You So Black by Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D., Illustrated by London Ladd

Share

You So Black
Author: Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D.
Illustrator: London Ladd
Published January 10, 2023 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary: Based on Theresa Wilson’s (a.k.a. Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D.’s) beautiful, viral spoken word poem of the same name, You So Black is a picture book celebration of the richness, the nuance, and the joy of Blackness.

Black is everywhere, and in everything, and in everyone—in the night sky and the fertile soil below. It’s in familial connections and invention, in hands lifted in praise and voices lifted in protest, and in hearts wide open and filled with love. Black is good.

Accompanied by powerful yet tender illustrations by award-winning illustrator London Ladd, Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D. has adapted her poem, full of gorgeous lyricism and imagery, to show readers the love, joy, resilience, and universality in the beauty of Blackness.

About the Creators: 

Theresa Wilson a.k.a. Theresa tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D. is a musical, lyrical and theatrical alchemist, sprinkling magic like hot sauce. She is best known for her appearance on the 2019 Trumpet Awards on Bounce TV, and the now viral recitation of “You So Black.” Theresa is from the south suburbs of Chicago but calls Atlanta home. She holds a degree in commercial music from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois.

London Ladd is a graduate of Syracuse University with an MFA in illustration. He uses a unique mixed media approach, combining cut paper textured with acrylic paint, tissue paper and colored pencil to bring his diverse subjects to life. London’s artwork is steeped in intensity and emotion, a reflection of the artist himself. His hope is that You So Black will be passed down through generations, reaffirming African Americans’ strength, beauty, power and love. His goal is to open a visual arts community center where lower-income families can create their own art. London lives in Syracuse, New York.

Review: This celebration of blackness is beautifully written and is made to be read out loud. The verse, combined with London Ladd’s dynamic yet warm collages, come together to create a book that shows the beauty, resilience, and brilliance of blackness. The author takes a “historically charged insult” and takes back the ownership and shows how “You So Black” is something to be proud of and in love with.

Essential reading: The interview with the creators at KidLit in Color!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This beautiful picture book definitely belongs on the shelves of everywhere that students who need it can find it.

However, I also picture it being used to introduce spoken word poetry. The picture book in conjunction with the original spoken word poem can be used together and start conversations about rhythm, rhyme, articulation, prosody, etc. as well as other poetic elements like figurative language, specifically similes, and imagery.

Also, in conjunction with the interview linked below, it would lend itself to a great conversation about author’s purpose with evidence from the interview.

Flagged Passages: 

Original Spoken Word Poem: 


Read This If You Love: Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o & Vashti Harrison, Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut and I am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James, The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson & Rafael López, All Because You Matter and We Are Here by Tami Charles & Bryan Collier, I am Enough and I Believe I Can by Grace Byers & Keturah A. Bobo

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Signature

**Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing a copy for review!!**

Atlas Obscura: Explorer’s Guide for The World’s Most Adventurous Kid by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco; Illustrations by Joy Ang

Share

Atlas Obscura: Explorer’s Guide for The World’s Most Adventurous Kid
Author: Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco
Illustrator: Joy Ang
Published: July 19, 2022 by Workman Publishing Company

Goodreads Summary: Journey to the World’s Most Mysterious Places

Created by the same team behind Atlas Obscura, the #1 New York Times bestseller that has over 600,000 copies in print in its first year, The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid is a thrillingly imaginative expedition to 100 weird-but-true places on earth. And just as compelling is the way the book is structured—hopscotching from country to country not by location but by type of attraction. For example, visit the site of the Tunguska event in Siberia, where a meteor slammed into the earth in 1908—and then skip over to the Yucatan, ground zero for the ancient meteor crash that caused the mass extinction of dinosaurs. Then, while in Mexico, tour the fantastical Naica caves, home to crystals ten times larger than the average person—then, turn the page to Vietnam to a cave so vast you  could fly a 747 through it. Illustrated in gorgeous and appropriately evocative full-color art, this book is a passport to a world of hidden possibilities.

Ricki’s Review: The images in this book are absolutely captivating. My children read a few pages each day (and seem to think their parents have an unlimited wallet for travel). This is the kind of book that really appeals to me as an adult who reads to my kids. I am absolutely fascinated by the places in this book, so it makes for a wonderful shared reading. I highly recommend this one.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to create an Atlas Obscura of their community. Each student can take a local place that is “obscura” and write a description. The book can be compiled and bound. Another idea is to have students select one of the places as the setting for a story. This book inspires story!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which places do you want to visit most?
  • What did each of these places remind you of?
  • How did the illustrations enhance your reading?

