Warrior Princess: The Story of Khutulun by Sally Deng

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Warrior Princess: The Story of Khutulun
Author and Illustrator: Sally Deng
Published: August 23, 2022 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Summary: This picture book follows the life of the great-great granddaughter of Genghis Khan, a princess who could rule on the battlefield as well as—or better—than any soldier, and when faced with a potential marriage, learns that sometimes the best way to serve one’s community is to stay true to oneself.

Ricki’s Review: This creative nonfiction text shares what we know about the life of Khutulun, great-great granddaughter of Genghis Khan. She was a princess who had never been defeated in a wrestling match and was a force on the battlefield. When she is forced to marry, she agrees that she will only do so if a man can defeat her in a wrestling match. If they lose, they owe her family ten horses. I really, really enjoyed reading this story. I started reading it to two of my sons, and my third son creeped on over because he was listening and was hooked. It is captivating! The characters are well drawn and the pacing is perfect. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would inspire students to research and learn more about Khutulun and Genghis Khan. Teachers might include other books that creatively imagine people of the past to talk about writers craft and agency in reimagining people of our past.

Discussion Questions: 

  • In what ways does Khutulun show strength?
  • What important decisions does she make in the text? Why does she make it?
  • What themes does this text teach you?

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Read This If You Love: Creative nonfiction, historical fiction, autobiographies, reading about historical figures

 

**Thank you, Macmillan for sending an advanced reading copy for an honest review!**

Review and Giveaway!: Pink Is Not a Color by Lindsay Ward

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Pink Is Not A Color
Author and Illustrator: Lindsay Ward
Published: July 1, 2022 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: Pink finds happiness right where she always knew it was in this colorful companion to the popular picture book This Book Is Gray.

Pink loves her rosy world, from her pink toy dinosaur to her pet flamingo, Phil. But when she sees the Primaries and Secondaries getting ready for the Rainbow Extravaganza, she begins to wonder why she isn’t in the rainbow…and if that means she’s not really a color. Then she meets the Tints, and she’s even more confused. Luckily, a friend shows her the many ways she spreads joy—reminding Pink that she is truly one of a kind, rainbow or not.

Featuring the world of colors introduced in This Book Is Gray—and a few new color concepts—this is a tale about appreciating who you are and realizing that only you can decide what makes you happy.

“Ward’s cast of colors, pink-cheeked and wearing accessories, speak in color-coded speech bubbles; appropriately, pink hues dominate the exuberant art. A rosy take on selfhood.” ―Kirkus Reviews

Lindsay Ward is the creator of the Dexter T. Rexter series as well as Between the Lines, Scooper and Dumper, Rosie: Stronger than Steel, This Book Is Gray, Brobarians, Rosco vs. the Baby, and The Importance of Being 3. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play. Lindsay lives with her family in Peninsula, Ohio with her husband, three boys, one dog, and eight ducks. When she’s not drawing, Lindsay loves to bake. Pink-frosted cupcakes are her favorite. Learn more about her online at www.lindsaymward.com.

Twitter: @lindsaymward
Instagram: lindsaymward

Check out activities and more here on Lindsay Ward’s website!

Ricki’s Review: Lindsay Ward is simply an incredible author/illustrator. She takes a concept that is deceivingly simple (the color pink) and connects it with readers through big themes of not fitting in. I have read this book to my son (whose favorite color is pink) so many times, and each time, we are able to have a discussion about his personal connections to the text. When I dropped him off to his new classroom, we talked about Pink and how she might feel in that moment, and how she was very brave. This is one of those books that will appeal to readers of all ages because it captures a complex concept (colors versus tints) that will teach readers something new, and it has so much heart that will ring loudly for all readers. I recommend it highly! (Side note: Her Dexter T. Rexter series is one of my favorites. Her books are just so fun to read aloud!)

Kellee’s Review: I want to start with the backmatter of this book. I love how it shows the research process behind Lindsay’s book and how one piece of information led to more research which led to Pink is Not a Color. It seems so much like a passion project which makes me love how that could show students the power of research and the creative process. And the research is so interesting! The science behind colors is so much more than most realize, and I love this introduction. I’d love to pair this book with Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky to look at the history AND the science of color. Pink is NOT a Color will also pair with This Book is Gray which shows how Lindsay Ward is making a canon of color books that are so much fun to read and even more fun to learn from.

