Book Recommendation, Listicles, Uncategorized

Chocolate-Coated Reads

October 28, 2018

Get ready to salivate: October 28th is National Chocolate Day, and you know you want a tasty book to tide you over until the actual candy rolls in come Halloween night. This list has a morsel of everything: chapter books, nonfiction, picture books, and more. Here are some of our favorite chocoholic reads to tantalize your taste buds.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

How could any list of chocolate-themed reads leave out this perennial classic? Poor and hungry Charlie Bucket wins a Golden Ticket to see his idol, Willy Wonka, in person and tour his amazing chocolate factory. The result is one of our all-time favorite stories.

2. The Chocolate Touch – Patrick Skene Catling

Wouldn’t it be amazing if everything you touched turned to chocolate? In a creative twist on the tale of King Midas, our hero, John, accidentally brings his gifts to bear on his mom and must find a way to get her back.

The Candymakers – Wendy Mass

Four kids must choose a winner in a confection competition that will make you green with envy. A fantastic choice for fans of The Westing Game and Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, this surprisingly heartfelt and tender read is often categorized as YA and best for older readers and is written from multiple characters’ perspectives.

Whopper Cake – Karma Wilson

This verse-based story is just plain fun: chaotic, messy, and perfect for younger readers to enjoy independently or by reading aloud to or with a parent. Crazy ingredients pile on as the titular confection increases as grandpa “traumatize[s] the kitchen” in his attempts to make a suitably spectacular cake for his wife’s birthday.

No Monkeys, No Chocolate – Melissa Stewart and Allen Young

Best for older elementary and early middle school readers, this nonfiction picture book is replete with humor and excellent information about the many plants and animals that must work together for cacao beans – and likewise, chocolate – to exist. Anyone who appreciates chocolate and wants to understand its origins should give this a read.

Chocolate Fever – Robert Kimmel Smith

First published in 1972, this classic wonders what would become of a boy who ate chocolate at every meal, to the exclusion of all else. Would he, indeed, break out in chocolatey brown spots, becoming an overnight medical curiosity? Though some of its language is dated, this is a charming read-aloud or independent venture.

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake – Michael B. Kaplan

“I am going to marry chocolate cake,” Betty Bunny declares, stashing a piece in her pocket. Thus begins a parable of patience starring a little girl whose own parents refer to her as “a handful” and who is not above smuggling cake in her sock. Betty is far from a heroine worthy of emulation, but just about anyone can relate to her.

Hot Fudge: Bunnicula and Friends #2 – James Howe

Remember, kids: in real life, chocolate is poisonous to dogs and should never be given to them. But for Harold Monroe, the scruffy hero of Bunnicula, chocolate is love; chocolate is life. Adult, longtime fans of Bunnicula may not know that an Easy Reader series based on the original novel was released starting in 2005; this chocolate-centric volume is the second in the series and will enable younger children to enjoy these beloved characters on their own.


Panels from Anne Frank graphic novel
Book Recommendation, Listicles, Uncategorized

#FridayFive: October 26th, 2018

October 26, 2018

You’ll recall that Mia Learning is committed to empowering girls and gender non-binary kids. In that vein, last week‘s #FridayFive introduced five graphic novel memoirs by women. To follow-up, this week we’ve got five graphic novel women’s biographies. Even today, the vast majority of juvenile biographies still cover men’s lives: make sure your child knows that women are just as worthy of commemoration as men are.

Anne Frank cover
Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography

Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón

Although in no way a replacement for Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl (more a companion piece to it), this graphic biography is packed with information, beautifully illustrated, and complemented by resources for further reading, photographs, and timelines. It provides context for the events the diary itself recounted and helps readers get to know Anne’s family members better.

Wilma Rudolph cover
Wilma Rudolph: Olympic Track Star

Allison Lassieur, Ill. Cynthia Martin and Anne Timmons

From the all-around excellent Graphic Library biography series (which also includes volumes on Eleanor Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Florence Nightingale, Mary “Mother” Jones, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Blackwell, Betsy Ross, Bessie Coleman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Clara Barton, Molly Pitcher, and Amelia Earhart) comes the truly amazing story of Wilma Rudolph, who overcame childhood polio to become a Olympic champion runner. If Kathleen Krull’s 1996 picture book biography is perhaps a better choice for older readers (it’s become a classroom staple), Lassieur’s graphic novelization is still a fantastic introduction to Rudolph’s life and accomplishments for the younger set.

Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa: Saint of the Slums

Lewis Helfand, Ill. Sachin Nagar

Beautifully illustrated in serene watercolors and filled with emotionally poignant scenes, this is an excellent choice for older readers, especially those who are inclined to activism and social justice work. With an appealing mixture of anecdotes, facts, and invented dialogue, this reverent but accurate biography will serve as an inspiration to anyone longing to make a difference.

Anne Sullivan cover
Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller

Joseph Lambert

So few titles for kids explicitly focus on Annie Sullivan, yet Helen Keller’s story would never have unfolded as it did without her teacher’s staggering patience and compassion: such is the argument in this graphic biography from an alum of The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. Compulsively readable even when depicting Sullivan’s most frustrated and monotonous moments, it uses stunningly original illustrations to depict the relationship between student and teacher with tenderness and care. Winner of a Will Eisner Comic Industry Award (sort of an Academy Award for comics), this is an absolute must-read.

Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean

Sarah Stewart Taylor, ill. Ben Towle

Another title from The Center For Cartoon Studies, this one by a writing instructor and comics educator, remembers aviator extraordinaire Amelia Earhart. Both author and illustrator are at the top of their game here – in a limited palette of blue, white, and black, they focus on their subject’s legendary Atlantic crossing in 1928 while still giving sufficient attention to her tragic disappearance. Both introduction and backmatter are of great use here for kids interested in finding further details and reading more on Earhart.

