Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr, with a Day On

If you’ve visited our About Us page here, you know that Ellen’s staff knows and cares a lot about children as well as children’s books and publishers. We’d like to invite all of you to join us in honoring Martin Luther King, Jr during this long weekend by taking part in a child-supporting initiative. Join us in making the holiday a Day On rather than a Day Off.

Several of us are participating in a local Nashville event Monday: Ride for Reading’s Warehouse Cleaning. Others are sorting new adult books destined for More Than Words‘ youth-run bookshop. Wherever you are, you can find a service in need of volunteers and Monday is the perfect time to commit to one that speaks to your skills and can gain from your involvement. Check the MLK Day of Service site and join us, virtually, by acting locally.

How will you spend the long weekend?

Honoring World Arabic Language Day with Picture Books

Today’s post is written by Emerson Heflin, of Publisher Spotlight’s marketing team.

World Arabic Language Day falls on 18 December. As one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, Arabic is used daily by more than 290 million people. World Arabic Language Day is an opportunity to admire and appreciate the language’s rich contributions to human enterprises and achievements. It’s a great time to share children’s books that celebrate the Arabic language. 

Kube Publishing is committed to serving Muslim communities worldwide by publishing, innovative, relevant, and authentic books. Their four-title board book series “I Say…” offers toddlers and little ones simple introductions to common Arabic words. In each book, with the help of brother and sister duo Nabil and Noura, author Noor H. Dee and illustrator Iput establish a new phrase along with the situational context it is said in. At the back of the book readers can find the word written in Arabic as well as a transliteration. Start with I Say Alhamdulillah and follow with I Say As-Salamu ‘alaykumI Say Bismillah, and I Say Mashallah.

From Lantana Publishing, award-winning author Nadine Kaadan’s mission is to spread reading culture in the Arab world, in a way that is inspired by the rich heritage of Syria. Published in the U.S. last September, her book Tomorrow was translated from Arabic as Ghadan and presents an uplifting story about a courageous little boy growing up in a time of conflict.  

Then from Tilbury House Publishers, The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story. After recently moving from Egypt to America, Kanzi becomes mortified when her mother arrives at school to drop of her lunch and lovingly calls her Habibti, meaning dear one in Arabic. Instead of letting her shy away from her Arabic heritage, her mother suggests creating a quilt of all of Kanzi’s classmates’ names in Arabic. Complete with a glossary of Arabic words, this title is a perfect example of cultural sharing. This is the first book from new author Aya Khalil, with illustrations lovingly provided by Anait Semirdzhyan.

Each of these books offers an authentic #OwnVoices experience that can offer readers of all backgrounds windows and mirrors, depending on what they bring to the celebration of World Arabic Language Day.

Books to Honor Adoption Awareness Month

November’s call for adoption awareness makes it an excellent time to recall awareness to two of our favorite picture books that make adoption accessible to young readers who may not have familiarity with this mode of family building. And Thanksgiving week seems the right time of the month to make sure family get togethers include understanding how dynamic and authentic adopted families are.

From Tilbury House, the contemporary classic Real Sisters Pretend, by Megan Dowd Lambert and with beautifully realistic art by Nicole Tadgell, has won an array of honors. An older sister comforts her younger one, who has been teased for her family status, by walking her through recent memories of the experience the family has shared in family court, the place where their sisterhood was pronounced “real.”

From NubeOcho Books, The Day of Your Arrival, written by Dolores Brown and with bright illustrations by Reza Dalvand, and available in both English and Spanish, presents the story of a family awaiting a yet-unknown adopted child. This offers a fine counterpoint to the myriad picture books of expectant families where a mother is pregnant.

Both picture books offer opportunities for pleasant lapis reading as well as discussion with preschool aged children. And they also make excellent gifts for new adoptive parents and grandparents.

Celebrate Children’s Book Week 2019 with Book Formats Less than 100 Years Old

Although Children’s Book Week now marks a century of calling attention to the diversity and splendor of all that kids and caretakers can find on library and bookshop shelves, there are some great book formats that weren’t even around back in 1919–or even in 1929.

It was just a year or two after 1929, however, that comic books began to find a toe hold among reading kids. And by 1979, the age of the graphic novel arrived. Publishing for kids in these two related formats has been booming since. We can see why when this year brings us Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker, published by Lion Forge, a graphic novel for tweens and older in which magic is part of the fabric of our world and both food and witches draw in readers familiar with that world as well as those who are new arrivals.

A slightly younger crowd can delight in the arrival of volume 2 of Camp Midnight, appropriately subtitled…Camp Daybright. This romp from Steven Seagle and Jason Adam Katzenstein, published by Image Comics, pits camp against camp, very young goths against way-too-cheery cherubs. It’s everything a kid hopes and fears a camping experience might include.

Even younger than comics and only slightly older than graphic novels for kids, is the audiobook format of providing literary experiences enhanced by the human voice. Audiobooks affect the brain just the way print books do so hang up your snobbish and outdated opinions and accept the science. And enjoy!

Just right for the season is Live Oak Media’s full cast production of We Are Grateful, written by tribally enrolled kids author Traci Sorell and performed by friends and family, including the 15-year-old winner of a Cherokee language event at the University of Oklahoma, Agalisiga (Choogie) Mackey.

Both Barefoot Books and Child’s Play Library also produce audiobooks that are excellent for young readers. Child’s Play has just re-issued a Spanish language edition of “The Wheels on the Bus”–Las ruedas del autobus–that includes the lyrics, an accompanying CD (get your pronunciation there, folks), and illustrations that amplify the narrative, just as images do in comics. A great treat for a modern Children’s Book Week!

Curiosity Reigns in Titles for Older Kids During Children’s Book Week

Books for kids in middle grades and into their tweens and early teens engage audiences by invoking curiosity. This occurs in both informational and imaginative narratives. And we’ve got some excellent suggestions to help independently reading kids celebrate this year’s 100th anniversary of Children’s Book Week!

Just this week, the national association that creates and promotes the United Kingdom’s most vaunted children’s book prizes announced their nominations for the 2020 Carnegie Medal. We’re delighted to see Lindsay Littleson’s Guardians of the Wild Unicorns, published by Floris Books, on that list! Yes, there are those beautiful, fantastical creatures front and center in this modern story–and here they are endangered as a species. These unicorns are about way more than sparkle; they live in our gritty, dangerous world.

Inhabit Media, the wholly Inuit owned publisher located in the Canadian indigenous territory of Nunavut, has a new tween novel thematizing a First Nations’ story of beings who predate humankind. In Those Who Dwell Below, author Aviaq Johnston and illustrator Toma Feizo Gas introduce their characters, and us readers, to the dangerous adventure Pitu undertakes to rescue a remote village, a journey that takes him to the ocean’s floor and the vengeful spirit Nuliajuk.

Author Ailsa Ross brings us a collection of biographies of girls and women who have undertaken a wide assortment of adventures. Pajama Press has published this with full color, and full page, illustrations created by Amy Blackwell that show the variety of identities of the female stars of The Girl Who Rode a Shark. As noted in the CBC’s review, these are the “women and girls who have written, explored, or otherwise plunged headfirst into the pages of history.” Readers will follow suit as they pore over this collection.

How do we come to decide what fame is? How do we become inspired? How do we dream? these are just a few of the philosophical questions kids can explore in The School of Life’s Big Ideas for Curious Minds, edited by Alain de Botton, with illustrations by Anna Doherty. What better way to celebrate Children’s Book Week than to discover that many of our questions are ones that have engaged serious thinkers for centuries?!

Praise-worthy Picture Books to Discover During Children’s Book Week

Picture books can carry delightful and engaging content for many age groups. In our celebration of the 100 year of Children’s Book Week, we’re going to focus on brand new and still forthcoming picture books for preschoolers and those in primary school, and every one of them is a picture book unlike any you may have seen before now.

Two such picture books appeared the 2019 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books list published last Friday. A Million Dots, written and illustrated by Sven Volker and published by Cicada Books, explores the concept of doubling numbers by showing what happens when we keep doubling and doubling again. In 44 beautifully designed pages, we manage to get from 1 tree to more than a million dots, with counts for fizzy drink bubbles and lady bug spots just two of the depictions of newly arrived products obtained by doubling the previous number.

