed.

I love her paintings of the culturally diverse classroom, painted in watercolors on a white background. A great book for third culture kids, who can identify with these children and the initial emotions of loneliness and grief, but also learning to fit in and making new friends. (For ages 4-7)
Whether readers are new themselves or meeting those who are new, there are lessons to be learned here about perseverance, bravery, and inclusion, and O’Brien’s lessons are heartfelt and poetically rendered.”Kirkus Reviews

The Legend of Hong Kil Dong – The Robin Hood of Korea (2006)

This book won the Aesop Award and the Asian-Pacific American Award for Literature, and was named to Booklist’s “Top Ten Graphic Novels for Youth 2007.” I must admit, as someone having grown up with French graphic novels, I was quickly drawn into the story and rooting for Hong Kil Dong, as he struggled to find himself and use his gifts to help others. Filled with historical and cultural details, as well as action, magic, and adventure, this story of Hong Kil Dong, will appeal to reluctant readers, and lovers of graphic novels, and is a great introduction to Korean folklore and history. (For grades 3-5)

While Library of Congress places this book with graphic novels, it stands on its own as a traditional tale. Its possibly the first novel written in the Korean alphabet. OBrien has done her homework, using sources in Korean and English and researching her images to display the culture and time period accurately. Her references are well explained and documented…”



Fun Facts about Anne Sibley O’Brien 

Anne was 7 years old, when her family moved to Korea. Her parents moved the family there to fulfill their lifelong dream of serving as medical missionaries. In an interview, she talks about her adjustment to Korea:

I’m sure that there was considerable adjustment for me as a young child, losing one world and encountering a completely new culture and country, but children take their cues from their parents, and mine framed the whole thing as a grand adventure.”

When they first arrived in Korea, her parents were dismayed to find out that they would be living in a missionary compound, with barbed wire around it. Two years later, when Anne was 9, her family managed to persuade the mission to allow them to live in a Korean house, in an all-Korean neighborhood. This began her total immersion into the culture and language, as well as the beginning of lifelong relationships with Koreans.

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When they arrived in Korea in 1960, seven years after the end of the Korean War and the partitioning of the peninsula into North and South Korea, they witnessed the devastating affects of war on the country and it’s people. Poverty and sickness was everywhere and it was not uncommon to see children dressed in rags, begging in the street for food.

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When Anne was in 5th and 6th grade, she would often go after school to the hospital where her father worked. There, in the children’s wing, were children sent over from local orphanages, who needed medical care. They were short-staffed and Anne remembers spending many hours, holding and playing with these babies, who would all reached out their arms to be held, when she would walk into the ward.

 

Illustration by Eloise Wilkin

Anne and her family always loved books. Anne’s home was always full of books (see special note below). She was especially drawn to classic illustrators such as Eloise Wilkin, Robert McCloskey, Garth Williams, and Jesse Wilcox Smith. Her favorites stories were fairy tales, books about fairies, and any books with children and babies in them.

A favorite memory of her childhood in Korea include vacationing with Korean friends in the mountains, eating a picnic of kim-bap and swimming in the icy cool streams, with misty mountains and rocky sea coast, and terraced rice fields as a backdrop.

Anne returned to the United States to attend Mount Holyoke College where she majored in art. She spent her Junior year in Korea at Ewha Woman’s University. There was studied Korean history, culture, folklore and painting.

She currently lives on Peaks island in Maine with her husband. She has 2 grown children, a son, Perry and a daughter, Yunhee whom was adopted from Korea. Yunhee is the inspiration and model for her illustrations in Brianna, Jamaica and the Dance of Spring written by Juanita Havill.

Korean traditional wedding costume

When Yunhee was married, the family held a Japanese wedding ceremony for Yunhee and her groom with the help of the Korean American community in Maine.

 Anne was recently honored by the Maine Library Association with the lifetime achievement Katahdin Award for her body of work.

In addition to creating books, she has been involved for many years in diversity education and leadership training. Anne Sibley O’Brien is one of the founders of I’m Your Neighbor, an organization that promotes children’s literature featuring “new arrival” cultures.
She also has a blog “Coloring between the lines” (http://www.coloringbetween.blogspot.com) where she explores issues of race and culture in children’s literature. On her blog, Anne shares a list of children’s books and resources from a workshop she gave called “Books as Bridges: using Children’s Books To Talk about Race”. She offers a great selection of titles – check it out at http://www.coloringbetweenthelines.com/books-as-bridges/
Special side note:

 

Anne mentions in her interview with Tarie on her blog “into the wardrobe” (http://peteredmundlucy7.blogspot.com/search?q=Anne+sibley+o%27brien) that she would receive books from the US when they lived in Korea. Anne says:

“Once or twice a year, we got to order used books from a church warehouse in the States. We checked them off on a master list, mailed off the order, then waited months for the package to be delivered by sea mail to discover whether or not we’d gotten the ones we’d wanted. Books were precious. “

I was excited to see that other ministries have also done what Kids Books Without Borders (and Bookends International, and others I am not aware of) does now. Katherine Patterson, in her autobiography, Stories of my life, also mentioned that there was a woman who sent books to their family in China and that is was like Christmas when they received the box of books.

Quotes from Anne



My career creating multicultural children’s books is a direct response to my childhood in Korea, which kindled in me a fascination for the beauty and glory of human differences, and a passion for the truth that, across our differences, we are all one human family. We belong to each other. That’s what I’m trying to get to, through all my work.


