Maya & Neel’s India Adventure Series: A Book Review

Advances in technology have made travel more economical and thereby more accessible to many. The prevalence of social media around the globe not only brings people together and but also brings worldwide attention to current events within minutes and hours. With the current political climate, it is more important than ever to provide our children with an awareness and appreciation for other cultures and beliefs.

I’m excited to share with you a new multicultural and educational book series from Bollywood Groove, Maya & Neel’s India Adventure. Your young children will love to join Maya, Neel and their pet squirrel, Chintu, as they visit India on fun, cultural adventures.

Bollywood Groove is a dance studio for kids and adults in Chicago. Founders Ajanta and Vivek aspired to create an environment that immersed kids into the rich and diverse culture of India by using stories and learning dance choreography. This program has been a great success for their dance school and they decided to increase their audience by publishing books.

Children's books about India book series

*I received this product for free from Bollywood Groove in exchange for my honest opinion. This post contains affiliate links; see disclosure for more information.*

Maya & Neel’s India Adventure series

India is a land of festivals, where people from different religions coexist harmoniously. The wide variety of festivals celebrated in India is a true manifestation of its rich culture and traditions.

Diwali, for example, is one of the most prominent Hindu festivals of India. During this festival of lights, houses are decorated with clay lamps, candles, and Ashok leaves. People wear new clothes, participate in family puja, burst crackers, and share sweets with friends, families, and neighbors.

Let’s Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali, the first book in the series, introduces readers to India’s biggest and most important holiday of the year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. Each day of Diwali holds wonderful traditions for the children. My favorite was the fifth, whereupon brothers and sisters promise to take care of each other.

Let’s Visit Mumbai (book 2) brings us to Mumbai (formerly Bombay), a densely populated city on India’s west coast and the largest city in the country. On the waterfront stands the iconic Gateway of India stone arch, built by the British Raj in 1924. Offshore, nearby Elephanta Island holds ancient cave temples dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.

Let’s Celebrate Holi (book 3) introduces children to the festival of colors, one of the famous festivals of India. On the eve of Holi, people make huge Holika bonfires and sing and dance around it. On the day of Holi, people gather in open areas and apply dry and wet colors of multiple hues to each other, with some carrying water guns and colored water filled balloons.

Eid is another major festival of India for the Muslim community. People dress up in fineries, attend a special community prayer in the morning, visit friends, and relatives and exchange sweets. Children are given idi (money or gift) by elders. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting (Sawm) to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. Learn more about each in the fourth book in the series, Let’s Celebrate Ramadan & Eid.

Let’s Celebrate Navratri (book 5) highlights the nine nights (and ten days) of the Hindu festival, Navrati, celebrated in the autumn every year. It is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the Indian subcontinent.

Help fight hate with knowledge. Teach your kids all about the beauty and culture of India in these beautifully illustrated multi-cultural books. You can find more books featuring Maya & Neel on Amazon.

AramKim_MCCBDposter2018FINAL-1Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018

I am proud to take part in the annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day, celebrated on the 27th of January this year and marking the 5th anniversary.  It was was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board this year.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

2018 Author Sponsors

Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina

Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan BernardoAuthor Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne BroylesAuthor Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and MysticPrincesses.com, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports QueenAuthor Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and  MFL Publishing  Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham  Author Natasha Yim

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Connect & Win

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party!

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators 

Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Obstaclēs: The Little Giant with a Big Heart {book review}

I love to read! I especially like to read books that take me on a journey to the past or to other cultures. I love books that break barriers and stereotypes, exposing me to new realities and experiences of others. My favorite genres are historical fiction and magical realism popularized by Gabriel García Márquez.

Obstaclēs MCBD For the past couple of years, I have participated in the Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a book reviewer. It is an event I look forward to as I have an opportunity to not only learn about other cultures but I also discover new authors.

In years past, I have had the opportunity to select the book I would review in advance. This year, however, I left it up to chance. I didn’t have any idea with what book and author I would be partnered. When I received Obstaclēs in the mail, I have to admit I was a little perplexed. A giant dwarfed by his peers? Not exactly what I was expecting, but I was willing to take a chance and give it a go.

