19 Cinderella Stories From Around the World

19 Cinderella Stories From Around the World via I'm Not the Nanny

Since she was a toddler, the story of Cinderella has been my daughter’s favorite fairy tale. Most of the us are familiar with the classic Disney retelling of the tale, but did you know one of the very first Cinderella stories is the Chinese folk tale? I personally grew up with Vietnamese’s Tam Cam, who befriended a magical fish.

Some of these multicultural Cinderellas played a much more active role in her destiny and will empower your daughters to take control of their own lives. Here’s a few Cinderella stories from around the world to read with your kids.

Cinderella Stories From Around the World

Vietnam: Tam and Cam by Minh Quoc and illustrated by Mai Long (Bilingual English/Vietnamese)

ChinaYeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China Ai-Ling Louie

AlgonquinThe Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin

Caribbean: Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci and illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Greece: The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece by Anthony Manna & Soula Mitakidou and illustrated by Giselle Potter

Islam: Cinderella: An Islamic Tale by Fawzia Gilani

Mexica: Adelita by Tomie dePaola

Laos: Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella by Jewell Reinhard Coburn and Tzexa Cherta Lee and illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien

India: Anklet for a Princess: A Cinderella Story from India by Meredith Brucker and Lila Mehta and illustrated by Youshan Tang

Persia/Middle East: The Persian Cinderella by Shirley Climo and illustrated Robert Florczak

Korea: The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Ruth Heller

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe

Ireland: The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo and illustrated Krupinski

Indonesia: The Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Story by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Reynolds Ruffins

Cuba: Adelaida: A Cuban Cinderella by Anna Monnar and illustrated Nancy Michaud

Philippines: Abadeha: The Philippine Cinderella by Myrna J. de la Paz and illustrated by Youshan Tang

Cambodia: Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella by Jewell Reinhart Coburn and illustrated by Eddie Flotte

Egypt: The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo and illustrated by Ruth Heller

Ojibiwa: Sootface by Robert D. San Souci


Don’t see your culture’s Cinderella story above? Try Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella by Paul Fleishman and illustrated by Julie Paschkis.

10 Biographies For Kids About Women Scientists and Explorers

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10 Biographies For Kids About Women Scientists and Explorers via I'm Not the Nanny

We’ve heard over and over how important it is to encourage our young girls to study STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Sophia has loved science and engineering since she was a toddler. Besides conducting science experiments in our home (like his Star Wars science experiment), we read a lot of biographies about women scientists.

In honor of Women’s History month, I’ve compiled a list of picture book biographies of women scientists and explorers you can read with your children. Whether our kids want become a engineer or a chef, reading about accomplished women is inspiring for boys and girls.

Biographies About Women Scientists & Explorers

Seeds of Change

Seeds of Change by Jen Johnson and illustrated by Sonia Sadler showed my daughter that a woman could make a big change in the world. Beautifully illustrated, this book about Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai’s journey from young Kenyan girl to scientist to environmental activist. Wangari fought against tradition by going to school and speak out against companies who wanted to cut down her country’s giant mugumo trees that her people revered. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

Life in the Ocean

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle written and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola: As a young girl, Sylvia fell in love with nature right in her backyard. Her passion grows as she discovers the Gulf of Mexico and literally dives deeper into the ocean. She goes on to design submersibles, swim with whales and took deep-water walks. Learn how Sylvia Earle lost her heart to the water and became an environmental advocate. Recommended for ages 4-8.

Fly High The Story of Bessie Coleman

Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger, illustrated by Teresa Flavin: I’m so glad I discovered this book at my local library! Bessie Coleman became the first African American to earn a pilot’s license. As a child she wanted to do something big with her life so she learned everything she could, even though her family couldn’t afford to send her to school. I think she accomplished her goal to do something big. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Night Flight Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic

Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Wendell Minor: We can’t forget Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. This book captures Earhart’s exciting solo journey with plenty of excitement. Recommended for ages 4-8.

Marvelous Mattie How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor

Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor by Emily Arnold McCully: The pen and ink with watercolor illustrations will make readers feel like they’re in the middle of one of Margaret E. Knight’s sketchbooks.  As a child she brainstormed many inventions, but this “Lady Edison” is most know for her patent for a machine that cut and glued a square bottomed paper bag. Unfortunately, someone managed to steal her idea but learn how she fought to win her patent back. Recommended for ages 7-11.

