Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Contest Winner is Announced

The winner of the You Are Beautiful contest is Charlize Dobbins of Arlington, TX!!! She won a signed copy of You Are Beautiful by Robyn Z. Abdusamad illustrated by Fatimah Ashaela Moore Ibrahim? Thank you to her teacher Ms. Kristen Strickland for submitting her entry!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Interview with Dr. Tamara Pizzoli author of The Ghanaian Goldilocks

Children Kissed by the Sun interviewed Dr. Tamara Pizzoli about her new book The Ghanaian Goldilocks.

Tell us about your new book The Ghanaian Goldilocks?
The Ghanaian Goldilocks is my third baby. The first two are fantastic little people named Noah and Milo. The idea for the book came about the summer before this past one. My family and I were in Umbria, and my eldest son, who was almost four at the time, was at his uncle's house. He's curious, like any other kid, and while visiting he started touching things he had no business touching...tasting things he had no business tasting. "Who do you think you are...Goldilocks?!" I finally asked him, and he started laughing uncontrollably. I figured two things...1. The idea really was funny to him. Because he's not the type to just start laughing for no reason. 2. It'd be pretty cool to remix the classic Goldilocks fairytale, which is one of my favorites, and put a West African spin on it--plus make the main character a boy. At the time my son Noah rocked this adorable, huge curly afro. It would turn dirty blonde on the ends during the summertime when he'd play on the beach. I completely stole his look for the story. I sent the illustrator, Phil Howell, a pic of him, and he made Kofi (aka Goldilocks) in his likeness. So The Ghanaian Goldilocks is a modern, West African twist on the classic tale. It's pretty neat because I feel the Ghanaian culture yields itself so nicely to the rewrite of the story. Instead of porridge, there's fufu, in the place of chairs we find stools, and there are no bears. It just came together really smoothly.

What prompted you to take a childhood favorite and remix it?
I was a kindergarten teacher for so many years. I've also taught first and second grade. I owned a language school recently here in Rome. Reading aloud to children is a staple, or should be, of any quality early childhood curriculum. I genuinely LOVE reading aloud to kids, and have read so many books over the years. Some of my very favorites are remixes or retellings of the classics. James Marshall, another Texas native, is one of the best. His retellings of Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Hansel and Gretel and some of the others are just unparalleled, in my opinion. In the early childhood world, retellings of classic fairytales aren't uncommon. I guess being exposed to so many over the years planted the seed.

Why did you chose to write a children’s book?
It's something I've always wanted to do. I collect children's books and have a true appreciation for the genius of both storytelling and illustration. I think when the two blend perfectly, magic happens. The idea of kids snuggled up with The Ghanaian Goldilocks made me giddy.

What message do you want children to take away after reading The Ghanaian Goldilocks?
We've all got a little bit of stinker in us. The original Goldilocks was a bit naughty...ok, she was really naughty. Kofi, The Ghanaian Goldilocks, gets into some trouble here and there. But he's still a good kid. And when the time comes for him to make a decision between what's right and wrong, he's able to do it without anyone having to tell him. That's a wonderful thing we're all capable of doing. A little bit of trouble is inevitable, though. We've all been there. :0) 

How important is it to incorporate multicultural texts in the classroom?
I can't stress enough how important this is! But not just for kids of color, but for everyone. Children need to see differences and culture represented accurately and often in the text they read and those that are read to them. Books teach and reach kids in ways other teaching methods cannot. There's this transaction that occurs, and sticks, when children are exposed to multicultural literature...they become more, well, cultured.

How important is it for Black children (or any other ethnic group) to see themselves in picture books?
It's so paramount. I grew up in the eighties. My mom was a teacher. In fact, she was my fifth grade math teacher. She'd read to me at bedtime. During the school day books were a huge part of the reading curriculum at my school, Sugar Loaf Elementary, but I don't recall seeing myself in those early childhood books. Let's see if I can recall some I read...first grade I was into Dr. Seuss, and in second grade I was all about James Marshall (my favorite book of all time is Miss Nelson is Missing). Third grade was James and the Giant Peach, fourth grade was Sarah Plain and Tall. I believe it's now easier to find great classics, new even, that are representative of the multiculturalism that exists in our world. All children deserve to see themselves in books. 

