2019 Walter Awards & Symposium

This past Friday I had the honor of attending the 2019 Walter Awards and Symposium.  Hosted by the Library of Congress and We Need Diverse Books, it was a time to celebrate writers who promote diversity in their work. Writers of children’s and young adult works were given awards. Prior to that, there was a panel discussion where a group of authors discussed the process of writing their books, their sources of inspiration, and why they find it important to amplify the voices of people of color through their work.

Perhaps the best part of the day was seeing school children there.  I watched them as they engaged the panelists in questions about the craft of writing and their specific books.  I listened to their excited conversations as they lined up to meet the authors and get their books signed.  The magnitude of the moment was not lost on me. In this time of instant gratification and the constant pull of electronics, it was nice to see that young people can still get enthusiastic about reading new books and meeting authors.  

I would like to highlight one such author.  Tiffany Jackson is the author of Monday’s Not Coming and the forthcoming Let Me Hear A Rhyme. In her pink pantsuit with voluminous curls tumbling everywhere, she certainly stunned.  When she spoke about her book and how she gleams inspiration from actual news stories, her passion for her craft was clear. I was impressed. And then I looked around at the young girls in attendance and could feel the way they gravitated towards her. I liken their reactions to how they would act if they met their favorite musician. Truly, it warmed my heart.

Tiffany Jackson Book Sign

 

Many thanks to We Need Diverse Books for the wonderful event.  It is certainly critical that we inject our voices into literature.  And it is equally important that young people see the work happening and get to play a part in it. 

Love to all of the authors who took part in the day–Meg Medina, Emily X.R. Pan, David Bowles, Veera Hiranandani, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and Elizabeth Acevedo. 

If you are in the Washington, DC area you should definitely check this event out.  Until next year!

 

Click here for more information about the work that We Need Diverse Books is doing! 

You find out more information about Tiffany Jackson here!

Flossie and the Fox (Book Review)

When people ask if I have a favorite book, I usually say no. I mean, I have read so many enjoyable books in my life that it is impossible to narrow it down to just one!

Well, I have a confession. I definitely have a top book. A book from my childhood that stands out so clearly that I still remember the first time I read it–back in first grade! It is a book that, when I ran across it unexpectedly in my neighborhood library, I gasped. Out loud. Literally. It is just that special to me.

So I’m sure you’re reading this and saying, “Enough already! What is this fabulous book?” The book is entitled Flossie & the Fox, written by Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by Rachel Isadora. Flossie Finley is a precious young African American girl.  One day Flossie’s grandmother asks her to take some food to a neighbor. In doing so, she warns her to watch out for any foxes because they can be very sly. Certainly enough, Flossie encounters the fox in the woods. He wants to get the tasty treats in her basket but Flossie is one step ahead.  I won’t spoil the entire plot but just know that she outsmarts the fox in a masterful way.

Flossie & the Fox is a beautifully written book.  It captures Southern dialect and the unique voice of each character in a way that makes reader feel like they’re right there watching the action unfold.  Moreover, the story contains a very critical lesson that parents will want to discuss with children: You should never let anyone tell you who are or are not. They don’t have say over your character and you should never give them any power to think they do.

This book is perfect for little readers 4-8 years old.

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald (Book Review)

Skit Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxane Orgill and illustrated by Sean Qualls.

As a child, Ella Fitzgerald didn’t have much in the way of money or materials things.  What she did have was the gift of dance and she shared it everywhere she went. On the corner in her Yonkers neighborhood to earn spare change.  In Harlem’s iconic Savoy Ballroom where she and her friend Charlie paid to learn the latest dance moves. And every place in between.

When tragedy strikes her family, Ella is lost. She stumbles from residence to residence without the means to properly care for herself. It is during this time that she learns she also has the ability to move crowds with her vocal skills. Winning contests at the Apollo Theater and the Harlem Opera House positioned her to meet Chick Webb. Chick Webb was a notable band leader and swing music drummer. He looked beyond her raggedy cat appearance and found that she made the perfect fit for his band! Together, they kept crowds in Harlem moving and swinging all night long! They went on to record a song, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” which earned great commercial success.

