Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story

JUNETEENTH_Freedoms Gift_cover imageToday commemorates another Juneteenth observance. If you’ve never heard of the holiday, there is no time like the present to learn!

Set in 1943 Texas on a hot summer day, Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story, by acclaimed author Valerie Wesley, tells the story of two young girls, June and her cousin Lillie celebrating Juneteenth, an African-American celebration that commemorates  when Texas slaves were freed on June 19, 1865 (2 years after President Abe Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation).

Lillie, a pre-teen from New York, is none to pleased to be visiting family in Texas to celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday she describes as an “old timey” holiday. Lillie changes her tune however after hearing her great Aunt Marshall tell the story of how her sister Sophie was taken from her when they were both slaves, and how Sophie then found Aunt Marshall when Texas slaves were finally set free.

The book gives a realistic portrayal of children’s rebellious nature as well as the southern lifestyle of respecting one’s elders. And i’ts honest portrayal of living the pain of living through slavery, as described by Aunt Marshall’s character is realistic without being over-dramatic. The story also shines with watercolor illustrations by Sharon Wilson, whose pictures colorfully depict the south.

This story is one that every child should read, regardless of their race. Why? Because children and teenagers are so far removed today from the struggles of African-American’s of the past, that they are unaware of the significance of a holiday like Juneteenth.  Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story was released in 1997, and can be found in local libraries and online at

NOTE: Juneteenth is no longer just celebrated in Texas, but also throughout the United States, including our own nation’s capital, which hosts many Juneteenth celebrations this year along with its neighboring suburban communities. Information for Washington, DC Juneteenth events can be found at To find Juneteenth celebrations in your state, visit For more information about the Juneteenth holiday, visit

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Flower Garden

Garden in a shopping cart –
Garden on a bus –
Garden going up the stairs –
Can you guess what’s next?

In Flower Garden, a little girl rides the bus to a plant store to buy flowers to create a window garden for her mother’s birthday. What a great idea for a Mother’s Day gift!

In this delightful story, a father takes his daughter to the local market where they buy a variety of flowers that he and the little girl take home and turn into a window garden. The two ride the bus to the market then hop back on the bus to go home where they go to work cutting and trimming the flowers, putting the potting soil in pots, getting the flowers all ready to set in their apartment window. The mother is surprised with her beautiful gift and birthday cake.

Flower Garden has beautiful illustrations and wonderful rhythmic prose. It’s a shows the love a daughter has for her mother, while also showing the love a man has for his wife and daughter by involving his daughter in getting a gift for his wife’s birthday. It is a positive family story without trying to be, all while showing gifts don’t have to be grandiose and fancy as long as it comes from the heart, an important lesson today’s children could greatly benefit from!

Flower Garden: Author: Eve Bunting

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Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book


Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book
addresses autism spectrum disorder in children, giving a truthful yet tender view of what it’s like to have a friend with autism. The book also demonstrates the struggles with acceptance that kids with autism frequently face.

Matt suffers from  autism spectrum disorder or ASD, and because of this, he acts different than most normal functioning kids. But Matt is a friend to his neighbor across the street, who is the narrator of Since We’re Friends, who tells how he and Matt play basketball, go swimming and play on the jungle gym like other kids. But how Matt responds to situations is different from other children and seen as strange to many. Children with autism can be in a constant state of anxiety because they are overwhelmed or overstimulated by things like loud noises at a basketball game – things that don’t normally adversely affect normal functioning children.

The narrator explains that since he is Matt’s friend, he helps him in these situations, by being supportive and helping to distract Matt so he doesn’t get too upset. The book also discusses the importance of routine is to those with ASD, and when an autistic child’s routine is change, his or her behavior can be misinterpreted as bad behavior or a tantrum.

Since We’re Friends also addresses behaviors such as getting overly excited which can lead to hand flapping, or other characteristics that others classify as odd.  It addresses bullying and being treated like an outcast by children that don’t understand the way autism children speak differently, or why they may not speak at all.

Since We’re Friends  is an excellent book for teaching both children and adults to understand how and why autistic children are different, and why those differences should be respected and not labeled as “weird” or bad behavior. School Library Journal describes the book’s message as  “not to be ignored” and the Autism Science Foundation lauds the book as a “major step in building a more compassionate community for all our children.”

April is Autism Awareness Month . As kids with autism can have a tough time making friends due to behaviors and characteristics normal functioning children categorize as odd or weird, this book is an excellent choice for educating the children in your life that autism is something to be understood, rather than feared.

For activities to help in explaining autism to children, take an Autism 101 course online or check out these Books for Kids, Parents, and Teachers.

Since We’re Friends: An Autism Picture Book 
Author: Celeste Shelly; Illustrator: David Harrington

About reviews books that celebrate diversity and culturally educate young children ages 1-10. Its mission is to celebrate children’s books that educate to promote diversity, and to give educators, librarians, and parents access to books that promote cultural, religious, racial diversity as well as those with special needs. Our vision is that one day we will live in a world of acceptance of all.

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A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women

A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women  is a fantastic picture book that tells of the many historical achievements made by women in America. It is a great book to read to young girls and boys alike.

The book begins with the author’s introduction that tells how women were not able to vote, own property or have jobs at one time – a fact that is not always taught or emphasized in elementary education, but one that girls should know. Readers are then introduced to Abigail Adams, the wife of second U.S. President, John Adams, and mother to the sixth president, John Quincy Adams. It goes on to tell of over 100 women who made an impact on American history, including Harriet Tubman, Rosie the Riveter, Susan B. Anthony, and Sacagawea. The book does not go into great detail about any one particular woman, instead it describes in brief sentences or one paragraph the achievements of great women in different occupational fields or groups.

