We Are One - Book Review by Shereen Rahming

I often get writers offering to send me their books for review.  Since I get books to review from Here Wee Read and occasionally from Multicultural Children's Book Day (I just love these organizations! :-)) I often turn down the advances of most authors who contact me randomly.  I simply don't have the time to review all their books.  But once in a while, I will accept one.  This next book is one of the few books I accepted from an author who contacted me.  Upon reading it, I knew that I had made the right choice in picking this book.

We Are One is written by the adorable mother/son team, Pinky Mukhi and Param Patel.  I mean, how can you not love that already, right!  Their collaborative work is a charming picture book that is perfect for the ages of 4-9 years old.  It was inspired by Param's questions to his mother regarding the differences between their Indian culture and the cultures of his group of friends at school.  Having lived in India, Europe, and the United States, Pinky wanted to impart the beauty of diversity and the lesson that despite our differences we are connected.  Thus, together they wrote We Are One.

The story starts out with the main character, Mintu, feeling very insecure about revealing his culture, food, and language to his school friends who are visiting his home.  He even asks his mom if they can refrain from speaking their native Indian language, Gujarati, while his friends are in their home.  As a person who immigrated to the United States as a child, I can't tell you how much I can relate to this scenario.  I am certain that Pinky and Patel will find many readers who will also be able to relate to it.  Being different as a child can be very difficult and it is refreshing to read a book that addresses that struggle. 

As the guests arrive, Mintu quickly learns that each of them have their own unique cultures. One child is from Mexico and the other has an Italian background.  Then as in life, they find commonality through what else but food.  As they eat the paratha bread that Mintu's mother has just prepared, the child from Mexico mentions that paratha is just like the tortillas his family makes at home.  In that magical moment the children slowly start to realize that even in our differences, we have more in common with each other than we may think.

What I also love about this book is that it addresses the issue of disagreements.  As the visit to Mintu's house progresses, the children find themselves not getting along and Mintu's mother is there to teach them that disagreements don't have to lead to a lack of friendship.  As long as we respect our different viewpoints, we can remain in each other's good graces.

This book is a journey of appreciation to one's own uniqueness and the uniqueness of others.  At the end of that journey is where you find the beauty of diversity.  It is a journey that I hope we all take at some point in our lives and I think that this book is a great way to introduce that journey's path to little ones.

By the way, a treat at the end of the book is that the authors share the paratha recipe that Mintu's mom makes in the story.  So wishing you all tons of loving bedtime story moments and yummy paratha making and eating memories in the kitchen.  What a wonderful way to introduce lil ones to a new food or a different culture.  Enjoy!

Thank you to Pinky Mukhi and Param Patel for sharing their journey with us and for sending me a free copy of We Are One in exchange for my unbiased and honest review.  We Are One can be purchased on Amazon.





Book Review by Shereen Rahming - I Am Gandhi

"In my life, I was the small one.  

The skinny one.  

The poor one.  

Even the shy one.  

But I was never the weak one."

So writes Brad Meltzer, the author of I Am Gandhi, one of the books from the New York Times bestselling series. 

Literature can entertain us, teach and enlighten us, and if we are lucky, even inspire us.  I Am Gandhi is one of those pieces of children's literature that can do all of these things.  And might I add that I am not just talking about inspiring our children.  As adults, most of us know about Gandhi, but to teach children about him and to help them discover an appreciation for the man gives us the opportunity to appreciate him once again or for the first time.

I grew up hearing and eventually reading about the great Mahatma Gandhi.  I have even told my children about his amazing feat of battling the governments of South Africa and India without ever raising a fist or acting in anger.  But never did I teach them about how ordinary this extraordinary man was.

That is where this book won me over.  Anyone can write a book expounding the greatness of Mahatma Gandhi.  How could you not?  But to focus on the everyday attributes that some might even dare label as weaknesses, is in fact one of the strengths of I Am Gandhi.  You see, we live in a time of super human superheroes.  They are often larger than life, as perfect as any mythical god, and as physically strong as a dozen freight trains.  That is what many of our children idolize. 

I Am Gandhi starts off by introducing Gandhi as a small, shy, and fearful child who was not good at sports or even some school studies.  He was born no super human with super powers.  He was born ordinarily beautiful, with flaws and fears that many of us and our children can relate to.  The book chronicles how this seemingly unexceptional child carried within him an exceptional heart.  That heart lead him to be courageous despite his fears and pick himself up and carry on even after setbacks and failures in life.  What this small boy lacked in muscle, he made up for in integrity, persistence, dedication, and courage.

His weapon was not a sword.  The author tells us that it was Satyagraha (Suht-yuh-gruh-huh) or Truth Force.  He used the power of speaking the truth to fight his oppressors.  And such a powerful weapon it was, that it brought many changes to India and inspired other leaders around the world like Martin Luther King Jr during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and Nelson Mandela in his fight to end apartheid in South Africa.

In I Am Gandhi, the superhero may not have physical prowess but has an abundance of mental toughness. When Gandhi is imprisoned, it is the strength of his mind that allows him to endure the confines of a jail cell.  The overall lesson of the book is that "strength doesn't come from the size of your body.  It comes from the size of your heart." That is a lesson, every child should embrace and this is a book that should be on every classroom and home bookshelf in my humble opinion.

Thank you to the Project Manager of Multicultural Children's Book Day, the author, and the publishers of Penguin Young Readers Group for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased and honest review. 





Book Review by Shereen Rahming - Bedtime Inspirational Stories - 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World


     I generally try to accept books for review that I think I will like.  It is part of my goal to only share books that I believe are inspirational and positive.  But I have to say that sometimes, I get one that stands out amongst the rest.  The one I am about to share with you is one of the standouts.  Bedtime Inspirational Stories - 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World by L.A. Amber is already a classic in my opinion.  My daughter and I have already decided to add it to our night-time routine.  We made a pact to read about one individual every night until we have made our way through the entire book.

     I can honestly say that I am in love with this book literally from the beginning to the end.  As I opened it and read the dedication, I knew right away that I had in my hand a piece of literature that would speak to my heart.  It read:

"Bedtime Inspirational Stories is dedicated to any child who has ever been made to feel unworthy, to any child who has ever dreamed big but been discouraged, and to any child who has ever risen up but been silenced."

     Then as if that wasn't enough to put a smile on my face, the very last pages of the book offers a myriad of daily affirmations.  I have to say that I am a believer in the power of affirming your goals.  I have created Read & Glow Books and written my own book with that being one of the core values and principles that I speak of.  So as I read the dedication and looked over the affirmations, this book felt like a familiar friend in my hands. 

     As I skimmed through its pages, I noticed that it was as much a history book as one of poetry and art.  Every page focuses on a different individual who has greatly and positively impacted our world and across from each story are beautiful illustrations of each person featured.  The illustrator, T.Z. Nissen, deserves as much credit for the beautiful art work that goes hand in hand with each story told.   

     Besides teaching about these amazing people, what makes this book so charming is how the author engages the reader.  As she tells the life stories and experiences of the various individuals in the book, she occasionally asks questions like, "Do you like plays and poems?" "What about writing them?"  As I read the questions intertwined in each story, my daughter started answering them and I noticed that the author is almost having a conversation with her audience.  Rather than just talking to them, the author is interacting with them and that is so endearing.

     As far as the people covered in the book, it ranges from the iconic to pop culture stars to lesser known heroes and influencers.  You can read about Oprah Winfrey, President Barack Obama, Harriet Tubman, Beyonce, Serena Williams, Mary Mcleod Bethune, George Carruthers, and Toussaint L'Ouverture.  What I appreciate about this is that even adults can discover someone that they may not know much or nothing about.  I found myself learning right along with my daughter and it peaked my interest and curiosity as much as hers.

     Bedtime Inspirational Stories - 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World has brought a renewed sense of anticipation to our bedtime reading.  We can't wait to read about the next amazing person who changed the world.  I'm willing to bet it will do the same thing for any household lucky enough to have this on their bookshelf. 

Bedtime Inspirational Stories - 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World is available for purchase through Amazon.

Note: I received a free copy of this book for an unbiased and honest review.




