Waiting for Pumpsie

Baseball fever is here! It’s MLB All Star weekend, and the perfect time to review Waiting for Pumpsie, a a young Red Sox fan living in 1959, who learns lessons about fairness, hope and family, and of course – baseball!
Bernard LOVES the Red Sox! But he doesn’t like that his favorite team doesn’t have an African-American player. Bernard lives in 1959, when racism against blacks was still highly accepted; African-Americans were referred to as “Negro”, and prejudice against them were a regular part of life.
Each year Bernard and his family go to Fenway Park to watch the Red Sox play, but after being mistreated by some fans who are white, the family goes back to listening to the games on the radio.
Bernard’s parents tell him not to give up hope; change is coming they tell him, and they are hopeful the Red Sox will bring on a Negro player soon. Then one day it happens! Bernard’s dad reads in the newspaper about a minor league player named Pumpsie Green. The Red Sox give Pumpsie a chance to play and history is made in Boston!
When Pumpsie makes history for the Red Sox, he is like a movie star; all the reporters want his picture. Things get even better when one day Bernard’s dad surprises Bernard and his family with tickets to go see Pumpsie play at Fenway Park. Although some people say mean things about Pumpsie during the game, Bernard’s family ignores them and doesn’t let it spoil their fun – not this time!
Waiting for Pumpsie is an action-filled story that keeps the reader wondering what will happen next, and it is easy enough that children can read on their own or with an adult. Educators and parents will like how the story addresses the prejudice endured by African-Americans in everyday life before the civil rights era. The Authors Note in back is also very informative.
One of the best things about Waiting for Pumpsie is its positive portrayal of the African-American family. Bernard’s family love and support one another, and regularly discusses important issues together, which is something that has been lost in many American families. The book not only addresses the issue of racism, but shows how as a family, the problem can be faced without anger, bitterness or contempt – a lesson that is as important today in 2018, as is was in 1957.
Waiting for Pumpsie
Author: Barry Wittenstein
Illustrator: London Ladd
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She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World

She Persisted_cover imageTomorrow will be the first day of Deaf-Blind Awareness Week, which is dedicated to Helen Keller and all individuals who share the disorder. Helen Keller is one of the exceptional women highlighted in the picture book She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. Helen became blind as a toddler but rose above her condition and learned to read, write and speak. She also graduated from college and is known for the quote “One can never consent to creep, when one feels an impulse to soar.”

Other women highlighted is She Persisted are include Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin and Oprah Winfrey.  Here are some of the history about these great women that readers learn from the book:

  • Claudette Colvin was a black teenager and single mother who refused to give up her seat to a white woman. Her action helped others like Rosa Parks to fight for the civil rights of African-Americans.
  • Clara Lemlich worked at a garment factory and fought for women’s rights so that women could work under better conditions.
  • Virginia Apgar was an anesthesiologist and created a method to test the health of a newborn baby – a method hospitals still use today.
  • Maria Tallchief was teased in school for being Native American, but that didn’t stop her from becoming the first American prima ballerina.
  • Oprah Winfrey was expected to be a maid, like her grandomther, but she had other plans. She became a television and movie actress, publisher and media mogul
  • Nellie Bly was a courageous reporter who wrote about abuses in sweat shops and mental hospitals, even though it put her in danger.

These and more great women are discussed in She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. The book is a great introduction of female leaders in the United States, and truly inspires the reader. It’s only shortcoming is that it does not provide a glossary of terms in the back of the book, which would have made the book even more educational. Still, it is a wonderful picture book that will open the the mind of any young child who reads it.

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World
Author: Chelsea Clinton
Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger


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Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by [Cronin, Doreen]At first glance, the board book Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type looks like nothing more than a silly children’s book meant to make kids laugh. But it’s so much more!

This adorable book teaches children the concept of activism, including negotiation and going on strike, as well as illustrating what it is to be a neutral party; and most of all, that everyone deserves to be treated well!

