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: My Day with Qeengish by Nichole Vasquez-Sutter

A little girl in a t-shirt and shorts offers an acorn to a little gray squirrel. The little girl has dark hair pulled back into a braid. She is smiling at her friend. The squirrel is also looking up at the girl as he holds more acorns. Between them is a basket full of acorns. They stand in a meadow with grass and small yellow flowers.
Image description: A little girl in a t-shirt and shorts offers an acorn to a little gray squirrel. The little girl has dark hair pulled back into a braid. She is smiling at her friend. The squirrel is also looking up at the girl as he holds more acorns. Between them is a basket full of acorns. They stand in a meadow with grass and small yellow flowers.

My Day with Qeengish (Qéengish No’ó’nan) by Nichole Vasquez-Sutter, illustrated by Arthur Lin

From Google Books: A story of a girl’s day spent at the whim of her friend, Qeengish, the squirrel. This book is written in both English and Luiseno.

This is a perfect little Fall book for young readers. The story is sweet and short with brief sentences on each page. The illustrations are absolutely adorable (look at the little girl and squirrel gazing at each other on the cover!). It would be hard not to love this gentle book.

The story is very simple, the little girl heads out with her squirrel friend to collect acorns. Through the day they go about a variety of traditional Luiseno activities including playing a game with some human friends and making acorn porridge. It’s exactly the kind of book we see listed on seasonally themed booklists for Fall in preschools and libraries. It is also an #ownvoices book and the tribal/national specificity is the kind of criteria librarians, teachers, and parents must be looking for in their collections and materials.

There have been a lot of efforts in recent years, but stretching back to the 1970s to revive the nearly lost and sleeping indigenous languages of many native tribes and nations. California is particularly dense with indigenous people, cultures, and languages. It’s beautiful to see books published with these languages. I know one of the tribes local to me just published a book in their Nisenan dialect and I am excitedly waiting to get a copy to review (soon! it’s not available to the public yet). My Friend Qeengish is bilingual with English and Luiseno. Even if you don’t speak word of it, showing your child or students that this is one of the many original languages of the place we now call California can be a powerful learning experience. And for kids who are native it can be a powerful recognition of their presence.

I highly recommend supporting this author and this book. My Friend Qeengish would make a perfect addition to Fall book bins, school library shelves, preschool and daycare classrooms, and home libraries. If you’re looking for more stories and books to share with younger kids around Indigenous People’s Day and Native American Heritage month, this is the perfect addition.

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: Momma, Did You Hear the News? by Sanya Whittaker Gragg, MSW

A Black boy wearing a sports shirt and blue baseball cap has a worried look on his face and holds the back of his head with his hands. He is in a living room with a sofa and coffee table. The title of the book is arched over the top of the picture.
Image description: A Black boy wearing a sports shirt and blue baseball cap has a worried look on his face and holds the back of his head with his hands. He is in a living room with a sofa and coffee table. The title of the book is arched over the top of the picture.

Momma, Did You Hear the News? written by Sanya Whittaker Gragg, MSW, illustrated by Kim Holt

From Goodreads: Little Avery becomes concerned after seeing another police shooting of an unarmed man. His parents decide it is time to have “The Talk”. They teach him and his brother a catchy chant to help remember what to do if approached by an officer, while also emphasizing that all policemen are not bad. A to the L to the I-V-E…come home ALIVE….THAT is the key!

This is the review I wish I didn’t have to write. What kind of fucked up world do we live in where parents have to have conversations about how to stay alive when you get pulled over by the police? That’s rhetorical- I know exactly what kind of world we live in and I suspect if you’re even considering this book for your home or school or public library collection, you know too. I’m going to use positive language to describe this book, but I want to be clear that the subject is not something positive and we need to be working on tearing down and rebuilding the world that requires that this book be written in the first place.

Written to help BIPOC families have “The Talk” with their children about protocols for when they encounter law enforcement, the book uses rhyming text and a snappy, easy to remember acronym to give kids the skills they need to survive those encounters. It is critical that kids practice these skills so they are second nature if they are pulled over.

The terrible thing is, the book says these are things you need to do as a Black person to come home alive if stopped by the police and yet, we know that doing everything “right” still might not save you. I think the general sense of firmness and authority from the parents is reassuring for children. I am all for honesty, but at some point being overly honest may not serve them, especially if they’re very young.

I think this book, and books like it, are jumping off points for families rather than the whole conversation. Start here or incorporate this into what you’ve already talked about. Case in point, the book hints at the cops not being the heroes a lot of media and white people make them out to be. There are two pages that suggests the idea of “bad apple”cops. While I personally want to see more ACAB picture books, I recognize that that is not really the message or point here. You can skip those pages if that is not the message you want to give your kids. There aren’t a ton of these books out there so I think it’s fine to use what is helpful here and skip what is not.

While I believe that all books are for all people, you never know what you might connect with, this one is clearly for Black families to share. I have read this with my white daughter, but we had a slightly different discussion around encounters with police. As an activist I know we’re surveilled and I know there’s a higher likelihood that my kids will encounter law enforcement in a more adversarial situation, so they also need to know how to interact. My point here isn’t to take the focus off Black families who need this conversation starter or to make a book for Black people about me and my white family, but it’s to demonstrate that there can be a wider audience for this work. All libraries with families of color should have this available as a resource. Families should have it on their shelves if they need help having this conversation or if they want something their kids can pick up and read on their own to reinforce any conversations they have had. The acronym ALIVE and its catchy phrase to go with it may be really helpful in getting kids to remember what they should do when they have contact with law enforcement.

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: Sam! by Dani Gabriel

A child with short brown hair and a yellow and green dinosaur hoodie stands in the foreground smiling out at the reader. Behind them is a small house with a porch. In front of the porch stands the child's family, a father, a mother, and a younger sibling. They are looking at Sam and waving happily. The title of the book is slanted over the roof of the porch.
Image description: A child with short brown hair and a yellow and green dinosaur hoodie stands in the foreground smiling out at the reader. Behind them is a small house with a porch. In front of the porch stands the child’s family, a father, a mother, and a younger sibling. They are looking at Sam and waving happily. The title of the book is slanted over the roof of the porch.

Sam! written by Dani Gabriel, illustrated by Robert Liu Trujillo

From Goodreads: Sam loves riding his bike and learning about the American Revolution. He is full of laughter and joy. There’s just one problem: Sam’s family knows him as a girl named Isabel.

Sam feels a sense of relief when he finally confides in his annoying but caring sister Maggie, and then his parents, even though it takes them a while to feel comfortable with it. But with lots of love and support, Sam and his family learn and grow through Sam’s journey to embrace his true self

I shared this book on my Instagram in honor of Trans Remembrance Day on November 20th. I’ve tweaked the review a bit to fit the blog, but it’s mostly the same.

Sam loves a lot of things including dinosaurs, bike riding, and learning about the American Revolution. He also has an annoying older sister, Maggie. But Sam is only Sam inside. Outside people call him Isabel and use she/her pronouns. This doesn’t feel right at all to Sam and often makes him sad. One night, after a bad day, he tells Maggie about who he really is and Maggie, after taking it in stride and accepting him wholly and completely, steps up to help Sam tell their parents and show the world his true identity.

Beautifully illustrated as always by Robert Liu Trujillo in his signature soft watercolor spreads and spot illustrations. The pictures bring this sweet story of coming out and acceptance to life. Sam is an adorable little boy and his smiling face is hard to resist. Trujillo is also gifted at depicting neighborhoods. They feel like specific places while also feeling like they could be just about anywhere, which makes them easy for young readers to see their own communities.

I especially love how the book treats Sam as Sam until a reveal part way in tips the reader off that the rest of the world isn’t privy yet to who Sam is. And after the rest of the world knows, the book treats Sam as Sam, not a caricature, lesson, or token.

This is a great book about finding yourself and telling the world who you are and while the book is specific to a trans child, the theme is still relevant to all audiences. More importantly this book should be in school, public, and home libraries for trans kids who need to see themselves, for their siblings to see support and love modeled, for parents to see support, learning, and love modeled, and for cis kids who need to see transphobia and transmisia (hatred for trans people) dismantled.

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.