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.

Picture Book Review: When I Breathe Deeply by Jill Guerra

A light blue wall with wood panel texture serves as the background. A young girl with dark brown skin stands with her arms crossed over her chest. She is wearing jeans and a pink t-shirt. Her eyes are closed and a small smile is on her lips.  She looks very peaceful and calm. To the left is the title of the book in large purple letters.
Image description: A light blue wall with wood panel texture serves as the background. A young girl with dark brown skin stands with her arms crossed over her chest. She is wearing jeans and a pink t-shirt. Her eyes are closed and a small smile is on her lips. She looks very peaceful and calm. To the left is the title of the book in large purple letters.

When I Breathe Deeply/Cuando Respiro Profundo by Jill Guerra, translated by Morelia Rivas

From Goodreads: With her latest publication, Jill Guerra celebrates the power of the breath as a liberation tool. Amplifying the images and words of the youth of Oakland, When I Breathe Deeply, offers insight into the ways in which the youngest amongst us use the breath to inform, energize, and heal themselves and their communities. (this is from a blurb on the back of the book by Amy Love, meditation teacher)

When I Breathe Deeply is part of Jill Guerra’s work as a mindfulness and mindful movement teacher in the Oakland public school system. Her Love Curriculum helps empower children and teaches them about the power of love.

Perfect for parents or teachers working on mindfulness and peace with their children. This book probably couldn’t have come at a better time. Deep breathing is a simple strategy we can teach children for finding a moment to pause and check in with themselves, calm themselves down if they’re getting upset, and, over time, reduce stress. The back features a page that walks readers through how to take deep breaths designed to calm the nervous system down.

The whole book package is exceptionally beautiful. A bright cover with a smiling kiddo invites you in. Each two page spread features, on the left side, a solid color that ties in with the photograph on the opposite page. The text is large and clear on the colored page and is in both English and Spanish. White curlicues and swirls move from one page to the next further tying the spread together and drawing the eye from the text to the photos. Reminiscent of Tana Hoban’s books, the photographs are of real children in Oakland taking deep breaths. They are soothing and beautiful.

Many Montessori classrooms have a peace table, a place where children can go to calm down and resolve conflict. Maybe take a cue from this and start your own peace corner with some books and pillows. Be sure to include When I Breathe Deeply.

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.

Chapter Book Review: She Hit Me First by Robert Mossi Alexander

Green watercolor background. With the title in red at the top. A large profile of a woman with short hair and a headband is behind a profile of Jamillah who had brown skin, a pony tail, and a yellow hoodie. The faces are looking to the right.
Green watercolor background. With the title in red at the top. A large profile of a woman with short hair and a headband is behind a profile of Jamillah who had brown skin, a pony tail, and a yellow hoodie. The faces are looking to the right.
Image description: Green watercolor background. With the title in red at the top. A large profile of a woman with short hair and a headband is behind a profile of Jamillah who had brown skin, a pony tail, and a yellow hoodie. The faces are looking to the right.

She Hit Me First! written by Robert Mossi Alexander, illustrated by Lauryn Taylor Alexander, cover art by Robert Liu Trujillo

From Goodreads:

When Jamillah started Parker Elementary School it was hard for her to make new friends. Unlike her old school, no one there seemed to want to play with her. So, hitting was the way Jamillah solved most of her problems at school. It didn’t make sense to her why it was so important for her to behave and be good when she saw other people around her being rude and unconcerned with how they treated others. With no good examples to model Jamillah continued to find every excuse to hit, but most of the time her excuse was “She hit me first!”

Jamillah’s teacher Miss Raspberry knew there was more to Jamillah than what she was showing. When it looked like Jamillah was about to face the ultimate punishment, suspension from school, Miss Raspberry stepped in to save her. Though grateful in the moment Jamillah had no idea what Miss Raspberry had in store for her. When her other efforts failed to help Jamillah, Miss Raspberry decided to try something different, she introduced Jamillah to a new way of thinking about the world around her.

At its core, She Hit Me First! is a book about exploring kindness, education, and conflict resolution without the use of violence. Jamillah learns through a series of events that she is worthy of kindness and that she has the power to create change in the world around her.

This was a throughly enjoyable little chapter book. I read it through once on my own and then out loud to my older kid who kept asking for just one more chapter before bed. The book has a clear messages about people’s ability to change, to be a model for others to change, and to overcome difficult situations, but the story they are woven into is charming and engaging.

I deeply appreciated the message to parents, caregivers, and educators the importance of having an adult in your corner. Jamillah’s teacher Miss Raspberry (what a great teacher name) makes a commitment to help Jamillah stop hitting when she gets frustrated and to make friends. Kids need someone who will advocate for them and believe in them. Having that one person is so critical to all people, especially children.

Jamillah is dealing with some stuff in her home life that is modeling the coping mechanism of hitting in frustration. She learns to have compassion for her mother’s struggles through a visit and talk from her aunt as well as through reading the story of Maya Angelou. Jamillah doesn’t learn to excuse the behavior, but she does learn that it is not something inherent in her that causes her mother to want to hit. I think this aspect of the story can help kids in similar situations both see their realities reflected and hopefully give them some insight into what lies behind it.