We hope you will find time to read all of the #FridayFive this week! If you missed last week’s graphic memoirs or the prior week’s selections, check our blog archives for even more fantastic books.
Book Recommendation, Listicles, Uncategorized

#FridayFive: 5 Fabulous Graphic Memoirs by Women All Kids Should Know

October 17, 2018

#FridayFive: 5 Graphic Memoirs by Women All Kids Should Know

by Diana Black

Graphic novels for kids are rightly lauded as some of the most engaging books on the market, and finally seem to be receiving the same critical and educational acclaim as their more traditional counterparts. Consequently, many public and school libraries now have sections dedicated to graphic novels, both fictional and nonfictional, for kids to explore. I’m not surprised – in fact, some of my all-time favorite books for adults belong to the genre of graphic novel, specifically graphic memoir: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Emil Feris’ My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis series among them. But this subgenre is also a powerful, deeply important narrative form for kids.

Why is graphic memoir an important kids’ genre? As you may know, one of Mia Learning’s top goals is to empower girls and gender non-binary kids. Not coincidentally, we also make it our mission to connect kids with books they might not already know exist – books off the proverbial beaten path that they might find extremely interesting. Previously, we shared a list of biographies chronicling the lives of women artists. As then, we want to emphasize that these recommendations are not just “for girls” – part of toppling patriarchy and promoting equity is teaching our boys to see girls and women as people. Enjoying literature with fully human, complex girls and women at the center of stories is one key way of accomplishing that. To that end, we want to list a sampling of the best graphic memoirs about and by real women, who can inspire the young people who are reading about them.

Little White Duck CoverLittle White Duck: A Childhood in China

Na Liu, Ill. Andrés Vera Martínez

Na Liu’s candid account of her upbringing in Mao-era China (1976-1980, specifically) remembers joyous holidays spent with family and other happy times, but also offers unflinching, nuanced recollections them that will prompt readers to reflect on their own points of privilege, and to contemplate hunger and poverty with deepened compassion. Martínez’s artwork is beautiful, with largely earth toned hues, and has a surprising amount of humor, providing welcome relief from the overall somber tone. The glossary and translations of signs in Chinese at the end of the book, as well as Liu’s brief afterword, only enhance what is already a memorable and big-hearted memoir. This is a segment of history that most American schools spend little to no time on, which makes memoirs like this one all the more valuable.

El Deafo CoverEl Deafo

Cece Bell

Admittedly, this title is hardly off the beaten path – a Newberry Honor recipient and general critical and popular darling, it’s become a frequently assigned book in schools that teachers praise for its informative and compassionate content. Cece Bell’s account describes her rabbit avatar going to a new school with a conspicuous hearing aid strapped to her chest is funny, creatively told, and full of insights about what it really means to hear and to listen.

todanceTo Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel

Siena Cherson Siegel, Ill. Mark Siegel

This is a lovely, lyrical ode to the discipline, demands, and artistry of ballet: a pursuit that the author makes clear is not for the faint of heart. Would-be dancers and any kids interested in pursuing a career in the arts will be enchanted with Siegel’s account of her dance education. One of the things graphic memoirs can do so well is pay tribute to our quietest moments – Siegel as a young dancer, watching every minute she’s not onstage from the wings, is anyone who’s ever been so enthralled with their chosen art form that they live, eat, and breathe it.

Tomboy cover
Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir

Liz Prince

Funny and achingly relatable, Tomboy concerns itself with gender expression and the aches and agonies of growing up feeling misunderstood, pigeonholed, and just plain uncomfortable. Unlike so many tomboy characters, Liz Prince comes to realize that holding everything feminine in contempt is just as intolerant as demanding that all girls dress or behave in a certain way. If Prince’s artwork is not as elegant as fellow graphic memoirists Lucy Knisley’s or Alison Bechdel’s, it doesn’t detract from the tale itself. Best for older readers, not because of inappropriate content, but because the vocabulary and concepts are sophisticated.

Darkroom cover
Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White

Lila Quintero Weaver

Racism can be a difficult and painful subject, whether we are old or young. This is the perfect graphic memoir to discuss with your child deliberately and at length. Lila Quintero Weaver’s gorgeous graphic memoir explores her 1961 childhood move from Argentina to rural Alabama, where Jim Crow law reigned and some of the most important civil rights moments occurred before her eyes. Her attempts to navigate this racist, deeply segregated (even when newly integrated) terrain give her a unique outsider’s perspective that produces some incredible insights. The artwork, too, is gorgeous and subtle. Weaver gave an excellent interview that you can read here as a follow-up to her book.

Let us know what you thought of these graphic memoirs, and next week, read up on five recommended graphic biographies on women!
Listicles, Uncategorized

The Future (of Art) Is Female: 20+ Biographies of Women Artists

August 13, 2018

The Future (of Art) Is Female: 20+ Biographies of Women Artists

by Diana Black

At Mia Learning, two of our core goals are to empower girls and to help them express themselves creatively. What better way to accomplish both than to share the true stories of (often unknown or underappreciated) great women artists? Here are 21 biographies of these fabulous creators and makers: sculptors, painters, photographers, quilters, modernists, impressionists, animators and more – here’s to making them households names!

books about cloth, clothing and more
Listicles, Uncategorized

The Fabric of Our Lives: Books About Cloth, Clothing, and More

August 3, 2018

The Fabric of Our Lives: Books About Cloth, Clothing, and More

Books function as the fabric of our lives: warming us, making connections, and helping to define who we are. Here are some of Mia’s favorite books on fabrics, mittens, hats, coats, jeans, and more!