Perfect Picture Book Friday : NEEMA’S REASON TO SMILE – Multicultural Children’s Book Day Selection

Hello my friends…Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday!

Today’s story is very special – it’s part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Bloggers from around the world have been reviewing selected books and posting them on their websites and shouting out about them on Facebook, Twitter, and other social medial channels. I’m thrilled that my own Sweet Dreams, Sarah was also chosen and will be reviewed by bloggers who want to share diverse books with kids. And I’m honored to have the pleasure of sharing NEEMA’S REASON TO SMILE with you!



Written by Patricia Newman

Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

Published by Lightswitch Learning (2018)

Ages: 5 and up

Themes: Setting goals, follow your dream, education

Synopsis: From Amazon:

What’s in your dream basket?

“Neema’s is full of big dreams, like becoming a scientist, an inventor, or a teacher.

Neema’s Reason to Smile is the story of Neema, a young Kenyan girl who dreams of one day being able to afford to go to school. Slowly, and with great purpose, Neema makes a plan to save money in her dream basket and make her dream come true. One day, a mysterious young girl skips down the street wearing a red skirt and white shirt. Soon, she guides Neema all the way to a new school.”

But what will happen? Neema hasn’t had enough time to save that much money.

Why I love this book:

  • The cover drew me in and I was entranced with the bold vivid colorful illustrations which put me right in the setting with Neema.
  • The text is filled with action and emotion. I became invested in Neema’s dream to get a good education and I know that kids will cheer her on.
  • I love that honoring education as a way to realize our dreams is the main theme here – I think that all too often, children fail to value the gift that education is – I know I looked forward to snow days and weekends and summer vacation. But honestly, most children who don’t have the opportunity to go to school, would do anything for the chance.
  • Wonderful back matter filled with activities for kids and even a project to make a ‘dream basket’.


ME: I was lucky enough to have a chance to chat with author Patricia Newman. I asked her if she had anything she’d like to share with my readers. I think you will enjoy her insights:

PATRICIA: Picture books often seem simple to write, but they’re not. Neema’s Reason to Smile took several years because Neema’s story is so complex—a setting unfamiliar to most US readers; the extreme poverty; and the unusual idea that education is not a right.

Neema is a composite of many girls who attend Jambo Jipya. Some are orphans. Some come from single-parent families. Some are abused or sold into prostitution. All are poor, yet they have a zest for life in spite of their hardships.

I knew I had to tell Neema’s story of poverty and lack of education in a manner appropriate for a picture book audience, but Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s words on the dangers of a single story rang in my ears. Therefore, I gave Neema the same grace and spirit I saw in the students at Jambo Jipya to allow her to become the architect of her own success.

To connect with Patricia or find out more about her books:

Patricia Newman

Sibert Honoree for Sea Otter Heroes | | Facebook | @PatriciaNewman



How about paper plate happy faces? Kids can draw a happy face on one side and a sad/mad face on the other. Then play a game of how do you feel when? Kids hold up the side of the plate that shows how they feel when certain situations occur.

For many more smile ideas, please click here:

Or, hop around to the many blogs that are featuring fabulous diverse books to celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day.

I’m honored to be a Bronze Sponsor of this event. Here’s a bit about the #MCBD #ReadYourWorld Challenge:

sponsor button


Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

Medallion Level Sponsors

Honorary: Children’s Book Council, The Junior Library Guild,

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat Babies, Candlewick Press, Chickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcito, KidLitTVLerner Publishing Group, Plum Street Press,

SILVER: Capstone Publishing, Carole P. Roman, Author Charlotte Riggle, Huda Essa, The Pack-n-Go Girls,

BRONZE: Charlesbridge Publishing, Judy Dodge Cummings, Author Gwen Jackson, Kitaab World, Language Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ Languages, Lee & Low Books, Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, Redfin, Author Gayle H. Swift,  T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s Daughter, TimTimTom Books, Lin Thomas, Sleeping Bear Press/Dow Phumiruk, Vivian Kirkfield,


MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board

Honorary: Julie Flett, Mehrdokht Amini,

Author Janet Balletta, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Josh Funk, Chitra Soundar, One Globe Kids – Friendship Stories, Sociosights Press and Almost a Minyan, Karen Leggett, Author Eugenia Chu, CultureGroove Books, Phelicia Lang and Me On The Page, L.L. Walters, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Hayley Barrett, Sonia Panigrah, Author Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing Dreidels, Author Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu Kid, Tara Williams, Veronica Appleton, Author Crystal Bowe, Dr. Claudia May, Author/Illustrator Aram Kim, Author Sandra L. Richards, Erin Dealey, Author Sanya Whittaker Gragg, Author Elsa Takaoka, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo, Anita Badhwar, Author Sylvia Liu, Feyi Fay Adventures, Author Ann Morris, Author Jacqueline Jules, CeCe & Roxy Books, Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, LEUYEN PHAM, Padma Venkatraman, Patricia Newman and Lightswitch Learning, Shoumi Sen, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci Sorell, Shereen Rahming, Blythe Stanfel, Christina Matula, Julie Rubini, Paula Chase, Erin Twamley, Afsaneh Moradian, Lori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls Revolution, Soulful Sydney, Queen Girls Publications, LLC


We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Biracial Bookworms, Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon Reads, Educators Spin on it,  Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin Lee, Jump Into a Book, Imagination Soup, Jenny Ward’s Class, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Raising Race Conscious Children, Shoumi Sen, Spanish Playground

And guess what? They are having a super Twitter party with visiting authors answering questions and LOTS of prizes!

twitter party announcement



TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual @McChildsBookDay Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party. GO HERE for more details.

We will be giving away Book Bundles every 5 minutes!

Twitter Party Details:

When: Friday, January 25th

Time: 9 pm to 10 pm EST

Where: On Twitter! Follow McChildsBookDay to participate

Hashtag: #ReadYourWorld

Sponsored By: Make A Way Media

And wait…that’s not all! There are free resources available for teachers and parents!


Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Phew! That was a long post! But filled with #kidlit awesomeness! Please don’t forget to check out our wonderful PPBF selection: NEEMA’S REASON TO SMILE. If you love the book you can buy it, review it, ask your library to purchase it, and tell friends about it!

And for more Perfect Picture Book reviews and activities, please hop over to Susanna Hill’s archives of over a thousand titles or today’s blog with the very latest reviews.

Plus, do stop by tomorrow for a chat when Heather Macht visits Will Write for Cookies with a TRAILER REVEAL for her debut picture book: The Ant Farm Escape.

I hope you all have a safe and happy weekend!

14 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday : NEEMA’S REASON TO SMILE – Multicultural Children’s Book Day Selection

  1. So glad that Patricia spoke about the dangers of one story. This is a fabulous inclusion in our MCBD list this year. Having lived in several African nations, the lengths that families will go to for their children’s education blew me away regularly. Thank you for this review.


  2. I’m also reviewing for #ReadYourWorld and was matched with Deirdre Pecchioni Cummings. I was lucky to have been given all of her books to review and have enjoyed them very much. Thanks for sharing this wonderful book with us today!


  3. I am struck by that phrase: The dangers of a single story. It is so true. And the idea that one needs to be cognizant of creating a stereotype through that single story. That multiple stories are needed to gain a more robust picture. I’m glad that Patricia kept this in mind as she shaped Neema’s story. Great review!


  4. Yay! MCBD is here. I really enjoyed your review of Neema’s Reason to Smile and the interview with Patricia, which really put things into perspective. Our niece has been behind the building of a STEM school for girls in Kitenga, Tanzania since 2012, for 1500 girls. It is difficult and complex and joyful experience for girls to attend school. Patricia’s words ring true.


  5. Pingback: Perfect Picture Book Friday: Captain Green and the Plastic Scene | VIVIAN KIRKFIELD – Writer for Children

  6. Pingback: PPBF – Neema’s Reason to Smile | Wander, Ponder, Write

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.