Multicultural and Nature Books

Isak Reading a Book on Top of Santa Maria, Guatemala. Photo by Paul Dix, Oregon.

(Updated: April 26, 2024). The 2024 Skipping Stones Book Awards will be announced in end of May.

Last year, the Skipping Stones Book Awards had many outstanding entries from publishers—large and small—as well as self-published books. See our list of 28 Honored Books in the following three categories: Multicultural, Social and International Books, Ecology and Nature Books, & Teaching Resources. Download the 2023 Honors List. Reviews of these honored titles are also available in the Book Awards section.

In addition to our Annual Book Awards, we also recommend multicultural and nature books in our regular issues and in this column. Check out some of these recently published books and films reviewed below.

Renewable Energy: Power the World with Sustainable Fuel by Erin Twamley and Joshua Sneideman. Illustr. Micah Rauch. Nomad Press. Ages 9-12.
Children will definitely be impacted by the climate change now unfolding. Already countless children have already experienced the heaviness of the problem. And yet, few children are provided with hope, hope for how they can take small, practical steps now, and larger strides in the future. 
This book shows the many methods that could be used to harness clean energy, in a child-friendly, engaging way. With colorful pictures, comics, and practical activities accompanying each chapter, the book is designed to help students and educators alike to become passionate and hopeful about protecting the environment through clean energy, while avoiding guilt-inducing language. In the midst of the engaging material, it introduces vocabulary, the history of climate change, and the science of how modern renewable energy is made. The importance of inviting children to become a part of the solution to climate change is immeasurable. If we equip our children to keep their eyes on the solutions to climate change, they will surely help create a more sustainable future for us all.

Reviewed by Anna Dillon, grade 12, student intern, Oregon.

Regenerating Life by John Feldman; distributed by Bullfrog Films. 2023. Grade Level: 10 and up (including undergraduate studies). Ages 15-95.
John Feldman’s feature-length documentary film, REGENERATING LIFE, takes an ecological approach to help us understand the unfolding climate crisis. It sheds a bright light on the various causes of global warming, going beyond CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels to include humankind’s relentless destruction of nature. The film convincingly argues that ultimately, it’s the vast biodiversity (that has existed on the Earth for long time) that regulates and balances our precious planet’s climate.
REGENERATING LIFE is divided into three segments: Water Cools the Planet, Life Sustains the Climate, and Small Farms Feed the World. And it explores how nature—the ecological web of living organisms—regulates the climate through photosynthesis, the carbon cycle, and the water cycle, and a vast interconnected underground network of fungi, microorganisms, and plant roots. The film also looks at the economic and political systems that have accelerated the destruction of nature through a relentless greed for wealth and power.
Can human societies reverse the ongoing “ecocide” by regenerating life on the planet? We hear from many well-known leaders that have worked tirelessly on ecological solutions. These influential people have been working to restore planet’s forests, grasslands, wetlands, and oceans in various regions. They regenerate soil, grow healthy foods, and build healthy communities, and in the process, show us how we could solve the climate crisis.
I recommend this highly educational and well-balanced documentary for high school levels and up.

Reviewed by Arun Narayan Toké, editor.

Mango Memories by Sita Singh and Nabi H. Ali. Anne Schwartz Books (Random House).
Mango is the national fruit of India, and children grow up slurping on juicy mangoes. Unfortunately, we can’t get fresh, ripe mangoes in the cold, northern climates of the United States, Canada, or Europe. This sweet book transports the readers to the childhood memories of the authors in India. As we turn the pages, we experience life during hot, lazy summer months in rural India and discover the joy of picking mangoes from mango trees, and then enjoying the sweet fruits with siblings and family. There is also a glossary of simple Hindi words used before the story begins (and an author’s note on the last page) to help us along. Ages 5-9.

Daddy, Tell Me a Story by Kathleen Long Bostrom; illustr. Ela Smietanka. Worthy Kids.
Sophie believes her daddy is the best storyteller! Naturally, she wants him to make up a story for her bedtime. Daddy begins to tell a story but Sophie is very creative, and she keeps on making tiny changes to make his story more to her liking. Even though storytellers don’t like to be interrupted while telling a story, her daddy plays along and tweaks his story to her liking. What will be the end of this story? Find out by reading this wonderfully written picture book with charming, kid-friendly illustrations on every page! Ages 4-8.

Unbroken Ties. Directed by Graham Streeter & Grace Swe Zin Htaik, Producer: Peter K. Yap. Mandalay Productions, USA and Myanmar. 92 minutes.
I wish to bring to your attention this new multicultural movie that I watched at the DisOrient Film Festival in Oregon in March 2024. Set in the 1990s, Unbroken Ties (aka Myittar) is a Burmese orphan’s journey to California that unravels a web of secrets, betrayals, and connections that challenge his identity, his friendships, and his sense of belonging.
Min is an elementary school teacher at an orphanage (where he grew up as an orphan himself) in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), in Southeast Asia. For Min, his students are his family.
With sheer luck Min secures a U.S. Diversity Visa and lands in San Francisco, California. His childhood friend from the same orphanage is the only person Min knows in the new country. His friend, who now identifies as a transgender person, offers him a place to stay in their crowded Airstream trailer. Min navigates the Burmatown in pursuit of employment and gets a mundane job helping a charity.
This bilingual film celebrates the resilience of immigrants as well as the LGBTQ community, while illuminating the struggles of orphans and minorities. Their unyielding determination shines throughout this authentic movie, filmed in both Burma and California. As the director offers an authentic portrayal of hope and human spirit, we discover heartfelt meanings of love and family. A well-crafted portrayal of events unfold, chronicling Min’s time in the city. I think this is a touching movie, suitable for ages 13 and up, and it shares a much broader meaning of love through the lens of an Asian culture, bringing a narrative to diverse audiences that will surely be embraced. No surprise that the movie received DisOrient Film Festival’s Audience Choice Award!            

Reviewed by Arun N. Toké, editor.

The Voice of My Heart: Unforgettable Memories in an Unforgettable Year. Edited by Merna Ann Hecht. Poetry and Art from the 2021-22 Stories of Arrival: Refugee and Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry Project. Chin Music Press, Seattle, WA.

“…My thoughts were heavy, my head lay heavy on the windows / of the bus taking me further away, / I closed my eyes and felt like I was falling, losing myself / in a shattering haunted mirror with nothing I could do…”     —Tieda Tsegay Araya.
There is nothing quite like the raw pain of leaving one’s country, the place where every child’s heart is molded. A heart is torn between where it is now, pulsating in an immigrant’s chest, and where it once was. A heart caught in the intersection between love for one’s home and pain in seeing it destroyed by war, climate, illness, and famine.
The laments of a motherland left behind, the pain of destruction by climate, war, and greed, the isolation of living in an unfamiliar land, the drive to make the world a little bit better, all merge into the beautiful, vivid verses of poetry recorded in a volume aptly called “The Voice of My Heart.” This volume is one of many that the Stories of Arrival Project has produced since 2009.
Where does the voice of your heart lead you? For youth like Tieda, it leads to Eritrea. For Sharmila, it leads to Burma, to the family she left behind. For Mohamed, it leads to Gambia, to the nostalgic peanut and rice porridge he used to eat. For Shahab, it leads to Afghanistan, where he prays that peace will come. For Tri, it leads Vietnam, to a brother endangered in war.
For many, the voice of their hearts leads to a passion to fight climate change, poverty, and injustice. Thirty-seven talented immigrant student poets from around the world share their diverse stories, passions, and poetry in this incredible collection of poetry written during the 2021-22 school year, displaying the potential inherent in America’s young immigrants. The unimaginable pain that these poets have experienced flows into their vulnerable writing, and makes it impossible not to open your heart to their struggles and joys.
This volume is perfect for anyone who relates to the immigrant experience or anyone who wants to expand their knowledge about the experiences of immigrants. It raises awareness, through a personal lens, about the tragic world events that too often are reduced to faceless numbers in our news feed.

Reviewed by Anna Dillon, student intern, high school senior, Eugene, Oregon.

Sunjata of the Mandé Empire by Ekiuwa Aire. Illustr: Alina Shabelnyk. Our Ancestories; Ages 7 to 11.

Centuries ago, the powerful Mandé empire was home to “the learning center of the world,” with a huge library, more than 170 schools, and 2 universities. But how did this pioneering west African nation achieve such excellence?

“Sunjata of the Mandé Empire” recounts the story of a young boy faced with seemingly impossible obstacles on his road to leadership. With a disability preventing him from being accepted by his people, a brother ready to fight to claim his throne, and a power-hungry foreign empire determined to conquer his people, only Sunjata can turn his kingdom from desperation to a thriving empire. Over the years, Sunjata gains confidence and becomes the leader his people need.

This powerful story, gleaned from the oral traditions of present-day Mali, brings to light one of the many beautiful yet underrepresented tales of African history, in an engaging, child-friendly way. Vivid illustrations accompany each page of this exciting story, and inspire children and adults alike not to lose hope in the face of challenges. The book concludes by explaining the powerful history of the Mali Empire.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in an exciting, inspiring story, that remains engaging as it teaches the reader about Mali culture and history.

Reviewed by Anna Dillon, student intern, high school senior, Eugene, Oregon.

Celebrate the Day of the Dead! By Diane de Anda. Illustr: Gloria Felix. Ages 3-6. Crown Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House. A Spanish edition of this book is also available.

Learn how Christina and her family prepare and celebrate Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Many people in Mexico and other countries have this festival to honor and remember loved ones who have passed away. Christina and her family dress up in special clothes, make special foods, and even dance in parades. How do people in your community remember their past family and friends?

With festive colors and friendly faces on every page, this vibrant board book is a wonderful introduction to traditional Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations. The English version has Spanish words peppered throughout. The illustrations are helpful and clear, and they add to the context and the story. This is a great book for young readers to begin to explore culture and holidays.

Alicia and the Hurricane: A Story of Puerto Rico / Alicia y el huracán: Un cuento de Puerto Rico. By Lesléa Newman, Illustr. Elizabeth Erazo Baez. Spanish Translation: Georgina Lázaro. Children’s Book Press/ Lee & Low Books.

In this story inspired by Hurricane María in 2017, a little girl named Alicia lives in Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean. She loves los coquíes, the little tree frogs, that live there. Every night as she goes to bed, Mami tucks her in and tells her to listen for los coquíes to sing her to sleep. One day, a terrible hurricane hits the island. Alicia and her family stay in a shelter to keep safe from the storm. But Alicia is worried when she can’t hear los coquíes sing at night. Are the little frogs going to be OK?

Lesléa Newman tells a touching story of family, natural disaster, strength, and resilience. Alicia and her family stay safe, and they and their neighbors all come together to rebuild the community. The rich colors from Elizabeth Erazo Baez’s illustrations show the vibrant beauty of Puerto Rico and its people… and los coquíes, who do come back to sing once the danger has passed.

Amazing Insects Around the World. By DGPH Studio. Ages 7-10. Penguin Workshop.

If you want to learn more about insects, this is the picture book for you! Packed with pages full of interesting facts, this book covers some of the insects you’ll see in your neighborhood as well as strange and rare ones you’ve probably never heard of before. The illustrations are soft and stylized, making some of the creepy crawlies look a bit less scary, but still natural. The beginning introduces terms and facts that apply to most insects, and each double-page spread focuses on different types or groups of bugs (along with a few other creatures). There is a helpful glossary at the end.

Put Your Shoes On & Get Ready! By Raphael G. Warnock. Illustr. TeMika Grooms. Ages 4-8. Philomel Books.

In this story, author Raphael Warnock talks about different kinds of shoes. But it’s not really just about shoes. It’s a story about wearing the right shoes for your job—whether your job is listening to your parents, going to school, leading a church, or even being the first Black U.S. Senator from Georgia. You will probably wear lots of different shoes for lots of different jobs in your life. The lively illustrations show all the jobs Raphael has worn various shoes for as he takes us through his life. What kinds of shoes do you think you might wear as you grow up?

What is Juneteenth?By Kirsti Jewel. Illustr. Manuel Gutierrez. Ages 10-14. Penguin Workshop.

While the Emancipation Proclamation freed Black slaves in the United States in 1863, some of them didn’t learn about it until two years later. This book details the history of the holiday commemorating that day, known as Juneteenth, as well as many of the events and cultural shifts in Black history that followed it. Everyday moments, important data, and pivotal points are all captured in black-and-white illustrations that sometimes feel like photos. Even though I grew up in Texas where Juneteenth began, I learned a lot I didn’t know from this book. Not only is it full of historical facts, it also talks about politics and culture. Several pages of photos are included showing important people, places, and events as recent as 2021.

Anjali the Brave: All About Vaccines. By Dr. Adjoa Smalls-Mantey & Dr. Maria Abraham, Illustr. Paul Buşte. Indies United Publishing House.

Like many people, Anjali has a lot of questions about vaccines. What do they do? Why do we have to get more than one vaccine? When she goes to the doctor, she’s kind of scared to have to get another shot. But her dad holds her hand, and she asks Dr. Amber all of her questions. Dr. Amber explains how vaccines help keep Anjali and other people. Anjali is still scared, but she’s brave, too. In the end, she’s happy that her vaccine will prevent her from getting sick, and she wants to become a scientist to help others stay healthy!

The illustrations in this book are soft and friendly, with bright colors. They help show us how scientists have been making vaccines for a very long time, and how our body’s cells use vaccines to keep us healthy. We even learn that because scientists have gotten good at making vaccines, some diseases are totally gone now! Getting a shot might be scary sometimes, but learning about the science behind it can help us be brave (even if it still hurts a little bit).

But Why: Do Fish Breathe Under Water? And Other Silly Questions From Curious Kids. By Jane Lindholm and Melody Bodette. Illustr. Neil Swaab. Ages 8-10. Grosset & Dunlap, Penguin Random House.

This second book in the But Why? series tackles kids’ questions about the oceans and marine life. Have you ever wondered about how underwater creatures do what they do? Are sea horses really horses? Where does all that salt and sand in the water come from? Why are whales so big, anyway? You’ll find the answers to all of those questions and a boatload more in this book.

Plenty of really interesting explanations and facts are sprinkled throughout these pages. Did you know that the deepest place in the ocean is almost seven miles down? Learn facts like this and so much more, prompted by real questions from kids just as curious as you are!

If this book gets you interested in learning more, you’re in luck. It also mentions ways we can help protect the oceans and the creatures in them, and even lists some careers for people who want to stay current on all matters with the sea. This book is worth diving into!

Climate in Crisis: Changing Coastlines, Severe Storms, and Damaging Drought. By Carla Mooney. Illustr. Traci Van Wagoner. Ages 12-15. Nomad Press.

Understanding climate change can seem difficult, especially since it affects so many different things. This book helps make several aspects of it much clearer by using easy explanations and real-world examples without talking down to its audience. It addresses topics like frequent and more severe weather, decreased food and water situations, the effects on animals, changes in the oceans, and the direct and indirect consequences for human life.

