Sprinkles reviews children’s books on gender identity

This week Sprinkles reviews a few books about gender identity written for children.

Marshmallow and Caramel have been complaining that Sprinkles has not written a post since last Halloween (when she had reviewed a handful of children’s books about zombies). So she decided to write another one before the anniversary of that post came around. This is the post that resulted.

This week Sprinkles reviews a few books about gender identity written for children, with a nod to the International Pronouns Day, which was just this past Wednesday.

Sprinkles reviews children's books on gender identity.
Sprinkles reviews children’s books on gender identity.

There have been a range of children’s books about gender identity written recently. In this post I would like to share some of my thoughts about eight of them: Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love; Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall; Neither by Airlie Anderson; Pink Is For Boys written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban; The Gender Wheel by Maya Gonzalez; Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity, written by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and illustrated by Naomi Bardoff; It Feels Good To Be Yourself, written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni; and They, She, He, Me: Free To Be! by Maya Gonzalez and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez.

I begin with a review of a handful of them that aim to emphasize the point that being different is alright, and there is a place for all of us in this world.

Sprinkles is posing with four books that emphasize that being different is okay: Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love, Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall, Neither by Airlie Anderson, and Pink Is For Boys written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban.
Sprinkles is posing with four books that emphasize that being different is okay: Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love, Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall, Neither by Airlie Anderson, and Pink Is For Boys written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban.

In Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love we meet a little boy named Julián who wants to dress up as a mermaid. He finds acceptance in an unexpected place. The book ends as a celebration of differences. The colors of the book are pastel and lively at the same time, inviting us to Julián’s beautiful world.

Sprinkles is reading Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love.
Sprinkles is reading Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love.

In Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall, we meet a little crayon who is blue but is in a red covering paper. He has a difficult time at the start trying to fit in. But in the end he finds that he can be who he is, and life is good again. The color scheme used is simple and reminded me a bit of the book series about crayons by Drew Daywalt. (Caramel reviewed The Crayons’ Christmas, the third book of that series, for our blog.) The illustrations are not intricate but they do exactly what they are meant to and give us a sense of this crayon’s inner world and the world around him as well.

Sprinkles is reading Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall.
Sprinkles is reading Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall.

In Neither by Airlie Anderson, we learn of a land of This or That, where every creature has to be this or that, and when there is an individual who does not fit either, they are mocked and excluded from the two groups formed around being This and being That. Eventually we see our outcast, who sees themself as a Both but is called Neither by the two groups, finds themself in a land where they are accepted, along with everyone else. The colors are bright and cheery, and the little creatures are simply drawn but pretty cute.

Sprinkles is reading Neither by Airlie Anderson.
Sprinkles is reading Neither by Airlie Anderson.

All three books remind me a bit of a fascinating little book Caramel reviewed a while ago for this blog: From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea by Kai Cheng Thom. That book had a dreamy atmosphere, and the main character was a child though magically different from others. Julián from Julián Is A Mermaid is also a little child, and I can see a little boy being comforted by reading about him and his dream of being a mermaid coming true. In some ways though, Neither and Red: A Crayon’s Story might be easier for parents who want to broach the subject of being different without explicitly bringing up gender identity. It is easy to identify the perceived and assumed boy-girl gender binary underlying the stratification of the land of This and That in Neither, though it is never explicitly stated. Similarly, the Blue Crayon in Red: A Crayon’s Story is also suffering from his peers’ expectations about how he should behave given what he looks like, but there is no explicit discussion of boyhood or girlhood.

On the other hand, Pink Is For Boys, written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban, brings up the boy-girl binary right up front. The main point here is that boys can like pink just like girls can like blue. Similarly boys can enjoy bows on dresses and girls can like baseball. The binary is not really questioned here, but instead, children are told that the boundaries of the two categories are porous in many ways, that boys and girls can enjoy all sorts of things and still be themselves.

Sprinkles poses with Pink Is For Boys, written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban.
Sprinkles poses with Pink Is For Boys, written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban.

The first three books I described above were stories and could easily be viewed as fictional, though obviously the authors were writing with a particular goal and an intended moral. The fourth book was more an advice book, a nonfiction text that openly tells the child reading it (or being read to) what to think about the topic.

The next four books fit this mold as well. They are more like an adult talking to a child who is maybe a bit concerned about being different or simply curious about gender identity, even if they may not be asking explicitly to talk about the topic.