Readers will love Pink’s personality and will definitely connect with her as she figures out her place in the world through the help of some friends, some discovery, and some reflection.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is one of those books that makes us really, really want to work with younger children. And yet, it is great for all ages! We would love to read this book in tandem with other identity stories like This Book is Gray by Lindsay Ward and Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. Each offers an important message about ourselves but does so through color.

Discussion Questions:

  • How does the author convey the message implicitly and explicitly?
  • Is Pink happy? Where does Pink find happiness?
  • Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in? What did you do?

Flagged Spreads:

Giveaway!:

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Read This If You Loved: This Book is Gray by Lindsay Ward, Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall, Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review!**

Close-Up On War: The Story of Pioneering Photojournalist Catherine Leroy in Vietnam by Mary Cronk Farrell

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Close-Up On War: The Story of Pioneering Photojournalist Catherine Leroy in Vietnam
Author: Mary Cronk Farrell
Published March 22, 2022 by Amulet

GoodReads Summary: The incredible story of Catherine Leroy, one of the few woman photographers during the Vietnam War, told by an award-winning journalist and children’s author.

From award-winning journalist and children’s book author Mary Cronk Farrell comes the inspiring and fascinating story of the woman who gave a human face to the Vietnam War. Close-Up on War tells the story of French-born Catherine Leroy, one of the war’s few woman photographers, who documented some of the fiercest fighting in the 20-year conflict. Although she had no formal photographic training and had never traveled more than a few hundred miles from Paris before, Leroy left home at age 21 to travel to Vietnam and document the faces of war. Despite being told that women didn’t belong in a “man’s world,” she was cool under fire, gravitated toward the thickest battles, went along on the soldiers’ slogs through the heat and mud of the jungle, crawled through rice paddies, and became the only official photojournalist to parachute into combat with American soldiers. Leroy took striking photos that gave America no choice but to look at the realities of war—showing what it did to people on both sides—from wounded soldiers to civilian casualties.

Later, Leroy was gravely wounded from shrapnel, but that didn’t keep her down more than a month. When captured by the North Vietnamese in 1968, she talked herself free after photographing her captors, scoring a cover story in Life magazine. A recipient of the George Polk Award, one of the most prestigious awards in journalism, Leroy was one of the most well-known photographers in the world during her time, and her legacy of bravery and compassion endures today.

Farrell interviewed people who knew Leroy, as well as military personnel and other journalists who covered the war. In addition to a preface by Pulitzer Prize-winning Vietnam War photographer Nick Ut and a foreword by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Peter Arnett, the book includes an author’s note, endnotes, bibliography, timeline, and index.

Review: Before I read this book, I didn’t know anything about Catherine Leroy. This book not only taught me about this strong woman, but it taught me about Vietnam. After finishing this book, I felt like I had a better awareness of the world (but particularly of Vietnam and the United States. At the age of 21, French photojournalist Catherine Leroy decided she wanted to document the Vietnam War. Camera in hand, she went after her goals and didn’t take no for an answer. It is very clear that the author is a journalist, and she presents Leroy’s story in a way that is very engaging and well-written. This book made me want to be a better human, and I recommend it highly.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be an excellent book to use in a history classroom (as well as English classrooms!). It would work really well in a book clubs unit related to Vietnam, heroines, and photojournalism. The photographs alone make this book a stellar addition to classrooms, and the writing is magnificent.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What resistance did Catherine face? How did she react?
  • How does the author integrate photographs to tell us about Catherine Leroy’s work?
  • Which photographs were particularly powerful for you, and why?
  • What are key moments in Catherine’s life that tell you more about who she is as a person?
  • What did you learn about Vietnam? About the United States?

