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Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 – Sumo Joe

SUMO JOE
Written by Mia Wenjen
Illustrated by Nat Iwata
(Lee & Low Books; $18.95, Ages 4-7)

 

Sumo Joe book cover

 

Sumo Joe, the charming and gently rhyming debut picture book by Mia Wenjen with art by Nat Iwata, opened my eyes to the history and popularity of this world renown Japanese style of wrestling. More than just a sport, “Sumo” writes Wenjen in the back matter glossary, “can be traced back to ancient Shinto rituals that were practiced to ensure a bountiful harvest and to honor the spirits.”

 

SumoJoe lowres spreads 4
Interior spread from Sumo Joe written by Mia Wenjen and illustrated by Nat Iwata, Lee & Low Books ©2019.

 

Wenjen’s chosen a fun way to introduce young readers to the sport and keep them interested by focusing on siblings Joe and his younger sister Jo. While the two share a close relationship, only Joe participates in sumo wrestling at home on Saturdays with his friends. I love how Iwata’s expressive illustration below shows Jo’s disappointment at not being included in the activity that traditionally has been for “boys-only.” Her tote bag clues us into where she might be going while her brother practices.

 

int art SumoJoe
Interior spread from Sumo Joe written by Mia Wenjen and illustrated by Nat Iwata, Lee & Low Books ©2019.

 

Throughout Joe’s sumo session, readers learn about the different terminology and traditions tied to the sport of trying to knock one’s opponent out of the ring. Perhaps most familiar is the outfit or special belt called a Mawashi. Due to the complexity of tying it, someone else has to wrap it around the wrestler. Compared to this, tying a tie seems easy and maybe even less tickly! The stomp move, called shiko, is intended to rid the space of demons. That makes total sense to me. Other moves in the drills that Joe and his buddies work on are also explained which is not only fascinating, but meaningful. Kids will be able to watch sumo with a better appreciation of why the wrestlers do what they do.

While Jo may understand what her brother’s doing, she’s tired of being left out. She returns from her outing ready to jump into action as Akido Jo. Yes, little sis has been getting lessons in the martial arts and challenges her big brother to a match. Joe’s pals say she’s not allowed, but Joe honors his sister’s wishes and the two face off in a lively, but loving and respectful contest of Sumo versus Akido.

Iwata’s upbeat, digitally rendered artwork complements Wenjen’s words and brings a wonderful energy to the story. I recommend Sumo Joe to parents, teachers and librarians eager to find out more about this traditional Japanese sport presented in an engaging and dynamic way. The author’s note plus the illustrated glossary round out what is an enlightening and delightful read.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of Sumo Joe as part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

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Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

MCBD 2020 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings

Platinum

Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls

Gold

Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Joe, Candlewick Press

Silver

Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe

Bronze

Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard, Barnes Brothers Books, TimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books, Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books, Talegari Tales

Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture Groove, Lauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling,Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World,Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here!

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

 

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Kids Book Review – Best Father’s Day Picture Books 2019

BEST FATHER’S DAY PICTURE BOOKS FOR 2019

 

happy fathers day free clip art image of tie

 

Does your child’s heart belong to daddy or perhaps another important guy in their life? Here’s a selection of picture books that celebrate all facets of fathers’ relationships with their kids. Share a story this Father’s Day with someone special and make their day.

 

 my papi has a motorcycle-book-cvrMY PAPI HAS A MOTORCYCLE
Written by Isabel Quintero
Illustrated by Zeke Peña
(Kokila; $17.99, Ages 4-8)

Starred Review – Booklist, Horn Book

With its beautiful homage to the author’s childhood home of Corona in California, My Papi Has a Motorcycle is an atmospheric read that pulled me in as the third rider on the titular motorcycle. Quintero and Peña team up for a second time to paint a picture in words and artwork of a changing city that’s still full of family, friends and overflowing with humanity.

This 40-page picture book feels wonderfully expansive in that it takes readers all over Daisy Ramona’s hometown huddled close behind her papi. A carpenter by day, Daisy’s dad often takes her out on his bike after work but tonight’s special because they’re going to see some of the new homes he’s building. As they take off on their journey, Daisy remarks how they become like a comet, “The sawdust falling from Papi’s hair and clothes becomes a tail following us.” Wow! You can easily feel the power of the motorcycle from the language and illustrations that fuel this fabulous picture book.

Travel page by page, gorgeous prose after prose, illustration after illustration, with Daisy and her Papi. Together they cruise by Joy’s Market and greet the librarian, “roar past murals that tell our history–of citrus groves and immigrants who worked them …” But when they head over to Don Rudy’s Raspados they see the front door boarded over, a sign of gentrification coming to the neighborhood. Still Daisy’s filled with delight at the city she calls home, a city that’s a part of her. They pass friendly faces and wave to Abuelito and Abuelita standing in their front yard.  The sights and sounds of Grand Boulevard greet her as they approach the circle where cars once raced and where Papi still “buys conchas on Sunday mornings!”

There’s no denying the glorious feeling readers will get as father and daughter make a few more important stops and eventually zoom home where Mami and Little Brother await. Don’t miss celebrating fatherhood, family ties and the meaning of neighborhood in this endearing picture book that simply soars!

great job dad book cvrGREAT JOB, DAD!
Written and illustrated by Holman Wang
(Tundra; $16.99, Ages 3-7) 

Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews

I never got a chance to read Great Job, Mom! but I’m happy I did get to read Holman Wang’s Great Job, Dad! This fiber artist extraordinaire painstakingly creates realistic scenes using needle felting in wool so I appreciate that the book’s back matter enlightens readers as to what’s involved in the process.

Holman’s rhyming story is funny and also realistic. It shows how this particular father, who is a manager during his day job (yes, that pays the bills), has many other volunteer jobs at home. When he feeds his children he’s a waiter. When he takes them for a hike in their wagon and stroller, he’s a chauffeur. “Quite often he becomes a chauffeur to several VIPs.” As an inspector (bound to bring out giggles because here we see Dad checking for a dirty diaper),”it matters what he sees!” We all know the role of judge dads often play  when siblings or friends fight. I think diplomat could have been added here, too! Additionally this dad puts in time as a computer engineer, librarian, pilot, architect, receptionist and astronomer that we see in detailed illustrations that never cease to amaze. Of course my favorite is the bedtime scene where titles from books on the bed and bookcase can actually be read. If you’re looking for something original to read for Father’s Day, pick up a copy of this picture book.

going down home with daddy book cvrGOING DOWN HOME WITH DADDY
Written by Kelly Starling Lyons
Illustrated by Daniel Minter
(Peachtree Publishing; $16.95, Ages 4-8)

Starred Review – Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal

My childhood friend’s mother was from the south and used to attend family reunions when we were kids. Going Down Home With Daddy is exactly how I imagined them to be. Lyons’s story, “inspired by her husband’s heritage and her own” beautifully captures the annual family gathering incorporating every sense in the reading experience. I could see, touch, smell, taste and hear everything through Lyons’s perfect prose from the car ride when Lil Alan’s too excited to sleep to his first glimpse of Granny, “scattering corn for her chickens like tiny bits of gold.”  I could smell her peppermint kisses, hear the laughter as more and more relatives arrived, feel the breeze during the tractor ride, taste the hot, homemade mac and cheese and see the cotton field “dotted with puffs of white.”

The story unfolds as the narrator, Lil Alan, realizes he’s forgotten something to share for the anniversary celebration and cannot enjoy himself until he figures out what contribution he can make. When he does, it’s the most heartfelt moment although there are many others in this thoughtful, moving picture book. Minter’s warm illustrations in earthy tones heighten every experience and seem to recall the family’s African roots and connection to the land. I found myself rereading the picture book several times to soak up more of Lyons’s rich language and Minter’s evocative art.

side by side book cvrSIDE BY SIDE: A CELEBRATION OF DADS
Written and illustrated by Chris Raschka
(Phaidon; $18.95, Ages 3-5)

Starred Review – School Library Journal

Caldecott-winning author and illustrator, Chris Raschka, has created a simple yet spot on read-aloud with Side by Side. It will fill your heart as you share it with little ones. A diverse group of children and their dads engage in typical father-child activities, some of which I’d almost forgotten now that my kids have grown up. With each rewarding page turn, a new treat awaits at will resonate with both parent and youngster. Ideal for this age group, Side by Side, with its economy of words and buoyancy of illustration, manages to keep this picture book cool and captivating.

I love how Raschka opens with the quintessential Horse and rider as a little girl, braids flying to depict motion, rides bare-back on her dad. Readers will feel the delight emanating from her entire body. Raschka also cleverly demonstrates how roles change, first with a child fast asleep sprawled across his father while his dad reads (Bed and sleeper). And then he follows up that illustration with one parents know all too well. In Sleeper and waker that same man’s son attempts to get his father up from a nap. The watercolor art is lovely and joyful and leaves the right amount of white to pull us straight to the characters and what they are doing. I’m still smiling from this read!

up to something book cvrUP TO SOMETHING
Written by Katrina McKelvey
Illustrated by Kirrili Lonergan
(EK Books; $17.99, Ages 4-7)

Up to Something serves as an ideal reminder on Father’s Day that there’s more to being a dad than simply being around.

After seeing a poster for a race, Billy gets excited and asks his dad if they can enter. When his dad says, “Of course, Billy! Let’s go build something!” he has one thing in mind when Billy has another. Once in the shed, Billy’s father’s words seem to indicate that he’s going to build the vehicle on his own despite making his son his special assistant.

Disappointed by the drudge work, Billy goes ahead and constructs his own vehicle. When his dad bangs and drills, so does Billy. Looks like Billy’s diving head on into the project yet his dad seems oblivious. When at last the race cars are unveiled, Billy’s vehicle has an individuality about it that is so much more unique than the one his father has made. That’s when it finally occurs to this adult that he has essentially ignored his child, that he hasn’t let his son contribute. That’s not a team effort. Putting their two heads together provides an opportunity for father and son to connect and create and, out of that combined effort, magic can and does happen.

Lonergan’s use of loosely shaped, muted watercolor and pencil in her illustrations complements the story. She’s also employed newspaper and what looks like sheet music as a substitute for wood, producing an added dimension to the art that plays into the book’s theme of imagination, recycling and invention. Clearly being present as a parent is what matters and McKelvey’s picture book hits that nail on the head.

a fathers love book cvrA FATHER’S LOVE
Written by Hannah Holt
Illustrated by Yee Von Chan
(Philomel; $17.99, Ages 3-7)

I had no idea what to expect when I read Hannah Holt’s A Father’s Love but now I understand why it’s been getting so much buzz. Told in well metered rhyme that never feels forced, this charming picture begs to be read out loud. The author’s covered a colorful and varied selection of animal dads and sometimes family and focuses on the unique bond between father and offspring.

“Beneath a mighty REDWOOD TREE,
A fox tends to his family.
He keeps them safe
by digging chutes.
This father’s love
runs deep as roots.”

Nine animals from marmoset to toad, penguin to wolf and ultimately some human fathers fill the pages of this tender tale. We learn how dads do all sorts of interesting and important things for their young. Take the emu, for example. The male of the species incubates the eggs much like the seahorse. Chan’s appealing artwork shows again and again how strong a father’s love is the world over whether her illustrations are of an Emperor Penguin or a Peregrine Falcon. Dads may come in all shapes and sizes, some may swim and some may fly, but the love they have for their children is the one thing they all have in common. Back matter offers more details about all the animals in the book.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

 

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To Our Grandparents House We Go!

Debbie Glade reviews 2 special books about spending time with grandparents.

I guess it’s because I adored my grandparents that I love children’s books about kids spending quality time making memories with their grandparents. Cooking with Grandma and Adventures with Grandpa, ($16.99, Hardie Grant Books, ages 3 and up) written and illustrated by Rosemary Mastnak, will take you back to your childhood, if you too loved visiting your grandparents. And with summer just around the corner and many children heading off for vacation time with their favorite relatives, these books will get them excited for mouth watering meals, new adventures and fun!

Cooking with Grandma is all about a girl who makes wonderful food every day of the week with her grandmother, and together they use their imagination to serve it all up. Who wouldn’t want to make sandwiches and then invite a teddy bear to a fancy picnic or make popcorn, get all dressed up and go to the movies in their own living room? Everyone deserves to have a granny like the one in this book!

Adventures with Grandpa is told in simple rhyming prose. The story is about a boy who creates the most imaginative adventures with his grandfather, using objects found in the shed as props. Together they battle a dragon, build a racing car and go up in a hot air balloon.  What a fun and creative grandpa this little boy has, and oh my, the contents of that shed of his are really something!

These stories really pique a child’s imagination. Both books feature beautiful watercolor illustrations against a crisp white background.  They’re whimsical and fun, and you’ll love them.

What cute books these are for grandparents to read to their own grandchildren!

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The Simple Treasures of Childhood

This imaginative book is reviewed by Debbie Glade, who still thinks of herself as a kid.

I love books that inspire imagination and encourage children to entertain themselves in non-technical ways. Author Kelly Bennett got the wonderful idea for One Day I Went Rambling ($17.95, Bright Sky Press, ages 5-8), after spending time treasure -hunting with her own children.

This is a story about a boy who finds everyday objects and uses his imagination to pretend that these finds are fantastic treasures. An old soda pop top becomes a pirate’s magic ring, a packing crate becomes a wooden barge and a paper bag becomes a mighty warrior’s shield. At first the boy’s friends make fun of him for pretending, but fascinated by his imagination and the fun that he has with the found objects, that all changes. In addition to the charming story, you’ll enjoy the illustrations by Terry Murphy, a self-proclaimed rambler of her own. The main illustrations are in full color, and the supplemental ones are in black and white – a nice contrast.

