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Archive for the ‘Caldecott Books’ Category

Today’s Women’s History Month post highlights motherhood, one of the most challenging, exhausting, all-encompassing responsibilities on the planet, with few accolades and really lousy hours but so much possibility.

Does this qualify as false advertising?!

Often moms in children’s literature are background characters, yet even there we notice some flashes of genius. For instance, there’s Ferdinand the bull’s mother,

who initially worries about her son sitting quietly just smelling the flowers, but “because she was an understanding mother, even though she was a cow, she let him just sit there and be happy.” Way to go, mom. Individuality starts here.

I adore the moms in several of Jonathan Bean’s stories — At Night and Big Snow — who empathetically care for their children while giving them space and freedom to explore and dream and be.

One of my favorite storybook moms is Alfie’s mother, whose house is always unapologetically mussy, whose hair has not seen a salon recently, whose breakfast table is a jumble of milk splotches, egg smears, and the odd sock. Hers is a happy, creative household and she makes no pretense of keeping it all completely under control. Plus, she gets her kids out of doors a LOT!

The women in the following books (gleaned from my archives) are not famous for their accomplishments, yet live quietly heroic lives, nurturing small human beings with love, wisdom, courage, creativity, patience, cunning, fortitude, conviction, selflessness, empathy, resilience, comfort, contentment, and the list goes on.

Represented here are tired mothers, grandmothers, single moms, veiled moms, nannies, adoptive mothers, refugee mothers, harassed mothers, black, white, latino and native mothers, camping moms, berry-picking grandmas, hospitable mothers…

To all of you coping with the demands of motherhood, perhaps quailing before the superhero women featured in most Women’s History Month posts — hats off to you and the epic job you do every day!

Tromping around outdoors moms…

Alfie Weather

Oh so tired moms…

Are You Awake?

taking time to listen grandmas…

The Baby on the Way

uber clever moms…

Bread and Jam for Frances

hardworking single moms…

A Chair for My Mother

deeply religious moms…

Deep in the Sahara

profoundly there-for-you nannies…

The Friend

warmhearted grandmas…

Grandma’s House

bighearted adoptive moms…

Hattie Peck

magically creating spring moms…

How Mama Brought the Spring

incredibly brave refugee moms…

The Journey

wise in life grandmas…

Last Stop on Market Street

harassed but not quitting moms…

Leave Me Alone!

ordinarily awesome moms…

My Mom

spunky world-opening grandmas…

Nana in the City

lively ditch the rules grandmas…

Peeny Butter Fudge

carrying you with me moms…

A Ride on Mother’s Back

creative, content grandmas…

Sunday Shopping

canoeing, camping moms…

Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe

berry-picking grandmas…

Wild Berries

hospitable, merciful moms…

A Year of Borrowed Men

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I have a winner for my giveaway of Fancy Party Gowns!!

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Rhapsody in Books — your name was drawn! Contact me at jillswanson61@gmail.com with your shipping address and I’ll get that beauty off to you!

Meanwhile, the biggest book awards in U.S. children’s literature were awarded this week. You can find a list of all the winners here.

I’ve reviewed a number of those that were recognized and am always happy to have my attention drawn to other titles I haven’t yet had time to read.

Here are links to the reviews you can find here at Orange Marmalade:

The most prestigious prize is the Newbery Medal and it went to a Minneapolis author this year! Woohoo! That was:

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The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

One of the books that won a Newbery Honor was just recently on my blog. It well deserves this honor, and was also awarded Coretta Scott King Honors for both its text and illustrations:

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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams, written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan

The Caldecott is the big prize for illustration work. I have loved and previously reviewed all four of the Honor Books:

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Leave Me Alone!, illustrated by written by Vera Brosgol

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Freedom in Congo Square, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, written by Carole Boston Weatherford. This book also won a Coretta Scott King Honor for its illustrations.

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Du Iz Tak?, illustrated and written by Carson Ellis

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They All Saw a Cat, illustrated and written by Brendan Wenzel

I’ve reviewed one of the Sibert Honor books thus far — a gripping account for teens through adult:

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We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Hitler, by Russell Freedman

One of the delightful Theodor Seuss Geisel awards went to:

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Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run!: An Alphabet Caper, written and illustrated by Mike Twohy

I hope you’ll take the time to check these out if you missed them the first time. Every one is a gem!

 

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There’s been a storm of conversations recently in the children’s literature world over carefulness and truthfulness in our depictions of slavery. The good news in all of this is that we are having these conversations. This week, I’ve got seven strong choices for increasing our understanding of this painful piece of our history.

when the slave esperanca garcia wrote a letter cover imageWhen the Slave Esperança Garcia Wrote a Letter, by Sonia Rosa, illustrated by Luciana Justiniani Hees, translated from the Portuguese by Jane Springer
published in 2015 by Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press

I didn’t imagine I would find the story of an amazing, Afro-Brazilian slave woman when I went book-looking, but this moving and visually-sophisticated account fairly leapt off the shelf.

After reading this short text, I only wish I could meet this person. She was an intelligent, caring, remarkably hopeful woman whose deep sorrows and trials could not break her spirit.

when the slave esperanca garcia wrote a letter interior2 rosa and hees

Esperança Garcia lived in the Brazilian state of Piauí in the mid-1700s. For a time she was owned by Jesuit priests and worked on their cotton farm. While there, she was taught to read and write which was a rarity in Brazil just as it was in the Southern United States. When she was sold to a new, cruel master, Garcia’s situation vastly deteriorated. She found she could not be silent, and wrote an eloquent letter to the governor.

when the slave esperanca garcia wrote a letter interior rosa and hees

Read her story, written with intimacy and grace, accompanied by these extraordinary pictures. Each page is vigorous and arresting, surging with Brazilian heat and dominated by the indomitable figure of Esperança herself. Ages 5 and up.

frederick's journey cover imageFrederick’s Journey: The Life of Frederick Douglass, by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by London Ladd
published in 2016 by Disney/Jump at the Sun

When you see Doreen Rappaport’s name on a book, you just settle in with confidence that a remarkable connection is about to occur between you and her subject. And that’s exactly what we get from this newest book on Frederick Douglass.

His life’s journey is traced from the time he was a tiny babe-in-arms, wrenched from his mother as she stretches a helpless arm towards him with a brokenhearted wail, to his persevering accomplishment of helping obtain the vote for black men.

frederick's journey interior rappaport and ladd

Written in lyrical free verse, and interspersed with quotes from Douglass, it’s an eloquent biography. London Ladd’s powerful paintings pour strength, dignity, and determination across every page. Included are Author and Illustrator Notes on the making of the book, a timeline, and resources for further learning. An exceptional piece, highly recommended for ages 5 and up.

two friends cover imageTwo Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
published in 2016 by Orchard Books

Frederick Douglas, amidst his great struggle for African American rights, and Susan B. Anthony, in her epic struggle for women’s rights, met for tea one evening in Susan’s parlor, in Rochester, New York.

What a meeting! What a pair of battle-weary friends. Wouldn’t you love to have been there?!

two friends interior robbins, qualls, and alko

Beautifully written in a perceptive, parallel structure, with Qualls’ and Alko’s  vibrant illustrations incorporating text and image — this book offers a unique perspective on these individuals and their friendship. Highly recommended for ages 4 and up.

freedom in congo square cover imageFreedom in Congo Square, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
published in 2016 by Little Bee Books

Congo Square, in New Orleans, was a small patch of earth known around the world because of what took place there on Sunday afternoons during the days of slavery.

Not auctions. Not whippings. Not labors of any kind. But dancing.

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Anticipate that one day of freedom, celebration, community, and the music of home, in this jubilant story. Strikingly illustrated by Christie in gorgeous, graceful, leaping line and pulsating color.

An Author’s Note tells more about this uncommon piece of American history. Ages 3 and up.

henry's freedom box cover imageHenry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
published in 2007 by Scholastic Press

Henry “Box” Brown was enslaved in Virginia. As a young boy he was sold away from his beloved family, and as a young married man with three dear-as-life-itself children, he was again left bereft, his wife and children ripped away from him in one searingly-painful blink of an eye. All. Gone.

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So, when an idea came to Henry of a way to escape to the north, to freedom from the unspeakable griefs of slavery, what did he really have to lose? 

