Being Different

Abuelita secret coverWritten by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Illustrated By Diana Bryer

What a wonderful book!

It starts as young Jacobo enjoys life with his grandmother (Abuelita) in a small town in New Mexico in the United States.  Although the young boy and his grandmother love their community and are active in their Catholic church, some things do seem out of place to Jacobo.  Abuelita cooks differently than her neighbors and she has her own special rituals, like lighting candles on Friday nights.  When a new family moves into the neighborhood who are Jewish, Jacobo starts asking more questions and finds out about his family history – one that started with an exodus of Sephartic Jews from Spain, centuries ago.

This short but powerful tale written by a woman rabbi and scholar; Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, is a perfect way to begin discussions on topics such as multicultural families, Jewish history, tolerance, religious identity and family secrets.

Read it in Spanish:

Las Matzas Secretas de Abuelita 
by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso


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Written and Illustrated By Sheila Hamanaka

What colors do children come in?  All the colors of the earth!

Japanese-American author and illustrator, Sheila Hamanaka weaves a beautiful picture of how our skin and hair color is just one part of the incredible beauty and diversity found in nature.  Both kids and adults will delight in the way Shiela describes the colors found in world peoples in ways that are strong and vibrant such as “the roaring browns of bears” or compares hair types to those of mermaids or “…hair that curls like sleeping cats in snoozy cat colors”.  Wonderful illustrations taken from original oil paintings make this a great picture book for younger children as well.

At a time where children will encounter a great deal of diversity in the world around them, books like this encourage a sense of wonder and delight in difference – a perfect antidote to intolerance, ignorance and fear.

Celebrate the colors of children and the colors of love--not black or white or yellow or red, but roaring brown, whispering gold, tinkling pink, and more.

List Price: $6.99 USD
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Written and Illustrated by Grace Lin

Are you harvesting veggies from your garden or selecting something delicious from your local grocery store or farmer’s market?  Did you buy any ugly vegetables?

This short and cute book, written and illustrated by Grace Lin, tells the story of one family whose garden is really different then their neighbors.  While the little girls’ neighbors plant a rainbow of flowers, her mom insists on digging deep into the soil and planting things that look like weeds and grass.  And when they finally have fruit – boy, are they ugly!

Then the harvest day comes and the mom begins preparing a dish so delicious that it brings the neighbors running to her front door.  When they try the soup made from ugly vegetables, everyone can appreciate what’s been growing in that little girl’s backyard.

This book is a fun introduction to vegetables used in Chinese and Asian cooking such as Jeou Tsay (Chinese leeks), Kuu Gua (bitter melon) and Sheau Hwang Gua (bumpy Chinese cucumbers).  The book comes complete with an easy recipe for Ugly Vegetable Soup and is inspiring for it’s larger lesson about learning to appreciate the many gifts that come from our heritage and family background.

The Ugly Vegetables (Paperback)

By (author): Grace Lin

It's easy to appreciate a garden exploding with colorful flowers and fragrances, but what do you do with a patch of ugly vegetables? Author/illustrator Grace Lin recalls such a garden in this charming and eloquent story.

The neighbors' gardens look so much prettier and so much more inviting to the young gardener than the garden of "black-purple-green vines, fuzzy wrinkled leaves, prickly stems, and a few little yellow flowers" that she and her mother grow. Nevertheless, mother assures her that "these are better than flowers." Come harvest time, everyone agrees as those ugly Chinese vegetables become the tastiest, most aromatic soup they have ever known. As the neighborhood comes together to share flowers and ugly vegetable soup, the young gardener learns that regardless of appearances, everything has its own beauty and purpose.

THE UGLY VEGETABLES springs forth with the bright and cheerful colors of blooming flowers and bumpy, ugly vegetables. Grace Lin's colorful, playful illustrations pour forth with abundant treasures. Complete with a guide to the Chinese pronunciation of the vegetables and the recipe for ugly vegetable soup! Try it . . . you'll love it, too!
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Written and Illustrated By Sheila Hamanaka

In Sheila Hamanaka’s Grandparents Song, a young girl tells a tale of her ancestors that came from the four directions of the Earth.  Each contributed something wonderous and special to her heart, soul and life.  Each page or set of pages shares one ancestry and describes it with striking poetry, wonderful images and folk art such as Native beadwork incorporated into the pictures.

Dedicated by the author to “our American Ancestors, in Whose Dreams We Walk”, this is a wonderful book about multiculturalism and the American Family Tree.  It’s also a powerful book for those of us who struggle with questions of identity because of mixed heritages. It helps us see a joy and a wonder to our unique combination of backgrounds in a way that affirms the dignity and the value of all people.

Highly recommended!

Grandparents Song (Hardcover)

By (author): Sheila Hamanaka

My eyes are green
like the sea, like the sea
And my hair is dark and
blows free, blows free.

Sing of your parents, and your grandparents too, and picture a magnificent family tree. Its roots are deep, nurtured with the lives of ancestors. Some left willingly for the new land, others did not -- and many were already here! Their blood flows in yourveins; their strength lies in your heart.