“Growing up in Korea meant belonging to a place I did not belong, being of a place I was not from, being welcomed and loved by people who were not “my” people. Somehow, culture shock and the sense of dislocation always felt more intense when I returned to the U.S., to the place I supposedly belonged, to the place I was from, to “my” people. ”

When our daughter joined our family by adoption from Korea, and my husband and I were raising her and her white brother, I knew that having diverse books, lots of them, depicting all kinds of people, was essential to their wellbeing and development of healthy identities. In different ways, they both needed to see both themselves – and others – reflected in the books they read.”

Bi-cultural identity is a treasure. It’s challenging because people who are not bicultural have no idea what it’s like to be torn between two cultures, two places, two ways of being in the world, but there is so much richness. And I think that those of us who are caught between also have the gift of being a bridge and able to be insightful about both cultures.”

                                              Quote from interview By The INNERview With Host Susan Lee MacDonald

                                           (See full interview at https://youtu.be/HHopfVCEwx8)

Sally Lloyd-Jones – Part IV of my series on third culture children’s authors

Sally Lloyd-Jones – Part IV in my series on Third Culture Kid Children’s authors

I’m so excited to introduce you to yet another third culture kid children’s author: Sally Lloyd-Jones. Sally is a New York Times bestselling children’s book writer. Her books include How To Be A Baby… By Me, the Big Sister’, Gold Book Award winning, ‘The Jesus Storybook Bible’ and the Christian Book of the Year ‘Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing’. She has also written a Christmas storybook Song of the Stars – A Christmas Story (2011).


She was born in Kampala, Uganda and raised in East and West Africa. She also attended a boarding school in the New Forest, England, her passport country. Her father was employed by Shell.


Sally was once told that there are two types of children’s books authors: the ones who are around children, and the ones who are children inside.

It kind of freed me, because I think I know I’m that second one,” she said. “And I can still write from that place, because my childhood is so vivid.”

Her books

  • Little One We Knew You’d Come (2006)
  • Handbag Friends (2005)
  • How to Be a Baby: By Me, the Big Sister (2007)
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible (2007)
  • Old Macnoah Had an Ark (2008)
  • The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas & Grandpas! (2008)
  • Time to Say Goodnight (2009)
  • Being a Pig Is Nice: A Child’s-Eye View of Manners (2009)
  • How To Be a Baby, by Me, the Big Sister (2009)
  • Lift the Flap Bible (Lift-the-Flap Book) (2010)
  • Baby’s Hug-a-Bible (2010)
  • How to Get Married, by Me, the Bride (2010)
  • A Child’s First Bible (2011)
  • How to Get a Job by Me, the Boss (2011)
  • Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story (2011)
  • Tiny Bear’s Bible (Children’s Bible) (2012)
  • Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing (2012)
  • Skip to My Lou, My Darling (2015)
  • Baby Wren and the Great Gift (2016)

I will just highlight a few of her books here. I highly recommend both the Storybook Bible and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, although her other picture books listed are also well-written and perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.

The Jesus Storybook Bible – Every Story Whispers his name by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago

This Bible storybook has sold over 2 million copies worldwide and has been translated in more than 15 different languages. Rather than give you my take on this unique and award-winning storybook Bible, here is, in Sally’s own words, her background and philosophy behind her storybook Bible:

I was a Christian from an early age but for some reason I thought the Bible was mostly telling me what I should do so God would love me. And of course it does have rules in it but that’s not why we have the Bible, because if we could do it then why would Jesus have come. And I somehow missed that. I grew up with this vague sense of God not being pleased with me. I knew I wasn’t getting things right so I thought, “God must not be pleased with me.” So it was very works based. And so when I was working on “The Jesus Storybook Bible” my passion was for no child to come away feeling that way, because the Bible is not about what we’re supposed to be doing so that God will love us, it’s about what God has already done because He does love us. And that changes everything.
I encourage you to get a copy of this storybook Bible and read it for yourself. You will laugh, you will cry, you will encounter anew a God who came to redeem us through Jesus, the one who is center of this great story of salvation. (Although recommended for children 4-7, I recommend it for all ages, from birth to 100+ – As C.S. Lewis says: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”)

Thoughts That Make My Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by Jago

A devotional companion to The Storybook Bible, this book includes 101 devotional thoughts on faith, history, science, drawing on teachings from the Bible as well as from heroes of the Faith. Written for children grades 1 through 4, this is a perfect book for family or one-on-one devotions with your child. Written in conversational style, with lots of questions and answers and stories, this devotional is sure to spark further discussions and dialogue about God, and faith, with your child(ren). The illustrations by Jago enhance and add a new dimension to Sally’s fresh and insightful thoughts that not only make our heart sing, but help us (and our child) experience the presence of God in our daily lives.

At the bottom of each devotional thought is the biblical passage on which the poem is based. At the back of the book, there is a section titled “Bibliography and sources – (or more things to think about)” where she lists the places she found the quotes used in specific devotionals. She also adds other books and quotes that have inspired and encouraged her.


Song of the Stars – A Christmas Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones with paintings by Alison Jay

During this season of Advent, I wanted to highlight her Christmas storybook, published in 2011, Song of the Stars – A Christmas story. (for ages 4-7) The entire universe awaits, with anticipation and joy. The story begins:”The world was about to change forever. And it almost went by unnoticed …” From the smallest woodland creatures to the great white whales in the deep, all creation awaits his coming. And when he does come, the animals all gaze down at him in wonder. Alison Jay’s vibrant illustrations of animals and nature are stunning. A fresh and original perspective on the birth of Christ.

