Dragons Need Friends Too.

Dragons need friends-dragons-are-real-61pcxriyl9l-_sy498_bo1204203200_Dragons and dinosaurs fascinate children so they’re predisposed to love Dragons Are Real by Valerie Budayr and illustrated by Michael Welply. It delivers the full inside story on the fire-breathing beasts. Who knew dragons need friends and yearn to be a child’s BFF? Or that they crave sweets as much as any kid dreaming of Halloween? All those stories of treasure hoarding paint the wrong picture of the draco species. It’s just that sparkling things dazzle and things catch a dragon’s attention. In actuality, it’s not jewels they crave and hoard. It’s books. Lots and lots and lots of books.

My favorite newly discovered dragon-fact: they love to read. We’re kindred spirits!  I’ve taken the liberty of naming this special dragon: Draco Bibliophilium which loosely translates from the Latin as “Book Loving Dragon.”) He’s near and dear to my heart because I love books too. (Anyone who has visited my office would know. In fact, it looks like the illustrator used my office for an illustration study.)

Dragons Are Real seeks to clear up many misperceptions that identify dragons as evil, dangerous and, scary. The very idea that dragons yearn to capture hapless maidens is preposterous; they’re simply trying to be helpful and make a friend in the process. Now it is true that dragons breathe fire, but only when they want to be useful like toasting hot dogs or making s’mores. It can be very handy to have a friend with a built-in fuel source and an inclination to help out when needed. Turns out, that dragons are loyal and funny. Apparently they love poetry to an excess which can be a bit tedious. But don’t we all have our quirks and faults?

This story transforms a traditional “monster” figure from children’s folklore into a charming and desirable pal, one who loves to laugh and dance and recite poetry. I love that! By turning the myth upside down, which offers young readers a model for looking at the “monsters” in their own personal lives to reinterpret them in a way which enables them to cope. Since dragons are masters of camouflage, they can be “hiding in plain sight.” This concept can easily lead to discussions about how we can overlook people as well as how we choose to hide ourselves and be small. These are big ideas, but understanding them can help kids notice whom they might be overlooking and or how they themselves might be fading into the background. It also invites readers to think about what it is like to need a friend, how to be a friend as well as how to find a friend. All of these are important skills.

The ability to blend in and be part of a bigger picture can be useful. Sometimes, we even want to blend in so well that we become invisible so we can sit back, observe and determine what we want to do. Dragons Are Real makes an import point: We must embrace our “fire.” Allow it to burn brightly so we can be “seen” and cast a light for others to follow.

The illustrations are amazing and vividly interpret the text. The pictures are an adventure in their own right and compliment the text well. They add the perfect measure of whimsy, humor and ferocity.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: It is common for adoptees to spend considerable time thinking about big “what ifs.” (What if I hadn’t been adopted? What if I’d been adopted by someone else? What if my adoptive parents rejects me? And many more.) Many develop chameleon-like skill at blending in and becoming what they think others expect them to be–or do. Adoptees who don’t share a culture or race with their adoptive family may struggle to fit in ad feel “at home” in their adoptive family. Like the proverbial dragon striving to remake his fierce image, adoptees must learn how to blend… Click To Tweet The key is to fit in without losing their authentic selves, like a dragon who breathes fire but learns not to burn down the neighborhood!

 Fun activity

Ask your child to create a dragon from his imagination. Draw it. Paint it. Build it from Legos©, clay or from materials found in your recycle bin. Then give it a name. For an added challenge, try to include a Latin variation as Valerie did.  (J. K. Rowling also included Latin phrases in her beloved Harry Potter series; it sounds ever so mysterious and magical! I’m sure parents and Google, Siri, etc. can provide any needed assistance.) Encourage your child to write his/her dragon’s story; you just might be awakening a dormant talent.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017      (1/27/17)


is in its fourth year and was founded bypragmatic-mom-banner-cropped

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.
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.
Current Sponsors: MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett Abouraya, Veronica Appleton, Susan Bernardo, Kathleen Burkinshaw, Maria Dismondy, D.G. Driver, Geoff Griffin, Savannah Hendricks, Stephen Hodges, Carmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid Imani, Gwen Jackson, Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana Llanos, Natasha Moulton-Levy, Teddy O’Malley, Stacy McAnulty, Cerece Murphy, Miranda Paul, Annette Pimentel, Greg Ransom, Sandra Richards, Elsa Takaoka, Graciela Tiscareño-Sato, Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

