Remembering Green by Lisa Gammon Olson

Please welcome back picture book author Lisa Gammon Olson to Frog on a Blog! Lisa is the author of the American Herstory Series and a huge proponent of spreading kindness and preserving nature. Lisa last visited in April of 2019 to talk about her book And the Trees Began to Move. Today, on October 12th, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, an alternative to Columbus Day, Lisa’s stopped by to tell us about her latest book, Remembering Green: An Ojibwe Girl’s Tale. And Lisa has an important message for us all at the end.

Welcome, Lisa!

Good morning! My American HerStory Series, with Eifrig Publishing, features a snapshot in American History as seen through the eyes of one young girl.

My newest picture book, Remembering Green, is the 4th book in this series and features an Ojibwe heroine named Wenonah and her struggles to keep her native identity during the forced attendance of Indigenous children at residential schools.

 In the late 19th century, the United States Government began establishing Indian Residential Schools with the intent of forcibly assimilating Native American children into Euro-American culture.  In order to “Christianize” and “civilize” them, Indigenous children were taken from their families and housed in boarding schools where they were to be “educated” and stripped of their culture. 

Children arriving at the schools had their long hair cut and their native clothing exchanged for a regimented school uniform and were not even allowed to keep their native names.  They were forbidden to speak their native languages and were often beaten and treated harshly when they were caught doing so. Overcrowding, disease and abusive discipline were present in these children’s daily lives changing the very core of who they were.

In Remembering Green, my Wenonah is one such girl from the Lac Du Flambeau Ojibwe tribe in northern Wisconsin.  She runs away from the boarding school where she seeks out her great grandfather, Nimishoomis and his wisdom. Together, using their five senses, he will help Wenonah think of ways she can retain her culture and remember their customs to pass down to future generations. Even as she is learning chimookoman ways, Grandfather reminds her it is not the learning that will change her but the forgetting of her heritage that will change who she is. 

I worked extensively with the Lac Du Flambeau tribal members on this book to be sure every detail was true to history even using Ojibwe words in the story to authenticate the setting.

 My personal research discovered a beautiful culture with people who revere the earth and live in harmony with the changing seasons.  Our Native Americans were brutalized, persecuted and killed in horrifyingly vast numbers for their differences and for their land.  I often wonder how corporate America would look now had the roles been reversed and we had all learned to live in harmony with the natural world as our Native friends did.  I know which world I personally would choose to live in.

Writing historical fiction has opened my eyes to the suffering and hardships our ancestors endured in our past and I am amazed at the tenacity of the human spirit and how people have coped during really tough times.  

It’s important we bring to light the untold history of these strong, spiritual people and help them heal.  A first good step has been the national movement to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 12th in lieu of Columbus Day. 

I work in an elementary school as the secretary and I want our kids to know “there is always something positive you can do to impact others in every situation.” As a child, it’s easy to get sucked up into the enormity of life and not think you could ever possibly make a difference. 

In my first book, Dust Flowers…set in the midst of the Dust Bowl…a little girl can do nothing about the weather but she CAN grow one tiny flower and bring a smile to her mother’s face. That’s what I like ALL my books to say. What you do, DOES make a difference!  YOU ARE IMPORTANT!!!

Every human being on this planet has made an individual journey…has a rich past and story to tell.  Listen to each other in a respectful, responsible & kind manner and together we will learn all the wondrous secrets this world has to tell…Cover your ears and we will be destined to repeat these shameful failings at humanity’s peril.

First and foremost, Lisa Gammon Olson is a mom of three amazing young men; Grant, Kyle & Jay. She lives with her husband Bruce in Coon Valley, WI, where she is the secretary at the Coon Valley Elementary School….a job she adores! She believes the most important skill we can ever teach our children is “How to be Kind.” Any kindness we do, no matter how small, has the power to change someone’s life. Growing up in northern Wisconsin has instilled in her the wonder of nature… sparkling lakes, endless forests and trails littered with pine needles and possibilities. Preserving our planet and populating it with human beings who are Respectful, Responsible and Kind seems like an awesome idea.