Fun Facts about Sally Lloyd-Jones

  • The first book she ever read all the way through was ‘The Complete Nonsense” by Edward Lear. Sally Lloyd-Jones says:  ” I didn’t know you could have so much fun inside of a book. It was filled with limericks and drawings that Lear did himself.”  Note: I do have copies of The Complete Nonsense by Lear available to you if you are a family living overseas.
  • Another of her favorite authors is C.S. Lewis. She has read and enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia, but has also been influenced by his whole way of talking about faith.
  • Sally Lloyd-Jones is often mistakenly identified as a relative of David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (20 December 1899 – 1 March 1981) a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century. She has been often identified as his daughter, or grand-daughter. Although, they share the same last name, Sally is not related to him.

  • British at heart, she loves tea and hot porridge
  • Sally now lives in an apartment in Manhattan, New York.
  • She loves running, cycling, taking photos, going on adventures, watching movies, and exploring New York City by bike.
  • She attends the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, New York. She says her writing has been influenced by the writing and teaching of Timothy Keller, who is the founding pastor of Reedemer Presbyterian Church.

Quotes from Sally Lloyd-Jones:

And one day, God would send another baby, a baby promised to a girl who didn’t even have a husband. But this baby would bring laughter to the whole world. This baby would be everyone’s dream come true.

― Quote from The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

Whenever God talks to his children in the Bible, do you know what he usually says first?

“Hello”? “How do you do”?

No. He says, “Don’t be afraid!”

God must not want his children – even for a moment – living anxiously or afraid. He wants his children to trust him.

Are you worried about something today?

Is something frightening you?

God says to you, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you. I will help you.”

– Quote from Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing
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For Advent:

I know, it’s already December 8th, but if you have not started an advent devotional or readings with your kids, I highly recommend Sally Lloyd-Jones advent reading plan using the Storybook Bible – the reading plan is available for free on her blog (http://www.sallylloyd-jones.com/celebrate-advent-with-the-jesus-storybook-bible-including-free-reading-plan/).
Wherever you are, may your advent season be filled with books, stories and especially a sense of anticipation and presence of God, as we remember and share the story of Christ’s birth and anticipate His return. May Emanuel, God with us, filled your hearts with His peace and His joy this Christmas season!
Merry Christmas!

My Song Is Beautiful

My Song is Beautiful – Poems & Pictures in Many Voices by Mary Ann Hoberman The collection of poems was published in 1994 and includes 14 poems by famous children’s authors.

Mary Ann Hoberman is an acclaimed author of over 40 children’s books. She has written both pictures books and poetry. In 2003, Hoberman was named the second US Children’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation and she served in that role from 2008 to 2011. In 2003, she also received the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. The Llama Who Has No Pajama is a collection of over one hundred of her poems. Other well-known and loved books by Hoberman include:

  •  The Seven Silly Eaters
  •  You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You series
  •  A House is a House for Me


Four things I love about this collection of poems:

  1.  multicultural and diverse perspective
  2.  Illustrations by a different illustrator with illustrations that highlight the culture of the poem and author
  3.  poems are easy to read and accessible to children ages 5 and up
  4.  Focus on self-esteem, self-acceptance and self-expression

“This outstanding multicultural anthology will introduce young readers to a generous range of artistic and literary styles.” Publishers Weekly

These fourteen poems by distinguish authors celebrate that which is special in all of us.” School Library Journal

Art work by elementary school students in Brooklyn, NY

You and I
Only one I in the whole wide world
And millions and millions of you,
But every you is an I to itself
And I am a you to you, too!

But if I am a you and you are an I
And the opposite also is true,
It makes us both the same somehow
Yet splits us each in two.

It’s more and more mysterious,
The more I think it through:
Every you everywhere in the world is an I;
Every I in the world is a you!

Poem by Mary Ann Hoberman

artwork by David Diaz

THE DRUM
daddy says the world is

a drum tight and hard

and I told him

i’m gonna beat

out my own rhythm
– Nikki Giovanni (1943)

 

Nikki Giovanni is one of the best-known African-American poets. Her poetry expresses strong racial pride and respect for family. In addition to her vast collection of poetry and books for children, she is the winner of the 2005 Caldecott Medal for Rosa.

 

Yoriko Ito

 

IN A HERMIT’S COTTAGE

 

In a hermit’s cottage, silent, still,

I sit all alone with nobody.

A white cloud dozes

To the strains of a quiet song.

 

No one can know

How happy I am!

 
– Kim Soo-Jang –  Translated by Virginia Olsen Baron

This poem is a Sijo poem, one of the earliest and most popular forms of Korean verse.

Let’s Eat!

Advocates of multicultural children’s literature critique the fact that children’s books that highlight other cultures and diversity often center around the four Fs: food, festivals, fashion and folklore. I agree that authors, educators, and parents need to delve deeper into other aspects of culture, issues such as identity and belonging, but as someone who grew up in another country, my childhood memories often focus around special meals and times spent around the table with family or friends.

 

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Ratatouille, a Disney Pixar movie about a mouse who becomes a French chef is a favorite movie of mine – just ask my kids! There is a scene where the food critic enters a restaurant and is presented with a dish. As he takes his first bite, he is transported back to his own childhood – he is a young boy who he comes into his family kitchen from a day on the farm and his mom places a plate of streaming ratatouille in front of him. To him, a taste of ratatouille, years later, reminds him of home, of belonging, of love.

When I think of my own childhood, in a very cosmopolitan and multicultural setting in the greater Paris area, it’s crusty french baguette fresh from the bakery, it’s fresh artichokes from the market, steamed and dipped in butter, it’s Madame Lopez’s Moroccan paella, it’s the Sionath’s guadalupian chicken columbo, it’s Marie-Jeanne’s endive salad and grilled trout almandine, it’s a piping hot bowl of cafe au lait on a cold, wet morning, it’s my mom’s fresh homemade apple pie with a cup of tea – wow, such food memories! I’d love to hear yours – please share in the comments.
But on to books!