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Read This If You Love: Photography, Nonfiction, Books about War, Books about Strong Women

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Mary at Abrams for providing a copy for review!**

National Geographic Kids: Kamala Harris by Tonya K. Grant and Stacey Abrams by Melissa H. Mwai

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Kamala Harris by Tonya K. Grant and Stacey Abrams by Melissa H. Mwai
Published January 4, 2022 by National Geographic Kids

Summary of Kamala Harris: Explore one of the most powerful and highest-ranking female figures in American history with this biography of Vice President Kamala Harris in this Level 2 reader.

On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris made history. That day, she became the first woman, the first Black American, and the first South Asian American to be elected as Vice President of the United States. Young readers will learn about Harris’s childhood, her early career, and her journey that led to winning the vice presidency. This early reader also explores how Harris devoted her life to helping others, from serving as the Attorney General of California, to being elected as a U.S. Senator, to working alongside President Joe Biden on the campaign trail and in the White House.

The level 2 text provides accessible, yet wide-ranging information for independent readers. Explore Harris’s life, achievements, and the challenges she faced along the way to becoming a barrier-breaking leader and an inspiration to young people everywhere.

Key features include:

  • Expert-vetted text appropriate for ages 5 to 8
  • Engaging and brilliant historical images sourced by National Geographic
  • Fun approach to high-interest biographies

About the series: This high-interest, educationally-vetted readers series features magnificent National Geographic images accompanied by text written by experienced, skilled children’s book authors. Each reader includes a glossary and interactive features in which kids get to use what they’ve learned in the book. Level 1 readers reinforce the content of the book with a kinesthetic learning activity. Level 2 readers feature slightly higher-level text and additional vocabulary words. Level 3 readers have more layers of information to challenge more proficient readers. For emerging readers, the Pre-reader level introduces vocabulary and concepts, and the Co-reader level provides a collaborative reading experience.

Praise for National Geographic Readers:

“Reliable in format and solid in execution, this series works well to introduce children of varying
levels of reading comfort to nonfiction and research formats.”
―Maggie Reagan, Booklist

Complete your collection with these popular National Geographic Biography Readers:

  • National Geographic Readers: Stacey Abrams (Level 2)
  • National Geographic Readers: Harriet Tubman (Level 2)
  • National Geographic Readers: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Level 3)
  • National Geographic Readers: Barack Obama (Level 2)

Summary of Stacey Abrams: Learn about the voting rights advocate and politician Stacey Abrams and her groundbreaking achievements in this appealing Level 2 reader. Young readers will find out about Abram’s childhood and her early career as a city attorney and as minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives. The reader also explores her run in Georgia as the first Black woman to be nominated by a major party for governor, and how losing
that race inspired her to devote her life to making elections and the voting process more equitable for everyone.

The level 2 text provides accessible, yet wide-ranging information for independent readers. Explore Abrams’s life, achievements, and the challenges she faced along the way to leading the fight against voter suppression and becoming a champion for change.

Key features include:
*Expert-vetted text appropriate for ages 5 to 8
*Engaging and brilliant historical images sourced by National Geographic
*Fun approach to high-interest biographies

About the series: This high-interest, educationally-vetted readers series features magnificent National Geographic images accompanied by text written by experienced, skilled children’s book authors. Each reader includes a glossary and interactive features in which kids get to use what they’ve learned in the book. Level 1 readers reinforce the content of the book with a kinesthetic learning activity. Level 2 readers feature slightly higher-level text and additional vocabulary words. Level 3 readers have more layers of information to challenge more proficient readers. For emerging readers, the Pre-reader level introduces vocabulary and concepts, and the Co-reader level provides a collaborative reading experience.

Praise for National Geographic Readers:

“Reliable in format and solid in execution, this series works well to introduce children of varying
levels of reading comfort to nonfiction and research formats.”
―Maggie Reagan, Booklist

Complete your collection with these popular National Geographic Biography Readers:

  • National Geographic Readers: Kamala Harris (Level 2)
  • National Geographic Readers: Harriet Tubman (Level 2)
  • National Geographic Readers: Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Level 3)
  • National Geographic Readers: Barack Obama (Level 2)

Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for NavigationThese two books about trailblazing women are so inspiring. I read both books with my sons, and they were very inspired. These books beg to be shared. Teachers might set up learning stations for students. Each table could read a different National Geographic Kids book to learn about a different biography. Then, students might jigsaw to share key moments in the individuals’ lives. After reading this book with my sons, I asked them how the lives of Harris and Abrams could be used to inspire their own lives. They had some great answers. Every classroom needs to have a copy of these early readers.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What are some of the key moments in Harris’ and Abrams’ lives?
  • How do the text features build on your understandings?
  • How do Harris and Abrams inspire you?

