We all have a unique story to tell! When we tell it, we hope that readers will relate whether they live across the street or across the globe. Great stories can transcend language and cultural barriers and tap into human emotions and experiences that we share as members of the human family. I’ve been searching for stories that celebrate cultural diversity in the everyday events of family life. I recently ran across an action packed bilingual bedtime story that did just that while strengthening the bond between a father and son.
Good Dream, Bad Dream: The World’s Heroes Save the Night! By Juan Calle & Serena Valentino is a loving told story from a father to his son. Julio is afraid to go to bed because he fears the monsters in his bedroom. His papa assures him that there are no monsters and tells him not to be afraid before bed because, “Remember for every bad dream, you can have a good dream to help defeat your fears.”
Papa proceeds to console Julio with vivid imaginary encounters where mythical heroes conquer gangs of universal monsters and monstrous fears shared by kids around the world. In this superbly illustrated book, Viking Thor defeats an angry troll. Knight King Arthur defeats a greedy dragon, a witch, and an ogre. Goddess Durga wipes out Naga, and Supermom takes down pollution, injustice and war.
Rest assured that the protagonist is not passive. Julio appears in every illustration appropriately outfitted and ready to battle. Julio helps each hero in their quests and in the end he is transformed. He declares himself a fearless hero! Papa affirms that he is “the mightiest hero of all.”
English and Spanish are equally celebrated in the text. In addition to the bilingual text, readers are given the names of the infamous monsters and heroes. This story has universal appeal as children and parents from around the globe can all relate to the fear of monsters, trouble falling asleep at bedtime, good and bad dreams, and overcoming fears.
I’ll continue my quest to find great books that celebrate diversity and I’ll share the treasures with you!
Carol Higgins-Lawrence wrote her first story at the age of five. Her father paid her a quarter for it and she's been writing ever since. She's taken a variety of courses in writing for children. Multicultural perspectives are of particular interest to her. Carol is of Jamaican descent and was born and raised in Canada. She has a BA in Communications and Sociology and she has completed coursework towards a MA in TESOL. She has worked as a literacy educator for the past 15 years. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two young children.
Reading is like eating. No one in my house can survive without a book tucked neatly beneath their arm. I find kids reading at all hours of the night and although it makes for a grumpy child the next day, I'm secretly pleased. What feeds the soul better than a good book? So today, I'm sharing book reviews written by my 3 oldest children.
9 year old Sydney just finished reading Out of my Mind, by Sharon Draper. She wrote the following review:
Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper is my favorite book. The book is about a brilliant eleven year old girl whose name is Melody. Because she has Cerebral Palsy, Melody can't walk or talk. Most grownups treat her like a baby and think she is dumb even though she has the most brains in her school.
I like this book because it is very engaging and I like books that are in first person. I connect to Melody because I like listening to books on tape like she does. I wanted to say I connect with Melody because I'm brilliant, but my mom said not to. Ha ha!
Read this book!
Because of Mr Terupt, by Rob Buyea is an amazing book. It takes places at the beginning of fifth grade in Snow Hill School. The book switches between the points of view Jessica, Alexia, Peter, Luke, Danielle, Anna, and Jeffrey. Jessica is a smart new girl who is having a hard time fitting in. Alexia is a bully who can't decide between being mean or nice. Peter is the class clown and troublemaker. Luke is an academic sort of person. Danielle is teased and doesn't stand up for herself. Anna is an outcast because of her family situation, and Jeffrey despises school.
They get a brand new teacher named Mr. Terupt who makes school fun. He helps the students get along and become friends. After a horrible tragedy happens, the students learn that even when Mr. Terupt is unconscious, he still brings them together.
I heard Rob Buyea speak about his book at a library. A lot of the things that happen in the book happened in Rob Buyea's classroom, when he taught fourth or fifth grade. I was surprised at how energetic and dramatic Rob Buyea was while he was speaking. It was really interesting to learn how Because of Mr. Terupt was written.
Another thing I really liked about this book was the dollar word project that the students in Mr. Terupt's class. A is one cent, B is two cents, C is three cents, and so on. The students had to write words whose letters added up to 100 cents, or $1.00. Mr. Terupt was only called Mr. Terupt because Terupt is a dollar word. Examples of dollar words are...
We just finished reading Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes aloud. Here is 13 year old James's review:
Johnny Tremain is an amazing book based in 1770`s, just before and during the revolutionary war. It tells the story of a young silversmith apprentice, and his adventures in Boston.
I liked this book because it makes history interesting by telling a story about working through hard times, and letting go of your pride. I connected with Johnny because he is my age and he goes through many of the struggles that a modern day teen would have to go through. It was very engaging and had plenty of action. It was also interesting to me because I live very close to Boston and I've seen may of the places that are mentioned in this book.
I would recommend this book to anyone that likes books. In conclusion, this book teaches many lessons and is fun to read.
If you haven't already read Out of My Mind, Because of Mr. Terupt or Johnny Tremain, go to the library right now! You might even feel so full of wonderful words that you forget to eat!
Kirsti Call is a homeschooling mom of five. Her debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, came out last December. Her family band, Calling Out, plays songs written by her children. She contributes to Writer's Rumpus, and Kids are Writers. If you visit her house, you’ll likely find her reading. You can find out more about her at www.kirsticall.com.