The cows on Farmer Brown’s farm were getting cold at night. So they decided to type him a letter requesting that all the cows receive  electric blankets. But Farmer Brown ignores their request. This made the cows angry and they decide to go on strike, refusing to supply milk. When Farmer Brown still refuses, they partner with the hens who are also cold, and type another letter telling Farmer Brown that the hens will not supply eggs without electric blankets. What results is a peaceful negotiation that all agree to, which then inspires other animals on the farm to make demands in their pursuit of happiness.

In less than 20 pages,  Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type  teaches young children ages 3-5 how to fight for one’s rights in a peaceful and democratic way with a unique, humorous story. It’s a wonderful book for children who are already strong-willed, as well as for older children who need a lesson in standing up for themselves. It’s a wonderful lesson in democracy that any elementary-school aged child can benefit from!

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
Author: Doreen Cronin / Illustrator: Betsy Lewin

About CalicoKidz.com

CalicoKidz.com reviews books for young children ages 1-10 that celebrate diversity and promote education. Our mission is to review children’s books that give parents, librarians, and educators of children from diverse communities including those with special needs, an place where they can find cultural and educational books that feature or represent diverse communities.

Our vision is to one day live in a world where love of diversity is the norm, and all cultures, races and religions exist together in harmony.

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Take Me Out to the Yakyu

It’s baseball season! If you know a child who loves baseball, Take Me Out to the Yakyu is the perfect picture book! In this colorfully illustrated book, a young boy tells you all about how he enjoys going to the beloved ballgame in both America and Japan.

In the book, children learn that the word “yakyu” is the Japanese word for baseball. Children also learn the similarities and differences that exist in baseball in America and Japan. For example, in America, before the game, people buy hot dogs and peanuts; in Japan they buy soba noodles and edamame (soy beans).

Another similar custom is how in Japan during the 7th inning, the Japanese sing a team’s anthem, similar to how we sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” here in America during the 7th inning.

The best part of the book is how it teaches children Japanese words for pitcher, fast ball, and even words for family members, and it includes a glossary in the back for the Japanese words used in the book.

If you want to teach a child about the fun of baseball and how it is enjoyed in another culture, Take Me Out to the Yakyu is a great introduction to the game and the Japanese language.

Take Me Out to the Yakyu

Written & Illustrated by: Aaron Meshon
Date Published: 2013
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Plants Can’t Sit Still


Earth Day is almost here! What better way to celebrate than with a book about nature! Plants Can’t Sit Still is a children’s picture book that introduces kids to the behavior of plants, explaining how plants work in a kid-friendly and lyrical way.

In the book, young readers learn that while plants may not have feet like people or wings like birds, plants still are able to move in many ways. For example:

  • Seedlings squirm out of the soil to get to the sunlight to grow
  • Plants have roots that move underground to spread their roots.
  • Some plants climb fences and walls, growing into long vines.

A fun fact also found in the book is how the the Venus flytrap flower catches insects for food; this plant stays closed after trapping an insect until it has digested the insect. Another neat fact: while some plants close their buds at night,  other plants open up at night to be pollinated by night insects.

Plants Can’t Sit Still  also explains how plants move with a breeze: plants move with the wind to float, whirl and glide, many times to land on a beach, desert or field, where they may find water and sunshine to help them grow. This and so much more, including information about 20 different plants species are explored in the book.

In addition to great educational content, what makes Plants Can’t Sit Still a fun book is its colorful, vibrant illustrations and its lively writing that will make kids giggle, think and want to learn more. It is a great book that get young kids 5-10 excited and interested in nature and other STEAM related-themes. It’s many awards and honors include the Riverby Award, Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award, proving it is a book worthy of any educator’s or parent’s bookshelf.

