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I am very excited to be a part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day (1/27/17) this year. It is a privilege to be part of this important effort to lift up diverse children’s books. Representation in literature matters. All of our children benefit from seeing themselves reflected in the pages of their books. I encourage you to follow Multicultural Children’s Book Day online or on twitter, visit the pages of the bloggers who will be linking today, read the rich booklists that will be offered, and enter for a chance to win one of many book giveaways.

16195384_10155239579772784_4243063329965223369_nI have been invited to review Dragons Are Real, written by Valarie Budayr, a lovely picture book that brings dragons out of fairy tales into the ordinary lives of children. The children depicted in the story reflect the ethnic diversity of our world. Colorfully illustrated by Michael Welply, this book is full of dragons who appear friendly, intelligent, and full of fun. They enjoy reading, dancing, and swimming. Children will find the warm pictures inviting and full of humorous detail, reminiscent of Mark Teague and Jane Yolen’s dinosaur series. An activity guide is available to help teachers and families explore the story in creative ways.

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.

Budayr and Wenjen write about the importance of highlighting multicultural children’s books. “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. This event has also proven to be an excellent way to compile a list of diverse children’s book titles and reviews for parents, grandparents, educators and librarians to use all year long.”

Current Sponsors: For the MCBD 2017 event, we have been very blessed to already have some amazing Sponsors in place. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. We are we are beyond thrilled to have all 3 sponsor’s support. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick , KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle and Chronicle Books.

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.”

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Follow MCBD on twitter for book giveaways all day long: https://twitter.com/MCChildsBookDay.
#ReadYourWorld.
https://www.facebook.com/MulticulturalChildrensBookDay

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coloring-calendarWith social obligations, consumer pressures, and family celebrations, Advent often becomes a season of busyness rather than a holy season of contemplation. Many of us could use help to reorient our minds and hearts to respond to this season in a thoughtful way.

To my delight, Paraclete Press has produced a beautiful Advent Coloring Calendar, a prayerful way to settle the mind and relax during this special season. The designs are hand-drawn by monastics from the Community of Jesus, an ecumenical community in the Benedictine tradition. Each is reminiscent of the geometric patterns in stained glass, and the facing page includes a brief verse, inspiring quote, or excerpt from a seasonal song. The website of Paraclete Press includes sample images to view before purchase.

Bringing prayerful music into your home can contribute to finding the joy in daily life. As a counter to the Santa Claus-filled songs in the hectic shopping districts, you might choose to listen to Advent carols from Gloriae Dei Cantores, or Gregorian chants sung by the Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola. The uplifting recording Keeping Christmas celebrates the traditional Service of Readings and Carols, and includes a 28-page insert with song lyrics and scripture citations. From the comfort of home you can be transported to the Church of the Transfiguration, amidst a welcoming Benedictine community, where Gloriae Dei Cantores are accompanied by the Extol Handbell Choir and Elements Theatre Company.

The Advent Color and Sound set would make a welcome gift for a loved one, or a personal treasure to enhance this holy season of expectant waiting. Through art and music we can find a path toward slowing down and noticing the beauty in the world around us. May you have a blessed Advent!

 

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. No fee was received for this review.

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time-to-get-ready-an-advent-christmas-reader-to-wake-your-soul-17Advent might be my favorite time of year. This is a precious opportunity to cultivate a sense of wonder and hopefulness, to reflect on the message of Christmas and to consider its implications on our lives. For reading and spiritual refreshment this Advent season, I will be reading Time to Get Ready: An Advent, Christmas reader to wake your soul. Author Mark A. Villano invites readers to “wake up and see how God is moving in your life.”

In Time to Get Ready, Villano has brought together personal reflections passages from scripture, and inspirational writings from the first week of Advent through the feast of the Epiphany. Throughout the book he offers encouragement to read, listen, and pray. We are invited to retrain ourselves to wait with patience, while also acting out of faith by serving others.

This is a richly written volume that surely will bring inspiration to your Advent and Christmas. I highly recommend Time to Get Ready, for personal reflection, retreat days, and group study.

A special note: As of this writing (November 30) the Advent and Christmas books at Paraclete Press are on sale for 45% off the list price until tomorrow, December 1. On their website you also can see a trailer for Time to Get Ready and read an excerpt.

 

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. No fee was received.

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Just Mercy

Lawyer Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, does a stellar job sharing stories of people whose lives have been horribly disrupted by failures of the U.S. legal system. Despite the heartbreak within the pages of Just Mercy, Mr. Stevenson presents a story of hope and determination.

By sharing the stories of his clients, Mr. Stevenson connects readers with the humanity of those affected by incarceration. Beyond headlines that feed on our natural fear of violence and longing for safety, the lives of individuals and communities are being disrupted irreparably by a system of criminalization that heavily punishes those who are poor and from marginalized communities.

After reading the story of Walter McMillian, wrongly convicted and sentenced to die, readers who support the penalty might change their minds. In Just Mercy, Mr. Stevenson shares the details of Mr. McMillian’s case, as well as stories of other innocent prisoners who have been exonerated. Along the way a solid case is made for abolishing the death penalty, and for necessary reforms in the meanwhile.

The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. The statistics woven throughout the narrative of Just Mercy paint an astonishingly stark picture. For example, children who are subjected to abuse and neglect in their homes, and who later end up in court for nonviolent offenses, often receive harsh sentences and little opportunity for the care that could lead to healing. There are laws to protect offenders with intellectual disabilities, but theses laws cannot help if defense attorneys do not highlight their relevance to a particular client’s situation. Prosecutors and judges who want to appear “tough on crime” must still honor legal protections for the accused, or they risk punishing innocent people.

For anyone with an interest in social justice, and a longing to resolve inequalities created by poverty and racism in the U.S., Just Mercy makes an inspiring read. After finishing Just Mercy, learn more about the work of the Equal Justice Initiative on their website, where links are available to resources on the death penalty, imprisonment of children, and mass incarceration.

Disclaimer: This review is freely given, based on a copy of Just Mercy borrowed from the local public library. No fee was received.

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