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His method: shipping himself in a wooden crate 350 miles to Philadelphia. Henry’s story is at once heartbreaking and triumphant. The magnificent illustrations of Kadir Nelson very deservedly won him a Caldecott Honor. Don’t miss this one, for ages 4 or 5 and up. A short Author’s Note adds a few more details to Henry’s story.

freedom river cover imageFreedom River, by Doreen Rappaport, pictures by Bryan Collier
published in 2000 by Jump at the Sun, Hyperion Books for Children

In this riveting story, you’ll meet an almost unbelievably brave named John Parker. And I don’t think you’ll ever be able to forget him.

He lived in Ripley, Ohio, just across the river from the slave state of Kentucky. John had been born a slave, earned enough money to buy his freedom, and become a successful businessman. That’s the short version, skipping over a whale of a lot of misery, clamor, and initiative which you can learn in the book’s Historical Note.

freedom river illustration bryan collier

But John wasn’t content with only freedom and comfort for himself. Instead he became one of the most active, bold conductors on the Underground Railroad. This book tells of his relentless pursuit of one young family and how he risked his life again and again to usher them to freedom. Incredible. 

One of the things I love about Bryan Collier is that in his Illustrator Notes he shares rich insights about how and why he pieces together the elements of his commanding, award-winning collages. Don’t miss reading these Notes! You and your kids will learn a lot about the subject, and become more art-literate at the same time. Ages 4 and up.

night boat to freedom cover imageNight Boat to Freedom, by Margot Theis Raven, pictures by E.B. Lewis
published in 2006 by Melanie Kroupa Books, Farrar Straus and Giroux

Here’s another story of a young man risking all to bring slaves across the river from Kentucky to Ohio. It is inspired by accounts taken down by WPA writers who compiled slave narratives during the 30s.

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This young man, Christmas John, is far younger than John Parker, though. Just 12 years old when he ferries his first passenger across in the dead of night, quieting the oars, straining to see the light of the stationmaster who waits on the far shore. After that first success, John keeps up his rescue work for years, until it’s finally too dangerous for him and dear Granny Judith to stay a moment longer.

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Margot Raven has constructed some beautiful, winning characters here after immersing herself in hundreds and hundreds of fascinating interviews of ex-slaves. E.B. Lewis is one of my favorite illustrators, and here again his masterful watercolor work brings these people and scenery and emotions to life with strength and beauty. Ages 5 and up.

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I am thrilled over the ever-growing shelves of exceptional books shining a light on issues of racial justice. Today I’ve got five, all new in 2015, and I hope you read every one!

You would be amazed how much depth of understanding you can gain and how many facets of the Civil Rights Movement you can learn about through excellent picture books created by gifted authors and artists. And they’re not just for children, either. I learn many new things from picture books.

Take a look, and then search my Subject Index under Black History/Civil Rights Movement for many more powerful titles.

granddaddy's turn cover imageGranddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box, by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, illustrated by James E. Ransome
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

Michael’s granddaddy is a hard-working, strong man, kind, patient as the day is long when the two of them sit together fishing, waiting for a bite.

One surprising day, Granddaddy dresses up in his Sunday best, hugs Grandma jubilantly, and takes Michael by the hand. Off they walk on a mysterious errand. Michael cannot imagine where they’re going!

granddaddy's turn interior bandy, stein, and ransome

Turns out it’s voting day, and for Granddaddy, who has awaited this moment for a long and weary time, it’s the happiest moment of his life. You can understand, then, how bitterly Michael feels when a long day of disrespect and a gallingly-unfair voting test deprive his grandpa from casting his ballot.

Many years later, grown-up Michael does vote, a privilege with a weight of meaning for him.

Rich, dignified strength pours from James Ransome’s paintings in his striking faces and figures and the autumnal palette. An Author’s Note tells more about the manner in which voting rights were denied for so long to African Americans until the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Ages 5 and up.

new shoes cover imageNew Shoes, by Susan Lynn Meyer, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
published in 2015 by Holiday House

Here is a prime example of a picture book that taught me something new, revealing a facet of Jim Crow I had never realized existed and sharpening my understanding of the pain and dehumanizing scourge of racism.

It is almost unbelievable to me that this was accepted practice it is so absurd and humiliating, but African Americans under Jim Crow were not allowed to try on clothes, hats, or shoes in stores. I can hardly bear to write that.

new shoes illustration eric velasquez

This lovely story manages to present this ugly situation in such a way as to emphasize the grace, dignity, and shrewdness with which two young girls circumvented that problem. I love the approach. Award-winning illustrator Eric Velasquez matches that tone with his beautiful little girls, and all of the eagerness, innocence, pain, and resourcefulness expressed on their faces.

An Author’s Note explains the nature of Jim Crow segregation more fully. Ages 4 or 5 and up.

voice of freedom cover imageVoice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

The gorgeous cover image on this book echoes the fortitude and zeal of Fannie Lou Hamer. Her life story is narrated through a series of riveting free verse poems in this powerful book.

voice of freedom illustration3 ekua holmes

What a life this woman led. Born in 1917, the granddaughter of slaves, youngest of 20 children in a Mississippi sharecropper’s household. A childhood of intense poverty, polio, discrimination. Deprived of the right to bear children by duplicitous doctors. Threatened and severely beaten as she worked for equal rights. Struggling. Marching. Singing. Encouraging. Refusing to sit down on the job.

Reading these poems is an extraordinary introduction to Hamer’s life and a gut-wrenching walk through 50 years of civil rights history for anyone ages 10 and up.

voice of freedom illustration ekua holmes

Then, Ekua Holmes’ artwork! Wow. I’m speechless. Simply stunning collage work that’s vigorous, textured, throbbing with dignity and the indomitable figure of Fannie Lou. Tropical, earthy colors dominate the pages, yet sun-hot gold radiates into each illustration as well, symbolic of the light of justice carried by these courageous people. Last week, Holmes was awarded a well-deserved Caldecott Honor for this book. To see more of her ravishing work, please visit her website. I think you’re going to want to buy some of her prints.

seeds of freedom cover imageSeeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama, by Hester Bass, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
published in 2015 by Candlewick Press

Obviously, the tone of many, if not most, books on civil rights accents grit, injustice, perseverance through pain and struggle — and rightly so.

If you look at the cover of Seeds of Freedom, the candy-colored balloons floating up into a blue sky, so airy, light spilling onto upturned faces, you sense right away that this book’s focus is hope. And that’s a nice contrast.

seeds of freedom illustration2 e.b. lewis

It’s not that the struggle is absent. The entire background, the soil in which these seeds of freedom are planted, is racism and segregation. People are arrested for sitting at a lunch counter. A baby goes to jail! Children are turned away from schools. Leaders spout hateful speech.

Yet the trajectory of the book is upward and hope-filled. Interestingly, even one element that helped bring desegregation to Huntsville without violence — the space program — has rockets heading up, up to the moon. It’s an interesting story, well-told, with narrative that flows and informs with ease.

seeds of freedom illustration e.b. lewis

E.B. Lewis’ gorgeous paintings are dappled with light at nearly every turn. There is soberness, even bleakness, and at the very worst, the “light” appears more like metallic shards amidst a confusion of dark terror. But the overall feeling you get from his art is the light.

Ages 6 and up. A lengthy Author’s Note outlines a great deal of civil rights history, written for older readers.

the case for loving cover imageThe Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, by Selina Alko, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
published in 2015 by Arthur A. Levine Books

I think no other picture book has addressed this issue before, and husband-wife team Selina Alko and Sean Qualls have handled it impressively.

Incredibly, the name of the husband and wife who won the Supreme Court case declaring it unconstitutional to make interracial marriage a crime, was Loving. Richard and Mildred Loving. Making a slam dunk title for this book!

the case for loving illustration qualls and alko

It tells the story of how these two met in Virginia in 1958, fell in love, and then crossed into Washington, D.C. to have a legal marriage ceremony. And of how, back in Virginia, police barged into their home in the middle of the night and arrested them for “unlawful cohabitation.” The Lovings were forced to move to D.C. in order to live together as a family, but began the court fight which, in 1967, was decided by a unanimous Supreme Court ruling.

The tone of the narration is calm and direct. The beauty of the races, and the joy and love of this couple, shine out in both language and warm, valentine-heart-studded illustrations. Then, on a dime, we turn the corner and slam into the pain of injustice. Yet even with the grief of this situation, the story glides strongly toward the happily-ever-after conclusion.

the case for loving illustration2 qualls and alko

Striking illustrations draw us into the story and bond us immediately with this likeable Loving family. An Author’s Note talks about the blending of Alko’s and Qualls’ styles and temperaments as they co-labored on the artwork, and a bit of their personal story. Ages 5 and up.