You can learn more about Lisa’s books and the history behind the story by clicking Here or on the images below:

Trusting The Process by Kathleen Long Bostrom

I’m thrilled to feature multi-published children’s book author Kathleen Long Bostrom today on Frog on a Blog. I’m sure you’re familiar with many of Kathleen’s books. She’s the author of the award-winning Little Blessings series and several VeggieTales books, as well as lots of other books and magazine stories for children and adults. She and her books have received multiple awards and honors. Kathleen’s newest children’s book, Will You Be Friends with Me?, published just this month by WorthyKids, is a timely board book that celebrates friendship, differences, and diversity.

Kathleen’s here to talk a little about the connection between writer and illustrator, letting go and trusting the publisher and illustrator to help bring your story to life. Let’s hear from Kathleen!

Trusting the Process

by Kathleen Long Bostrom

My children were three, five, and seven when I began writing picture books in 1992. They’re all in their thirties now and two are about to be married. In other words, it’s been a long time!

Much has changed but one thing hasn’t: the questions I get asked. First and foremost is, “Do you illustrate your own books?”

The answer is an unequivocal, “No!” I can’t even draw a decent stick figure. Illustration is not my gift, although I’d love if it were.

I knew nothing about publishing picture books when I first began writing them, but I learned quickly. I discovered that it’s up to the publisher to choose the illustrator. People startle when I say that.  “What? You mean you get no say in choosing? That doesn’t seem fair!” I felt like that myself at first, but I’ve learned to trust the process.

After four years and 250 rejections, my first book, What is God Like? (Tyndale House, 1998) was accepted for publication. I imagined a beautiful, jacketed hardcover book with colorful, double-page layouts. The design crew decided otherwise. The trim size ending up being  9” x 6” x 6”, which fit just right in little hands. The illustrations were not gorgeous; they were simple, childlike. And absolutely perfect! The illustrator, Elena Kucharik, was known for designing the popular Care Bears. For her books with Tyndale House, she created four charming children of different ethnicities. It was brilliant. This was back in the 1990’s when diversity in children’s books was not a priority (should have been). Over the years, many children told me, “I’m in the book!” A bi-racial boy. A girl adopted from China. My blonde-haired youngest son. I couldn’t have asked for more.

That book led to a series called Little Blessings, which ended up in 20 languages around the world, selling several million copies. This did not translate into millions of dollars for me! But I had the joy of knowing that my work was in the hands of children all around the world. From the start, I learned to trust the process.

Spread from Will You Be Friends with Me? by Kathleen Long Bostrom, illustrated by Jo de Ruiter

My newest board book, Will You Be Friends with Me? (WorthyKids, July 2020) is another example. I sought to show how friends can be different in many ways. That’s what makes life great! I imagined one child speaking to another, trying to convince that child that their differences shouldn’t be a problem. But when the art team got to work, they decided on a device called “daisy chain.” One child in each spread moves to the next spread with a new child, and so on. At the end, all the children stand together, showing diversity and friendship and joy. Again, perfect! And timely, too.

Spread from Will You Be Friends with Me? by Kathleen Long Bostrom, illustrated by Jo de Ruiter

With 50+ books published, most of those picture books, I can honestly say that only once have I not been thrilled with the illustrations and how the book turned out.

It’s a fabulous collaboration, author and illustrator. And children! I love it all.

And yes, I’m still learning. I hope that’s always true.

Kathleen Long Bostrom is a Presbyterian minister who has written more than 50 books, including the award-winning Little Blessings series, multiple VeggieTales books, and the upcoming board book version of This Little Light of Mine.

Her books, both for children and adults, have sold close to three million copies and have been translated into more than 20 languages including Chinese, Russian and Indonesian. In fact, Italian versions of her books may be found at the Vatican bookstore in Rome.

Kathleen and her husband Greg, and Ellie — her little empty-nest dog — live in Carlsbad, California. Kathleen is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Agency. For more information please go to www.kathleenlongbostrom.com.

Connect with Kathleen online:
Twitter: @KathleenBostrom
Facebook: Kathleen Long Bostrom / Author
Instagram: kathleenbostrom

5 Best Culturally Diverse Picture Books to Read Now by Ilham Alam

DiversityPlease welcome back to Frog on a Blog author and mom Ilham Alam. This past September, Ilham shared her Top 5 Books for Kids to Learn ABC’s.

Today, she’s stopped by with another wonderful list: 5 Best Culturally Diverse Picture Books to Read Now.

 

 

 

5 Best Culturally Diverse Picture Books to Read Now

by Ilham Alam

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Ebony Glenn

Mommys Khimar

This is one of the books that I always recommend for kids and is a perennial favourite for many reasons. It teaches diversity and acceptance through the means of the oft-misunderstood Hijab, or Khimar. Through the eyes of a little girl, we can see her love for her mother and her mother’s many beautifully coloured khimars. We see the reasons why this little girl and her mother choose to wear the khimar, and cultural reasons are only one part of it. I also love that it depicts diversity in relationships as it appears that her parents have an inter-religious marriage, yet family members with different religious beliefs still love each other all the same. Read the book to find out what her favourite color of khimar is.

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

Sea Prayer

Written by the writer of the celebrated novel, Kite Runner, this poem has been written as a dedication to the refugees from Syria and likely inspired by the story of Aylan Kurdi. In wispy and haunting pictures with short but powerful verses, we see the story of a boy and his family who had a lovely life in Syria prior to the current Civil War. Then comes their decision to flee using the dangerous Mediterranean crossing, just for a fighting chance to reach safety in Europe. Before they get into the boat, the father whispers a sea prayer to his son, who’s asleep in his arms and unaware of the perilous sea journey that he’s about to take. If nothing else, this book will fill you with compassion for their plight.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly and Laura Freeman

Hidden

This is an untold history of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission and should be read by all kids, especially girls from diverse communities. These 4 pioneering African-American female engineers/mathematicians, are wonderful role models, as these women displayed intelligence, grace, talent, and courage, to become the first women of colour to be employed at NASA as scientists. These women worked on the historic missions, which successfully sent the first American man into space, the first people ever on the moon in 1969, and vastly improved the safety of commercial airplanes. And these women made their astonishing achievements at a time of segregation among races and when women, especially black women, had little access to higher education.

Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora

Mikamba

This is the African version of “Old Macdonald had a Farm, E-I-E-I-O.” Younger kids will love the familiar sing-a-long, but with different animals, and older kids will love learning about the different animals that are found in the African continent. All will love the rich yellows and browns showing Mikamba, his animals, and his village. This is a clever retelling of the age-old nursery rhyme by Rachel Isadora, meant to teach us something about another part of the world.

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai and Kerascoët

Malala

Who doesn’t know of Malala Yousafzai? She is the brave young woman who was nearly killed for speaking out in support of girl’s education and equality between the genders. In simple sentences, Malala expresses her desire to rewrite her society with her pencil. In beautiful painting-like images, Malala shows us what her life was like in the deeply conservative part of Pakistan that she is from, the lack of safety and security, her home and family, and the lost potential of her female peers being denied schooling. This book is not only autobiographical, but inspirational, as kids can see what Malala’s determination and courage eventually got her: the right to an education. Kids here will be a bit more thankful that there is universal public education in the West and that it is their birth-right to get quality education, when they read about Malala’s hopes and sacrifice.

Ilham Alam

 

Ilham Alam is a married mom of 2 from Toronto, Canada and an avid reader of most genres. As a dedicated bookworm, she has been on a mission to turn her 2 boys and her cat into dedicated readers as well (she’s making good progress). She also has her upcoming picture book, Wonder Walk, being published by Iguana Books in Spring 2019. You can pre-order your copy of Wonder Walk today and also multiple perks to go with it for a limited time only.

wonder walk

Pre-Order Link:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/wonder-walk-illustrated-children-s-book/x/20435653#/–

Our Big, Beautiful World: The Importance of Diversity in Children’s Books by Karen Kilpatrick

Pumpkinheads - Carmin Cares

Two Books From…

Pumpkinheads - Danza's Message

…Karen Kilpatrick’s Pumpkinheads Series

Diversity in children’s books is a hot topic right now. But it’s certainly not a fad. I believe most in the children’s book industry (e.g. publishers, authors, illustrators, agents, librarians) agree that diversity in children’s books is important. Children need to see other children just like them, children they can relate to, in their books. Whether we’re referring to appearance, aspects of culture, or a disability they may have, children need to see how they fit into the world around them. Books can help them do that.

On the other hand, children need to see children who are different from them in their books, in order to foster awareness, understanding, and acceptance of other people in, as guest blogger, children’s book author, and mother of 3 multi-racial children, Karen Kilpatrick calls it, Our Big, Beautiful World.

  

Our Big, Beautiful World: The Importance of Diversity in Children’s Books 

By Karen Kilpatrick

 

“Mommy, why don’t any of the girls in my class have hair like me?” my young daughter came home from preschool asking one day.   

“Because everyone is different,” I answered.  “It’s hair that not a lot of people around here have. But there are a lot of little girls with hair just like yours.”  Then I asked, “Your hair is one way that you are different from the girls in your class, but what other ways are you the same?”  

We came up with a long list of traits that she shared with her classmates, and a shorter list of traits that she didn’t.  We talked about, in simple terms, how differences are what make people beautiful, and how boring the world would be if everyone looked exactly the same.  

From that day forward, we spent a lot of time noticing appearance.  I am mainly Italian and part German, my husband a mix of Bahamian, Native American, and African American.  My three children were born with caramel skin, curly hair, and brown eyes, quite different from my straight blond hair, blue eyes and freckles and my husband’s chocolate brown skin.  They didn’t start to notice how different we all look from each other, and how different they looked from most of their classmates, until they were about four or five years old.  And it wasn’t with concern, just curiosity, as to why they look the way they do, and why other people look they way they do.  If they had attended school in a different neighborhood, it may have been them who looked like the majority of people.  

Wherever we travel in life, I tell them, within the same city even, we will be surrounded by different groups of people.  Sometimes we will look like the majority, and sometimes, we will not. 

What has been so important to me in raising my children is that they feel comfortable around anyone.  That whether they are with brown people, peach people, caramel people, chocolate people (we have identified such a variety of skin tone shades – and there are many more!), and whether they are in the majority or minority, they know and understand that differences are to be celebrated and not feared.  

But the only way they would know not to fear difference is to experience difference.  My children can visit myriad relatives, of all different shades, who live in a wide variety of economic circumstances.  They can experience differences firsthand.  However, another way to expose children to the beauty of differences is through books, and the diverse characters found in those books.  

Children learn through storytelling.  Storytelling, through books, can introduce children to the wide, wonderful, beautiful world of differences that they may not otherwise experience.  Which is why, as an author, I am particularly careful that my books reflect a variety of characters.  It is important that children recognize and see themselves in characters but equally important that they are exposed to characters who do not look like them.  In order for this to occur, we have to have diverse characters in books, and not just in terms of skin color, but disabilities, ethnicity, culture and more.  

It’s a big, beautiful world out there, filled with a variety of people, and books are the perfect starting point in exploring and understanding that world.

Karen Kilpatrick

Author and entrepreneur Karen Kilpatrick, a mother of three multi-racial children, is a former attorney, who left her large law firm position in 2009 to start and grow two successful online legal services websites. Kilpatrick holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a Juris Doctorate from NYU School of Law. She established her own publishing firm, Nina Charles Publishing, and launched the Pumpkinheads® series in 2013. She resides in Parkland, Florida, with her husband and three children.

For more information on Karen Kilpatrick or her award-winning Pumpkinheads® series, please visit: www.pumpkinheads.com.

The Pumpkinheads® series titles include Carmin Cares (ISBN 978-1938447068), Love Monster Lulu (ISBN 978-1938447037), Sage’s Song (ISBN 978-1938447013), Danza’s Message (ISBN 978-1938447020), and Ella’s Toys (ISBN 978-1938447006).