I am so glad that I did! What a great story and unique approach to topics today’s children grapple with daily.

I received a copy of Obstaclēs by the author, Gregory Ransom and his publisher, LuLu.com in exchange for an honest review. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

I, and my children especially, have always enjoyed science fiction and fantasy novels. With the popularity of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, it is no wonder that these fantastical realms are familiar to today’s middle school kids. Ransom, a middle school history teacher, uses these imaginary places and creatures to describe real-world problems that kids in middle grades may face, doing so in a way that is comfortable and endearing.

The hero in our story is Obstaclēs, a giant who is dwarfed by his peers and struggles to fit in. Students may see themselves and empathize with our hero as he works through issues of bullying, self-confidence, ADHD, and discovering the gifts and unique skills that he has to offer.

As readers will come to discover, this little giant has a big heart. As he learns to overcome difficulties with diligence and perseverance, he also comes to accept and love himself for who he is as an individual. When he recognizes that even a small giant can make a difference, he makes a huge difference.

Entertaining and encouraging, Obstaclēs is a great read for reluctant readers and those who struggle with self esteem. It is a terrific read for kids of all ages, but particularly middle grades (3-6).


Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

MCBookDay-white-21-300x234Current Sponsors

MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsors

Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawMaria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra RichardsElsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

Queen Girls: Inspiring Girls with Real Stories of Female Heroes

Today I divert from my usual content to share with you a book series that I am very excited about. Though my children are no longer the target age, I love the mission of Queen Girls – to inspire girls to follow their dreams and envision them as possible and I look forward to sharing the books with my nieces and nephews. I also love that the stories are based on real women – short biographies that highlight the struggles and successes of women the world over.

Often times, classic stories highlight the strength, courage and skills of men while female characters are often stereotyped or one-dimensionall: the mother figure, the homemaker, the exotic beauty, the love seeker.

Did you know that 57% of children’s books have male protagonists, while only 31% are female? We believe that we should be telling different stories to our children. Let’s encourage girls to find their happiness, passions, drive and self-confidence from within. At the same time, let’s help boys to move to a place of equality.

Queen Girls Kickstarter

They also believe in giving back to the community and this is why they stand on a One for One model. Every time you purchase a book, another will be donated to local and international organizations who are fighting illiteracy and empowering girls.

The first fairy tale is Bessie, Queen of the Sky inspired by the story of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to hold a pilot’s license. The book will be available in English and Spanish.

When Bessie was growing up, no one could have imagined that a girl from a humble family would get out of the cotton fields and become a pilot. But with the help of her best friend Bloony, Bessie uses her courage and determination to make her dream come true!

How to get involved?

They are running a Kickstarter campaign to collect necessary funds to print the first book! Queen Girls is hoping to reach like-minded people who can help them ‘kick’ their crowdfunding campaign! If you believe in their mission and want to be part of the movement, donate and receive one of the first limited copies here!

bessie-and-bloony-flying

This multicultural team is formed by Jimena Durán (Spain), Andrea Doshi (USA) and Chiara Fabbri (Italy). They bring their diverse experiences to this initiative along with tons of love and dedication. Their intention is to open this collection to fellow authors and illustrators that could potentially bring their own Queens on board.

Books

Available in English & Spanish
Recommended age – 4 to 7 y.o.
32 page, hardcover & digital

Bessie, Queen of the Sky! Inspired by the story of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to hold a pilot’s license in the world – When Bessie was growing up, no one could have imagined that a girl from a humble family would get out of the cotton fields and become a pilot. But with the help of her best friend Bloony, Bessie uses her courage and determination to make her dream come true!

Isadora, the Rebel Queen! Inspired by the story of Isadora Duncan, a ballerina who danced away from rigid ballet technique towards what she perceived as natural movement. Influenced by the sea, she started dancing like no one ever did before, imitating the waves of the sea with her arms and feet – She defied conventionalist minds by creating what today we refer to as Modern Dance or “Barefoot Style.”

Savi, Queen of Education! Inspired by the story of Savitribhai Phule, a woman poet, an educationalist and a social reformer, Savi was one of the earliest crusaders of education for girls in India. She defied all odds to become the first female teacher at the first women’s school founded by her and her family.

