February 24, 2011

African myths

The Fire Children

This brief but lovely West African creation myth tells the story of Kwaku Ananse and Aso Yaa, two spirit people who fall out of the sky god's mouth. One day, Aso Yaa decides to make children, so she and Kwaku make figures out of clay and bake them in the fire. The sky god often interrupts their task, so the figures are either uncooked or burnt. This is why there are different-coloured people on earth.

Ashley Bryan's African Tales, Uh-Huh

These are stories told in the African oral tradition, with rhythmic, sing-song prose. 

Listen to  Hen's click clack cluck or Frog's kwee kwo kwa, meet scat-talking Monkey - don't fee fa foo fight, it's not bee ba do right - and discover why Frog and Snake shouldn't play together. 

An excellent book for reading out loud.

African Myths & Legends

A collection of seven tales with interesting artwork reminiscent of traditional African carvings. 

In the Race to be King, Frog tricks his brother by using magic; in The Challenge and the Messenger, the God of Water challenges the Supreme God for his title; in The Battle with Death, a man saves his people from drought; in How the Animals Came, the people build a pyramid to steal animals from heaven. A man runs afoul of evil spirits in Kigbo and the Bush Spirits, an old woman becomes a mother in The Children of the Gourds, and herdsmen have lion trouble in The Lion Man and the Cattle.

Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales

A collection of 32 tales, each told by different storytellers, with pictures by different illustrators. 

The quality of the stories are a little uneven, and some are very puzzling, but all are entertaining. The best stories are the creation myths such as King Lion's Gifts and The Mantis and the Moon

February 22, 2011

Dave the Potter

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave

An excellent picture book about Dave, creator of beautiful pots. Inscribed with short lines of poetry, Dave's pots are important reminders of history, family, and tradition.

With lyrical text by Laban Carrick Hill and wonderful collage illustrations by Bryan Collier. A book to be treasured.

"I am lost." "You are found."

If I Just Had Two Wings

Phoebe often dreams about flying away from the plantation, from slavery. When she learns she'll be sold at the next auction, she embarks on the treacherous journey to Canada. Filled with palpable tension and suspense, this is a gripping, uplifting story.

February 17, 2011

Compassion, healing, and love

Tenzin's Deer

A young Tibetan boy finds a wounded musk deer. He names her Jampa (loving kindness) and cares for her. They spend many happy days together, but Jampa longs to return to the wild, and Tenzin must let her go.  

This quiet, gentle story embraces the central tenets of Tibetan society - to care for others with respect and kindness, to pray for body, mind and spirit; and to embrace non-attachment to relieve suffering. Though Tenzin misses Jampa very much, he knows she is well for she visits him in his dreams.

February 15, 2011

Inuit Myths

Tales From the Tundra: A Collection of Inuit Stories

A short collection of Inuit myths, compellingly retold by Ibi Kaslik. Learn how the siksik outwitted the owl, how the caribou and walrus came to be, and where most of the caribou come from. Another story explains why the raven is black and why loons walk poorly on land. The final story tells the tale of a little boy turned into a snow bunting. Fans of graphic novels and comic books will like the vibrant, action-filled illustrations.

Inuit nonfiction from Inhabit Media

Uumajut: Learn About Arctic Wildlife

A brightly coloured picture book that introduces children to arctic wildlife. Divided into two sections - animals of the tundra and animals of the sea and ice - the book provides interesting facts about each animal and its importance to the people who live there. 

Moe and Malaya Visit the Nurse

Adventurous Moe tags along when his cousin, Malaya, goes for a check-up. Moe is a bit scared at first, but soon learns that being a nurse can be very rewarding. Kids will enjoy the lively drawings and the cheerful characters.

For more books from Inhabit Media, visit their website at www.inhabitmedia.com.

February 10, 2011


Valentine to Papi

I kept looking in the mirror
and touching my grown-up hair.
Remember, Papi, ten years ago?
You smiled when you saw me
wearing a new yellow dress.
I was shining for my cousin's wedding.

Your smile
             lit the room.

Strangers who said they were my aunts,
            uncles, great-aunts,
            kept squeezing me.
I'd smooth and straighten my dress.

When the romantic music started,
Mami looked at you
                                       and pointed at me.
            You looked down
and took my hands,
            mine cold, yours warm.
I put my shiny shoes on yours,
            and we danced.

Ten years later, in my heart
            we still dance
            perfectly, Papi.

Emotions of love

From Buried Alive: The Elements of Loveby Ralph Fletcher

Not Fair

It's not fair
that my two-year-old brother
should get her for a babysitter.

Not fair
the way she kisses his bare belly
and gives me a mumbled hello.

Not fair 
how he climbs onto her lap
how she smoothes down his hair.

Not fair
how he returns from her house
smelling like some wild, wild flower.


Long long ago
a girl wrote to a boy
a steamy love note
on a secret page of wet beach sand.

The boy wrote back
and that's how Dad
fell in love with Mom.

I wish it was you
outside my window
scribbling bright love
on these pages of night.

February 8, 2011

Love Poems

From Hopscotch Love: A Family Treasury of Love Poemsby Nikki Grimes.

Sweet Tooth


If you're reading this
then you musta found it
in your backpack
where I stuck it.
Don't worry ---
I didn't take anything.


my mom said
girls like chocolate
and I figured 
she should know.

Imade thiscard myself
doyou likeit?


Books for Valentine's Day

The Love Book
by Pernilla Stalfelt

What is love?

Love is a feeling that can fizz like soda pop ... or flutter like butterflies ... or fill your whole belly with cotton balls. You can love a flower or a goldfish, money or food, your family or your friends. Love can also make you do silly things - tripping over dogs, singing love songs, saying mushy things. With quirky drawings and amusing thought balloons, this book describes the dizzying and embarrassing aspects of love.

Parental warning: contains a few sexually explicit drawings

The Truth About Love

Why do we love with our hearts? 
Why do rings symbolize eternal love?
Why are a dozen roses so romantic?

The answers to these questions and many other facts, superstitions, and myths about love are contained in the pages of this pocket-sized book. 

It isn't as serious as it sounds. For instance, did you know that eating prunes will reveal the profession of your future spouse? Or that hares were once thought to be ghosts of jilted lovers out for revenge?  Just like the previous book, love can be wonderful and confusing at the same time.

February 3, 2011

Stories of adventure on the Silk Road

The Spirit of the Silk Road guides readers on a journey along the ancient trade route. He talks about the history of the cities and its people, the silk trade, the animals, and the perils of desert travel. He also introduces some rather strange tales. There's a girl who becomes a horse's bride, a man plagued by demons, a monkey and a dragon with communication problems, a spoiled beg (ruler) who doesn't learn a lesson, and magical saddlebags and pebbles. The best is a very nice creation story that explains why the Dunhuang Lake is crescent-shaped. 

For kids who prefer real-life adventures, try Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road. 

Author Priscilla Galloway uses dialogue and fascinating information to make readers feel as if they were actually on the road with Buddhist monk Xuanzang, warrior Ghenghis Khan, and merchant Marco Polo. The vivid descriptions of the people, the customs, and the colours, sights, and smells capture the splendour and strangeness of the surroundings. Excellent and compelling, this is a book that will be enjoyed by travellers everywhere.

February 1, 2011

Books for Chinese New Year

From the title of the book, I thought it was a fictional account of why the author's mother became a dragon and why her father became a boar. Instead, it contains a one-page story about how the twelve animals were chosen and why cats chase rats. It then provides personality profiles for each of the animals and lists the years associated with each one. What stands out are the cut paper illustrations. Set against colourful backgrounds, they look like beautiful stained-glass windows. A history of Chinese paper art is included.

by Ed Young

The Jade Emperor held a race to determine the twelve animals who would be named on the Chinese calendar. Cat and Rat, who were friends, thought they could get a head start by riding on Buffalo's back. However, the Rat has other ideas. 

This is a rather dark story made even more sinister by Ed Young's ghostly illustrations. It might be better suited for Hallowe'en.

A collection of short fables starring the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Told in the manner of Aesop, each fable ends with a moral or aphorism: a fox outwits the tiger, showing that small creatures must live by their wits; the snake learns not to judge others by appearances; and for the monkeys, ignorance is bliss. 

The stories are nice, but the illustrations don't complement them very well. They're a little vague and small, though the circular designs remind me of Chinese plates.

Too much talk, not enough action

Thirteen Orphans
by Jane Lindskold

A long time ago, in the Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice, an emperor was assassinated. Twelve of his advisors, representing the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, were exiled. They took the Cat, the late emperor's son, with them. Hence they are known as the Thirteen Orphans. They settled in China, then the United States. Now, many generations later, the Orphans' descendants are being targeted by unknown assailants. Their memories and powers are being wiped out. It is up to the remaining Orphans, led by the Tiger, to solve the mystery.

Sounds interesting, doesn't it? I was expecting some sort of X-Men, Matrix, or Crouching Tiger-like action. Instead, you get super slow-mo, interrupted by intrusive thoughts, tea, snacks, and peace negotiations. Nobody turns into their animal alter-egos; instead, the Orphans' powers are making magical mah-jong tile bracelets and avoiding paper darts(!!). Nobody gets hurt or killed, and nobody can figure out the convoluted plot.  This is one book series not worth following.