Inspired by American folk art, Sheila Hamanaka, author and illustrator of the best-selling All the Colors of the Earth, has created vibrant, stunningly beautiful illustrations to tell the story of our country's family tree.

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Written by Michele Maria Surat, Illustrated by Vo-Dihn Mai

It can be really difficult to adjust to a new country and a new school.

Little Hoa knows this well.  Her family had to leave Vietnam and did not have enough money to pay for their mother’s passage to America.  The family is resettling in America and busy raising money so their mom can join them.  But the new life not been easy for Hoa who is also called called Ut at home, a loving term for he youngest daughter.   Her new school is completely different, the language is difficult and some kids are downright mean to her and her sisters.

However, when Ut gets into a fight with a boy in class who is taunting her, something exciting happens.  During their “time-out” the boy learns about Ut’s life and how her family is missing their mother.  In the sharing of their stories, the boy who had bullied her actually becomes an advocate and a friend.  He even plays a key role in helping Ut’s family be reunited in this short but moving story.

This beautiful book is fictional but based on real life teaching experiences of the author and is beautifully illustrated by Vietnamese artist, Vo-Dihn Mai. Can a new country and a new home become a beautiful place to live?   Ut’s story answers this question with a resounding yes!

Angel Child, Dragon Child (Hardcover)

By (author): Michele Maria Surat

Little Ut from Vietnam wins her schoolmates over with kindness and sensitivity.
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Based on a Poem By Alejandrao Cruz Martinez, Illustrated By Fernando Olivera

Translated By Rosalma Zubizarreta

Sometimes when people are different, they are not always treated well. Have you ever experienced this?

Such was the case in the story of Lucía Zenteno, the main character in this beautiful and lyrical book that is based on a Zapotec (Mexican) legend. Although she is beautiful and kind, she is different and is treated very badly for it.  So she decides to leave. The problem is this. The river and all the things in it are so much in love with Lucia that they leave with her and the village has no water.  To reconcile with Lucia, the village must learn an important lesson about treating everyone with kindness – no matter how different they might appear to be.

This brilliantly translated book – the story shines in both English and Spanish – is a great tale of life, love and nature.  It’s a magical short story that speaks volumes about compassion and learning to love others without prejudice.

Retells the Zapotec legend of Lucia Zenteno, a beautiful woman with magical powers who is exiled from a mountain village and takes its water away in punishment.
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Categories : Being Different, Mexico
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Retold/Written By Robert D. San Souci, Illustrated by Daniel San Souci

This is a beautiful Cinderella story, retold from an Ojibwa legend and set in the woodlands of the Northern Central United States.  In this story readers meet a small girl who is the youngest daughter of a warrior whose wife has died.  While the father is away, her older sisters are cruel and force her to do all their work.  Since she does all the family’s cooking over a wood fire, they tease her and call her “Sootface”.

One day the village’s daily life is interrupted by a remarkable announcement.  A nearby young medicine man I looking for a bride.   Handsome and powerful, this young warrior can even make himself invisible.  Only the woman who can see him and can answer a riddle about his bow and arrows will prove she is pure in heart and can share his life.  The rest of the story unfolds perfectly, accompanied by lovely illustrations with an eye to authentically portraying the details of clothing, shelter and other aspects of Ojibwa life.

A wonderful tale of how remaining true to one’s self eventually becomes it’s own meaningful reward.

Sootface (Paperback)

By (author): Robert D. San Souci

Once, an Ojibwa man whose wife had died raised three daughters alone. The two older girls were lazy and bad-tempered, and made their youngest sister do all the work. When the flames from the cooking fire singed her hair or burned her skin, they laughed and called her Sootface.

While she worked, Sootface dreamed that one day she would find a husband. Then a mighty warrior with the power to make himself invisible decides to marry. Only a woman with a kind and honest heart could see him, and be his bride.

Though her sisters ridicule her, Sootface sets off to try her luck, never looking back. Her courage and good nature bring her the husband she has longed for.
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Written and Illustrated By Patricia Polacco

Set in busy Union City, a kindly and portly janitor at an elementary school befriends a young boy who is being teased for being overweight.  Young Welcome Comfort is also a foster child and finally finds a special place in the hearts of Mr. Hamp and his wife who live next door to the school.  But something odd happens every Christmas as his two loving friends go away. And then there was that vivid Christmas Dream.  Telling any more about the plot will surely give away this lovely holiday story that shares a sense of kindness and compassion that are truly worthy of Christmas.

This is my favorite “Santa Claus” book because it tells such an endearing story and focuses less on the aspect of material gift-giving and more on the aspect of a St. Nick’s love and care for children. Just beautiful!

Welcome Comfort (Paperback)

By (author): Patricia Polacco

Santa! He's not even real!

It's not easy being Welcome Comfort-a foster child always moving from home to home and getting picked on by the kids at school. Even Christmas, the most wondrous time of the year, isn't so wondrous for Welcome, since he has no family, no presents, and no Santa Claus. But when Welcome meets Mr. Hamp, the school custodian, he finally finds a friend. And when Christmas comes around, Welcome is taken on an extraordinary adventure that changes his life forever.

"Sentimental but appealing, the story of a special inheritance is illustrated with lively pictures wrapped up in cheerful Christmas colors."
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Written by Max Lucado  

Illustrations by Liz Bonham

Have you ever felt that something about you kept you separate from the rest of “the crowd”?  In this story, a little lamb named Joshua feels exactly the same way.  He was born with one leg that didn’t work quite right and found it hard to keep up with the rest of the sheep.  However, life brought Joshua a best friend named Abigail who happened to be a cow and Josh’s story unfolds.

Because Joshua can’t keep up with the other sheep, he needs to stay behind one snowy night in the barn with Abigail and gets to witness the miracle of the birth of Jesus.  Joshua not only witness it, but provide the warmth for the brand new baby who shivered in the cold.  The story is a wonderful retelling of the Nativity story as well as a tale of how the obstacles and conditions of one’s life often open the doors that offer the biggest blessings.

Although I cringe a bit at the use of the word “crippled”, in the title, this book is a great read, a real inspiration and joy! Also great for reading aloud.

The Crippled Lamb (Hardcover)

By (author): Max Lucado

The inspiring story that has encouraged thousands of children who have felt left out or who have special needs.

In this timeless bestseller, readers experience the tender love God has for those who feel alone and different. Joshua was a lamb with a crippled leg who felt left out because he couldn’t run and play like the other lambs. But God had a very special plan for Joshua’s life, as He does for all who feel alone. Readers can expect a gentle tug on their hearts as the little lamb’s prayers are answered in an amazing way. Original oil-painting illustrations by Liz Bonham brilliantly capture the beauty and warmth of this endearing story.

Meets national education standards.

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Everyone is spelling Ripecka’s name wrong, even the teachers at school!  It is so frustrating that she turns to carving her name in her desk.  This short book, published in New Zealand with beautiful illustrations by Robyn Kahukiwa, shares how important it can be for a young person’s name and heritage to be respected.
Reading level: Ages 4-8

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Written By Ellen Levine
Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman
Mei Mei is a bright young girl who moved to the US and lives in Chinatown.  She misses her friends and relatives from China and is not having an easy time learning English. In fact, she’s convinced she can get along fine without it.  One day a caring teacher/tutor makes a breakthrough and Mei Mei learns that knowing and using both languages makes for double the happiness and possibilities in life!
Reading level: Ages 4-8

"With unusual sympathy and humor, Levine presents the stages of learning the language of a new country.... Right on target and sure to be useful." - Kirkus Reviews, starred review
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Written by Eileen Spinelli
Mr. Hatch just doesn’t seem to have many close ties to the world around him.  Then, one day a big candy heart arrives and it changes his whole outlook on the world. A beautiful little story about how appreciating others and taking the time to care can completely transform a life and enrich and enllven a community.
Reading level: Ages 4-8

One wintry day, a postman delivers a mysterious package with a big pink bow to a lonely man named Mr. Hatch.
"Somebody loves you," the note says.
"Somebody loves me!" Mr. Hatch sings as he dusts his living room. "Somebody loves me!" Mr. Hatch whistles as he does his errands in town. "But who," Mr. Hatch wonders, "could that somebody be?"
After some time, Mr. Hatch discovers just who his secret admirer is and, in doing so, enjoys the biggest surprise of his life!
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Crow Boy

Written by Taro Yashima
A little boy appears at a school in Japan and just doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the kids.  A loving teacher helps the boy find a place and be recognized for who he is.   Complete book review here: (link to review in site)
Reading level: Ages 4-8

FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. A shy Japanese boy, having difficulty adjusting to school, is misjudged by his classmates.
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Everyone in town makes fun of an old man with an accent who doesn’t seem to fit in.  The boy in the story even helps tear apart his garden with a group of kids who are creating mischief.  Unable to let this deed go, the boy begins a friendship with the old man and helps him replant his garden, beginning a lifelong friendship that changes both their lives.  A great story about taking the time to care and how it can make a profound difference that reaches beyond the generations.
Reading level: Ages 4-8

The Summer My Father Was Ten (Paperback)

By (author): Pat Brisson

Every year my father and I plant a garden. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, marigold, and zinnias grow in neat, straight rows...and every spring my father tells me about Mr. Bellavista and the summer my father was ten. -From the book. That was the summer the boy lost a baseball under a tomato plant in Mr. Bellavista's garden. And someone tossed a tomato back instead of the baseball. A lively battle took place, which seemed like great fun at the time, but in the end Mr. Bellavista's garden had been destroyed. In a touching story of one boy's efforts to make amends, we see the rebuilding of a garden and the forming of a relationship across generations. With luminous, beautifully detailed watercolors, the artist has captured both the sadness and the quiet joy woven throughout the tale.
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