Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman

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Pink Is for Boys
Author: Robb Pearlman
Illustrator: Eda Kaban
Published: June 5, 2018 by Running Press

Goodreads Summary: An empowering and educational picture book that proves colors are for everyone, regardless of gender.

Pink is for boys . . . and girls . . . and everyone! This timely and beautiful picture book rethinks and reframes the stereotypical blue/pink gender binary and empowers kids-and their grown-ups-to express themselves in every color of the rainbow. Featuring a diverse group of relatable characters, Pink Is for Boys invites and encourages girls and boys to enjoy what they love to do, whether it’s racing cars and playing baseball, or loving unicorns and dressing up. Vibrant illustrations help children learn and identify the myriad colors that surround them every day, from the orange of a popsicle, to the green of a grassy field, all the way up to the wonder of a multicolored rainbow.

Parents and kids will delight in Robb Pearlman’s sweet, simple script, as well as its powerful message: life is not color-coded.

Ricki’s Review: I have two sons. I very much appreciate all of the wonderful girl-empowering books that have been published recently. I am constantly shooting up my fist and shouting “Hooray!” when these books are published. But as a mom, I appreciate even more the opportunities to tell my son, “Yes, it’s okay that your favorite color is ‘rainbow,'” “No, boys are not necessarily better at fixing things” (I’ll secretly admit that this one is actually true in our house—my husband is an engineer), or “Yes, it’s okay if your favorite Disney song is ‘Let It Go,’ even when you are the only boy in your class who thinks this.” (I should backtrack here and say that Moana is far better than Frozen.)

I have one more anecdote. The day after I read this book to my son, I went to a birthday party with my sons. My 19-month-old crashed into a boy who was about 2 and half. My kid, who is oddly resilient, popped right up, but the other boy cried. His dad said, “You need to man up. Boys don’t cry.” This kind of stuff has to end. It’s only with the publication of books like these that we will be able to defy these gender norms that drive me bonkers. Pink is for boys.

The basic (but well-conceived) drawings of this book make it shine. The point is clear—and younger readers will easily make sense of it. The characters are drawn as simple sketches and are understated. This makes the message all the more powerful. 

Kellee’s Review: My son loves all the colors. Except, according to him, pink and purple. Where did this come from?! In my house, all colors are wonderful colors and girls and boys can like and do whatever they want, but he must have been told by someone ‘out there’ that pink and purple are girl colors, and Trent, wanting to be accepted, now felt he couldn’t like these colors. I try to counteract this notion in my house, but it is ‘out there’ that minds need to shift or I am fighting a battle so much bigger than I may be able to handle. When will we [general societal we] stop saying “You throw like a girl” as an insult or “Man up” as a way to tell kids to not cry?! I can teach my son to be a feminist, but until things like those stated above change, society will always be pushing against what I am teaching him at home. 

Within the text, in addition to promoting the brilliance and beauty of all colors, I also truly appreciated how the characters were diverse in all aspects of the word and that the author purposefully rotated between girls and boys & boys and girls to show that neither deserves to go first.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book makes us itch to teach young kids. We would ask students to create their own versions (or posters) of this book. For example, they might create books called Crying is For Boys or Dirt is for Girls. As a secondary teacher, this book would be a great discussion starter about gender prejudice and assumptions in society.

Discussion Questions: How does the illustrator use simplistic drawings to better convey the meaning of the text?; How does the author convey the message implicitly and explicitly?

Flagged Passage:

Read This If You Loved: Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall, The Boy In the Dress by Michael Walliams, The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein

Recommended For: 

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RickiSigand Kellee Signature

**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters for providing copies for review!**

Miles Away from You by A. B. Rutledge

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Miles Away from You
Author: A. B. Rutledge
Published: March 20, 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Guest Review by Kaari von Bernuth

Goodreads Summary: It’s been three years since Miles fell for Vivian, a talented and dazzling transgender girl. Eighteen months since a suicide attempt left Vivian on life support. Now Miles isn’t sure who he is without her, but knows it’s time to figure out how to say goodbye.

He books a solo trip to Iceland but then has a hard time leaving the refuge of his hotel room. After a little push from Oskar, a local who is equal parts endearing and aloof, Miles decides to honor Vivian’s life by photographing her treasured Doc Martens standing empty against the surreal landscapes. With each step he takes, Miles finds his heart healing–even as he must accept that Vivian, still in a coma, will never recover.