This series of four books by Norah Dooley and illustrated by Peter Thornton are a great way to introduce multicultural cuisine to your kids and help them appreciate the rich culinary diversity of the culture you live in, or come from. Each of these four books include recipes at the back.

“Multiculturalism at its best” – Parent council

Everybody Cooks Rice (1991)

It’s almost dinner time! As her mom finishes up meal preparation, she sends Carrie on an errand to find her younger brother. As she goes from house to house searching for him, she is invited in and discovers that in her multicultural neighborhood, everyone does indeed cook rice, including rice and black-eyed peas from Barbados, biryani from India, and Vietnamese nuoc cham. Not surprisingly, Carrie comes home to her own mother Italian rice dish, she isn’t very hungry.

Everybody Bakes Bread (1996)

It’s a rainy day in the neighborhood. Carrie is bored. The soccer game she had planned was rained out. Her mom, who is baking bread, sends her off on an impossible errand – find a three-handled rolling pin. As she asked around, she learns about all the various ways families around the world make bread, from Barbadian Sweet coconut bread to Mexican pupusas. When she returns home, although she is full, she can’t resist a slice of her mom’s homemade Italian bread, before heading out to a game of soccer, rain boots and puddles included.

Everybody Serves Soup (2000)

What better way to warm up on a snowing day than a hot bowl of soup? The neighborhood is blanketed in snow. Carrie sets up with her snow shovel to earn a few dollars to buy her mom a Christmas present. As she works her way from house to house, she is welcomed in with the delicious smell of steaming pots of soup – from Puerto Rican chuleton to Jewish beet and cabbage soup. At the end of the day, Carrie not only learned about other cultures and sampled lots of soup, she also comes up with the perfect gift for her mom.

Everybody Brings Noodles (2002)

It’s summer! The neighborhood is preparing for a fourth of July block party, which includes a picnic and a talent show. As she helps set up and collects food, she discovers the wide variety of noodle dishes from around the world that her neighbors are preparing – Chinese yellow sesame noodles; Greek orzo; Vietnamese spring rolls, and Jewish Kugel to name a few. Carrie is delighted at the end of the evening when the neighbors present her with a reward of her own.

The Story of Chopsticks by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by YongSheng Xuan (2001)

If you live in an area of the world where chopsticks are the main eating ustensil, you will really enjoy this lighthearted tall tale of young Kuai, who never gets enough to eat as the youngest in a large family and comes up with a plan to rectify the situation. Both the author and illustrator are born and educated in China. The book includes a brief history of chopsticks, rules for eating with chopsticks and a recipe for Sweet Eight Treasures Rice Pudding.

How My Parents learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman (1984)

A little girl recalls the story of how her parents met in Japan years ago. Anxious to learn each other’s culture, the Japanese girl learns to eat with a knife and fork, and the young American sailor gets a crash course in how to use chopsticks. The outcome is humorous and makes a good family memory. With Illustrations by award-winning artist Allen Say.
The book is wonderfully thought-provoking in it’s portrayal of the subtle similarities and differences among cultures.” – School library Journal


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Feast for Ten by Kathryn Falwell (1995)

In this rhyming counting book, perfect for preschoolers, an African-American family prepare a festive meal together, from shopping, to preparation and cooking, to a family all gathered around the table eating together. Bright colored paper, patterned fabrics, and felt all come together to create beautiful collage illustrations, making this a great read-aloud book.

Community Soup by Alma Fullerton

In this African version of “Mary had a little lamb”, a group of children work hard to collect the vegetables from a community garden outside the schoolhouse to make a soup for everyone to share. Kioni is late for school! As she rushes to get to school, she discovers that her flock of goats have followed her and have snuck into the garden. The class works together to come up with a creative solution to the goat problem. This lively and amusing story, great for preschoolers and reading aloud, is beautifully illustrated by Alma with vibrant and eye-catching 3D mixed media collage.

Let’s Eat! What Children Eat Around the World by Breatrice Hollyer (in association with Oxfam)(2003)

With colored photographs, fun facts, maps, and recipes throughout, this book reads like a scrapbook. Each chapter highlights a day in one child’s life and the special foods that are prepared and eaten in that part of the world. We learn about a wedding in South Africa, a fiesta in Mexico, a day out with Dad in Thailand, mushrooming in France, and a birthday in India.

Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice by Sylvia Rosa-Casanova, illustrated by Robert Roth (1997)

Mama Provi, the grandmother of Lucy lives on the first floor of a city apartment building. Her grandaughter and her family live on the eighth floor. When their evening together is cancelled after Lucy gets sick, Mama Provi decides to cook her a large pot of arroz con pollo to cheer her up. As Mama Provi sets off up the stairs with her big pot of rice in a large shopping bag, she stops at each floor and trades each neighbor a bowl of her delicious rice for samples of their ethnic food – crusty Italian bread, frijoles negros, salad, collard greens, even Mrs. Woo’s green tea and a fresh slice of homemade apple pie. When Mama Provi arrives at Lucy’s door, Lucy is thrilled to see her grandma. “Let’s eat,” said Mam Provi. And that is exactly what they did.” Spanish words scattered throughout the book adds to it’s appeal.