Book Review by Shereen Rahming - Lou Lou Mae's Badge of Courage

     Before I even introduce you to today's book, I have to start off by saying that I am so excited about it.  I could not wait to write this review.  If you are looking for a story to teach your little ones about the true meaning of courage, this is the book for you.  It is Lou Lou Mae's Badge of Courage written by Kinjatta Dobbins and illustrated by Lisa Tingle.  With its beautiful message of bravery, it is the kind of story that can become a favorite within your household.  So it is safe to say that I really adore this one.

     Lou Lou Mae is a beautiful little girl who discovers at a young age that she is blind in one eye.  To strengthen her seeing eye, her doctor recommends wearing a patch over the blind eye.  But poor Lou Lou Mae struggles with this as she is scared to be seen out in public with the patch on. She attempts to find the courage to wear her eye patch but just can't seem to muster it up, until she meets Mrs. Valor, a real life military veteran with a very special physical condition that she has had to adapt to.  By finding commonality with Mrs. Valor and witnessing her strength, Lou Lou Mae learns that bravery is not the absence of fear but the willingness to move forward despite feeling fear.  This is a story of discovering the strength within and learning what true bravery is.

     One of my biggest goals is to promote positive self esteem and self love in every child.  Lou Lou Mae's Badge of Courage does so masterfully by teaching children to turn what is seemingly their imperfections into perfect badges of honor.  It teaches them to change apparent weaknesses into absolute strengths and there is no better way to develop positive self esteem than by doing just that.  

     And what makes this book even more special is the fact that the story is inspired by the author's own experience.  Like Lou Lou Mae, Kinjatta Dobbins wears an eye patch.  She has had to discover her own strength within and find her badge of courage just as the little heroine in her story.  Perhaps it is the author's personal experience that gives such heart to this book.  Her words ring out with such affection.  No where is that more evident than when she introduces us to a mantra that my little ones marched up to bed reciting after we read this book.  So as I leave you all, hopefully with a longing to read Lou Lou Mae's courageous story, I wish you all the courage and strength you need to face life's challenges and I leave you with Lou Lou Mae's mantra... "There's nothing to it but to do it!"

Lou Lou Mae's Badge of Courage can be purchased on Amazon.com


My Great Book Fair Finds by Shereen Rahming

     There is no better way to spend some time than by slowly wandering up and down the aisles of a bookstore, library, or book fair while perusing every interesting title looking for your next literary treasure.  I had the pleasure of bringing home two gems from a couple of book fairs and I could not wait to share them with you.

     The first book is Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael Lopez.  There is no better time to share this book than now as we are in the midst of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.  it is an ode to various people of Hispanic origins who have made amazing contributions to the world through art, science, education, activism, sports, and more.  It focuses on eighteen individuals whose stories are told through beautifully written poetry and illustrations.  

     One of the things that I truly appreciate about this book is that it does not only focus on people whose names are well known or whose stories are familiar to many of us.  Rather, the eighteen individuals included are a mix of well and lesser known people but all who have had significant influence in our world.  They include individuals like Jose Marti, Cesar Chavez, Paulina Pedroso, Tito Puente,  and Aida de Acosta.  And just when you have reached the last poem, the author gives you more with additional notes about the lives of each person.  It truly is a treat to learn about what makes each of them amazing.

     The other book is from the New York Times best selling Who Was series.  This particular book is Who Was Muhammad Ali?  Now besides that fact that Muhammad Ali was an incredible human being with an interesting life story, I have to tell you that this book has a special place in my heart not only because I love the series and my daughter has been reading them for years, but also because this book is beloved by my son who was the one to pick it out.

     My son is only four years old and this book is way above his reading level as he is just learning how to read.  The Who Was series are mid-level chapter books with a few black and white illustrations, so naturally I was surprised when he surpassed all the picture books and insisted that I buy this one for him.  Surprised I was but completely thrilled nonetheless.  

     You see my husband and I make it a point to tell our children early on about great African American heroes so that they will have positive role models to look up to and also know their history from an early age.  My husband has a deep love and appreciation for Muhammad Ali for his stance on civil rights and he is also a huge boxing fanatic.  So of course, Muhammad Ali is one of the heroes we talk to our children about.  We have several books on him including a few coffee table books with beautiful photographs.  