And more books to come! We have the firm intention to grow this collection and open it up to fellow authors and illustrators that could potentially bring their own queens on board.

If this sounds appealing to you, please pledge to make it happen here!

#queeengirls #childrensbooks #booksforgirls
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Bowls of Happiness: Exploring Chinese Culture through Books

I feel very strongly that a comprehensive world view is important in today’s society.  In our homeschool we strive to develop an awareness of other cultures and lifestyle choices by reading great books, diving deeply into history, and immersing ourselves in other cultures through our travels around the world.

As our communities become more diverse, many parents are looking for literature and other tools to help their children develop a deeper understanding of their neighbors.

Through our studies of Mandarin language, we have developed a greater understanding of the Chinese culture than I had dreamed possible. My children enjoy cooking Chinese foods and celebrating many of the holidays unique to China (Mid-Autumn Festival, for example).

multiculturalbooksdayI received these books in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions below are mine and I was not required to write a positive review. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Exploring Chinese Culture with Children’s Books

One of the best ways to learn about another culture is through children’s books. China Institute has published four hardcover books about the Forbidden City, one of the world’s most fascinating landmarks. Each of the books will have its own interactive e-book app, which will feature a bilingual option to toggle between reading and listening in English and Chinese.

For Younger Readers

Bowls of Happiness: Treasures from China and the Forbidden City by Brian Tse  teaches children about Chinese artwork and culture and their universal spirit of generosity, love, and respect for nature. The loveable illustrations are coupled with photographs of porcelain art found in the Palace Museum’s collection.

After reading the story, my kids both wanted to create their own bowl of happiness. We went to a local pottery studio and painted our own. I’ll be posting pictures about this experience on Facebook and Instagram very soon.

Brian Tse has also authored This is the Greatest Place! The Forbidden City and the World of Small Animals. This charming book teaches children about Chinese architecture, how nature’s influence can be seen around us, and how people and animals can live together in harmony. The illustrations capture the majesty of both the natural world and the Forbidden City and are enhanced by interactive components for readers, including a gatefold spread and lift-flaps.

multiculturalbooksdayFor Older Readers

In the book What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? Life in China’s Forbidden City by Chiu Kwong-chiu and Eileen Ng readers will journey through the average life of an emperor and learn about the real people who lived in the palace, including the prince who fought off a rebel invasion, the palace maids who lived in the Inner Court, the emperor who ruled twice, and the emperor who loved crickets. This book can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, with lively illustrations that encourage reader interaction.

In the Forbidden City by Chiu Kwong-chiu is a large format book which conveys the grandeur of the Forbidden City through highly detailed line drawings of its buildings, gardens, and courtyards with numerous foldout spreads. Each page is populated by a large variety of characters and peppered with entertaining anecdotes. Every book includes a plastic magnifying glass for looking at the drawings more closely.

Be sure to check out the lesson plans and interactive activities that accompany these delightful books.

forbiddencity

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

The Mission

The mission of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD) is to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book.

The annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day is made possible by a team of 12 amazing Co-Hosts (you can view them here), the initiative’s non-profit status, and 200 participating bloggers like me.

We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

The Reading Challenge

The Multicultural Children’s Book Day Classroom Reading Challenge is a special project connected to Multicultural Children’s Book Day ~ 26th January 2016 ~ that gives classrooms the opportunity to earn a FREE Diversity Book for their class!

The goal of the reading challenge is to help teachers build their classroom library with diverse, inclusive and multicultural books! This special project is free of charge to all teachers and schools and helps MCCBD achieve their mission of getting multicultural books into the hands of young readers and teachers. The MCCBD 2016 Classroom Reading Challenge has begun, learn more here.

MCBookDay-white-21-300x234Special thanks to all our Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors:

Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books * Lil Libros
Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk * Candlewick Press
Silver: Lee and Low Books * Chronicle Books * Capstone Young Readers
Bronze: Pomelo Books * Author Jacqueline Woodson * Papa Lemon Books * Goosebottom Books * Author Gleeson Rebello * ShoutMouse Press * Author Mahvash Shahegh * China Institute.org