The information provided is detailed, but not overwhelming. Photos, graphs, and even comics accompany most descriptions. This book is even a bit interactive; QR codes linked to relevant videos and other online resources can be found on many pages. Margins pose both questions and suggestions to readers about things we can all do to stay safe when dealing with climate change-related issues, and to learn more about how we can keep things from getting worse.

As an adult, I have tried to keep on top of learning about climate change and its effects for a while, myself. I know that I am not alone in having little time to devote to more in-depth studies on the subject. While it’s primarily aimed at younger teenagers, this book also provided a refreshing way for me to learn many interesting things I didn’t know about the climate crisis.

Forest Bath Right Down This Path. By Lisa Robinson. Illustr. Khoa Le. Ages 4-8. Sounds True.

Do you know what forest bathing is? Put simply, it’s when you slow down and really take in all of the nature surrounding you. Kayla takes her daddy, and readers, on a wonderfully sensory journey through a forest near her home. With them, we explore the plants, dirt, water, and animals we encounter on our walk. After a bit of convincing, Kayla finally gets Daddy to start enjoying nature more than his phone.

Lisa Robinson’s writing is lyrical and almost poetic as she describes everything in the forest. Readers will slow down a little bit, too, as we imagine the smells and textures and sounds all around. Khoa Le’s illustrations help us feel like we’re in nature exploring right along with Kayla and her daddy.

This is a very lovely book in every sense of the word! If you’ll excuse me, I feel the need to go outside and find some trees to experience.

How We Can Live: Principals of Black Lives Matter. By Laleña Garcia. Illustr. Caryn Davidson. Lee & Low Books.

The Black Lives Matter movement is one of those subjects that probably feels difficult to explain to children. This book acknowledges that, but also approaches it from a different angle: exploring positive change. It explains some of the older systems and stories responsible for much of the negativity surrounding race in many of today’s cultures, and then it asks us to imagine how the world might be if things just weren’t like that. What if people did better? What if we learn the truth about history and make a genuine effort to change the future? It won’t be an easy journey, but it will be worth trying.

This is probably not the most comfortable book you’ll ever read, but it just might be one of the most important ones. Historically important Black figures as well as everyday people are used to define and highlight topics such as empathy, restorative justice, and collective value. While the book is primarily aimed at children, it’s an excellent read for adults as well. You might start out with concern on the first page, but by the time you close the cover, you will likely have learned a powerful message (or several) no matter what your background is.

Multiple notes from the creators in this book specifically address both children and adults, challenging them to take this information and use it as inspiration in their own lives and out in the world. Whether you’re angry, scared, frustrated, or confused about what Black Lives Matter really means, this book can help you understand and channel your emotions toward a positive future for us all.

Little Bear: An Inuit Folktale. Retold by Dawn Casey. Illustr. Amanda Hall. Ages 4-8. Wisdom Tales Press.

This story follows the tale of a lonely old woman and an orphaned polar bear cub. Raising the cub as her own, the woman and the bear find love and comfort in each other and with their village as the bear grows up alongside them. When he is little, the cub plays with the children. When he gets bigger, he helps the hunters catch salmon and seals. One day, the hunters and the bear cross paths with hunters from another village who do not know the bear, and the bear ends up injured.

After nursing the bear back to health, the old woman realizes that it would be better for everyone if the bear goes back to living in the wild. Although she is very sad, she understands that it is best for him. The woman and the bear found each other when they both needed love the most. Now it is time to move on.

Amanda Hall’s drawings glow brightly from the pages, perfectly capturing warmth and love against the backdrop of the snowy scenes. Even during the long winter when the sun doesn’t shine, the pictures are filled with color. Hall’s art is ideal for this lovely folktale about love, respecting nature, and doing the right thing even in difficult situations.

Nurse Florence, What is Heat Exhaustion?By Michael Dow. Illustr. Janel Halton. Dow Creative Enterprises.

Do you know what to do if someone is experiencing heat exhaustion? In this book, kids will learn important information about this serious health condition. They’ll also learn how to help treat it when it happens, and how to avoid it in the first place. Nurse Florence answers the real questions kids ask about this type of sudden illness.

While the text is in kid-friendly language, it does include some health-related terms that adults might think are advanced. However, as the author explains in his forward to parents, it is important for kids to know how to talk about health and their bodies, and to be able to describe what’s going on. Combined with the artist’s notebook-styled drawings clearly showing symptoms to watch out for and first aid that they can give, this book helps teach kids important vocabulary they might need.

On My Papa’s Shoulders. By Niki Daly. Illustr. Niki Daly. Catalyst Press.

How can an everyday routine become so special? This book shows us how one boy gets to walk to school with different members of his family. Each one of them does things just a little bit differently. Mama helps him hurry along a busy sidewalk, while Tata leads him through a park when there are rain puddles to splash in. They all make walking to school fun and special in their own ways.

While the boy in the story loves all of his family, he loves walking to school with Papa the most. He gets to sit on Papa’s shoulders and see the world in a whole new way!

The illustrations in this picture book have a gentle quality to them, with lightly sketched lines and many pastel colors that stand out against the gray city. The backgrounds give a slightly different feel to each of the different routes the boy walks with each family member. But like the boy and his family, the pictures still have an overall sense of connection. This is a sweet little story about simple everyday moments with family, but especially with Papa.

Swahili Folklore:A Compilation of Animal Facts, Folktales, Nursery Rhymes, and Songs. By Gloria D. Gonsalves. AuthorHouse (UK).

Do you and your friends sing songs that go with movements and games? Do you like to hear and/or tell fables? How about learning some neat animal facts? Schoolchildren in Tanzania like all of these things, too! Most kids there learn stories, rhymes, and songs by hearing them from adults and then telling them to each other, instead of reading them. Author “Auntie Glo” wanted to write some of them down to make sure people didn’t forget. She remembered some things from when she was a kid, but she asked children who were still in school to help by telling them to her again.

This book is a fantastic collection of Swahili stories, children’s songs, and rhymes, along with interesting facts about African animals. Most of the illustrations are by kids, bringing fun and life to the various tales and animals within. For the songs and rhymes, Auntie Glo describes the movements, games, and dances that go along with them.

If you read this book, maybe you can act out some of the animal stories with your friends. Get a group together to play some of the games and dances. Can you make up tunes to go with the songs?

Reviewed by Scooter Milne, student intern from LCC, Oregon.

Restrict:A Poetic Narrative. By Sol Rivera. Penguin Random House. Ages 13 and above.

Dive into the fluid prose of Sol Rivera, reporter for Teen Kid News and founder of Magnolia magazine, in an empathetic exploration of eating disorders and the toxic culture surrounding female body image. Follow a Little Girl as she becomes a young woman who feels the only thing she has to offer the world is her body, and the journey she takes to heal from her traumatic childhood. Restrict investigates where the line between perpetrator and victim blurs when it comes to the societal conversation surrounding beauty and body image among rich private school students and millionaire families, stripping away the glitz and glamor to reveal damage among society’s elite.

The Search for King:A Fable. By Thomas Smith. Canoe Tree Press.
This is a book of beautiful photographs accompanied by fluid verse based on legend and facts that surround birds as they search for their king. The story asks; what would make a bird worthy to rule an entire biological class? Is it perhaps impressive and colorful feathers? A melodic song? The meaning humans ascribe to your species? The Search for King explores dozens of North American birds, possible to find in many backyards, that a reader may not have been aware of or fully appreciated before. Upper elem. to middle grades. 

Reviewed by Hailey Bonebrake, student intern, Churchill High, Oregon.

The Media and Me: A Guide to Critical Media Literacy for Young People by Project Censored and the Media Revolution Collective. /

As the world becomes more and more reliant on technology, media literacy has never been more critical. With the new generation of teens who have risen alongside technological advances, it seems strange that there aren’t more books about media literacy that directly target teens and young adults. Maybe it’s the assumption that us teens, who have had social media at our fingertips since birth, should already have an inherent foundation of how to navigate the internet. But the truth is, although many youth know how to use technology, we haven’t been educated in how to deal with the plethora of both harmful and helpful information bombarding our every step. That’s where this book comes in. It addresses complex topics, such as racism in the media, how advertisers target the unconscious mind, and how news media has become distorted, in simple, easy-to-understand language. It is not a book dedicated to prevent teens from using social media; it is instead a resource on how we can use it responsibly and effectively.

Dispersed throughout the book are useful terms and ideas that help us understand the media; for example there is a page dedicated to defining common logical fallacies that we might not even realize that people in the media are using to convince us of illogical ideas.

The part I personally found most helpful in this book was the chapter on biases that underlie the media we consume without our even noticing. An example used in the book is in the movie Aladdin, all of the “good” main characters have American accents, whereas the “bad” side characters often have Arabic accents. In this way, as well as many others, the book highlights how the media can unconsciously affect us, whether by encouraging biases or convincing us that we “need” to buy a certain product.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to take control of the media that they are consuming, and learn how social media affects our lived reality.

—Reviewed by Anna Dillon, age 16, high school junior, Oregon.

Mattie and the Machine by Lynn Ng Quezon, Santa Monica Press. Ages 12-18. ISBN 9781595801180. 

A California-state licensed engineer has written this fictionalized story based on the life of the real world female inventor, Margaret E. Knight, who strived for the recognition of her ingenuity in the male-dominated field of mechanical industry of post Civil War America. In this novel, Mattie, a 15-year-old female paper-bag factory mechanic, discovers payment inequalities between the “factory girls” and recently hired male Civil War vets, and she confronts her boss. The boss tells her men are better with machines and that’s why he pays them more. She does not agree with him, and tells him she can design and build a fully automatic paper-making machine to prove that. But he puts a condition that her machine would have to work better than one that a newly-hired mechanic, Frank, would build. Mattie proves her boss wrong by meeting the challenge successfully. Women can excel in any and all fields of study, including the STEM-related fields. Her journey catapults her beyond the factory and into a wider, women-distrusting world. A wonderfully written novel that is hard to put down to the very end!