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The biggest U.S. awards for Children’s Lit were awarded yesterday and I am super-happy with the results! Congratulations to all the talented authors and illustrators whose efforts are such a gift to us.

The Newbery is arguably the grand prize, given for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” and this year it went to not only my favorite book of the year — I’ve been recommending it over and over — but a picture book!

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You have to look back over 30 years to see the only other picture book to win the Newbery, and that was a poetry compilation, quite different from this year’s winner: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson.

On top of that, it won a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Honor for Illustration.  And an Orange Marmalade Juicy, mind you! WOW. And thoroughly deserved. Read my original review here.

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The Caldecott Medal, which is awarded to the artist of the year’s most distinguished picture book, went to an extraordinarily-lovely book, Finding Winnie, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, whose color and line are like velvet in everything she does. I adore this book. Gave it to my daughter for Christmas, as we are fellow Winnie-the-Pooh aficionados. My review of it is here.

Other books I’ve reviewed this year that won top honors are:

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Echo — Newbery Honor. My review is here.

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Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement — Caldecott Honor. My review for that is coming up on Monday as part of my MLK Day post. It’s stunning! Ekua Holmes also won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award for her work on this book.

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Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah won the Schneider Family Book Award given to books that “embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.” My review is here.

the wonderful fluffy little squishy cover image

The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award, given to most outstanding book translated from a foreign language and published in the U.S. I love looking through the Batchelder lists to find good reads. This one is a total charmer. My review is here.

the boys who challenged hitler cover image

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club won a Sibert Honor. The Sibert award is for most distinguished informational book for children. I just reviewed this fantastic book, here.

turning 15 on the road to freedom cover image

Also winning a Sibert Honor is Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom. This book appeared on my Orange Marmalade Juicy lists as well. Fantastic. My original review is here.

And also winning a Sibert Honor is the aforementioned Voice of Freedom, so be sure to stop back on Monday to read about this book and other fabulous Civil Rights reads.

supertruck cover image

Supertruck, which I reviewed here, won a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor. These awards honor distinguished books for the beginning reader.

symphony for the city of the dead cover image

Finally, Symphony for the City of the Dead was a YALSA for Excellence in Nonfiction finalist. This award is given to Young Adult Lit, which I do not much review. But I couldn’t help myself with this monumental book. Read my review of it here.

There are so many other great titles on the ALA awards lists, many of which I’ll be going back to read in the next weeks and months to be sure. You can find all of the awards listed here.

 

 

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il_570xN.848762486_49ptI remember that as a child, each New Year’s Day felt immensely consequential. With one flip of the page, an entire calendar, a year stuffed with life, was over; past instead of present. A weirdly sacred finality accompanied the rite of taking it down from the nail on my bedroom wall and chinging it into the garbage can. Voop. Gone. And a tingly new year lay ahead, shadowy with mystery,  vintage-calendar-januarystretching out long and somehow both empty and full at the same time.

January in northern Minnesota was always, predictably, frozen. A time to head to the ragged, outdoor rink night after night for frosty-breathed ice-skating. We knew we were in for months more of winter before the briefest of springs, a short summer, one glorious blast of fall, and then… winter again. You had better love winter to live in the North! 

Every season has its loveliness. As we begin 2016, here are six books that call our attention to the beauty of the seasons:

a bear's year cover imageA Bear’s Year, by Kathy Duval, illustrated by Gerry Turley
published in 2015 by Schwartz & Wade Books

A bulky, frowsy, Mama Bear and her two snuggly cubs mosey and grow through the year in this fetching book.

Brief, poetic text guides us from their quiet den under northern lights, out into spring carousing, summer feasting, autumn sheltering, before tucking them back into a cozy den in a snowy, sleepy world.

a bear's year interior duval and turley

Gerry Turley’s wonderful illustrations capture the galumptious bears and the glories of their rambling wilderness — frosty nights, spring glades graced by elegant paper birches, bushes spangled with persimmon berries, mountainsides garbed in glowing russets and golds. Really gorgeous work here, in bold, up-close views that plant us right in their midst.

a bear's year interior2 duval and turley

A fabulous treat to share with children 18-months and up.

a child's calender cover imageA Child’s Calendar, poems by John Updike, illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman
poems first published in 1965; published with new illustrations in 1999 by Holiday House

John Updike was a Pulitzer-prize winning, every-award-winning, American novelist who also wrote this joyful volume of children’s poetry in 1965.

