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Help This World Be A Really Cool Place

Vincent Kelly
Vincent Kelly Author Interview

All People Are Beautiful celebrates diversity and highlights the beauty of our differences. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I truly believe diversity is reality and that children need to know that our differences are what unite us, not divide us. I think this message is so important for kids to be exposed to until it becomes unconsciously integrated — until it becomes a truth they know deep down! I truly feel the conversation of diversity never gets old and can never be talked about too early. I feel our differences help this world be a really cool place to both live and love.

The art in this book is delightful and beautiful. What was the art collaboration process like with illustrator Cha Consul?

My partnership with Cha was kismet. Cha is an absolutely phenomenal illustrator. By the time we connected, I already had in my mind what I thought the illustrations would look like. Cha took my vision, added her creative flare and gave my words a face.

It was important to me that readers got to see bright colors, different skin tones, features, and faces of children from all over the world in this book. Cha helped me achieve that goal and I’m grateful. It was great to work with her because she loves diversity just as much as I do.

Interestingly enough, All People Are Beautiful was the first children’s book she ever illustrated, so I feel very special.

Because of COVID, locations, and our time difference, we did all the collaboration for All People Are Beautiful virtually from opposite sides of the world. Cha is based in the Philippines and I am based just outside Nashville, Tennessee, so there were lots of virtual video calls to make sure we aligned on the presentation.

I am forever grateful for her artistry and I am looking forward to working together again in the near future!

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?

I want readers to take away that everyone is beautiful regardless of what you look like, where you’re from, your culture, your hobbies, or anything else that makes you different. I want readers to know we like different things and that’s OK. Our differences are what unite us, not divide us. I want kids to know that it’s cool to talk about our differences in fun and interactive ways.

Do you plan to write more children’s book on this or other topics?

So I’m a true ENFP and a Creative, so I’m always on the go! I’ve actually recently finished writing a few new stories.

I’ve written a really cool story about a group of animal friends that decide to switch places for a day and realize it’s no fun being someone else. This is definitely another diversity themed book. I’ve also written another book about beautiful rainbows and the things the colors remind us of.

Both are books for early readers so I’m looking forward to sharing these with children everywhere.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

An important book for early readers that highlights the beauty of our differences. All people are beautiful. All cultures are beautiful. All languages are beautiful. Celebrating our differences is beautiful. What better way to talk about diversity and acceptance than with bright colors, fun artwork, and interactive ways children can enjoy while they read. Enjoy learning a few new words in different languages and even use your creativity in some of the in-book activities!

Limerick Comics

Limerick Comics by [Robert Hoyman, Steve Feldman]

Who doesn’t need a little fun with their facts? When dry nonfiction material can be made more palatable, everyone wins. Limerick Comics, written by Robert Hoyman and illustrated by Steve Feldman, presents a mountain of facts while simultaneously handing readers entertaining limericks. The limericks do a wonderful job of drawing readers in and piquing interest while Feldman’s illustrations give readers much to ponder. They are colorful, detailed, and provide a perfect visual for both the limerick and the corresponding fact.

Hoyman and Feldman seem to have struck upon a fantastic vein in the nonfiction genre. I can see their limericks as a wonderful addition to middle school libraries and classrooms. They provide quick bites of science and history in easily digestible comic frames and short bursts of facts. I can say even as an adult reader, I learned quite a bit from Hoyman and Feldman’s comic in a short amount of time. From rollercoasters to food fights, this pair has created a comic that will most certainly appeal to young adult readers.

I would have given anything to have a book like this on hand for my own children. Encouraging them to read nonfiction material was always important to me, but it was difficult to find options that kept their interest. Hoyman and Feldman more than meet this challenge. Readers who appreciate and seek humor will love the limerick presentation, and educators will be instant fans of the accompanying facts.

Limerick Comics is a fun children’s picture book that educates as wells as it entertains.

