Happy Tuesday, kidlit friends! Exactly one month from today, my daughter will have her first day of kindergarten. I am not ready! She is stoked, I am emotional. I think we know who will cry on the first day of school.
Last Sunday for Disability Pride Month I reviewed some middle grade novels with disability representation. Today I’m reviewing some board books with disability representation. I’ve been having some thoughts about disability pride and the social model of disability lately, about how, especially if chronic pain is involved, accessibility isn’t enough to address disability needs, and how in general pride and disability are such complicated topics. I don’t know that I have the space here to fully explore my thoughts, or that they’re even fully formed yet. 🙂 Know that, as a disabled person, pride is complicated. I’m very proud of the work of disabled activists, however, who have so improved the lives of millions — disabled and nondisabled alike — and continue to fight the hard fight for accessibility and human rights.
Before I get to my reviews, let me tell you about one of Book Riot’s new podcasts! What do S.A. Cosby, Khaled Hosseini, Sarah Bakewell, and Yahdon Israel have in common? They’ve been guests on Book Riot’s newest podcast, First Edition, where BookRiot.com co-founder Jeff O’Neal explores the wide bookish world. Subscribe to hear them and stay to hear Book Riot’s editors pick the “it” book of the month.
Forest Friends Book Sleeve by MelvisMakes
This adorable book sleeve is padded with fleece. The store has a lot of designs to choose from. This could be great for road trips! $16+
Pa, Me, and Our Sidewalk Pantry by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Zara González Hoang (picture book)
This intergenerational picture book is such an excellent conversation starter about food insecurity. Jelly Bean has a sidewalk library his Pa (grandfather) built. He loves seeing books come and go as neighbors use it. However, when his mom loses her job, Jelly realizes there’s something else his family needs — food. And if his family is having trouble buying food, others in his community might be as well. He asks Pa for his help in building a sidewalk pantry, where people can take what they need and donate what they can. The two work together until it’s complete. Now neighbors have access to free books and food.
I Want to Be Spaghetti! by Kiera Wright-Ruiz, illustrated by Claudia Lam (picture book)
In this adorable and hilarious picture book, a bag of ramen longs to be spaghetti. They watch jealously as one customer after another scoops up spaghetti from the shelves of a grocery store. They declare to the other noodles that they want to be spaghetti. But the other noodles insist that Ramen is perfect as is. When a customer finally buys Ramen, they realize that maybe the other noodles were right — they’re perfect just as they are.
On my July children’s book releases list for Book Riot, I also reviewed Hands-On Science: Matter, Spanish is the Language of My Family, Light Comes to Shadow Mountain, Hope in the Valley, Once in a Blue Moon, The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn, and Haru, Zombie Dog Hero. Phew, it’s a big release day! For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!
It’s simply appalling how few board books have disability representation. Book Riot editor Kelly Jensen wrote about this two years ago. I recently interviewed Dr. Katherine Schneider and several judges of the Schneider Family Book Awards (which honors children’s books with disability representation) for a piece I’m working on with School Library Journal, and all mentioned how few picture books are published with disability representation in a given year compared to middle grade and young adult. While I completely agree that there needs to be FAR more representation in picture books, representation in board books is even bleaker. (Let’s not even discuss chapter books, or actually, maybe I will next newsletter.) While many board books now have a background wheelchair user, that’s about as far as it gets. I’m begging publishers to address this need! Pretty please!
I do have a few I can recommend. I’m very grateful for these few.
We Are Little Feminists: On-The-Go by Brook Sitgraves Turner & Archaa Shrivastav
I buy this book (or the We Are Little Feminists Box Set) as a gift for every baby shower I’m invited to. This particular board book in the series depicts photographs of disabled children and parents out and about — hiking, playing, running, exploring, and more. It shows a variety of disabilities and a variety of mobility aids. The prose is short and full of energy. Also check out We Are Little Feminists: How We Eat, which shows feeding tubes and other eating aids.
The Wheels on the Costume by Cindy Jin, illustrated by Lauren Lowen
This Halloween board book releases on July 18th, and it’s so cute! Each page shows a kid who is a wheelchair user in a different Halloween costume that uses the wheelchair as part of the costume. One child is a racecar driver, another is Cinderella in her carriage, and a third is an alien in a spaceship. The wheels turn, making it really fun for toddlers.
Nita’s First Signs by Kathy MacMillan, illustrated by Sara Brezzi
Sign language board books are fairly common, but this one, the first board book in a two-book series, is my favorite. Each page shows the child Nita using a new sign, and an interactive pull-out page gives instructions on how to make the sign. The second book in the series is Nita’s Day. Author Kathy MacMillan is an ASL interpreter.
I Can, Can You? by Marjorie W. Pitzer
Pitzer has written and photographed three board books with children with Downs Syndrome. Each board book covers basic toddler concepts. In this one, various children with Down Syndrome participate in daily activities and play, and invite the reader to do the same: “I can play patty-cake, can you?” I Like Berries, Do You? depicts children with Down Syndrome eating a variety of foods and asking the reader if they like those foods, too, and My Up & Down & All Around Book introduces prepositions. As a side note, the Amazon title for I Like Berries, Do You? includes the euphemism ‘special needs’ which is generally frowned upon in the disabled community. I still enjoy the book, but I wanted to note that. You can read more about why you should avoid that term and what words to use instead at the Center for Disability Rights, in this article by Emily Ladau, and at the National Center for Disability in Journalism.
My daughter likes to make “Snack Packs” using ice cube trays which are “the greatest thing ever” according to her. 🙂 From Mama’s perspective, it’s a bit tricky to clean peanut butter out of an ice cube tray.
If you’d like to read more of my kidlit reviews, I’m on Instagram @BabyLibrarians, Twitter @AReaderlyMom, and blog irregularly at Baby Librarians. You can also read my Book Riot posts. If you’d like to drop me a line, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time!