Danza! tells the story of Amalia Hernandez, the founder of El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. She drew from local dance traditions throughout Mexico and combined them with ballet and modern techniques to create spectacular performances. The costumes are inspired by local tradition and when the company tours it takes more than three tons of costumes with it! Tonatiuh captures these beautifully by combining digital collage with his hand-drawn illustrations. I love this mixed-media approach which uses photographs to fill in fabric, hair, and other materials and adds a wonderful texture. Amalia's life and the spread of Mexian folkloric dance is an inspiring tale. I'm lucky enough to have seen the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico perform and recommend that you do too, but first read this book!
This colorful and practical guide leads kids through a variety of exercises in mindfulness. The bright illustrations and simple language make it an engaging way to teach mindfulness to even the youngest kids. The exercises are broken down into five sections: Be Calm, Focus, Imagine, Make Some Energy, and Relax. Each exercise gets a fully illustrated two page spread with large text in appealing fonts explaining what to do in kid-friendly language. I love the squirrels with their kindness exercise and the wolf that leads the get your grumpies out exercise, but it's afternoon as I write this, so I am most drawn to the energizers. This example from that section certainly looks appealing to me. Just look at that lion!
Breathe Like a Bear by Kira Willey, illustrated by Anni Betts
This book is inspired by an annual event in the author's community. Hundreds of volunteers come together for The Labor of Love gathering where they help repair the homes of the elderly, disabled and needy. Young Wilson visits his elderly neighbor GiGi and each time tells her that ONE DAY he will fix a part of her house that is worn or broken. All year he dreams of the plan until the day comes when neighbors and friends come together to take care of one of their own. One day is here. Share this story of compassion and generosity to spark the spirit of can-do kindness.
Reading comforts me. I find magazines in trash piles. Reading leads to writing. I find poetry in tomato fields, and stories in the faces of weary workers.
-from "Tomas Rivera" by Margarita Engle
This gorgeous collection of poetry highlights many lesser-known figures from artists to activists. The poems are short but inspiring and made me want to learn more about the people described. It would be a great class share, especially with the full-page mixed media illustrations that could each make beautiful posters on their own. Brief additional biographical information is included in the back, but you will probably want to do more research on your own after reading.
Bravo!: Poems about amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Rafael Lopez
When Lola spills orange juice all over a nice, white armchair she exclaims "I've ruined everything! I'll hide in the library! They have books and bathrooms. And I'll stay there till I'm a grownup." But on the way to the library one catastrophe follows another and soon Lola's gathered a large group. When everything seems to go wrong a little bird whispers "accident" and shows everyone how to own up to their mistakes make it all better again instead of running away.
I would have spent hours pouring over the details in these illustrations as a kid. There's so many small, humorous moments in the background. Above all I like that it emphasizes that accidents are okay and everyone from kids to adults can have them. The characters' overreactions are funny, but in the end the message that is clear that calmly admitting your mistake and helping to fix it is the way to go.
When Anna reads Secret Garden, she decides she wants to create a magical garden of her own. Her family just moved to a new house with a back yard that looks pretty rough and weedy, but she can already see how it would look with a little help. Luckily there's a girl on her street whose birthday is just one day apart from hers. She can help her get the garden ready. But when school starts and poison ivy attacks, Anna wonders if she's lost her friend and her garden.
I love Anna's imagination and the way she navigates her new friendship. A lot of kids will love the storyline about the lost baby bunny they rescue. It's great for kids learning to read chapter books on their own, but parents would enjoy it as a read aloud as well.
Year of the Garden by Andrea Cheng
Erica's Picks 1st - 3rd Grade Tags: character driven, animals, contemporary fiction, friendship, people of color
Detective Gordon is getting on in years but he's still the best detective around. When he discovers a young mouse who steals a single nut out of hunger, he decides that instead of arresting her, he should take her on as an apprentice and give her food and shelter. They work together to solve cases around town. It's a funny book with a lot of heart and it would make a great read aloud. My favorite part is how particular he is with his stamp. It reminds me of when I let kids stamp their library books.
Everyone hates Jacques Papier. No, really. Jacques is never called on, picked for kickball or even noticed. His parents need to be reminded to set a place for him at dinner. His twin sister Fleur is his best friend and constant supporter. But the truth will out and it is that Jacques is Fleur’s imaginary friend. Did you see that coming? Convincing Fleur to set him free, he goes on a journey to discover himself in the hope of someday becoming real. He joins “Imaginaries Anonymous” and their humorous help gets him through some tough times. Through the "The Office of Reassignment," he is reassigned to new children and has a touching impact on their lives. How will Jacques find out where he belongs and who he truly is? This would make a delightful read-aloud for the whole family. Remember, “you’re only as invisible as you feel, imaginary or not.”
Tessa' Picks, Grades 2-4, Character driven, Friendship, Humor
A Change of Heart By Alice Walsh Growing up in the 1930s in Georgia, young African American Lanier Phillips lived in fear of the Ku Klux Klan. When he grew up, Phillips joined the Navy looking for a more just atmosphere. Instead he faced more racism and discrimination as the black sailors were made to do menial tasks. Tragedy took no note of skin color when the USS Truxtun was shipwrecked off the coast of Newfoundland with few survivors. Phillips was the only black man rescued and taken into the home of good Samaritans. Never having seen a black man, they thought that the oil from the ship had seeped into his pores. When he tells them that his skin is that color he expects their treatment of him to change. The community’s kindness and care remain constant and their affirmation of his humanity changes his outlook on life forever. He says, “I was wounded in mind and soul, but I was healed in St. Lawrence, Newfoundland .” He went on to march for civil rights with Martin Luther King, Jr. This remarkable true story celebrates the healing power of love and kindness.
Tessa's Picks, 2nd-5th grade, Biography, History, People if Color, Social Justice
When Clover's friends get accepted into a horse camp and leave her behind, she knows she's fallen victim to her bad luck yet again. Then she stumbles upon a magical animal adoption agency in the woods by her house. She learns how to take care of fairy horses, unicorns left behind by spoiled princesses, and even a baby dragon. It seems her luck is turning around, until the owner of the agency disappears on a trip and leaves her to take care of the animals by herself. Will she be up to the challenge? Is there more bad luck lurking around the corner? Clover's summer is going to be either the best or worst of her life, but it certainly won't be boring!
I would have been all over this when I was a kid! Employee at a magical animal adoption agency would have immediately become my dream job, and I would have spent hours playing imaginary games where I was Clover. Even as an adult I couldn't resist the charm of this novel as Clover slowly gained confidence and learned how to take care of herself by taking care of others. Plus, fairy horses! They're tiny horses for fairies! Why has no one told me about these before?