Read This If You Love: Biographies; Informational Texts; Texts about Inspiring People

Recommended For: 

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Once Upon a Forest by Pam Fong

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Once Upon a Forest
Author and Illustrator: Pam Fong
Publication: February 8, 2021 by Random House

Goodreads Summary: This gorgeous picture book follows a helpful marmot working to save a forest recovering after a wildfire. Perfect for teaching children to practice kindness while developing an appreciation for animals and the earth.

After a fire leaves the forest smoldering, a determined marmot and her resourceful bird friend set off on a rescue mission in this beautifully illustrated, wordless story. They clear away fallen branches and scorched bushes. They rake and dig and plant new seedlings in the earth. With determination and ingenuity, as the seasons pass, they care for the little trees by making sure they have enough water, protect their branches from the wind and snow, and keep away hungry creatures, until the trees can thrive on their own.

With a little time, care, and hope we all can help the earth.

My Review: This summer and the last, our state of Colorado was cloaked in smoke. My youngest struggled to understand what was happening and why we had to stay indoors. It was even worse in California, as a whole. Wildfires are, unfortunately, something we are going to have to get used to. This book offers a beautiful, positive look at wildfires. The book focuses less on the wildfire and more on the actions of the marmot and a bird. They don’t dwell in the wildfire’s damage—they take the opportunity to plant new life. I love this book, and it is one that will stick in my heart forever. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be well-paired with nonfiction articles about wildfires–how to prevent them and what to do after they happen. I would also love to use this book on Earth Day.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the illustrator use color to enhance the story?
  • What do the marmot and bird do when the trees are damaged?
  • What adjectives would you use to describe the marmot and bird?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Love:  Journey by Aaron Becker, Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell, The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett, Explorers by Matthew Cordell

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Barbara from Blue Slip Media for sending a copy for review!**

The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Laura Freeman

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The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Laura Freeman
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Publication Date: January 11, 2022 by Random House

Summary: Congressman and civil rights advocate Elijah Cummings dedicated his life to public service. This comprehensive and visually stunning biography details his humble beginnings and unwavering faith as he waged an endless battle for truth, justice, and equality.

We can do better.

When Elijah Cummings was a little boy, he struggled in school. His teachers thought he talked too much and asked too many questions. They said he’d never be able to read or write well.

Despite his difficulties, Elijah never gave up. He persevered, having faith that with hard work, he’d be able to achieve his goals.

Best known as a voice for people of color and an advocate for equal opportunity, Elijah Cummings was a man of faith and dignity, a beacon of justice, and an unrelenting warrior for equality and change.

Carole Boston Weatherford and Laura Freeman marry words and images beautifully in this picture book biography of politician and civil rights champion Elijah Cummings, detailing his inspiring journey–from his humble beginnings as the son of former sharecroppers to his unwavering faith as he became a lawyer, state legislator, and leading congressman. Best known as a voice for people of color and an advocate for equal opportunity, Elijah Cummings was a man of faith and dignity, a beacon of justice, and an unrelenting warrior for equality and change.Discussion

Ricki’s Review: This book had phenomenal pacing. I felt like I really came to understand Elijah Cummings’ life story, and I learned a lot. It includes information about his childhood through his adulthood, which I really appreciated. All three of my children loved reading it, and even my two-year-old sat for the entire book and asked questions.

In classrooms, some stories are highlighted and emphasized every year, and I was glad to read a book highlighting Elijah Cummings’ story and his impact on the Civil Rights movement. He was a phenomenal human being who contributed greatly to the world, and this story beautifully depicts his story.

Kellee’s Review: You can always trust Carole Boston Weatherford to write a beautiful, researched, and well done piece of art, and this is no exception. Elijah Cummings was called the North Star of Injustice because he was a beacon for others to follow in what was just.

