Friday, July 03, 2009

Reviews - Lucky Beans

Kirkus Reviews

History proves cyclical with this story of an African-American family living through the Great Depression. “Marshall didn’t feel so lucky. The elbows of his jacket were worn almost all the way through. Dad had been out of work for months, and there was no money.” The story, however, is not one of depression. The family works together to survive and finds moments of love, appreciation and sheer happiness. This moving tale not only relates a little history but also some math, as Marshall helps his mother estimate the number of beans in the furniture-store jar and ultimately wins a new sewing machine, which helps alleviate their dire financial situation. Tadgell’s watercolor illustrations move the story and stir readers’ emotions. A two-page spread of the contestants in the store teaches readers everything they need to know about the characters without a letter of text. Many children today can relate to the family’s challenges, which makes the timing of this picture book sadly relevant. (author’s note) (Picture-book. 5-12)


Math and wry comedy mix in this lively historical story based on Birtha’s grandmother’s memories of life during the Depression. Young Marshall describes his African American family’s hardship when Dad loses his job and then his relatives crowd into Marshall’s room. Worst of all are the beans Ma constantly cooks. Then a local furniture store makes an exciting offer: whoever guesses the number of beans in a huge jar on display will win a new sewing machine. If only Marshall could win the prize for Ma so that she could earn money by sewing. He works out a system to estimate (not guess) by counting the number of beans that fill a quart jar, and how many quarts fill up a crock . . . and his formula works! The expressive watercolor paintings show both the racism that Marshall and his family endure as well as his final triumph, and Tadgell folds in humor, as Marshall faces what looks like a lifetime supply of beans. An informative final note fills in more about the era’s history. Grades 1-3. --Hazel Rochman
Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children, March 27, 2010
Marshall knew that times were tough, but that did not really help him feel any more grateful to see the pot of beans cooking on the stove. After all, they ate beans just about every night. Like many households, the Great Depression had hit Marshall's family hard with the loss of his father's job, the cramped living situation after his relatives moved in, and the shortage of money for food and clothes.

Those beans, though, took on a whole different meaning when Marshall spotted a sign in a store window challenging people to guess how many beans were in the enormous pickle jar. The winner would take home a brand new sewing machine worth $23.95. Although Marshall desperately wanted to help his mother win that prize, he knew they had to overcome two obstacles. Not only did they need to make a better guess than everyone else, they also had to find out if the storeowner would even allow a woman of color to win the contest.

Based on real events in the life of the author's grandmother, this new book helps today's generation of young readers better understand the difficult economic times and the racial discrimination of the Great Depression years. With illustrations that beautifully match the text's subtle humor and grace, Lucky Beans is an ideal choice when seeking picture books that are rich in substantive content.
By D. Fowler "Dragonfly77" (Vermont)   
The streets and sidewalks were a snowy mess and the cold winds seemed to go right through Marshall Loman's old clothes and chill him to the bone. He raced up the three short steps of the family home shouting, "What's for dinner, Ma? I'm starving!" His eyes widened as his took the cover off a large pot. Beans, beans, beans . . . it was always beans. His Ma said they were lucky to have them, but every night made him want to hate them. The house was filling up with relatives and to make it worse he had to "share a room with his little brother and sister, Tommy and Patsy." Even their clothes were wearing out, but his mother had hope in President Roosevelt. Perhaps he could help everyone because he was "on the poor people's side."

The next day when Marshall and Tommy were passing by Kaplan's Furniture Store he spotted something very interesting in the window. There was a new sewing machine and a huge jar of beans. Beans, beans, beans . . . it was always beans. This time though, these beans might just help the family. Anyone who could guess how many beans in the jar would win the sewing machine. There was a lot of thinking to do and Marshall would have to think about what he learned in school. There were 333 beans in one cup, four cups equal a quart . . . with Marshall's help, would his mother guess the right number of beans in that humongous jar?

This is a heartwarming story about a young boy during the Depression years who learned that those yucky beans were really lucky beans. The scenario, loosely based on a tale relayed to the author by her grandmother, is reminiscent of many stories told by those who lived during those hard times. The story gives off an aura of hope as we see a family who is living and working together to ensure the family's welfare. Marshall, like any other boy, was portrayed very realistically and we know exactly what he likes, dislikes, and what his dreams were. The artwork was expressive and, with the little touches, brought back the good times families had during the Depression. In the back is an author's note that gives a brief overview of the Depression years.

Review - Lights Out by Angela Shelf Medearis

School Library Journal

"Just For You!" Series
MEDEARIS, Angela Shelf. Lights Out! illus. by Nicole Tadgell. ISBN
ea vol: 32p. (Just for You! Series). Scholastic. 2004. pap. $3.99. LC number
K-Gr 1-

These appealing easy readers focus on social skills, conflict
resolution, and bedtime, and feature African-American characters. The
stories are engaging, even though the language is quite simple. The
illustrations will draw young readers, as they are filled with action and
activities to which children will relate. Each title includes discussion
tips for adults. "Meet the Author" and "Meet the Artist" pages include
photographs and interesting personal notes. These books will be effective in
a classroom or library.-Corrina Austin, Locke's Public School, St. Thomas,
Ontario, Canada

Review - A Day With Daddy by Nikki Grimes

School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-These four easy readers, all of which feature African-American characters, are a bit uneven in quality. All begin with tips for adults on reading aloud and end with questions and activities that encourage youngsters to relate to the stories' themes. Daddy, in which a boy tells about his weekly visit with his father, is a sweet and gentle look at a difficult topic with watercolor illustrations that match the mood, while What Do You Know?, which relates a young girl's early-morning romp through fresh snow, is wordy with uninspired text and illustrations. Girls and Bath! are both fun stories with hit-and-miss rhyming styles and illustrations that bring the texts to life.-Catherine Callegari, San Antonio Public Library, TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information

Grimes, Nikki. A Day With Daddy. Illus. by Nicole Tadgell. 2004. 32p. Scholastic, paper, $3.99 (0-439-56850-1). Gr. 1.
Upbeat without being preachy or sentimental, these titles in the new Just for You! easy-reading series tell realistic stories of African American family life with excitement and grace. In Jumping the Broom, Erin’s big sister is getting married. Everyone is happy except Erin, who can’t find the right gift––until Grandmother tells her about jumping the broom, a wedding tradition that started among slaves. The characters are beautifully defined in both words and pictures, and many kids will recognize Erin’s pride in honoring her roots. In A Day with Daddy, a boy living with his mom talks about having fun with Dad on their weekly outing. Grimes draws on personal memories of growing up in a divorced family, and her simple, poetic words describe what goes on until the boy returns home with “enough happy / to last me one week.” The separation is here as well as the joy, and Tadgell’s exuberant watercolors show the family bonds, the longing, and the love. Both books include excellent notes for adults and suggestions of things they can do with their children. ––Hazel Rochman

Reviews - Fatuma's New Cloth by Leslie Bulion

Publishers Weekly
In Bulion's tender tale set in East Africa, the traditions of chai (tea) and kanga cloth contribute to a mother's gentle lesson to her daughter. Mama and Fatuma walk to market where the girl will choose kanga cloth for a dress. Tadgell's (Just Call Me Joe Joe) luminescent watercolors depict the flowing grass and vermilion flowers that line the path to town; Mama's blue and golden kanga drapes gently over her head and shoulders. "Will you sew my new kanga when we get home from the market?" the child asks. When Mama promises to make chai as well, a trio of friendly vendors each offer a special ingredient for the brew, but none makes the chai "taste sweet like [Mama's]." Fanciful patterned borders on each spread hint at what's to come when Mama and Fatuma finally meet with the cloth vendor. Beautiful colors and fabrics fill the spreads as Fatuma searches for "a kanga the color of the deep sea and the early morning sky." When she finds it, Mama reads her the words embedded in the design--"Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of chai comes from the sugar"--and explains that what makes a person special is not always evident to the eye. An author's note describes East African customs and provides a recipe for chai. Tadgell's artwork highlights the glorious colors of the area's fabrics and landscapes, and demonstrates the warmth of a closely knit community in which tradition is paramount.

Christian Science Monitor
Fatuma's New Cloth, by Leslie Bulion, takes readers to a colorful East African marketplace. There, little Fatuma and her mother shop for a new kanga cloth. With loose watercolors, illustrator Nicole Tadgell captures the friendly market vendors and their wares. Pages are bordered by various kanga designs. In addition to being bright and beautiful, each piece of fabric sports a printed message. The author makes this Swahili saying part of her narrative: "Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of tea is the sugar." This proverb leads little Tuma and her mother into an affectionate conversation about how the good qualities of a person are invisible, just as the sugar that sweetens tea can't be seen. Making and drinking tea figures prominently in the book; in fact, a recipe for chai is included. But this is clearly a device for sending a positive message and for giving readers a vivid picture of contemporary East African culture.

School Library Journal
Fatuma is excited about helping her mother with the marketing in her East African village because she has been promised a kanga cloth of her own and a treat of chai, or tea, afterward. Various merchants offer opinions on the secret of perfect Chai: a dark and strong color from the leaves, a light color from creamy milk, or a shiny new saucepan to boil it in. At the cloth shop, the girl chooses a kanga that is "the color of the morning sky meeting the waves of the sea." Each kanga pattern contains a Swahili saying, and Fatuma's reads, "Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of chai comes from the sugar," which can't be seen. Her mother uses Tuma as an analogy and the child exclaims, "What is good about me is on the inside too!" While the message is sweet, the watercolor illustrations are somewhat blurry and washed out, and the story drifts along at a dreamy pace.

H-AfrTeach (H-Net) by Gloria Creed-Dikeogu
(c) 2003 H-Net
"...The story of Fatuma's new cloth is not about chai or kanga cloth, but about a child's journey into social learning and understanding, and we enjoy that social learning experience with her."Experience the sights, colors, sounds and tastes of East Africa with Fatuma and her mother. This book is a feast to be enjoyed by readers of any age. To young readers, the story will be perceived to be simple and straight-forward, and yet it also offers them a lot to think about. The illustrations are rich and colorful and fit the main themes of the book, which focus on the social importance of kanga cloth and chai in the lives of East African communities like Fatuma's.
"This book is highly recommended and is appropriate for any age interested in learning about African culture and tradition."

Blackberry Express
(A) great (book) for Mother's Day present(s) the special relationship between moms and daughters. Fatuma's New Cloth by Leslie Bulion, illus. by Nicole Tadgell is an engaging picture book set in an East African marketplace. Fatuma and her mom search for the perfect colorful fabric for a new dress but are fortunate to discover something more on this shopping trip.

Midwest Book Review
Fatuma's New Cloth is an energetic and highly recommended children's picturebook about Fatuma, a young East African girl who learns about the complexities of the marketplace. There is even a recipe for East African chai (tea) included in this highly enjoyable tale by Leslie Bulion, whose engaging text is superbly complemented by the soft, watercolor-style illustrations by Nicole Tadgell.

"Fabulous lessons! Very highly recommended"
Fatuma and her mother plan to spend their day in the market. Along the way, various merchants suggest their wares make chai (tea) taste better, but she does not see how their offerings make the chai taste differently. Then at the cloth shop, Fatuma chooses a new kanga cloth from which her mother will make her dress. Each Kanga pattern is imprinted with a Swahili saying, many of which have more than one meaning. Fatuma chooses a kanga imprinted with this message: "Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of chai comes from the sugar." So she learns that just as surgery dissolves becoming something we cannot not see, so are the things make us special as impossible to see.Fatuma's New Cloth provides not only an entertaining tale, but also a fascinating peek into a vastly different culture from most American children's. In America, we teach our children, "don't judge a book by its cover." In Swahili, the same lesson is expressed as "don't judge the tea by its color." Parents will welcome the message that the value of people lies on the inside where we cannot see. In addition, parents seeking to teach their children the lessons of acceptance of other people's beliefs and culture will find the story an excellent aid. In addition, authentic East African features and kanga patterns frame the pages, lending the text an extraordinary visually pleasing appearance as charming illustrations bring the text alive. An author's note at the end aids parents to further explain the nuances of the story. Also included is a recipe for chai, allowing young children to experience the story first hand. Very highly recommended.

In America we say "don't judge a book by its color", but in Swahili it's "don't judge the tea by its color" and a young East African girl learns this lesson as readers 5-9 enter a contemporary African market with Fatuma and her mother. It's a delightful introduction to another culture as they make their way around from vender to vender.

North East Independent

an exotic tale from modern-day East Africa...Writer Leslie Bulion and illustrator Nicole Tadgell take us to an African market in search of kanga cloth and the secret to good chai. In a series of delicate watercolors we travel with little Fatuma and Mama as they touch beautiful kanga fabrics, smell sweet and savory cooking spices and talk to the market vendors during a typical day. The book also comes with a recipe for East African chai.

Skipping Stones"charming"

Reviews - No Mush Today by Sally Derby

School Library Journal: August 2008.Nonie, a young African-American girl, sits at the breakfast table with her parents and a wailing baby, sulking: "Not gonna eat my mush. /Not gonna eat it! I say./Squishy, yucky, yellow stuff/mush is baby food." She puts on her shiny black shoes, and, with her chin poked out, stomps off to live with Grandma (next door), where there's "no mushy mush or bawling babies", and where "Grandma attends when I'm talkin''". Nonie feels better as she and Grandma go to church, but when Daddy passes the collection plate, he faces a still-frowning daughter. Later, at the church picnic, her mood lightens and she allows her dad to give her a paddleboat ride. Pointing out animals, he says, "Ducklings stick with their families/Lots to learn from ducks." By day's end, Nonie has decided to return home and is greeted by her baby brother's great big smile and Momma's warm welcome. The story is told in two to four short sentences per page. The spare text deftly conveys Nonie's reactions and emotions, which are clearly reflected in Tadgell's realistic, folksy watercolors sweeping across double pages. Ultimately, this gentle story addresses the universal frustration older siblings often face at having a new baby in the family.