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. View our CoHosts HERE. Valerie and Mia

Dragons need friends-mcbd-2017-poster-final-875x1024MCBD Links to remember:  MCBD site
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers
Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators
Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents:
Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use the official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

You can make a difference. Be a driving force for #Diversity in publishing. Click To Tweet Help ensure that we have a robust range of “windows” and “mirrors” so that all children can see themselves in their literature as well as introduce them to a broad array of cultures. Exposure grows familiarity which in turn, nurtures understanding and tolerance.

#BuyDiversity #ReadDiversity #WriteDiversity Click To Tweet


mcbd-sponsor-2017mcbd-2017-safety MCBD Author.badge

Excitement or Fear: Braving the Dark and Unknown

dark-dark-cave-61ax5z8evol-_sx405_bo1204203200_The cover of A Dark, Dark Cave by Eric Hoffman and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor features two smiling children aiming flashlight beams into the shadows.  The title page illustration shifts the mood slightly. It shows the gaping mouth of a tunnel entrance shrouded in darkness. Readers will wonder what will happen next. Will the children face danger? The next page-turn reveals the children and their trusty dog aiming a flashlight into the abyss. Will they respond with excitement or fear when braving the darkness? Will they choose to enter the cave? 

Yes! An adventure of sight, sound and emotion begins as they explore. They cautiously, bravely continue and encounter a variety of surprises–bats, lizards, sparkling crystals. Until …

Until a brilliant shaft of light pierces the dark and reveals their father looming overhead, admonishing them to pipe down because the baby is sleeping. Readers discover that the children’s adventure  was imaginary play.

Tabor’s illustrations serve the story well as he deftly captures the children’s emotions in each vignette–wonder, hesitation, excitement, fear-a gamut of feelings hint at the children’s experience. This book offers a great way of talking about the mixture of courage and caution that kids need as they explore their world, stretch their skills and dare to try something new. The line between excitement is narrow. Kids need both emotions in  healthy measure.

Imaginative play serves children well as it allows them to try on behavior and skills, to imagine themselves as brave and daring, as defeating fears and feeling powerful.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned Lens Use this story to discuss the need for courage in facing the scary moments of life. This is an especially important message for adoptees who must confront the reality of some big grief and loss issues which resulted from their adoptions. Parents can start the conversation by asking kids to tell them a story of the kinds of things they imagine might occur on a”cave” exploration of their. Children may volunteer some adopted-connected elements. Gently, follow their lead if they do. If they avoid the adoption connection, pose a question like, “What if you discovered your birth mom there?”

Always let your child’s response guide you. If they open up, great; if they resist, do not push it. Ask a second, neutral question and let the conversation flow from there.

Boxes: Springboard Creativity and Connection

Boxes: Springboard to Creativity and connection

Play is an integral element in building family relationships and attachment. Through unstructured creative play, kids tap into inner resources and thoughts; often they unconsciously reveal concerns and beliefs. That’s why I love books that join creativity and play with reading.  I’m particularly fond of books featuring boxes as a theme. Boxes springboard creativity and connection.

A box invites imaginations to soar. We’ve all watched kids opt to play with the box in preference to a gift because kids have an instinctual drive to create and fantasize. Check out this collection of books about boxes. They just may help you have fun together. Or, equally important, they may reveal thoughts and feelings they find difficult to express and share. These books invite conversation and fun. 

In brief and jaunty rhyming text  Boxes: Springboard to Creativity and connectionWhat to Do with a Box by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Chris Sheban declares, “A box is a wonder indeed. The only such magic that you’ll ever need.” The dreamy illustrations serve the theme well. Sheban draws the box with all the labels and markings still visible. Instead of limiting the fantasy element, this design choice reinforces the power of imagination to see beyond what is “real” and connect with what is possible.

Whether launching on a solo journey or sharing the box’s magical potential, an empty box dares us to dream and rocket into a flight of fantasy.


Adoption-attuned Lens Adoptees have intimate experience with imagining alternate worlds. Click To Tweet They wonder what life might have been like had they not been adopted, or if they’d been adopted by a different family. A book like this invites kids and parents to share a box–and the fantasy it triggers. While journeying together, parents may be amazed at the variety of topics kids will explore. Let them take the lead and remain alert for seeds that can open adoption-connected conversations.

Boxes: Springboard to Creativity and connection A Box Can Be Many Things by Dana Meachen Rau and Illustrated by Paige Billin-Frye is part of the Rookie Reader Series which means it uses simple language. (Includes a list or 51 words.) It captures the same exuberant imaginative spirit paired with bright illustrations.

Beginning readers will love the story line and the ability to read it themselves. Not only will this book spark their own flights of fancy, but it will also help build their reading skills. That’s a nice bonus!



Adoption-attuned Lens This book delivers a similar opportunity for adoptive families as the previous one.  Parents can also suggest that they imagine the box as a time-traveling machine. Imagine the places and people that children might fantasize about visiting. As always, allow children to take the lead on any conversation that touches on “big stuff.” As parents we must ensure that kids know their questions and thoughts are welcomed but we must not force them into having them on our timeline.

Boxes: Springboard to Creativity and connection

How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter inside a Tiny Blue Box by Linda Heller illustrated by Stacey Dressen McQueen takes a different spin on helping kids to realize the power of a box. This book comes from the PJ Library which “helps families explore the timeless values of Judaism.” 

The story describes the Jewish practice of creating tzedakah boxes. The name means “I’m happy when you’re happy.”  The actual translation is “fairness.”Children are encouraged to construct and decorate a box and then work to fill it with coins (or bills.). The money is then used to fund acts of charity and/or social justice.

Dalia tells her little brother that her tiny box holds a comforter, a butterfly bush and a cream pie. Brother  is little but can easily see the box is too small to hold all these things. He decides Dalia’s box is magic.

Everyone in Dalia’s class makes their own  tzedakah  and works to find ways to earn money to fill them. Once they’ve collected enough, they buy the yellow comforter fabric and then decorate it themselves. The story concludes with the children presenting the blanket to an elderly woman. She is overjoyed by their generosity and artistry and appreciates the flowers the children plant in her garden. Mostly she enjoys their companionship. The children discover the real magic of the box is how it elicits their generosity and empathy.

Adoption-attuned Lens Some kids have a strong natural inclination to kindness and generosity. This book is a great fit for them. And, some children especially those adopted from foster care, may have a profound awareness of the needs and struggles of others (their birth families, perhaps, or neighbors, etc.) These children may enjoy the idea of performing acts of kindness and generosity.

This activity may open some important and sensitive feelings. Stay alert for hints that kids wish… Click To Tweet

box metaphorIf this post intrigued you, please also read  Boxing Kids In  another book review blog post on boxes.

Thinking, Feeling & Persisting

The Thinking Book.41xZ9SWJpoL._SY375_BO1,204,203,200_The Thinking Book  by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, connected with me in a visceral way I had not anticipated. The story unfolds through two voices–parent and child. The adult’s words, in bold font, are straight forward, brief, e.g.,  “Good Morning,” and, “Time-to-get-upright-now.” The tone is no-nonsense and a response is clearly expected from the child.

The novelty of this book is that it immerses the reader in the child’s thoughts. As events are happening. His lack of response is not defiance or rudeness; it results from his being completely engaged in his own inner world.

The reader sees how the boy’s thoughts leap-frog from one idea to another. The outer world cannot intrude because  he’s so totally engaged by his own thoughts. (At least for the moment!)

Those of us who spend time on the internet have experienced a similar journey from one attention-grabbing link to another.

This book cast me back to times when I sat through Individual Education Plan meetings to help tailor school expectations to an ADHD student’s learning style. In my opinion, it captured the thought processes of attention-challenged kiddos. My daughter who teaches second grade made the identical observation, “I wish I could share this with every teacher instructing kids with an ADHD or ADD diagnosis or parents  who are raising them. It could help everyone.”

This gem of a book has the potential to build bridges of understanding and empathy. More importantly, it might help people appreciate the potential gift of this child’s ability to think deeply and uniquely. We need thinkers that can leapfrog beyond rote channels of accepted thinking to create new approaches and solutions! (Think Steve Jobs, for example.)

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: This book offers a fun way to discuss “trigger,” how conversations, events and actions can activate thoughts, memories, and behaviors. For children touched by trauma, this can be a way to explore a sensitive issue without actually discussing specific associations or memories. The discussion can focus on generalizations about triggers instead of specific ones. (Although, if a child wants to talk about specifics, follow their lead and talk about them. Be particularly sensitive to any overt or non-verbal cues to end the conversation.


Stickley Sticks to It.51h8bZUFQXL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_

Stickley Sticks to It: A Frog’s Guide to Getting Things Done by Brenda S. Miles and illustrated by Steve Mack. Hilarious illustrations depict a charming bow-tie wearing frog of infectious optimism. Like other frogs, Stickley’s sticky feet allow him to hang on–often in the most unusual places.

A delightful two-page spread shows Stickley proudly dangling from the underside of a bowl of soup–much to the shock of a hungry lion and elephant. Another picture shows how being sticky has some challenges too, like when a soccer ball won’t launch to other players.

Stickley learns to manage his stickiness and to be “sticky” in other non-physical ways that require a stick-to-it-attitude. He develops ways to nurture and use this kind of persistence. The story outlines the exact steps he has to take to be sticky in attitude and accomplishes this in a way that engages and entertains. This itemized strategy demonstrates that the process is simple yet not easy. It takes practice, patience and stick-to-it-iveness!

The book also includes a useful “Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers.” This helps parents to identify the specific steps to teach kids that, like Stickley, they too, can have sticky-ness and become masters of persistence. These include:

  • Make a plan and gather supplies
  • Take a break
  • Go back to work after a break
  • Stop and think about the problem in a different way
  • Make a new plan
  • Ask for help

Stickley Sticks to It: A Frog’s Guide to Getting Things Done is a fun, useful book.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: The strategies outlined in this book can also serve purposes other than stick-to-it-iveness. For example, for kids who have difficult histories, some suggestions like taking a break or looking at it from another angle, and/or asking for help–are all excellent.

As crucial as taking a break is, it is equally important to go back and handle things and not be tempted to “stuff” it out of consciousness. Denial tends to create an environment where things can fester and cause more damage. This book can help kids develop both the skill and the mindset that encourages them to speak up, speak out, and hang on.

The Feelings Book.51bzLk0dG9L._SX473_BO1,204,203,200_

The Feelings Book by Todd Parr features his signature boldly colorful, zany artwork and effectively captures an array of emotions. Books like this help provide kids with a broad vocabulary for the multitude of feelings that people experience. This helps them convey, share, and deal with their emotions and is an essential part of emotional literacy.

This book concludes with a reminder to share feelings and not keep them bottled up inside, something which is important for to remember whether one is a child or an adult.


magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: Emotional literacy is a vital skill for all of us. It is especially important that adoptive families become well-practiced in exploring, sharing and talking about feelings, especially those connected to adoption. These emotions are complex and intense and enmeshed in the experience and feelings of other family members. This can make it difficult to discuss because one might fear upsetting other family members. Kids sometimes choose to protect others at the expense of their own emotional and mental health.

Adoptive families must encourage conversations about emotions and ensure that all feelings are valid. Specifically discuss how something that makes one family member happy can make another sad or angry. For example, parents can be overjoyed that they were able to adopt a child while the child may have a range of feelings about it. These feelings most certainly will include loss, grief and probably some anger as well. Accept that these feelings can coexist; they do not void each other.