Flagged Spread:

 

Recommended For: 

readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

RickiSig

**Thank you go Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

Dark on Light by Dianne White, Illustrated by Felicita Sala

Share

Dark on Light
Author: Dianne White
Illustrator: Felicita Sala
Publishing December 6, 2022 by Beach Lane Books

Summary: As the sun sets, three siblings discover nature’s nighttime beauty in this soothingly rhythmic and gorgeously illustrated bedtime picture book from the acclaimed author-illustrator team behind Green on Green.

Gentle the evening. Sweeping the skies.
Dark the shadows as twilight arrives.
Rose the horizon, gleaming and bright.
Twilight and evening and dark on light.

When the family dog trots away from the house at sunset, three siblings tumble out the door to go find him. Soon they find themselves immersed in the luminous colors, shades, and shadows of nature at night—both dark and light. They wander through moonlit lavender meadows, past a timid fawn, beneath a snowy white owl, and much, much more as the night deepens until, at last, they find their sneaky pup.

With beautiful illustrations by Felicita Sala and lyrical text by Dianne White that’s perfect for reading aloud, this book invites young readers to step into the wondrous, colorful nighttime natural world.

Praise: 

“A bedtime chant capable of transforming anyone into a night owl. Sumptuous watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil illustrations show a day shifting from sunshine to twilight to a deepening night sky. Meanwhile, three children are pulling on their boots, grabbing their flashlights, and heading out into a nighttime world as alive as it is welcoming. As the children search and explore, the text repeats the words dark on light through mesmeric rhymes. “Orange the moon, burnished and bright. / Meadow and owl and dark on light.” At last the children peek into a burrow and find their dog, the object of their search. The nighttime is welcoming here, and the children return home to the cozy arms of their parents. Truly the entire enterprise feels similar in tone to Janice May Udry’s Moon Jumpers (1959), illustrated by Maurice Sendak, as when the children ramble through fields of fragrant lavender beneath a brilliant sky. This is a book capable of banishing nighttime fears, showing the night to be a time of wonder, exploration, and even comfort. Sala’s art matches the cadences of the text beat for beat, offering consistently beautiful images of this undiscovered nighttime world…. Lilting, haunting, rhyming, and as unforgettable as a dream the daylight just can’t quite erase.” – Kirkus Reviews, *STARRED REVIEW*, 9/15/2022

“The creators of Green on Green follow that seasonal work with one focused on shadow and light, centering lulling, mesmerizing sensate verse accompanied by artwork in warm, saturated hues…. Closing bedtime scenes in a shared bedroom embody warmth and security… in this quiet celebration of chiaroscuro in the natural world.” – Publishers Weekly, *STARRED REVIEW*, 10/24/2022

About the Creators: 

Dianne White lives in Gilbert, Arizona, with her family. She is the author of Who Eats Orange?Blue on BlueGreen on Green, and Dark on Light.

Felicita Sala is a self-taught illustrator and painter. She has a degree in philosophy from the University of Western Australia. She now lives and works in Rome. She draws inspiration from nature, children, mid-century illustration, folk art, and architecture.

Review: Dianne White’s verse with Felicita Sala’s illustrations makes this book an instant read aloud need! The verse is so rhythmic and rolls off the tongue in a way that will make the book fun to read and listen to. The illustrations add another dimension to the words taking a beautiful poem and turning it into a narrative also. This book will make any reader want to go on a nighttime hike to investigate the beauty of the night.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Here’s an author-provided activity kit!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the illustrator use colors to add to the mood of the book?
  • Pick a spread. What words in the stanza stands out to you? Why?
  • The reviews mention that Dark on Light is a book that is meant to read aloud. What about the verse written by White makes it so much fun to read aloud?
  • What fun things do you see in the illustrations as the kids venture outdoors?
  • Why do you think the creators chose to have the book end in daylight instead of nighttime?
  • With an adult, go on a nighttime walk and write a journal about what you saw.

Flagged Passages: 

“Gentle the evening. Sweeping the skies. Dark the shadows as twilight arrives.”

Rose the horizon, gleaming and bright. Twilight and evening and dark on light.

Smooth the stones. Crisp the air. Dark the garden, trimmed with care.

Green the sage, nubby and bright. Garden and stones and dark on light.”

Read This If You Love: Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine; Night Animals by Gianna Marino; Noisy Night by Mac Barnett; The Night Gardener by Terry Fan; Goodnight, Butterfly by Ross Burach; Nighttime Symphony by Timbaland, Max at Night by Ed Vere

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Signature

**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

Author Guest Post: “Bring the Text to Life: Baking the Cake” by Stephen Savage, Author of Moonlight

Share

“Bring the Text to Life: Baking the Cake”

In 2004, when I began my career in children’s books with a book called Polar Bear Night (published by Scholastic, written by Lauren Thompson), I thought I had it all figured out. I was of the mind that picture books were mainly about the visuals (why else would they call them “picture books”). And as crazy as what I am about to say sounds, I didn’t really understand how the text functioned. I knew it filled blank spaces in the illustrations, but that’s about it. It seemed like “the icing on the cake”. Little did I know.

