BHM Children’s Read Alouds: Day 5: A Celebration of Black Dolls

February 5 – Sitting Pretty: A Celebration of Black Dolls by Dinah Johnson. Photographs by Myles C. Pinkney.

Genre: History. Poetry.

Historical Time Period: 1800’s. 1900’s. 2000’s.

Geographical Relevance: Global.

Authenticity: The author Dinah Washington is professor of English and Children’s Literature at the University of South Carolina. Many of the dolls that she writes poetry about in Sitting Pretty, are dolls that she, or loved ones, owned. At the back of the book, the Author’s Notes include much provenance about individual dolls.

Sitting Pretty. Published by Henry Holt and Co. 2000

Sitting Pretty. Published by Henry Holt and Co. 2000

From Dinah Johnson's Sitting Pretty. Photographs of dolls by Myles C. Pinkney.

From Dinah Johnson’s Sitting Pretty. Photographs of dolls by Myles C. Pinkney.

Author Dinah Johnson

Author Dinah Johnson

Photography Myles Pinkney

Photography Myles Pinkney

I recommend this book for all ages. It’s a gem.

Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher. Up Afrofuturism at The Studio Museum in Harlem

Renegade Futurism

As a moderator for the Enlightenment, Strange Mathematics & Rhythmic Equations panel at The Studio Museum in Harlem I am tasked with generating questions for the panelists. Here’s the museum’s description:

Conceived in dialogue with the exhibition The Shadows Took Shape, this panel discussion will be moderated by Nettrice Gaskins, Ph.D. candidate and researcher at Georgia Tech’s Experimental Game Lab (EGL) (part of the Digital Media program at the School of Literature, Communication and Culture), and features artists Coco Fusco, Jacolby Satterwhite and Saya Woolfalk, whose works are included in the two exhibitions currently on view at the Studio Museum, The Shadows Took Shape and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. The program will introduce artists and their works in relationship to “STEAM” (science, technology, engineering, art, math) education. Presentations and discussion will explore topics such as fractal geometry, quantum physics and symmetry, and how…

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K2 Read Alouds: Week 10: Eboné Tales

Week of November 18-22.


We had a field trip to the Boston Nature Center & Wildlife Sanctuary on Monday. One of our activities was to paint a mural on recycled paper, using bits of nature  to paint our strokes rather than bristled brushes. There was a book on a bench. So I read it to the children while they created our mural. The book was The Color Box by Dayle Ann Dodds. Illustrated by Giles Laroche.



Eboné tale, The Girl Who Spun Gold by Virginia Hamilton. Illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon. The children asked if we could act out this story sometime. So I’ll have to fit it into the curriculum at some point, to appease the budding actors.

The Girl Who Spun Gold By Virginia Hamilton

The Girl Who Spun Gold
By Virginia Hamilton

Illustration by Leo & Diane Dillon for Virginia Hamilton's The Girl Who Spun Gold

Illustration by Leo & Diane Dillon for Virginia Hamilton’s The Girl Who Spun Gold


The Science teacher read the students a story, but I don’t know which one. Though, I’m sure it was awesome because our Science teacher is pretty awesome.

 Thursday and Friday

Eboné tale, Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life by Jerdine Nolen. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

We’ve begun creating miniature furniture for Hewitt, in the classroom. The kids have begun learning to sew as well. Thus far, the protagonist, Hewitt, has three hand-sewn pillows to rest his petite head on beds of plastic crate pieces and feathers. Photos to come.



In the Listening Center

I picked up Nikki Giovanni’s Hip Hop Speaks to Children book & CD, for a steal at Rodney’s Used Bookstore in Cambridge.

hiphopcoverThanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher.


New website just launched today by award winning picture book author and illustrator, Don Tate. The site highlights, and educates on, folk artist, Bill Traylor. Well-informed and engaging sight! Don Tate authored It Jes’ Happened, a biographical picture book of the life and work of Bill Traylor. Illustrations by R. Gregory Christie. Published by one of my fave publishers out of New York, Lee and Low. However this new website is not just a summary of the book and online shop. There is curriculum, videos, author events, historical information, and more.