Look up The Story of the First Woman Astronomer

Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Raul Colon:  At the 21 years old, Henrietta Leavitt changed the course of astronomy, no small feat for a woman in the late 1800s. By measuring star positions and sizes, she discovered that some stars had a fixed patterned to their changes and made it possible for other astronomers to measure greater distances in space. Recommended for ages 4-8.

Mae Jemison: Awesome Astronaut

Mae Jemison: Awesome Astronaut by Jill C Wheeler: Speaking of space, why not learn more about Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut? This uber accomplished physician went into orbit on the Space Shuttle endeavor in 1992 and served in the Peace Corps before becoming an astronaut. She’s also been Star Trek TNG and holds nine honorary doctorates. I want to be Mae Jemison when I grow up!

Me Jane

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell:  Our children’s librarian recommended this book to us and we adored it! See how Jane Goodall fell in love with the world around her as she explores nature as a young girl with her toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. This clever picture book uses anecdotes taken directly from Goodall’s autobiography to bring her passion to life for our young children. Recommended for ages 3 and up.

Dare the Wind

Dare the Wind: The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully: As a child, Eleanor’s father gave her sailing lessons and taught her how to navigate ships.  That skill came in handy when she and her husband navigated their ship to set the world record for speed on their voyage from New York City, around the tip of Cape Horn and into San Francisco. Recommended for ages 5-8.

Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors


Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman: Elizabeth Blackwell became the  first female doctor, but her journey was tough. In the 1830s women were expected to be wives and murders, not have a career. However, she worked hard to graduate from medical school and opened doors for future female doctors. Recommended for ages 5-8.

There’s so many great biographies about women scientists and explorers out there, I wish I could have included them all. Do you have any favorites? Share in the comments. 

13 Diverse Graphic Novels For Kids

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13 Diverse Graphic Novels For Kids via I'm Not the Nanny #weneeddiversebooks

There’s no denying that graphic novels appeal to the kid in us as well as our own children. Jaxson really enjoys the wordless graphic novels since he’s just starting to read. We actually “read” them together and share our different interpretations of the story.

Sophia, on the other hand, used to exclusively read graphic novels–unless it was book for school. It didn’t bother me that she read them, but I wanted to diversify her reading. Her bag of library books is a 50/50 mix of graphic novels and chapter books.

Seeing diverse characters in graphic novels are just as important as picture and chapter books, especially when the story doesn’t revolve around race. Even more so, since the illustrated action can tell more of the story than the its dialogue. I’ve gather a few of our family favorites and some that’s on our list for when Sophia is a little bit older. Some feature diverse characters while others are written/drawn by authors of color.

Diverse Graphic Novels For Kids

Wave by Suzy LeeA few years ago, my sister gave the kids a copy of Wave by Suzy Lee. A little girl spends the day playing with the waves at the beach, but in a slightly different manner than we expect. Technically this isn’t a graphic novel, but it’s a wordless picture book geared towards preschoolers (and older). Wordless books are a gateway to graphic novels, right? Might as well start while they’re young. Recommended for preschoolers and older.

Here I Am by Patti Kim

I almost bypassed Here I Am by Patti Kim when I first saw it on my library’s shelf, but Jaxson picked it up. I’m glad he did! The story of a young boy and his family’s new life in America. They traveled a long way to live in a strange place. He’s not entirely happy about their new home, but one day accidentally discovers all the fun, exciting life in his neighborhood. He even finds a new friend. Don’t let the black and white drawing on the cover fool you. The illustrations capture the boy’s moods perfectly. Recommended for ages 5-10.

Akissi Feline Invasion by Marguerite Abouet & Mathieu Sapin

Akissi: Feline Invasion by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Mathieu Sapin came recommended by a Twitter friend. Follow Akissi’s adventure as she dodges the neighborhood cat who wants to steal her fish, avoids her pesky older brother, and save her pet monkey. Recommended for ages 6 and up.

Luz Sees the Light by Claudia Davila

In Luz Sees the Light by Claudia Davila, Luz is ready to change the world! With frequent power outages and rising gas prices in her town, Luz has a plan to help her neighborhood live more sustainably. If youre child likes this graphic novel, make sure you read  Luz Makes a Splash, where Luz tackles water consumption. Recommended for ages 8-12.