Our new guest blogger, the awesome Jen Swanson, is on a deadline with a book today and won’t be starting until February, so I’m filling in. I’m in the midst of preparing for the Academy’s first workshop/webinar on the topic of breaking rules and, of course, I’m a wee bit obsessed with it. So I decided to blog about the word Don’t, which prefaces many of the rules that we’ll be talking about in the interactive workshop. In our workshop we’ll not only be sharing over 50 rules to break, like “Don’t be negative,” with examples, but also the reasons why breaking these rules are so effective in grabbing children’s and editor’s attention. So here’s a little sneak peek at 20 picture books that take the rule of “Don’t be negative” and turn it on its head to great cause.
Don't Take Your Snake For A Stroll by Karin Ireland, David Catrow | Don't Wake the Bear!
by Steve Smallman, Caroline Pedler | Don't Turn the Page! by Rachelle Burk, Julie Downing | I Don't Want to Be a Pea! by Ann Bonwill, Simon Rickerty | When Dads Don't Grow Up by Marjorie Parker, R.W. Alley | Dogs Don't Do Ballet by Anna Kemp, Sara Ogilvie | Mama Don't Allow by Thacher Hurd
| I Don't Want a Cool Cat! by Emma Dodd | Don't Copy Me! by Jonathan Allen | Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli by Barbara Jean Hicks, Sue Hendra | Pirates Don't Take Baths by John Segal | Don't Squish the Sasquatch! by Kent Redeker, Bob Staake | Dogs Don't Wear Sneakers by Laura Joffe Numeroff, Joe Mathieu | Don't Worry Bear by Greg E. Foley | The Berenstain Bears Don't Pollute
by Stan Berenstain, Jan Berenstain | Don't Push the Button! by Bill Cotter | Clarice Bean, Don't Look Now by Lauren Child | Don’t Be Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon and Tony Ross| Pirates Don’t Change Diapers by Melinda Long and David Shannon | Don’t Say That Word by Alan Katz and David Catrow | Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
As you can see, breaking or twisting rules, like using negative words, can have a positive affect on children’s picture book appeal!
At my house, we read Creepy Carrots, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown all the time. Why do my kids enjoy it so much? How do Aaron and Peter succeed in making us laugh and feel a little scared at the same time? What makes me willing to read it over and over? Why do we make references to Creepy Carrots every time we see something orange?
These are the questions we should be asking ourselves as writers every time we read a good book. For me and my kids, reading together teaches us about others and ourselves. As an added bonus, reading picture books also helps us improve our writing!
Carrie Charley Brown had this in mind, when she decided to start a challenge for writers that I’m sure will have a powerful impact on the picture book writing community. I met Carrie in the 12x12 forum two years ago. We became writing partners and fast friends and now she’s running ReFoReMo, Reading for Research Month.
Carrie combined two things that I’m passionate about, reading and learning about writing! I’m signing up for this challenge on February 15th and as a homeschooling Mom, I’m killing two birds with one stone. My kids and I will read a post about picture books that can be used as mentor texts every day of the month of March. Then we will read and analyze 5 picture books a day, simultaneously teaching my children and ME how to write better! What could be better than that?
Carrie was gracious enough to answer a few questions about ReFoReMo for me.
Kirsti Call: What inspired the ReFoReMo challenge?
Carrie Charley Brown: As a writer who has been inspired by challenges such as PiBoIdMo, the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge, and ReviMo, I wanted to give back to the KidLit community by passing on some of that inspiration in another way. Participation as a 2014 CYBILS Awards Fiction Picture Book Panelist, nudged me in the right direction. As picture book writers, it is necessary to read tons of picture books to truly understand the form, the market, and the craft of writing them. While I’ve been reading and studying a wide variety of picture books for over twenty years, first as a primary teacher, and now a picture book writer, I know the market is forever changing. There will always be more picture books to learn from. Why not learn from stellar picture book author-educators? I wanted to share this opportunity with other picture book writers, and ReFoReMo was born.
KC: How has reading picture books helped you with your writing?
CCB: I could ramble on for pages and pages here, so I will just give you a few general examples. When I first get an idea for a picture book, I always want to know what else has already been done with that concept or theme. I check out oodles of books on the same concept and run through a list of questions as I analyze them. What works for these books? What doesn’t? How is my manuscript different in plot, concept, theme, structure, character, and voice?
If I am writing a book from a new point of view, such as second person, I study books that do it well. Or if I want to understand what gives a book the “It Factor,” I read books that I feel exhibit this best.
KC: What do you hope will happen for people who join the challenge?
CCB: My hope is that picture book writers will learn how to use mentor texts while building their reading background. Picture book recommendations from well-respected author-educators in our field will guide our learning. While the ReFoReMo blog posts will be available online and to the general public, registering will allow participants to be eligible for prizes and an optional private Facebook community, as well. Connecting with other picture book writers has been one of the most helpful parts of my writing journey and I hope this will be discovered in ReFoReMo, as well. We welcome you to our community! Registration runs from February 15-March 1. The challenge will take place from March 1-31. For more information, you can sign up for updates here.
Thank you Carrie. I’m off to eat some creepy carrots...um I mean read about them.
Kirsti Call is a homeschooling mom of five. Her debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, came out last December. Her family band, Calling Out, plays songs written by her children. She contributes to Writer's Rumpus, and Kids are Writers. If you visit her house, you’ll likely find her reading Creepy Carrots. You can find out more about her at www.kirsticall.com.
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