A Costume for Charly by C. K. Malone, illustrated by Alejandra Barajas. Beaming Books. Ages 6-10. ISBN 9781506484051

This timely book is an exploration of gender identity through the lens of a bigender kid. Charly is trying to find a costume that fits them for Halloween; one that doesn’t disguise their female or male identity, but lets both shine through. A Costume for Charly is illustrated with playfully detailed pictures with a spark of seasonal whimsy by masterful illustrator Alejandra Barajas. 

Explore with Me at the Salish Sea, poetry by Nancy Oline Klimp, illustrated by Jared Noury. Nature Speaks To Us. All ages. ISBN 9781735184425

This is a gorgeously illustrated, artful, poetic guide to the Pacific North West’s Salish Sea (located in the border region of the American Pacific Northwest and British Columbia in Canada). The author writes about the nature, like the tides, birds and mammals but also the modern human functions. The book contains verses that describe both the seasonal changes and human events that take place in and around the biologically diverse Salish Sea, as well as a glossary for the terms used in the book.

Hello! A Welcoming Story by Gina K. Lewis, Illustrated by María José Campos. City of Light Publishing. Ages 5-8. ISBN 9781952536281

This is a story told in two parts. One part consists of welcoming an immigrant (or refugee) to one’s country, and the other of the person being welcomed into a new community. This picture book explores the feelings of leaving a home you love but you had to leave because of violence or some other unbearable problem. It also explores feelings of uneasiness in a new surroundings and the feeling of being accepted in your new home. Sensitively illustrated. The author is an ESL teacher and she wrote the book based on the experiences of her students.

Love Your Amazing Self by Ofosu Jones-Quarterly (Recording name: BORN I) of You Are Enough, illustrations by Ndubisi Okoye. Storey Publishing. Ages 8-16. ISBN 9781635865479 

Ofosu Jones-Quarterly fills these colorful pages of Love Your Amazing Self with a lovingly-written advice, a key to understanding oneself and others. The advice is shared through verses, and also through recommended activities, ranging from thought exercises to getting outside and blowing bubbles, for finding one’s inner-self and joy. 

A Taste of Honey-Kamala Outsmarts the Seven Thieves by Rebecca Sheir, illust. Chaaya Prabhat. Storey Publishing. Ages 6-10. ISBN 9781635864922.

This is a modern adaptation of a South Asian folktale, brought to life with rich, colorful illustrations by Chaaya Prabhat. Can Kamala, a rare example of a heroic female breadwinner of this folktale, use her wits to continue to maintain her family’s beekeeping business despite many challenges that it is facing? How will the seven thieves end up helping her in unintentional ways? In the Now It’s Your Turn section, the author provides playful methods of telling a story, such as demonstrations on how to make a shadow puppet show or imagining the auditory narrative of the story. Brought to readers by Circle Round, a production of Boston’s NPR news station that adapts international folktales for youth.

If You Read This by Kereen Getten. Delacorte Press. Ages 10-14. ISBN 9780593174005

Written by the author of the acclaimed book, When Life Gives You Mangos, Kereen Getten brings to life a tale of joy, grieving, and growth set on the Caribbean Islands nation of Jamaica. Through her deceased mother’s final letters—a gift she had received for her twelfth birthday—Brie discovers her family’s secrets and forges a deeper connection with them as she explores her grandfather’s house with her friends. 

Raising Feminist Boys by Bobbi Wegner. A parenting resource from New Harbinger Publications. ISBN 9781684036677. Paperback.

How do you teach your son to be kind and conscientious? How do you shape his moral compass in a world that sends him so many conflicting messages? How do you ensure your son is empowered to make empathetic decisions? How can you bring up conversations about sexism and bias, without it feeling forced and/or uncomfortable?

In this practical, hands-on parenting book, Raising Feminist Boys, author and psychologist Dr. Bobbi Wegner explores all of these ideals and provides practical strategies to achieve them. Dr. Wegner addresses a variety of issues, all stemming from the importance of gender equality and empathy. The ideas range from gender roles, to sex education, to empathy and collectivism. The concepts are simple yet useful, and Wegner divides them into age appropriate categories, making the book practical for parents of any age children. Pragmatic ideas of how to talk to children about these concepts are also dispersed throughout, giving parents tangible ways to interact and apply the information.

Bobbi Wegner is herself a mother and expert in the field, and interjects from her own experience throughout the book, making the book conversational and relatable. With a strong background in psychology, Wegner emphasizes the importance of continuous, two-way conversations with your sons about hard topics, such as sex and bias, instead of a once off lecture. She also describes the importance of looking inward at one’s self, addressing your own history of gender norms and stereotypes, and how this can affect the way one parents.

Raising Feminist Boys, is a practical guide to building empathy and justice in the hearts of our youth, and an important accompaniment in any parent’s journey.

Dr. Rosie Helps the Animals by Jennifer Welborn, Illustr. Rozillia MH. Waterbear Publishing. Ages 4 to 8.

What happens when an elephant has a stuffy nose? Or when an owl has an allergy? These are some of the puzzles that Rosie, whose aspiration it is to be a veterinarian, tries to figure out in this delightful book for young children.

It is by now a truism that too few books focus on girls interested in the fields commonly known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics); even fewer celebrate African American and other girls of color and, when they do, such books tend to be devoid of a sense of humor and whimsy. Dr. Rosie Helps the Animals fills all these gaps. Written by Jennifer Welborn, an award-winning middle school science teacher, the book is an imaginative but not fantastical take on how Rosie, the protagonist, envisions her future life as a veterinarian to a host of unlikely patients including a rabbit, a pig, and even a giraffe, among others. Throughout the story, Rosie’s mother, a real-life veterinarian, guides her in looking for ways to help them. The cures recommended are both natural and understandable to even the youngest readers, with a caveat: “Important: Consult a licensed veterinarian before using any of the natural remedies listed in this book.”

With each animal she meets, whether a rabbit with an earache, a pig with a tummy ache, or a giraffe with a sore throat, Rosie tries to help with science-based remedies. There are no magical cures, just simple but reasonable treatments. For example, she treats the rabbit who has an earache with an aloe plant to help alleviate the pain, and the giraffe receives water with honey to help soothe his very long throat.

Readers are certain to be engaged in the remedies Rosie comes up with. I especially like the fact that the title reinforces Rosie’s future ambition to be a veterinarian by using “Dr.” in front of her name. This is the kind of gesture that will help readers, particularly girls, know that they have a right to dream, and that their dreams are attainable. This book will be a welcome addition to any classroom for young children by teachers who want to introduce their students to the world of veterinary science in a relatable way, and by parents who want to expand their children’s understanding of some of the medical problems animals might really have. The text is both humorous and convincing, with illustrations that are colorful and appealing. This is sure to become a staple for young children of all backgrounds. 

Reviewed by Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Reconstruction:The Rebuilding of the United States After the Civil War by Judy Dodge Cummings; Illustr. Micah Rauch. Ages 12-15.

“To help navigate the present, Americans must understand their past.” A true statement, and the main reason this book is so timely and should be greatly appreciated by teachers and high school students alike. From 1865 to 1877, democracy expanded because Americans (black & white) worked across racial lines to bring about positive change. Author Judy Cummings weaves the nearly eleven years following the Civil War (known as the Reconstruction Era) with events in the last ten years in America. She compares the criminal acts of today, fueled by white supremacy doctrines and racism with the violence, which destroyed the progress achieved during reconstruction. These criminal acts have opened the eyes of “white America” and forced some laws to change. The justice system has been compelled to apply the laws we have fairly to each person regardless of their race.

Students are asked to compare the politics of the reconstruction era with today’s policies regarding race. Readers are compelled to clearly study the platforms of the Democratic and the Republican parties. How are they the same and how are they different? All Americans need to understand that during the first eleven years after the Civil War there were black men seated in the House of Representatives and at least two senators were black. There were black men & women who owned and operated restaurants, hardware & clothing stores, etc.

Black people could sit anywhere they wanted to on public transportation and inside theaters. There were several flourishing (mostly) black towns. You may ask, what happened? Promises were broken. The federal troops were withdrawn from the rebel southern states. The KKK was formed and Jim Crow Laws were established in nearly every state. Black towns, and black owned business were burned down, destroyed. Hundreds, maybe thousands of black men, women & children were killed or run off of their property.

Reconstruction is often downplayed or overlooked entirely in the classroom. Usually students are just getting into the Civil War when school is over for the year. Today, most Americans, (both white & black) don’t know about the accomplishments achieved during this period. Even in 2022 there are still too many people who never want the truth to be told. That’s the real truth behind today’s controversy labeled “Critical Race Theory.” We are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again if we are unwilling to make a hard, painful study of the Nation’s past, and determined to make changes for the future.

This book is well organized, which makes it easy to understand. It is divided into eight chapters. Each chapter contains many useful photos (both black & white and color), one purposeful comic strip, bullet points to consider and a list of suggestions to help readers better understand the era. In addition there is a two-page timeline with pictures in the front of the book. Also found in the back is a five-page glossary and an index. There is a list of useful resources readers can refer to for more information.

Reviewed by Paulette Ansari, retired librarian, storyteller, and Skipping Stones board member

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole B. Weatherford; illustr. Floyd Cooper. Lerner. (Winner of the 2022 Skipping Stones Book Award). This year, the nation observed the 100th anniversary of probably the worst ever racial violence in the country. In 1921, a mob of armed whites attacked the Greenwood district, home of a thriving African American community, looted homes and businesses, and burned them down. As many as 300 blacks were killed and 8,000 were left homeless. The police did nothing to stop the violence. In fact, for 75 years after this massacre, there was no official investigation. This picture book offers a sensitively written, powerfully illustrated introduction to this massacre and helps young people understand the history so we can move forward to a better future for all. Ages 6-10.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom; illustr. Michaela Goade. Roaring Brook Press. Inspired by the recent Indigenous-led movements (like the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline) to protect the sacred Native lands and the nourishing waters that are absolutely necessary for life, this beautifully illustrated book invites us to join the rallying cry to protect our water from ecological destruction. Both the author and illustrator are Native Americans and they infuse their traditional culture and wisdom in this important, ecologically sensitive book. Ages 5 -9.

Reconstruction: The Rebuilding of the United States After the Civil War by Judy Dodge Cummings; illustr. Micah Rauch. Nomad Press. This book examines the period 1865 to 1877—the time when the country began to address the questions of equality and justice for blacks. Who should be eligible for the full rights of citizenship? How should the state and federal governments share powers and responsibilities? Can all people of all races be treated equally? The book offers pertinent context, hands-on activities, critical thinking exercises, and discussion questions. The book includes historical photos as well as useful illustrations. Ages 12-15.

Aurora: A Tale of the Northern and Southern Lights  by Richard T. Parr; illustr. Endre Lothe. KDP/Amazon. A young boy discovers there is really no Santa Claus as he has been told every Christmas. Realizing he doesn’t have presents for anyone he climbs out his bedroom window and runs away. Tired, he falls asleep under a tree in the freezing cold. He is shaken awake by an old man who asks him why he is not home in bed. He tells him there is no Santa Claus, and he doesn’t have presents to give anyone in his family. The old man comforts him by telling him a fascinating story he can retell on Christmas morning as his gift to them. He carries the boy back to his room and as a parting gift tells him how to whistle down the northern lights and be granted one wish. Ages 7-70.

Guru Nanak: First of the Sikhs by Demi. Wisdom Tales. Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikh religion. Guru Nanak, born in India over 500 years ago, traveled through South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula for 25 years sharing his message of one God, heartfelt worship, honest work, peace, sharing, service to humanity, and equality for all. There are now over 25 million Sikhs in the world. Learn about his remarkable life in this beautifully illustrated picture book. Ages 5 – 9.

Finish Strong: Seven Marathons, Seven Continents, Seven Days by Dace McGillivray. Nomad Press. Are you a runner? A sports fan? This is the inspiring story of Dave McGillivray who successfully completed the World Marathon Challenge. He ran seven marathons in one week—that’s running 26.2 miles each day for seven days in a row—then discovered that he needed to have a heart surgery. Six months after his heart surgery he was back to running marathons and finished the Boston Marathon! Ages 7 – 11.

Firdaus Learns About the Heart by Dr. Sara Kulsum Alavi; illustr. Aurica Safiulina. This is a really cool way to learn about human anatomy and the heart, in particular. Firdaus is an elementary grade student at Medina Academy, and she loves science because her teacher, Mrs. Ahmed, makes it exciting and easy to understand. Using activities, diagrams, experiments and fun facts, she teaches students about the human heart. Along the way, we also learn a little about Muslim culture through the student and family interactions. Ages 9 – 12.

Accused: My Story of Injustice by Adama Bah. Norton Young Readers. Adama came to the U.S. from Guinea, Africa at the age of two. She grew up sheltered by her parents in New York City. After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11th, 2001, she began experiencing prejudice and hatred because she was a Muslim. Then, in 2005, when she was just 16, she was falsely accused of being a suicide bomber and arrested. In this engaging book, she shares her harrowing experiences of harassment and humiliation in the detention center. (Also available from the same publisher, Hurricane: My Story of Resilience by Salvador Gómez-Colón. The book offers the true story of Salvador, a high schooler who helped rural residents of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Both of these first person, non-fiction accounts are part of a new series called I, Witness.) Ages 10 – 14.

The Golden Key of Gangotri by Eval N. Danon. Blue Branch Press. Harley is a 21-year-old student in New York, whose father vanished in the high Himalayas. This soul-stirring adventure, set in Northern India, takes readers on Harley’s journey of self-discovery, in which she uncovers the answers she had been desperate to find. Ages 13 – 18.

Honey on the Page: A Treasury of Yiddish Children’s Literature. Edited and translated by Miriam Udel. New York University Press. This wonderful collection of translated stories and poems from 20th century Jewish literature is an outstanding resource for today’s Jewish children in the United States and other English-speaking regions of the world. Arranged by themes including Jewish holidays, history, family, fables and folktales, this 325-page anthology covers both prominent and lesser-known authors from Eastern Europe as well as New York and Latin America. Anyone who would like to understand the Jewish diaspora and its religious, cultural and ethnic heritage will find Honey on the Page a fascinating read! Ages 14 – adult.

Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matter by Veronica Chambers with Jennifer Harlan. Versify/HMH. This outstanding book, with many telling photographs, shares the history of the Black community. The rise of Black Lives Matter during 2020 resulted from a long history of oppression and racism in the country. In this 152-page book, we learn about systematic racism, the art of protesting, people power, and much more, including how to become an activist. The last chapter offers excerpts of conversations with four BLM leaders. The black and white vintage photos of the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s and color photographs from the recent street protests after the brutal killings of unarmed Blacks illustrate the rage and desperation that helped fuel this powerful movement. Ages 13 – adult.