Potluck by Anne Shelby, pictures by Irene Trivas

When I was a student at the University of Illinois in Chicago, I attended an International Church. The pastor was from India. Sam and his wife Sharon have the gift of hospitality. Sam’s curries are the best curries I have ever tasted. Our small church often had over 30 different nationalities represented. When we had potlucks, it was a smorgasbord of delicious dishes from around the world. This book reminds me of those special gatherings. Alpha and Betty decide to invite their multiethnic friends over for a dinner – going through each letter of the alphabet, starting with asparagus soup and ending with zucchini casserole, the pages are filled with colorful, festive dishes that parade across the pages. I especially love “Don did dumplings” and “Quincy, of course, brought quiche, Rose her famous rice and raisin recipe”.
“…Kids will like the way the words sound tripping off the tongue – tongues that may be hanging out a bit, especially when the readers view the final, scrumptious two-page spread.”. Booklist

Let’s Eat by Ana Zamorano and illustrated by Julie Vivas

In this picture book by award-winning Illustrator and her daughter, a large, lively boisterous family gathers together every day at two o’clock to share a meal, prepared and served up by the mother – there’s empanadas, gazpacho, chickpea soup, pollo, and sardinas. Each day, a seat at the table is empty as in turn family members are too busy to come for dinner. The mom sighs and exclaims: “Ay, que pena!” (what a pity). On Saturday, it’s Mama’s turn to be away from the table. When she returns, the following day with their new little sister, Rosa, the family is finally all together again. This calls for a celebration and what better way to celebrate than a pan of paella!
As we say in France, bon appétit!
Quotes:


Psalms for Young Children


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Psalms for Young Children
 by Hélene Delval  illustrated by Arno
As we explore poetry with children, what better place to begin then to turn to the Psalms, the poetry of the Bible. This amazing book, Psalms for Young Children makes the Psalms accessible to young children (for ages 4 to 8). As I read through it, I wish my children were young again and I could read this book with them at bedtime.

Each Psalm is beautifully illustrated, the art work so original and vivid, depicting the world and emotions through a child’s eyes.  The children and the scenes in the illustrations depict diverse cultures and landscapes, from deserts to stormy seas.  This little book, originally published in French as Les Psaumes pour les tout-petits, is now available by Eerdmans for Young Readers.

The author does not shy away from Psalms that speak of fear or sadness, confusion or uncertainty, but also highlights Psalms of thankfulness, reassurance of God’s presence and love and the praise to God for the beauty of nature.

Each “poem” of David is paraphrased in one or two sentences, written in bold letters, in simplified language so even a young child can understand, and an early reader can read the words on his/her own.
I think this book should be in every TCKs home library.  With 40 Psalms, this book is a great little devotional and bedtime book.  Psalms for Young Children might inspire your young writer or artist to write and illustrate their own prayers for God.

Expressing our feelings, however raw or fearful or confused they may be, up to God in prayer, knowing He is there and yearns for us to come to Him in whatever state we are in, is a great gift from God to us as His children – a gift we need to encourage our own children to cherish all the days of their lives. I think this book, Psalms for Young Children, is a perfect little book to encourage this practice.

Here are a few selections:

Let’s shout out loud

with joy to God!

Because God is a really big God.

He can hold the world

in his hands,

the deep caves,

the mountaintops,

the blue seas –

and you and me too!

Psalm 95

If the grounds starts to shake,

if the mountains break into pieces

and fall in the sea,

if the waves grow big as giants,

I’m not scared.

God is with me.

God provides a safe place

for me to hide.

Psalm 46

God is like a rock,

strong and powerful.

God is like a warm, dry place

during a storm.

He protects me from

things that might hurt me.

When I ask for God’s help,

I feel safe.

Psalm 18

Everyone, everywhere,

in every country in the world,

sing a song to God!

Let’s praise God together,

for his great love and strength

will last forever.

Psalm 117

When I trust in God,

it’s like being wrapped

in a warm blanket,

With God on my side,

I am not scared of anything –

not during the day,

not during the night.

Psalm 91

Marie-Helene Delval has also written several other books, including Animals of the Bible for Young Children (2010) and Images of God for Young Children (2010) and The Bible for Young Children.  I currently have several copies of The Psalms for Young Children available for families living overseas.

May Flowers

April Showers Brings May Flowers – poetry Monday

Lena Anderson is a Swedish author and an illustrator of children’s and young adult books. Some of her most popular books translated from Swedish include Hedge Hog, Pig, and the Sweet Little Friend, Hedgehog’s Secret, Linnea in Monet’s Garden, Tick-Tock, Tea for Ten, Stina series and Bunny series. Her books of poetry include Anna’s Garden Songs and Anna’s Summer Songs. These two books of poetry are beautifully illustrated by Mary Q. Steele.

In Anna’s Summer Songs, the 14 poems celebrate trees, flowers, ferns and fruit. Anna, a blond, energetic and adventurous little girl with glasses frolics in the beauty of nature.

As the saying goes “April showers brings May flowers“. Here in Central Indiana, the flowers are bursting to life all around me – as I go out on my daily walk, the trees and the flowers are there to greet me – a reminder that God is one who delights in beautyI I hope that flowers are blooming wherever you may be.

Here are some flower poems for you and your children to enjoy. Lena Anderson’s book Anna’s Garden Songs is available to order if you love the poems below.

Iris

Now I’m dreaming

Iris dreams.

Green and yellow,

White and blue.

And while I’m dreaming

Iris dreams

Do iris dream

Of me and you?

Forget-Me-Not

Forget-me-nots

Have magic powers,

They make my rabbit

Dance for hours

On starlit nights.

He leaps and whirls

And jigs and jogs

And jumps and twirls.

He kick his ears.

