The New Big Book of U.S. Presidents

In honor of Presidents’ Day we are highlighting The New Big Book of U.S. Presidents by Marc Frey and Todd Davis for ages 8-12 years. This is the ONE children’s book of U.S. presidents my kids swear by. I bought this book the moment my elementary schooler insisted that he was going to be the “next” U.S. president. I knew he was too young to be the next president, but I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to feast on his new-found fascination. Let’s just say this book hasn’t been laid to rest since.  Furthermore, now that the other kids have followed suit, this has become one of the most frequently read books in our home. All our kids are intrigued by it. Here’s why:

1. The book offers fascinating facts. It is not just a “George Washington was the first U.S. president” kind of book. Kids need to know more than just that. It offers a lot more meat about each president’s personal and political life, going even further to include key historical events and achievements surrounding their presidencies, without being lengthy, redundant, or boring. 

2. The book is easy to read and comprehend. I love when a book explains its content to its kid readers so well to the point where adults have to do very little to no reiterating. Indeed, the book is jam-packed with lots of detailed facts and history, but don’t be overwhelmed; they are presented in the simplest, kid-friendly language that kids can easily grasp. Seriously.

3. The book includes a historical timeline. This timeline covers key historical topics that include arts, literature, politics, religion, science, education, etc., you name it. Again, don’t be overwhelmed. They are outlined in the simplest, chronological fashion that is a no brainer for your little reader to absorb.

4. The book has great illustrations. You can never go wrong with great illustrations, especially when your readers are primarily kids. These photos not only serve as a great supplement to the text, they add such incredible details to the point where without the text, they can almost easily stand alone. My kids particularly love associating each president’s name to his face. They also love in inclusion of old historical pictures of the events and persons highlighted in the text.

5. The book has a glossary of key terms. I particularly love a book that includes a glossary primarily because it helps kids review key terms mentioned in the book. It also serves as a summary of what is covered in the text. I see these as a great opportunity for a quick review or quiz to see how much information they actually retain from the reading.

Overall, this book is both educational and entertaining; there are both hilarious and serious aspects to it. This is a book the entire family will enjoy reading, while learning about presidential facts and figures. Let us know what you think. Until then, Happy Presidents’ Day! Happy Reading!   

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids








8 Must-Read Children’s Books to Celebrate Black History Month

28 Days - Moments in Black History

Take Your Child to the Library Day (TYCLD) is “an international initiative that encourages families everywhere to take their children to their local library.” My kids and I look forward to this day each year. Needless to say, we went this year and had a blast!  Moreover, while in the midst of all the fun activities, we stumbled upon a gem that we just can’t keep to ourselves. The gem I’m referring to is the book 28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World (for ages 4-10 years) by Charles R. Smith.This book highlights prominent, influential African Americans of the past and present and their contributions and achievements that have helped shape history. 

One major feature of the book I particularly like is how it designates each day of February to a specific historical figure, fact, or event. The daily breakdown of information makes it shorter and easier for younger kids to grasp. It also gives them something to look forward to the following day. You may even want to take it a bit further and ask your child, students, etc., to guess who or what they think will be highlighted the following day. The book is written in a way that allows for that. This incredible feature is bound to raise much anticipation and enthusiasm throughout the book. 

Whether you decide to read the entire book through with your kids or simply read each section daily, this book will take you on an incredible journey through black history that will help you and your young readers better understand, reflect on, and celebrate the people and moments in African American history that changed the world. As always, we love hearing your thoughts on children’s books. Feel free to leave a comment or two about this books or other books you are reading to help you reflect on or celebrate Black History Month. Happy Reading!