Pages: 34 | ASIN: B07MFC7KQ5

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Let’s Talk! A Story of Autism and Friendship

Let’s Talk! A Story of Autism and Friendship, by Lisa Jacovsky is a fun and educational children’s story about a little girl named Harper. While at the pool one day, she meets a girl named Emma. She tries to talk and play with her, but she notices something’s off. Emma doesn’t speak, and she just stands there, flapping her arms. Harper offers to play in the pool with Emma and once she does, she learns that Emma has autism! Even after knowing why Emma behaved the way she did, she didn’t mind and Emma still became her best friend.

Let’s Talk! A Story of Autism and Friendship is a light-hearted and engaging story that teaches young readers a valuable life lesson. Author Lisa Jacovsky is able to write about a sensitive topic while keeping it easy for kids to understand. The colorful and detailed illustrations allow for the reader to better visualize the story and the characters. I really enjoyed how the story shows what it is like to have a friend with autism, letting the audience know that they may think differently, but they are still fun people to be around!

Let’s Talk! A Story of Autism and Friendship is a touching and easy to read picture book that will make it easy for parents and teachers to begin a discussion about autism with children. It teaches kids about the importance of accepting others and learning how to make them feel more comfortable, and Lisa Jacovsky does it all within an entertaining story.

Pages: 14 | ASIN: B08CBDT71J

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The Unicorn Princess

The Unicorn Princess (The Pacific Princesses Book 1) by [Ektaa Bali]

Sonakshi has everything she could ever want and a family who loves and protects her fiercely. She, however, possesses qualities that set her apart from all others–Sonaskshi is a unicorn. When she discovers that she is in danger, every nightmare she has ever had begins to make perfect sense. From an early age, Sonakshi recalls the image of a horrible face. It haunts her dreams, and now that she has heard her parents give a name to the face, everything is becoming all too real for Sonakshi.

The Unicorn Princess: The Pacific Princesses Book 1, written by Ektaa Bali, is the age-old story of the quest to break a curse, but it is told with fantastic relatable characters with whom young readers will relate. Sonakshi and her best friend, Kiera, are typical young girls–always looking for adventure. The fantasy element in Bali’s writing is strong and pulls the reader into the story from the first paragraphs.

The closeness between Sonakshi and her best friend makes for a wonderful storyline all of its own. In addition to the peril the children face, the author has woven a beautiful element of friendship into the book which will immediately catch the interest of young readers.

As an adult reading this book to critique for use by my students, I have to say even I was drawn in by Mankini’s storyline. I do love a great villain. What fantasy fan doesn’t appreciate a good evil witch? I am also a huge fan of the underdog. Batuman, Mankini’s sidekick is the perfect downtrodden henchman forced to do his master’s evil bidding.

Some fantasies of this nature tend to be filled to the brim with language that is too colorful and overpowers the storyline. Bali, however, has managed to hand readers a well-crafted plot written with a tone and language that young readers will appreciate and find both easy to follow and engaging on every level.

I am giving The Unicorn Princess: The Pacific Princesses Book 1, by Ektaa Bali, 5 out of 5 stars. As a parent and teacher, I can wholeheartedly recommend this first in series for anyone who has fantasy fans in their home or classroom. An engaging story centered around the value of friendship and loyalty, The Unicorn Princess is a sure hit among young readers. I am looking forward to introducing Sonakshi to my students.

Pages: 196 | ASIN: B08L5K4CV1

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Mattie Boombalatty

Mattie Boombalatty by Wayne Gerard Trotman is a children’s illustrated short story that follows Mattie Boombalatty as she moves to a new town and falls victim to bullying by her new schoolmates. Trotman’s simple yet profound lesson about morality, combined with the book’s vivid and lively illustrations makes this a fantastic book for children.

Nhat Hao Nguyen, the illustrator of the book, is a skilled artist who makes each scene and character come to life. He uses vivid colors that pop, and his life-like yet cherub-like character illustrations add just the right amount of magic and realism to this children’s picture book. His attention to detail on each page is fantastic.

Trotman’s message about treating others who treat us lesser than we deserve is, as aforementioned, simple yet poignant. Mattie faces many anxieties that are understandable and normal for a school-aged girl. Some of her schoolmates decide for no reason that they do not like her and, as mean schoolchildren do, they make their feelings known. As distraught as she is over being taunted by her peers, she displays strength in refusing to wish them ill will, even when she comes across a glowing opportunity to get revenge. Mattie is ultimately rewarded for choosing the high road, and she reaches her happy ending in the story. While we as humans are not always rewarded for rising above our circumstances, Trotman makes it clear that the reward is not what matters – rather, the peace of mind that comes with choosing the right path is what ultimately matters.

Pages: 50 | ISBN-10: 1916184839

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My Life at Sweetbrier

My Life at Sweetbrier: A Life Changed by Horses by [Humphrys-Dunne, Deanie]

My Life at Sweetbrier: A Life Changed by Horses is a non-fiction book written by Deanie Humphrys-Dunne about her true life experiences growing up on a horse farm in Easton, Connecticut called Sweetbrier. After Deanie’s parents were told she would probably never be able to walk, she not only overcame her disability in order to learn to walk but Deanie also learned to ride horses and becomes an equestrian jumping champion, riding a horse named Fleet Nancy (Peach). Then she has surgery on her leg to help her walk better and she has to relearn to walk and ride all over again. After many months of physical therapy and hard work, she comes back to the jumping circuit and wins even more championships.

I enjoyed reading this book. It had an inspiring message about overcoming obstacles in order to reach your goals, to keep trying even when you fail and not give up. It’s a message that will resonate with all readers regardless of whether or not they have a physical disability like Deanie.
The descriptions of Little Man (Deanie’s first pony) were humorous as she described his actions when she was learning to ride, but it was sad to read about the horses that the family lost when the barn caught on fire.

I loved that the author included family photographs and pictures of the house and barns at Sweetbrier and the horses owned by the Humphrys Family while Deanie was growing up. There were also pictures of the Humphrys sisters jumping at various horse shows.

Although I enjoyed the book, I felt that the story was a bit disjointed at the beginning, with Deanie retelling various events in her past, jumping from one memory to another without  connections between them. I would have preferred a more cohesive narrative in that section of the story, but this is not an issue in the later parts of the story. No dates were mentioned, and I would have liked to know when Deanie was growing up and when she won numerous equestrian jumping championships.

This is an inspirational story that excellently conveys the moments and emotions of Deanie’s life. This book invites readers into a personal story, one that is told boldly, and I appreciated it.

Pages: 144 | ASIN: B0711P67DM

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A New Beginning

A New Beginning: A Jenny Dewberry Series by [Olsen, J.J.]

In the pages of A New Beginning (A Jenny Dewberry Series), J.J. Olson weaves together a world of whimsy, magic, and the otherwise normal life of a 13-year-old girl. The story opens to Jenny Dewberry attending her grandmother, Alinore Grayson’s bedside. It is then that she receives the first clue that she may not be a normal 13-year-old girl. Alinore gives Jenny a key that opens a trunk of secrets and unlocks a part of herself that she never knew existed. Jenny discovers that she comes from a long line of witches, and she’s given a mission to restore white magic to the world.

This book is perfect for the young and old, alike but I think that middle-schoolers and up will enjoy this read the most. The story is vivid and descriptive and the writing is simple without being boring. Olson paints a world that is easily imagined. The book delves into some fairly complex situations, spells, and worlds a reader could easily get lost in, but I didn’t have a problem as everything is explained well.

I enjoyed the idea of the journals that Alinore left for Jenny to read. We get to know Alinore without her being a present character in the story through her first person narratives. We also get to know Alinore through her colorful sister, Agatha and her adventurous spirit. Alinore was a mastermind. She leaves Jenny everything she needs to send Jenny on a magical scavenger hunt of sorts.

The characters are well developed and enough background information is given to fill in gaps. This is a story that stands alone while at the same time leaving the reader begging for more. It is part of a series, but is easily digestible as a singular story.

I like the good vs. evil aspect of the story. Madiva and her minions represent the dark side, while fresh-faced Jenny is the bright spot. She is hope. That being said, I like the redemption of Kurthanyo Eastman that we get to witness. At first, I assumed Kurthanyo leaned more toward the domineering, evil side. By the end, we are given another piece of the story that lets Kurthanyo explains some of his actions when he was young. We’ve all done something we regretted in a fit of rage. Kurthanyo gives us a reminder that those fits are often not easily undone.

I’m giving A New Beginning (A Jenny Dewberry Series) by J.J. Olson 5 out of 5 stars. Apart from a few minor errors, the book is very well-written. The characters are relatable. It seems like it’s Jenny against the world, and at times she is. Readers will enjoy the protagonist as an underdog. I’d love to read more by this author, and particularly more in this specific series. I need to know what happens next!

Pages: 288 | ASIN: B07934BMGL

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Mall Hair Maladies

Mall Hair Maladies by [Volchko, Kristy Jo]

Mall Hair Maladies by Kristy Jo Volchko is a delightful throwback story that will take 80’s kids down memory lane. The book follows Tanya, the new kid in school, Randi, and their single parents. The two meet and quickly become inseparable best friends. Volchko describes a year in the life of two 13 year old girls in 1980’s America. Volchko delves into “a day in the life” right down to big, crimped, hair-sprayed hair, fingerless gloves, and arms lined with multi-colored jelly bracelets. The biggest obstacle in the girls’ lives is finding a way to go to the local Madonna concert. She’s their idol, and they will do just about anything to hear her belting her songs in person.

Volchko writing feels like a genuine first-hand account of crazy events told across a dinner table. Grammar and spelling are impeccable. Everything flows perfectly. Characters were well developed, with each one having enough background story for readers to get a good grip on who they are. The setting and different scenarios were described well. Volchko has a way of making you feel like you are right there with the characters mixing up things in the kitchen, having an awkward dinner with an uptight relative, or smoking in the girls room. I felt invested in her characters and their lives.

I loved the throwbacks to the 1980’s. I lived them, and the essence of that era was captured perfectly. Readers from that time will relate to the characters. They will see themselves and reminisce over their own 80’s stories. I love the real references to the music and fashion of the time. It was a simpler time in many ways, but pop culture, music, and fashion were anything but simple.

The story is a nice throwback to a safer time for kids. They could hop on a bus unattended and go all over town and return relatively unscathed. They had little fear of anything bad happening to them at all. Bad things happened, of course, but they didn’t seem so frequent. Volchko conveys that time of simplicity and relative safety very well. I’m not so sure the story would have played out the same if it was set in today’s world. It was nice to escape back to that time for a little while.

I love how easily the girls become best friends. I think we sometimes forget how simple that was as children. Two strangers implicitly trusted and loved each other without the bat of a fake eyelash, just because they did. They met. They liked each other. Simple.

Without getting too heavy, Volchko exposes some problems that commonly arise in families. These aren’t 80’s problems, but timeless problems. Tanya has an absent father, and Randi has an absent mother. Tanya’s grandmother is judgmental, hateful, and a huge source of stress for the family. Volchko shows how the characters deal with those issues. She gives examples of difficult family dynamics and how the characters navigate those storms. She also gives some hope with the introduction of a less dysfunctional family toward the end.

I’d recommend this book to anyone in middle school and up, though 80’s kids may appreciate it the most. I couldn’t have asked for more out of this book. Volchko has made me a fan. I loved the story. I loved the characters. I loved the writing. I would love to read more of her work.

Pages: 265 | ASIN: B079SQYLRZ

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