As elementary school reading tutors, the teens of Reach noticed that few children's books reflected their reality. They decided to do something about that: they wrote their own. Now these teens are diversifying children's literature, one smart-fun-real-brave-bold story at a time.
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The Project That Launched Shout Mouse Press
In the summer of 2013 the teens of Reach Incorporated defined an important mission: to create stories the students they tutored could relate to. They knew that there is a troubling shortage of characters and authors of color in the children's book market, and they set out to change that, as well as to produce stories that would foster a love of reading.
Within workshops led by SMP founder Kathy Crutcher, fifteen Reach teens brainstormed, drafted, workshopped, and revised. They worked with talented emerging artists to design illustrations for their stories. Ultimately, their hard work paid off, and they produced four emotionally resonant and totally engaging original children's books.
These first books were the inspiration for Shout Mouse Press. These teens showed us the power and potential of supporting unexpected authors, and of providing platforms for leadership through publication. We are grateful to Reach for giving us this great start, and we're thrilled to continue our work with these talented teens as they add to the exciting and inspiring series, Books by TEENS.
We love that this book paint such a rich portrait of DC culture from the eyes of its residents. The photos are great. I especially like that I can show my daughter some of the photos, and visit those places with her.
I think the moral of this book is even if some kids are mean to you, a team sticks together and won’t let anyone down. I think the most meaningful line in the book is: “Then Kendra heard Elijah the Eagle shout ‘Let’s bring it home for Kendra.’ The rest of the teammates cheered. ‘We got you Kendra Kangaroo Helena shouted.'”
I felt so sad for the kangaroo – it is hard to keep a secret, especially one that has potential to embarrass you or negatively impact others and yourself. I was so glad she had found a trusting adult, her coach, to tell, and that she had one close friend to keep her going. I think this is a great book for pointing out ways to cope with stressful, maybe dangerous, situations.
I like the dedication, because it shows that this book meant to give people courage. I like that Asia, the hyena, said they have to work together to escape. I like that they used persistence to get out and to get the lion pack to not kill the hyenas. I like the hyenas peacefully protesting. The most meaningful line of the book is: “Mya stood up on her back legs and said ‘I might be young, but my voice matters.'” The other most meaningful line is: “We are tired of fighting all the time. It is not benefiting anyone, we need to come in peace.”
I thought the best part was when they stood together against the elders. We all hear a lot about working together and seeing people for who they are, but less about how hard it is to defend someone who is different than you to a group with known strong, dissenting opinions. Research says that bullying can be minimized if other kids try to stop it; that would certainly be easier to do if you were a united front as Asia and Mya are.
This is a wonderful story with a crazy cast of characters that emphasizes the importance of healthy self-esteem, and not putting yourself at risk out of fear of what others may say. This book fills a gap by addressing the topic of asthma, which has a higher prevalence in low-income communities and among children of color. The authors recognize that children are often ashamed of health conditions and by writing this story, they encourage children not to shy away from talking about their own health conditions. Readers can learn that you shouldn’t assume or judge the words or actions of others.
The Hoodie Hero preaches the importance of confidence in one’s unique style, and the ability to stand up for one’s self and others. Unlike other hero stories, which may be more unrealistic, The Hoodie Hero sets a bar for hero status that feels achievable to young readers by the end of the book.
A to Z: The Real D.C. is an alphabetical compilation of D.C. essentials, portrayed through both pictures and words. From cliches like the national mall and Smithsonian to deeper cuts such as Kenilworth Gardens or cultural staples like Go-Go music, A to Z: The Real D.C. presents readers with a balance of state and culture, showcasing all that D.C. has to offer and leaving nothing untouched.
This is a thoughtful, illustrated book about children who can see the good in others and help them change. Max starts the story by saying "Being bad never felt so good. Evil runs in my family." His counterpart Ronnie believes "Goodness is in all of us. My family stands for justice." After wonderfully illustrated interactions between the two, Max is able to see the goodness in himself.
"We read One Lonely Camel today, and the kids really loved it. They gasped with shock (Larry's story really touched them), they giggled (at Tunechi's antics), and they roared their approval (the popular culture references). In short, it was a huge hit! When I asked who would give it 4 stars (our highest rating) all 20 hands shot up. I asked them why they liked it so much, and Akera said it best: "Those big kids wrote about things that all kids like, whether they're big or little."...Kam appreciated how the animals hid their sadness and seemed happy on the outside but were sad sometimes on the inside. Many of the kids thought that aspect of the book was really touching."
After reading this book to my 20-month-old daughter last night, she looked at me and said "read it again!" An excellent pictorial representation of DC from A to Z, educational, fun, and kid approved. Great work Reach tutors/authors!
--Scott, amazon reviewer
I've read many A to Z picture books in my days, but what makes this one special is not only its photographs of D.C. landmarks, but also the creativity of the photographs. My favorite is "F" is for Frederick Douglas. Not only do the pages show pictures of the Frederick Douglas Historic Site, but a photo of what I presume is one of the book's authors "shaking hands" with the statue of Frederick Douglas. It's these sorts of shots that delight children and adults alike. The book's illustrations and verses also call out for the reader to discover D.C. destinations that have yet to be explored and to start planning on re-visiting more familiar ones. On some of the pages I can almost taste the food, hear the sounds of traffic, and smell the scents of animals and plants. The fact that this book was created by D.C. teens is just icing on the cake.