Ideal Picture Books for the K2 Classroom

So this year, I will be teaching Kindergarten in an Inclusion setting, rather than first grade. I’ve taught K2 before so I’m cool with it. I will miss guiding students in the persuasive essay process though. That’s right, persuasive essays in first grade.

Anyhow, the following picture books will surely be permanent fixtures in our K2 space. They are ideal and hard to come by.

The Sweet and Sour Animal Book By Langston Hughes

The Sweet and Sour Animal Book
By Langston Hughes

The Book of Mean People By Toni Morrison & Slade Morrison Illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre

The Book of Mean People
By Toni Morrison & Slade Morrison
Illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre

Grump Groan Growl By bell hooks Illustrated by Chris Raschka

Grump Groan Growl
By bell hooks
Illustrated by Chris Raschka

Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou Illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me
by Maya Angelou
Illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat

One by Kathryn Otoshi

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Lil Man Makes a Name for Himself Written & Illustrated by Caleb Neelon Cantab Publishing 2004

Lil Man Makes a Name for Himself
Written & Illustrated by Caleb Neelon
Cantab Publishing 2004

Queen of the Scene by Queen Latifah Illustrated by Frank Morrison

Queen of the Scene by Queen Latifah
Illustrated by Frank Morrison

These are some of my faves. Find them where you can.

Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher

Everyone’s Books: For Social Change and the Earth – A Bookstore*


Everyone’s Books bookstore, located in Brattleboro, Vermont. Photo taken by…me. December 2012
Everyone’s Books: 25 Elliot St. Brattleboro, VT. 05301. (802) 254-8160.

Happy New Year!  Before the new year rang in, I visited a few bookshops for the first time. One being Everyone’s Books in Brattleboro, VT.  Fulfilling first time trip. Lovely, and mindful staff. Divinely engaging Children’s section. As always, it was a joy to come across so many titles that I had never heard of before. Bought a bunch.

Photo on 2013-01-05 at 20.42

This is my “bunch” that I purchased. It may be a short stack, but it’s contents are enormous.

My purchases:

1. The Black Book of Colors, written by Menena Cottin, illustrated by Rosana Faría, is a book dedicated to colors, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it.


El Libro Negro De Los Colores was first published in Mexico in 2006.
First translated into English by Elisa Amado. Published by Groundwood Books/ House of Anansi Press. 2008. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Distributed by Publishers Group West. Berkeley, California. Printed and bound in China.
Illustrations are raised black lines on black paper.

Upon opening the book, I read on the left-hand side, “Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers.” On the right-hand page I feel the feathers. I don’t see them. No yellow to see. Only yellow to feel. Don’t envision a baby board book. There’s no fluffy fuzzy chicky fur to feel. It’s a black page with raised, tactile feathers.


But wait. There’s something else I’ve missed. Back on the left-hand side, above the written words, I see the same sentence in Braille. I feel it. I smile.  My mind brings me back to my elementary school,  Happy Hollow , in Wayland, Massachusetts. When I was in fourth grade, we were privileged enough to participate in the Just Like Me program. The program was my first introduction to Braille. I remember the program like it was yesterday; it was that effective. It was that educational.  I gained significant respect for people who have different physical challenges than me, and it also diminished fear and confusion I may have had over people who communicate differently. I often try to emulate those experiences for my own students now. And I can’t wait to offer this book to my students to appreciate.

“But black is the king of all the colors. It is as soft as silk when his mother hugs him.”

Kudos to the author for including such a powerful line of text.

Pluses & Minuses:

(+) The alphabet in Braille, is provided at the end of the book.

(-) There are no page numbers. Page numbers are a desired attribute for avid referencers, like myself.


2. I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier, is a gem of a book, and a must-have for all elementary classrooms. All.


Published under the title, I, Too, Am America, by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division New York, N.Y. 2012.
Text copyright by Langston Hughes, 1925.
Manufactured in China.
Illustrations rendered in mixed media.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, Langston’s work is already a staple in my classroom. Yet, his words never grow dull in the hearts of my young students.

"I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother." - Hughes

“I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother.” – Hughes

I look forward to sharing this book with a fellow teacher whom, I humbly admit, I often bump heads with. We are different, her and I. She teaches. I educate.*

“They send me to eat in the kitchen/ When company comes/But I laugh/And eat well/And grow strong.” – Hughes

The illustrator wrote a poignant introduction to this story. I won’t quote it in its entirety, but I will quote the historic facts he wrote.

