Mixed Me! Written by Taye Diggs and Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

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MIXED ME!
Written by Taye Diggs
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
(Feiwel & Friends; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

 

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Starred reviews in Kirkus and School Library Journal.

Librarian Dornel Cerro reviews Mixed Me! by Taye Diggs with illustrations by Shane W. Evans.

“I’m a beautiful blend of dark and light, I was mixed up perfectly, and I’m JUST RIGHT!”

Mike, an exuberant and energetic boy rushes from one place to another in his superhero cape:

“I like to go FAST!
No one can stop me
as the wind combs through
my zigzag curly do”

It’s clear that Mike is a well-loved, confident and joyful child. However, although Mike is comfortable with the color of his skin and the “WOW” of his hair, sometimes his diverse heritage causes people to stare and wonder:

“Your mom and dad don’t match,”
they say, and scratch their heads.

There’s pressure at school to choose a group to belong to:

“Some kids at school want me to choose
who I cruise with.
I’m down for FUN with everyone.”

Using rich vocabulary, gentle humor, rhyme, and a hip-hop like rhythm, Diggs offers a inspirational message. The author uses the diversity in the foods we eat to vividly (and deliciously) capture the differences in human appearances. Mike’s mother’s skin is “… rich cream and honey …” and Mike describes himself as:

“I’m a garden plate!
Garden salad, rice and beans-
tasting GREAT!”

This is not only a fantastic read-aloud, but a wonderful starting place for positive discussions on image, esteem, diversity, friendship, and inclusion. Adults sharing the story can easily design extension activities to reinforce the book’s theme. What do words like “fused” and “blended” mean? How do these words apply to people? How many references to multicolored or “mixed” things can children find in the book’s illustrations? What kinds of theatre, music, movement, and dance activities could help children express their understanding of the book?

Evans complements Digg’s bouncy and humorous text with textured illustrations consisting of watercolors and cut pieces of fabric. There are many two-page spreads of Mike, dominated by all that wonderful “zippy” hair and the book is awash in multicolor images: even Mom’s apron and Mike’s cape contain a rainbow of colors.

Mixed Me! is a highly recommended read for all children and adults who work with this age group.

Visit the publisher to see interior artwork and other reviews. Check out Digg’s and Shane’s Chocolate Me! website for information about their earlier book which also sends a positive message about skin and hair type. Read Diggs’ tribute to his long time friend, Shane W. Evans, in The Horn Book. See Scholastic for a biographical sketch on Evans and other books he’s illustrated.

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy by Beatrice Alemagna

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THE WONDERFUL FLUFFY LITTLE SQUISHY 
by Beatrice Alemagna, translated by Claudia Zoe Bedrick
(Enchanted Lion Books. $18.95, Ages 4 to 8)

  • is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey

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Edith – or “Eddie” as she is called – is a five-and-a-half year old charmer with straw-spikey hair, a pert pug nose, and a bright fuchsia hoodie in Beatrice Alemagna’s The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy. She also has a problem – it is her mother’s birthday and she needs to find the perfect present, stat. Overhearing something about a “fuzzy – little –squishy” leads her to assume that her sister might scoop the “right” gift for their mother before Eddie. So our intrepid heroine abandons a steaming teacup and sprints into the streets of her charming French village in search of the fuzzy little squishy gift.

In her wonderful walkable neighborhood, Eddie visits the baker, the florist, a clothing boutique, the antique dealer, and the butcher. She asks each adult for assistance in finding a squishy, fluffy or fuzzy something. Although they listen to her plea and try to help, each giving her a tiny treasure (except the grumpy butcher), none have the elusive gift she seeks. Discouraged, Eddie heads home in the falling snow.

Suddenly, she hears giggles over head and spies “it” – an adorable fluffy little squishy at last! A long-tailed, four legged, be-whiskered poof that is as pink as can be. Eddie immediately knows that this creature has a thousand uses, from pillow to plant to paintbrush. The small gifts from her neighborhood friends come into play as Eddie rescues the Squishy from a series of near disasters and discovers something wonderful about herself as well.

Alemagna excels in depicting enticing shop windows and displays, bursting with scrumptious pastries, delicate flowers, intriguing antiques, and a fold-out triple spread butcher shop. Her illustrations incorporate bursts of energy and action that draw the eye across the page, from steaming cup to falling snow and gushing fountains. Even little Squishy looks as though he might have been zapped by an electrical socket, shocking his fur into uncontrollable chaos. Excellent depictions of winding cobblestone streets, crowded village shops and slate roofed homes will help children appreciate the European sensibilities of this magical adventure story. And they will certainly find Eddie an irrepressible and appealing heroine whose quest is as quirky as it is delightful.

THE WONDERFUL FLUFFY LITTLE SQUISHY was recently awarded the 2016 Mildred L. Batchelder Award by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association. The Batchelder Award is given to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.

  • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

 

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a copy of THE WONDERFUL FLUFFY LITTLE SQUISHY from the publisher and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.


Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley

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TOUGH GUYS (HAVE FEELINGS TOO)
Written and illustrated by Keith Negley
(Flying Eye Books; $17.95, Ages 3-5)

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In less than 80 words, Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) manages to convey the important message to children that everyone (except perhaps robots) experiences a wide range of emotions despite any appearances to the contrary. Negley, a well-known illustrator, opens with a wrestler in a locker room feeling nervous while young readers see his opponent waiting in the ring. Then an astronaut is floating in space clutching a photo of his family far, far away. “You might not think it, but tough guys have feelings too.”

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Interior artwork from Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley, Flying Eye Books ©2015.

Ninja best friends can have a disagreement and feel sad or misunderstood. Superheroes, despite being on top of the world, can feel lonely, cowboys can get embarrassed, pirates searching for treasure can feel frustrated, strong, gallant knights don’t always succeed “No matter how strong.” These and  other examples of “tough guys” we may think never experience a “down” moment are all depicted showing their honest feelings. My favorite illustration, and perhaps one of the most powerful, has to be the big burly biker shedding tears over the squirrel in the road he likely has hit accidentally. The message, that it’s okay to get upset, may not be unique, but the way it’s conveyed to children is. The colorful artwork, coupled with the brief yet befitting narrative, allows parents to open a dialogue about feelings and emotions and the need to be authentic.

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Interior artwork from Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too) by Keith Negley, Flying Eye Books ©2015.

Don’t miss pointing out to children the endpapers in the front of the book showing the young boy, who is ultimately seen reading together with his dad at the story’s end, pretending to be all the characters depicted in Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too), and the endpapers in the back of the book showing the same boy doing all that pretend play alongside his dad. Sharing this picture book with preschoolers is a wonderful way to reinforce the point that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having feelings, and that when they do indeed have a feeling of anger, fear, or embarrassment, they’re not alone.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel