PPBF and Multicultural Children’s Book Day, 21 Cousins

Today, for Multicultural Children’s Book Day, I have the pleasure to review a soon-to-be-released picture book that celebrates family and mestizo heritage.

New to Multicultural Children’s Book Day? Learn more about this special day at the end of this post.

Title: 21 Cousins

Written By: Diane de Anda

Illustrated By: Isabel Muñoz

Publisher/Date: Star Bright Books/1 April 2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: family, cousins, Latin Americans, mestizo heritage

Opening:

This is our family photo album, filled with the faces of grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and 21 cousins. Our mom and dad each have a brother and two sisters, and they have children too. This makes us all cousins.

Brief Synopsis: Two cousins in a large Latinx family describe their many cousins, as the family gathers to celebrate a special event.

Links to Resources:

  • Plan a visit, or a virtual visit, with one or more extended family members;
  • Create a family tree to help learn about your family history;
  • Do you have cousins (or close family friends that you call cousins)? How is each cousin the same as or different than you? What makes each cousin special?

Why I Like this Book:

21 Cousins is a celebratory exploration of family and mestizo heritage. Readers meet each cousin in this loving family in turn, making it a perfect book to explore how we are the same and different. I love that physical attributes, skills, and passions are highlighted – I think readers may find someone who is just like them (or like one of their own family members).

Spanish terms are sprinkled throughout and are either defined in the text or clear from the illustrations. As de Ande explains in the first spread, this is a mestizo family, meaning “that we share a mixture of the different people and cultures in Mexico: Indian, Spanish, French, and others. This is the reason people in our family look different in many ways. But we are still one family, our familia.”

Muñoz’s bright illustrations bring each cousin to life. I love how the details she provides to each vignette-like spread capture each cousin in turn. Along with de Ande’s descriptive text, these detailed illustrations invite readers to pause and explore each cousin’s world more fully. I think this makes 21 Cousins a wonderful read-aloud for classrooms and families as readers and listeners can discuss how they know from the surrounding items the passions and skills of each cousin.

Whether you’re from a large mestizo family looking to read about a family like your own, or whether you want to introduce your kids to a large, loving family with members of different physical attributes, including skin tone, and interests, I think you’ll enjoy 21 Cousins.

A Note about Craft:

Diane de Anda introduces readers to the 21 cousins one by one, focusing on aspects that make each person unique and special, and also on how they are the same. By including such a large number of cousins, de Anda is able to showcase many different activities enjoyed by kids, kids in different age groups, and different physical attributes. By including a child with Down Syndrome and one in a wheelchair, I think she expands the focus and celebratory message of 21 Cousins by showing how differently-abled relatives bring joy to and experience happiness within families.

21 Cousins will be available in Spanish as 21 primos.

Star Bright Books is “an independent publishing company dedicated to producing the highest quality books for children.” In business since 1994, this Massachusetts publisher endeavors “to include children of all colors, nationalities, and abilities” in its books, which are published in 29 languages.

From the publisher:

Diane de Anda is a professor emerita of social welfare at UCLA and a community voice on violence prevention and stress management among adolescents. She has written eight children’s books and edited four books on multicultural social work. Her work focuses on empowering Latino youth. Diane lives in Playa del Rey, California. 21 Cousins is her first book with Star Bright Books. https://deandabookshop.com/

Isabel Muñoz is a lifelong artist and children’s book illustrator. She studied fine arts at the Complutense University in Madrid, Spain. Isabel loves to dwell on the details of children’s stories that cannot be seen with the naked eye. She lives in Spain. 21 Cousins is her first book with Star Bright Books. https://thebrightagency.com/us/publishing/artists/isabel-munoz

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021 (1/29/21) is in its 8th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Eight years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues. Read about our Mission & History HERE.

MCBD 2021 is honored to be Supported by these Medallion Sponsors!