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids


Heroes in Black History - True Stories

1.  Heroes in Black History: True Stories from the Lives of Christian Heroes by Dave Jackson & Neta Jackson (Authors) 

Book Synopsis:  Drawn from the lives of key Christians from the past and present, Heroes in Black History is an inspiring collection of 42 exciting and educational readings that highlight African American Christians through a short biography and three true stories for each hero. Whether read together at family devotions or alone, Heroes in Black History is an ideal way to acquaint children ages six to twelve with historically important Christians while imparting valuable lessons. Featured heroes include Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, William Seymour, Thomas A. Dorsey, Mary McLeod Bethune, Martin Luther King Jr., and many more. Includes brand new material as well as content from previous Hero Tales editions. (Ages 6-12 years)

One Hundred and One Read Aloud Stories

2. One-Hundred-and-One African-American Read-Aloud Stories by Susan Kantor (Author)

Book Synopsis: The newest volume in the popular Read-Aloud series, this engaging collection features the best African-American short stories and excerpts to read to children in under ten minutes. The diverse tales, selected for their rich histories, spiritual writings and adventurous characters, offer the perfect bed-time — or any other time — activities for parents, grandparents, siblings or babysitters. The book includes 50 beautiful drawings that capture the spirit of these tales, legends, lore and fables. The narratives are faithful adaptations of the oral and written stories passed down through the centuries. They include Langston Hughes, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Paula Fox. (Ages 9 and up)

The Bus Ride that Changed History

3. The Bus Ride that Changed History: The Story of Rosa Parks by Pamela Duncan Edwards (Author), Danny Shanahan (Illustrator)

Book Synopsis: In 1955, a young African-American woman named Rosa Parks took a big step for civil rights when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. The bus driver told her to move. Jim Crow laws told her to move. But Rosa Parks stayed where she was, and a chain of events was set into motion that would eventually change the course of American history. Fifty years later, The Bus Ride That Changed History retraces that chain of events by introducing the civil rights movement one idea at a time. Take a ride through history with this unique retelling of what happened when one brave woman refuses to stand up so that a white passenger could sit down. (Ages 4-8 years)

The Palm of My Heart

4. The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African American Children by Davida Adedjouma (Author),  R. Gregory Christie (Illustrator)

Book Synopsis: Black is dark, dark is lovely, lovely is the palm of my heart, and my heartbeats are filled with joy. When children are encouraged to celebrate their lives — their joys, their influences, their hopes — the results are pure poetry. Honest, wise, and inspiring, each of the twenty poems in this dazzling collection resounds with the unique rhythms of life, as seen through the eyes of African American children. (Ages 5 and up)

Music of Our Lord's Holy Heaven

5. Music from Our Lord’s Holy Heaven by Gloria Pinkney (Author), Jerry Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, and Myles Pinkney (Illustrators)

Book Synopsis: Tapping a wellspring of comfort, inspiration, and renewal, Gloria Pinkney has gathered twenty-two African-American spirituals and reverential songs which her husband, Jerry Pinkney, and sons Brian Pinkney and Myles Pinkney have lovingly illustrated. (Ages 4-10 years)

Moses - Harriet Tubman

6. Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford (Author), Kadir Nelson (Illustrator)

Book Synopsis: This poetic book is a resounding tribute to Tubman’s strength, humility, and devotion. With proper reverence, Weatherford and Nelson do justice to the woman who, long ago, earned over and over the name Moses. (Ages 5-8 years)

Richard Wright and the Library Card

7. Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller (Author), R. Gregory Christie (Illustrator)

Book Synopsis: As a young black man in the segregated South of the 1920s, Wright was hungry to explore new worlds through books, but was forbidden from borrowing them from the library. This touching account tells of his love of Blareading, and how his unwavering perseverance, along with the help of a co-worker, came together to make Richard’s dream a reality. An inspirational story for children of all backgrounds, Richard Wright and the Library Card shares a poignant turning point in the life of a young man who became one of this country’s most brilliant writers, the author of Native Son and Black Boy. (Ages 7-10 years)




Book Club – Book of the Month – February

Brown Girl Dreaming2

Our February tween/ teen book club selection should come as little to no surprise. We’ve highlighted this book in the past and hinted that it would be a future book club selection. The future is now, and we’ve selected the award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming (ages 10 and up) by Jacqueline Woodson as our February book club book of the month. 

We’ve chosen this book because it ties in well with our Black History Month theme . . . with an added bonus. The book does an excellent job delivering a very descriptive view of Woodson’s life experiences, growing up in the South and the North during the 1960’s and 1970’s, through a very unique, childlike perspective; one that has the tendency to grip young readers. 