For example, when you get to the part of the book for the letter “E”,  it describes several educators in American history including Mary Lyon who found Mount Holyoke College, Anne Sullivan, who taught deaf and blind student Helen Keller sign language and to speak, and Mary McLeod Bethune, who found Bethune-Cooke College, a school for African-American girls.

The book also tells of prominent women in math and science in the  “Y is for Roslyn Yalow” section. It tells not only of Yalow, but also of the achievements of other women in science like Barbara McClintock, and other women who won the Nobel Prize in science or mathematical fields.

For young girls who have dreams of doing something that many women may not be well known for doing, this book is great for giving them the confidence and self-esteem to go for their dreams. There are so many admirable and amazing women in this book, it would be hard for a young girl not to dream big after reading it. And because it describes women who came from all walks of life, it can be appreciated by young girls and women of all walks of life today. For more books about awesome women in history, visit our women’s history page.

A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women: Author: Lynne Cheney, Illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser

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Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

Of Thee I SingIt’s almost President’s Day, which is the perfect time to review of THEE I SING: A Letter to My Daughters by former president Barack Obama. The book honors many historical figures who made a difference in America, and more importantly it is a beautiful letter from a father to his daughters about his love for them and hope for their future. For that reason, it is sure to be a much loved American classic.

of THEE I SING highlights activists and social reformers, artists and inventors, presidents and others that children may or may not have heard of, but should know about. Reading the book to your children will not only educate them, but empower them, giving them confidence to want to make their own mark in this world.

In of THE I SING, Obama tells his children stories of trailblazers who remind him of their own wonderful traits – bravery, creativity and strength. He tells of artistic, political and even scientific strides made by different trailblazers from the United States and abroad. Some of the people featured are Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Helen Keller and Sitting Bull. He tells of their work and the extraordinary progress each made that made our world a better place.

The last page of Of Thee I Sing includes mini bios of each extraordinary individual’s beginnings. The beautiful prose and colorful illustrations by Loren makes the book a treasure. I highly recommend it, because it is a great history lesson for children, it promotes respect for all people, and it acknowledge the contributions and gifts that all people, regardless of race, disability or religion have brought to our world, and to our lives.

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters | Author:Barack Obama Illustrator: Loren Long
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Celebrating Chinese Festivals

51-zqeupehl._sy435_bo1204203200_I bet you didn’t know that Chinese New Year is upon us! That’s right, Chinese New Year is tomorrow, February 6th, and the picture book Celebrating Chinese Festivals is the perfect book to learn about this annual celebration!

The book educates readers about seven different Chinese festivals and street celebrations.

For Chinese New Year, the book tells of the couplets (banners) that are hung with the word “fu” meaning fortune, and how people celebrate by setting off firecrackers and doing the lion dance in the streets. Families also prepare sticky rice cakes and dumplings to eat during the celebration. Kids are also told the story of a dragon-like monster named “Xi” who wreaked havoc on the world, and the how the monster was defeated by Nian;  the first day of the New Year is named after Nian (xin nian). This folk tale is featured along with others in the book.

Not only does the book highlights the seven celebrations with folk tales, it also features recipes, poems, and even riddles associated with the festivals to make learning about the celebrations extra fun. Other festivals featured in the book where folk tales or poems are shared include:

  • Qingming Festival: features a poem written over 1,000 years ago by Du Mu of the Tang Dynasty.
  • Lantern Festival: features riddles told at the lantern festival.
  • Mid-Autumn Festival: features a folk tale about an archer named Houyi who saved the people from starvation and was made immortal by the Heavenly Emperor.

Celebrating Chinese Festivals is an incredibly fun picture book for any parent or educator who wants to expose children to another culture. It’s also written so that children can read it on their own – making it extra special. The book makes learning about Chinese traditions fun as well as informative. I found this wonderful book at Barnes and Noble, but it can also be purchased on the publishers website or at

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A Child of the Civil Rights Movement

A Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young-Shelton, tells the story of the civil rights movement with mention of Dr. King, and the role he played, as seen through her then four year-old eyes. Young-Shelton, the daughter of Civil Rights activist and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, begins the story begins with Paula and her family moving from New York, where there were no Jim Crow laws, to the south, where inequality and Jim Crow laws ran rampant. She describes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a way many of us have rarely seen – a man full of joy with a twinkle in his eye –  a man that the media rarely portrayed, but a man that no doubt did exist in the presence of his loved ones.

In the story, Young-Shelton refers to Dr. King as “Uncle Martin,” because while he was not her blood uncle, she explains that like her father Andrew Young, Dr. King was part of the American civil rights movement family – a family she describes as frequently eating dinner together at one another’s homes, where like a biological family, they would have heated discussions together, many times about the next steps to take in the civil rights movement; and like a a family, they struggled through the era of inequality together, they worried together, and  they marched together like a family from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama – an event she is proud to have been a part of, since it led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

A Child of the Civil Rights Movement is beautifully told, and the illustrations by Raul Colon add to beauty of the book. From the expressions on the faces of the characters to the corn rows in young Paula’s hair, the illustrations vividly capture the essence of the story and those in it.

A Child of the Civil Rights Movement is an interesting re-telling of the civil rights movement that children can understand, that will also keep adults interested. It is a thoughtful introduction to the civil rights movement, and stirs up emotions you don’t expect from a children’s picture book. I felt sorrow for the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but I also felt pride in the African-American leaders he worked with who like Dr. King, sacrificed time with their families; who were beaten and thrown in jail so that they and African-Americans could have the right to vote like those of white Americans.

This book touches on these subjects and more in a way that will not scare children, but make them think about and realize how much they have to be thankful for – and those who helped them have the basic human rights they are able to live with today.

Child of the Civil Rights Movement: Written by: Paula Young Shelton and Raul Colon

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