“I fully acknowledge and appreciate the long hours, timeless dedication, and amazing dignity of the Pullman porters, African-American men who worked as caretakers to wealthy white passengers aboard luxury trains. This practice began after legal slavery ended.” – Bryan Collier


3.  You Are Healthy by Todd Snow, illustrated by Melodee Strong.



You Are Healthy published by Maren Green Publishing Inc., Oak Park Heights, Minnesota . 2008.
Manufactured in China.
Illustrations are acrylic on wood.

It’s not exactly a story with a beginning, middle, and end. No character development either. But as a picture book, its simplicity,  beauty and accuracy make for an engaging and educational read.


“You are healthy when you laugh and giggle”


4. Tales Told in Tents: Stories from Central Asia by Sally Pomme Clayton, illustrated by Sophie Hexheimer.


Tales Told in Tents published by Frances Lincoln Limited, London, U.K. 2004
Printed by Star Standard Industries in Jurong Town, Singapore. 2008
Illustrations are pen, ink, and watercolor.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t even know the countries in Central Asia existed when I was a child. This book of riddles, and storyteller tales, comes from the countries of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.


“The people called the horsehair fiddle the kobiz. And they carved a horse’s head on top of the kobiz, remembering how the horse of songs helped make the first fiddle.” – Pg. 50

The book comes complete with a glossary, and a map of Central Asia that illustrates each country and region’s major form of industry and trade.


5. Jonathan Green Coloring Book.

Yesss. Yes. Includes over 20 reprintable coloring pages of Jonathan Green’s famous paintings. Jonathan Green is an American painter and is part of the Gullah community.


Jonathan Green Coloring Book published by Pomegranate Communications Inc., Petaluma, California. 2009.
For Pomegranate Europe Ltd., Warwickshire, UK.
Printed in Korea.


Now all the boys and girls can color the bois & girls.
Dale School Choir. Coloring page 9

Photo on 2013-01-27 at 21.10

This photo is perfect. It is anything.
Simple Pleasures. Coloring page 13.


6. Buddhist Painting Coloring Book.


Buddhist Painting Coloring Book published by Pomegranate Communications Inc., Petaluma, California. 2009.
For Pomegranate Europe Ltd., Warwickshire, UK.
Asian Art Museum/ Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture
Printed in Korea.

Practice understanding architecture, my kiddies. Practice well. Have an airial view. You deserve it. Says I.


Mandala with thunderbolts.
Coloring page 7.

7.  History of the Civil Rights Movement Coloring Book by Steven James Petruccio.


History of the Civil Rights Movement Coloring Book Published by Dover Publications Inc., Mineola, N.Y. 2010.
Manufactured in the United States by Courier Corporations.

Photo on 2013-01-27 at 22.16 #2

“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of busing as a means of desegregating public schools on April 20, 1971. The decision was expected to assure that schools would be fairly integrated, enabling all students to receive equal educational opportunities, regardless of their race. “
– Petruccio.

We’re still working on this busing business though. I’m curious to know what questions my students may ask about this picture, when coloring it. I don’t know how to progressively, and effectively,  answer them yet.


Everyone’s Bookstore has the BEST teacher discount that I have ever come upon. 25% discount, plus tax exempt. 

I look forward to visiting this bookstore again.

* This post is an edited version.

Thank you for reading The Picture Book Pusher.

Turning Coal into Diamonds at the Used Book Store


I ventured to a book store that I don’t usually shop at because of it’s lack of progressive titles that suit my personal interests. However, they have a used book cellar, that I go into from time to time. After all, I have to dump books that I  wouldn’t read to my students somewhere right?                                                                                I was able to trade these culturally-expired titles:

For these culturally-relevant titles:

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me by Maya Angelou. Illustrated by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Echoes of the Elders: The Stories and Paintings of Chief Lelooska by Christine Normandin

Four bell hooks titles. Yay!

