Picture Book Review: The Principle of Justice by Jeffery Lee Cheatham II

A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a bluish tree hardback book. The cover features a Black girl wearing a crown and green dress. She is holding apart a large, mad looking hippo and an angry crocodile wearing a crown. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Justice”. In the corners are silver filigrees.

The Principle of Justice written by Jeffery Lee Cheatham II, illustrated by Xander A. Nesbitt

A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a bluish tree hardback book. The cover features a Black girl wearing a crown and green dress. She is holding apart a large, mad looking hippo and an angry crocodile wearing a crown. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Justice”. In the corners are silver filigrees.
Image description: A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a bluish tree hardback book. The cover features a Black girl wearing a crown and green dress. She is holding apart a large, mad looking hippo and an angry crocodile wearing a crown. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Justice”. In the corners are silver filigrees.

Book description: Journey with Melanin Origins as we share a short story about the principle of justice. A principle that states, “I will be fair in all that I do; I will not cheat myself or others.”

King Hippo’s crown has gone missing and he suspects King Crocodile. Last year the two had a water race and King Crocodile was a sore loser about it. So now King Hippo believes he’s getting back at him for winning. Thankfully Princess Nubia is there to help sort things out. She encourages King Hippo not to jump to conclusions and to do some deeper investigation to find who actually stole the crown.

This is a good mix of parable and fable to demonstrate to kids that we when you are angry and feeling wronged it’s harmful to jump to conclusions and make accusations. It also demonstrates the benefit of getting help to mediate conflict. Hippo is wrong about Crocodile and his accusations just make Crocodile mad, rightfully so. The two of them getting heated is not helpful so Princess Nubia helps them solve the mystery as well as take responsibility for the accusations and their reactions (both to the stolen crown and the lost race the year before).

While this exact story may not play out on the playground or between siblings, it is almost inevitable conflict like this will arise in schoolyards, classrooms, and shared bedrooms. How wonderful to have a story that addresses the issue and models apologizing and taking ownership of your actions. As with the other books in the Ma’at Series, you could read this preemptively or as specific situations arise. Princess Nubia will give you plenty to discuss about how to handle conflict and children will connect with her sense of justice and level-headedness (even if they aren’t always those things themselves). All the books in the series have struck a good balance between being engaging and interesting, offering a lesson, and still not being overly long for their target audience of pre-k, kinder, and first grade children.

I have one small quibble with the story. King Turtle is taken away when it is discovered he is the one who stole the crown and we don’t hear from him again. I would have liked to see some resolution there and some responsibility and restoration take place on his part. However, this is a good opportunity to allow children to use their imaginations to tell what happens to King Turtle and what a good resolution and restitution for his role in the story would be. It’s also possible children will not give Turtle much thought once he’s off page and the main conflict between Hippo and Crocodile is resolved.

This whole series is recommended for libraries that serve homeschooling families and religious communities and also for school libraries that have social emotional wellbeing as part of the elementary curriculum.

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: The Principle of Propriety by Tamel Lee

A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a reddish brown hardback book. The cover features a Black man in a blue shirt with his arm around a Black boy also wearing a blue shirt. Behind them are three people in dresses or jeans and a shirt. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Propriety”. In the corners are silver filigrees.

The Principle of Propriety written by Tamel Lee, illustrated by Fleance Forkuo

A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a reddish brown hardback book. The cover features a Black man in a blue shirt with his arm around a Black boy also wearing a blue shirt. Behind them are three people in dresses or jeans and a shirt. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Propriety”. In the corners are silver filigrees.
Image description: A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a reddish brown hardback book. The cover features a Black man in a blue shirt with his arm around a Black boy also wearing a blue shirt. Behind them are three people in dresses or jeans and a shirt. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Propriety”. In the corners are silver filigrees.

Book description: Journey with Melanin Origins as we share a short story about the principle of propriety. A notion that carries a similar meaning to “righteousness” and states, “I will always seek what is best for myself and others; I will not allow others to influence me to do wrong.”

Marlon is bummed that the community center in his neighborhood is mostly abandoned by his neighbors. He misses playing games and getting together with everyone and his attempts to bang on doors and demand people come back aren’t getting him anywhere. In a last ditch effort, Marlon reaches out the mayor to help him out. Mayor Ausar comes through, both with a lesson in getting people engage with you and also in how to affect change in your community.

Propriety is one of those words that can raise eyebrows and put up backs in progressive circles, but here it is not about oppressed-oppressor relationships, but about community coming together and being considerate of each other’s needs. The Principle of Propriety talks about how to go about engaging meaningfully in community and not just making demands that satisfy your own desires. Marlon wants people to come back to the community center, but Mayor Ausar shows him how to ask the people in the community what it is they want to see happening at the community center and then use that feedback to shape a space where the whole community wants to come together.

This could be an effective book for opening discussions around community engagement projects with students. Mayor Ausar functions as a mentor helping Marlon organize and build community and his ideas can apply to a variety of situations that children might want to come together around, such as cleaning up a community space, advocating for new playground equipment, or starting a community garden, amongst other ideas.

The illustrations are sweet and have a lot of African touches that make the book culturally relevant. This would make a great addition to collections in community centers, school libraries, and homes.

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: The Principle of Truth by Randy Williams

A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a reddish brown hardback book. The cover features a Black man in a blue shirt with his arm around a Black boy also wearing a blue shirt. Behind them are three people in dresses or jeans and a shirt. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Propriety”. In the corners are silver filigrees.

The Principle of Truth written by Randy Williams, illustrated by Sandro Perovic

A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a reddish brown hardback book. The cover features a Black man in a blue shirt with his arm around a Black boy also wearing a blue shirt. Behind them are three people in dresses or jeans and a shirt. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Propriety”. In the corners are silver filigrees.
Image description: A background of bright green geranium leaves with red centers. My hand holds the bottom left corner of a reddish brown hardback book. The cover features a Black man in a blue shirt with his arm around a Black boy also wearing a blue shirt. Behind them are three people in dresses or jeans and a shirt. The title is written across the top “The Principle of Propriety”. In the corners are silver filigrees.

Book description: Journey with Melanin Origins as we share a short story about the principle of truth. A principle that states, “I will always seek to discern what is real, know what is correct, and act accordingly.”

Melanin Origins has been hard at work developing new series that focus on principles and people. The All in All Series covers Biblical figures such as Abraham and Elisha. The Principle of Truth is part of the Ma’at Series and delves into what it means to be truthful and why it’s important for trust and community.

Truth, and the others in the Ma’at series, are great books for preschool and kindergarten classrooms that work on social-emotional skills. They can be read preemptively or as issues arise within the classroom as a whole or between specific children. Truthfulness is a particularly salient issue in young children, as lying certainly happens, usually around small issues with low stakes (not to mention that children are very willing to forgive and move on). Discussing the consequences can really help children grapple with the ethics of being truthful and form good habits before the stakes are higher.

I especially appreciated that The Principle of Truth focused on the importance of truth within building and upholding community. Most books about lying that I have seen moralize about individual responsibility and how trust can damage interpersonal relationships, essentially the neoliberal version of truth. This is certainly an important piece of being truthful, but the damage lying can do to community is also incredibly important. Children can learn that we have a responsibility to a larger group of people than just our parents or one or two friends.

I know books with a capital “M” message can be a hard sell, but these books have a place in curriculums and classrooms as well as libraries. They target specific skills and ideas we want to be discussing with our young people, because being explicit about these fundamental aspects of character will ensure our children think about moral and ethical issues as they grow. Unlike the All in All series, these are not overtly religious although these principles clearly align with religious ideals and would fit just as well in parochial schools and Sunday schools as in secular classrooms and homes.

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: Elisha: a Man of Gentleness and Self-Control by Rediesha C. Allen

Elisha: A Man of Gentleness and Self-Control written by Redeisha C. Allen, illustrated by Hatice Bayramoglu

A watercolor leaf background with tan and pale greens. On it is a stack of three books, the top one is a muted teal square hardback. On the cover is a brown skinned kneeing boy in a white top with a red sash and blue shawl. Behind him are several other brown skinned people in Biblical dress. The title arcs across the top “Elisha: A Man of Gentleness and Self Control”. In the corners are gold filigrees.
Image description: A watercolor leaf background with tan and pale greens. On it is a stack of three books, the top one is a muted teal square hardback. On the cover is a brown skinned kneeing boy in a white top with a red sash and blue shawl. Behind him are several other brown skinned people in Biblical dress. The title arcs across the top “Elisha: A Man of Gentleness and Self Control”. In the corners are gold filigrees.