His twelve, brief poems explore the gem-like qualities of each month, both in the natural world and in the children’s world of activities. So, in January, The days are short/the sun a spark/hung thin between/the dark and dark. Fat snowy footprints/track the floor/and parkas pile up/near the door. Nature and recreation, side by side.

a child's calendar illustration2 trina schart hyman

One of the lovely elements of these poems, then, is the children’s interaction with the outdoor world, the active, playful, creative, pastimes which occupy them throughout the year. Idyllic and refreshingly naive.

They were originally illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert, then republished 30 years later with a tiny bit of editing by Updike, this time illustrated by the masterful Trina Schart Hyman.  She won a Caldecott Honor for her work.

a child's calendar illustration trina schart hyman

It’s gorgeous, as all of her work is, and what I find especially appealing is that she incorporated a multiracial cast in a book set firmly in small town/rural New England. Far too often African American children in picture books are limited to urban scenes, yet here we have a beautiful mish-mash of folks sledding, gardening, tumbling in deep drifts of Maple leaves, and wading through reedy ponds.

It’s a timeless collection for children ages 2 and up.

antler bear canoe cover imageAntler, Bear, Canoe: A Northwoods Alphabet Year, written and illustrated by Betsy Bowen
published in 1991 by Houghton Mifflin

Betsy Bowen is a Minnesota artist, an exceptional woodblock printmaker from wayyyy up north in the tiny, picturesque, Lake Superior town of Grand Marais.

You’ll fall in love with her artwork in this alphabet book which walks us through the seasons in the north woods.

Dominated by her bold, striking woodcuts, the pages move from winter, to spring, summer, fall, and close in the frozen depths of winter again. Fitting, for a home town perched at such a northerly latitude.

antler bear canoe illustration betsy bowen

Whether it’s D is for Dogsledding, K is for Kayak, or S is for Saw, Bowen adds just a few lines, chatting about how this is part of her experience living in this place. In September, “we cut firewood to keep us warm all winter. When we stop our chain saw to add gas and oil, we can hear our neighbor’s saw way off through the woods.”

antler bear canoe illustration2 besty bowen

Immerse yourself in the beauty of the northwoods and in the vigorous, outdoor activities loved by folks who live there. I hope you’re inspired by the sense of community she relates as well as the close-to-nature life she describes. Ages 3 and up.

snowy flowy blowy cover imageSnowy, Flowy, Blowy: A Twelve Months Rhyme, written and illustrated by Nancy Tafuri
published in 1999 by Scholastic Press

Nancy Tafuri is a genius at books for the very young; this one is perfect for the youngest of bookworms.

Each month gets just one word. That’s it. Based on an old poem by Gregory Gander, a poet who lived from 1745-1815, the rhyme progresses in 3-word triplets: Snowy, Flowy, Blowy. Showery, Flowery, Bowery.

snowy blowy flowy illustration nancy tafuri

Double-spreads on big pages bloom with glorious, wall-to-wall illustration. Tafuri’s clear, bold art grabs our attention and rivets it to her simplified, endearing forms. Every month we spy children playing out of doors, and also meet beautiful birds and other wildlife and plant life.

There’s also a little black dog to spot in every scene. It’s got a sweet, old-fashioned feel, for kids ages 1-3.

cozy light cozy night cover imageCozy Light, Cozy Night, written and illustrated by Elisa Kleven
published in 2013 by Creston Books

Elisa Kleven’s color-spattered, jubilant scenes carry us through a cozy, happy year, this time beginning with Autumn and closing out with Summer. So, if you’re tired of beginning with January and wintertime, here’s a nice change of pace.

Cozy Light Cozy Night interior elisa kleven

The months spin by to the tune of a skippety, frolicsome, boundlessly-happy, rhyming text. Again, I love that Kleven features children of diverse races, indoors and out, urban and rural, engaged in a marvelous, kaleidoscope of creative activities — baseball and beachcombing, popcorn parties and pumpkin patches, singing and swinging. There is so much to look at on every page.

Cozy Light Cozy Night interior2 elisa kleven

I just dare you to read this and feel grumpy. It’s a splendid choice for ages 2 and up.

my year cover imageMy Year, by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake
published in 1993 by Viking Penguin

And finally, this lovely journal/memoir written by Roald Dahl during the last year of his life and published posthumously more than 20 years ago.

It’s a conversational meandering through the months. I felt myself to be sitting, relaxed, in Dahl’s home, Gypsy House, nestled in the Chiltern Hills between London and Oxford, hearing about the countryside he loved over a cup of tea. He is pointing out many English birds, telling me their names — willow my year illustration quentin blakewarblers and chiffchaffs and hedge sparrows — and describing their small habits including all the nastiness of the cuckoo, a bird Dahl loves to hate. The trees and hedges, too, are not simply a mass of green but a beloved collection of individuals: hawthorns with blossoms like snow, guelder-roses with their scarlet berries, and horse-chestnut trees whose conkers were just the thing for epic contests among Dahl and his schoolfellows.

So, there’s an outpouring of nature lore here, expressed with palpable fondness, clearly the result of many, many hours quietly observing and relishing the open spaces around him. Dahl is no lover of the city.

Mixed in with these almanac-type comments are rabbit trails of remembrances of various escapades from his youth. Hair-raising adventures collecting birds’ eggs, annual Easter vacations, an illicit motorbike stashed away and ridden in gleeful disguise during his my year illustration2 quentin blakelast school term, and a humorous story of a booby trap he built with his Meccano set at around age nine. Bit of A Child’s Christmas in Wales feel.

Dahl does not hold to a sentimental view of life. At times he sounds just a titch like your grandfather who walked seven miles to school in the snow barefoot…but we’ll grant him that. For what a life he led, and what a world he saw, and how he upends our pretentions with his wild storytelling.

This book is clearly aimed, by Dahl, at young readers, maybe ages 12 and up. I don’t know how many kids out there are interested in memoir per se. For those willing to give it a try, and for adults, this is a quiet gem. Quentin Blake’s loose, tender watercolors are the perfect, final collaboration between two giants of children’s lit.

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vilage menIf you follow Orange Marmalade you know that when my children were small, our family lived in West Africa. Nearly everyone in that vast, dusty land was a Muslim.

These were the people who welcomed us in when we were strangers. Patiently put up with me when I could not figure out how to ask, “How much for the Djibril and Gretabananas?”  Danced for joy when our daughter was born.  Sat with us in comforting solidarity when we were violently robbed. Shared with us out of their poverty. Loved my kids with warm hearts when we were far from extended family. Rejoiced with us mama rochellewhen our daughter survived cerebral malaria.

Here in Minneapolis, we have become friends with some from that same Muslim community and once again, their generosity, faithful friendship, readiness to overlook our faults, makes them some of our dearest, truest friends.

So, as you can imagine, I am outraged and deeply saddened by the xenophobic, anti-Muslim rhetoric spewing around our country these weeks. Not only by the vociferous voices of a sad number of guys with microphones, but by the bleating chorus of those who applaud them. Truly, my heart is crushed. Yet hopeful, too. It is beautiful to hear so many stand to denounce these fear mongering notions.

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We must teach our children, and remind ourselves, how to welcome the stranger, show hospitality to those far from familiar faces and homes, comfort those whose lives have been shattered by violence, live in peace with those whose beliefs are other than our Muslim-and-Christian-Girls-1000x1024-e1430827324469own. We must teach our kids to listen, to learn from, and to empathize with people who look, speak, behave, eat, dress, pray, differently than we do. What richness there is in the diverse cultures of the worldwide human race.

Every day is always the right time to plant seeds of kindness and peaceableness in kids’ hearts. Reading others’ stories is one place to begin. To that end, I’ve pulled together some titles. Those I’ve reviewed before are linked to their full reviews. The others I’m only mentioning so this blog does not run on far too long BUT they are great choices. I’ve marked the picture books with an asterisk:

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Books about Islam/Islamic Cultures:

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*Deep in the Sahara
A Mauritanian girl longs to wear a veil like her mama.

 

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*Going to Mecca, by Na’ima B. Robert, illustrated by Valentina Cavallini, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books in 2012
Great guided tour of all the events of a hajj for ages 5 and up.

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*The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust, by Karen Gray Ruelle, illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix, published in 2009 by Holiday House
Fascinating history of heroism for ages 8 to adult.

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*I See the Sun in Afghanistan, by Dedie King, translation into Dari by Mohd Vahidi, illustrations by Judith Inglese, published in 2011 by Satya House Publications
A look at an ordinary day for a family of Afghani Muslims. Ages 4 and up.

