Traditions

By Susan Tan

As a child, I was enthralled by traditions.  

           I loved them, from going to Hebrew school, to my parent’s tradition of letting us eat ice cream for dinner on April Fool’s day, to the way we lined our shoes up in straight, neat rows before going inside my Nai Nai and Ye Ye’s[1] apartment.  

           This love of traditions has lasted into my adult life, and I often wonder if my family and our traditions are the reason that I write.  My mother’s family is Jewish, and came over from Russia several generations ago.  My father’s family is Chinese and Christian, and my Ye Ye was an evangelical Christian minister.  I’ve inherited a rich family history that teems with stories, from my grandparents’ accounts of their close escape from Communist China with my father as an infant, to the stories my mother’s mother tells of Passover Seders all in Hebrew and Yiddish, with linen napkins so big they spilled from your lap to the floor. We’re also a family that continually generates new narratives, because when you ask your evangelical minister grandfather to please come up to say an Aaliyah at your Bat Mitzvah, that simple act is, in itself, a pretty excellent story.

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MCBBD Feature: Family and Food: A Multicultural list for Preschool through 3rd Grade

JaNay Brown-Wood, author of Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story, shares her book list “​Family and Food: A Multicultural list for Preschool through 3rd Grade” Check out the preview below and the full list & 3 book giveaway on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.

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1. Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story by JaNay Brown-Wood

This is a cozy counting picture book about the relatives visiting Grandma and eating until they are all stuffed. It’s a sweet, rhyming counting book introduces young readers to numbers one through fifteen. [picture book, for ages 2 and up]


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2. Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park

This story is written in rhyme, showing the preparation of a popular Korean dish and the excitement of a hungry, young child. All the family members come together at the end to eat. The lines are rhythmic and the illustrations are fun. [picture book, ages 2 and up]


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3. Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell

This book is an oldie but goodie. It follows an African American family as they get ready for a dinner with loved ones. It actually counts to ten twice, and is also written in rhyme. [picture book, ages 2 and up]



Read the full list & enter the giveaway here.

In Conversation with Author JaNay Brown-Wood

By Julie Bliven

The first diversity question today is how do you self identify?

I am a black American woman.

How did your background influence your early reading and writing habits, if at all?

I grew up in a family where education was of utmost importance. Reading, writing, and all things academic were as normal and mandatory as breathing. I am thankful for how much my parents valued education. They read to us each night and exposed us to different texts ranging from poetry and children’s literature to newspapers and encyclopedias. I still remember when my dad ordered a collection of Encyclopedia Britannica that filled an entire bookshelf in our living room. I do admit that I initially didn’t like reading for fun, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing my own stories, poetry, and songs. Reading grew on me, and, to this day, both reading and writing are integral parts of my life.

Growing up, did you see and/or envision yourself in the stories you read?

I didn’t see myself in many stories that I read, but two do come to mind: Vera B. Williams’s Cherries and Cherry Pits and John Steptoe’s Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. I don’t remember loving those books, but they do stick out in my mind—possibly because they had black girls in them. As a teenager I remember reading Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and while the protagonist was black, I didn’t feel like I connected to her that much. I think I insulated myself from not being represented in books because I wrote my own stories where I was the main character. I wrote a bunch of stories starring Detective JaNay Brown where I’d go on adventures and solve mysteries. I also remember writing stories with black girls that were similar to me, even if they didn’t have my name. So although I didn’t really feel myself connecting to published books, I definitely connected to my own work since I was the one solving all the problems!

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MCCBD Feature: 10 Native Books to Inspire the Young Ones and Young at Heart!

Sandy Tharp-Thee, author of The Apple Tree, shares her book list “​10 Native Books to Inspire the Young Ones and Young at Heart!” Check out the preview below and the full list & 25 book giveaway on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.

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1. Buffalo Song by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

The story of how the buffalo nearly became extinct, but because people cared enough and worked together we can still enjoy the American buffalo today. It offers insight to the meaning and importance of the buffalo to Native people from yesteryear to today. Based on true events, it reveals the consequences of one small buffalo being rescued by a boy and his father.

I believe the author said he spent sixteen years researching this true story.  When I read it, I like to have the children sing with me.  As a tribal librarian, this story allowed me to share the past, present, and future of buffalo.  Today, the buffalo are no longer in danger, and we can enjoy them in the wild but also purchase the healthier bison meat.  It is because of people coming together that this is possible.

Before reading this story with the children, I would share:  Imagine if I could give you a gift and that gift gave you the shoes that you are wearing.  Now imagine if that same gift provided your clothes, food, and even your shelter or home.  What might you say to the creator that gave you such a gift?  How would you care for such a gift? [picture book, ages 7 and up]


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2. The Story of Jumping Mouse by John Steptoe

One of the smallest creatures—the mouse—is drawn to the sound of the river and the idea of reaching the top of a mountain.  His journey gives him a new name, “Jumping Mouse.” Along the way he discovers that he can help those in great need.  The sacrifice is huge, but he freely gives, and his award in the end is life changing.

This story is precious to me because the mouse while being so small is nonetheless unafraid.  Even when a buffalo and a wolf cross his path, the mouse doesn’t let his feelings of awe overcome him; instead, he humbly revels in the realization that a little mouse like he might be able to help them.  Indeed, he helps the two strangers freely without question.  If only we could be like the tiny mouse.  One of my favorite sayings is to remember whatever we do is not wasted, and, of, course everything we do does come back. [picture book, ages 7 and up]


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3. Welcome Song for Baby by Richard Van Camp

This board book is true to its title—a song to welcome a baby.  Every child deserves to hear how dear, loved, cherished, and beautiful they are and how they are making the world a better place.   A promise and thank you sung to the gift: the baby.

This book is a song, and I have found that babies will stop crying to listen to it sung softly.  But more than that, babies need to hear the sweet words of welcome that are in this book.  Siblings could easily learn the words to sing to a new brother or sister. The photographs are excellent, and I found even the youngest of children enjoy looking at real photographs.  (One of my younger patrons with autism especially enjoyed books that included photographs with faces.) [picture book, ages infant and up]


Read the full list & enter the giveaway here.

MCCBD Feature: Diverse Books about Inclusion that Make the World a Better Place

Jo Meserve Mach, Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier, and Mary Birdsell, authors of Claire Wants a Boxing Name, share their book list “​Books Making the World Better Through Inclusion.” Check out the preview below and the full list on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.

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1. Emanuel’s Dream by Lauri Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls

I love true stories and this true story of Emmanual Ofos Yeboah is so inspiring! Because his mother believes he can teach himself how to gain the skills he does just that. The fact he is missing part of one leg doesn’t limit him.  Emmanuels quote at the end of the book says it all: “In this world, we are not perfect. We can only do our best.” [picture book, ages 4 and up]

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2. My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

This is a fun story that takes place at school. It portrays inclusion in a wonderful way.  Zulay becomes just another child participating in Field Day. At first she seems different because she is blind but then she is like every other child competing at school. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

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3. Max the Champion by Sean Stockdale and Alexandra Strick, illustrated by Ros Asquith

I like this story because it’s about following your passion. Max loves sports and he and other children with all types of abilities enjoy playing together. The fact that Max has a hearing aid doesn’t interfere with his inclusion in the sports he loves. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Read the full list here.

MCCBD Feature: 8 Picture Books About Feeling Different But Finding Your Place

Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, author of Splatypus shares her book list “8 Picture Books About Feeling Different But Finding Your Place.” Check out the preview below and the full list & 5 book giveaway on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.

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1. Flight School by Lita Judge

Little Penguin wants to fly — no matter what anyone says about aeronautical deficiencies of the penguin body. He perseveres, relying more on willpower than talent. Eventually, adding an encouraging teacher and a dash of teamwork allows Little Penguin to soar to new heights. I love how this story makes you believe in miracles — even if they need a little assistance. [picture book, ages 4 and up]


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2. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum loves the uniqueness of her name until she realizes at school that unique means different and that different isn’t always accepted. Her self-esteem is deeply affected by her classmates making her feel out of place. But Chrysanthemum finds a kindred spirit and learns a lesson I myself have struggled with often — that even things (and people) that don’t seem to belong do actually belong somewhere. [picture book, ages 4 and up]


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3. Unlike Other Monsters by Audrey Vernick,‎ illustrated by Colin Jack

Everyone knows monsters don’t have friends, so Zander (himself a monster) isn’t surprised by his friendless state. But while he is unsurprised, he is also disappointed. Unlike other monsters, Zander longs for friendship — which he thinks he may have found in the form of a little red bird. Before Zander can truly bond with his new friend he has to learn to let go of other people’s (or other monsters’) expectations and give himself permission to be himself. A sweet story of finding new friends and also of finding yourself. [picture book, ages 5 and up]


Read the full list and enter the giveaway here.