June 13, 2014

Freedom's Gifts: A Juneteenth Story

Set in 1943 Texas on a hot summer day, Freedom's Gifts: A Juneteenth Story, by acclaimed author Valerie Wesley, tells the story of two young girls, June and her cousin Lillie celebrating Juneteenth, an African-American celebration that commemorates  when Texas slaves were freed on June 19, 1865 (2 years after President Abe Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation).

Lillie, a pre-teen from New York, is none to pleased to be visiting family in Texas to celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday she describes as an "old timey" holiday. Lillie changes her tune however after hearing her great Aunt Marshall tell the story of how her sister Sophie was taken from her when they were both slaves, and how Sophie then found Aunt Marshall when Texas slaves were finally set free.

The book gives a realistic portrayal of children's rebellious nature as well as the southern lifestyle of respecting one's elders. And i'ts honest portrayal of living the pain of living through slavery, as described by Aunt Marshall's character is realistic without being over-dramatic. The story also shines with watercolor illustrations by Sharon Wilson, whose pictures colorfully depict the south.

This story is one that every child should read, regardless of their race, because children and teenagers are so far removed today from the struggles of African-American's of the past, that they are unaware of the significance of a holiday like Juneteenth.  Freedom's Gifts: A Juneteenth Story was released in 1997, and can be found in local libraries and online at Amazon.com

NOTE: Juneteenth is no longer just celebrated in Texas, but also throughout the United States, including our own nation's capital, which hosts many Juneteenth celebrations this year along with its neighboring suburban communities. Information for Washington, DC Juneteenth events can be found at www.nationaljuneteenth.com/Calendar.html. To find Juneteenth celebrations in your state, visit http://www.juneteenth.us/events/. For more information about the Juneteenth holiday, visit http://www.nationaljuneteenth.com/.

June 6, 2014

Look with Me

I lost my shoe and I don't know what to do.
Where do I look to find my shoe? 
Will it be with my socks? 
Or will I find it in the toy box?

Look with Me by Sandra Williams is a wonderful book broken up into three sections, with three mini stories, all encouraging using your sight, touch, and hearing senses.

Have you ever tried to get a child to focus on something you wanted to show them, like a plane in the sky or a bird singing? This is the situation in the first mini story What do You See? which is reminiscent of the children's game "I Spy." The story encourages children to notice what is around them - including planes flying, the wind blowing, the sun shining and even the laughter of neighbors.

You know how kids like to lose things? This is the predicament in the second mini story My Lost Shoe, where a young boy loses his shoe and looks everywhere for it in his room. It's a great story for teaching children to think of solutions to a problem told in a humorous way, with fun rhyme and an ending that encourages helping one another.

In Looking Together, the last of the mini stories in Look with Me, the story encourages children to sing, read, and to see (feel) things with your heart by closing your eyes, and listening to what you hear around you. For example, using your senses to feel the sun on your skin.

Look with Me is a great for young children or children with short attention spans, as all three stories are fun, quick reads, but also ones that encourage children to think. The illustrations by Wendell L. Washington and Isia N. Washington are colorful and make the book even more enjoyable. Look with Me be purchased on the author's website or on bookstore.authorhouse.com or at Amazon.com.