Sprinkles is posing with four books that explain pronouns and gender identity to children: The Gender Wheel by Maya Gonzalez, Who Are You? The Kid's Guide to Gender Identity, written by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and illustrated by Naomi Bardoff, It Feels Good To Be Yourself, written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni, and They, She, He, Me: Free To Be! by Maya Gonzalez and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez.
Sprinkles is posing with four books that explain pronouns and gender identity to children (and possibly also the adults who are reading with them): The Gender Wheel by Maya Gonzalez, Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity, written by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and illustrated by Naomi Bardoff, It Feels Good To Be Yourself, written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni, and They, She, He, Me: Free To Be! by Maya Gonzalez and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez.

Let me start with They, She, He, Me: Free To Be! by Maya Gonzalez and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez. Among the four books explicitly about gender identity, this one is perhaps the simplest though definitely not oversimplified. The book starts with page after page of pronouns and pictures of people, and the pictures are pretty amazing.

Sprinkles is reading the page in They, She, He, Me: Free To Be! by Maya Gonzalez and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez that display various ways of being a "she".
Sprinkles is reading the pages in They, She, He, Me: Free To Be! by Maya Gonzalez and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez that display various ways of being a “she”.

The emphasis of the book is on pronouns, but the main text that starts after the pronoun depictions is quite extensive. Though organized under headings of Pronouns, Freeing Pronouns, Claiming Pronouns, Creating Pronouns, Using Pronouns, and Playing With Pronouns, the text touches upon the uniqueness of each individual, the creative possibilities of pronouns, and the freedom to be who you want to be. Creators of this book share a bit about themselves too and then have a few words for the grownups. They summarize the main goal of this book really well in their personal introduction:

As parents we want our kids to feel fully free to blossom into their maximum magnificence.

They, She, He, Me: Free To Be! by Maya Gonzalez and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez

The Gender Wheel is written and illustrated by Maya Gonzalez, too. This book is a bit broader in its coverage of gender identity, and is beautifully illustrated, with lyrical language that explores the implications of thinking of the world and our identities as parts of a circle. I loved how the author kept coming back to the circle as a metaphor and a reflection of the world as well as our own inner lives.

However, the book is very U.S. centric, and explicitly asserts that the boy-girl gender binary was brought to North America by European settlers, who had “linear and rigid” beliefs and so they “boxed people in and kept nature out”. Though I sympathize with the author’s perspective, I see it as quite limited in the global context, as the gender binary is alive and well all around the world, without direct need for any seventeenth-century European influences. And though some native peoples of this continent may have had more fluid perceptions of gender than the ones we are living with these days (according to this Berkeley website for example, “more than 150 different pre-colonial Native American tribes acknowledged third genders in their communities”), this was definitely not always as freeing as some might imagine, and may not have meant what we might think it does. (The same website asserts that “By no means did all pre-colonial Native American communities accept or celebrate gender and sexual orientation diversity.”) So I saw this pass at colonialism as an unnecessary distraction.

Sprinkles is reading The Gender Wheel by Maya Gonzalez.
Sprinkles is reading The Gender Wheel by Maya Gonzalez.

The gender wheel in the title of the book is extremely useful as a tool however. It is a beautiful way to visualize and understand the complexities of the construct of gender and it allows the reader to be able to distinguish between physical and biological bodies, how one feels inside their body, and how one chooses or needs to engage with the outside world. While scholars of gender studies dig deep into the nuances of their constructs and appreciate all their complexities, for the rest of us these very same intricacies might be barriers in understanding ourselves and our loved ones. Gonzalez and her wheel make the ideas quite transparent and very much easier to understand (and even discuss with young ones in our lives).

A similar idea is used and offered as a tool in Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity, written by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and illustrated by Naomi Bardoff. This book, too, explicitly describes gender as made up of three layers; these are called Body, Identity, and Expression. (In The Gender Wheel, Gonzalez labels the layers as the body circle, the inside circle, and the pronoun circle.) Having read the two books together, I now find both sets of labels making a lot more sense to me. Unfortunately it seems that the latter book (Who Are You?) does not acknowledge the source of their own wheel construction, and as a result, it is highly likely that this is a case of plagiarism (see Maya Gonzalez’s blog post about the issue here.)

The illustrations in Who Are You? are in some ways a bit less whimsical than those in The Gender Wheel, which definitely reflects its creator’s particular style (as also seen in her book with Matthew Smith-Gonzalez, They, She, He, Me: Free To Be!). But they are definitely not boring or unattractive. Actually they occasionally reminded me very much of the style of the If You Give … series written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond, and could sufficiently capture a young reader’s attention.