Do you think that audio books are a modern form of storytelling?
Absolutely! If you grew up in the eighties you'll remember books on tape. There were also books on records. I loved reading along with my books, and hearing the little 'ding' when it was time to turn the page. I think audiobooks certainly add to the overall storytelling experience. There's so much to be gained from a read aloud...and so much depends on the narrator/characters. My dream is to get Whoopi Goldberg to read The Ghanaian Goldilocks aloud. That would just be a whole different, amazing, marvelous thing.

Do you have any advice for educators on how to use your book in the classroom?
I think The Ghanaian Goldilocks yields itself well to the casual read aloud experience educators are used to facilitating, but it also fits beautifully into thematic studies on fairytales, West Africa, making the right choices, food, culture...the possibilities really are endless.

Do you have any advice for parents on how to use your book in the home?
Casually reading aloud. The audiobook is great for a bedtime routine. Kids can snuggle up with the actual book and read along. Having it as background noise/stimulation during play time or meal preparations is also a cool idea. And, as an artsy tip, you could take an extra copy of the book, cut the pages, and frame them. The artwork really is gorgeous and I have it hanging up in my children's bedroom. It's something I would have done even if I hadn't written the book...I love the artwork that much.

How can people reach you for author visits or questions?
Everyone is welcome to visit The English Schoolhouse Publishing's You can contact me via the 'Contact' page. You can also reach The English Schoolhouse's Director of Public Relations at or 314-239-0320

Anything else you want to say?
Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. My sincere hope is that each and every person who reads the book or listens to the audiobook enjoys it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Dr. Tamara Pizzoli

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Would you like to win a free signed copy of You Are Beautiful by Robyn Z. Abdusamad illustrated by Fatimah Ashaela Moore Ibrahim?

Robyn Z. Abdusamad author of You are Beautiful would like to give young readers the opportunity to win a signed copy of her book set to release on November 28, 2014.

Here’s how to enter the contest:

Have the child in your life write why they are beautiful and include an illustration. If your child cannot write yet, have them draw a picture and write their exact words describing why they are beautiful. The author will choose a winner and send the winner a signed copy of the book.

DEADLINE for entries is November 28, 2014. The winner will be announced on December 5, 2014.

Please scan and email entries to or mail them to 919 Pacific Ave. Lansing, MI 48910. Please also include name, age, grade, school, and address.

Good luck!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Interview with Robyn Abdusamad author of You Are Beautiful.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Robyn Abdusamad author of You Are Beautiful set to release November 28th! This is an amazing book discussing topics that we should not be afraid to discuss with children. Learn more about Robyn and her book You Are Beautiful in this awesome interview below!

Tell us about your new book You Are Beautiful?      
My new book, You Are Beautiful is about two sisters who have their first encounter with a racial comment and are saddened by what they hear.  It is a heartfelt and inspirational lesson that provides a solution to embracing diversity with knowledge and kindness.

What prompted you to address racism and other bias in a children's book?
Well, the reality is that we live in a society where race is often a silent backdrop for a person’s bias, which ultimately becomes a determining factor for many things. However, children are brought into the world without biases or prejudices. Yet along the path to adulthood many children adopt values and beliefs from the friends and adults in their life. When we teach tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism, it helps children broaden their awareness and acceptance which is what prompted me to address racism in a children’s book. Learning and respecting diversity helps create a more harmonious world for everyone.

Why did you become a children's author?
I have always had a love for writing.  My children and experience working in the school system inspired me to become a children’s author because I saw the need for more books to address the importance of diversity and multiculturalism.

What message do you want children to take away after reading You Are Beautiful?
The message I would like for children to take away from YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL is that despite the outside differences, people are often similar on the inside.  After reading my book, every child should understand that their skin color is unique and beautiful.

What message do you want adults to take away after reading your book?
The message I would like for adults to take away from the book is the importance to have that conversation with their children about race and any other form of bias they might encounter away from home.  I am sure the conversation will be uncomfortable for some, but I would like for my book to be an introduction to that conversation.

What types of conversation do you think your book will ignite?
I hope this book will serve as a platform for our youth as well as adults to learn and understand that labels can influence our judgment about people; it is essential to recognize the importance of getting to know people before making any type of judgment about them.  

How important is it to incorporate multicultural texts in the classroom?
It is very important to incorporate multicultural texts and activities in the classroom because we live in a society that is made up of different religions, ethnicities and cultures.  So, if there is an emphasis of multicultural activities across the curriculum this would help improve positive socialization behaviors among children and perhaps adults too.

Your book is asking its readers to think about identity. How important is it for African American children (or any other ethnic group) to see themselves in picture books?
Books are mirrors in which children see themselves emulated. When children are represented in literature and other media, they start to see themselves as valuable and worthy of notice. Conversely when children do not see truthful representations of themselves, they may internalize the message that they are not worthy of notice.  Therefore, it is very important for children of minority groups to see themselves in picture books and it is also important for children regardless of race to read books about people in all parts of the world. This will assist in fostering their understanding and respect for their own and others' cultural groups; it will help them to see themselves as members of the global community and it will supports the lifelong process of learning about multiple perspectives and experiences.

Do you have any advice for educators on how to use your book in the classroom?
Absolutely, educators can use my book in their classroom as an introduction to teaching diversity and multiculturalism to their students.  Also, I have activities on my website that they can print and use for their class at

Do you have any advice for parents on how to use your book in the home?
Sure. Parents can also use the book as a learning tool to help them discuss importance of racism, diversity and multiculturalism.  As I mentioned before, it may be uncomfortable for some parents but it will be infinitely rewarding to speak openly and honestly with them on the matter.  They, too, can use the activities on my website.

How can people reach you for author visits or questions?
People may reach me for author visits or questions by emailing Omera Productions at

Anything else you want to say?
Yes, I would like to add that “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” is a book that provides a meaningful lesson about ethnic diversity and the importance of compassion and unity.  My book is scheduled to be released on November 28th on in paperback and Kindle format, but people may pre-order a copy of the book now through my publisher at  Those who pre-order will receive an autograph copy of the book.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 13th Happy Native American Day!

There are so many wacky days we can celebrate each year. Every day there is something to celebrate. In honor of whoever comes up with these days, CKBTS will acknowledge a few of these national holidays a month. Each post I will give you a book suggestion and reading activity to help you celebrate with us! Happy reading and Sunkisses.

Candid Thoughts
October 13th Happy Native American Day!

A part of history you don’t hear about too often is Black Native Americans and how this ancestry came to be. To this day my grandmother tells me stories about my great-great grandmother, who she claims “Indian.” But she cannot to tell me what tribe or prove the allegation. Many African American families can relate to this same story. Unfortunately, because it is difficult for African American to trace their African heritage it is just as hard for them Native American ancestry.
Black Native Americans refers to African American descents with a significant amount of Native American ancestry and who have strong ties to Native American culture. The accurate number or Black Native Americans in this country is unknown, but it is estimated about 180,000 are in the country today. The history of this combination of races has been neglected in U.S. history until recently, so it is a still developing. Black Native Americans came to interact around early slavery. Africans that were runaway slaves, captives of war, slaves to the Native Americans, and freed slaves married within the different tribes. Most of these tribes were of the Southeast region (Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Choctaw, and Chickasaw).

There is only one picture book that I’m aware of that share a story of the interaction between Native Americans and African Americans during the slave era. Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom by Tim Tingle and illustrations by Jeanne Rorex Bridges, is a story about Martha Tom, a young Choctaw girl, knows better than to cross Bok Chitto, but one day—in search of blackberries—she disobeys her mother and finds herself on the other side. A tall slave discovers Martha Tom. A friendship begins between Martha Tom and the slave’s family, most particularly his young son, Little Mo. Soon afterwards, Little Mo’s mother finds out that she will be sold. The situation seems hopeless, except that Martha Tom teaches Little Mo’s family how to walk on water to their freedom.

This picture book is a great opportunity to teach children about the connection between these two races. Share this story and other stories about the Native American culture with the children in your life so that they can learn and appreciate a culture indigenous to this country.

