Picture book Review: Abraham’s Great Love by Louie T. McClain II

Image description: A watercolor leaf background with tan and pale greens. On it is a blue square paperback book. On the cover is a group of people in biblical robes. In the foreground is a boy with brown skin and dreadlocks. He is looking out at the reader smiling. The title arcs across the top “Abraham’s Great Love”. In the corners are gold filigrees.

Abraham’s Great Love written by Louie T. McClain II, illustrated by Xander A. Nesbitt

Book description: Journey with Melanin Origins as we share a short story about Abraham, the “Father of Many Nations”, and how his life lines up with the Fruit of the Spirit: Love. As a believer dedicated to doing God’s Will, Abraham lived a life that demonstrated love for all mankind.

Melanin Origins has launched a new series, the All In All Series, focusing on figures from the Old Testament. Faith communities take note, these sweet little books are going to be perfect for families, Sunday school, children’s chapel, and holidays.

The first in the series is Abraham. The story follows Abraham through key points in his life while focusing primarily on the overarching theme of his story. These books are perfect for their advertised audience, second grade and below. They feature bright illustrations with big-eyed people. Each page has a short sentence or two which will keep kids engaged through the story. And they don’t get bogged down in scripture, old-fashioned language, or the strange minutiae that can sometimes happen in the Bible.

The book also strikes a balance between telling Abraham’s biographical story and focusing on the message of his story. As you could probably tell from the title, love is the theme here, and even for someone like me who is not religious I can’t help but feel this message is an important one for children, especially in this time. Kids need to feel loved and they need to be taught to love. Moreover, the story demonstrates how love guided Abraham- through difficulty, in relationships with people and the Earth, and in faith. Abraham uses love to guide his decisions in putting others first and how he approaches God.

The illustrations are especially exciting. The people are adorable and very inviting with large cartoon eyes and big faces. Kids will be drawn to them. Many religious books depict characters of the Bible as blonde haired and blue eyed, not exactly culturally or historically accurate to say the least. Here we see a cast of characters that have a variety of brown skin tones and differing hair colors and textures (including the loc’d Abraham). Not only will these illustrations feel more relevant than the typical Biblical illustrations, but they’re more accurate too.

For all you non-religious families, I have a pet theory that Biblical references are everywhere in our culture and to be fully culturally literate it helps to know a little something about the major monotheistic religions and the stories of the Bible. If you don’t know Noah, you won’t understand when someone makes a remark about going two-by-two or building an arc. It’s maybe not totally necessary, but you would be surprised how often these images and references appear if you actually pay attention. If you want a fun way to introduce these stories to your children so they have a general frame of reference, these would be a way to get started.

Abraham, and the rest of the series, is highly recommended for churches, religious schools and preschools, and families alike. Libraries should seriously consider carrying them for their religious families and Christian homeschoolers.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links). Please, in this uncertain time, if at all possible, purchase from an independent/local bookstore. They need our help right now.

Please note, if you want to search for the book to purchase it you will need to use the title in parentheses above.

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

Picture Book Review: Gunner Gets Stocks by Charlesa Flatten

Image description: Two parents stand on either side of a little kid. Dad has a on blue shorts and an orange t-shirt. He is white with light colored eyes, brown hair cut in a flattop and a mustache. He is wearing a baby in a baby carrier on his chest. Mom has a pink v-neck shirt and blue pants. She has a brown purse slung over her shoulder. Her skin is brown and her hair is shoulder length and brown. The child in front has a big smile on his face and is holding a pink piggy bank. Behind them is a set of double doors that leads outside to blue skies and green hills.

Gunner Gets Stocks by Charlesa Flatten, illustrated by Hailey Campbell

From Goodreads: Gunner Gets Stocks is the tale of a young man who filled his piggy bank with money he saved over time. Read along as Gunner learns about opening a brokerage account, dividends, and choosing companies to invest in.

