Mama Africa: A Voice of Hope

mama africa

Yesterday I went to Over the Moon Bookstore in Crozet, Virginia to hear Kathryn Erskine talk about her new book The Incredible Magic of Being. I didn’t know I’d be treated to a double feature. Turns out Kathryn had two new books released on the same day! The second, a sweet surprise to me, is the picture book Mama Africa! illustrated by Charly Palmer (Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2017).

Mama Africa! is about Miriam Makeba’s life spreading the injustices of apartheid through her voice, through her songs. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this brave, principled woman, but equally so, I enjoyed how Erskine told Miriam’s story: weaving actions and reactions with grace, pulling at the reader to roar with Miriam about the wrongs of racism and to root for her as we hear of her life’s challenges and successes. Erskine manages to tell of a serious, painful story in our history in a way approachable by young readers yet not belittling those young readers in the process.

I’ve never been to South Africa, but Palmer’s bold and colorful illustrations capture my imagination of the setting as well as fuel a spirit that also drove Miriam Makeba’s life work to end apartheid.

Mama Africa! is not a book I might have discovered myself since I am so caught up in the animal and plant world, but I am so glad to have met Kathryn Erskine and read Mama Africa! Both women* using their voice to fill our world with hope.




*Miriam Makeba died in 2008.


Little Pig’s Big Summer

Little Piggy

In Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello (Charlesbridge, 2017) Little Pig is disappointed that he’s still too little to join his siblings for their annual week at camp. What kid, or grown up, can’t relate to a time they’ve felt left out?

Little Pig is a good pig and he does his best to fill his time, but still his days seem long and lacking of the excitement his brothers and sisters are no doubt having. With the help of his Poppy, Little Pig creates his own summer fun in the stream with his toy ship. At the end of the week, an accident and a grand adventure ensue when his ship goes over a waterfall and out of reach. Little Pig does indeed save the ship; I won’t tell how.

That’s not really the point of the story. When Little Pig’s siblings return, it’s Little Pig’s exciting rescue story that makes his summer complete. His brothers and sisters relish his story and his stream play. The result being a summer of inclusion much grander, dare I say, than a week away at camp!

Little Pig Saves the Ship is a sweet story of making the best of disappointment and finding contentment in the process. It’s definitely a book to share.


Calling All Animal Lovers

It’s hard to read Can an aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Beach Lane Books, 2017) without wanting to join in with the howls, growls, bellows and laughs. I was reminded of the howler monkeys my kids loved to impersonate after hearing them at the Houston Zoo years ago.

Stewart leads with the title question of whether an aardvark can bark, and when we discover the sound it does make, she teaches us of other animals that make similar sounds. Then we are treated to animals that do bark. The book continues in a similar, but not monotonous way; there’s enough variation to keep the reader excited to turn the page. In total, Stewart portrays seven sounds and 35 animals, all delightfully illustrated with Jenkins characteristic cut-and-torn paper collage art.

This book makes a perfect inside chilly-weather read. Kids can act out their own zoo, complete with accurate sounds and do research on animals that pique their curiosity. I learned a lot about the different calls and sounds that animals make and can’t wait for the chance to read this with a young reader who will join me in some pretend play. What a symphony of sounds we will make!