Told through a series of instant messages to Vivian, this quirky and completely fresh novel explores love, loss, and the drastic distances we sometimes have to travel in order to move on.

Kaari’s Review: I’d like to preface this blog post by saying that I do not identify as LGBTQ in any way, so I don’t have personal experiences to say whether or not this novel presents an accurate representation of what it is like to be an LGBTQ person. But, I think that this book does provide a compelling and interesting perspective that non-LGBTQ people can understand and connect with. I liked that the entire story was written in a messaging format. It placed an interesting lens over the story because, as readers, we always know that the story is being written to someone, even if they can’t respond. The format also lends itself to casual language, which makes it an entertaining and engaging read that students will love.

This book was certainly entertaining, and I loved reading it. I loved cheering for Miles and hurting for Miles when it was appropriate. I think that Miles’ approach to grief is also an approach that many teens can connect with, and maybe learn from as well. However, this book has a lot going on in it. The main character, Miles, is coping with the loss of his transgender girlfriend. His two lesbian moms are very supportive of the LGBTQ community, and even run a summer camp for LGBTQ kids. And, Miles himself is unsure of his sexuality, which he explores more as the novel goes on. Because there are so many LGBTQ elements the author tried to fit in, it feels a little bit contrived at times, and distracts from the overall messages of acceptance of personal identity, and also of the LGBTQ community, and dealing with the intricate and complicated loss of a loved one.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think this book poses a lot of really interesting questions about suicide, grief, overcoming grief, acceptance, identity, potential abuse (between Oskar and his boyfriend), love, gender, and sexuality that could spark a lot of discussions for students. For these reasons, I think that this book should definitely be included in classroom libraries, and used as a literature circle book. However, if someone is looking to teach an lgbtq book to an entire classroom, I’d choose one that didn’t have quite as many lgbtq aspects, as I mentioned in the review, because it makes the book feel somewhat cluttered and contrived, and there are many other novels that would be better for teaching to a large classroom.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is identity explored in this novel?
  • How is discrimination portrayed in this novel?
  • What kinds of violence/abuse do we see in the novel?
  • How is death/dying portrayed?
  • How does Miles cope with grief? What ways are productive and what ways are unproductive?

We Flagged: “This is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the place where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly, slowly tearing apart. It sounds so destructive, doesn’t it? Like the world could just keep spreading and eventually it’ll just crack in half and bleed out into the universe. But the good news is that it doesn’t actually work like that. When the earth splits, lava rises and cools, creating new land where there wasn’t any before. It heals as it tears. I think humans do that, too. So, anyway, this is the tenth photo I’ve taken of Vivian’s boots, and it might be my last for a little while. I do want to keep connecting and keep exploring this new scar tissue.” -Advanced Reading Copy page 224

Read This If You Loved: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills; Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin; If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo; Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford

Recommended For:

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

  RickiSig

**Thank you to Kaari for reviewing this book!**

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns
Author: Julie C. Dao
Published: October 10, 2017 by Philomel

Guest Review by Kaari von Bernuth

Goodreads Summary: An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

Kaari’s Review: The entire time, I wasn’t entirely sure if the  protagonist was the hero or the villain. And, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I appreciated this book because it made me think. I’d be cheering for Xifeng and wanting her to win, and then she’d do an awful thing to help her win, and I’d be repulsed by her. This book highlights the struggle of ambition, and how difficult it is for a woman to achieve the dreams she has. And, while I am off put by Xifeng’s methods and don’t necessarily think they were the right decisions, her actions and the way she achieves power could spark great discussions.

The setting and the plot of this book was thrilling, and I Ioved the way that fantasy was woven into a world so seamlessly. The creatures and ideas introduced were thought provoking and had amazing descriptions that made me feel like I was living in the enchanted world with the characters. I do wish that there had been some more resolution regarding some of the magical beings and the warnings they gave, but I think that Dao intends for this to be the first in a series, and I’m sure that more resolution will come in later novels.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would definitely include this book in a classroom library for kids to check out if they want to read it. However, while this book is interesting, and explores an interesting take on female empowerment, I don’t think I would teach this book in a classroom setting, or use it in literature circles. I am a huge advocate for female empowerment, and discussing the paths for women to claim their power. However, I think that because Xifeng’s methods were so morally questionable, and readers aren’t sure if Xifeng is a hero or a villain, that Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is not the best novel to discuss for this topic. There are many other books that discuss female empowerment in a much more productive light. So, I’d include it in a classroom library, but not necessarily teach it in any way.