I wish I heard

The tune he hears

For though I dance

With all my might

I never get

The steps quite right …

he says.

Poppy

A bright red poppy

Can make me feel happy

And hoppy.

Hop, hip, happy!

Hap, hip, hoppy!

Poppy!

Cornflower

I picked these cornflowers by the road.

Their petals are so blue.

They match the color of my eyes.

They match my ribbon too.

So many summer things are blue,

The sunny seas and skies

And cornflowers growing by the road…

And they all match my eyes!

Lavender

How Lavender loves heat and sun!

Its flowers are sweet to smell.

We dried the blooms and put them in

These little sacks to sell,

So people can on snowy nights

Remember summer’s smells and sights.

Paris-Chien 

  

Paris-Chien – Adventures of an Ex-pat Dog written and illustrated by Jackie Clark Mancuso

I have a new third culture kid book to share with you this week.
I love, love, love this book.  J’aime ce livre.  

 It’s simple, amusing and yet it will reverberate with any child who is thrust into a new country, new city or new school and faces homesickness and the challenge of making new friends.
  Of course, who can resist a story about a feisty Terrier and the charms of Paris?

In this story, Hudson moves to Paris with his owner. He loves Paris where dogs are never left at home and adorn shops, boulevards, boulangeries, parks (except those that have “no dogs allowed” signs) and even restaurants and cafes. However, he is bitterly disappointed when he discovers French dogs speak French and he cannot communicate. He suddenly feels sad and lonely in this new place. His owner enrolls him in French school. His teacher, Madame Vera, is a French poodle. There he learns new words, makes friends and to his amazement, soon begins to understand what other dogs and people are saying. He even has a new girlfriend, Francoise. I love this simple statement at the end of the book:

Paris is a cool place when you have friends.”

  French words are scattered throughout the book and a “petit dictionaire” at the back of the book makes this a great little introduction to the French language as well.

Jackie Clark Mancuso’s bright gouache paintings of dogs and scenes of Paris, Parisien life and French culture brings this story to life… and quite honestly, makes me homesick for France.  
  I also appreciate that the author paints a diverse picture of Paris, with people of different ethnicities and cultures, selling and buying delicious and fresh foods at the open markets or “marche.”

I think Jackie needs to write a sequel where Hudson returns to the US and has to deal with reverse culture shock! (Actually, there is a sequel called Hudson in Provence which I’m looking forward to reading)

Paris-Chien is gem of a book and perfect for any third culture kid who has the courage like Hudson to learn a new language and make new friends in a new place.

La Fin (the end)

A Child’s Calendar

As we begin the month of March and Spring, here in Indiana, shows itself one day, then hides the next, I thought I would share this children’s poem “March” taken from A Child’s Calendar, poems by John Updike and illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman.

John Updike (1932-2009) is the American author of more than 40 books, including collections of short stories, poems and criticisms. His novels have won two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards and three National Book Critics Circle Awards. He lived most of his life in Massachusetts.

A Child’s Calendar was originally published in 1965 with illustrations by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. In 1999, it was reissued with artwork by Trina Schart Hyman. In Hyman’s illustrations, the children and families depicted are of different ethnicities, offering a welcome addition to the children’s literature market, lacking in diversity.


Trina Schart Hyman (1939-2004) has illustrated over one hundred and fifty books for children. She has received the Caldecott Medal (Saint George and the Dragon), Caldecott Honors awards, and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.

In A Child’s Calendar (1999), a Caldecott Honor book, presents twelve poems, one for each month of the year, as the year and the seasons unfold on a family farm in Vermont. Trina Schart Hayman’s colorful full-page paintings are brimming with details of family life and bring the poems to life.

I highly recommend A Child’s Calendar as a great addition to a home library – a book of poetry that can be pulled out at the beginning of each month to celebrate the seasons and the corresponding family activities.

The interplay of text and art has both depth and beauty. The language and illustrations are not merely pretty or ornamentally descriptive, but vibrantly alive.“.   – Publishers Weekly –

 

Hop on Pop


The number of early reader books (other terms used are “beginning readers” or “easy readers”) on the market available today is mind-blogging. However, when I was a young mother, I was a bit “underwhelmed” by many of the early readers. I couldn’t wait for my kids to be able to dive into chapter books. I have since discovered a treasure trove of books in this category that I love, that my children have enjoyed and that are worth lingering over long after your child ready for easy chapter or full chapter books.

As a child, one of my early memories of learning to read in English – I was already reading in French by that time – was Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss. Theodore Geisel’s zany stories and characters are imprinted in my mind – they are happy memories of my mother teaching me English words which were so very different from the French words I had learned so far, words like up, ball, red, dad, sad, hop, stop. But it was the illustrations that jumped out at me – they were so culturally different from the pictures in my French workbooks. What was different in my child’s mind, I can’t completely recall, but I think that it was partly that the illustrations were colorful, fun, and humorous. There is also an element of chaos in Dr. Seuss books that I found appealing. It drew me in and I found myself wanting to read them over and over again. Isn’t that what early readers should do?

What is an early reader?

Early readers are shorter books (1,500 words max) but are broken up into either chapters or vignettes that will give the reader the feeling of reading a book with real chapters in it. These books are written for kids ages 4 to 8. The font size is larger than a chapter book and they include illustrations, although not as many illustrations as a picture book. Many of the early readers are graded (level 1, 2, 3) so that kids can develop their reading skills and move up gradually to more independent reading.