Then in 2010, I decided I wanted to bake a cake and ice it, too. My daughter had just been born, and I felt inspired to write a story about her. One morning, as I stumbled across the Gowanus canal on my way to my studio in Brooklyn (I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before), I spotted a tug boat. “That’s my story”, I thought. I could see the visuals perfectly. 

But what about those blank spaces in the images? They’d need words! By this time, I had illustrated three books, visited a few classrooms, gotten to know the reading habits of kids, and was starting to figure things out a bit. I was learning that picture books were read-alouds, and that the words were very important (duh!).

I was on to the fact that words could be fun to say. Words could engage. More importantly, words could create a beginning, middle, and end in a book. I had so much to learn. I spent months writing my ideas down on index cards, until the cards fell together to form Little Tug (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan).

This summer, my seventh book as both author and illustrator comes out. It’s called Moonlight. And I’m sure if I showed the book to my 2004 self, he’d scoff at the text. At only 85 words, he’d regard it as a very thin layer of icing on top of an already yummy cake.

But here’s what I’d say to my old, uniformed self: effective picture book text may seem effortless, but that’s not the case. I’d point out all the craft that went into the writing, a discussion of which, could be used to stimulate discussion in the classroom.

I’d point out FOUR examples of writing tools I used to bring the text to life:

  1. PERSONIFICATION: The book opens with the line “Something is on the move”. Personifying the moonlight, turning it into the protagonist in the story, was one way I put a new spin on the traditional lullaby/nighttime theme. 
  2. VIVID VERBS: Words like “slithering”, “drifting” and “tumbling” give the reader a sense of action and adventure. They create excitement and drama.
  3. ALLITERATION: “Sliding down silvery tracks” may just be my favorite line in the book. Why? It’s fun to say. And I have my editor, Neal Porter, to thank for that alliterative line. He replaced my original word, “Icy” with “silvery”. PS: I think it’s nice for young readers to hear how professional artists get help from their teachers (er, I mean editors 😉
  4. SENSORY LANGUAGE makes a story relatable. I used the line “Then it rests for a while, next to you” for a rush of emotion at the critical moment in the story when the moonlight journeys into the child’s bedroom. Certainly, the image of the cat snuggled up against the child reinforces this ‘touch’. 

So now that I’m thinking about it, this “icing on the cake” analogy doesn’t really apply anymore. In picture books, images always work together with text to tell the story. I had to work hard to figure this out, and luckily my editors and mentors have been generous with their advice and suggestions. Like most things in life, writing is about practice and good guidance. And a little piece of cake and a glass of milk while you’re working never hurts!

NOTE: Special thanks goes to teacher/reading specialist Renee Davis of Glastonbury, Connecticut (my sister-in-law) for acting as a consultant on this post.

Published August 23rd, 2022 by Neal Porter Books

About the Book: A lyrical bedtime read about the captivating effects of moonlight and its nightly journey.

Something is on the move.”

When moonlight shines, it’s not like most light. In the quietest hours of the night, it swings through trees and slithers down rivers. It drifts in the wake of steamships and catches on the propeller of a passing plane. It blankets neighborhoods before coming to rest by your side.

In this bedtime picture book, Stephen Savage, author and illustrator of And Then Came HopeBabysitter from Another Planet, and the Geisel Honor book Supertruck, presents a lyrical text and illustration full of dramatic light and shadow to pay homage to the mysterious moon and the unique ways it reveals itself each night.

About the Author: STEPHEN SAVAGE is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator whose accolades include a New York Times Best Illustrated Book (Polar Bear Night) and a Geisel Honor (Supertruck). Polar Bear Night was a New York Times bestseller. He also wrote and illustrated And Then Came Hope and Babysitter from Another Planet. He teaches at the School of Visual Arts and lives in Brooklyn with his wife, daughter and two dogs. 

https://www.savageillustrator.com/
@savageillustrator on Instagram
@savageartist on Twitter

https://holidayhouse.com/book/moonlight/
@holidayhousebks on all platforms

Thank you, Stephen, for sharing sharing your analogy that can move writing to the next level!

The More You Give by Marcy Campbell, Illustrated by Francesca Sanna

Share

The More You Give
Author: Marcy Campbell
Illustrator: Francesca Sanna
Publishing December 28, 2021 by Chronicle

Summary: A modern-day response to The Giving Tree, this lyrical picturebook shows how a family passes down love from generation to generation, leaving a legacy of growing both trees and community.

Once there was a wide-open field, and a boy who loved his grandmother,
who loved him back.

