Thursday, November 24, 2016

A PSA on Diverse Books

A current trend in children's books is highlighting and embracing diversity, and a book I recently reviewed, The Color Machine, gives a different lilt to that trend, echoing years past when "we treat everyone the same". I think when students are exposed to a variety of backgrounds, it is important to realize that deep down, we are all the same, we are simply human and should learn and grow with each other. 

Recently I read The Black and White Factory by Eric Telchin (Diego Funck, Illustrator) and I thought The Color Machine would be similar. It is not, The Black and White Factory was a slightly silly and very fun story about colors finding there way into a "black and white factory" that makes things like barcodes and can't have colors on them!

Clearly The Color Machine is about the diversity of the world and how it would be better if we all just got along, but in real life, we can't just take away color, how do we teach students empathy and how to embrace diversity to help them become a better generation that accepts all differences, not just race, but disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, etc.? For older students (mature 4th graders +), I think that is a heavy question, but one can start with some of these books: #booksfighthate. I also think it's important to simply learn about the world as well, starting with geography, you could do some of these promoting geography awareness activities and help students learn that the world is not as big as we think, and that all of us are interconnected. 

As I read this book, I thought more and more about the recent election, and not to get too political, but kids are smart, and they are paying attention. We need to give students a place for conversations. Some students are scared and anxious as to what this election means for them. Other students are boastful and mean. For all students, these conversations are important, and we must do so in a safe space. As you prepare to have these conversations, prepare yourself to teach diversity. Along with that, I also liked this video as a discussion starter (review before showing to students, you know your students the best). I also think it's important to truly delve into the deeper issues, not just "have diverse books." This article/book review reminds us that just because the mirror is there (diverse characters), the window may be small (the perspective and stereotypes we are sharing). Of course, when we have these conversations, we must be ready to talk about race and racism, use this book list to help you find the right words and give everyone in your classroom a mirror and a window! 

Other resources: this Delightful Children's Books blog post
10 Children's Books that Teach Diversity, I especially like Little Blue and Little Yellow, similar concept to The Color Machine, but in a slightly different way. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wednesday Book Review: The Color Machine by A. H. Taylor

Over Facebook, the author/illustrator reached out to me with a lovely message: "I wanted to personally give you a copy of the book to review and allow the message to spread to all. Please let me know how I can get you a copy. And above all...know that you are appreciated!"

With such kindness, I should have expected a kind book! 

In "The Color Machine" we enter the town of Colormazoo, where color is very important... 

The Color Machine gives the people color, but is broken and no one can tell who is which color. 

The book alludes to the fact that there are different colored people, white, black, brown, and tan:

As the mayor "itches" to find a cure, the different people help each other, not knowing who is which color. This is turn makes everyone happier. 

While I like the premise of the book, the writing is a little awkward. It does not quite rhyme, nor does it have a pattern or pentameter, which makes it a difficult book to read out loud to children. It is a little vague as to what exactly The Color Machine does, as well as how the people of Colormazoo normally interact. It seems that a little more back story may have helped develop this story and give children empathy for the characters, as well as building connections to children to times they may have felt left out (something like, the blacks and tans were playing but wouldn't let the browns or whites in, etc.). The Color Machine is geared toward younger students, and can be a great starting point, but teachers should be prepared for deep questions and potentially uncomfortable conversations. View the book's website here: 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Wednesday Book Review: 3 Books I Couldn't Finish by Jessie Burton, Renee Ahdieh, and Kate Racculia

I read a lot of books, and sometimes I just can’t finish ALL of them. Here are the latest 3! I used to feel like I HAD to finish every book but then realized I was wasting a lot of time on books I wasn't enjoying! So I decided, if I don't like it, I don't have to finish it. That's what's great about going to the library!

The Muse by Jessie Burton
The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia

I picked up The Muse because the cover was beautiful...and the story sounded interesting too! However, I just couldn’t keep going! If you love art and history, this is a great one!

The Wrath and the Dawn sounded amazing, but I made the mistake of reading the last few pages, which gave away the ending and made me not care any more...whoops.

This Must Be the Place was recommended as a book that’s similar to Gilmore Girls, which I love! The book had the same kind of quick thinking and dialogue, but seemed to jump around and made it hard to follow.

All great books, just not for me! Check them out today! For now, #SoManyBooksSoLittleTime

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Wednesday Book Review: Let's Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali! (Maya & Neel's India Adventure Series, Book 1) by Ajanta Chakraborty, Vivek Kumar

I have celebrated Diwali my entire life and enjoy spending time with my family, eating special foods, and the fireworks. Now that I have a child of my own, I wanted to learn more about the holiday.

Let's Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali! (Maya & Neel's India Adventure Series, Book 1) By Ajanta Chakraborty, Vivek Kumar

As I was thinking about it, a friend posted this book on her Facebook page. It turns out it's by one of the founders of Bollywood Groove, a local dance studio that teaches Indian dance to children and adults. I ordered it immediately! I loved that the book had a note for parents, that explained how in India each home may celebrate differently:

I read it and then asked my mother and mother in law the story of Diwali. For our home, it was the same except for Dhanteras. In the book, they celebrate by buying pots and pans, and in our house we would celebrate by praying to Lakshmi (Laxmi).

Otherwise, we follow the same traditions, with the addition of blessing our businesses on the Diwali (where they pray to Lakshmi, we do it again specifically to bless the businesses for the new year).

I really enjoyed this book, with the simple descriptions of the various rituals and the "Info Zoom" on The Story of Diwali:

 One of our students checked it out!

This year Diwali was on October 30th and New Year was on October 31st (it made for a very busy weekend!). I look forward to reading this to Baby T every year and starting our own traditions!

Happy Diwali everyone and Saal Mubarak (Happy New Year).

Buy the book today: Let's Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali! (Maya & Neel's India Adventure Series, Book 1)

Chakraborty, Ajanta, and Vivek Kumar. Let's Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali: Maya & Neel's India Adventure Series, Book 1. Chicago, IL: Bollywood Groove, 2016.