Book description: Journey with Melanin Origins as we share a short story about a mighty man of God named Elisha, and how his life lines up with the Fruits of the Spirit: Gentleness and Self-Control. Meekness may be defined as, “strength under control”, but when one knows he possesses great abilities within– it takes a dose of gentleness and self-control to rightly direct one’s efforts for the glory of God.

Elisha is the next book in the All in All series that shows the lives of Biblical prophets. This reads like a lot of the traditional saint stories detailing the early life of Elisha, his call to God, and his miracles. This is a great starting point for young readers, parents, and educators wanting to introduce these important religious figures.

But the series elevates the simple biographical format by incorporating a characteristic or skill that children can develop with practice and a role model demonstrating what it looks like. Here Elisha represents thoughtfulness and, as the title says, self control. Oh, self control. Such a hard skill for children and adults alike. Elisha takes his time thinking about questions he’s been asked and problems he’s been called upon to help solve. He prays, thinks, and then offers advice. While children won’t read this once and master thoughtful action and answers, they can easily grasp the concept which is gently presented here. And while many people worry about books that moralize to children or contain a Message (capital M), Allen has done a pitch perfect job balancing being clear about what Elisha represents and not preaching in an insulting and too-obvious way. Elisha is clearly someone to emulate, not someone who can be held over the heads of kids who sometimes (or frequently) act impulsively.

Illustrator Hatice Bayramoglu depicts Elisha, and even Elijah, as young boys following the tradition of Melanin Origins’ Snippet of the Life series. I wrote in my very first review of one of those books that I was surprised how it made the person and subject more relatable for my own daughter. Kids like to see themselves in stories and having famous figures shown as children gives them an entre.

This whole series is recommended for churches, Sunday schools, religious homeschoolers, parochial schools, and families looking to feature religious figures at home. Libraries also serve all of these populations and I would recommend they purchase these as well, especially for homeschooling families who frequently use libraries.

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: The Faithfulness of Daniel by Jalissa B. Pollard

A watercolor leaf background with tan and pale greens. On it is a stack of three books, the top one is a brown square hardback. On the cover is a light skinned smiling boy in a blue top. The title arcs across the top “The Faithfulness of Daniel”. In the corners are gold filigrees.

The Faithfulness of Daniel written by Jalissa B. Pollard, illustrated by Adua Hernandez

A watercolor leaf background with tan and pale greens. On it is a stack of three books, the top one is a brown square hardback. On the cover is a light skinned smiling boy in a blue top. The title arcs across the top “The Faithfulness of Daniel”. In the corners are gold filigrees.
Image description: A watercolor leaf background with tan and pale greens. On it is a stack of three books, the top one is a brown square hardback. On the cover is a light skinned smiling boy in a blue top. The title arcs across the top “The Faithfulness of Daniel”. In the corners are gold filigrees.

Book description: Journey with Melanin Origins as we share a short story about Daniel and how his life lines up with the Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness. Faith and dedication to doing God’s will were key ingredients to the “excellent spirit” that Daniel possessed.

Another standout in the All in All Series from Melanin Origins. Daniel distills the Biblical story of Daniel down for young audiences. Pollard, author of My Grandmother is a Lady, has hit all the right notes; good vocabulary words without over complicating the text, a simple story that still retains the essence, and a clear message that is understandable for the intended audience.

This story feels particularly apt at a time when the world feels scary, even, or especially, to children. Daniel, a wise man, kept his faith despite being tested and ultimately faced a literal den of lions for it. But it was also his faith that saved him. God delivers him from the lions keeping their mouths shut while Daniel was in the den. An exciting story on the outside, but it also points to the importance of putting your faith in God or in something that is bigger than yourself when you feel powerless and frightened. A letting go of the things you can’t control. The book does use religious terms and is, obviously, taken directly from the Bible, but even non-religious/spiritual families can find the message here encouraging.

As always Adua Hernandez has illustrated the story perfectly. Daniel is shown as a young boy making it easy for children to relate. The sets are peopled with the right amount of people and details to make the pictures inviting, but not overly cluttered. All of the books in the series depict the Biblical figures as Black or brown and not the traditionally inaccurate blond haired and blue eyed figures.

This series, and this book, is perfect for families, Sunday schools, parochial preschools and kindergartens. Homeschooling families looking for Biblical additions to their curriculum would also benefit from having these. Libraries too that serve any of these populations should consider them for their collections.

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: 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.

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.