I found this book through the artist who did the cover illustration, Robert Liu Trujillo. We’re big fans of his work in our house. I was doubly excited to see that this was written by an author from the Bay Area which is more or less local to us. The illustrations inside accompany the end of each chapter. They’re really cute and add just a little more to the story. I would say the book is around a third/fourth grade level and the pictures are a nice touch to support readers who want to read chapter books, but need a little break to the actual text. The chapter length is also really good (it made it easy to read “just one more” every night too).

All in all, a great addition to classroom, home and public library emerging chapter book collections.

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: Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside by Kenneth Braswell

A family of four is crossing a city street. The two children are turned to face out from the picture but they are looking at a shaded group of protestors holding signs and a bullhorn. The kids look surprised, worries, and curious.
Image description: A family of four is crossing a city street. The two children are turned to face out from the picture but they are looking at a shaded group of protestors holding signs and a bullhorn. The kids look surprised, worries, and curious.

Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside written by Kenneth Braswell, illustrated by Joe Dent and Julie Anderson

From Goodreads: This engaging story begins when two children are awakened by noises in the middle of the night outside the window of their inner-city neighborhood. Both their Dad and Mom spend the next morning explaining to them what was taking place in their community.

I posted a brief review of this book on Instagram on election day 2020. I’m editing it a bit here to fit more with the blog and lengthening my commentary.

“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

Audre Lorde

Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside is a perfect resource if you need something to explain protest to the kids in your life. It is, hands down, the best for doing that. The language is clear, concise, and simple; it doesn’t water protest down like the other books I’ve seen for kids; and it links current protest to historical movements.

The illustrations are bright and inviting, but also spare. The text is written as speech bubbles, which makes the book feel more modern and alive. The open space in the illustrations really allows for focus to fall on the words and makes it easier for younger readers to follow the dialog. It’s a perfect pairing.

There is excellent information in the back for grown ups to help you have the conversation about why protest is necessary. This might be very helpful for parents who are not currently involved in doing movement or liberation work. But even as a parent who is, I still found it had tips and phrasing that I was able to use with my own kids.

I know a lot of libraries and families have the other two mainstream publishing company kids’ protest books on their shelves. They’re…okay. My complaint is mostly that they focus on happy marches, probably led by white people and respectability politics. And yet, that’s not what our kids end up seeing on the news and quite frankly those types of marches don’t effect change. Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside helps show kids how the protests that make most white people (especially good white liberal people) uncomfortable, are actually an important and necessary form of resistance. It centers on protesting police violence but it’s applicable no matter the circumstance.

Don’t let the idea of more destructive and in-your-face protest deter you from allowing your patrons (or family) to understand what is really going on in those spaces. If you have those other books on the shelf, such as Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights, you must also have this on the shelf. It is the counter point to those books and quite frankly is more relevant and important than those others from mainstream publishing.

Purchase the book here (not affiliate links):

  • From Father’s Incorporated (the author’s organization): hardback
  • On Amazon: 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: Being Different Is the Name of the Game by MeMe Taylor Davis

Five friends stand on a hill of green grass. The sun shines above them. There is an alligator, a female lion, a cat wearing a fruit hat, a monkey wearing large purple glasses, and a blue dinosaur. They all wave at the reader and are smiling.
Image description: Five friends stand on a hill of green grass. The sun shines above them. There is an alligator, a female lion, a cat wearing a fruit hat, a monkey wearing large purple glasses, and a blue dinosaur. They all wave at the reader and are smiling.

Being Different Is the Name of the Game by MeMe Taylor Davis, illustrated by Jorge Mansilla

From Goodreads: Being Different is the Name of the Game is story for children to identify differences in the animals. Read along as each character embraces their uniqueness and creates a community of friendship, acceptance, and a celebration of distinct qualities.

In addition to publishing a series of books geared towards supporting Black children, Melanin Origins has a series of books that are excellent for building empathy, respect, and social-emotional intelligence in children. Being Different is the latest in this (informal) series of books.

This will be hard for children to resist with bright, friendly colors and adorable animal kids on the cover. Right off the bat the book is hitting the right notes. Simple, snappy, rhyming text introduces each character making this a perfect read aloud for preschool and kindergarten age kiddos.

Each animal has something about them that makes them different from other animals like themselves. A blue dinosaur, a kind lion, long alligator ears, and even glasses.

The glasses is especially interesting. There are a handful of books that address children needing to wear glasses with the intent of normalizing it and introducing the idea to their peers. Certainly those books are worth reading, but the fact that glasses wearing is integrated into a number of other differences positions it in a larger context of diversity along with skin color, temperament, and physical appearance.

I know books that tackle diversity often use animals as a proxy for humans. That gets criticized for not being more explicit and while that is a valid argument, I think it can veer into the territory of wanting one perfect book to present diversity and discrimination to children. A one-and-done type resource. The reality is children need a host of resources that can act as entry points into lots of discussions about diversity and oppression. As with the books about glasses, this is a great book to have on shelves with other books that open conversations about difference. Pair it with The People You May See for a robust discussion about being respectful and accepting of human variety.

Schools with SEL curriculum and parents looking to up their kids acceptance of diversity should have this on their shelves. Kids will love the illustrations and positive message. I suspect it will be a favorite, read again and again. And again.

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.