Sprinkles poses with a copy of Who Are You? The Kid's Guide to Gender Identity, written by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and illustrated by Naomi Bardoff.
Sprinkles poses with a copy of Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity, written by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and illustrated by Naomi Bardoff.

Who Are You? also comes with a few pages of advice for the adult reader. I think the author makes the (probably correct) assumption that an adult who shares this book with a young person will likely want to have as much support and ideas for resources as they can. So there are resources about how to use the wheel tool provided, how to engage with particular parts of the book with a young person, and where to find other resources (books and films) that can help support a conversation with a young person exploring these issues.

Finally let me say a few words about It Feels Good To Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity, written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni.

Sprinkles is posing with It Feels Good To Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity, written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni.
Sprinkles is posing with It Feels Good To Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity, written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni.

It Feels Good To Be Yourself introduces the reader to a few different children who have different gender identities and sexual expressions. Terms like “transgender” and “non-binary” are explicitly defined in child-friendly language, and the book depicts all gender identity-related difference positively and ends with the main moral:

No matter what your gender identity is, you are okay exactly the way you are. And you are loved.

It Feels Good To Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity, written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni.

This book too ends with some followup resource suggestions. And the color scheme in the book reminded me a bit of the book I mentioned earlier that Caramel had reviewed: From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea by Kai Cheng Thom. But the listing of different people one by one, and how we all are different but belong together reminded me a bit of Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor.


Having read these eight books, what can I tell the reader who probably already regrets diving into such a long blog post?

First I have to admit I am grateful. I am grateful that our children today have these types of books. I am also grateful that we the parents, too, have access to these types of resources to help support our kids in finding and growing into the people they want to be, despite prejudices and oppressive social models of being a boy / man or a girl / woman in the world. I have found each and every one of the books I mentioned in this post to be helpful, and I think there are little people out there that could very much benefit from reading any of them.

Secondly I think these books would be great conversation starters, with all young people. If your child is not comfortable with the gender binary and its impositions on their life, then pick up one or more of these books and let them read it and then discuss. Or why not curl onto a couch or into a bed together and read them together? Depending on how you usually choose to broach various issues with your little one, there is definitely a book out there that will open the right communication channels for you.

Even if your child is already comfortable in their gender identity, it makes sense to bring these books and topics up for conversation. Sometimes children can be rigid adopters of social assumptions without questioning, and their reactions and comments can be hurtful to other people. If you want to raise children who are open-minded and flexible, and who can respect and love people of all ways of being, then these topics do belong, if not at your dining table (and then again why not there?) then definitely somewhere.

Finally I will add that Caramel told me his two favorites among these were Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall, and Neither, by Airlie Anderson. I can see how the less openly didactic texts might be easier to share with young ones. At some point, though, especially for the slightly older crowd, the books with more explicit discussion of gender identity might be more appropriate. These books can easily introduce these growing readers to the correct terms and constructs to think about, understand, and express their own gender identities as well as to learn about other people around them.

Sprinkles enjoyed and very much appreciated reading each one of these eight books (Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love; Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall; Neither by Airlie Anderson; Pink Is For Boys written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban; The Gender Wheel by Maya Gonzalez; Who Are You? The Kid's Guide to Gender Identity, written by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and illustrated by Naomi Bardoff; It Feels Good To Be Yourself, written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni; and They, She, He, Me: Free To Be! by Maya Gonzalez and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez), and thinks that there is definitely at least one book among these that will work for you and your little one.
Sprinkles enjoyed and very much appreciated reading each one of these eight books (Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love; Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall; Neither by Airlie Anderson; Pink Is For Boys written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban; The Gender Wheel by Maya Gonzalez; Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity, written by Brook Pessin-Whedbee and illustrated by Naomi Bardoff; It Feels Good To Be Yourself, written by Theresa Thorn and illustrated by Noah Grigni; and They, She, He, Me: Free To Be! by Maya Gonzalez and Matthew Smith-Gonzalez), and thinks that there is definitely at least one book among these that will work for you and your little one.

Caramel reviews physics books for babies by Chris Ferrie

This past week Caramel got his paws on a handful of board books from the Baby University series, written mainly by Chris Ferrie. He is a voracious reader, and these little books, written for tinier bunnies and their adults, were all read within the course of one evening. Then he reread them and reread them again. And for today’s review, he insisted that we should talk about them. So that is what is happening today: Caramel is reviewing six books on physics from the Baby University series, and Sprinkles is taking notes and asking followup questions.

