Tag Archives: preschool and up

Mel and His Trouble with One Thousand Shoes by Somayeh Zomorodi illustrated by N. Broomand

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The book has a solid premise, although it reads a lot like The Very Greedy Bee, and has lovely 8.5 by 11 pictures on its 24 pages, but unfortunately the text is all over the place. The story contradicts itself, it is overly wordy, and way to rhymy. Yeah, rhymy isn’t even a word, but if it were, this book, would be a great example. I struggled with the font as well, the lowercase f looks like a capital F, and no matter how many times I read it, I’d get tripped up thinking an interior word was being capitalized. The book says that it is based on the ayat in the Quran that reads, “And do not walk on the earth proudly,” and even has two other ayats listed at the end as inspiration, but really it is a single page and a single character that blurts out the ayats from the Quran that talk about walking on the earth proudly and this world being a test. While the illustrations are fun, it just isn’t enough to make the book a solid read to convey humbleness and gratitude. Children will be lost in the text, confused by the inconsistencies, and disappointed in the super quick resolution.

Mel the millipede lives in a farm next to a well. He has one thousand feet and although he doesn’t need shoes, he likes to collect them. He has 950 and is working to find the remaining 50 to complete his collection.

It says, “No one was as happy as Mel; one could tell.” Then on the next page as he cleans his shoes with a blouse it is revealed that he isn’t happy in his heart because he is always alone. But the picture stills shows him smiling.

He finally has his 1,000 shoes, we don’t know how or where he got them, when a small snail tells him that “God says not to walk on the earth proudly. Only He knows best and this world is a test.” There is no explanation, Mel just says “it doesn’t matter, I am better than everyone.”

This whole time walking, Mel has been wearing his shoes although it has mentioned that he can’t wear them because they are heavy and he doesn’t want to get them dirty. As he watches the other bugs fly kites and balloons he is sad that he can’t play because his shoes are too heavy. But he has been walking outdoors and is on a mushroom lamenting with his shoes on. Those flying kites aren’t moving much…one is a worm, one a snail, very inconsistent.

One night a moth knocks on his door warning Mel of a flood. Mel ignores the frantic urgings, fearing that it is a trap to get his shoes. He thinks everyone is jealous of his shoeing. The flood waters sweep him and his shoes out of the house and throughout the night he risks his life multiple times to save his beloved shoes.

When morning arrives, he is still trying to save his shoes, when moth, attempts to save Mel. To get Mel back to his house, he will have to convince him to drop his shoes. Mel is tired and desperate and uninspired so he drops his shoes and is brought to dry land. I don’t think uninspired is the right word, shouldn’t be be grateful and willing to change to save his life? But even that notion is a stretch because in the illustrations he is so close to land. He could just swim over, shoes or no shoes, moth doesn’t need to be flying him to safety. Additionally, when the water recedes, won’t his shoes still be there?

The conclusion is Mel hugging moth and apologizing to the bugs. I’m not sure what he is apologizing to them for, nor is it explained. Since the book claims to be based or inspired by ayats, I feel like this would have been a good place for a moral cathartic lesson, but alas, it just says, “the end.”

When Mom’s Away by Layla Ahmad illustrated by Farida Zaman

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When Mom’s Away by Layla Ahmad illustrated by Farida Zaman

This 24 page, timely children’s book focuses on life with Covid-19 from the point of view of a little girl whose mom is a doctor and must quarantine in the garage to keep her family safe. The reassurance of such a book to remind our children that they are not the only ones going through such disruptions with virtual learning, staying away from grandparents, wearing a mask and not seeing a parent for a few days, is a powerful one. I couldn’t find anything stating if the author or illustrator identify as Muslim (I know, I know, assumptions based on names is rather pathetic), and there is nothing religious in the story, but the book shows a diverse family and as this pandemic rages on, kids and parents will benefit from feeling less alone and sharing this resource I hope is a benefit.

The book starts out with the little girl learning that her mom is going away, well not really away, but will not be in the house with her and her dad. That the virus isn’t slowing down and her mom has to go help people. The family of three then sets up the garage to make sure mom has everything she will need when she comes home from work. A bed, a little table, even a picture of the three of them.

The dad calls the mom a superhero and gets the little girl on board with helping mom as she helps others. They wash their hands to a special song, they wear masks when they go out, they shop for a neighbor, and try to use things to make dinner that they already have.

The book then articulates that mom is a busy doctor and dad cooks often. The little girl plays games with her dad and video chats with her mom feeling proud that she is making her mom’s job easier. Every morning the dad does the little girls hair before virtual learning begins, and every evening she waits by the window to wave to her mom. The little girl misses her teacher, friends, and mom.

The little girl and her dad go grocery shopping for Grandma and Grandpa and deliver the groceries to them outside with masks on as they wave from afar. Sometimes before dinner the neighbors all stand outside banging pots and pans cheering for all the heroes coming home.