The boy’s grandmother gives him many gifts, like hugs, and Sunday morning pancakes, and acorns with wild and woolly caps. And all her wisdom about how things grow. As the boy becomes a father, he gives his daughter bedtime stories his grandmother told him, and piggyback rides. He gives her acorns, and the wisdom he learned about how things grow. His daughter continues the chain, then passing down gifts of her own. Here is a picture book about the legacy of love that comes when we nurture living things—be they people or trees.

Ricki’s Review: This book is absolutely stunning. It captures the beautiful spirit of giving as it passes through generations. I found myself drawn into the text, captivated by the words and the powerful illustrations. I loved the ways in which the spirit of giving is captured across three generations. Overall, I love the way it captures kindness, wisdom, and love.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might read The Giving Tree and then read this book. Students could engage in a discussion of giving. The two texts exist as foils for each other, and the giving does not just go one way.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do we give? What do we give?
  • What does it mean to give?
  • What does giving mean for the boy in the book? His grandmother?
  • What have elders given to you?

Book Trailer:

Read This If You Love: Books about Giving; Books about Intergenerational Love; Books about Kindness

Recommended For: 

**Thank you to Cynthia at Random House Children’s Books for providing a copy for review!**

Guest Review: A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston, Illustrated by Sylvia Long

Share

Guest Reviewer: Natalia, UCF Elementary Education Student

A Butterfly is Patient
Author: Dianna Hutts Aston
Illustrator: Sylvia Long
Published May 18th, 2011 by Chronicle Books

Summary: The creators of the award-winning An Egg Is Quiet and A Seed Is Sleepy have teamed up again to create this gorgeous and informative introduction to the world of butterflies. From iridescent blue swallowtails and brilliant orange monarchs to the worlds tiniest butterfly (Western Pygmy Blue) and the largest (Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing), an incredible variety of butterflies are celebrated here in all of their beauty and wonder. Perfect for a child’s bedroom bookshelf or for a classroom reading circle!  (Summary from Goodreads)

About the Creators: 

Dianna Hutts Aston is the author of many books for children and is the founder of the nonprofit foundation for disadvantaged children, The Oz Project. She lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Sylvia Long is the illustrator of many best-selling books for children, including Sylvia Long’s Mother Goose and Hush Little Baby. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband and their dogs.

Review: I loved this beautifully illustrated book by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long!  There is a wide variety of butterflies depicted in this nonfiction picture book about the life cycle and anatomy of butterflies.  Not only can it be enjoyed for its visual aspects, but the descriptive vocabulary shares basic facts about butterflies as well as more unusual information.  Did you know butterflies taste with their feet?  Some butterflies eat plants that are poisonous to their predators when they are caterpillars, so they will be poisonous as adults.  For such a seemingly delicate creature, A Butterfly is Patient shares that butterflies are so much more than they seem.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:

In addition to providing beautiful, life-like illustrations of a variety of butterflies, this nonfiction picture book follows the life cycle of a butterfly.  There are many opportunities to infuse reading, ELA, math, art, and science and more using this book.  There is a rich descriptive vocabulary and uses key terms like anatomy, metamorphosis, migration, coloration/camouflage, and more.  I can see using these words cross-curricular lessons, from an ELA-based writing exercise to science-based compare/contrast activity with other animals and insects.  Math and geography activities can be used to calculate and track the migratory paths that different species of butterflies travel in their lifetimes.  Take it a step further, compare/contrast how many hours/days/weeks that would take a person using different modes of transportation.  Students can use what they have learned about butterfly camouflage and anatomy, to create their own butterfly.  They can describe why they chose the colors and features, then use art supplies to create a painting, drawing, or model of their “newly discovered” species.

Something I love to do with my children and students, is purchase milkweed plants.  They attract Monarch Butterflies.  Sometimes the plants already have tiny eggs or caterpillars living on them.  Other times, if I wait long enough, Monarchs will lay eggs on my plants.  We love to watch the caterpillars grow from teeny tiny slivers, to thick, fat caterpillars, which in turn, change into gorgeous jade chrysalis.  If we are lucky enough, we get to see the butterfly when it hatches.  There are butterfly net cages you can use in the classroom or just keep the plants outdoors if there is a safe place.  Students can track the growth and changes throughout the process with drawings and/or written descriptions.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why does a butterfly lay its egg under a leaf?
  • What does it mean to “molt?”
  • What is “metamorphosis?”
  • How does a caterpillar protect itself during metamorphosis?
  • How do butterflies help pollinate flowers?
  • What are some ways that butterflies use their wings to protect themselves?
  • How does a butterfly use its probiscis?
  • Are butterflies all the same size?
  • What would happen if a butterfly didn’t have scales?
  • How are butterflies’ scales helpful to them?
  • Where do Monarch butterflies migrate to and from?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Thank you, Natalia, for your review!

Warrior Princess: The Story of Khutulun by Sally Deng

Share

 

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?

Flagged Spread:

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!**