Caramel reviews Electromagnetism for Babies, Astrophysics for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Quantum Physics for Babies, and Rocket Science for Babies, almost all written by Chris Ferrie, except the astrophysics one which is coauthored by him and Julia Kregenow.
Caramel reviews Electromagnetism for Babies, Astrophysics for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Quantum Physics for Babies, and Rocket Science for Babies, almost all written by Chris Ferrie, except the astrophysics one which is coauthored by Ferrie and Julia Kregenow.

Sprinkles: So Caramel, why did you want to review these books?

Caramel: Well, I liked them. I review only the books I like.

S: But aren’t these books for babies?

C: Yes. So? I don’t care. I liked them!

S: I agree they are cute and fun. But did you find them amusing? Did you find them informative?

C: Both!

S: They do explain some basic physics in simple terms. And even for a little bunny like you, who can read big books, they could teach some basic principles, right?

C: Yes.

S: Okay, let us start from the beginning. The earliest physics these books talks about is Newtonian physics. Can you tell me a bit about what you learn in that book?

C: This book talks about gravity, and mass, and acceleration.

S: Hmm, those are big important words. Do you know what they mean?

C: Yeah. For example the book tells me what gravity is. It says: “We can’t see gravity. It is the force that keeps us on the ground.”

S: I see.

C: There are forces and they make a ball move faster. That is what accelerate means. And when an apple falls from a tree, it “feels the force of gravity, and Sir Isaac Newton feels the force of the apple.”

S: Yes, so in this book we go through Newton’s Three Laws of Motion.

C: I knew only one of them before reading this book, the one that says “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. So I learned two more.

S: That is good! Then let us move to the book on electromagnetism. That is I believe the next one, in terms of the history of science.

C: Hmm, let me quickly read it again… Okay, this one, like all the others, starts with a ball. All of the books start with “This is a ball.”

S: It is a good starting point, especially if you want babies to be interested, right?

C: Yes. I like balls too.

S: I know! So okay, in this book you learn about electric charges and then magnets and then finally that the ideas of electricity and magnetism are related. Right?

C: Yes! I heard that they use big magnets in wind turbines to generate electricity! They are using this idea!

S: That is cool! Here is an article we found about “the critical role of magnets in wind turbines” and read together.

Caramel is looking at Electromagnetism for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, and Quantum Physics for Babies, all written by Chris Ferrie.
Caramel is looking at Electromagnetism for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, and Quantum Physics for Babies, all written by Chris Ferrie.

S: Next let us talk about the book on quantum physics. Tell me about this one.

C: This also starts with a ball. Then it tells us about atoms and electrons. Electrons have energy. This energy is “quantized”.

S: That means that the energy electrons can have has to be among a few possible values. Not all values are allowed.

C: Yes. I learned that from this book.

S: That is some quite fancy knowledge Caramel. I’m glad you are learning all this already!

Caramel is looking at Astrophysics for Babies by Ferrie and Kregenow and General Relativity for Babies by Ferrie.

S: Tell me next about the astrophysics one. This is written by Chris Ferrie and Julie Kregenow.

C: This too starts with “This is a ball.” And then it says planets and stars are like balls. Then it talks about elements on the periodic table. They were all created in stars!

S: Yes, that part made me think about that Symphony of Science song we like to listen to. There is a part in that song where Carl Sagan says, “We’re made of star stuff”. He then says “We’re a way for the cosmos to know itself.” I love that!

C: Yeah, let us embed the video here!

S: Sure, why not?

“”We Are All Connected” was made from sampling Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, The History Channel’s Universe series, Richard Feynman’s 1983 interviews, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s cosmic sermon, and Bill Nye’s Eyes of Nye Series, plus added visuals from The Elegant Universe (NOVA), Stephen Hawking’s Universe, Cosmos, the Powers of 10, and more. It is a tribute to great minds of science, intended to spread scientific knowledge and philosophy through the medium of music.”

S: “And there is much to be learned.” I love this song. But let us get back to the books. Next if you want, we can talk about the book about general relativity.

C: This begins with the same sentence: “This is a ball.”

S: Then what happens? What do you learn?

C: I learn about mass and how it warps space, and then about black holes.

S: All pretty cool stuff really…

C: And now let us talk about my favorite one.

S: Yes, let us talk about Rocket Science for Babies.

Caramel is posing with Rocket Science for Babies by Chris Ferrie, his favorite so far in this series.
Caramel is posing with Rocket Science for Babies by Chris Ferrie, his favorite so far in this series.

C: This is my favorite! It again starts with “This is a ball.” Like all the other ones. Then it talks about lift and airplane wings and thrust. And rockets.

S: Why is it your favorite?

C: Because I love rocket ships and planes and balls. And the book is all about them.

S: Yes, that is a good reason to like the book. Did you learn something new from this book?

C: Well, not really. I already knew a bit about lift and thrust and such. But it is still a cool book.

Caramel is reading Rocket Science for Babies by Chris Ferrie, his favorite so far in this series.
Caramel is reading Rocket Science for Babies by Chris Ferrie, his favorite so far in this series.

S: So do you think it is time to give these books away to a baby bunny?

C: No! I like them and want to read them a lot more times before we do that!

S: Okay, you can read and reread them as many times as you like. I do think they are good ways to set up the fundamental ideas of some of these things. Do you think these books would work well for babies?

C: Yes, I would have loved to have read them with you when I was a baby.

S: So would I! I myself would recommend these books to parents, especially if they are willing to talk to their little ones about the science a bit, even if it has to be with the help of the internet. But we only found out about them this year. Oh well, better late than never, right? Let us wrap this up. What three words would you use to describe these books?

C: Helpful, colorful, fun.

S: I think those work! So what should our readers do?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading and rereading Electromagnetism for Babies, Astrophysics for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Quantum Physics for Babies, and Rocket Science for Babies, almost all written by Chris Ferrie, except the astrophysics one which is coauthored by Ferrie and Julia Kregenow.
Caramel enjoyed reading and rereading Electromagnetism for Babies, Astrophysics for Babies, Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Quantum Physics for Babies, and Rocket Science for Babies, almost all written by Chris Ferrie, except the astrophysics one which is coauthored by Ferrie and Julia Kregenow.

Sprinkles reviews children’s books about zombies

Given that it is Halloween in the United States today, the book bunnies thought about doing something different. Today Sprinkles reviews a handful of children’s books about zombies! VERY SCARY!! And to be honest not all of these are appropriate for children, even though they are published in a children’s book format. But hey, it is Halloween, and we’ve got to try to be scary, right? So here goes.

Sprinkles reviews children's books about zombies.
Sprinkles reviews children’s books about zombies.

As adult bunnies go, I am pretty much a scaredy cat. I do not much enjoy horror movies or novels or short stories. I avoid the genre altogether if I can. Zombies are the one exception. I find them fascinating. From its historical Caribbean and possibly African origins, to the intriguing role it plays in the philosophy of the mind, the zombie is not merely a popular culture icon with a pathological obsession for human brains, but in my opinion an enduring concept that raises significant questions about what it means to be human.

The little bunnies in our household do not yet share my fascination with zombies. However, this has not stopped me from collecting through the years a handful of zombie books that at least seem to be intended for young readers. In this post, I will share my candid opinion about these five books: That’s Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale by Matt Mogk and Aja Wells, The Girl’s Guide to Zombies: Everything Vital about These Undead Monsters by Jen Jones, Zombies Hate Stuff by Greg Stone, Ten Little Zombies: A Love Story by Andy Rash, and Pat the Zombie: A Cruel Spoof by Aaron Ximm and Kaveh Soofi.

Sprinkles is reading That's Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale by Matt Mogk and Aja Wells: "If she doesn't seem like she did before, Maybe that's not your mommy anymore."
Sprinkles is reading That’s Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale by Matt Mogk and Aja Wells: “If she doesn’t seem like she did before, Maybe that’s not your mommy anymore.”

Let me begin with That’s Not Your Mommy Anymore: A Zombie Tale by Matt Mogk and Aja Wells. This is a book written in rhyme and starts sweet:

Mommy has the kindest eyes.
Mommy likes to bake you pies.

And then something happens to mommy and she is transformed into the scary zombie from the standard zombie movies. We do not see how she is infected, but we discover with the boy, how she becomes a mindless zombie. The book is a picture book really, but the pictures get gorier and more disturbing on each page. Reading this with young bunnies could possibly be traumatizing; especially if the child is already worried occasionally about losing a parent, it would be probably parental malpractice to read it to them. However if you have a young bunny who finds horror fascinating, they might actually enjoy this little gem. Otherwise this is likely more appropriate for the teenage crowd who might have fond memories of having read rhyming picture books but also have a budding interest in zombies and other gory stuff.

Sprinkles is taking the "Which Type of Zombie Are You?" quiz in The Girl's Guide to Zombies: Everything Vital about These Undead Monsters by Jen Jones.
Sprinkles is taking the “Which Type of Zombie Are You?” quiz in The Girl’s Guide to Zombies: Everything Vital about These Undead Monsters by Jen Jones.

