Saturday, January 24, 2015

Never Say A Mean Word Again- Book Review in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

On January 27, 2015, we will be celebrating the second annual Multicultural Children's Book Day. I am honored to be participating in this event as a book reviewer. My passion for bringing diversity to children's books began last year while volunteering at my daughter's school. During a school book fair, I realized quickly that the books that were offered did not represent the student population. When they would look to the bookshelves, did they see a kid that look liked them on the covers? Not likely. This is why I jumped at the chance to put a diverse children's book into the hands of the teachers at my daughter's school. I cannot wait to donate the book that was sent to me to my daughter's second grade classroom on Multicultural Children's Book Day.

Wisdom Tales Press graciously sent me two books: Everyone Prays by Alexis York Lumbard and illustrated by Alireza Sadeghian (which I will be reviewing later this week), and Never Say a Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain by Jacqueline Jules (Author), Durga Yael Bernhard (Illustrator), which I will be reviewing as part of MCCBD. 

Never Say a Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain

Overview from the Publisher:

Written by: Jacqueline Jules
Illustrated by: Durga Yael Bernhard

Never Say a Mean Word Again is the compelling tale of two boys, one Jewish and one Muslim, trying to settle their differences. Based on a powerful legend from medieval Spain, its message of a peaceful solution is as appropriate today as ever. This light-hearted look at the very serious issue of conflict resolution amongst children will appeal to children and adults alike. It illustrates how friendship and kindness can help settle some disputes.

About This Book:

  • This multicultural book is the story of a boy who is given permission by his father, the grand vizier (highest royal advisor), to punish an enemy. “Make sure Hamza never says a mean word to you again,” he orders Samuel. What will he do?
  • Inspired by the life story of Jewish poet Samuel Ha-Nagid (993-1056), who was the vizier in Muslim Spain.
  • Features 32 pages of colorful illustrations in a striking design, evocative of medieval Spain.
  • Explores the challenges of friendship across cultures and social status.
  • Addresses the question of fair punishment for name-calling.
  • Models behavior for turning an adversary into a friend.

My Review

Learning how to cross cultural and social divides at any age can be a challenge. Making judgements on a person based on the ways they look, dress, or speak is often done on a subconscious level, something most do not want to admit occurs. This book tackles the complex question of how do you make a foe a friend by having the two boys become friends by accident. The two boys behave in a way I could imagine two boys in conflict would behave. The illustrations are vibrant and funny, making light of a complex and difficult subject. The facial expressions in this book, in particular, capture the attention and imagination of young readers. I love the illustration of the Samuel imagining capturing a monkey and training it to sit on Hamza's shoulders to keep his mouth shut. It is such a ridiculous idea! But then, so is stopping someone from saying certain things. 

Conflicts among friends and foes, like the one in the book, will occur frequently in any child's life. It is easy, when someone is different from you to fear that they think they are too good or any variety of judgmental thoughts, however the author skillfully shows that there is much more between us that is the same, such as enjoying playing and swimming in the water, that there will ever be that divides us. 

It is this playful imagery that makes the book a fantastic read for any classroom. I cannot wait to send this into my daughter's school and hear how the book is received by her classmates. 

After reading the book several times, my daughter and I sat down and discussed how Samuel never took the time to imagine why Hamza might have reacted the way he did to Samuel's mistakes in the beginning of the book. When I was a little girl dealing with conflict at school, my dad always asked me to take a moment and imagine walking in that other person's shoes. To be honest, I never really understood what he meant until much later in life, but the message stuck with me. After having this discussion, I gave Miss M this worksheet that I created. (This printable is available as a free,download towards the end of this post.) My daughter, who is eight years old, succinctly pointed out that playing together taught them their similarities outweighed their differences.

My daughter also wanted to write a review of the book, which I am sharing with you all to read. I think it is helpful to see it summarized, unfiltered, by a child. 
(This printable is also available for download here.)

Whenever we read a book that tackles a difficult subject, I always try to find several other books that complement and enhance our discussions. Like fine wine, I believe that great pairings of books make the individual book reading experiences more meaningful. For Never Say A Mean Word Again, I choose three very difference books that all deal with the common themes of dealing with differences and discovering friendship through conflict.  

The books we choose were:  
  1. Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea.
  2. Let's Be Enemies Janice May Udry and Maurice Sendak.
  3. Yoko by Rosemary Wells.

Reading these three books, in particular, along with Never Say a Mean Word Again was extremely helpful for fostering discussion of kindness, friendship, and judgement.

Download a copy of this free printable to use as an extension activity.

All About Multicultural Children's Book Day

Sponsors of Multicultural Children's Book Day 2015

MCCBD’s  2015 Sponsors include Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, Gold SponsorsSatya House,,   Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Silver Sponsors: Junior Library GuildCapstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books,  The Omnibus Publishing. Bronze Sponsors:Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing,  Rainbow Books,   Author Felicia Capers,   Chronicle Books   Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.

The Mission of Multicultural Children's Book Day:

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is 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. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and
favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

The amazing MCCBD team has the following message: " We hope to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag #ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.”

Meet the Co-Founders behind Multicultural Children's Book Day 

Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press are the co-founders of Multicultural Children's Book Day. Read more about their passion for putting great books in kids' hands here.

The 2015 Multicultural Children's Book Day Co-Hosts:

Collaborations and Partnerships

Multicultural Children's Book Day is partnering with First Book to offer a 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! The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found HERE.

MCCBD is also collaborating with Children’s Book Council to highlight wonderful diversity books and authors on an ongoing basis all year.

FTC Required Disclosure:
This site is an affiliate, if you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Books, Babies, and Bows (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support!
Disclosure:  * I was given this book free-of-charge by the author in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own.


  1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I love your printables! Please thank your daughter for me. I loved her comments.

    1. You are so very welcome. We simply adore the book. I am going to bring it to school tomorrow to share with her classroom.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your great printable and for joining us today at Multicultural Children's Book Day! What a great book extension activity you created! Sharing it far and wide!

  3. Happy Multicultural Children's Books Day! These books are so relevant in today's context! Glad to know more about them!

  4. I really like your printables. Great way to get a child thinking about a book. This sounds like a wonderful book that is applicable anywhere. Enjoyed your review.

  5. A great review of what sounds like a great book! I love that you included book pairings as well. That's a wonderful resource! I do that at home with my children/students, but I never thought about it in the beautiful way that you described it: "Like fine wine, I believe that great pairings of books make the individual book reading experiences more meaningful." Love it!

  6. Great post, and great website. Thanks for the information! Destra World Books Publishing


I would love to hear your thoughts.

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