August 2008.Nonie refuses to eat her yucky mush porridge for breakfast ("mush is baby food"), and to get away from her bawling baby brother, she runs next door to Grandma's house, where she thinks she'd like to live because she gets the attention she craves ("Grandma attends when I'm talkin'"). Then, after she goes with Grandma to church, joins the ladies' picnic, and spends time with Daddy in a boat and on the swings, she returns home to her baby brother, now smiling and reaching for her at the gate. Maybe home isn't so bad after all. True to the young kid's viewpoint, this picture book tells the displaced-sibling story with wry affection. The warm, realistic watercolor double-page spreads show Nonie's anger, jealousy, and feeling of connections with her loving African American family and in the multiracial church community. Nonie's sulks are as much fun as the final quiet embrace, when she gives the baby the little yellow duckling toy she has been clutching throughout the day.

Rutgers: September 2008.
Nonie is fed up with her baby brother’s crying and with the cornmeal mush served at breakfast. She decides she wants to leave her family and live with Grandma next door, because at least Grandma pays attention to her and prepares better food. But later that day at the church picnic when Grandma just wants to sit, Nonie cannot resist her father’s offer of a paddleboat ride and a push on the swings. Nonie and her dad see a group of ducklings swimming with their parents, and Nonie reconsiders living at home with her family.
No Mush Today may appear to have a simple premise, but underneath the surface is an important lesson about the time demands of providing care for children. Caring for a new baby is particularly time consuming, and as the older sibling, Nonie feels she is bearing the cost when her parents are less attentive to her own wants and needs. Going to live with Grandma seems appealing, but Nonie soon realizes that there are tradeoffs when she misses her family. The rich illustrations add emotional depth to this engaging story.
Yana V. Rodgers, Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

Kirkus Reviews: September 2008.
After her baby brother’s arrival, young Nonie must cope with the reality that she is no longer her parents’ only priority. She uses another morning of mush for breakfast as an excuse to move in with Grandma, who lives next door, and Grandma gives Nonie all the attention she craves. After services at church and a following picnic that gives her a chance to reconnect with her family—“ ‘Baby’s been missin’ me some?’ I ask. / Momma nods, attendin’ now”—Nonie decides to try living with her parents once more. Using watercolors, Tadgell creates a soft dreamlike world filled with details. Nonie’s small duck is on every page; like her family, it is always with her, and by the end of the story, she learns to share it with her sibling, just as she must learn to share her parents. The text uses dialect and some grammatically incorrect English, which does not add to the story, but is simple and straightforward. Overall, a delightful book.

M. LaVora Perry: October 2008.
Sally Derby's No Mush Today will have young children smiling and some
may nod in agreement while identifying with the spunky heroine who
feels unfairly put upon on two counts: by her breakfast menu and in
her new role as big sister. Nicole Tadgell's colorful and animated
illustrations instantly drew me in.


Américas Award, 2007 for
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren
Presented by the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies at the Library of Congress

Growing Good Kids Award, 2007 for
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren

Named one of Bank Street College of Education's
Best Children's Books of the Year, 2007 for
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren

Named one of Eastern Washington University's
Excellent 2006 Choices of Trade Books for Grades K-9 for
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren

Children's Africana Book Award, 2003 for
Fatuma's New Cloth by Leslie Bulion
Presented by the African Studies Association

Bee Balm Countdown - Day 14

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Wacom sketches

I use the Wacom tablet instead of a mouse, but I really need to learn how to draw with it. Let's see about these brushes...

This one's not bad...

Looks more like ink than "chalk", though...

Social media

I'm learning more about social media, and marketing. I created a myspace page a long time ago, but deleted it because I didn't like the interface - too many ads and flashy-things. Plus I couldn't really keep my personal life separated from my professional life.

I have a Twitter account now, it's called "nicoletadgell", but I'd like to change that to look different. Like how about capital letters and a space? Or... maybe I want it to have a name like Studio NT. I wish there was a way you could edit stuff like that, but it looks like I'd have to delete the account and start a new one? I don't know. And the 140 character thing is weird for me. How do I know what I want to say is 140 characters? If it doesn't fit, I'll have to keep rewording, then it doesn't say what I wanted. And I don't think you can edit it afterwards, like you can with blogger. I'd hate to have a spelling error and not be able to fix it.

Maybe I worry too much about stuff like that - and then there's Facebook! I've heard that you'll hear from people from long ago - some you may not want to hear from!