Gecko Press’s Monkey on the Run, by Leo Timmers, is also on The New York Times/New York Public Library list this year. Practically wordless, this sort is a visual parade of fantastic events involving animals, musical instruments, food, and a host of hilariously concocted railroad cars. It begs to be studied, flipped through repeatedly, and set in a likely spot for unsuspecting visitors to discover it.

Tilbury House has two picture books forthcoming in February that are already winning plaudits. Magnificent Homespun Brown, written by Samara Cole Doyon with illustrations by Kaylani Juanita, delivers on its subtitle: “a celebration”–in this case of all shades of brown girls with all manner of hairstyles, and all in full action mode celebrating nature in easy to read verse. Providing a more narrative approach to picture book contents, The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story, by Aya Khalil with illustrations by Anait Semirdzhyan, offers excellent inspiration for inclusive cultural sharing. From personal names to a class-wide project, the kids in this story grow socially and credibly in a short story with artwork that builds out the text to make a veritable handbook for local emulation.

And because bears and picture books continue to be a winning combination, we finish today’s Children’s Book Week episode with NubeOcho’s newly reviewed with a star by School Library Journal My Big Bear, My Little Bear and Me, by Margarita del Mazo and illustrated by Rocio Bonilla. Available in both Spanish and English, this is a comforting story just right for winter–and for bear-loving picture book readers everywhere.

Children’s Book Week at 100: New Board Books Are Inclusive

This week marks the 100th anniversary of America’s longest running literacy initiative: Children’s Book Week. We’ll bring you a slice of inspiration each day here, from Board books (today) through picture books, chapter books, middle grade and teen choices, graphic novels and audiobooks. There’s something new for everyone as we honor this century-old occasion.

The very youngest readers can celebrate Children’s Book Week with a crop of new board books that are inclusive in so many ways. Yes, there are good board books featuring baby animals and familiar objects like spoons and diapers. And there are new board books that bring cultural awareness and reflection, too.

From Kube Publishing, the board book series “I Say…” offers toddler-appropriate introductions to common Islamic words, one word introduced in each of the four-book set. Join “brother and sister Nabil and Noura…as they eat, drink, sneeze, play, read, greet and much more” in sweetly illustrated simple texts by Noor H. Dee and Iput. Start with I Say Alhamdulillah and follow with I Say As-Salamu ‘alaykum, I Say Bismillah, and I Say Mashallah.

Sets of related board books make excellent baby shower and newborn gifts. Along with the set above, we celebrate Barefoot Books’ set, “Baby’s Day,” also available in bilingual English and Spanish. Each of four important time periods in any baby’s day has its own title, each illustrated with crisp black and white photos. Together the babies depicted are diverse in many ways. The cover of Baby Food gives us a smiling, spoon munching cherub with just-emerging Asian features. The yawning infant with closed eyes on the cover of Baby Dream appears to have European ancestry. On Baby Play, the clearly delighted tot has Down Syndrome, and Baby Talk shows both child and father who are of African descent. Beyond the covers, each book shows a wide and international range of babies, families, and settings where the titular events happen in a variety of ways.

Child’s Play Library also has a new set of bilingual Spanish and English board books coming our way. The “Wild!/¡Fascinantes!” series explores Numbers/Numeros, Shapes/Formas, Opposites/Opuestos, and Colors/Colores, with Courtney Dicmus having provided just enough narrative thread in each set of humorous illustrations to give caregiver and baby or toddler lots to discuss. From a small group of anteaters helpfully forming a triangle in Shapes to the adventures of birds on a wire in Numbers, these are the kind of board books that allow for countless imagined tales as well as concept learning.

Happy 100th Children’s Book Week! Come back tomorrow for a parade of new picture books to add to your celebration.

New Stories for a Traditional Holiday: Happy Halloween!

Whether you’re looking for a gentle picture book for a child new to the holiday or something to ratchet up the fear factor for a blasé teen, the crop of possibilities is glowing with options.

From Pajama Press, Pumpkin Orange, Pumpkin Round, by Rosanna Battigelli and illustrated by Tara Anderson, provides seasonal rhymes and images that both hew closely to the scenes young children find fun rather than frightening. There’s even a comfortable theme of having a book read aloud as the cat family here shares their Halloween highlights.