Next on my list is The Girl’s Guide to Zombies: Everything Vital about These Undead Monsters by Jen Jones. This is a slim hardcover book published in the Girls’ Guides to Everything Unexplained series, which contains books on vampires, werewolves, and wizards. This one is full of pop culture references (though some, like the one about Michael Jackson’s Thriller video, might be somewhat too old for contemporary readers), and offers a lot of information about zombies both in history and in the media. As most books directed at girls assume girls like quizzes, this one, too, has a quiz: Which Type of Zombie Are You? To make sure you are a human, you apparently need to like geometry and California (I am good with both of those!) and strawberry lip gloss (not sure about this one…) All in all, though, this one would really be suitable for the age group it seems to be intended for: the young reader who wants to know what the fuss is about these things called zombies.

Sprinkles is reading Zombies Hate Stuff by Greg Stone; apparently zombies hate giant purple monsters and penguins.
Sprinkles is reading Zombies Hate Stuff by Greg Stone; apparently zombies hate giant purple monsters and penguins.

Next up is Zombies Hate Stuff by Greg Stone. Readers of this blog might recall that Caramel has already reviewed a book by Greg Stone: Penguins Hate Stuff. Zombies Hate Stuff is a book in exactly the same spirit. Each page has a detailed illustration and a simple word or phrase which describes something else that zombies hate. We learn for example that zombies hate sheep, re-gifting, cliffs, and archery, but they do not mind wigs, celery, teddy bears and Canadians. Zombies Hate Stuff is, just like the penguin book, good for quite a few chuckles. Each illustration is simple yet carefully thought out, and you might find a new page more interesting to you than the others every time you open up the book. The book is likely not directly aimed toward young readers, but seeing how Caramel enjoyed Penguins Hate Stuff, I can see how young ones who like horror stuff even in small doses might also enjoy this one, which adds a good deal of humor into the mix.

Sprinkles poses with Ten Little Zombies: A Love Story by Andy Rash, and Pat the Zombie: A Cruel Spoof by Aaron Ximm and Kaveh Soofi.
Sprinkles poses with Ten Little Zombies: A Love Story by Andy Rash, and Pat the Zombie: A Cruel Spoof by Aaron Ximm and Kaveh Soofi.

Finally let me say a few words about Ten Little Zombies: A Love Story, by Andy Rash, and Pat the Zombie: A Cruel Spoof, by Aaron Ximm and Kaveh Soofi. These two are modeled after a well-known children’s rhyme in the case of Ten Little Zombies (I first heard about it while reading a novel by Agatha Christie; readers might want to follow the evolution of this rhyme in the relevant Wikipedia article) and a well-known children’s book in the case of Pat the Zombie.

The Ten Little Zombies follows the steps of the Ten Little Soldier Boys. Just as that poem is itself quite gory, the book is quite bloody and would likely not be great for really young bunnies. As you read further, the story gets more and more violent, but the end surprises the reader with a sweet twist. So even though zombies and blood and gore are all over this little book, I still smile when I think about it. Among the five books I’m reviewing here, this book is my favorite. I can see The Ten Little Zombies be appreciated by middle grade readers and older bunnies who are not terribly offended by gore and blood but also find love in the midst of gore at least somewhat endearing.

Now Pat the Zombie is another story. My best guess is that readers who grew up with Pat the Bunny, the 1940 touch-and-feel classic, are the main target audience of this book. Apparently there have been other parodies of the book: Wikipedia mentions “Pat the Politician, mocking contemporary political figures, and Pat the Yuppie, which includes activities like touching the sheepskin seatcovers of their new BMW and rubbing the exposed brick of their new condominium’s wall.” This is a good parody, and a cruel one, as the subtitle “A Cruel Spoof” implies. All standard parts of the original Pat the Bunny are here, there is a zombie bunny, Pat, and the two children start by touching it (or rather “gutting” it, as the book suggests). And step by step, we learn that the parents are also zombies, and things get closer and closer to the reader, as the reader eventually needs to read a survival manual and scream. So yes, this is definitely not for little ones, unless the little ones involved have a morbid sense of humor. But horror fans who can appreciate some cheekiness and who are open to messing around with their own pleasant childhood memories of reading the original Pat the Bunny with a loved adult might find this book amusing. It is really well done, but definitely only for its own audience.