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis

I’m glad I finally convinced my daughter to read The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis. As a future scientist, my daughter fell in love with secret scientist Greta who–with her fellow junior high scientists–who tinker on gadgets like the Stink-O-Meter and Nightsneak Goggles. Can the inventors stop a heist with their creations? Recommended for ages 8-12.

Cleopatra in Space Target Practice by Mike Maihack

Cleopatra in Space #1: Target Practice by Mike Maihack is a science fiction graphic novel about the famous, young Cleopatra. She discovers a mysterious tablet that zaps her into the far, far future. Destined to save the galaxy form the evil Xaius, she enrolls in a space academy to train. I defnitely have to get a copy of this for Sophia! Recommended for ages 8-12.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

2015 Newberry Honor Book El Deafo by CeCeBell tackles how Bell’s hearing aid, the Phonic Ear, made making new friends at school challenging. This graphic novel memoir shares how Bell lost her hearing at a young age and how she was able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear to become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” Recommended for ages 8-12.

The Baby-Sitters Club Claudia and Mean Janine  by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier

I almost shrieked when I discovered that The Babysitters Club exists in graphic novel form. Claudia was the very first Asian American character I discovered that wasn’t an immigrant! Why not introduce your kids to this classic series with The Baby-Sitters Club: Claudia and Mean Janine  by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Yummy by G Neri and Randy DuBurke

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri and illustrated by Randy DuBurke was recommended during a Twitter chat. Roger  searches for the truth behind the death of his classmate Robert “Yummy” Sandifer. This graphic novel is a dramatization based on gang life in Chicago in 1994. Recommended for ages 10-16.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

 The Arrival by Shaun Tan may not have any words, but his detailed drawings is all that’s needed to tell the story.  A lone immigrant leaves his wife and child behind to find better prospects in country far away. After you finish reading it, you’ll want to read all the books by the award winning AussieRecommended for ages 12 and up.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

On my personal reading list is National Book Award Finalist Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang. I had the honor of hearing him speak last fall at the Library of Congress, where he share how discovering an Asian comic character kickstarted his love of comic books. The two volumes of Boxers & Saints tells parallel stories of a Chinese peasant boy and a young girl adopted by Christian missionaries during the Boxer Rebellion. Make sure you also check out Yang’s American Born ChineseRecommended for ages 12 and up.

Princeless Vol Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley and  M Goodwin

Princeless, Vol. 1: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin was also recommended by my Twitter friends. When Princess Adrienne turns 16, her parents lock her in a tower guarded by a dragon so a prince save her. Instead of waiting around, Adrienne takes fate into her own hands! There’s quite a few books in the Princeless series, so this should keep your child busy! Recommended for ages 12 and up.

What are some of your favorite diverse graphic novels? Share in the comments!

Free Lunar New Year Printables & Crafts

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Free Lunar New Year Printables via I'm Not the Nanny

Happy Year of the Goat!

Apparently my family pre-partied too  hard before the actual Lunar New Year Day (today) that I have nothing planned this evening. Yikes! But have no fear, the internet is full of awesome free printables for the Chinese New Year.

I scoured internet for coloring pages, crafts, and more for you! Since this is a huge holiday for those who celebrate, don’t worry about being late. The Vietnamese celebrate for 3 days while the Chinese party for 15 days.

Free Lunar New Year Printables


Joyce Wan's Zodiac Printable

Joyce Wan’s Zodiac Printable

I love Joyce Wan’s board books and artwork. She’s created a free printable coloring sheet about the different animals of the Chinese zodiac. It’s the last one on the page. Make sure to check out the other printables on that page!

Send out e-cards from Travel China Guide or print them out to hand them to friends.

Learn about three Chinese New Year traditions and make a lantern (via PBS Parents)

Activity Village has several Year of the Goat printables, including colouring pages, mazes, and other worksheets.

Make an Asian dragon puppet with a plastic Solo cup and simple craft supplies. (via Adopt Vietnam)

No plastic cups on hand? Here’s a super cute Asian dragon craft using only construction paper (via Teach Kids Art)

Make your own lucky red money packet (via Activity Village)




Jaxson and I wanted to teach you how to say Happy New Year (Chúc Mừng Năm Mới) in Vietnamese so we made a little video.