However, unlike other civil rights leaders, his history is less known, so this book will perfectly serve as an introduction to Cummings’ life from childhood to death. It shows how his foundation for faith and justice built him up to be the man he was.

I also loved the shout out to the library and librarians! (Though the story of his school counselor telling him he couldn’t be a lawyer was devastating, and I am so glad he proved them wrong!)

And I cannot talk about this book without talking about the beautiful illustrations. Freeman’s art brings the story to life and is so realistic!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn about Elijah Cummings?
  • How did Elijah Cummings’ early life impact his adulthood?
  • What contributions did Elijah Cummings make on the Civil Rights Movement?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction picture books, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, We March by Shane W. Evans, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson, Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Barbara from Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review!**

Review and Giveaway: The Caiman by María Eugenia Manrique, Illustrated by Ramón París, Translated by Amy Brill

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The Caiman
Author: María Eugenia Manrique
Illustrator: Ramón París
Translator: Amy Brill
Published: July 1, 2021 by Amazon Crossing Kids

Summary: The unforgettable story of a man and his alligator.

When Faoro the clockmaker adopts a baby alligator, he has no idea that someday their story will travel far and wide. But the town of San Fernando de Apure would never forget this kind young man and his adoring alligator, who played with the neighborhood children, took part in Faoro’s wedding, and, eventually, mourned his loss. Now their story is being shared with the world.

In this delightful picture book first published in Venezuela, the author brings us back to her own childhood in Venezuela, as one of the children who used to visit this famous caiman, to tell the story of a man who loved animals and how his friendship with his alligator sparked a lasting legacy.

A New York Times Globetrotting Pick!

★“The striking illustrations…have a wild and whimsical feel about them, featuring lush foliage and expressive characters, including the eventually enormous caiman. It’s a memorable and unexpected demonstration of the universality of love, grief, and kindness.” —Booklist (starred review)

María Eugenia Manrique is one of the girls portrayed in this story. She rode the caiman when she visited her family in San Fernando de Apure. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. She studied fine art in Mexico City, specializing in xylography and engraving; Eastern painting at Nankín University, China; and sumi-e and calligraphy at the Nihon Shuji Kyoiku Zaidan Foundation in Japan. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. The Caiman is her first children’s book. For more information, visit her website: https://mariaeugeniamanrique.wordpress.com/.

Instagram: @mem.manrique

Ramón París was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and as a child lived in Barinas, a plains state like Apure, where he also heard the story of the caiman. He currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. Hismost recent book for children, Duermevela, was selected for the Bologna Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition. His books have been recognized with honors including Los Mejores del Banco del Libro and  the IBBY Honor List, among others, and they have been translated into numerous languages. Visit him at: ramon.paris.

Instagram: @ramon_paris_ilustrador

Amy Brill’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications including the Washington Post, Medium, Real Simple, Oprah.com, and One Story. Her first novel, The Movement of Stars, was published by Riverhead Books. A native New Yorker, Amy lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.

Ricki’s Review: It’s NONFICTION. I read this book and couldn’t believe that the story was true, and it made me love it even more! The author beautifully tells the story of Jose Faoro, who adopts a baby alligator when it is just days old. My children have always dreamed of adopting a large animal such as this, so it offered a wonderfully intriguing read. Although, I might add that they now think that we can take in an alligator in our house (ha!). This is the story of a great man who loved animals and loved those around him. I absolutely adored the gentle telling, and it felt like a book that would be translated because children all over the world would be captivated by this story. The illustrations stand out to me because they are timeless. They feel contemporary to my boys, but they also filled my heart with a softness because they reminded me of the classic illustrations of the stories I read and loved as a child. Ahhh, I just adore this book.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is accessible to all levels, but I’d love to see it in elementary school classrooms, where teachers ask their students to research examples of other people who did something out of the ordinary. They could write their own picture books.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the words and illustrations work together to form a cohesive story?
  • Does Faoro’s story surprise you? Why or why not?
  • What does Faoro’s life tell you about him?
  • What did you learn from the story?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction Picture Books; Timeless Stories; Books about Animals

Giveaway:

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Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for Providing a Copy for Review!**