#Cybils #kidlt Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Have you nominated your favorite children’s books from the last year yet? The Cybils nomination window ends October 15, 2018. Learn how to nominate at the Cybils blog.


The New York Times bestseller Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison has already been nominated for a 2018 Cybils award in the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction category.


Vashti Harrison wanted an outlet for her art and also wanted to do something for Black History Month. The result began as a series of posts on Instagram and grew into this wonderful collection of 40 short biographies of groundbreaking women.

Each of the women is represented by a two page spread. One the left side is a three to four paragraph summary of the woman’s life and accomplishments, and accompanying it is Vashti Harrison’s unique illustration on the right. As has been mentioned in other reviews, the artist gives each figure a gentle smile and downcast eyes. They remind me of Simon Basher’s illustrations.

When my son was in third grade, it was the tradition in the school to present what they called a “wax museum.” The students dressed up as a figure from history and lined up in the hallways. As families and friends walked by, the students gave a short speech about the person they represented. Too bad this book wasn’t available then because it is an incredible resource for student projects like that one. Little Leaders introduces children to many inspiring women who they might not have previously heard about. Harrison has done a great job covering women from a variety of backgrounds, too.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History will be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It deserves a place on every shelf, although it isn’t likely it will stay there for long before someone picks it up to read it.

Age Range: 8 – 11 years
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (December 5, 2017)
ISBN-10: 9780316475112
ISBN-13: 978-0316475112


#Kidlit Imagine That! Biography of Dr. Seuss by Judy Sierra

Okay, I keep saying I’m going to quit reviewing while I write my own children’s books. Whenever I say it, of course I find something like the terrific new picture book biography Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes and I just can’t stop myself from raving about it.

Writing a picture book biography of famous and highly prolific author Dr. Seuss is a hugely daunting task. Author Judy Sierra could have had problems if she had tried to cover his entire life. Instead she wisely narrows her topic to a limited window of time. She gives the essence of his life in a small capsule. It’s brilliant.

To set the stage, the author describes what kids might have been doing in 1954. Then, using just the right rhythmic tone, she reveals how it came about that Dr. Seuss began writing The Cat in the Hat that year. Next comes the central message:  given the struggles Dr. Seuss had writing the book using a limited vocabulary list, he could have easily given up. Instead he persevered, dug deep into his creative toolbox, and ultimately was successful. It is an important message delivered with a light touch.

The text isn’t the whole package, either. Kevin Hawkes’s illustrations are delightful as well, paying playful homage to Dr. Seuss’s style.

The bottom line is Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat is simply a picture perfect picture book biography. Check out a copy today.

Related Activity:

Have this book on hand for NEA’s Read Across America Day which is held every year on Theodore Seuss Geisel’s birthday. This year it will be Friday, March 2, 2018.

Of course, the biography should be accompanied by reading The Cat in the Hat.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

Age Range: 3 – 7 years
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (September 12, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0553510975
ISBN-13: 978-0553510973

Disclosure: This book was from our local library. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

#kidlit Biography of Pete Seeger: Stand Up and Sing

“Pete Seeger was born with music in his bones”

That powerful statement encapsulates Susanna Reich’s new picture biography, Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice, illustrated by Adam Gustavson.

Why read about Pete Seeger? First of all, he was a popular musician. Many people have heard — or even sung — Pete Seeger’s folk songs.  In addition, he was a social activist interested in making a difference. For example, Seeger joined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the protest marches in Alabama. It was a time when simply performing on the same stage with African American singer Paul Robeson made him the target of violence. By taking chances, however, he helped make changes.

In addition to standing up, Seeger could be creative with his efforts to bring about change. When he became upset about how polluted the Hudson River had become, rather than staging protests or writing letters, he decided to build a boat and take people out to see the damage first hand. The boat, named the Clearwater, is still sailing on the Hudson River and it is “clear” the water is cleaner these days because of Seeger’s endeavors.

(The Clearwater sailing up the Hudson River photographed by Anthony Pepitone licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license at Wikimedia.)

It is also “clear” author Susanna Reich is passionate about her subject. She explains her feelings of personal connection in the “Author’s Note” in the back matter. Among other ties, she lives in the Hudson Valley and attended many of Seeger’s concerts. Although she’s a big fan, when she started writing this book she probably had no idea how important and timely it would be.

