Windows & Mirrors: Grandma’s Purse

Welcome to Windows & Mirrors where we feature books that provide us windows to lives outside our own and mirrors to our shared common human experiences.

 

 

Today we’re featuring Grandma’s Purse authored and illustrated by the amazing Vanessa Brantley-Newton.

I fell in love with Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s art the first time I laid eyes on it. Her illustrations are always bustling with energy and her carefully-chosen color palettes are candy for the eyes. She dreams up evocative characters and images that I want to know more about, making her books irresistible. Here are examples of artwork from her Instagram account:

See what I mean! I’m always torn with wanting to let my eyes linger over the gorgeous details and turning the page to see what other wonders might be in store.

But Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s latest creation spoke to my heart as soon as I read the title, before I’d seen a single brush stroke or inking.

Grandma’s Purse is a delightful story about a young girl who is fascinated by the treasures in her Grandma Mimi’s purse. It immediately brought back memories of my childhood when we’d visit with my grandma every Sunday. She’d always have gum or candy for me as well as other treasures to explore with her permission, of course.

Mimi’s purse is filled with sparkly fashion accessories, an old flip phone, gorgeous lipstick, glamorous sunglass, and more importantly every object has a story, inspiring dreams and memories. The text is charming, and the pictures are even more so, every scene magically speaks about family bonds with whimsy and delight.

Vanessa is also the author of two other books, perfect for black history month:  Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table and Let Freedom Sing. She has illustrated numerous gorgeous picture books:

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

One Love: Based on the Song by Bob Marley

Mary Had a Little Glam

We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song

A Night Out with Mama

Every Little Thing: Based on the song ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley

and other picture books and novels such as the Jada Jones series by Kelly Starling Lyons and many, many more!

Check out Vanessa’s inspiring TedX talk about diversity and adversity:

To celebrate Black History Month, we curated this list of great fiction by black authors that is available on audiobook through libro.fm. Click the image to check it out!

Libro.fm Audiobooks to Celebrate Black History Month


Also, if you’re going to read any blogs in February, you should check out The Brown Bookshelf’s 28 Days series. It’s fantastic with daily author interviews and book featuring black authors.

 

 

Vanessa Brantley-Newton is a self-taught illustrator, doll maker, and crafter who studied fashion illustration at FIT and children’s book illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She is the author and illustrator of Let Freedom Sing and Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table and has illustrated numerous children’s books including Mary Had A Little Glam by Tammi Sauer, One Love and Every Little Thing, words by Bob & Cedella Marley, and Presenting Tallulah by Tori Spelling. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for her wonderful books and designs.

Vanessa currently makes her nest in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband, daughter, and a very rambunctious cat named Stripes. Learn more about Vanessa and her artwork at her website here or here or follower her on Instagram.

Posted by Michelle Leonard.

Windows & Mirrors: Betty Before X

Welcome to Windows & Mirrors where we feature books that provide us windows to lives outside our own and mirrors to our shared common human experiences.

 

 

Today we’re celebrating Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Renée Watson!

Ilyasah Shabazz is the daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. She’s the author of several books about her revolutionary family, including the critically-acclaimed adult memoir Growing Up X, a beautiful picture book about her father Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up To Become Malcolm X as well as a fictionalized middle-grade biography about him entitled X, a 2016 Coretta Scott King honor book. Now, she’s sharing the story of her mother who is just as inspiring as her father, both icons for the Civil Rights Movement.

Set in Detroit in 1945, Betty Before X is the heart-rendering fictionalized account of Betty Shabazz’s tween years. Betty struggled to understand problems with segregation and racial hostility in her community, and she had a very difficult home life due to her unloving mother. But Betty didn’t let those problems define her. She paid close attention to the positive role models in her community, which helped her develop admirable responses to hardship and injustice––forgiveness, gratitude, and a yearning to work for a better future. Those traits helped Betty bloom into the community leader and civil rights advocate who later married Malcom X.  This story of a girl learning self-acceptance and overcoming the feeling that she didn’t belong is sure to resonate with young readers. The short, vividly-detailed chapters make for fantastic historical fiction for ages 10+. We can’t think of a better story to highlight during Black History Month, and we’re happy to report that, though it just released in January, it’s already in its second printing!