It’s funny how sometimes the universe comes together in serendipitous ways. My older kiddo asked about a school in a strip mall not too far from our house and I had to explain non-profit versus for-profit schools. Since she’s only 10 and her experience with the business world is essentially non existent, it got a little hairy when I tried to explain how for-profit businesses can be owned. I came home to review this book and discovered it actually explains that aspect of business and the market very succinctly and clearly for children.

Most kids don’t get any kind of financial advice or education. Maybe a few “don’t get into credit card debt” lectures. And while plenty of children won’t buy stocks, Gunner Gets Stocks is a really solid book for opening conversations around financial literacy, how to save and invest money, and how the market works. I used it to help my kid understand the broader context of the school down the street from us.

The book walks you through Gunner choosing to invest his money, his parents explaining how stocks work, and helping him decide which stocks to buy. It’s certainly useful for parents who want their children to start thinking about investments, but the appeal can be broader. Parents who want their children to understand how businesses are funded and even help kids understand current events they may be hearing about that discuss the market.

This could easily pair with Landon’s Lemonade Stand to seed a collection about kids and money. Definitely recommended for individual families who want to foster financial literacy in their children, but also library collections that help parents who may need help finding these resources.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links):

On Bookshop.org (support independent bookstores!): paperback, hardback

On Amazon: paperback, hardback


Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

Picture Book Review: Alejandria Fights Back!/La Lucha de Alejandria! by Leticia Hernandez-Linares

Image description: A young girl with light brown skin and curly brown hair stands behind a podium. She is wearing a green hoodie and holding a map. There is a microphone on the podium. Behind her and to her left and right are people from her neighborhood wearing all manner of clothes, all ages, and all with various shades of brown skin. They hold signs saying “Our roots are here” and “No nos moveran” and “People over profits”. The title of the book is across the bottom in magenta text.

Alejandria Fights Back!/La Lucha de Alejandria! by Leticia Hernandez-Linares and the Rise-Home Stories Project, illustrated by Robert Liu Trujillo

From Goodreads:

For nine-year-old Alejandria, home isn’t just the apartment she shares with Mami and her abuela, Tita, but rather the whole neighborhood. Home is the bakery where Ms. Beatrice makes yummy picos; the sidewalk where Ms. Alicia sells flowers with her little dog, Duende; and the corner store with friendly Mr. Amir.

But lately the city has been changing, and rent prices are going up. Many people in el barrio are leaving because they can no longer afford their homes, and For Sale signs are popping up everywhere. Then the worst thing happens: Mami receives a letter saying they’ll have to move out too.

Alejandria knows it isn’t fair, but she’s not about to give up and leave. Join Alejandria as she brings her community together to fight and save their neighborhood!

Remember those essays you had to write every September about what you did over the summer? Usually they were pretty boring, either you did nothing or you did the same kinds of things your friends did- camp, summer school, watched TV. Imagine having a story to tell about how you helped your neighborhood resist evictions, though. That is exactly what Alejandria has.

I love how the story is framed in this familiar way. It begins with a friend who has been away for the summer asking Alejandria what she’s been up to and boy does she have a story to tell. Rising rents early in the summer meant families in Ale’s building were being forced to move out and evicted. Their building, and others in the neighborhood, were owned by an outside company who saw an opportunity to attract wealthier tenants. Alejandria noticed some of her friends packing up and her own family got an eviction notice.

This energizes Ale and she and her grandmother plug in with a tenant’s rights group. Ale’s mom is hesitant to make waves and is against speaking up. I think this tension is realistic and the fear of making things worse is real. I think this story works on several levels, first it reflects the reality of a lot of families and kids watching their neighborhoods and communities gentrify. I especially appreciate how this shows the cost of this gentrification (but if you work in a mostly white middle class community expect this book to make people uncomfortable), the community is in danger of unraveling. The book starts with Ale showing a map of her neighborhood and talking about the people and places that make it a vibrant, functioning community. This is what is at stake for her.