Alright, now here we are, having talked about five zombie books published for children or at least published in the format of standard children’s books. Some of you may wonder about just who writes or publishes these kinds of books. And others might wonder why people even read them. But I will end this review with a full endorsement of cheeky adult humor messing with children’s books. As long as we always know our own children’s boundaries and resist the temptation to share some of these books with them unless we are sure they can handle them, these types of books can offer us a fresh memory of our own childhood mixed with some good load of laughter. (I even pushed away some happy tears with The Ten Little Zombies, I must admit. But then again I am a softie.) Some little bunnies will find some of these books really entertaining, and The Girl’s Guide to Zombies: Everything Vital about These Undead Monsters by Jen Jones is indeed perfectly suitable for the 8-12 year old crowd, so there is that, too.

Oh, and yes, Happy Halloween everyone! May you only be spooked by made-up monsters!

Happy Halloween, with cats! Image from http://wordofsean.blogspot.com/2015/10/blog-update-5-halloween-november-event.html.
Happy Halloween, with cats! Image from http://wordofsean.blogspot.com/2015/10/blog-update-5-halloween-november-event.html.

Sprinkles reviews children’s books about Barack Obama

As the United States is approaching another presidential election, Sprinkles thought that it could be a good idea to review children’s books about a recent president: President Barack Obama. Here Sprinkles shares her candid opinions on five books about him, with the goal of informing parents of young bunnies. Perhaps other young bunnies (and their parents too) will find one or more of these books worth the read to learn from and get inspired by.

Sprinkles writes about Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O'Brien, President Barack Obama by A.D. Largie and Sabrina Pichardo, Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky, Barack Obama by Caroline Crosson Gilpin, and Barack Obama: Out of Many, One by Shana Corey and James Bernardin.
Sprinkles writes about Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O’Brien, President Barack Obama by A.D. Largie and Sabrina Pichardo, Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky, Barack Obama by Caroline Crosson Gilpin, and Barack Obama: Out of Many, One by Shana Corey and James Bernardin.

School-age bunnies often need to find people to write about for school reports. Most of the books I review in this post found their way to the book bunnies household as the younger bunnies were writing reports about their personal heroes, about well-known world leaders, and about past presidents. And occasionally young readers get their paws on books about inspiring people and just read them on their own. The five books I review in this post are all suitable for both kinds of reading goals. If your little one is curious about president Barack Obama, just keep reading to see which of these five books might be the right one for them!

In what follows I organize and present my thoughts in the order of reader level. By that I mean that the youngest bunnies will likely find it easier to read the books I mention first, and the older ones, those that are more independent readers and those that can handle more challenging sentences, might get more details and all around just more out of the books that come up later.

In this photo, Sprinkles organized the books in this review in the order of reader level: President Barack Obama by A.D. Largie and Sabrina Pichardo, Barack Obama by Caroline Crosson Gilpin, Barack Obama: Out of Many, One by Shana Corey and James Bernardin, Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O'Brien, and Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky.
In this photo, Sprinkles organized the books in this review in the order of reader level: President Barack Obama by A.D. Largie and Sabrina Pichardo, Barack Obama by Caroline Crosson Gilpin, Barack Obama: Out of Many, One by Shana Corey and James Bernardin, Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O’Brien, and Barack Obama by Stephen Krensky.

The first book I will describe for this review is President Barack Obama, written by A. D. Largie and illustrated by Sabrina Pichardo. A slim and mid-size paperback, this book is aimed at younger readers. It can be read out loud, as there is some basic rhyme built into the text on each page. I wished that some of this rhyming was made more visible by formatting of the text or by punctuation. For example the text “Barack Obama proved that you can can (sic) do anything that you believe as long as you hope for the best and focus you can achieve.” would be easier to read if it were written more visibly in two lines and / or with more punctuation:

Barack Obama proved that you can do anything that you believe,
As long as you hope for the best and focus, you can achieve.

Still, a parent used to reading books out loud for their little ones will probably figure out the rhythm soon enough.

There was also a small factual error in the book. Obama was elected to the Illinois state senate in 1996, and to the United States Senate in 2004. But again it is not a big enough deal; a parent can easily correct it while reading.

Despite these two minor issues, I would say that this can be a good book to teach young ones about President Obama. A part of a “Boys Grow Up To Be Heroes” book series, the book emphasizes that Obama was teased for his name when he was young but he persevered; he worked hard on his classes and on building community; and he wanted to bring people of many differences together. And after all that, he was the first black president! This can certainly be an inspiring read.