  • Level 1 – simple words and short sentences to the newest readers
  • Level 2 – vocabulary and sentence length for beginning readers
  • Level 3 – Longer stories with paragraphs
  • Level 4 – First chapter books for advanced beginners

One of the first early readers is the Beginning Books, which was founded by Theodor Geisel. In 1957, Theodor Geisel, who took on the pen name Dr. Seuss, responding to an article in Life magazine that lamented the use of boring reading primers in schools, decided to create a more exciting “primer” using only 228 words. The Cat in the Hat was an instant success.

I have great pride in taking Dick and Jane out of most school libraries,” he said. “That is my greatest satisfaction.”

Dr. Seuss then accepted the challenge from his editor, that he couldn’t create a fun book with 50 words or less. Green Eggs and Ham which uses exactly 50 words, proved the editor wrong.

The 50 words are: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

Dr. Seuss wrote many popular titles for beginning readers including Hop on Pop, Fox in Socks, Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. In the Beginning Reader series, I also recommend P.D. Eastman’s books Go, Dog, Go! (one of my son’s favorites), Are You My Mother? and The Best Nest.

In addition to Dr. Seuss’s and P.D. Eastman’s masterpieces, here are some great series to explore with your young reader:

Biscuit series (level 1) by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories (1996)
This series about an adorable yellow puppy named Biscuit, is great for preschoolers and emergent readers alike. A very popular series, Biscuit is everyone’s favorite playful and cuddly little puppy whose antics will amuse the whole family.

Dodsworth series (level 3) by Tim Egan (2007-2013)
This series is great for your little world traveler. Dodsworth and his mischievous duck set out on their travels to different places around the world. It all starts off with a trip to New York –

Dodsworth wanted adventure.

    He wanted to fly in a plane.

    He wanted to sail on a ship.

    He wanted to see the world.”

His adventures are anything but boring, thanks to his traveling companion, a crazy duck who is constantly misbehaving. I love everything about this series – it’s funny, it’s fast paced and it’s perfect for TCKs who can identify with planes, trains and suitcases and mishaps along the way. Books in this series include:

  •     Dodsworth in New York
  •     Dodsworth in London
  •     Dodsworth in Paris
  •     Dodsworth in Rome
  •     Dodsworth in Tokyo

 

Frances books by Russell Hoban (1948-1970)
Frances, the badger, books are widely recognized as one of the great classics of children’s literature. Written by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Lillian Hoban, these stories are gems that are often remembered with fondness into adulthood. There are seven books in this series, all about an strong and independent little girl who loves to make up little rhymes for every occasion.

Who doesn’t remember these lines from Bread and Jam for Frances?
Frances did not eat her egg.

She sang a little song to it.

She sang the song very softly:

“I do not like the way you slide,

I do not like your soft inside,

I do not like you lots of ways,

And I could do for many days

Without eggs.”

Books in this series include:

  • Bedtime for Frances
  • A Baby Sister for Frances
  • Bread and Jam for Frances
  • A Birthday for Frances
  • Best Friends for Frances
  • A Bargain for Frances

***some illustrated by Garth Williams, most illustrated by Lillian Hoban

Arthur series (1989) by Lillian Hoban (writer and illustrator)
Arthur, a young chimp, and his younger sister, Violet, explore the ups and downs of sibling relationships, family, and early childhood. A classic timeless series.

Books in this series include:

  • Arthur’s Honey Bear 
  • Arthur’s Pen Pal 
  • Arthur’s Loose Tooth 
  • Arthur’s Prize Reader
  • Arthur’s Christmas Cookies 
  • Arthur’s Funny Money 
  • Arthur’s Halloween Costume 
  • Arthur’s Great Big Valentine 
  • Arthur’s Camp-Out 
  • Arthur’s Back to School Day 
  • Arthur’s Birthday Party 

Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel (1970-1979)

These classic stories are not to be missed! Each book contains five simple, often humorous, but also heartwarming short stories about the adventures of a frog and his best friend, toad. Frog, tall and green, is relaxed and easy going, Toad, short and brown, is a serious sort of fellow and considers himself the more responsible of the two. Together they learn the true meaning of friendship.

Frog and Toad series includes:

  • Frog and Toad are Friends (1970) (Caldecott honor book)
  • Frog and Toad together (1972) (Newbery honor book)
  • Frog and Toad all Year (1977) (Christopher Award)
  • Days with Frog and Toad (1979)

Tales that are a masterpiece of child-styled humor and sensitivity.”  -School Library Journal-

Also by Arnold Lobel, I highly recommend Mouse Tales, Mouse Soup and Owl at Home.

Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak (first published in 1957)

This is also a classic series about a bear family (Mother Bear, Father Bear and Little Bear) and Little Bear’s friends, which include a hen, a duck and a cat. These stories are filled with love, friendship, humor and imagination, as Little Bear plays with his friends, explores his neighborhood and celebrates the pleasures of childhood. Publication of Little Bear, with illustrations by Maurice Sendak, launched the I Can Read series. Maurice Sendak’s illustrated the first five books, the last book, Little Bear and the Marco Polo was published in 2010, two years before her death and is illustrated by Dorothy Doubleday.

  • Little Bear (1957)
  • Father Bear Comes Home (1959)
  • Little Bear’s Friend (1960)
  • Little Bear’s Visit (1961)
  • A Kiss for Little Bear (1968)
  • Little Bear and the Marco Polo (2010)


Fancy Nancy (Beginning Reading level 1)(2010) by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

Fancy Nancy is a 2005 children’s picturewritten by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser . The book spent nearly 100 weeks on the New York Times Bestsellers list. There are now more than 70 Fancy Nancy books. Fancy Nancy has been translated into over 20 languages.