Don’t forget to visit your local library for books. My library had a great display of Lunar New Year book. I grabbed a copy of Ten Mice for Tet! off the display. It’s one of our favorites.

I’ve got more ideas on how to celebrate the year of the goat including books and food.

9 Diverse Series and Chapter Books For Boys #ReadYourWorld

9 Diverse Series and Chapter Books For Boys via I'm Not the Nanny

I’m a proud participant of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, which is tomorrow, January 27th! I received a review copy of Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow to share with you for MCCBD. This post contains affiliate links. Image adapted from photo by Bert Dennison via Creative Commons.

After reading Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow by Jacqueline Jules, I realized we need a list of diverse chapter books for boys. Maybe it’s because I have a daughter, but I noticed that it’s easier to find diverse chapter books for girls than boys. Jaxson is just learning his sight words in preschool, but soon he’ll want chapter books about kids that look like him.

It’s never too early to make a reading list for him, right?  I’m not saying that these books are only for boys, but that they feature multicultural boys as main characters. I know some of you have asked for a list for boys, so here we go. I’ve organized the elementary and middle grade chapter books by recommended ages.

Diverse Chapter Books For Boys

Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow by Jacqueline Jules
Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow by Jacqueline Jules: What boy doesn’t want super shoes that allows him to run fast and jump high in the air? In the latest book in the Zapato Power series, Freddie Ramos uses his powers for good after a huge snow storm. Author Jules lives in the DC area, so I secretly imagine that she’s was inspired by our past snowstorms. (Recommended for ages 6-8).

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-made Catastrophes by Lenore Look: Second grader Alvin Ho is afraid of everything. In the third book of this hilarious series, Alvin receives an invitation to a girl’s birthday party. Can he survive? I also love LeUyen Pham’s illustrations. (Recommended for ages 6-9).

Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities by Mike Jung: If your child loves superheroes, they’ll love this book. Vincent Wu is Captain Stupendous’ #1 Fan until he realizes discovers his new secret identity. The superhero who saved his life is actually Polly Winnicott-Lee, whom Vincent has a crush on. What’s a boy to do? (recommended for ages 8-12)

N.E.R.D.S. by Michael Buckley: A team of fifth-grade superspies band together to work on super secret government missions. While the members of NERDS (National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society) are not very popular at school, they use their nerdy skills to save the world. Each book in the series is a new case and a hilarious new adventure. (recommended for ages 8-12)

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander: Twelve-year-old Josh Bell and his twin brother are stars on the  basketball court. Told in verse from Josh’s point of view, the book chronicles his family life on and off the court–and what happens when they break the rules.(recommended for ages 9-12)

The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible . . . on Schindler’s List by Marilyn J. Harran This memoir of one of the youngest boys on Schlinder’s list would make a good parent-child book club read. Children will learn more about the Holocaust through the eyes of a young boy. While the book is recommended for kids as young as 9, I would suggest this book for more mature readers. (recommended for ages 9-14)


Better Nate than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle: What happens when a small-town boy crashes a New York City audition for ET: The Musical? Nate Foster is about to find out! Spoiler alert: his adventure continues in Five, Six, Seven, Nate!(recommended for ages 10-14)

The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda: Calling all fantasy fans! In The Savage Fortress series, Ash and his sister Lucky visit their aunt and uncle in India. His uncle is invited to the Savage Fortress, owned by a collector of Indian artifacts and demons. Savage is convinced that an artifact that Ash has found will make him young again and will stop at nothing to own it. Follow Ash and Lucky on their quest as they encounter Indian gods and demons. (recommended for ages 10-14)

[READ MORE: 18 Diverse Children’s Chapter Book Series for Summer Reading]

More about Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Co-creators Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press founded MCCBD to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries.

MCCBD’s  2015 Sponsors includePlatinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global BookshopGold Sponsors:  Satya House,  MulticulturalKids.com,   Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic PoofSilver SponsorsJunior Library Guild,  Capstone PublishingLee and Low Books,  The Omnibus PublishingBronze Sponsors:Double Dutch DollsBliss Group BooksSnuggle with Picture Books Publishing, RainbowBooks,  Author FeliciaCapers,  Chronicle Books, Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.

Join First Book‘s Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. We want to help get diversity books into the hands of kids who most need it and now we have a way to do it!


Free Foreign Language Printables For Kids + App Giveaway

Free Foreign Language Printables For Kids in over 15 languages via I'm Not the Nanny

This post contains affiliate links. Images below are from Gus on the Go and are used with permission.

I haven’t given up on hope on teaching my kids how to speak Vietnamese yet. We send them to stay at my parents every summer, where they can hear the language consistently.  During the rest of the year, I speak a little bit of Vietnamese at home, but that’s all. However, I’m excited because Gus on the Go, a language learning app for kids, has free foreign language printables in over 15 languages. Yes, that includes Vietnamese!

The printables are bright and cheerful, just like the app. Did I mention they were free?

Gus on the Go has a few foreign language printables you can choose from:

Gus on the Go Free Foreign Language Printables Vietnamese

Fortune tellers. We called them cootie catchers when I was a kid. Do kids still call them that?

Gus on the Go Free Foreign Language Printables French

Numbers flashcard set. Just print these on cardstock so they last longer.

Gus on the Go Transportation Wheel Free Foreign Language Printable

How about this cute wheel to learn about different modes of transportation? Look for those paper fasteners in the office supply store or scrapbook section. Amazon sells some too.

Head to Gus on the Go to see all of their free foreign language printables.

If you haven’t tried out Gus on the Go  language learning app, you need to! The design is bright, fun, and intuitive. The best part is that Gus on the Go is available in over 30 languages, including Vietnamese!  There’s a different app for each language, but the concept for each is the same. Kids (or adults) learn basic words by touching the object. Once they’re ready, there’s games to test and reiterate what they have learned.

Gus on the Go Vietnamese

Jaxson absolutely loves this app. While he’s not comfortable enough to practice saying each word out loud, his Vietnamese comprehension has definitely improved.  We’ve had this app for almost a year now and he still goes back to it. Pair the app with the free printables to learn the fundamentals of your chosen foreign language. At $2.99-3.99 per app, it’s a steal. Gus on the Go is available on iPhone or iPad, Google Play, and Amazon Apps.

Giveaway: Gus on the Go has offered 5 iTunes codes for the Gus on the Go in the language of your choice! To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below. We’ll have 5 winners!

READ MORE: My Favorite Vietnamese-English Bilingual Children’s Books

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11 Inspiring Multicultural Biographies For Kids

Inspiring Multicultural Biographies For Kids Book List at I'm Not the Nanny

Nothing is more inspiring that reading about the lives of real people who have made a difference in our world. These biographies become more powerful when kids see people who look like them reflected in the books. I searched my library shelves for diverse picture book biographies and came up with a huge stack. Too many for one post. So here’s a few and I’ll share more in another post.

Inspiring Multicultural Biographies For Kids

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier: In January the United States celebrates the life and accomplishments of the great Civil Rights leader. The author uses quotes from Dr. King’s speeches to tell the story of his life in this biography geared towards young children. Make sure to take advantage of the timeline and additional resources in the beautifully illustrated picture book. (Coretta Scott King Honor Book & Caldecott Honor Book)

Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Edel Rodriguez: Written in English and Spanish, this book recounts Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s childhood in the Bronx. Her family didn’t have much, but she had what she needed to succeed: her mother’s love and her determination.

Manjiro: The Boy Who Risked His Life for Two Countries by Emily Arnold McCully: In 1841, a young Japanese boy and his fellow fishermen became stranded on a small island, far from home. After several months, an American ship rescues them and so begins Manjiro’s adventure in the United States. His home country was closed to foreigners, but Manjiro returned home after many years to share his stories with his people. He even advised Japanese leaders when U.S. Navy ships arrived and demanded Japan open its ports to American ships.

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip by Gaylia Taylor, illustrated by Frank Morrison: Anyone who loves munching on chips will love learning about their inventor George Crum. Though he encountered prejudice for his biracial Native American and African American heritage, his fiery streak gave helped him make culinary history.

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers, illustrated by Julie Maren: Starting with the salsa singer’s humble beginnings in her two bedroom house shared with her three sisters and numerous cousins in Havana, Cuba, this book illustrates how Celia Cruz’s passion for singing garnered her worldwide fame. She and her bandmates “rewrote the history of Cuban music with new arrangements and a fresh, innovative style.”

Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Jamel Akib: Before micro-loans hit the internet, there was economics professor Muhammad Yunus. In the 1970s, he founded Grameen Bank so people could borrow small amounts of money (like twenty-two cents) in order to better their lives.

Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan Collier: Written in free verse, this biography of the United States 44th President is perfect for reading aloud. Children will learn about President Obama’s biracial heritage and his journey to become our nation’s first black president.

Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion by Heather Lang, illustrated by Floyd Cooper: Alice Coachman’s journey to become the first African American woman to win an Olympic Gold medal was not an easy one. She grew up in a time where it was unladylike for girls to run and jump. In college when she won a race against a top-ranked white sprinter, someone from the crowd threw ice at her. A great story for any child who loves to run and jump (like both of my kids!).

Tito Puente, Mambo King by Monica Brown, illustrated Rafael Lopez: The colorful and lively illustrations in this book reflects the Mambo King’s passion for music. Your kids can’t help dancing along with the fun rhythms of Tito Puente. (Pura Belpré Honor Book)

Hiromi’s Hands by Lynne Barasch: Traditionally women are not allowed to become sushi chefs. Japanese American Hiromi Suzuki trained under her father in their family restuarant and became one of the first female sushi chefs in New York. Make sure you pick up some sushi before reading this book because you’ll definitely crave it afterwards!

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson: Written in free verse, the book tells the inspiring story of Nelson Mandela, who spoke out against apartheid in South Africa. His belief in equality for all people-no matter their skin color-pushed him to organize a resistance program that led to his arrest and imprisonment. His determination and triumph as the first black president of South African will encourage children to pursue their dreams–no matter how challenging. (Coretta Scott King Honor Book)

What books would you add to this list?

Vietnamese Christmas Songs (with Rapping!)

After writing about our family’s favorite Christmas albums, I started thinking about Vietnamese Christmas carols. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to Vietnamese Christmas music. There’s plenty of Viet language versions of “Silent Night” and other more familiar western carols. So I dug around for some of the original nhạc giáng sinh (Christmas music).

Most of these are from Paris by Night, a variety type show originally produced in Paris (where many Vietnamese immigrated to during/after the civil war). Now it’s produced in Orange County, CA, which the largest concentration of Vietnamese Americans reside. Those who grew up in Vietnamese homes will have a love-hate relationship with the Paris by Night videos. They were constantly playing at my aunt’s home. While the shows had very high production values (look at those costumes!), the musical mash-ups and attempts at rapping made me feel embarrassed for my people. Typical teenager, I was.

Vietnamese rap, you ask? Yes. Did I mention that Vietnamese male singers are very metrosexual  stylish? Here’s a medley of Vietnamese music, including a rap number of Jingle Bells (starting at 3:27)

The new ones are not as cringe worthy as the ones from my childhood. But the older ones were clearly trying to emulate those 1990s MTV music video. Here’s one of my favorite childhood Vietnamese Christmas carols, Hang Bê Lem (Manger in Bethlehem). Skip to the minute mark:

Did I scare you? Or do you want more? I created a Vietnamese Christmas music playlist on YouTube for your viewing and aural pleasure.

I had to share this one with you. It’s not a Christmas video, but these were the types of Paris by Night numbers I was forced to watch as a teen:

Does your culture have its own holiday music? Share a link to a video in the comments.

Middle Grade Fantasy Books With Strong Female Characters

Middle Grade Fantasy Books with Strong Female Characters-I'm Not the Nanny

When it comes to book genres, Sophia is following in my fantasy loving footsteps.  As a parent, I find that middle grade fantasy is the middle child who’s been ignored by publishers. Fantasy YA has become so commercially successful, it’s become challenging for me to find fantasy books whose subject matter doesn’t veer into romantic teenagers, killing, and destruction. I’m not ready for my third grader to read those!

We’re lucky that our local library regularly receives new books because she reads fast and furious (like her mom). I figure if I’m having problems finding middle grade fantasy books, then others have too. I especially like these because they’re fantasy books with strong female characters. (This post contains affiliate links.)