Adam Gustavson’s illustrations shine a further light on Pete Seeger’s life. The main illustrations are digitally-enhanced paintings of gouache, watercolor, and/or oils. Accompanying the more formal illustrations are simpler line drawings that strengthen the down-to-earth tone.

All in all, Stand Up and Sing! is a rousing tribute to a popular folk singer. It is sure to appeal to young musicians and history buffs, alike. Time to sing its praises.

Age Range: 6 – 9 years
Publisher: Bloomsbury (March 14, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0802738125
ISBN-13: 978-0802738127

Suggestions for Related Activities:

1. Listen to some music by Pete Seeger.

2. Visit Sloop Clearwater website, especially  the Teacher Resources for a number of lesson plan and activity ideas (organized by grade and theme).

3. Pair this nonfiction biography with the delightful fiction picture book written by Pete Seeger, Abiyoyo (illustrated by Michael Hays). It is based on a South African folktale. Don’t skip the introduction because Seeger writes how he first told the story to his kids. He also has advice on how to develop and tell stories of your own.

Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Rei/Com edition (October 1, 2001)
ISBN-10: 0689846932
ISBN-13: 978-0689846939

See our previous review of another biography by Susanna Reich, Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat.

Disclosure: These books were supplied by my local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

#ReadYourWorld #Kidlit: I am Rosa Parks by @BradMeltzer

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 has arrived. It’s a huge, fantastic celebration of diversity. Be sure to check the pages that gather links for many, many more wonderful books.

Disclosure: This book was provided by Penguin Group for review purposes. You can find out more about the Ordinary People Change the World series at their website.

About the Book:

I am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos is a picture book biography that introduces the reader not only to the life of an important historical figure, but also encourages children to stand up for themselves.

Brad Meltzer chose to tell Rosa Parks’s story from childhood and in first person, which immediately draws in young readers and makes her life relatable. He reveals an event from when she was young where she was knocked to the ground by a white boy on roller skates. The way she remains calm and assertive parallels what happens later in life when she refuses to give up her seat on a bus with segregated seating. In Meltzer’s hands, Rosa Parks is a role model for the ages.

In addition, Christopher Eliopoulos’s lighthearted cartoon drawings appeal to children, particularly reluctant readers. He emphasizes Rosa Parks’s diminutive statue, keeping her more childlike even as an adult.

I am Rosa Parks is an excellent addition to any bookshelf. Of course, it is a wonderful choice to have on hand for both Black History Month and Women’s History Month. However, it’s also a book to have on hand for a child who has difficulty speaking up, being assertive, or who is being bullied. Who can’t benefit from something like that one time or another in their lives?

Want to see what’s in the book for yourself? See the author reading to book in the video below.

Age Range: 5 – 8 years
Publisher: Dial Books (June 17, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0803740859
ISBN-13: 978-0803740853

Activities Inspired by the Book:

  1. Rosa Parks’s Bus

In the book we learn Rosa Parks encounters a bus driver who tells her to “Get off my bus.” As she points out, the bus really belongs to everyone. What do you think she’d say if she found out that these days people call it the Rosa Parks bus? (See a photograph of the Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford Museum.)

Read the book or another biography of Rosa Parks. Encourage the children to draw or make a bus to honor her. Projects can ranges from cut out shape collage to paintings, depending on the age of the children. Look on Pinterest for tons of craft ideas, for example here.

2. Public Transportation

Not only was Rosa Parks a hero, but all the people who boycotted the buses for months afterwards were heroes, too. Depending on the age of the children, have them explore methods of public transportation in your community. Challenge older children to try alternative transportation to school for a day, such as walking or biking. If they come to school in a car, perhaps they could try taking a bus or train. Always keep safety in mind, though.

About the author:

Brad Meltzer seemingly does it all. He hosts TV shows, writes novels for adults, and still has time to pen children’s book biographies. The one thread that ties them all together is his love of history. See more at Brad Meltzer’s website.

If you have a few minutes, watch  Brad Meltzer’s hilarious video storytime. In this episode he reads and discusses I am Rosa Parks. Can you imagine having this guy for a dad?


About Multicultural Children’s Book Day:


Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team is on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsors include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawDelores Connors, Maria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

See our previous post for more about the event and free stuff you can get by participating.