When her mom returns from quarantine, the little girl asks if the virus is gone, and the mother says no, but that things are getting better. When her mom thanks her for doing such a good job while she was away, the little girl says, “No problem, Mom. That’s what superheroes do!”

I love that the concept of super heroes is presented as real people on the front line doing their jobs even when it requires tremendous sacrifice. I also like that all of us working together to curb the pandemic is also heroic work.

I love that it shows a mom capable and professional and loving, as well as a father loving and capable and supportive. Yes, she likes how mom does her hair better, but it shows competency from both parents, which sometimes in books is lost when it makes one parent the brunt of misguided humor.

I don’t know if years from now the book will be as relevant, but certainly children today are living this story and will relate to the characters. I think children in preschool and up will enjoy the illustrations and storyline.

I am Brown by Ashok Banker illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat

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I am Brown by Ashok Banker illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat

This 40 page celebration of diversity within the label “brown” is a sweet and powerful book that shows how the color of our skin is beautiful and perfect while at the same time making it clear that who we are and what we can be is not defined by our appearance.  The book shows adorably illustrated brown children finding strength in different cultures, clothing, religions, languages and dreams, which will hopefully empower children everywhere (and of all colors) to take labels that may have negative connotations and turn them in to positive affirmations of identity and strength.  There isn’t a story with a plot, but with the regular inclusion of a girl with a scarf on, and the mention of a mosque, I thought to highlight it.  The book is perfect for preschool and up.  

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The book starts with a little girl identifying herself as brown, beautiful and being perfect.  It then stretches to her being love, friendship and happiness.

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From there it branches out to a whole cast of kids identifying the variety of things they can be, from a writer to an electrician to a prime minister. the same kids then do and make and work on things before identifying where they come from and what languages they speak.  

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The kids all have different hair on their heads and faces and even no hair at all. They live in different dwellings, they like to do different things. 

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Brown people are not a monolith, the kids show that they eat different foods in different ways, that they wear different clothes.

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People with brown skin are roommates and teachers and friends and classmates.  Some go to temple or church, others a mosque or shrine, some not at all. 

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The book ends with a close up of three smiling faces proclaiming, “I am brown.  I am amazing.  I am You.”

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I’m sure people will argue that if you switch out white for brown the book would be deemed racist, and you are correct it would be.  But as a group that is marginalized as “other” and often the darker brown you are with in the brown subset moves you “value” and “worth” down, makes a book celebrating the strength and beauty of “brown” so necessary and heart warming.  I personally am the lightest “brown” imaginable being only half Pakistani.  So, believe me I have privilege in the desi community, but I don’t find this book offensive at all.  I’ve read this book at least a dozen times and my impressions alternate between beaming with pride and tears that so many beautiful people feel less than because of skin color and yes, anger too,  that people are MADE to feel less than.   May we all be more inclusive, more loving, and more open to the diversity of the human being. Ameen.

Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin illustrated by Ebony Glenn

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Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin illustrated by Ebony Glenn

 

not quite snow whiteThis 32 page picture book meant for preschool to 3rd grade really should be required reading for EVERYONE.  So many lessons, so beautifully conveyed in the simple text and beautiful illustrations that I made each of my kids read or listen to it and then discuss: self confidence, nay sayers, self esteem, race, passion, body image, kindness, and perseverance to name a few. Accelerated Reader Level is 3.2 as older kids will understand a bit more than the younger ones, but I truly believe all will benefit.  Written by a Muslim woman of color, featuring a girl of color and illustrated by a woman of color, this OWN voice book has it all for girls and boys alike.

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Tameika loves to sing and dance and be on stage in front of an audience (stuffed and unstuffed).  She feels like she can be anything she wants and when her school puts on a production of Snow White she can’t wait to audition to be a princess.

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She arrives early the first day of auditions and helps her friends with their lines and nerves.  But then she hears them whispering that she can’t be Snow White.  “She’s too tall, too chubby, too brown.”

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Their words deflate her as she internalizes their thoughts about her.  She doesn’t feel like singing or dancing and she questions her appearance.  Her mom tries to build her back up.  Her father reinforces her qualities, and slowly she starts to think maybe her parents are on to something.

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The next day she has to face her fears and when she steps out on to the audition stage.  She knows what she loves, she knows the joy it brings her and she has to dig deep to push the negative away and shine.

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Yes, I’m going to spoil the ending, she gets the part and she rocks it, ok I’m projecting based on her smile.  But it truly isn’t about getting the part and excelling at it, it is trusting that you are perfect as you are and confidently owning it.

The book is available everywhere, even the library, so please go get it, read it with your kids and get discussing! Fiction is a great start to talk about racism and fat shaming and all the other things that you think are hard, but kids need to hear and see and talk about from a very early age.