Next, I will describe Caroline Crosson Gilpin’s Barack Obama, published by National Geographic Kids. Rated Level 2 by the publisher, the book is meant for transitional readers who are getting comfortable reading on their own. The font size is large and the pictures are colorful. After a brief introduction starting on January 20, 2009, the day of the inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama, most of the rest of the book is organized chronologically, and ends the story with a quote from Obama himself:

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

President Barack Obama

The book ends with a seven-question quiz, and a one-page glossary describing terms like “civil rights lawyer”, “community organizer”, and “multiracial”. All in all, this is a good book, telling the story with just enough details, and besides the facts, you also get a little dose of the inspiration that Obama’s presidency offered for many.

Barack Obama: Out of Many, One, written by Shana Corey and illustrated by James Bernardin, is also aimed toward the same level of readers, I believe. The book’s publisher Random House ranks it “Step 3: Reading on Your Own” and this is still written for the young reader, who is not yet quite ready for the chapter book. President Obama’s story is told in simple and clear language, from the beginning up to the time of writing of the book, during Obama’s second term. We start with:

We all have stories–each and every one of us. This is one of those stories. It is the story of a skinny little boy with a funny name and how he became part of America’s history.

and end along similar lines:

But the story is not complete. In fact it’s just started. Where does your story fit in the American story? You could help your neighbor or your school. You could even grow up to be president! Anything is possible–what happens next is up to you!

The illustrations are appealingly hand-drawn, and are peppered with actual photographic images. My favorite was the last one, right under the words I quoted above, where President Obama is looking at some school kids through a ginormous magnifying glass. And luckily due to copyright laws that say “a work of the U.S. federal government” will be on public domain, I can insert it right here:

United States President Barack Obama visits a pre-kindergarten classroom at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Georgia on 14 February 2013. Source Wikimedia via White House, accessed at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barack_Obama_through_a_magnifying_glass.jpg on September 19, 2020.

Next I will share my thoughts on Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O’Brien. This book is clearly directed towards readers who are comfortable with chapter books, as it is one, and at over one hundred pages, it is actually quite an informative read. Its twelve chapters tell a chronological story, with a great many details, including a description of the Democratic nomination process and the competition between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton at the time before the 2008 presidential elections. The author seems to trust that her reader can handle both details and large-picture connections; I always appreciate authors who respect their readers! The book ends with two timelines, one for Obama’s life and the other noting some world events relevant to the narrative of the book.

I believe that this would make an excellent choice for the young reader who is curious to learn about President Obama. Illustrated in simple black and white sketches by John O’Brien, the book tells the story of one of the most inspiring political figures of our times, and situates his story within the wider American context.

The last book I will describe in this review is Stephen Krensky’s Barack Obama. This book also targets a similar audience but perhaps expects a little bit more from the reader. The font size is much smaller, the sentences are a little bit more complex, and the book overall has more the flavor of a historical biography than that of a children’s book. This is not particularly a disadvantage, however, and should definitely not deter any young reader wishing to learn more about the first black president of the United States. The details and the historical conextualization that were strengths for the previous book are also a strength for this one, and the photographic images add a lot to the book’s appeal.

The longest of the books reviewed in this blog post, at 125 pages, Krensky’s Barack Obama is a good text for those young bunnies writing reports or essays about the president, and it can be a good resource for learning more about his life and accomplishments. (Among other things, it contains a neat timeline and several references for further reading and study.) However, it does end on the inauguration day of 2009, and we do not learn much about his accomplishments as the forty-fourth president of the United States. Still, I would recommend it for those bunnies looking to learn more.

Sprinkles thinks that if you or your little ones want to learn about President Barack Obama, there are a lot of great resources out there!
Sprinkles thinks that if you or your little ones want to learn about President Barack Obama, there are a lot of great resources out there!

But perhaps those same young bunnies are up to learn even more about this man? Then I’d urge them and their parents to consider diving into one of Obama’s own books. Many parents will likely think Obama’s 2006 book The Audacity of Hope might be too political (or politically motivated) for their young ones, but his first book, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, written in 1995, tells this man’s tale up to that time in lyrical but not overly dramatic language. This is a beautiful coming-of-age story, and it is perhaps uniquely American. Obama tries in it to open up, understand (for himself–and to our benefit), and come to terms with his own multicultural multiracial heritage. It can be a challenging read for preteens, but for tweens and teenagers, it is bound to be inspiring. And I’d say, it can be especially so, knowing that this young man narrating his own story would become the forty-fourth president of the United States in a little less than fifteen years from the end of the book.

After spending all this time reading about books about president Barack Obama written for younger audiences, Sprinkles proposes that you also consider Obama's own book Dreams From My Father as a possible next step.
After spending all this time reading about books about president Barack Obama written for younger audiences, Sprinkles proposes that you also consider Obama’s own book Dreams From My Father as a possible next step.