If Halloween weather is too yucky for trick or treating and no Halloween party was planned for showing off costumes, consider a stack of picture books with dress up and pretend ideas. Child’s Play’s board books offer the model in Clive and His Hats, from Jessica Spanyol. In case you don’t already have it at hand, tune in right here:

Can you find the page that’s just right for Halloween?

Independent tween and teen readers may think Halloween is mostly about candy and the threat of tricking. Spook up their options with one or both of these Manga Classics titles: Macbeth offers all the Shakespearean horror as well as the slightly kitschy witches with their refrain, while The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe prove the format-perfect way to meet the horrors Poe concocted for our imaginations. Stacy King does a standout job each time editing these classics in their manga format.

And if you’ve got a kid who is wedded to good scary “facts,” pick up Lonely Planet Kids’ brand new edition of Atlas of Monsters and Ghosts, by Federica Magrin with illustrations by Laura Brenlla. Might as well choose where to go for optimum scariness before venturing out with the trick or treat bag.

Celebrate Global Diversity Month…and Beyond

October may be Global Diversity Month; we think celebrating diversity in many ways is a year around need—and delight!  Among the many kinds of diversity our publishers bring to attention and celebration, some also have explicit days of recognition in October’s calendar:

October 4 marks World Animal Day. Of course, everyday can be a day for celebrating animal diversity on an international scale. Settle in with Tiger Tales Books’ Hello World: Animals, by Nicola Edwards with illustrations by L’Atelier Cartography, to get your appreciation flowing about both the animals and the diverse ways people around the globe name them.

Shadow, by Lucy Christopher and illustrated by Anastasia Suvorova, Lantana Publishing

Mental health comes in a variety of forms, too. While October 10 features World Mental Health Day, a good book can both improve mental health and introduce young readers to the importance of recognizing mental health as an asset that is experienced—and challenged—in diverse ways by individuals. 

What can be more diverse than how we make and experience art?  October 25 may be National Art Day; don’t limit your appreciation to just one day or just one art style. Of course, picture books are the perfect way to experience a diverse panoply of art styles and where is better to start than Gregory and Amy Newbold’s series of both insightful and hilarious art history books for the very young?

Today is National Immigrants Day and that is all about global diversity!  What stories can you tell about your family’s immigration story?

An Abundance of Award Winners!

October has brought a wonderfully rich harvest of awards to our publishers. The Northern Dawn‘s book awards, Northern Lights, were announced in a range of categories “honoring children’s literature of extraordinary merit.” We are so pleased to see so many of the books we love on the roster of 2019 winners:

Board Book/Toddler Winner: From 1 to 10

Written and illustrated by Mies Van Hout and published by Pajama Press

Board Book/Toddler Winner: Hide and Seek

Written and illustrated by Polly Noakes and published by Child’s Play Books

Picture Book – Preschool Winner: Mira’s Curly Hair
Written by Maryam al Serkal and illustrated by Rebeca Luciani, published by Lantana Publishing

Best Illustrator Winner: Before You Were Born

Written by Deborah Kerbel and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo, published by Pajama Press

Arts Winner: Nutcracker Night

Written by Mireille Messier and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, published by Pajama Press

Family Category Winner: Maisie’s Scrapbook

Written by Samuel Narh and illustrated by Jo Loring-Fisher, published by Lantana Publishing

Animals & Pets Winner: Nipper and the Lunchbox

Written and illustrated by Lucy Dillarmore and published by Child’s Play Library

Pre-Teen Fiction Winner: Harvey Comes Home

Written by Colleen Nelson and published by Pajama Press

Pre-Teen Cultural Winner: Girl of the Southern Sea

Written by Michelle Kadarusman and published by Pajama Press

The California Reading Association announced the 2019 winners of the Eureka! Nonfiction Book Award which include What On Earth Books’ middle grade informational picture book Eye Spy, illustrated by Guillaume Duprat. Sturdy flaps open to reveal detailed information about the ocular structure and visual perceptions of various animals.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science announces the AAAS/Suburu Awards for Excellence in Science Books 2020 longlist by category this week. Eye Spy appears as a contender there as well!