Ilyasah Shabazz is just as fascinating as her iconic and amazing family. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Check out this interview with her to learn more about her and her important work.

To celebrate Black History Month, we curated this list of great fiction by black authors that is available on audiobook through libro.fm. Click the image to check it out!

Libro.fm Audiobooks to Celebrate Black History Month


Also, if you’re going to read any blogs in February, you should check out The Brown Bookshelf’s 28 Days series. It’s fantastic with daily author interviews and book featuring black authors.

 

Posted by Michelle Leonard.

Learning to Love Audiobooks

We do a lot of book recommendations here on The Winged Pen because between the lot of us, we read all. the. books. From MG fantasy modern classics to hot new releases to Native American literature for young readers.

But recently, a fairly intense Mom Taxi schedule left me considering something new: audiobooks. I never got into audiobooks because I mistakenly imagined myself fidgeting while I tried to sit still for HOURS listening to a teetering tower of books on tape. This is probably due to the sheer length of such audiobook favorites as Harry Potter (Stephen Fry’s rendition of these is worth the extreme length!) and The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I listened to while perpetually nursing a baby years ago.

So this winter, I sent out feelers to friends in the bookish community and got a bunch of recommendations. I checked out a half dozen or so from the local library and have been happily binge-listening on every basketball or choir pickup, every run into Seattle for SCBWI activities, or even during drudgery like laundry-folding and dish-washing. Folks, I think I might be hooked.

Here are my favorites so far:

The Crossover and Booked by Kwame Alexander

I am a huge basketball fan, so I read The Crossover quite a while ago. But last month, I listened to the audiobook and fell in love with the story, and basketball, all over again.

When I heard that Booked was narrated by the author, I knew I had to listen to it next.

I’m hoping to listen to more verse novels on audiobook, including revisiting Brown Girl Dreaming, Inside Out and Back Again, and Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

This was one of the titles that bumped way up my TBR list after multiple bookish friends raved about it and now I know why. When two 18th century best friends and an annoying younger sister head to the continent for a year, major hijinks ensues.

A great love story, complicated family dynamics, alchemy, and pirates. How can you go wrong?

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Listening to fiction is great, but catching up on craft books is an added bonus of my new audiobook habit. Not only is The Art of Memoir a definitive discussion of the form, but it has applications to anyone who writes story arcs.

And Mary Karr is hilarious, so hearing this in her own voice is totally worth it.

 

It’s Not Me, It’s You by Stephanie Kate Strohm

This audiobook is a little different because it’s told with an ensemble cast. That’s because the story itself is a fictional history project in which the main character, nicknamed AD, documents her romantic history from kindergarten to senior year of high school.

A deliciously voice-y romp of a book, this one’s enough fun to make me glad that I’m commuting into Seattle four times this week!

Other Recommendations from the Pennies:

I haven’t listened to these yet, but other Pennies also recommended:

  • Sherlock Holmes (Kate)
  • The Book Thief (Kate)
  • His Dark Materials (Kate)
  • Dracula (Michelle)
  • Secret of Nightingale Wood (Michelle)
  • Scorpio Races (Rebecca)
  • The Graveyard Book (Rebecca)
  • Between the World and Me (Richelle)
  • American Ghost (Richelle)

And if you want to try out audiobooks, but also want to support indie booksellers, consider a subscription to Libro.fm or see if your local library has an online subscription program like OverDrive. Mine has a pretty sizable collection that I can listen to right from my phone without dealing with pesky CDs.

Thanks to Libro.fm for making a playlist based on our book recommendations! Find it here.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Which one’s your favorite?