What We’ve Been Reading: June Edition

Between the many, many packages of books that have arrived on our doorstep and our library starting curbside pick-up (Hallelujah!), June has been a great month for us in terms of having new stories to dig into. Here’s a few we’ve enjoyed. Stay tuned for more soon!

Have You Thanked an Inventor Today? by Patrice McLaurin and Whoosh: Lonnie Johnson’s Super Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton. My kids love anything invention related. They like to create models of inventions out of Legos, they like to hot glue junk from our recycling bin together and call it inventions and they love stories about inventors. The… ummm… quirkier… the inventor the better. Between that and their love of humor, sometimes I think I have the next Fred and George Weasley on my hands. But I diagress… Anyhow, I knew that these two nonfiction picture books about Black inventors would be winners in our house. I was right. When I read them Have You Thanked an Inventor Today? they were delighted to discover they share a last name with the inventor of the lunch box (John Robinson). That is until, one of them declared he is changing his last name to Crum to honor George Crum, inventor of the potato chip. Meanwhile, they sympathized with Lonnie Johnson’s desire to have a workshop of his own to store his parts and junks for inventions. Plus, after learning about his struggles to find a toy company that wanted his iconic Super Soaker water gun, they were overflowing with ideas for toys they are going to invent.

The Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson. I love Angela Johnson’s writing. I did a book discussion group with a class around her book The First Part Last when I was a librarian and gosh, did that book resonate with the at-risk teens I was working with. None of them were teen fathers that I knew of, but Johnson just has a way of drawing a reader into her story. After reading The Sweet Smell of Roses with my kiddos I know she can do the same with a picture book. The Sweet Smell of Roses brings the reader along with two young girls who join Dr. Martin Luther King on one of his Civil Rights marches. I think Johnson’s use of repetition (“the sweet smell of roses”) throughout the story that I so enjoyed was lost on my tiny listeners, but they too were enthralled. They asked a lot of questions, which of course, is just what I want them to do when I read them this type of book. They wanted to know more about Dr. King and Eric Velazquez’s remarkable illustrations made them ask about the white people who were yelling at the marchers and the police officers at the protest. I am really glad we read this one together.

The other Angela Johnson book I bought recently is Joshua by the Sea. It’s a board book and the simple text is really too young for my kids now, but we live near the beach ourselves and have had many family excursions to explore the seashore just as Joshua does. We’ve read this one a couple of times and even if it only takes a few minutes, it’s a great, if too rare, story of a Black child enjoying nature.

Cooking with Herb the Vegetarian Dragon by Jules Bass. I like to daydream about becoming one of those people that grows her own food, cooks homemade bread, and makes yogurt and berry jam in her kitchen. But it’s really never going to happen. You could say it’s laziness or you could say it’s because I’m an Enneagram 4. But whatever the reason, I simply do not really like to cook. It’s very unfashionable to admit it, but hey, I’m all about the truth. Still, my kids are obsessed with Herb the Vegetarian Dragon by Jules Bass. And I am a fan of this lovable dragon who dares to be different too. So when we found out that Herb has his own kid’s cookbook, I was willing to purchase it. Sadly, it’s out of print, but Better World Books still has a few copies. In the back of my head, I figured there was a better than 50/50 chance that we would never make anything from it. But my kids are more motivated chefs than I am. After they made me sit down and read through the mini-storylets about Herb included before each recipe, they were eager to get out their mixing bowls. I dug around and discovered that I actually had the ingredients to make the Rosemary Pan Bread, even the yeast. I get really invested in my dreams of becoming a domestic goddess. So we whipped up a batch of bread and to my wife’s shock, it was good. Which is all by way of saying, this is a worthy cookbook. If it can teach me to make decent bread from scratch, it can teach your kids too. Next up, my kids tell me, are corn fritters. And in case you know me in real life and doubt the veracity of this story, here my friends, are photos to prove that yes, I baked and no, I didn’t burn the house down in the process.

Rain School by James Rumford. We have recently made the official decision to keep the kids at home for another year with me instead of starting them in preschool. So we’ll continue on our adventures of home learning. One of my learning priorities is to expose them to as much of the world as possible through books. In my humble opinion, seeing people of color from countries outside the United States is a part of raising anti-racist children. Plus, there are just so many great stories out there that are set in other countries. Rain School is one of them. The children in one village in Chad are ready for their first day of school. The youngest kids, new to school, are excited to get pencils and notebooks and learn to read like their older siblings. They arrive and are greeted by their teacher. There’s just one thing missing. A school. The children are told that their first lesson will be building their school. After constructing the building and making desks out of mud, the children dig in to book learning. By the end of the year, their heads are packed with knowledge, the rainy season starts and the story comes full circle. My boys and I both loved this book.

Your turn! Tell us in the comments what you’ve been reading lately.

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What We’ve Been Reading: June Edition

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