Second, the book is a roadmap of sorts or how kids and adults can take steps to protect their communities. While this story is particular to gentrification, the ideas behind organizing community are the same no matter what issue you take on. I also really appreciate the ideas presented here around organizing the people around you to show up to City Hall to speak at council meetings and also getting plugged into organizations working specifically on the issue at hand. Most books for kids that talk about “activism” are about making signs and showing up at marches they didn’t organize. That can be a piece of activism, but it’s often not the most effective and is typically only a piece of the whole strategy. I think we need to disabuse people of the idea that it’s enough to just hold a sign at some march. We need everyone showing up in places of power and decisions to demand their needs be met. We need people, even kids, showing up with organizations that are mobilizing, educating, and empowering communities. Collectively we’re powerful.

Trujillo is back with his lovely watercolor (guache?) illustrations. As always he captures the heart of the people and places he illustrates. The neighborhood is vibrant and the people diverse. His composition fits well with capturing the emotional core of the story. For example the spot illustrations showing Ale going to door to door in her building to get folks to come out to the City Hall meeting and speak up about what was going on. And the picture of Ale standing in her friend Julian’s apartment realizing he’s all packed up and moving out, disrupting the community she’s always known.

As I pointed out above, this book is going to make people who typically feel like they should be allowed to gentrify areas uncomfortable and maybe even angry. It’s a book that shows the folks they push out and the cost of their entitlement to places that aren’t actually theirs. This should not deter you from having these conversations and having this book on your shelves, but it might get some complaints and raised eyebrows. And for those communities on the frontlines of these issues, this is a book to encourage the youngest community members to use their voices.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links):

On Bookshop.org (support independent bookstores!): hardback

On Amazon: hardback, ebook


Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

Picture Book Review: The Tale of the Cell by Georgene’ Glass

In the background is a close up of a cell. There are two cascades of blood cells, some round and some sickle shaped. In the foreground is a little girl wearing a blue shirt, blue skirt, blue leggings, and brown boots. Her hair is pulled up into two puffs one of which has a pink bow on it. She has her hands up in the air and is kicking up one leg. Around her are three characters from the book, a black cat, a red blood cell, and a white blood cell. All have arms and faces and are waving at the reader.

The Tale of the Cell written by Georgene’ Glass, illustrated by M. Ridho Mentarie

Image description: In the background is a close up of a cell. There are two cascades of blood cells, some round and some sickle shaped. In the foreground is a little girl wearing a blue shirt, blue skirt, blue leggings, and brown boots. Her hair is pulled up into two puffs one of which has a pink bow on it. She has her hands up in the air and is kicking up one leg. Around her are three characters from the book, a black cat, a red blood cell, and a white blood cell. All have arms and faces and are waving at the reader.

From Amazon: The Tale of the Cell is a picture book about the trials that children and adults experience while battling Sickle Cell Disease. While Gia goes through the joys and pains of living with Sickle Cell, she never looses her confidence because her “Dream Team” is by her side. The adventure to raise awareness about living with Sickle Cell Disease begins with the Tale of the Cell.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month and Melanin Origins has you covered on titles that will help you talk about this disease with the kids in your life. Their latest is The Tale of the Cell featuring Gia telling readers about both her experience with sickle cell anemia and the facts about the disease.

Glass does an amazing job normalizing SCD and making the disability into something that is neither scary nor shameful. For this alone it’s a good addition to book collections for how it handles disability as part of a normal spectrum of life. There is a lot of information here and you may need to approach this book in more than one reading with younger audiences. However, I would highly recommend this book if you have a student or child in your life that has SCD. This will help you explain it in child-friendly terms to them. It can also open discussions with younger siblings or classmates who may have questions about

As always Mentarie has fleshed out the text with bright, exciting illustrations. I can attest to their enticement- my own kids saw the book sitting on the sofa and asked to read it several times while poring over the pictures. Gia is adorable with her afro puffs and her boots, leggings, and skirt outfit. And she’s joined by a cast of funny characters like a blood cell in a lab coat and white blood cell in a nurse’s hat.

