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A is for Asian American for APIDA Heritage Month

 

A IS FOR ASIAN AMERICAN:
An Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Alphabet

Written by Virginia Loh-Hagan

Illustrated by Tracy Nishimura Bishop

(Sleeping Bear Press; $17.99, Ages 6-10)

 

 

A is for Asian American cover kids with famous apida figures.

 

Kids will learn what an important role the AIPDA community has played in our country’s history and continues to play today in America after reading A is for Asian American written by Virginia Loh-Hagan and illustrated by Tracy Nishimura Bishop. Also referred to as AAPI, APIDA Heritage Month was created to include Desi (South Asian) with both serving to honor and celebrate the contributions, culture, experiences, and traditions of the over “24 million people in the United States who fall under the umbrella of AAPI.”

 

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Interior art from A is for Asian American written by Virginia Loh-Hagan and illustrated by Tracy Nishimura Bishop, Sleeping Bear Press ©2022.

 

This nonfiction picture book begins with a helpful time line of “Little-Known Milestones” and in 40 pages presents readers with an engaging format. It introduces a rhyme for each alphabet letter, appealing to the youngest of the target age range. “J is for Japanese Anime. There are all kinds of anime,/which started in Japan./All around the world,/you’ll find anime fans.” Alongside the expressive art and poem is an expository description of the topic, in this instance, anime. Since my whole family enjoys anime, I loved reading about its origins in the 1960s and how mainstream it’s become in America.

Some alphabet letters fill an entire spread (M is for Movements where social change is discussed; W is for Writers highlighting contributions made to all forms of literature and journalism), while others are divided (see art above for letters F and G). The S page focuses on Saturday schools where weekend classes offer “language classes and classes covering topics such as dance, music, art, crafts, and other cultural activities,” in order to connect children with the country of their heritage.

 

A is for Asian American int2 M is for Movements
Interior spread from A is for Asian American written by Virginia Loh-Hagan and illustrated by Tracy Nishimura Bishop, Sleeping Bear Press ©2022.

 

In addition to homing in on a variety of interesting subjects—Boba (Bubble) Tea and Korean Wave should resonate with a lot of young readers—A is for Asian American highlights accomplishments by APIDAs from the first Asian American woman to earn her pilot’s license in 1932 to the first Asian American to walk in space in 1985. The letter X details how Bruce Lee was a pioneer in promoting his mixed martial arts skills in films helping other martial arts grow in popularity. What a surprise to learn that President Theodore Roosevelt became America’s first brown belt taught by Japan’s judo master Yamashita Yoshitsugu!

And no book about Asian Americans would be complete without calling attention to the Chinese immigrants who worked on the Transcontinental Railroad under often harsh conditions yet ultimately refused citizenship; nor those of Japanese ancestry, about 120,000, who were unjustly sent to incarceration camps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. Loh-Hagan’s writing is straightforward but topics are shared sensitively and are age appropriate.

At the start, an author’s note from Loh-Hagan states her goal of raising awareness of Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans. She also mentions the sad and alarming increase in anti-Asian hate since the pandemic and stresses the need to “learn more so we can do more.” Back matter features “definitions and words, and listing of important holidays with corresponding activities.” I hope this book helps children appreciate the myriad ways in which Asian Americans contribute to our country and make it a better place. Reading A is for Asian American provides kids with an important introduction to all aspects of Asian American life past and present and will no doubt prompt them to delve further into specific subjects. When teaching diversity-centered and cultural awareness curricula, teachers and librarians would benefit from all the information shared in this picture book as well.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
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R is for Rocket: An ABC Book by Tad Hills

R is for Rocket: An ABC Book
Written and illustrated by Tad Hills
(Schwartz & Wade Books; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

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A is for alphabet book!

Alphabet books are so important in fostering early literacy by teaching children to recognize letter shapes and their associated sounds, often in very creative ways. In addition, alphabet books, like R is for Rocket: An ABC Book, also help children build vocabulary recognition. We could have children chant “B is for boy,” but I bet they’d enjoy this more:

Bella balances on a ball while
a big blue butterfly watches.

The repetition of a single letter also creates a mood and a rhythmic effect, and, in longer sentences, encourages children to use words to expand beyond “C is for cat” and create sentences that contain multiple alliterative words. These in turn could be used to describe an activity or event:

Owl offers a cookie and a crayon to crow.
“Now will you stop cawing?” she asks.

What might children’s responses be if asked why was the crow cawing? How did this story begin or end? Can they think of other hard “C” words that could be used to tell their story? What a great precursor to creative storytelling/writing.