Discussion Questions: Do you think Xifeng’s methods were justifiable?; What does the social hierarchy look like in this novel?; Is Xifeng a hero or a villain in this story?; What is the effect of portraying a strong female protagonist in this way?; How is the fantasy world characterized?

We Flagged: “‘I’m a good man, Xifeng. I let you have your own way and speak your mind…’

‘You think I don’t know that? That I’m so blind and stupid?’

‘Yes, I do!’ he shouted, his face bright red. ‘I offer you the world…’

‘Yes, the world as you see it!’

‘I saved you from that evil woman!’

‘Only to trap me yourself.’ She watched him turn away and run a trembling hand over his head. ‘I was Guma’s, and now you want me to be yours. I have my own soul and my own destiny, and I’m tired of belonging to someone else’” (Advanced Reader Copy p. 125).

Read This If You Loved: Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu; Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin; Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Recommended For:

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

  RickiSig

**Thank you to Kaari for reviewing this book!**

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

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Rosie Revere, Engineer
Author: Andrea Beaty; Illustrated by: David Roberts
Published: September 3, 2013 by Abrams

A Guest Review by Jennifer Zafetti

Summary: Rosie is an ambitious young girl who aspires to be an engineer. She creates an invention for her uncle, but becomes embarrassed when he laughs at her. She does not feel supported , until she meets her Great-Great-Aunt Rose who is both an adventurer and an explorer. Her great-great-aunt yearns to fly so Rosie builds her a contraption made out of cheese. When her great-great-aunt laughs at her failure, Rosie becomes disheartened and swears to never invent again. Rose provides her with comfort and explains that, “Your brilliant first flop was a raging success.” This provides Rosie with the encouragement she needs to try again!

Review: I really enjoyed reading this book! I think that it is so important for kids to embrace failures! If Rosie had admitted defeat after her first failure, she would have never been able to be successful. Rosie’s perserverance allowed her to create a flying contraption for her aunt. Furthermore, the rhyming sentences created an engaging tone that kept me wondering what would happen next. This is a great story to read-aloud to a classroom! Additionally, the illustrations on each page really add to the story and provide detailed visuals to accompany Rosie’s different inventions. Overall, I think that this book can be inspirational for all ages—the simple message: never give up!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Rosie Revere, Engineer is an uplifting story in which failure turns into success. Teachers should use this children’s book to teach students about the importance of perseverance. When faced with challenges, students should use them as an opportunity to grow. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything!

Also, the teacher can pause the reading to ask for predictions.

Discussion Questions: How did Rosie’s mood change throughout the story?; When is a time that you persevered when facing a challenge?; When is a time that you have learned from a failure? How do Rosie’s family members impact her actions?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Loved: Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, and The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Recommended For:
 classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Thank you, Jennifer!

RickiSig

Aspiring Author Guest Post!: “Four Books that Challenge Gender Roles” by Ainsley Izzie

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“Four Books that Challenge Gender Roles”

Most adults were probably raised on the idea that boys did one thing while girls did another, that boys love blue while girls love pink. It’s neither correct nor incorrect to believe in traditional gender roles, but people are more wary these days of such stereotypes and inequalities between the sexes. It’s wrong to discourage a girl from studying engineering as it is a male dominated  industry, as it is wrong to deem a boy homosexual just because he has an interest in clothes, and this has inspired numerous parents around the world to support the movement of gender neutral parenting, or GNP as it’s more commonly known. Although the uninformed may see androgyny to be the result of this parenting style, Everyday Feminism explains, “The whole point of GNP is that it doesn’t force any preconceived gender norms onto a child in the hopes that they can find their own comfort spot on the continuum we call gender.”