In time, the raggedy cat who once lost everything…who was overlooked due to her appearance….who felt unheard and unloved, became a success. Ella Fitzgerald would become a famed jazz singer affectionately known as the First Lady of Song.

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald is for readers 5-9 years old.

Michelle (Book Review)

From both her parents, Michelle learned to dream big.

Throughout her life, dreaming big is what allowed Michelle Robinson Obama to achieve success during her life.  Michelle, written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by AG Ford, chronicles the future First Lady’s life from childhood to the night she danced at her first inaugural ball as an adult.  Michelle was born to parents who valued education and instilled that into their children. Whether it was learning to read at a young age or becoming middle school salutatorian, or gaining admission into an Ivy League institution, she always pursued academic excellence.

Her perseverance paid off and she started working at a law firm soon after graduating from Law School.  There, she met a young man who was passionate about serving the community. Michelle was impressed by his drive and they started dating.  That man was Barack Obama.  Together, they dreamed big about the ways they could help this country to be even better and create unity among all people.  When Barack ran for President of the United States, Michelle was right by his side. On November 4, 2008 Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the U.S. The woman who grew up on Chicago’s South Side became the First Lady of the U.S. Barack and Michelle Obama (along with their two daughters) made history as they became the first Black First Family. It was a historic moment that many people will never forget.

From Michelle Obama we can all learn a valuable lesson: If you dream big and put in the work to actualize those dreams, you can accomplish anything.

Michelle is for readers 7 and up.

This is another selection in our Women’s History Month series.  In the comments below, tell me what other powerful women you’d like to read about.

Oprah: The Little Speaker (Book Review)

In honor of March being Women’s History Month, here at Peachy Reads we’re going to highlight some books about strong, powerful women who have made or are continuing to make a difference in the world.

 

Oprah Winfrey is best known for building a media empire that began with her eponymous daytime talk show. She is the first Black woman to become a billionaire.  However, Oprah was not born into a life of privilege and wealth. In Oprah: The Little Speaker, readers gain more insight into Oprah’s childhood. Raised by her grandmother, she was taught to read and write at a very young age.  This laid the foundation for her to become a strong orator. While this endeared her to adults, it left her open to teasing from her peers.

Although Oprah faced various challenges throughout her adolescence, it was clear that God had a bigger plan for her life. He placed people and opportunities in her life to set her up for success. Oprah: The Little Speaker was written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by London Ladd. It is for readers 6-8 years old.

In the comments below answer this question: If you could ask Oprah Winfrey one question, what would it be and why?

Junebug (Review)

For a young boy growing up in the projects of Connecticut, life can be pretty difficult. For soon to be ten year old Reeve McClain, Jr., it is like living in Never Land. Everyone is angry, fighting, abusing drugs and alcohol, and using weapons.  It seems like the only option in a neighborhood that doesn’t nurture the dreams of children. Despite this, Reeve (best known as Junebug) holds on to his dream of sailing a boat with every fiber of his being. Through everything–losing a big brother figure, looking after his little sister, and handling an aunt who lacks family loyalty–Junebug focuses on a special act on birthday that he hopes will turn his dreams into reality.

Junebug is a very captivating read. I found my heart truly aching for everything this boy had to endure when he should be afforded the opportunity to just be a child. The biggest lesson that readers can take away from this book is that it is always appropriate to be true to yourself and resist negative peer pressure. A dream and determination is often all you need to get out of trying situations.

