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My girls were so excited to start watching the Olympics.  We settled in with our zebra blanket (?) and Barefoot Books World Atlas for the Opening Ceremony and my favorite part, the parade of athletes.  We looked to see where each country was, and how far it is from Sochi.

Since we don’t watch much in one sitting, it took three nights to get through the Opening Ceremony alone.  We should be done with the whole competition in time for the next one to start!  :)

It’s here! Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

Back in November, when we were creating birthday and Hanukkah wishlists, my then-six-year-old daughter requested The Story of Divaali from the Barefoot Books catalog.  She was so intrigued by this new fairy tale, by the handsome man with blue skin on the cover, and it probably helped that there was a princess too.  Well, fast forward to the fourth night of Hanukkah, and the two girls each opened a stack of books.  So exciting!  But the most excitement was reserved for The Story of Divaali as she held it in her hands and studied the illustration’s details.  She started reading it right there.  But after dinner and baths, we settled in for our traditional nightly story time and our first reading of this particular tale.  Now, I’m embarrassed to say my only prior knowledge of this Indian holiday was through an episode of The Office.  No lie.  So, I knew it was a party with fancy traditional dress, but why or when or how?  Nope, no clue.

As we read this story of kidnappings and gods and true love, I was reminded of the Greek tales we’d recently read, and as animals changed form and wishes were granted, I was reminded of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen and the fairy tale lexicon that is more common.  My daughter and I were both struck by how different The Story of Divaali was to our unaccustomed ears, yet at the same time, it was so familiar.

Children are naturally and insatiably curious. Offering the widest variety of books with a rainbowed cast of characters and cultures feeds that curiosity, it makes experiences universal, it creates humans deserving of empathy and friendship. The alternative is a narrow, bland worldview full of very few “us”es and far too many “them”s.

We’ll take the rainbow.

I was so pleased to see a rainbow reflected in this NPR article about eight picture books deserving of the 2013 Caldecott Medal, the award for the artist of the most distinguished American picture book. Nearly half (if you count green aliens, then it was fully half) of their suggestions offered diversity.  While they didn’t select the winner, Brian Floca, the writer and artist behind “Locomotive,” I loved their recommendations.

America’s demographics have been changing rapidly, but children’s literature has been a bit slow to respond and presently doesn’t reflect the way our world, our country, and, most likely, our children’s classrooms look.  This first ever Multicultural Children’s Book Day is meant to celebrate the amazing, rich, and beautiful stories that are available to our children and ourselves, as well as to create awareness and demand for more.

Please visit The Pragmatic Mom‘s site and enter three drawings, one of which is for a set of TEN fabulous Barefoot Books that celebrate diversity.

 

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

It probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that 37 percent of the people in our country are people of color.  That’s just more than one in three.  But when people of color go to read their children a book, they have to search through 10 books to find just one with diverse content.

January 27, 2014!

January 27, 2014!

One of my favorite bloggers, The Pragmatic Mom, has teamed up to create the first ever Multicultural Children’s Book Day on January 27, a day to celebrate diversity in children’s books, a day to consciously seek out and share books that celebrate a range of cultures, a day to help create demand for more.

Ruby's Sleepover by Miriam Latimer and Kathryn White

Ruby’s Sleepover by Miriam Latimer and Kathryn White

Some of my favorite books, and more importantly my daughters’ favorites, are the three Ruby early readers.  Not only does Ruby have an amazing imagination and courage to spare, she is a child of color. She faces the same things that most children face (getting a new sibling, starting school, having a first sleepover) but not as a child of color. She faces them simply as a child.  She breaks down the walls between “us” and “them,” and “other” becomes “me.” Universal and shared experiences create empathy and compassion.

Even though my daughters are Caucasian, they are being raised in the Jewish faith which has a strong tradition of social justice, and an equally strong if not as well-established tradition of inclusion. When we have been “other” so many times in the past, it is abhorrent to either actively continue excluding those that appear differently or to passively allow it to happen.  Bringing diversity to my girls through compassionate storytelling is one more way we strive for tikkun olam, to repair the world.

Are there books with diversity that you love in your house? If not, please visit the Pragmatic Mom’s list of 40 titles for kids. Or browse Barefoot Books’ selection of books that celebrate the world’s cultures.

Gifting Books

Hanukkah was unbelievably early this year.  So early that it coincided with an unusually late Thanksgiving creating a delicious mash-up holiday with the tongue-twisting name Thanksgivukkah.  Most years, one night is Book Night, but this year the girls received books on two nights, and they were so happy.  So darn happy and excited.  At one point, the big one was walking with five books cradled in the crook of one arm while trying to read a sixth.  My book-loving heart was thrilled, to say the least.

The Festival of Lights and the People of the Book - a perfect match!

The Festival of Lights and the People of the Book – a perfect match!

Tonight we opened The Story of Divaali (which had been on a wish list), the new Magic Stories chapter books, and a fun singalong (the little one thinks all books should have CDs accompanying them now…).

While our holiday is nearly over  - we light all eight candles tomorrow, and it is a beautiful sight – don’t worry, relax, there is plenty of time to prepare for Christmas.  Plenty!  And there are plenty of sales throughout the rest of this month to make it easier.

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Dazzling gift sets are still available, and starting this Thursday, we’ll have multiple, short flash sales of at least ten favorite titles at a time. Also, we’ve expanded our offerings of Djeco brand puzzles and arts and crafts kits that are truly beautiful and engage a wide range of ages (adults included, if I’m being honest…).

Are you looking for something specific? Or for a particular reader?  Please contact me or my short associates, and we’ll talk books, the gifts that can be opened again and again.  Happy holidays!

 

 

Fireside Sale

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It’s chilly (or downright cold!).  The holidays are here. Get some cocoa or tea and shop in the comfort of your home, even in front of your fire, if you’re lucky enough to have one.

From now until midnight on Monday, all Barefoot Books items are 20 percent off with the code FIRESIDE. And, as always, shipping is free with a $60 purchase.

Please contact me for personalized recommendations.  And have a beautiful, warm, and love- and light-filled holiday weekend!

Beautifully Dark Fairy Tales

I have always loved fairy tales, but more so the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen versions rather then sanitized Disney ones. When I was young I had an anthology of Andersen fairy tales, and I was particularly fascinated by The Little Match Girl.  It was quiet, sweet, and (spoiler alert) ultimately sad.  I distinctly remember feeling respected by the author, that he thought I, as a child, could handle some real life. And I liked the darkness. Those fairy tales in that well-loved volume were a safe place to begin exploring the themes of losses, struggles, unfairness, and also hope and dignity.

Three new publications continue this fairy tale thread. Miss Clara illustrates (which is not the correct verb to use for what she does – she creates stunning worlds with puppets, paints, and technology.  If you want to see some behind-the-scenes shots, look here.)  Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Princess and the Pea, and The Snow Queen.

The Snow Queen is my personal favorite and brings me back to my younger self who read and re-read The Little Match Girl.  Like that story, it is cold and dark.  But beautiful and made even more beautiful by the exquisite art and accompanying narration.

Now, as an adult, I see stories a little differently, and that has only made me love The Snow Queen even more. The hero is a little girl – something that is so ridiculously rare in mainstream media.  She is brave. She is smart.  She (spoiler alert) rescues her dear friend.  She is no damsel in distress, and that makes me want to cheer out loud.