Parents aren’t the only ones working to eliminate society’s prejudices on gender. From clothes and toys to literature, businesses and individuals are redefining gender roles in various ways. Several companies are doing quite well in the arena, including the unisex clothing brand Tootsa that focuses on colors and patterns that any child would love without the gender biases. Clothes are a great way to express one’s thoughts on the subject and show their support for fluidity, but for anyone that is unaware of the gender continuum could use a lesson or two from a few writers that have changed our outlooks on what it’s like to be masculine or feminine.

Writing about a gender neutral character is a difficult skill to master, but a handful of authors have managed to do it so eloquently that it's time that we help young students break any gender stereotypes they may have.

All I Want Is To Be Me by Phyllis Rothblatt

all i want

Gender neutrality is all about individuality, which is exactly what All I Want Is To Be Me promotes through this story of children expressing their personalities with the clothing they prefer and activities they like.

Not All Princesses Dress In Pink by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple

not all princesses

The typical princess is expected to be dainty and damsel-like, but not these royal family members. Jane Yolen shows us that princesses come in all shapes and sizes, and that loving sports and adventure don’t make them any less of a princess, no matter what anyone says.

Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman

jacob's new dress

In the story of Jacob’s New Dress, a young boy is made fun of when he shows up at school wearing his new favorite outfit. But role models such as his teacher and his mother show him that there are lots of ways to be a boy, and that it’s just a matter of accepting and loving himself.

Ballerino Nate by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

ballerino

Ballerino Nate is about a boy that discovers his love for ballet, but finds it difficult to pursue his dream to be a dancer when his brother says that only girls can be ballerinas. That’s when his mother takes him to a real ballet and meet a real male dancer, in hopes that he will persist no matter what obstacles may come his way.

About the Author: Ainsley Izzie is an aspiring writer. She has been working on sharpening my skills for about 4 years now and has had some of her work published online. Her published works can be viewed on Techie Doodlers and her personal blog.

Thank you Ainsley for this post about such an important topic!

Kellee Signature andRickiSig

Teeny Tiny Toady by Jill Esbaum

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teeny tiny toad

Teeny Tiny Toady
Author: Jill Esbaum
Illustrator: Keika Yamaguchi
Published: March 1, 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books

Goodreads Summary: When a giant hand scoops up her mama and puts her in a pail, a terrified tiny toad named Teeny hops faster than she ever did in her life. “Mama’s stuck inside a bucket! Help me get her out!” she begs her big, clumsy brothers. “Don’t you worry, kid. We’ll save her!” they promise, bumbling and stumbling and jumbling out the door. But as the boys rush headlong to the rescue, pushing their little sister aside, it becomes clear: brawn isn’t always better than brains—and the smallest of the family may just be the smartest one of all.  Written in lilting verse.

Ricki’s Review: I should be honest that frogs and toads are my favorite animal. I love everything about them! Reading this book was such a joy. I loved how the words danced across the page. If you look at the image below, you will see the way the words pop. The toads are personified in a way that makes me smile. They high five, cheer, hold each other up, etc. Teeny may be little, but she is fierce. It takes her some time to realize that she has valuable ideas. I enjoy teaching my son to be critical of gender as we read this book, and I particularly enjoyed the feminist theme.

Kellee’s Review: I should be honest that frogs and toads are one of my least favorite animals. However, that did not keep me from loving this book! Ricki touched on much of what is superb about the book including the onomatopoeias throughout, the way the words hop like toads all over the page, and the joyousness of these toads’ family. I also particularly enjoyed the theme of this book–it definitely shows how you shouldn’t underestimate people especially if you are basing it off of a prejudicial stereotype. It also  I plan on using this for one of my precept/theme activities with my students because I feel there is so much that could be discussed in this teeny, tiny book. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This story would be great to use in a creative writing class. The author and illustrator cleverly craft the phrasing and presentation of the story, and this will be inspirational for writers and illustrators. Teachers might also use this text to teach personification, onomatopoeias, and effective use of rhyme.

Discussion Questions: When does Teeny realize that her ideas are valuable? How does her size impact how she feels about herself?; Are there other ways that Teeny could have gotten her family out of the bucket? Try to think of as many ways as you can and how they would have impact the telling of the story.