 

Written by: Alice Mead

Age Range: 8-12 years old

On Mardi Gras Day (Book Review)

Most of us know that Mardi Gras is a celebration that is observed in New Orleans. We know about the parties, the vibrant colors, and the excitement that washes over the city. By reading, On Mardi Gras Day, we can take that understanding to another level.  This picture book tells the story of two siblings who partake in all the jubilation. Readers learn about the various parades that take place such as Zulu, which makes fun of the Southern traditions that once separated Black and White people. You will also read about the Mardi Gras Indians who parade in the streets wearing elaborate costumes while singing and chanting.

The celebration is also about fellowship with loved ones. The children enjoy a large lunch with their extended family and play in the streets with friends. Personally, I’ve never researched Mardi Gras so I learned a lot from this book. Mardi Gras 2019 is on March 5th so kick off the celebration with this informative read!

 

Written by: Fatima Shaik

Paintings by: Floyd Cooper

Ages: 4-8 years old ; Grades: Preschool-3

The Blues Singers: Ten Who Rocked the World (Black History Month Reads)

This year for Black History Month, introduce your little reader to some classic blues singers with The Blues Singers: Ten Who Rocked the World. Written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Lisa Cohen, this book provides biographies on some of the most soulful singers the world has ever enjoyed. Aretha Franklin. James Brown. Billie Holiday. Little Richard. These are just a few of the artists featured in The Blues Singers. The biographies are written in a way that young readers can understand and find intriguing. They’ll learn how, with records like “Tutti Frutti,” Little Richard helped to integrate white radio stations. With her passing still relatively fresh, you can teach your reader how Aretha Franklin grew up in a household filled with music. In her house, it was common to hear a radio, record player, and piano blaring from different rooms.

All of the artists featured overcame various obstacles to enjoy success in the music industry.  They worked hard and stayed true to their artistic vision. This book is perfect for any child who loves music and/or history. Bonus features? The portraits of each artist are so vivid that you can practically hear the notes floating off the pages. Also, there is a recommended listening list at the end to help you take the lesson to the next level.

For readers: 6-8 years old ; 1-3 grade

In the comments below, tell me– who is your favorite soul singer?

My Rows and Piles of Coins (Book Review)

While some children may feel inclined to spend their spare money on toys or snacks, Saruni is collecting his golden coins from something…larger.  In My Rows and Piles of Coins, Tanzania is the backdrop of this story about a young boy who earns money by helping his mother sell goods at the local market.  His big goal is to earn enough money to buy his own bicycle so he can help transport more goods.

Saruni does not meet his goal instantly. In the midst of working, he must also learn how to ride a large bicycle unaccompanied and the best ways to ride with heavy loads.  He also endures negativity from a naysayer. Ultimately, My Rows and Piles of Coins is a great story about tenacity.  Like Saruni, children will learn that with hard work and commitment, they can accomplish anything they set out to do.  

In the comments below, tell me what kinds of goals you’re helping your little readers attain?

Written by: Tololwa M. Mollel

Illustrated by: E.B. Lewis

Age Range: 4-7 years old

 

Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation (Book Review)

 

Title: Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation

Author: Andrea Davis Pinkney

Illustrator: Brian Pinkney

Age Range: 4-8 years

 

The story of Rosa Parks and her contributions to the Montgomery Bus Boycott is a lesson typically taught in schools. While the facts are unchanging, Boycott Blues finds a unique perspective from which to tell the tale.  Jim Crow is described as a living being with bony wings that flies in to overwhelm everyone with his darkness.  Jim Crow goes peck, peck, peck when he wants to make his presence known.  Throughout the trying, year-long boycott of the bus system, the citizens never gave into the blues that threatened to hold them down.  Instead, they continued to walk, bike, and carpool to their destinations. They ignored the darkness of Jim Crow and focused on the light that equal rights would bring to their lives.

 

The poetic language of Boycott Blues is certain to capture your young readers.  The illustrations, with its deliberate brushstrokes and intense use of color, can almost covey the story without words. Overall, it’s a fresh take on a topic that is frequently covered during Black History Month. Be sure to add it to your list!