All in all a brilliant book about a common disease presented in kid-friendly language and visuals.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links):

On Bookshop.org (support independent bookstores!): paperback, hardback

On Amazon: paperback, hardback


Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

Picture Book Review: Queen Olivia and The Lava Monster by Kristin Mosely

Image description: A little Black girl wearing beads in her hair and a crown on her head rides on a pink unicorn. The unicorn has sparkly teal hair and Olivia has a white t-shirt, pink skirt, and white sneakers. In the background is a green and gold field leading up to a purple castle at the top of a hill. Across the top in the blue sky is the title in a purple script.

Queen Olivia and The Lava Monster written by Kristin Mosely, illustrated by Jorge Mansilla

From Amazon: Queen Olivia is the ruler of Happy Land and she encounters a dreaded foe that threatens to take over her land. But little did this foe know that it was no match for Queen Olivia and her townspeople.

On the surface this is a silly and fun story about a young queen and the lava monster melting through her queendom. It’s joyfully reminiscent of the games kids play on the playground or at home on rainy days. There’s lava, it’s coming for you, and you have to jump from couch to coffee table to chair to keep from getting caught.

The big-eyed, frothy bright colors of Happy Land, Queen Olivia, and the unicorn she rides are incredibly enticing for kids who love all the My Little Ponies, Littlest Pet Shop, LOL Dolls, etc. Putting it cover out on the book shelf is going to grab readers on the illustrations alone.

But there’s more to this book and it feels like a particularly apt story to have right now in the middle of all the upheaval and uncertainty of the world. The lava feels like a metaphor for the insidious creep of the uncertainty, fear, and anxiety we’re all experiencing. Olivia faces the darkness and finds a way to keep her spirits up as well as those around her. She laughs in the face of the approaching lava. Children can smell b.s. from a mile away and are not interested in the patronizing pats on their head from adults who disingenuously tell them not to worry. They know there is something big going on and know that plastering a smile on your face isn’t going to fix anything. But Olivia reminds us that attitude is important and keeping a sense of humor as well as finding the light in the dark is still important for maintaining hope in a time of big feelings and uncertainty.

My own kids loved the book enough to take it over to their grandma’s house and have her read it several more times. Queen Olivia is highly recommended for preschool and kindergarten kiddos, be they in your house, your classroom, or your library. It would make a good book to have on hand when you need to help little ones deal with feelings of worry.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links):

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

Chapter Book Review: The Money Spell by Adrienne Vincent Sutton

A rectangular cover with a thick black outline and blue background. The author's name is across the top. Below her name is the title in aqua colored script letters. Below the title, filling the rest of the cover is a drawing of three young boys with varying shades of brown skin. One wears jeans and jersey shirt. One wears an orange baseball cap, tan pants, and a mauve colored t-shirt. The boy in the middle wears jeans and a long-sleeved, green shirt. He holds a jar sideways in his hands and is looking down at its contents. The jar has some swirling colors inside and smoke or mist comes out of it and rises up to the title letters. Behind the boys is Grandma, an elderly woman with white curly hair, red glasses, and a teal shirt with gray pants.
Image description: A rectangular cover with a thick black outline and blue background. The author’s name is across the top. Below her name is the title in aqua colored script letters. Below the title, filling the rest of the cover is a drawing of three young boys with varying shades of brown skin. One wears jeans and jersey shirt. One wears an orange baseball cap, tan pants, and a mauve colored t-shirt. The boy in the middle wears jeans and a long-sleeved, green shirt. He holds a jar sideways in his hands and is looking down at its contents. The jar has some swirling colors inside and smoke or mist comes out of it and rises up to the title letters. Behind the boys is Grandma, an elderly woman with white curly hair, red glasses, and a teal shirt with gray pants.

The Money Spell by Adrienne Vincent Sutton, illustrated by D.L. Tucker

Book description: Isaiah needs money for the latest and greatest video game- now! Can his grandmother’s magic money spell help him create $150 out of thin air? Or is the “magic” that he makes all on his own the best way to get what he wants?

Sutton is back with a second book that is just as good as the first. I reviewed her first book, Bad Hair Day, a few years ago and was quite taken with it. Her latest is geared much younger, an early chapter book. Isaiah and his friends have been down at the local game store and they all want to go in on buying the latest football game. They decide to split the $150 price tag between them, each agreeing to come up with $50.