Flagged Passage:

teeny passageSpread from: http://andreacmiller.com/projects/teeny-tiny-toady/

Read This If You Loved: The Frog and Toad series; Stick by Steve Green; Green Wilma by Tedd Arnold

Recommended For: 

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RickiSigand Kellee Signature

**Thank you to Josh at Sterling Books for providing copies for review!**

Text Sets for Teachers: Gender’s Lens: Society’s Views and Expressions of Gender

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Gender’s Lens: Society’s Views and Expressions of Gender
Text Set for Every Day by David Levithan
created by Jack Dunn

At a time where celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner exist, society is increasingly regarding gender as a fluid construct. With this established, one can better examine the how’s of society’s view of gender. I chose this approach because I think too often the context of gender is lost in its portrayal in different texts. When it comes to women, often the discussion is framed as a “How does (female character) embody/defy the stereotypes of women in (role)?” While ideas like “strong female archetypes” are important, it is equally important to understand why roles like this matter in literature. Women do not exist merely as affirmations and challenges to society and so should not be regarded solely as such within the classroom. We must consider womanhood as a varied, independent structure, not a response to a long-established, less-than definite construct of genders and their roles. As for masculinity, any discussion at all would be breaking from the norm. The ways that Pudge in Looking for Alaska challenges masculine stereotypes, that Finny in A Separate Peace might embody them are not typical discussion topics. I am not suggesting that these are questions that warrant discussion, but why they are not discussed is something worth exploring.

Every Day by David Levithan seemed like a logical choice as an anchor text. Its protagonist is genderless, and is afforded a unique perspective into the lives of both men and women. From there, I looked for texts that could be explored from this particular perspective in new and interesting ways. I tried to include as many different perspectives as possible. I wanted to then expand the context that this conversation exists within. I tried to include both anecdotal and objective information about gender from numerous perspectives. I also included information about transgender people as it is a growing important part of the gender discussion. This text set is mean to open up the conversation about a topic that has been contentious lately.

Anchor Text (although other texts may be used!):
Every Day by David Levithan
every day

Books or Book Excerpts
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
of mice and men
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
outsiders
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
wrinkle

Poems and Songs
Jezebel – Iron & Wine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=990kOZxIOKw
Shrinking Women – Lily Myers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQucWXWXp3k
Gender Bender by Jennifer Michael Hecht

Short Stories
How to Date a Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, or Halfie) by Junot Diaz
he Wife of Bath’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer

Videos/Movies
The Dark Knight Rises
The Demise of Guys? – Phillip Zimbardo
A Powerful Poem on What it Feels Like to Be
Darius Simpson & Scout Bostley – “Lost Voices” (CUPSI 2015)

Articles/Internet Sources
Caitlyn Jenner – Diane Sawyer interview
Beyond ‘he’ and ‘she’: The Rise of non-binary pronouns
Excerpts from Constructing New Masculinities: The Representation of Masculinity in U.S. Literature and Cinema
Tips for Allies of Transgender PeopleGLAAD
Toys Are More Divided by Gender Now Than They Were 50 Years Ago by Elizabeth Sweet

Guiding Questions

  • What does being a woman mean? What does being a man mean?
  • Is gender binary? Should it be binary?
  • How does gender affect individuals?
  • Is gender a necessary categorization of people?
  • To what extent is gender a fluid construct?
  • What do we talk about when we talk about gender?
  • How does American culture define/express gender through different media and language?
  • What traits and ethics are associated with gender? What are the implications of those associations?

Writing Prompts

  • What does gender mean to you? Does YOUR gender mean something to you? If so, what?
  • How are the stereotypes and ideas that are applied to femininity/masculinity a woman/man?
  • How do ideas about gender affect those they apply to? How does this manifest itself in literature and the real world?
  • What does it mean to be a Strong Female Archetype? How does the way society views gender influence their prevalence in fiction? People to consider during your response: Meg Murry, Selena Kyle (Catwoman), Melinda Sordino, and Jezebel
  • Compare and contrast the relationships of Ponyboy-Cherry Valance, Bruce Wayne/Batman-Selena Kyle/Catwoman and A-Rhiannon? What part do gender and society’s views of gender play in each? What factors affect/complicate the role of gender in these relationships?

A special thanks to Jack for taking a unique perspective on the topic of gender. We hope this text set will prove useful for many anchor texts and classroom discussions! What do you think?

RickiSigandKellee Signature