Tad Hills, the author and illustrator of numerous books, including the Duck and Goose books, depicts his well-known Rocket characters “ …having fun while learning the alphabet.” Unlike basic alphabet books, Hill’s popular Rocket characters are engaged in activities beginning with that letter, and accompanied by a short, alliterative sentence or two:

Rocket paints a picture of a peacock. Owl prefers her pumpkin.

My first and second grade students, already fans of Hills’ earlier titles, squealed with pleasure when I showed them the cover of this book. The students quickly caught on to the alliteration and soon the reading became dynamic and interactive as students discussed which sound they heard and how many times it occurred in each sentence.

While my students enjoyed Hills’ brightly colored and adorable characters, my favorite illustration is a two-page spread uniting letters E and F:

In the evening, Emma finds an egg.

Fred frolics with fireflies

Hills depicts a pleasantly darkening sky, dotted with “starry” fireflies. In the shadowy grass, Emma finds a delicate blue egg while Fred chases after glowing fireflies. This reminded me of a lovely summer’s night.

An extra bonus is that the book jacket doubles as an alphabet poster.

Highly recommended for schools and libraries where this author/illustrator is popular and where alphabet books play an important part in early literacy. Visit Tad Hills to learn more about his books.

  • Reviewed by Dornel Cerro
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B is for Bear: A Natural Alphabet by Hannah Viano

B IS FOR BEAR: A NATURAL ALPHABET
Written and illustrated by Hannah Viano
(Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch Books; $16.99, Ages 2-5)

Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews

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Hannah Viano dedicates her new alphabet book to “…all of those who let children run a little wild, climbing trees and splashing in puddles. It is worth all the laundry and lost mittens.” It is a delightful sentiment for a book that will inspire a strong appreciation for the natural world in readers both young and old.

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Interior artwork from B is for Bear: A Natural Alphabet by Hannah Viano, Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch Books, ©2015.

The illustrations in B is for Bear are perfectly stunning. Although they appear to be woodcuts at first glance, the process is even more interesting. Viano uses a graceful papercutting technique, carving thick outlines from black paper with an X-ACTO knife. She then adds soft pastel colors digitally in a rich range from gold to olive to amethyst. The look is at once classic and contemporary, as the bold lines capture the energy and motion inherent in her natural subject matter.

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Interior artwork from B is for Bear: A Natural Alphabet by Hannah Viano, Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch Books, ©2015.

The alphabet letters, upper and lowercase, are suspended at the top of each page, punched in a white font onto the thick black border around each illustration. The natural keywords that she selects range nicely from animals (J for Jackrabbit) to natural objects (P for Pebble). Below the bottom border Viano provides clear but poetic descriptions as well as a few additional fascinating facts. For example, from L for Lightning Bug, “Call them fireflies or lightning bugs or Lampyridae. They fill a summer night with magical lights.”

Viano adeptly shows natural objects of all sizes, from massive mountains and soaring waves to tiny dandelion puffs and Queen Anne’s lace florets. The variety keeps the A to Z alphabet format interesting and surprising, with a fair mix of unusual versus familiar subjects for children. The book as an object itself is lovely, with sturdy proportions perfect for small hands. The pages are printed on thick, smooth, semi-matte paper that lends a sophisticated, organic feel.

B is for Bear, and for book, beautiful and breathtaking!

  • Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

 

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a copy of B IS FOR BEAR from the publisher and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

 

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ABC Universe

ABC UNIVERSE IS OUT OF THIS WORLD!
by the American Museum of Natural History
(Sterling Children’s Books; $7.95, Ages 2-5)

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Bring Nebulas and Supernovas into your child’s bedroom with ABC Universe, the latest in the AMNH board book collection. Your budding astronomer will thoroughly enjoy this new, oversized (10 X 10) board book created in partnership with the American Museum of Natural History. Kids will take a trip to outer space while learning about everything from an Astronaut to a Zenith and lots more in-between.

M
Moon
The Moon is the only natural object
to move around Earth. It is also the

only other world in outer space
that humans have ever visited.

Added features include extra large letters that youngsters can trace with their fingers. This design also assists with visual memorization as children flip through the pages again and again. There are several easy to understand descriptions in every spread. Actual photographs fill colorful, sturdy pages in this entertaining exploration of the cosmos just right for introducing early learning concepts to preschoolers.

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Reprinted with permission from ABC Universe © 2015 by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Photography by CVADRAT/Shutterstock, maryo/Shutterstock, and NASA/SDO/Goddard.
Visit amnh.org to learn more.
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
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