Right off the bat this story is going to resonate with kids. For some it might be the latest shoes or clothes they want, others the latest toy or game. Whatever it is, we’ve all been there. It’s particularly endearing and clever that the boys come up with a plan to share the game and its cost. But while getting $50 from his friend’s parents seems likely, Isaiah isn’t so sure his parents will just fork it over. And his gut instinct is right, Mom reminds him that he’s gotten a lot from them lately and she’s not too keen on giving him more. I appreciated the middle class sentiment here. I think it will be relatable for a lot of kids whose parents have enough, but want their kids to appreciate what they’ve given them.

In the meantime Isaiah is bummed and he keeps comparing himself to his friends who he is sure will just be given the money. Dejected he mopes into the kitchen where grandma approaches him with a proposal: get a large jar, add some money, and say a spell. Isaiah is super skeptical. A spell? Really, Grandma? But he’s also a bit desperate and so he goes for it. The next month shows Isaiah that the spell works, but maybe not quite in the way he expected it to.

There is clearly a message here, but Sutton doesn’t hit the reader over the head with it. Nor does she shame Isaiah for wanting the latest video game. That’s refreshing. Isaiah ultimately learns that with a little hard work, some saving, and digging around in the couch cushions he can pretty easily pull some money together, even if it takes time. Adults reading this aloud will be in on Grandma’s “magic” from the start, but young readers will learn right alongside Isaiah that money doesn’t exactly magically appear, but it can be made.

The snappy dialog between the boys sounds spot on and kids will laugh along with Isaiah, Monty, and Terrell as they laugh and argue together. As I said, the situation is super relatable for kids and I think plenty of children will see themselves in the story. They might even get a jar out and try the spell out for themselves.

The book includes perfect little spot illustrations scattered throughout. While the text is simple enough for early chapter book readers and the pictures do a little lifting in helping tell the story, they primarily give the reader a break and enhance the picture of the characters in your mind. Grandma dancing is the absolute best. I wish my own grandma had been as awesome as Isaiah’s!

The book is only about 40 pages long and is broken into four chapters. The text itself is large and well-spaced on the pages with plenty of white space. While it’s very well written, the vocabulary is not too difficult. The form factor is closer to the size of an easy reader, which feels way less intimidating than some of the smaller, longer chapter books. An attractive cover with Isaiah and his friends and his grandma make this a good one to put out on display and allow kids to pick up off the shelf. Certainly a solid second grade reader could handle this and by third grade most kids should be fine to read it on their own. But don’t discount read alouds! I read it through on my own first and then throughly enjoyed reading it to my nine year old.

I hope Sutton keeps going writing and publishing her books. They are really well worth having on the shelf in the classroom, home, and library. She creates realistic stories with memorable and relatable characters.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links):

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

Picture Book Review: I Am Sausal Creek by Melissa Reyes

Image description: Two children play in a small creek. They are looking at the rocks in the creek bed. Both children have brown skin and brown hair. One wears jeans and a red and white shirt; the other wears jeans and a yellow shirt. Behind them is a lush, green forest.

I Am Sausal Creek/Soy El Arroyo Sausal written by Melissa Reyes, illustrated by Robert Trujillo, translated by Cinthya Jeanette Muñoz Ramos

From Goodreads: I Am Sausal Creek/Soy El Arroyo Sausal is a bilingual children’s book about the environmental and cultural history of Oakland told through the voice of a local waterway, Sausal Creek.

I love everything about this book. It’s part natural history, part human history, part resistance. The story is the history of the Oakland, CA area which is usually pushed aside for its shinier, tonier neighbor San Francisco. Sausal Creek narrates, sharing what the natural world was, then follows the Ohlone people onto the land, then European, Mexican, and American settlers, the Gold Rush, and then the city of Oakland being built. Finally, the Creek tells how some people are helping to free it from the concrete that has bound it for so long and how nature is ever present and encouraging us to live more harmoniously with it.

I was surprised to learn that the Fruitvale area, now infamous for the murder of Oscar Grant, was named because of the fruit that was grown there nearly a century ago. I haven’t thought of the Bay Area as a fruit or food producing area since in my lifetime it’s always been very built out. For my own family this was a good conversation to have since my daughter knows Fruitvale Station for its tragedy and I’m glad she can see the area (generally and specifically) not just for trauma but for its changeful beauty. The end of the book includes a three page history of the area that will appeal to older children who want more information and will help teachers and caregivers tie it in with historical and ecological curriculums.

Trujillo always does beautiful pen and watercolor illustrations. I think his style lends itself especially well to nature with rich colors and flowy edges. His people are always wonderful and he plays with perspective in a unique and fun way in this book. I think my favorite illustration is one of the final pages where the reader looks up through the creek, as if laying on the bottom, past some fish and toward two boys one of whom is reaching down into the water. It’s so beautiful. Other pages require you to flip the book 90 degrees to show how tall the redwoods once were and to take in a sweeping view of the mouth of the creek as it flows out into the Bay.

We own at least one other book that takes the perspective of a natural object, an oak tree in that book. Neither that book nor this one anthropomorphize the tree or creek and I think it’s a fascinating way to connect children to the natural world. It shows them that these plants (or animals or natural features) do not require human-like feelings or sentience to still matter in the world and to have life, intelligence, and a right to be.

In this strange time that is COVID-19, I think this is a story we all need. One that encourages us from the first lines to sit quietly and listen to a story that is older than any of us, older than our cities, older even than most civilizations and peoples. It’s comforting in its long view that even this shall pass, bring change, and, if we play it right, change for the better of nature and us.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links). Please, in this uncertain time, if at all possible, purchase from an independent/local bookstore. They need our help right now.

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

Picture Book Review: Shapes with Logan by Lorraine O’Garro

A white cover features the title across the top in large red letters shadowed by a yellow outline. Logan, a little black boy with a flat top, khaki shorts, tennis shoes, green long sleeve shirt and a maroon puffy vest marches at the front of a line of shape with legs. He is followed by a red square, green oval, and yellow triangle.
Image description: A white cover features the title across the top in large red letters shadowed by a yellow outline. Logan, a little black boy with a flat top, khaki shorts, tennis shoes, green long sleeve shirt and a maroon puffy vest marches at the front of a line of shapes with legs. He is followed by a red square, green oval, and yellow triangle.

Shapes with Logan written by Lorraine O’Garro, illustrated by Katlego Kgabale

From Goodreads: Join Logan as he teaches you the shapes in the world around us. This book presents shapes like you’ve never seen them before. Perfect for young learners and curious minds. Logan is the newest character to join Bella in her world adventures.

Author Lorraine O’Garro and illustrator Katlego Kgabale are back, building on Numbers with Bella and The Alphabet with Bella. They have brought us another wonderful concept book with little Logan teaching readers to identify shapes. Bella makes some appearances too!

The simplicity of these books belies how good they are. Each shape is given a two-page spread. On the left the name of the shape is written in large, friendly text. Hello, print awareness for our pre-readers! Below each word is the actual shape. On the right-hand side Logan can be seen discovering or interacting with the shape in real life. For example, “rectangle” shows Logan and Bella floating in a rectangular pool and “hexagon” shows Logan in beekeeping get up (I do love bees) looking at a close-up of honey comb. Below each illustration is the word for the object we’re looking at, which of course draws the readers’ attention to the shape found in the world.

I appreciate that the list of shapes Logan shows readers does not include ridiculously useless shapes like parallelogram (try teaching a three year old to say that, let alone identify one in real life), rhombus (just call it a kite or a diamond), or whatever you call a nine-sided shape (I have gotten through all these years without knowing so clearly it’s not essential). It is also very simply, but intentionally, illustrated. Concept books are wonderful as they help kids and caregivers learn to categorize the world around them, identify and discuss what they are seeing, and generally give kids language. But let’s not forget that concept books are for some of our youngest readers. So many of them over complicate things for young readers and feel like they are more for the adults reading the books than the children they should be for. This is not the case with the Logan and Bella books. They are pitch perfect for this age group.

I know there are lots of concept books out there to choose from, but beyond thoughtful inclusions and sweet illustrations, the Bella and Logan concept books feature Black kids. If you’re going to have a collection of concept books, be sure it is diverse and include Shapes with Logan.

Disclosure: I was sent a review copy by the publisher, Melanin Origins, in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links):

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

Picture Book Review: The ABCs of the Black Panther Party by S. Khalilah Brann

The ABCs of the Black Panther Party written by S. Khalilah Brann and Chemay Morales-James, illustrated by Uela May

From Goodreads: The ABCs of the Black Panther Party introduces and gives an overview of the Black Panther Party for children (suggested ages 7-12). The ABCs of the BPP acts as a catalyst for research, supports the expansion of oral and written language and helps to develop the social political consciousness of our children.

Our book utilizes the American alphabet to lay a foundational understanding of the aims of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, discuss the impact of various members and explores the lasting effect of the Black Power Movement of the 1960s. It is our aim to empower the next generation of leaders to help build strong communities of color focused on Positive Racial Identity Development through Education (PRIDE).

We are reclaiming our sheroes and heroes and providing our young with a blueprint for their own liberation movement.

This is such a necessary book. It’s up there for me as a parent and educator with The People Shall Continue and A Coyote Columbus Story. All these books share history that is both hard and obscured in favor of white-centric and white-washed narratives of our country’s history.

For all the years I had to take American history in school we rarely made it into any history post WWII and when we did I assure you the Black Panthers were never mentioned. My general impression of them, probably formed from pop culture references, up until a few years ago was that they were a Black militant group. That’s not exactly untrue, but the implication was that they were bad and nothing could be farther from the truth. I live in Sacramento and had no idea that they took over the capital building. Nor did I know we had an active chapter here in one of our historically Black neighborhoods.

The ABCs of the Black Panther Party is the kind of book I was hoping to eventually find so I can share the Panthers with my daughter. I hope librarians and teachers also purchase this book and push its use in classrooms and within history curricula. While the authors write books and materials intended to uplift Black history and, in turn, Black children, there is nothing about this book that cannot be read by any audience. We all need to know the real history of this country and the Black Panther Party is part of that. No more vilifying them.

Their history is particularly important because it lays some of the foundation for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Compare the BBP Ten Point Program (the letter T in ABCs) with the BLM principles. They are different, affirming many of the things that the resistance efforts of the 60s and 70s left out such as queer identity and contributions, but are still remarkably similar in their demands. Many of the Black liberation movements today continue the programs of the BBP, such as copwatch (check out Oakland’s APTP), freedom schools, and other community support programs. It’s essential for families involved in racial justice and abolition work to know the history of where their movements come from.

All libraries need this beautiful book on their shelves in with their 900s and, really, it should be out on display. Have you heard of Black August? Put it out in August. Put it out in February, obviously, but also in January for MLK Day, and in October to commemorate their founding on the 15th.

A note on using it in the classroom or the home: there are 26 letters in our alphabet and each one has a short lyric and then a more detailed description of the concept or person associated with the letter. It makes for a very long read if you want to do it cover to cover. I recommend dipping in and out over several days. This keeps it moving for kids, as well as gives you time to reflect and process and discuss further. In the classroom you could use it to frame a whole unit on Black resistance or the history of that time period, introducing a letter or two each day that guides discussion and further research. We treated it like a chapter book at bedtime in our house and read three or four letters a night for several nights in a row.

I would love to see more books about the Black Panthers for children. I would really love some biographies of the leaders and friends of the party- Huey Newton, Fred Hampton, Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and Stokely Carmichael/Kwame Ture. Maybe Melanin Origins would be up for producing a special series of Snippet in the Life biographies that are a little longer and geared toward slightly older children that focus on four or five of the BBP leaders and the Oakland Community School? 😉

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.