Fry Bread

November 23rd, 2020 · Books

Author Kevin Noble Maillard approaches this celebration of FRY BREAD with a focus on the senses and the history behind the favorite staple. Born of necessity when native tribes were forcibly moved, able to take little with them, fry bread was created with the items given by the U.S. government: flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and sometimes cornmeal. This picture book, however, celebrates the process and family-tradition of making and eating fry bread. The joyful and stunningly detailed illustrations Caldecott Honor winner Juana Martinez-Neal has created ensure that all readers come away from the book knowing that Fry Bread is most definitely US.

The picture book is divided into sections headed with a simple statement about fry bread: Fry Bread is Food, Fry Bread is Sound, Fry Bread is Shape, Fry Bread is Time, and so on. Each section details ingredients and techniques and family time spent making and eating fry bread. The descriptions are vibrant and sensory, and the vocabulary is appropriate without being too simple. Each page is a nugget of information about fry bread that ties together culture and history and family traditions for many Native Americans.

The illustrations connect beautifully with the text, and Martinez-Neal drew inspiration from Maillard’s personal photos and multicultural history. Centered on a Native American grandmother, the picture book shows her leading a group of children through mini and molding and frying the bread. The images of celebrating the making and eating of the bread moves into learning about history and culture and values, all connected to the tradition of process of the fry bread. The multicultural depiction of the children and adults celebrates a rich heritage and the vast connections across nations.

The book ends with a recipe for fry bread and an expanded explanation of each earlier page in Fry Bread. The sections are fabulously informative, and while they are aimed at caregivers, not the preschool readers, they can definitely be shared with all ages. Mentions of particular details in the illustrations will also have readers going back to search for names and items discussed throughout the book.


Reprinted with permission.

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All Because You Matter

November 19th, 2020 · Books

“They say that matter is all things that make up the universe: energy, stars, space…If that’s the case, then you, dear child, matter.”

I’m not embarrassed to admit that the first line of ALL BECAUSE YOU MATTER by Tami Charles brought tears to my eyes. It’s beautiful. Together with the accompanying illustration, of a pregnant Black couple cradling the mother-to-be’s belly, the words hold all the love and hope and expectation we give to our children. This powerful children’s book holds up children, especially Black and marginalized children, and assured them that their lives matter to the world.

From the personal and private opening image, the story travels to ancestors’ accomplishments and experiences. The child reading or listening to the book is reminded that their ancestors had hopes and dreams and always knew that “you matter.” Always.

Alternating between personal joys and painful moments, and then opening up to wider, monumental details, works beautifully in this picture book. Readers will both relate to and feel empathy for the examples given: having your name giggled at in class, receiving “big, bold, red” marks on your school work, watching tragic abuses on the news. And like a comforting pep talk after a bad day, the book bolsters the reader as “dreamed of, carried like a knapsack full of wishes” since the day the universe was created. It’s a beautiful, powerful, and loving quilt of assurances to wrap around children who may sometimes feel uncertain about their place in the world.

The stunning and colorful illustrations by Bryan Collier convey deep and profound emotion on every page. In an array of quilted collage (his grandmother was a quilter) and expressive illustration, the young boy at the center of the book is surrounded by colors and faces and patterns that celebrate his joys and comfort him in tougher times. The folk art style of the collage serves as a vibrant background for the detailed and realistic portraits of the characters throughout the book. The emotions in the illustrations that depict school incidents and response to Black Lives Matter are particularly powerful.


Tami Charles shares in the Author’s Note that she wrote ALL BECAUSE YOU MATTER to help families with young children begin conversations about the racial climate in the USA. The examples of the hurtful experiences children have, and more widely, the mention of taking a knee, and the listed first names of murdered Black boys and men are age-appropriate and allow families to choose whether to discuss the issues directly or more gently. Charles also shares that she wrote the book to remind children, “especially those from marginalized backgrounds,” that they all have generations of ancestors and accomplishments holding them up because they matter. Even in moments where they are made to feel small, they can be proud of who they are and where they came from because the matter.

Very highly recommended.


Review by Kristin Wald

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September 27th, 2020 · Books

As preschoolers, my kids have been told “No Bathroom Talk.” And at home we also tried to curb their use of poopie, doo-doo, and peep (I don’t know why they say it with a P at the end) talk, especially during mealtimes. Now, with middle schoolers, we’ve just about given up the struggle.  But with a book like POOPENDOUS! by author Artie Bennett you don’t have to worry about scatology at the table because it’s a delight.

Poopendous! is a silly, fun, and very educational collection of information about poop from around the Earth’s animal kingdom. Not only do children learn that monkey dung is sometimes flung (“Monkeys fling with under stress. It helps the monkey decompress.”), a favorite line educated me: “Guano is an Incan word for poop of bat or ocean bird.” I didn’t know it was Incan; I thought it was a Spanish word! Poop from so many animals is described and detailed; Hippo Piles and Wombat Cubes are just the beginning. The book also talks about useful roles of poop. Homes are built of it, it is used for fuel in cooking fires, and cow pies are thrown in contests.

All in all, the book is very cute, and the colorful illustrations by Mike Moran add to the words in clever and entertaining, and not at all gross, ways. Young children will ask for Poopendous! as a read-aloud again and again, and I can attest that older children will reach for it on the bookshelf into their teens. Highly recommended!


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Hello, My Name is Ruby

August 5th, 2020 · Books

HELLO, MY NAME IS RUBY by Philip C. Stead is a charming story of a tiny bird with a big heart who meets many new friends with different personalities and skills. Ruby, the title character, travels around introducing herself to fellow birds of all sizes, hoping to get to know them better. The illustrations are colorful and childlike, with just enough detail to entice small readers to inspect closely and admire feathers and shapes and feet and beaks. HELLO, MY NAME IS RUBY is a wonderful book to share before a child starts on a new adventure with enthusiasm or with shyness, with positive results or with disappointment. 

Ruby’s perseverance and sweetness would be enough to carry this picture book, but the supporting characters make sure that everyone will find someone to champion in the story. None of the birds are labeled by species, but by attributes. A colorful Kiwi shows Ruby that not all birds fly to get around, and a disinterested Peacock makes Ruby sad for a moment, allowing us to see how Ruby handles rejection: with a sad song. Each interaction teaches Ruby something about the world and new skills, until finally Ruby finds an entire flock of birds just like her and introduces her new friends to the flock (peacock excepted…). 

The illustrations have visible lines and “squiggles” throughout, and the colors don’t always stay inside the lines perfectly. Children tend to respond well to this style because they recognize their own tendencies in it. Despite the intentional roughness, emotions jump out at readers. When Ruby is excited, it’s clear she is happy. The curious Ostrich really looks curious, and even the Kiwi has a perplexed look when asking, “What is flying?” 

Finding friends and a place for oneself can be a challenge, and HELLO, MY NAME IS RUBY uses little Ruby to show children that while the world is a big place with lots of different types of friends, we each have a place in it. Highly recommended. 

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