Thursday, May 17, 2018

Rafi and Rosi Pirates! by Lulu Delacre

Rafi and Rosi Pirates! By Lulu Delacre
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This book for beginning readers contains three stories of  the adventures of two young frogs who live in the Caribbean, specifically the island of enchantment, Puerto Rico. This is the third instalment in the Rafi and Rosi books by distinguished Puerto Rican author Lulu Delacre (a three-time Pura Belpre award honoree). On her website Delacre states that she believes in authoring books that empower Latino children by giving them a sense of pride in themselves and in their culture. This book holds true to that as it playfully exposes readers to two young, playful frogs whose adventures occur in a culturally authentic setting. Older brother Rafi and his sister Rosi get into all sorts of adventures but learn valuable lessons about themselves, their history and culture along the way.  


The book contains a glossary of terms in the front which I think some parents and caregivers will find very helpful as they translate the expressions used and . I especially liked the Did You Know section towards the back of the book which is a treasure trove of  information that parents and caregivers can choose to share with young readers. The facts in this section can also be used as a jumping off point for classroom discussion, social studies units or even library craft programs for Hispanic Heritage Month and the like.

Rafi and Rosi are frogs, specifically coqui frogs, the coqui being  a small frog that is native to Puerto Rico and though small, its distinctive cry can be heard throughout the island around dusk. For Puerto Ricans the sound of the coqui is iconic and one of the things Puerto Ricans miss most about life away from the island. Rafi and Rosi are very apt representations of coquies as their cries can be heard all over San Juan.

One of the must see sights when one visits the island of Puerto Rico is Castillo San Felipe del Morro, also known as El Morro  El Morro is the backdrop for the three stories in this book and in real life is one of the three largest and oldest forts in the Caribbean and has been designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco and such is very well preserved. When one visits the fort, the tour guides do a fantastic job of bringing the fort and the role it played in Puerto Rico’s history to life. The author does  a wonderful job of using the lore and history of the fort to create a playground where young children’s imaginations come to life.

Delacre includes historical figures such as Cofresi (Roberto Cofresí, a famous Puerto Rican pirate, who was very much a Robin Hood type figure on the island during the period of Spanish colonial rule and for whom various caves, beaches and other hideouts have been named in Puerto Rico). I for one, found the small detail about Cofresí intriguing and this motivated me to search for more information on this pirate.

Some Puerto Ricans use what is known in linguistics as a “code-switch” i.e. alternating between two or more languages (Puerto Rico has been a colony of the United States since 1898 and Puerto Ricans US citizens since 1917) and Delacre uses some of that in this book as well. Overall, the Spanish used is accurate and is comprised of simple vocabulary that would be easily accessible to a young reader. In the text, Delacre uses word sandwiches to ensure that meaning is understood, e.g. “Sí,” said Rafi, “Yes.”

Many books in the current book market are written from by Mexican American or Chicano authors, which is understandable since this group is one of the largest ethnicities in the United States, and thus feature cultural elements germane to that culture.  Puerto Ricans however regularly migrate to the mainland United States and are a vibrant and important part of the community. Rafi and Rosi, for me represent a welcome addition to the canon of books written for young readers who may be of Puerto Rican descent. This is not to say that the book will be foreign to children that aren’t Puerto Rican, I think that the opposite holds true- young readers of many cultures will enjoy the wonderful adventures related here and will want to learn more. Delacre, in presenting Puerto Rico through the eyes of two young, funny, charming frogs has helped give the island some very positive exposure.


In summary, this book would be a wonderful addition to a classroom library, public library or personal collection. It is well written, accessible and perhaps most importantly, culturally authentic. The previous books in the series are Rafi and Rosi and Rafi and Rosi Carnival!  This book is recommended for readers in grades 1 to 3 and some read alikes would be See Fred Run by Kevin Bolger, That’s My Book! And other Stories by Salina Yoon and What is Chasing Duck by Jan Thomas.  The book is also available in a Spanish edition, Rafi y Rosi ¡Piratas!  which would be a great read for heritage speakers of Spanish as well as children enrolled in bilingual programs and so forth.

This review can also be seen on Anansesem's website 

Also click here for some then and now pics showing Puerto Rico and how the island is coping. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Black Panther: The Young Prince by Ronald L. Smith

Image result for black panther the young prince  All things Black Panther and Marvel are the rage right now.  My coworkers put this book on display to capitalize on the buzz around the movie earlier this year.

The movie starts in media res and we meet T'Challa as an adult, fully formed Black Panther. In this middle grade novel, Smith re imagines life for a younger version of the Wakandan prince. T'Challa is not the Black Panther yet and in truth, he is still learning about himself and his role as a prince. This means sitting in on long ceremonies and dealing with his father's adopted son, Hunter. He can count n one friend however, M'Baku with whom he can do boyish escapades.

When there is some turmoil in the kingdom, T'Challa's father decides to send him to Chicago under an assumed identity. M'Baku is sent to accompany the young prince and soon the two boys find themselves finding their way in the various social hierarchies in the school. As in any school there are various cliques but one such clique is weird and a little dangerous, just like their leader Gemini Jones. That's not all, weird stuff starts happening at school and T'Challa must decide if he should use his Wakandan technology and risk revealing his true identity.

Overall I think this is a great read for middle grades and I especially like that it features young people of color. Some read alikes are Junior Hero Blues by J.K. Pendragon,  V is for Villain by Peter Moore and Sidekicked by John David Anderson and Powerless by Matthew Cody.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Boggart Fights Back by Susan Cooper

Image result for the boggart strikes backA bombastic, super rich man who always gets his way and whose last name is a five letter word ending in T...does sound like anyone you know?  Mr. Trout is a big businessman who has come to beautiful Scotland in order to build a new resort complete with golf courses a marina for yachts and so forth. The development will bring lots of jobs as well, or so he claims.

Old Angus Cameron doesn't believe it and neither do his grandkids, Allie and Jay who are visiting from Canada. Granda is a stubborn old Scotsman who loves the land and doesn't want to see development just for the sake of it; he especially doesn't approve of Mr. Trout and his way of doing business.

Mr. Trout doesn't back down from anyone or anything as the children and Granda soon discover. The Boggart, an ancient friendly spirit, along with some of his friends are soon called in and the hijinks begin.

The Scottish countryside and Scottish mannerisms are well depicted, so well indeed that I had to double check to see if Cooper was Scottish (she isn't).  I also liked the conservation theme that ran through the novel. Young ones are smarter than we give them credit for and will probably decipher that on their own.

Another takeaway for me was that as adults we sometimes (for good reason) lose sight of the innocence and wonder of childhood. Cooper conveys the wonder of both scientist father Tim and Granda upon realizing that the Boggart is back. This is actually the third book in the Boggart series. There are also The Boggart and The Boggart and the Monster. Some read alikes are Beyond the Kingdoms by Chris Colfer, Talons of Power by Tui Sutherland and Kelly Barnhill's awesome The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Lists of books and crafts for Black History Month

Things have been hectic lately but I still wanted to drop a short post today highlighting some great  lists I found. I like lists as they usually enable me to pick and choose items. Even the worst list has at least one valuable tidbit. So here goes...

This PBS list provides a short summary as well as some themes the book explores. The books are written from a variety of perspectives and thus are a wonderful tool to help young ones of all ethnic origins.

It's not always easy to find books about Black heroes so this buzzfeed list is timely and very useful. I will be the first to admit that I don't frequent buzzfeed's website (the few times I have, I found it to be frivolous) but this list has made me view the editors in a different light. Activists, ball players and chefs are just some of the folks featured.





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Do you have a middle grade reader?  How about this list featuring middle grade books that feature the black experience- from slavery to civil rights to life in the so-called post racial era. I've read the excellent One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia but I need to add more of the books here to my to-read list. I would like to see some more boy friendly titles added to it as well.


If you are teaching at a preschool, after school center or simply want some crafts to celebrate Black History month, this site has 29 crafts (one for every day and one extra). I would add that several of the crafts reference Pinterest so that may be another resource to find similar things.


Last but not least, one of my go-to sites, education.com has compiled a comprehensive list of activities for Black History Month (everything from making a Jackie Robinson baseball card to making a shekere). Check it out here.




Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

the-stars-beneath-our-feet.jpg (1800×2700)We need diverse books hashtag has certainly had some impact almost five years later...For more on diverse books check out the website or simply search the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks.

Lolly Rachpaul is like any other kid in New York City. He hangs out with his pal Vega, is waiting to see what he gets for Christmas (a new phone would be nice) and he loves building Lego. There is something else bothering him also-he is still in mourning over a recent tragedy What's worse is that the siren call of the streets has now turned its attention to Lolly and his friend, if they heed it, things could change drastically.

Lolly is at that awkward stage when he is aware of girls but still not sure if and how to approach them. One of the girls at his after school program is called Rose (the kids call her Big Rose) and they strike up an unlikely friendship over a shared love of legos and as coping mechanisms. The kids think Rose is strange and either mock or play pranks on her.

I liked that I could read a book with a young man with a heritage similar to mine (West Indian/Caribbean). The old adage is that it take a village to raise a child and Lolly benefits from various caring adults who influence him in different ways. I think of all the many children growing up in the United States, and in New York City in particular with similar heritage who will see themselves in this book, will be faced with similar social and societal obstacles and may even know someone with similar circumstances. Moore also does a great job presenting different family dynamics.

I would recommend this book for readers aged 10+. Some similar reads would be Walter Dean Myers' A Star is Born,  Jason Reynolds' Patina and Ghost.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott

Image result for the summer of owen toddAs a father of young children I always worry about whether or not I have given them the tools to handle stranger danger or even danger from familiar faces (statistically children are more likely to be abused by a family member). One such way I can do is by looking for literature that handles difficult topics in a sensitive manner. Luckily, The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott does just that.

It starts off like any other summer for Owen Todd on Cape Cod...visions of baseball, go karting and beaches fill his head...it's going to be a long, fun summer. His best friend Sean has similar plans but due to extenuating circumstances his mom hires a babysitter. The babysitter turns out to have other plans up his sleeve besides mere babysitting and Sean confides in Owen.

Owen is shocked by the revelations and  his tween mind struggles with what  to do with the information especially when he considers what revealing the truth could do to the tight-knit community. Owen could take the easy route out as he has his own issues to deal with. He never loses sight of the big picture which is that what someone-a grown up no less- has done something wrong to his best friend and as a friend he should try to do something about it.

It would be easy to blame Sean's mother what with all that she has to do and the other mitigating factors. Like many single parents she has a lot on her plate and in trying to make ends meet decides to use a familiar resource.

The author also includes an afterword that implores readers to use many of the resources available if they know or suspect sexual abuse is occurring (if you see something, say something). Although there aren't graphic descriptions of events, the subject matter may be better understood by children aged 9+.  A good read for adults to share with younger ones is Some Secrets Should Never be Kept by Jayneen Sanders.



Friday, December 8, 2017

Sensory programs at libraries, children's museums and the like

 I am the parent of a child with sensory processing disorder (SPD). In a nutshell this means that he has trouble processing stimuli in order to respond appropriately to the demands of the environment. Over the years my wife and I have worked with his school in order to help his teachers find ways to ease the sensory burden (he has sensory chews, fidgets etc.)

Here are some of the questions that are always going through my mind as a parent of a child with SPD.

How do we help our child self regulate?
How do we make our kiddo comfortable in a noisy program or when kids are too noisy for him?
How do we help other parents know that his body can't control itself sometimes and he goes straight to "lizard brain" bypassing "wizard brain" completely?

What are some simple ways that libraries, museums and other places can help make things less stressful for children with sensory issues and their parents and caregivers. Programs that cater to the needs of this growing segment are becoming more popular.

I have seen:
*Programs where kiddos make sensory play things, fidgets, eye spy rice jars and the like
*Storytimes that have a visual schedule and with books that are interactive. Here is a how-tosensory storytime blog that ALSC did several years ago

Below are some other crafts that can be made simply and relatively inexpensively

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Some parents and caregivers are not attentive, as a library professional who has worked in three different library systems in a large urban area I can attest to this. So, there may be times where staff may have to gently redirect kiddos. This guide I received a few weeks ago from one of my lists provides some tips to help refocus tired, hyper or restless students.

Transitions are always rough- in the classroom and in storytime...Some ways to help sensory kids are to have a few phrases that let them know that one activity is about to end and another is about to begin:
-5 more minutes Timmy
-We will finish this activity in a few minutes and then move on to something else
-Sing: "Clean up, clean up, everybody clean up"

Be patient, it is not an easy fix and there is no one size fits all solution. Parents will appreciate your efforts to help their kiddos!