 Plants Can’t Sit Still
Author: Rebecca Hirsch Illustrator: Mia Posada



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Little People, Big Dreams: Marie Curie

Marie Curie_cover imageDid you know that Marie Curie was a world-recognized scientist who won two Nobel prizes for science? In the delightful picture book Little People, Big Dreams: Marie Curie educates the youngest of children about this amazing woman in history and her importance in the field of science.

Marie Curie was born in Poland in 1897. She grew up poor but was very smart, and won a gold medal for her school work at a very young age. When it came time for her to go to college, she moved to France, because women were not able to attend college in her home county of Poland.

To attend college in France, Marie had to learn a new language; it was not easy for her, but not only did she learn to speak French, she became the best math and science student in Paris. She met her husband Pierre Curie. Marie and Peter discovered two radioactive elements – radium and polonium, which led them to win the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903. Years later, after Marie’s husband Pierre died, in 1911, Marie won another Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Her later discoveries were used to help injured soldiers in World War I (WWI).

These accomplishments and more, including the educational foundation in France created in Marie’s honor are included in  Little People, Big Dreams: Marie Curie, which is a great picture book for introducing an appreciation of female scientists. As it does not give a detailed description of Marie Curie’s life, it is better suited to children ages 5-7.


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Heroes of Black History: Biographies of Four Great Americans

Heroes of Black HistoryAs Black History Month comes to an end and Women’s History Month begins, the children’s book Heroes of Black History: Biographies of Four Great Americans is a book that observes both.

With lots of colorful illustrations that show great emotion, the book chronicles the lives of four great Americans in black history: Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks and our 44th president, Barack Obama.

Harriet Tubman, and the events that led her to seek freedom for herself and others is explained, along with how she received help along the way,  how railroad “stations” were developed, and how railroad “conductors” used secret lingo and talked in code to keep from getting caught. The book breaks down what went into making the Underground Railroad work and the hard choices Harriet had to make, including leaving her parents behind, to help the cause of the Union during the Civil War.

Jackie Robinson’s story is told beginning with how he grew up in a time of segregation and prejudice, sneaking into reservoirs at night to swim because blacks were not allowed. He excelled in high school sports, and played football years before he became a famous baseball player and the first black player in Major League Baseball. After his career in baseball, he went on to work as a newspaper columnist and received an honorary degree from Howard University.

Heroes of Black History begins Rosa Parks’ story with her life growing up on a farm in Tuskegee Alabama, and how her education began at a private school for black girls. Once an adult, Rosa married and began working with the NAACP, which fueled her desire to fight for the civil rights of blacks. The book tells of her brave actions as a major player in the bus boycotts, her work for Congressman John Conyers, Jr.  until she was 75, and being honored in 1996 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Former President Barack Obama is also highlighted in Heroes of Black History, which tells of how he lived in Indonesia then moved back to Hawaii to attend an elite prep school. From his difficulties in college to his triumphs, including being named the first president of the Harvard Law Review, the book gives detail of these parts of his life as well as how he began in politics, from grassroots leader to senator and eventually becoming the first black president of the United States.

Heroes of Black History: Biographies of Four Great Americans is a superbly written book and educational tool for both home and school. While longer than typical picture books, its length makes it great as it gives detail about four well-known figures in black history, information that wouldn’t fit in a typical 26-page picture book.

Other details that make Heroes of Black History: Biographies of Four Great Americans a must-buy:

  • At the end of each chapter, the book features a timeline with key dates in the life of each hero in history.
  • It includes a glossary with definitions of words including “abolitionist”, “boycott” and “sharecropper” – giving further opportunity for educators and parents to explain unfamiliar terms to children.
  • In the back of the book is also an index to reference specific events in history.
  • In addition to the book, you can find a resource guide that offers discussion questions for educators; the guide features a worksheet for book reports as well as activities for children to further explore other great figures in black history.

Heroes of Black History: Biographies of Four Great Americans
Author/Publisher: Time Kids
Introduction by Charlayne Hunter-Gault

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