--Bookfan, amazon reviewer
Combining reality with fantasy (loved the purple broccoli trees!), this book takes on a tough real-life situation that many children find themselves in --- upset by parents arguing. It acknowledges a child's feelings while encouraging a child to talk to parents about those feelings. The story also acknowledges that many adults find themselves under stress, such as unemployment, which can contribute to parental figures having arguments over simple things. Most importantly though, the book offers hope that a child may have the power to enact change in the family dynamic. Written by 3 high-school age teens, I got the sense that at least one of the authors has witnessed the positive impact he/she has had in their own family relationships when he/she encouraged the family to do more things together as a family group.
--Bookfan, amazon reviewer
This is an inspiring story, especially for any child who is coping with an illness. This book should be in the children's ward of every hospital. A great read!!
--Gwendolyn Harris, amazon reviewer
This book was an awesome read, from front to back!!!! My kids absolutely loved it, and have read it several times since I purchased it. This is definitely a must have for all ages.
--Vikki Sheppard, amazon reviewer
When Ernie the Llama was abducted by green, slimy aliens, his best friend, Sal the frog, set out on a “ribbiting” journey to rescue his companion. Risking his life, Sal wouldn’t rest until he got Ernie home to his frightened family.
This story teaches children about friendship, one of the most important things in their lives. In this book, they will discover how true friends will always be there for you in your happiest and darkest times. Kids will also learn the life lesson of how, if you want something a lot, you can get it if you try hard enough. Sal’s quest around the world proves to kids that anything is possible.
The Gloomy Light is a fun and exciting thriller that all kids should have on their bookshelves. Reading this wild and crazy adventure was a pleasure. I highly recommend it to anyone who believes in true friends that will do anything for you, even through thick and thin.
--Dallas, amazon reviewer
Jordan Campbell, Rico McCard and Brandon Smith left me thinking deeply about two common struggles in middle school--identity and friendship. The voice and storyline drew me into the book and I found myself connecting to each of the characters as the story unfolded. This is an impressive first book for these authors and a book that I will have readily available for students at my school, where I am principal. I know my students will find the story enjoyable, and I expect the message of the story will remain with them. Buy this book!
--Heidi L Cook, amazon reviewer
Trio + One is a great story about a middle schooler, Bobby, who is jealous of three popular best friends at school. Bobby feels like they get all the attention and exclude him, so he decides to split up the group with a schoolwide “Coolest Kid Contest” featuring the 3 kids. They soon turn on each other, coming to Bobby for friendship. However, once they realize his scheme, they ask him why he did this to them and tell him how he was never really excluded from the group. Bobby came to know that sometimes it was he who kept away from the other boys.
This book teaches kids how it feels to be excluded and how they should prevent anyone from feeling that way. In addition, kids will learn not to jump to conclusions. I highly recommend this book for anyone. It can be understood on different levels, but it would be best for kids 7 and up. I hope you enjoy this book. Its magnificent story line, along with all of the lessons that can be learned from it, is definitely worth your time reading. Enjoy!
--Dallas, amazon reviewer
This story conveys so well the feelings of jealousy we are so capable of having when we envy other groups of friends. I was particularly struck by the authors insight when they have the main character, Big Bobby, wonder if it was the 3 friends that stopped hanging out with him or whether it was Bobby that stopped hanging out with them. Loved the illustrations as well! Looking forward to reading the other 3 books published by Reach, Inc.
--Bookfan, amazon reviewer
The Airplane Affect is an emotional book written by Marc, Sasha, Angela, and Sean, all young upcoming authors. It is an inspiring book about a young boy who is fighting leukemia in a drab hospital. He misses the outside world and just being a kid. Vincent writes his problems down on a piece of paper which he throws through the window as a paper airplane. A girl finds the plane and is inspired to help him. This book made us think about people who don't have it all and how we should be thankful that we are not stuck in a dull hospital. The book was very well written. Reach Inc. is a remarkable organization that is moving kids to write these books that inspire others. The storyline grasps both people that have experienced a severe illness and others who have not. This was an amazing book worth reading no matter what age you are.
--Dallas, amazon reviewer
One Lonely Camel is a wonderful book for all ages about a camel who thinks he doesn't quite fit in at the zoo. A camel is taken from home and arrives at the zoo. A friendly hippo overhears Larry the camel's rap about his being captured. The hippo thinks Larry's raps are cool, so the hippo talks the camel into performing a rap at the zoo's talent show. Larry is nervous that the other animals at the zoo won't relate to his raps, but in the end, the animals like it, and Larry finds out that all of the other animals at the zoo have stories to tell, too. Even the hippo has a story to tell. This book shows that friends are always there to help you out, and it is filled with both humorous and sweet moments. While reading this great book, the amazing illustrations will please your eyes.
-- Dallas, amazon reviewer