There are few problems a book can’t solve.
Bored? Get stuck in a story. (I’m currently midway through “Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows”, which also happens to be Reese Witherspoon’s current book club pick.) Happy? Find a sunspot and devour a few pages. (I was late to the game on the “Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and couldn’t put it down.) In need of some inspo? (Maria Shriver’s “I’ve Been Thinking” is both the answer and the question. It’s everything.)
The same goes for my 4-year-old daughter Satya. We’re regulars at Little City Books where we scour the shelves weekly for new stories, funny covers and book we have to bring home with us.
“Can I have a typewriter,” she asked, after reading and loving “The Lonely Typewriter”. (The kid’s clearly a hipster at heart. And yes, we got one.) But books are one of the ways we teach her about the world - “Last Stop on Market Street”, “Still a Family” and “A Chair for my Mother” are favorites. “Corduroy” is a sweet story about friendship, “This is Me” is a great way to talk about immigration and “Malala’s Magic Pencil” and “Imagine” always leave us both with a seriously happy feeling. And, of course, because silly stories that make us laugh are always on the reading list, we are obsessed with “Amelia Bedelia”, “Dragons Love Tacos”, “The Day the Crayons Quit” and “Tacky the Penguin”. (Peach Crayon’s underwear joke gets her every time.)
So Satya and I are *really* excited to kick off the monthly book club with you guys - it’s something I’ve wanted to do forever! Every month I’ll pick a book, write a post and offer up a few discussion questions to spark some conversations between you and your little one about the book we’re reading. Send us some of your funnier and cuter responses and we'll share next month! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
And, if you’re feeling inspired, tag us in some pictures of you and your minis reading. (You can find us at @LittleHoboken + @RaakstarWrites. Also, if I can ever answer any book questions, feel free to holler.)
Recently, while killing some time before a birthday party in Jersey City, we popped into WORD on Newark Ave and left with Junot Diaz’s “Island Born”. (Diaz won the Pulitzer in 2008 and this is his first picture book. I was also pretty excited to know that buying the book at WORD is your ticket to Diaz’s author event at the shop of 4/14 at 10 a.m.) It was hard for us to resist the cover- a little brown girl, textured hair and a colorful city behind her.
And the tale didn’t disappoint.
Lola’s teacher gives the class an assignment: “Please draw a picture of the country you are originally from, your first country, and bring it in tomorrow”. Lola is stressed out: she knows she’s from the Island, she knows her neighbors are from the Island, but she doesn’t remember anything for herself because her family left when she was very little. Lola’s curiosity serves her well as she talks to everyone about what they remember about the Island, even a certain grumpy man she sees all the time but rarely talks to. Eventually Lola gets the story she was looking for and then some - the secret behind what her Abuela means when she says, “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”
The book takes 10-15 minutes to get through, so it’s not exactly the best choice for a quick read before bedtime. There are also a few pages involving banishing a monster - drawn from Diaz’s experience fleeing the Dominican Republic as a child - that could be mildly scary for younger readers. It’s also worth noting that the illustrations are incredible: a rich, diverse mix of faces, vibrant city and beach scenes and a bat blanket that’s a real crowd pleaser. Plus, as a mother of a little brown girl, Lola’s is a welcome face - and hairdo - in the picture book world. The kid is fire!
Lola calls her grandmother “Abuela”. What do you call yours?
Lola’s family comes from another country. Where does your family come from? Another state? Another country?
Is there a country you want to visit? Why?
Bats aren’t really as big as blankets. And mangoes aren’t really the size of your head. But if you could imagine a world where there was an animal as big as a blanket, what animal would that be? And what fruit do you love and wish it was the size of your head?
Lola writes stuff down that she doesn’t want to forget. What do you do when you want to remember something? Do you have a favorite memory that you want to share?
Raakhee Mirchandani Singh is a writer, editor, and pediatric cancer crusader. Her first children’s book, “Super Satya Saves the Day”, inspired by her daughter and set in Hoboken, NJ will be out November 2018.