Additionally, there’s an underlying, added dose of inspiration depicted through Woodson’s zeal for writing and storytelling, despite the fact that she has struggled in and through school. We find that particularly uplifting and empowering to young aspiring and/or struggling readers and writers (as well as adults). Hope you’ll enjoy reading this brilliant piece of children’s literature as much as we have.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. Be sure to share your thoughts about this book or other books you are currently reading. Happy Reading!

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids



Bandwagon Fans: When Life Mimics Football

Super Bowl - Image

Imagine this: Your team is on a winning streak; fans are on extreme highs. Eight consecutive wins, twelve overall. NFC South champions? Wow! Can’t beat that! Pep rallies, tailgate parties and festivities are almost everywhere. Not to mention the much anticipated positive media coverage. Team colors are dominating the crowded city streets. Fireworks decorating the skies. Sold-out stadium seats and team gears becoming all too common. High spirits and enthusiasms are in full effect. And then, in an instant, it happens. Your team messes up! They slip! They lose!  

And then there is life: You are on a winning streak. How? You are fulfilling, meeting, or perhaps even exceeding all of life’s expectations -yours, as well as everyone else’s. You are doing all that is asked, desired, required and/or expected of you. You are overachieving in many, if not all, aspects of life. You are realizing every dream that can possibly be dreamt. You are on an extreme high …the sky is the limit. The world loves and accepts you; it embraces and honors you; it cherishes and glorifies you; it is grateful, respectful, faithful, kind, loyal, and loving toward you. And then, in an instant, it happens. You mess up! You slip! You lose!

Now back to your team: Your team has lost. It doesn’t matter that they have won the previous games, the games that actually got them into the playoffs in the first place. It doesn’t matter that they have worked tirelessly to get to this point. What matters now is that “they should NOT have lost this game.” Losing this ONE game indicates that they did not work or try hard enough this time. As a result, the celebrations and enthusiasms are dwindling by the minute; streets are becoming clear, quiet, and gloomy; and words of inspiration and encouragements are replaced by words of sarcasms and criticisms.

And then there is life: It doesn’t matter that you have overcome many struggles and won many battles, accomplished many tasks, met and exceeded many expectations; whatever you do, “just don’t slip, fall, fail or lose.” Never mind the 99 percent of the times you’ve gotten it all right, the one percent moment you slip is what has come to define you. As a result, your “fans” begin to view you as a failure, a letdown, a disappointment. They begin to distance and disassociate themselves from you. They begin to treat you unfavorably. They begin to misunderstand you, shun you, criticize you. Just to say the least. Harsh reality, isn’t it?

That leads to these burning questions: Does one’s team actually get on that ball field expecting to lose? Probably not. Do they work tirelessly, training for the game and preparing to win? Probably so. Do they beat themselves up following a loss? Perhaps! Do they need “fans” adding insult to their injury? Probably not.

Similarly, do we approach the game of life expecting or planning to fail or lose? Probably not. Do we do the best we can preparing to succeed? Probably so. For whatever reasons our efforts fail to produce the best possible outcome, do we beat ourselves up? Perhaps! Do we need others adding insult to our injury by “helping” us beat ourselves up? Probably not.

There is a lesson to be learned here (from the game of football and the game of life), and that is, once we start focusing on the entire game season or life in its entirety rather than one unfortunate, flawed aspect of it,  we can learn to love, accept, appreciate and enjoy the game. No game is perfect. No one is perfect. Life isn’t perfect. There will be winning and losing in sports and life. So what do we do, as players and spectators of the game (of football and life)? We rise up, we revamp, and when all else fails, we keep pounding!!

As one football fan puts it, “The one good thing about losing is the absolute assurance that all the bandwagon fans  have officially left the station.” Any bandwagon fans in your life, those who choose not to stick around during your trials? Praise and thank God that they have officially exited; now you know who your real fans/ friends are. Hope everyone enjoys the Super Bowl! 

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids