Posts Tagged ‘diverse children’s books’
Posted in non-fiction, tagged biography, book reviews, children's literature, diverse children's books, gender equality, gender stereotypes, heroes, nonfiction, women's history month on March 15, 2017| 2 Comments »
A friend of mine recently related that she had been stopped cold one day when her four-year-old daughter declared, “Girls can’t be heroes. Only boys can.”
This shocked young mama promptly sewed her daughter a cape and held a Hero Day. Together they found lots of ways that even a four-year-old could be a hero-in-training.
Little girls (and boys) pick up the most unfortunate things at such early ages from the ocean of air they live in called our culture. One of those is, sadly, a feeling of limitations on what girls are allowed to dream of doing and becoming.
Enter this gem of a book chock full of heroic women.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, compiled by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, illustrated by sixty female artists from around the world
published in 2016 by Timbuktu Labs
One hundred, one-page stories of heroic women are gathered in these pages and I am telling you, your heart will burn with gladness as you read them! Women from ancient times and in the news today. Women from all corners of the globe and every race.
Dancers and doctors and film directors. Spies and scientists and war heroes. A race car driver. An orchestra conductor. And my personal favorite, a poet/baker.
The stories are super short. Each takes about a minute to read. They’re written with a hint of the fairy tale about them. Once there was a curious girl…or Once upon a time there was a girl who…making them tasty as can be for a bedtime snack.
It is no small feat to capture these women’s lives and contributions in such a short passage, retaining her individuality, highlighting something that glints with fascination, and reading not like a wikipedia article but rather an enticing sneak peek at a life you’ll certainly want to explore further. I thoroughly enjoyed reading my way through the whole volume but be aware that these are far from in-depth. That’s how we get 100 of them!
Accompanying the stories are a-ma-zing full-page portraits created by an international collection of women artists. Oh, their work is stunning. I love the variety of styles and immense strength exuding from each one. Riveting.
At the close of these accounts there’s space for the book’s owner to write her own story and draw her own portrait. A brilliant touch.
I’d peg this book for ages 7 and up. There is one account of a young, transgender girl, but beyond that there is no discussion of sexuality. Issues such as depression, violence, child marriage, the Holocaust, are softened with tact. It was funded by crowdsourcing and is not available through Amazon. You can order a copy by heading to their website here, and I hope many of you will.
The Journey, written and illustrated by Francesca Sanna
published in 2016 by Flying Eye Books
I’ll just tell you right from the start — this stunning book is one of my all-time favorites of 2016.
The plight of the refugee.
How hardhearted would a person have to be to not feel the anguish, the immense loss, the tearing away from home, perhaps forever; the distress, misery, vulnerability, and abject terror that heaves itself upon ordinary people —
young moms leading small, forlorn children;
elderly men and women straggling away from villages which sheltered them all their lives; traumatized ones still in mourning; desperate, anxious, young men, fleeing the threat of conscription into armies requiring unspeakable violence.
Not a world any of them imagined being a part of.
And yet…the images and stories engulfing our world in the past several years are so relentless and overwhelming. Their sheer volume threatens to numb us against this grief.
Francesca Sanna’s phenomenal book, however, brilliantly, incisively sets us in the midst of just one family plunged into war, to experience along with them their chaotic nightmare.
A loving family. The encroaching darkness of war spills into their lives like black ink flooding across a cherished picture, overtaking them.
A father gone. A heartsick mother gathers her children to flee. Covert, exhausting, staggering — the phases of their journey unfold like ominous scenes from a Hitchcock film.
Sanna’s gorgeous images — her minute figures set against an enormity of obstacles — set our nerves on edge. By contrast, the palpable love and togetherness of this mother and her children tenderize and warm our hearts. I was staggered by her work, the way she captures the tumult and emotion of the refugee experience.
This journey ends in hope. Anything else would be unbearable for the young children whose hearts will be moved, certainly, by this story.
As we head into a time of gathering together for various holidays, it seems the perfect time of year to share this gorgeous book in our households and consider together what small role we might play in the relief of suffering for the displaced.
Highly recommended for ages 3 to 100.
Posted in fiction, graphic novels, tagged Bedouin, book reviews, children's literature, diverse children's books, falconry, graphic novels, robots, Sahara Desert, Saluki hounds on June 8, 2016| Leave a Comment »
I’ve got three books today, all short on pages yet long on interest.
Any of them could be read aloud to children ages 4-5 and up, or handed to an independent reader looking for something to finish in a sitting or two.
Opening this jolly graphic novel is like opening a new pan of watercolors — colorful and anticipatory!
The City Zoo is in quite a sad state of disrepair, so Red Panda and Hippo set off to find jobs and make new lives among the humans. Red Panda exudes confidence, though he leaves disaster in his wake, getting fired from one job after another. Hippo’s the trusting sidekick, oblivious to his mammoth talents in every assigned task.
Eventually Hippo tires of the job hunt and returns to the zoo where his newly-acquired skills bear some surprising fruit!
The shortest word count on today’s list, plus cheerful illustration work and a warmly humorous story line combine to make this a breezy treat. Grab it for reluctant readers, too!