Yes. All of the above 6 titles I got with my $35.50 in store credit. I only buy from the used book section of the store, and fortunately the Brookline Booksmith Used Book Cellar had these goodies hiding away in it.   While browsing the used books I also came across two titles that I highly DON’T recommend reading to children. I did not purchase them, but I did snap photos of them with my iPad. They are below:

‘Why?’ you ask, would I not want to read a children’s book about my beloved city of Boston? because there are only white people in the illustrations. Yes, my city is 100% caucasian in this book. All the street people, store patrons, main characters, etc. I do not wish to delve into the inaccurate any longer.

I do not recommend this book simply because of the title. I personally don’t read or keep Madeline books in my classroom, because they are not relevant enough. However, this title I flat out would not read to any child, in any realm. The Gypsy people are Romanies.

After I left this store in Brookline, I headed over to More Than Words Used Books in Waltham, MA.  I respect this store, and it’s mission to support youth in the foster care system. Anyways, they take donations at this store, rather than buying second-hand books from the general public.  So, the 40 or so titles, that Brookline Booksmith did not buy from me, I donated to More Than Words. And just guess what they gave me for my generous donation? The mecca of teaching philosophy:

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks

Yesssssssssssssssss.    More Than Words is also better than Brookline Booksmith’s Used Book Cellar because they give teacher discounts. Now if you’ll excuse me. I have to go get my brain on. (That’s slang for: I need to go read and expand my mind)

Thank you for reading The Picture Book Pusher

A Picture Book A Day: Day 7 Da Goodie Monsta

At night, it swooped down into the village where all the young brothers and all the young sisters lived. It entered the dreams of people who dare to dream and stood at the gateway to the sleeping mind like a sentinel and chased dem nightmares away.

Da Goodie Monsta by Robert Peters

Published by Wiggles Press. Cambridge, MA. 2009.


Purchased at: The Piano Factory. Boston, MA.

I had the serendipitous joy of purchasing a signed copy with a personal dedication to my first-grade class, from the author and illustrator himself, Robert Peters.  He was at a gallery event at The Piano Factory in Boston, MA. The event was a tribute to the late, and talented, Theresa-India Young.

Along with two of Theresa’s tassels being sold at the Young table, I bought Da Goodie Monsta and one of Robert Peter’s paintings at the Peter’s table. Mr. Peter’s also gave me a second painting. Yes. Gave. The painting was of a turtle – a symbol from the Wampanoag tribe, who live on Turtle Island.

This book is so engaging, and dream inspiring.  It is a read-aloud in my classroom, as well as being kept on the shelves for students to read at their leisure.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Thanks for reading.

– The Picture Book Pusher

A Picture Book A Day: Day 6 Lil’ Man Makes a Name for Himself

LILMAN MAKES a NAME for HIMSELF by Caleb Neelon a.k.a Sonik
Published by Cantab publishing, Cambridge, MA. 2004
Purchased at: ?? I know that I got it at a second hand store. It was several  months ago. It was either the Goodwill on Melnea Cass in Boston, or Back Pages books in Waltham, MA., or Brookline Booksmith’s basement used book store (although I no longer shop at Brookline Booksmith because they are a HUGE supporter of the book Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. Blech.)
Rating: 6 out of 5 stars. For it’s writing, ability to engage children, ability to ignite production and creativity in children, and for it’s illustrations. This is a definite favorite of mine.
This was not my first time reading this story. The first time I read it to my students was last month, during the last week of school.
I now know that this story will most definitely be part of my Fall curriculum beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, when we are building classroom community and learning about each other. This book is a must have, for elementary school teachers. It is all about self expression, and identity. The concept of the book is spot-on ingeniousness.  The protagonist, Lilman, doesn’t think his name looks right, it’s not ‘him’ enough. So he sets out to create his name the way it should look.  He then inspires all his school friends to become individuals and make a name for themselves too. The moral of the story is: You too can make a name for yourself.
This book is hard to find, but you can buy it straight from the author 1 of 2 ways: Either through his personal website (by emailing him and asking him to purchase a copy), or through his account, you can get a signed copy. His seller name is Calebfunk. The links are below:
Author Caleb Neelon is better known as SONIK. SONIK is an extremely successful street artist, with murals and projects on several continents. Check out a little bit of what he does here:
Thanks for reading.
– The Picture Book Pusher