FOUNDER’S CIRCLE: Mia Wenjen (Prgamaticmom) and Valarie Budayr’s (Audreypress.com)

Platinum Sponsors: Language Lizard Bilingual Books in 50+ Languages, Author Deedee Cummings and Make A Way Media

Gold Sponsors: Barefoot Books, Candlewick Press, CapstoneHoopoe Books,  KidLitTV, Peachtree Publishing Company Inc.

Silver Sponsors: Charlotte Riggle, Connecticut Association of School Librarians, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Pack-N-Go Girls

Bronze Sponsors: Agatha Rodi and AMELIE is IMPRESSED!, Barnes Brothers Books, Create and Educate Solutions, LLC, Dreambuilt Books, Dyesha and Triesha McCants/McCants Squared, Redfin Real Estate, Snowflake Stories, Star Bright Books, TimTimTom Bilingual Personalized Books, Author Vivian Kirkfield, Wisdom Tales Press, My Well Read Child 

MCBD 2021 is honored to be Supported by these Author Sponsors!

Poster Artist: Nat Iwata

Authors: Author Afsaneh Moradian, Author Alva Sachs & Three Wishes Publishing Company, Author Angeliki Stamatopoulou-Pedersen, Author Anna Olswanger, Author Casey Bell , Author Claudine Norden, Author Debbie Dadey, Author Diana Huang & IntrepidsAuthor Eugenia Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Green Kids Club,  Author Gwen Jackson, Author Janet Balletta, Author Josh Funk, Author Julia Inserro, Karter Johnson & Popcorn and Books, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, Author Keila Dawson, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture Groove, Author Mia Wenjen, Michael Genhart, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Natalie Murray, Natalie McDonald-Perkins, Author Natasha Yim, Author Phe Lang and Me On The Page Publishing, Sandra Elaine Scott, Author Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay FletcherTales of the Five Enchanted Mermaids, Author Theresa Mackiewicz, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Author Toshia Stelivan, Valerie Williams-Sanchez & The Cocoa Kids Collection Books©, Author Vanessa Womack, MBA, Author Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series

MCBD 2021 is Honored to be Supported by our CoHosts and Global CoHosts!

MCBD 2021 is Honored to be Supported by these Media Partners!

Check out MCBD’s Multicultural Books for Kids Pinterest Board!

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Diversity Book Lists & Activities for Teachers and Parents

Homeschool Diverse Kidlit Booklist & Activity Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Activism and Activists Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Empathy Kit

FREE Teacher Classroom Kindness Kit

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FREE Teacher Classroom Poverty Kit

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TWITTER PARTY! Register here!

PPBF – Francesco Tirelli’s Ice Cream Shop

I had meant to post this review in December, the month when people of Jewish heritage around the world celebrated Hanukkah in 2020. But somehow, I didn’t manage to post this then. Rather than waiting another year, I thought I’d keep the spirit of the season alive and post it now.

Title: Francesco Tirelli’s Ice Cream Shop

Written By: Tamar Meir

Illustrated By: Yael Albert

Translated By: Noga Appelbaum

Publisher/Date: Kar-Ben Publishing/2019

Suitable for Ages: 6-10

Themes/Topics: Holocaust, Hungary, ice cream, immigrant

Opening:

Francesco Tirelli loved ice cream so much that at least once a day he would find an excuse to pass by Carlo Tirelli’s ice cream cart. Uncle Carlo was very fond of his nephew.

Brief Synopsis: When an ice cream-loving boy grew up, he opened his own ice cream parlor in a new city and country, and he used that shop to hide his Jewish friends and neighbors during a long, dark winter.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor? Draw a picture of an ice cream sundae, being sure to include your favorite flavors;
  • Try making homemade ice cream;
  • Discover Budapest, Hungary, where much of this story takes place;
  • Learn about the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

Why I Like this Book:

Translated from Hebrew, Francesco Tirelli’s Ice Cream Shop is based on a true story told by the author’s father-in-law, a boy, Peter, whose life was saved by Francesco’s kindness.  I think kids and their adults will appreciate learning how one ice cream-loving Italian boy grew up to become an ice-cream vendor far from his native land and how he helped his Jewish friends and neighbors hide from the Nazis in World War II Budapest. One person can truly make a difference, readers learn.