     When my son saw the cover of Who Was Muhammad Ali, he immediately recognized the picture of the famous boxer.  He brought it over to me and stared up at my face with those puppy dog brown eyes and said, "Mommy can I get this one?"  I looked at it and said, "Are you sure that's the one you want?"  He replied, "Yes, he's a great boxer and man."  I smiled, took it out of his little hand, took the book right over to the register and paid for it.  

     We have been slowly reading the pages with me mostly paraphrasing to keep it interesting to a four year old.  But the best is when he picks it up and pretends to read it himself.  Of course it will be around waiting for him when he is ready to really read it on his own.  Now that is literary gold!

     Thanks for letting me share them with you!         


BOOK REVIEW by Shereen Rahming - I'M A BIG SISTER

     When I received the opportunity through Here Wee Read to review I'm A Big Sister by Crystal Swain-Bates, I immediately jumped on it.  As a mom of two kids, I remember vividly the days of awaiting the birth of my son and looking for stories to share with my daughter about becoming a big sister.  As we prepped for the new baby by decorating a nursery and buying new clothes, we also prepped our daughter for the changes she would experience.  There is no better way to open up such a discussion with a child, than by allowing the gift of stories to lead the way.  So when I saw the latest book by Crystal Swain-Bates, the nostalgia of those days came swinging back into my mind and I couldn't wait to read I'm A Big Sister.

     This charming story is written in a simple rhyming style and told through the eyes of an adorable little girl whose Mom and Dad has just returned home with a brand new addition to the family tree, therefore making her a new big sister.  As she settles into her new role, she discovers the fun, joy, and work of having a new baby in the home.  With all the work that goes into caring for a baby, she becomes a great helper to her parents and quickly embraces her big sister title.

     In addition to being a great story, I also enjoyed this book because it centers around an African American family.  As the mom of African American children, I am constantly on the look out for books where my children can see positive representations of characters that look and feel like them.  I'm A Big Sister is exactly the kind of literature I seek to give to my children to help promote positive esteem for themselves and their culture.

     But as much as this is a book about an African American family, I must also say that it is about any typical American family.  It is a universal story for any family that is going through the experience of expanding their brood.   I can see various families with little girls awaiting their new baby siblings, having many happy bedtime readings with this book.  I'm A Big Sister would make a great addition to the bookshelves of all big girls about to become big sisters.

     You can purchase I'm A Big Sister by Crystal Swain-Bates on Amazon.com or BrownGirlsClub.com.



Book Review by Shereen Rahming - "A Taco for El Presidente"

When I was asked to review "A Taco For El Presidente," written by Seema Vora Bakhru and illustrated by Eduardo Rama, I was immediately intrigued by the title.  It is an obvious ode to the political climate we currently inhabit.  I was curious as to how a children’s book would tackle such a sensitive subject and explain it all to children in a manner that is truthful and respectful to all readers.

I sat down with book in hand and prepared myself for an interesting read.  Right away, I was won over with the charm of Max the taco who only wants to be the best taco he can be so that he can show the President that tacos are indeed great.  

As Max sets out to make himself into the best taco, he realizes that the best taco should include many different flavors.  He incorporates Mediterranean flavors, Korean flavors, and Indian flavors but is not met with positive reviews from his boss who runs the taco truck that Max works for. His boss would prefer Max to stick to the same typical flavors that everyone is used to.  

Even though Max is met with resistance from his boss, some enchanting and other delicious food friends encourage him to stay true to himself.  When the time comes to finally meet the President, Max is ready to pass his message along that having more than one flavor is what makes the taco truck great.  

This is a story that all ages and flavors can embrace.  In a time when issues of multiculturalism, diversity, and even being true to one’s identity are constantly debated, I must say that this story is needed.  With humor, creativity, and charm, it respectfully teaches the lessons of acceptance and understanding and being true to one’s self.  It is a story of coming together and embracing the best in all of us.  Not only do I recommend it for little ones who want a fun and funny read, but I also recommend it for parents who want to introduce their kids to new and different foods and cultures.  This would be great encouragement for them to try new things. But in addition, I suggest it to any adult who needs and wants to address the issues of diversity and our world with positivity, hope, and even a little humor.