Middle Grade Fantasy Books With Strong Female Characters

Seven Wild Sisters: A Modern Fairy Tale written by Charles de Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess: I don’t know when Charles de Lint began writing children’s books, but I love his adult fantasy fiction. This illustrated book is about a girl who wishes to meet a fairy and unknowingly becomes ensnared in a longtime battle between rival magical clans after her six sisters are kidnapped.

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest written by Charles de Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess: A companion to Seven Wild Sisters, this book introduces us to Tanglewood, a magical forest full of fairies-if you know where to look.  Lillian has never seen a wisp of magic in her hills–until the day the cats of the forest save her life by transforming her into a kitten. She sets on a dangerous adventure in order to make everything right.

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures written by Kate diCamillo and illustrated by K.G. Campbell: We haven’t read this 2014 Newberry  Winner yet but the synopsis is entertaining on its own. “It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him.” How can you go wrong with a squirrel, a smart girl, and a vacuum cleaner?

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff: My sister introduced Sophia to this fractured fairy tale and Sophia has reread it several times. Rump is the butt (get it?) of everyone’s joke until he discovers that he can spin straw into gold. His best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic can get him in trouble, but he doesn’t heed her caution. Soon, Rump spins himself into a curse. Can he and Red break the curse?

The Spirit Animal series (various authors): Sophia loves the entire series and eagerly awaits for the next installment. Written by masters of children’s fantasy (Shannon Hale, Garth Nix, Brandon Mull, Tui T. Sutherland), this fantasy series features a diverse team of children who are able to communicate with animals. Together with their spirit animals, they must save the world from danger. There are currently 5 books in the series and more to come.

If you want to try out the series, Spirit Animals: Book 1: Wild Born is currently free for Kindle and Kindle app.

Ever After High series by Shannon Hale: I had to add these to the list because it’s one of Sophia’s favorite series. Though based on the television series and line of dolls, I learned that Hale has creative license with the characters. Ever After High is a high school for the children of familiar fairy tale characters. Sophia’s (and Hale’s) favorite character is Maddie Hatter, the Mad Hatter’s daughter. Think of it as Once Upon a Time in book form for middle grade.

If you want to try out the series, several Ever After High novellas are free on Kindle and Kindle app: Ever After High: Raven Queen’s StoryEver After High: Apple White’s StoryEver After High: Briar Beauty’s Story.

 Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin: I have lost count how many times Sophia has re-read. With the feel of a folk tale and the magic of a fantasy, the story follows Minli and her quest to find the Old Man on the Moon. Her adventures are peppered with folk tales about Chinese dragons that Minli heard from her father. Not only has Sophia read this book twice, she’s even read passages out loud to me.

READ MORE: Multicultural Children’s Fantasy & Science Fiction Books

We Met Shannon Hale and She’s Awesome!

Kids Meeting Shannon Hale-I'm Not the Nanny

Sophia is a huge bookworm. I couldn’t be prouder.

My heart burst with happiness to see Sophia meet Shannon Hale. Even better, Shannon Hale was amazing with all the children at her reading! She even dressed up as the character in her new book The Princess in Black (affiliate link).


Living in a the DC metro area means that lots of cool authors visit for author talks and signings. Shannon Hale spoke at the Takoma Park Library last week and we rushed to make the talk. I met Shannon Hale briefly during Book Expo America when signed two books from Sophia’s favorite fantasy series (book titles are affiliate links):

Spirit Animals: Book 4: Fire and Ice

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends

Sophia loves these books because fantasy is her favorite genre. I love these books because they feature diverse characters and strong female characters. I started to follow her on Twitter after meeting her and learned that she’s a huge supporter of We Need Diverse Books.

Shannon Hale was there to read from her newest book (beginner chapter book) The Princess in Black, which is about a princess super hero. She wears black and fights monsters.  I love this book! I wish we’d had it when Sophia was younger and in her princess phase. However, it’s also good for Jaxson to read too. Girls can be superheroes too! We bought a copy of The Princess in Black and Rapunzel’s Revenge, a fractured fairy tale graphic novel she co-wrote with her husband Dean Hale.

Sophia was thrilled to meet one of her favorite authors. She and Shannon chatted about the different characters in her Ever After series. It made me so happy to see the two of them chat. Shannon was amazing with every child she spoke to, whether they had read her book or not.

Thanks Shannon Hale for writing such great books for my kids!