And not only does Francesco, an immigrant in Hungary, save several Jewish friends and neighbors, but young Peter finds a way to celebrate Hanukkah even as the group hides in the darkness of the closed ice cream shop.

Although the Holocaust plays a central role in the story, Meir’s focus on ice cream helps temper this difficult subject.

Albert’s softly expressive illustrations helped transport me back to this historical time period.

A Note about Craft:

Meir pens a story that spans several generations, something not generally done in picture books, and that handles a very difficult subject, the Holocaust. So how does she pull it off? Meir begins this hope-filled story with scenes from Francesco’s Italian childhood, and she doesn’t end it until young Peter is an older man with grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. A love of ice cream threads through this long time span, tying together Francesco’s Italian childhood in the early 20th century, through the main action of the story, during World War II, and through to the late 20th century. By focusing on a kid-friendly element, ice cream, and most particularly by repeating beloved flavors (“Hazelnut or berry?/ Cinnamon or cherry?/ Coffee or toffee?”) at three key points, I think Meir relieves the tension of the tough subject matter, ties the generations together, and leaves the reader believing that one person’s actions can make a difference.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies

I always love picture books that relay facts, encourage kids to take action, and include a compelling story line. I think you’ll agree that today’s Perfect Picture Book is just such a book!

Title: Butterflies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies

Written By: Deborah Hopkinson

Illustrated By: Meilo So

Publisher/Date: Chronicle Books/2020

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: butterflies, environment, migration, immigrant

Opening:

Spring

Last spring, we took a class picture./ That’s me in the back./ I was a little like a caterpillar then:/ quiet and almost invisible./ I didn’t like to stand out or be noticed.

Brief Synopsis: The narrator, a new immigrant, loves butterflies and becomes more self-assured in her new school as she researches Monarch Butterflies and helps organize a schoolyard monarch way station.

Links to Resources:

Check out the fabulous back matter, including Author’s Note, Quick Guide to Making a Schoolyard Monarch Way Station, Miscellaneous Monarch Facts, and lists of books and internet resources for children and adults.

Why I Like this Book:

Butterflies Belong Here is an empowering picture book that shows how one passionate child can make a difference in our world. That the child is a recent immigrant adds to the story. I love how she finds her voice through sharing her knowledge and passion about monarch butterflies. I also love that her classmates rally to join her in a class project to help  build a way station for migrating monarch butterflies to recharge and refresh themselves on plants such as milkweed.

I think Butterflies Belong Here will appeal to nature lovers and to children wanting to learn about ways they can better their world. Filled with interesting monarch butterfly facts and concrete ways to help these lovely creatures, Butterflies Belong Here is a marvelous addition to classrooms and home libraries.

So’s detailed illustrations beautifully capture the worlds of the two travelers, the young narrator and the monarch butterflies she loves.

A Note about Craft:

The unnamed narrator of Butterflies Belong Here is a new immigrant, struggling to learn English. By choosing this narrator as the main character and main impetus for the monarch butterfly project, Hopkinson reminds readers that new immigrants have valuable ideas and talents to share and that stepping outside oneself and embracing a cause is a terrific way to adapt to a new land. Interestingly, both the narrator and the butterflies have migrated and changed by the story’s end.

Hopkinson shares many facts about monarch butterflies within the text. But rather than weaving them into the story or separating them completely in side boxes, these facts appear as “book pages” (ie, text being read by the narrator) on 4 double spreads. If you’re reading to a younger audience, these pages could be skipped to accommodate shorter attention spans. Older listeners, especially nature lovers, will find much to learn there, though.

Hopkinson and So also teamed up on Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Salma the Syrian Chef

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been cooking, and eating, way too much these past few holiday weeks. But while I was visiting my daughter recently, I perused her copy of The Immigrant Cookbook, which has inspired me to try some healthy, new-to-me recipes. After reading today’s Perfect Picture Book, I think I’ve found another new recipe to ring in the new decade, too.

Title: Salma the Syrian Chef

Written By: Danny Ramadan

Illustrated By: Anna Bron

Publisher/Date: Annick Press/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: cooking, recipe, Syria, refugees, home

Opening:

Salma watches the Vancouver rain from her apartment window in the Welcome Center. It’s different than the sunny days back in Syria.

She still can’t pronounce “Vancouver,” but her friends tell her that her ways of saying it are more fun.

Brief Synopsis: To cheer up her mother, Salma, a young Syrian refugee living in Vancouver, Canada, decides to make a beloved Syrian dish with the help of friends from the Welcome Center.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a favorite food that reminds you of a special place or person? With the help of an adult, try preparing it for family or friends;
  • Salma prepares foul shami (pronounced “fool shammy”), fava beans prepared in the style eaten in Damascus, Syria. Check out the recipe;
  • Salma originally lived in Damascus, Syria; learn more about this ancient city.

Why I Like this Book:

In Salma the Syrian Chef, Salma, a young Syrian refugee, notices that her mother has stopped smiling. After numerous attempts to cheer her mother up and make their adopted city of Vancouver feel more like home, including drawing pictures, telling jokes, and jumping out from a hiding spot to surprise Mama, Salma thinks about what may be making her Mama sad: they no longer are in their home, and Papa isn’t with them. Salma realizes that she can’t change either of those by herself, but she can make Mama a favorite food from home.

I love how Salma realizes that her Mama is sad, that she determines to cheer her up, and that she understands that a favorite food from home can brighten someone’s day. As a young child, though, Salma isn’t able to shop and cook by herself. Other adults and children at an immigrant Welcome Center rally to help her, showing how important a new community can be to help refugees and other immigrants resettle.

I think children reading Salma the Syrian Chef will enjoy this story, will empathize with children, like Salma, who are struggling to resettle in a foreign land, and will learn that small actions, like cooking a favorite recipe or helping someone else do so, will, like raindrops in a puddle, spread through a community to cheer everyone.

Bron’s soft palette of beiges and browns from the Syrian desert and the grays and blues of often-rainy Vancouver effectively show the dichotomy of these two places. I especially enjoyed the tiled frames that appear on most spreads.

A Note about Craft:

In Salma the Syrian Chef, Ramadan presents a classic, kid-friendly problem for the main character, Salma: cheering up her mother who is sad to be away from home and so far from Salma’s Papa. The solution, cooking her Mama’s favorite dish, isn’t something that Salma can do by herself, however, as she needs help finding the recipe, sourcing some of the ingredients, and chopping vegetables. Although a picture book main character should solve her or his own problem, by presenting a solution that requires community involvement, I think Ramadan adds an important layer to this story and strengthens its impact.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Story Boat

I love the work of both the author and illustrator of today’s Perfect Picture Book. And as we journey towards a new year ahead, what could be better than a story about a journey towards a new home.

Title: Story Boat

Written By: Kyo Maclear

Illustrated By: Rashin Kheiriyeh

Publisher/Date: Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: refugees, migration, journey, imagination

Opening:

Here we are.

What’s that? Well, here is…

Here is just here.

Brief Synopsis:

A young girl creates a story from everyday objects for her younger brother as they and their family journey to a new home.