This newer series for girls is now available in I Can Read early reader series and one of my most often requested book series. Fancy Nancy is a little girl with a big personality who loves everything fancy. She loves fancy clothes, but also loves fancy words like “extraordinary” or “iridescent” as well as french words. So although all the glitter and shoes and tiaras will appeal to the princess in your little girl, she will also expanding her vocabulary.

Amelia Bedelia (I can read, level 1 & 2) by Peggy Parish (1963-2015)

This is one of those series that children love and will request over and over again, despite the protests of Mom and Dad. Amelia Bedelia, a maid, is cheerful, kind and always full of good intentions, but she cannot understand common expressions and idioms, and takes everything literally. She puts clothes of a chicken when told to “dress” the chicken, she gets out paper and crayons when asked to “draw” the curtains, etc. Children will roar with laughter at all her crazy antics. At the end of the day though, there is always some delicious pie or cake to end the day on a sweet note! There are 41 books in this series.

Cynthia Rylant, the Newbery medalist, is amazing. Her early reader series are pure reading pleasure. What she manages to create within the confines of an early reader leaves many other early reader books in the dust. These three series will be enjoyed by your child (and yourself) long after your child leaves the other early readers behind. These are not action packed, but filled with simple pleasures of every day life, surrounded by family, friends or pets.

Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant (1987-2007)

I love, love, love these books! I get so excited when I find copies at garage sales and thrift stores. I now have a large stockpile of them, although they don’t last long and I need to often replenish my supply.

Henry and Mudge, a boy and his very large, drooling 180-pound English Mastiff dog are inseparable. They set out of a series of adventures, enjoying the big outdoors and all those happy moments every child looks back on and sighs. There are 29 books in this series – too many to list.

Mr. Putter and Tabby by Cynthia Rylant (1994-2015)
This series captures the beauty of Rylant’s writing. Mr. Putter, an elderly man decides to adopt a cat to keep him company. So begins a series of adventures and heartwarming moments between Mr. Putter and his furry friend, Tabby. There are thirteen Mr. Putter and Tabby books.


Poppleton series by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Mark Teague (1997-2001)

The stories in this series are about a pig named Poppleton who moves from the city to a small town. He shares a series of adventures with his friends and neighbors.

  •  Poppleton (1997).
  •  Poppleton And Friends (1997).
  •  Poppleton Forever (1998).
  •  Poppleton Everyday (1998).
  • Poppleton Has Fun (2000).
  • Poppleton In Fall (1999).
  •  Poppleton In Spring (1999).
  •  Poppleton In Winter (2001).

Tales of Amanda Pig and Tales of Oliver Pig by Jean Van Leeuwen (1979-2008)
This series was my daughter, Lindsay’s, favorite. As a new reader, she couldn’t get enough of Oliver and Amanda Pig tales. Perhaps as the youngest in the family, Lindsay enjoyed stories of family life, the joys and challenges of sibling relationships, and the simple pleasures of being a preschoolers, like baking oatmeal cookies on a rainy day, or a visit from grandma, or putting on snowsuits to play in the snow. There are 20 early readers in this series.

Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and illustrated by Marc Simont (1972)

This is the perfect early reader (the books are more the size of a chapter book) for mystery lovers. Nate the Great is a series of detective stories about a boy detective and his dog, Sludge (who comes on the scene in the second book). There are a couple of dozen in this series. These are a classic and introduces kids to problem solving and logic. Also great for reading aloud. (ages 4-8)

Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems (2007-present)
This series is hugely popular right now! These hilarious stories about a friendship between an elephant and a pig are sure to make kids laugh. Most of the books is in the form of a dialogue between the two characters (the pig’s words appear in pink bubbles and the elephants words in grey bubbles). There Is a Bird on Your Head and Are You Ready to Play Outside? won the Geisel Award (see below) in 2008 and 2009.

Commander Toad series by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bruce Degen (1980-1998)
Brave Commander Toad and the crew of the spaceship “Star Warts” set out on a mission to explore other planets. However, when they reach a water covered planet and disturb Deep Wader, a monster who inhabits this planet, they have to be brave and smart to escape with their lives. Join Commander Toad, co-pilot Mr. Hop, Jake Skyjumper, and lieutenant Lily on their many space adventures.

Perfect series for all those Star Wars lovers out there.

  •  Commander Toad in Space (1980)
  • Commander Toad and the Planets of the grapes (1982)
  • Commander Toad and the Big Black Hole (1983)
  • Commander Toad and the Dis-asteroid (1985)
  • Commander Toad and the Intergalactic Spy (1986)
  • Commander Toad and the Space Pirates (1987)
  • Commander Toad and the Voyage Home (1998)


Non-fiction early readers



I Spy series (Level 1) by Jean Marzollo

These I Spy books (search and find books) make learning new words into a game. Read the word, then look for it on the adjoining page. Hours of fun (and learning)!

Magic School Bus series (level 2) by Anne Capeci, illustrated by Carolyn Bracken
Scholastic Reader has published a series of The Magic School Bus books specifically geared for early readers. If your child enjoyed the Magic School Bus picture books, then these are great for your emergent reader. There is lots of action, dialogue and colorful illustrations and reads like a graphic novel.

 Finally, I thought I would mentiona that there is an annual award given to beginning readers – The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. The Geisel Award is given annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year. For a list of yearly award winners and honor books, go to ala.org

For a complete list of books available to families living overseas, go to my librarything list and search in the tags for “early reader”. And be sure to let your child pick out some books himself/herself. Your little independent reader will love choosing books to suit his or his interests.

Do you have any favorite early readers from childhood? or that your child enjoys?