Ruth Behar | The Children’s Book Review | July 12, 2017
I started reading to my infant daughter before she knew what a book or a story was. I wanted to pass on my love of reading as soon as possible, try to make it an organic part of her nature. At first the books were very simple, lots of colorful pictures and textures, tactile things that she could grab and pull, stick in her mouth and slobber over. As she matured and became able to follow a story, I searched for books that had African-American characters on the covers that she could identify with.
My daughter was lucky…(she might argue the point,) to have a father who is one of the world’s biggest hams. I love doing voices, making faces and creating characters to bring the story books to life. As a result, my daughter is a very expressive reader who loves to play all of the characters herself. Here are some of our favorite books and performances that my daughter would request over and over again.
Written by the Brothers Grimm, retold and illustrated by Rachel Isadora
This was one of my daughter’s all time favorites. The story of the fisherman and his greedy wife who kept demanding that her husband ask for more and more, from a magical flounder he had caught and frees, until she pushes things too far and winds up with nothing at all. In this version of the story the fisherman and his wife live in Africa. The illustrations are layered collages that look as though they are wood prints. The colors, the patterns are vibrant and seem to escalate as the wife pushes the husband farther and farther with her unquenchable greed. Playing the characters of the fisherman, his wife and the flounder allowed me to do outrageous accents that kept my daughter giggling every time. The book was a perfect reminder for when my daughter got a case of the “gimmies” and needed her own greed reigned in.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers | 2008 | ISBN-13: 978-0399247712
Written by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
At some time or other, every parent has had to deal with an inexhaustible toddler who refuses to go to sleep. The Lees have turned this endurance marathon into a funny and enjoyable book filled with repetitive phrases that will have your pre-reader chanting along with you while giggling at the toddlers antics. The beautiful illustrations by Kardir Nelson bring an energy and emotion to the story that makes it all the more charming.
Ages 2-8 | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | 2002 | ISBN-13: 978-0689832338
Written by Keith Faulkner
Illustrated by Johnathan Lambert
Pop-up books are always fun and this was one of my daughter’s favorites. It is the story of a curious wide-mouth frog who hops around telling other creatures, “I’m a wide-mouthed frog and I eat flies,” and asking them what it is they eat. Things go well as he meets a bird who eats worms, a mouse who eats berries and finally an alligator who eats…wide-mouth frogs! The ending is very funny and the pop-up finish is fantastic. Of course, playing the wide mouth frog while my daughter took on the characters of the other animals (from memory before she learned how to read,) was fun and so entertaining.
Ages 2-5 | Publisher: Dial Books | 1996 | ISBN-13: 978-0803718753
Words and Photography by Seymour Simon
Mr. Simon has always been one our our non-fiction book favorites, but this book has topped them all. We were both fascinated by the journey our food takes from the time we put it in our mouths to chew until it works its way through each phase of our digestive system. The photographs are stunning and the entire process is explained in simple, easy to understand language.
Ages 6-10 | Publisher: Collins | 2005 | ISBN-13: 978-0060546519
Written by Nathaniel Hobbie
Illustrated by Jocelyn Hobbie
Priscilla is a plucky little girl who lives on a planet where everything is pink. Priscilla comes upon a multi-colored butterfly, an anomaly in an all pink world, who is captured by the Queen of Pink and about to be destroyed until Priscilla convinces the queen that all colors are beautiful and pink would look “even pinker” if their world were more inclusive and welcomed all colors. A great lesson about diversity told in rhyme reminiscent of Dr. Seuss.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | 2004 | ISBN-13: 978-0316735797
Publisher’s Synopsis: Mango is as delightful as her middle name indicates, and middle-grade readers will easily recognize their own experiences in her friendship struggles.
What happens when your BFF becomes your EFF . . . EX-Friend-Forever? When seventh-grader Mango Delight Fuller accidentally breaks her BFF Brooklyn’s new cell phone, her life falls apart. She loses her friends and her spot on the track team, and even costs her father his job as a chef. But Brooklyn’s planned revenge—sneakily signing up Mango to audition for the school musical—backfires when Mango not only wins the lead role, but becomes a YouTube sensation and attracts the attention of the school’s queen bee, Hailey Jo. Hailey Jo is from a VERY wealthy family, and expects everyone to do her bidding. Soon Mango finds herself forced to make tough choices about the kind of friend she wants to have . . . and, just as important, the kind of friend she wants to be.
Ages 9-13 | Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1454923329
About the Author
Fracaswell “Cas” Hyman is an award-winning television writer (Humanitas Prize, Alma Award, Peabody award) and screenwriter (UCLA Extension Best Screenplay winner.) He is also a playwright, theater and television director, and producer who has created and executive produced successful live-action (The Famous Jett Jackson, Romeo, Taina) and animated (Little Bill) television series for Disney and Nickelodeon. Cas lives in NC, and Mango Delight is his first novel. You can connect with Cas on Twitter @fracaswellhyman.
Fracaswell “Cas” Hyman, author of Mango Delight, selected these five family favorites. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Family Favorites.
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