Links to Resources:

  • The unnamed narrator and her brother have left their home to journey to another one. What would you bring with you if you had to leave your home?
  • Find a few common objects in your home, like a bowl or plate, a blanket or pillow, or a book. What else could these things be or become? Perhaps a flying saucer? A billowing cloud? A bird that takes flight?
  • Check out the Educator’s Guide for more activity ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

In lyrical language and soft illustrations, two children journey with their family from an unnamed home to a new land. In trying to answer her younger brother’s questions about where they are, where they are going, and where “home” is, the narrator weaves a story from everyday objects that accompany them – the cup from which they drink is a boat to carry them towards their destination. A soft blanket covers them at night and acts as a sail for their boat. A bright light becomes a lighthouse, illuminating their journey. And a story helps buoy them as they await the journey’s end and the promise of a new home.

With its focus on imaginative storytelling and everyday objects, Story Boat is a hope-filled addition to the picture books portraying the refugee experience. There’s no mention of the horrors that the family left, and no sense of an unwelcoming reception at their new home. This story is filled with objects and community scenes that will resonate with young children, and that, I think, will help readers empathize with these young refugees.

A Note about Craft:

Maclear uses first-person point of view to tell this story, which helps readers journey along with the children and empathize with them. Who hasn’t wondered at some point where they are and what being “here” really means?

But while the point of view draws the reader into the story, the focus on the children’s storytelling and imagination helps keep the story hope-filled. It also adds an element of fantasy that renders this difficult topic more kid-friendly.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Star – a Holiday Helper Story

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, because, dear friends, Susanna Hill is hosting her world-famous 10th Annual Holiday Contest! Take a break from the hustle and bustle of holiday prep. Don cozy slippers, grab cocoa and cookies, and savor the best children’s holiday stories over at her blog. And just think – you can do all of this while social distancing from the comfort of your own home!

The rules? Create a kid-friendly story in 250 words or less (not including the title), featuring a Holiday Helper. Without further ado, may I present my 249-word entry:

STAR

Star dreamt of becoming a star of the circus, the rodeo, or the theater.

But Star was a miniature horse. Not big enough to jump through hoops or hold riders. Not fast enough for the rodeo. And who needs a tiny horse on the stage?

“I’ll never be a star,” she sighed.

“Star, you’re a therapy horse,” Misty said. “Your gentle nature brings comfort and joy to the injured, lonely, sick, and sad. You listen when others don’t notice or are too busy to care.”

 “But I want to DO something. Run! Jump! Feel that I matter.”

“You do matter, Star. Every day, in so many ways. But if you want to try the theater, the children’s nativity play needs live animals. You’re just the right size!”

Star loved every moment of rehearsals. She practiced prancing onto the stage and bowing to the babe.

Everything was perfect, until Joey, playing Joseph, broke his leg. He was recast as a shepherd, stuck on crutches at the back of the flock.

As the curtain rose, Star’s eyes shone under the bright stage lights. Her big moment had arrived!

But Star could think only about the tears in Joey’s eyes, his soft sobs, and his pain.

On cue, Star pranced and bowed to the babe. She then disappeared behind the flock. There, she nuzzled Joey, felt his warm tears on her neck, and listened as his sobs ceased.

“Thank you,” he whispered. “You’re my star!”

Star glowed like a star, with happiness.

PPBF – A Story About AFIYA

Today’s Perfect Picture Book is one of a handful of picture books included in the New York Times’ list of top 25 children’s books of 2020. I think you’ll agree that it deserves this honor!

Title: A Story About AFIYA

Written By: James Berry

Illustrated By: Anna Cunha

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2020

Suitable for Ages: 3+

Themes/Topics: fantasy, nature, multicultural, poetry

Opening:

Afiya has fine black skin that shows off her white clothes and big brown eyes that laugh and long limbs that play.

She has a white summer frock she wears and washes every night that every day picks on something to collect, strangely.

Brief Synopsis:

Each day, as young Afiya ventures forth, the wonders of nature that she experiences imprint themselves upon her white dress.

Links to Resources:

  • Decorate a white sheet or other cloth or paper with the scenes of nature you experienced today;
  • Do you have a favorite outfit? Why is it your favorite? Draw a picture of yourself wearing this outfit;
  • Read and enjoy poems about winter.

Why I Like this Book:

Poetic language and dreamy illustrations combine to chronicle the wonders of nature as experienced by a young black girl, Afiya. On the title page, readers learn that Afiya (Ah-fee-yah) is a Swahili name that means health.

Like a young child’s mind, the “white as new paper” dress transforms each day, bearing the imprints of all that Afiya explores and enjoys, from colorful flowers to tigers at the zoo. And as a child’s mind resets after a good night’s rest, so, too, does the dress become a blank slate each morning, after Afiya has washed it each night.

I love the pure joy expressed in the text and the soft illustrations. Afiya almost appears to dance off of the page. I also find the focus on nature so refreshing.

If you’re looking for a picture book to help you forget about our current stress-filled times, I highly recommend A Story About AFIYA.

A Note about Craft:

James Berry (1924-2017) was a celebrated Jamaican poet who lived most of his adult life in Britain. In his text, I think he utilizes the white dress as a metaphor for an inquisitive child’s mind, that soaks up the wonders of nature each day and is washed clear each night, ready to absorb more of nature’s refreshing tonic the following day.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – My Favorite Memories

Regular readers know that I gravitate to stories about moving, so when I find a new picture book about this topic, I just have to review it!

Title: My Favorite Memories

Written By: Sepideh Sarihi

Illustrated By: Julie Völk

Translated By: Elisabeth Llauffer

Publisher/Date: Blue Dot Kids Press/2020 (German edition, Beltz & Gelberg/2018)

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes/Topics: moving, memories, change, resilience

Opening:

I was brushing my hair when Papa came in and told me we were moving. Mama was very excited. Papa too.

Brief Synopsis:

When a young girl and her family move to a new country, she wants to bring everything she loves with her.

Links to Resources:

  • What are your most favorite things? Make a list or draw a few of them;
  • Do your favorite things fit in a bag, box, or suitcase? How would you pack them if you, like the narrator in the story, were moving house or even country?
  • Have you and your family moved, or do you live far from close relatives or friends? How did you feel if you moved? How do you keep in contact with close relatives who live far away?

Why I Like this Book:

Change is difficult for everyone, especially when it’s a big change, like moving house or countries. And when leaving is expected to be permanent, it’s especially difficult to determine what to bring to your new home to remind you of your old life.

Such is the dilemma explored in My Favorite Memories. Narrated by an unnamed young girl in spare, direct text, this story draws readers in and helps children empathize with those who leave everything behind to seek safety and economic well-being in a new place.

The soft palette of the illustrations add to the beauty of this book. Whether you’re contemplating a move, just moved, or seeking to welcome others into your community, My Favorite Memories is a wonderful picture book to share at home or in the classroom.

A Note about Craft:

Sarihi’s use of first-person point-of-view brings an immediacy to the text which, I think, will help children empathize with the narrator. Per the jacket flap, Sarihi was born in Iran but immigrated to Germany in 2012. My Favorite Memories is thus an #OwnVoices work.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead

I always love reading about women who break barriers, as regular readers know. But you may not know that I collect colored glass vases and that I had the opportunity several years ago to try glassblowing and make my own vase.

I made the bright green vase on the right!

So when I saw this new picture book about a female glassmaker, you know I had to read and share it!

Title: A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead

Written & Illustrated By: Evan Turk

Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster/2020

Suitable for Ages: 5-9

Themes/Topics: glassmaking, biography, women, glass beads, persistence, breaking barriers

Opening:

Marietta loved to watch the sun. It was like a glowing ball of glass that rose each morning to give light and color to the world.

She lived with her family on the island of Murano, as all the glassmakers did, cut off from the main city of Venice.

Brief Synopsis:

Young Marietta grew up in a family of Murano glassmakers during the Renaissance, but glassmaking was a male profession. With her father’s encouragement and much determination, Marietta became one of the first female professional glassmakers and invented a beautiful glass bead.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Venice and the glass-making islands that surround this city of canals;
  • Check out the kid-friendly activities at Corning Museum of Glass;
  • Watch a fun video about the chemistry of glass and how it is made.

Why I Like this Book:

Pluck, persistence, a craft that combines science and artistic skill, and gorgeous illustrations – what’s not to like about the latest from the talented author-illustrator Evan Turk?

A Thousand Glass Flowers is the story of a young girl, Marietta, growing up in a family of male glassmakers at a time when glassmaking, like the vast majority of crafts and professions, was solely a male profession. But young Marietta was fascinated by the glass-making process, despite the noise and the heat of the furnace. Her father, a master glassmaker, not only noted her interest but encouraged her to learn more and test her skills.

After his death, Marietta continued his glassmaking processes. She also furthered the profession by learning to make delicate beads that looked like a thousand flowers, the so-called rosetta beads, or “millefiori” in Italian. Many readers may be familiar with these beads, which are still popular today.

I think children and adults will enjoy learning more about the fascinating process of glassmaking and the influence one woman had on its process and art in an era when men dominated the craft.

Turk’s jewel-toned with gold-accented illustrations really bring this story, glassmaking, and the era to life.

A Note about Craft:

As noted in an Author’s Note, little is known about Marietta’s early life, so Turk imagined several scenes in which Marietta’s father taught her the trade. A Thousand Glass Flowers therefore is not strictly-speaking a biography or pure non-fiction.

Despite the lack of information about Marietta’s early life, Turk went above and beyond doing research, including visiting Venice and Murano, meeting one of Marietta’s descendants (who happens to be an antique glass expert), and even visiting the world-famous Corning Museum of Glass, where he tried glassblowing himself.

Finally, regular readers know that the vast majority of the books I choose as Perfect Picture Books have a social justice theme. In addition to exploring historic barriers to careers for women, Turk explains in the Author’s Note that the beads Marietta invented were used by Columbus on his journeys and as payment for, among other items, slaves in Africa. I believe this information is important to consider, even as we marvel at the beauty of Marietta’s creations.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Saving Halloween – a Halloweensie Tale

What a week it’s been! And it’s all leading up to the most important day of the year for many of you dear readers…the day I post my Halloweensie entry.

While many of you have been busy choosing a pumpkin, carving it, and then decorating like there’s no tomorrow, I’ve been busy whittling a full story into a mere 100 words. Or should I say 99, as that’s the word count this go-round.

And what, you ask, is a Halloweensie? In the words of its intrepid creator, the talented Susanna Leonard Hill who conjured up the concept ten years ago (happy 10th anniversary!):

“The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words skeleton, creep, and mask.  Your story can be scary, funny, sweet, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people….”

The best part about this Contest? Reading all of the amazing entries, which you can do here. So go ahead, satisfy your sweet tooth with no concern for calories or social distancing.

Without further ado, may I present my humble entry of 99 words (plus title) and wish you all a Happy Halloween!

Saving Halloween

Bones rattling, teeth chattering, Skeleton quivered, “Is it Halloween yet?”

“T minus thirteen hours,” howled Ghost.

“And we’re locked in this creepy closet,” cackled Witch.

“Cat! Slink outside! Report back!”

“Millions of masks, BUT

  • NO costumes;
  • NO candy;
  • NO pumpkins or pumpkin-spice anything!

Halloween is CANCELLED!”

“Cancelled,” Skeleton groaned.

“NOOOO,” Ghost moaned.

“Poor kids,” Witch intoned.

“WE’VE GOTTA SAVE HALLOWEEN!”

“Ghost! Float through, unlock, then let us out!”

“Witch! Concoct a spooky potion – get this holiday in motion!”

“Cat! Nab costumes! Candy! Pumpkins! Spice!”

“And I’ll scare up some kids with this Skeleton Dance!”

“Halloween Party’s starting…

                        NOW!”