Have your child(ren) research the Southeastern tribes listed above and ask family members if your family has any native ancestry.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

October 8th Bring a Teddy Bear to School Day

There are so many wacky days we can celebrate each year. Every day there is something to celebrate. In honor of whoever comes up with these days, CKBTS will acknowledge a few of these national holidays a month. Each post I will give you a book suggestion and reading activity to help you celebrate with us! Happy reading and Sunkisses.
Candid Thoughts
Happy Bring a Teddy Bear to School Day (October 8th)

What better book to read about a Teddy Bear than the 1968 classic Corduroy by Don Freeman. This book has been read and adored across generations. And of course I love it because it features a brown skinned girl as a main character, Lisa. This book is like an early version of the movie Toy Story in that it appeals to the wonder and fantasy of toys coming to life when no one is in the room. And I think that is why this book has maintained interest over the decades.
It is quite interesting that Freeman decided to portray Lisa as a Black girl in 1968. It was published six years after The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats broke the color lines in children’s books by having his main character as an African American boy. And during that time and for a long time that was rare. I found no commentary on why he chose to make Lisa Black but I did find on his website maintain by his son that he wanted to show the vast difference between a luxury department store and the simple life during that time and depict simple values. Hopefully, he wasn’t depicting the haves and the have nots to be white and black. Anyway, there are some feminist criticisms out there of the book but I don’t quite agree with them. I’ll let you read it and determine your own opinions! Corduroy comes in a board book, hardcover, soft cover, and over-sized book. There are also two follow up books you would enjoy as well, Corduroy Lost and Found and A Pocket for Corduroy. I hope you enjoy Courduroy as much as I did and still do!
Reading Activity
Every child has a teddy bear. My step-daughter’s teddy bear’s name is Mr. Fuzzy Pants (she found him the other day and refused to put him in the Goodwill bag). Have your child(ren) write or draw a story about their teddy bear and create a magical adventure!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Happy Constitution Day!

There are so many wacky days we can celebrate each year. Every day there is something to celebrate. In honor of whoever came up with these days, CKBTS will acknowledge a few of these holidays a month. Each post I will give you a book suggestion and reading activity to help you celebrate! Happy reading and Sunkisses.
We the Kids
Candid Thoughts
Constitution Day (September 17th)!
Happy Constitution Day! To celebrate this holiday I suggest reading We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States illustrated by David Catrow. This book does not go into vast detail about the U.S. Constitution; however, it is a good way to begin a conversation about it. Catrow’s illustrations are fun and engaging. He inserts his dog Bubbs into each illustration and you find yourself looking for him each time you turn the page. The topic of the U.S. Constitution is a hefty one for children to chew. Catrow does a good job at putting the complex concepts of the Constitution into manageable chucks for children to understand. However, the approach has a very “kumbaya” feel to it. Meaning, it does not address that people of color were not included in the writing of the U.S. Constitution. He did not address this issue making me believe he wrote this for a very young age group. He did however; insert a very cute little black girl as a re-occurring character throughout the book. I thought that was nice even though the constitution was written without her in mind. This book has great illustrations and would be a great way to begin the conversation about the U.S. Constitution, but if you are looking for a book that is more encompassing of the entire dialog about the U.S. Constitution, this is not the book for that.

Things to Think About
The U.S. Constitution is heavy stuff in relationship to African Americans. We were not thought of when it was drafted, nor at the table, or afforded the rights within it. It is hard to address tough topics like racism and discrimination to young people especially when those encounters are far less than that of our ancestors. I think young people feel they are so far removed from such a discriminatory and racist past but they are not. We have been out of slavery less time than we were in it. When you really reflect on that it puts things into perspective.
Reading Activity
In honor of National Constitution Day have your child(ren) write a household constitution. Start by reading We the Kids and discuss the issues above. Have your reader(s) read the definition of constitution (a body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed). Explain that you all are going to draft a household constitution. As they begin to come up with ideas remind them to be inclusive and fair to everyone in your household. Get creative with it and put it on nice paper for them to decorate. Post it somewhere in the house for everyone to see and be reminded of their household rights.