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

Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas

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HELLO RUBY: ADVENTURES IN CODING
Written and illustrated by Linda Liukas
(Feiwel & Friends; $16.99, Ages 4-8 )

 

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Linda Liukas’s Hello Ruby is a book that first caught my eye on Kickstarter. In fact, I heavily modeled my Kickstarter project after it since its campaign had tons of contributors and raised over $380,000! After receiving a lot of attention, it got picked up to be traditionally published with an imprint of Macmillan, Feiwel and Friends.

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Interior artwork from Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas, Feiwel & Friends ©2015.

Hello Ruby is all about teaching young kids the building blocks of coding. The book is broken up into nine small chapters. There’s a fairly simple story-line: Ruby needs to find five gems her dad has hidden around the house. Ruby goes on her adventure and starts with a plan by making a map. She ends up in the imaginary world of the map (I was a bit unsure how she got there, but it works with the book). She meets penguins, a snow leopard, foxes, robots, and a young boy on this adventure. As she goes along she is doing things that are the basis of coding.
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Interior artwork from Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas, Feiwel & Friends ©2015.

Immediately following the story there’s a thorough and fun activity section that would be done with a child and parent or teacher. The kids (and adults) can learn about the basics of coding, such as strings, sequence, loops, selection, functions, and more! It’s written simply and clearly for young kids to understand.
I loved the adorable illustrations and so will your budding coders! Liukas has a bright, cheerful and kid-like illustration style that complemented the story and activities well. I know it’s the teacher in me, but I’m partial to books that have a teaching element and since my husband is a software engineer, I’m also familiar with these concepts in their basic forms.

A few months ago a friend asked my husband what apps or online activities are out there to help kids with coding and he gave these three sites saying …

If children are young there is scratch.mit.edu. There are also good exercises at code.org. If the kids are a bit older inventwithpython.com has books that teach more “real” programming skills.
With Hello Ruby, Linda Liukas has done a wonderful job portraying and teaching simple coding concepts in an entertaining and hands-on way. I think her website helloruby.com should be added to my husband’s list too. The website has great information and helpful teaching tools, along with some printables. Although it’s listed online for ages 4-8, I’d recommend Hello Ruby for children ages 5-9 (or anyone who wants to learn some fun kids activities that have coding concepts). Happy reading and coding everyone!
– Reviewed by Lucy Ravitch

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

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CRENSHAW
by Katherine Applegate
(Feiwel & Friends; $16.99, Ages 8-12)

 

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Oh, this marvelous cover. The huge cat, the small boy, the dreamy purple all around them, and the feeling like they have known each other for a long time are all reasons that Crenshaw just pulled me in when I first saw it. Of course I knew that Katherine Applegate was going to write a terrific book because she wrote the Newbery Award winner, The One and Only Ivan. So, I just trust her to write something wonderful and she did!

Jackson, known to the family as Jacks, is a person who likes facts. In fact, he loves them. So when Crenshaw shows up one day Jackson is amazed and more than slightly freaked out. Crenshaw was Jackson’s imaginary friend when Jackson was a little boy. Jackson knows better than to believe in imaginary friends. However, now Jackson has a real problem because even though he wishes Crenshaw would just go away, it’s not going to happen. Crenshaw is going to stay for a while. It’s good that he does because Jackson is going to need his old friend again.

Jackson and his family aren’t doing well financially. Jackson’s family is going to have to make a decision about how they are going to cope with job losses and disabilities. It isn’t going to be easy to be able to make any sort of decision at all when there is hardly any money. Jackson and his family have had to live in the family minivan before, and Jackson is worried that they might have to do that again. While everything around Jackson seems out of control, Crenshaw is there. He’s a giant, imaginary cat and I’m so glad he is there for Jackson. Crenshaw guides Jackson. Crenshaw helps Jackson to find a way to tell a hard truth. Crenshaw likes purple jellybeans. Crenshaw is a cat that can ride a surfboard! In short, Crenshaw is a great friend.

There’s just tons to love about this book. It’s magical, full of facts (that’s what Jackson likes), full of imagination (that’s pretty much what Crenshaw is made from), and it has this amazing warmth to it. Jackson’s family may have financial troubles, but there is no deficit of love in this family. They love each other to the moon and back again. Crenshaw received well-deserved starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and Horn Book. I’ll add another of my own. Highly recommended!

Read an excerpt by clicking here.

Click here to purchase CRENSHAW by Katherine Applegate

  • Reviewed by Hilary Taber