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*Lailah’s Lunchbox:A Ramadan Story, by Reem Faruqi, illustrated by Lea Lyon, published in 2015 by Tilbury House Publishers
A young girl wrestles with keeping the fast during school. Ages 5 and up.

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*Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali
The story of perhaps the wealthiest man in the history of the world.

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*Mosque,
written and illustrated by David Macaulay, published in 2003 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Macaulay is a master at teaching us how things are made. Ages 11 to adult.

my name was hussein cover image*My Name was Hussein, by Hristo Kyuchukov, illustrated by Allan Eitzen, published in 2004 by Boyds Mill Press
A fascinating story about a Roma Muslim family in Bulgaria during WWII. Ages 5 and up.
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*Mystery Bottle
An Iranian grandpa and his grandson long to be together.

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*Nabeel’s New Pants: An Eid Tale, retold by Fawzia Gilani-Williams, illustrations by Proiti Roy, published in India in 2007; published by Marshall Cavendish in 2010
A funny tale about dressing up for Eid. Ages 3 and up.

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*Nasreen’s Secret School
A courageous story of educating girls under the Taliban.

 

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*Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story, by Hena Khan, illustrated by Julie Paschkis, published in 2008 by Chronicle Books

Yasmeen loves all the celebrations and traditions of the month of Ramadan.

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*A Party in Ramadan
, by Asma Mobin-Uddin, illustrated by Laura Jacobsen, published in 2009 by Boyds Mill Press
A birthday party during Ramadan presents a challenge for a young girl. Ages 5 and up.

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*Ramadan Moon, by Na’ima B. Robert, illustrated by Shirin Adl, published in 2009 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

A walk through the practices of the month of Ramadan. Ages 4 and up.

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*Razia’s Ray of Hope
A girl yearns for schooling in Afghanistan.

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*Sundiata: Lion King of Mali
A dazzling story of the ancient Mali empire.

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*Time to Pray, by Maha Addasi, Arabic Translation by Nuha Albitar, illustrated by Ned Gannon, published in 2010 by Boyds Mill Press

The practice of prayer in Islam. Ages 4 and up.

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*Traveling Man:The Journey of Ibn Battuta
The fascinating travels of a medieval Muslim.

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*The White Nights of Ramadan, by Maha Addasi, illustrated by Ned Gannon, published in 2008 by Boyds Mill Press
A story about the celebrations mid-way through Ramadan. Ages 5 and up.
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Books about the refugee experience:

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The Arrival
Powerful graphic novel about bewildering newness.

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Children Growing Up With War
, written and illustrated by Jenny Matthews, published in 2014 by Candlewick
Heartbreaking true stories from a photojournalist. Fantastic read for ages 11 to adult.

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The Day My Father Became a  Bush
An affecting story of flight amid war.

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*Four Feet Two Sandals
A sweet story from a refugee camp.

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*Hamzat’s Journey
The true story of one Chechnyan refugee.

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Home of the Brave
A marvelous novel of a Sudanese refugee to Minnesota.

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The House of Sixty Fathers
Incredible novel of a little Chinese boy during WWII.

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*How Many Days to America
A harrowing journey across the Caribbean to the U.S.

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*I’m New Here, written and illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien, published in 2015 by Charlesbridge

Guatemalan, Korean, and Somali immigrant children cope with their arrival in U.S. schools. Ages 5 and up.

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Inside Out and Back Again
The moving story of a Vietnamese refugee.

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A Long Walk to Water
The story of one of Sudan’s Lost Boys.

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*Mali Under the Night Sky
A young girl’s flight from Laos.

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The Red Pencil
A story of one girl’s trauma at the hands of Sudanese rebels.
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A few golden favorites inspiring kindness, compassion, empathy, all with links to my full reviews:

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*Boxes for Katje

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*A Chair for My Mother

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*Chicken Sunday

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*Christmas Eve at the Mellops

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*Crow Boy

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*Dogger

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*Emma’s Poem:The Voice of the Statue of Liberty

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Gus and Grandpa and the Christmas Cookies

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The Hundred Dresses

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*If You Plant a Seed

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*The Junkyard Wonders

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*Last Stop on Market Street

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*My Heart Will Not Sit Down

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Twenty and Ten

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Wonder

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