In this age of technology and sophisticated toys, it is so refreshing to read a book that stimulates children to use their own imaginations. This book reminds us that creative thinking combined with simple pleasures make for a wonderful childhood and the promise of a successful future.

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As Far as Your Imagination Will Take You

Pretend ($15.99, Philomel/Penguin Group USA, ages 3 and up) is a book that shows children their adventures are limited only by their imaginations.  Author/illustrator, Jennifer Plecas, tells the story of a boy who plays “pretend” with his dad, and together they embark upon a great ocean and island adventure. I enjoyed this book because it encourages creativity and lays a good foundation for teaching kids about the process of coming up with ideas to write stories – something they will have to do throughout their educational years. The illustrations are colorful and cute, and I like the playful font too. Simply said, it’s a cute book, and it will likely inspire your little ones to come up with wild, new  adventure stories of their own. So get on board parents and give the gift of imagination to your children by reading to them then watch as their ideas flourish.

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Plant the Seeds of Peace and Hope

Sean Burgess reviews We Planted A Tree ($17.99, Random House Children’s Books, Ages 5-8 )

weplantedatreeI try not to judge a book by its cover, but you can’t help it when you check out We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow. The title is centered and planted firmly in the leaves of the modernized, cartoon-style tree. And at the roots, two families, one from possibly the USA, the other from somewhere in Africa, all lined up and proudly admiring the result of their awesome arborous accomplishment. I knew right away this was going to be a special read. I got the sense that a connection was about to be made. Definitely, the essential bond between people and plants, fixed in our duty to conserve.

Dr. Wangari Maathi, a 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate is quoted on the first page saying, “When we plant tress, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope.” We plant the seeds of trees, just as we plant the seeds for a family. And like planting a tree, we get the chance to see the majestic growth and changes through years and years of nurture. The simple text by Diane Muldrow, outlined through a little science, is cheerfully and amazingly complemented by the illustrations of Bob Staake. I love reading books to my daughter Teagan and weplantedatreeteaI’m always amazed at how well illustrators enhance the stories. But in the case of We Planted a Tree, I think Bob Staake has artfully expanded the who, what, where and why the trees are being planted. On each page, there were plenty of details Teagan and I could talk about. I think she is already getting a sense of how important tress are to the world’s existence both scientifically and aesthetically. We Planted a Tree takes us on a journey around the world and shares how all families, from any country, can work together to plant and preserve
our botanical buddies.

This was one of the few children’s books that I have sat down to look over all by myself after reading with Teagan. I had to do a little more research about this book and its creators. One great fact I discovered was that We Planted a Tree was inspired by the work done by Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, and its message celebrates nature, growth, and the power of community effort.

Whether it’s Earth Day or Arbor Day, I think any day is a good day to think about our impact and imprint on society and our eco-system. Trees sustain and withstand the passage of time. We only hope the same for our families for generations to come. I wish the book was printed on recycled paper but I do thank Diane and Bob, for a wonderful book that has renewed the sense of how important it is for my family to contribute to cleaning, conserving and saving our Earth.

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Be Careful What You Wish For!

159Wishworks Inc. by Stephanie Folan, from Arthur A. Levine Books was reviewed by Derek, 8 years old (7 at the time he read it).

I think the story is good because Max thought fast, not hard and strong, so he didn’t always get what he wanted, and it would make a huge disaster. Like when he wished for a real dog he got a real dog, just a crazy one. But when he wished for it to go away, he made his mom and sister so unhappy they wanted to cry. When he wished for a nice real dog, he found his dog again and this time around she wasn’t so crazy (or as ugly as he thought the first time). That made Max happy and his mom and sister were happy, too!
I found the story  interesting because of the fun use of the boy’s imagination. Some words were hard and some were easy. There were hundreds of paragraphs. But I liked it a lot.
From a parent’s perspective, the book is good because it is challenging, and it has a good moral: be careful (and specific about) what you wish for! Our son is an advanced reader for his age and he finished the book within about a week.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Life is unsettling for young Max.  His parents have divorced,  he’s moved to a new part of town and is often bullied at school. As an escape from the chaos he feels at home or simply to leave boredom behind, Max uses his Adventure Time (daydreaming) to have all sorts of exciting escapades with a dog named King.  Somehow though, Max does not end up with King, but with a very different dog whose devotion to her adoptive family is eclipsed by their love for her.
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