Wendel and the Robots, written and illustrated by Chris Riddell
published in 2015 by Macmillan Children’s Books
This short adventure is sort of a disguised picture book. Its trim size — about 6″x7″ — makes it look like a Slightly-More-Important, tiny chapter book, just the ticket for a sturdy new reader, perhaps.
Chris Riddell is the master of the fantastical for youngsters. Unusual stories of quirky oddities seem to pour from his pen.
This one’s about an inventive mouse named Wendel who designs a couple of robots to help him keep his workshop clean and all manner of chaos results!
Scrumptious language, with endearing and crazed illustrations that woo us effortlessly onward make this a winner.
Saluki, Hound of the Bedouin, by Julia Johnson, illustrations by Susan Keeble
published in 2005 by Stacey International
By far the longest of today’s stories at 55 pages, this jewel comes from the UK, from the hand of an exceptional storyteller with extensive time spent in the Middle East. It reminds me quite a lot of the short, international stories created by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham such as Cloud Tea Monkeys.
That’s because the setting — the Sahara Desert — and its Bedouin cast of characters are gorgeously embroidered upon the fabric of the storyline, as it were, while silky-smooth language effortlessly unreels a fascinating tale.
Hamad is a Bedouin boy, eager to join the men hunting with their Saluki hounds and hooded falcons. Join him as he awaits a new litter of pups, discovers which is to be his, learns the patience necessary to train her, and encounters serious testings for both himself and his devoted dog, Sougha.
Copious cultural details are masterfully woven into the story. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Hamad and learning about this vanishing way of life. Keeble’s gorgeous watercolors gleam with sunlight and heat and further our understanding of these people and their homeland.
Read this one to ages 5 and up in installments, or hand it to a reader undaunted by the sprinkle of Arabic vocabulary. A glossary is included.
While we wait for the new 2016 picture books to come into our libraries and book shops, I thought I’d remind you of a few older titles full of happy surprises and smiles.
They come from one classic American author, as well as a few Brits, Swedes, and one Kiwi…
I’ll start with one of Ezra Jack Keats’ lesser known picture books:
Hi, Cat! written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats
published in 1970 by Viking
Archie and Peter are two brothers with vivid imaginations, and they’ve cooked up a grand surprise for the other kids in the neighborhood. It is quite a show!
Along the way, a little dog named Willie (who pops up in other Keats titles) and a stray cat barge into the performance. Alley oops! Laugh along at the chaos, and wink at the irony on the final page. Pure Keats delight, for ages 2 and up.
Down the Back of the Chair, by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
published in 2006 by Clarion Books
As we all know, the dreaded depths Underneath the Chair Cushions tend to be an Aladdin’s cave of murky treasures. Usually it’s stray kernels of popcorn, the odd pencil, a Cheerio or three, and a grimy penny.
You will never believe what this family finds down the back of their chair as they search for Dad’s car keys! Margaret Mahy’s preposterous humor careens through this story, illustrated with Dunbar’s zoingy, riotous, color and line. A blast for ages 2 and up.
Eat Up, Gemma, by Sarah Hayes, illustrated by Jan Ormerod
published in 1988 by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books
Little Gemma has turned into a bit of a finicky eater, tossing breakfast on the floor, squishing her grapes, feeding her cookies, even, to the birds.
But oh, dear! You won’t believe what ends up looking tasty to her!! Or how her clever big brother saves the day. This is one of our family’s all-time favorites. Read it again and again with children 18 months and up.
Boo and Baa Have Company, written and illustrated by Olof and Lena Landström, translated from the Swedish by Joan Sandin
first American edition 2006 by R&S Books
Boo and Baa are just trying to rake up the leaves, but their work is snaggled by a stray cat. (How did two troublesome cats sneak onto the list today?!)
From one obstacle to the next, Boo and Baa have quite a muddlesome day. I give them an A+ for effort, but I think after all, the cat wins. There are a number of Boo and Baa stories, though my library has only this one. It’s a delight for ages 2 and up. Maybe you’ll have luck finding some of the others.
Alfie Wins a Prize, written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes
published in 2004 by The Bodley Head
Finally, I can’t resist urging more of you to find your way to the Alfie stories, if you haven’t already.
In this episode, Alfie and Annie Rose are off to the Harvest Fair, a lovely jumble of cake contests, second-hand toy booths, neighborhood pet show, and most importantly for Alfie, a children’s painting competition.
All our old, dear friends — Bernard, Maureen MacNally, Min — are here enjoying the day. And Alfie, whose big sister Bella has modeled generosity so dearly in the Dogger story, finds a way to win at kindness today, too. All the joy of this multicultural neighborhood and the authentic childish outlook are here, along with Hughes’ brilliant artwork. Ages 3 and up.
Posted in fiction, tagged bengal tigers, children of military parents, children's literature, civil rights, diverse children's books, endangered species, environmentalism, india, loss, middle grad novels, pacifism, racial reconciliation, ranching, school integration, Sunderbans on February 3, 2016| 2 Comments »
I’ve met a bunch of awesome kids recently in the three novels highlighted today, all of whom I’d love to introduce to you.
They’re coming from widely different locations — a farm in the American South, an island off the coast of India, a ranch in Oregon. Each of them encounters substantial adversity and meets it with an authentic mixture of courage, reluctance, fear, and deep questions about life. All great choices for middle-grade readers and book clubs.
Sarah Willis has her life turned upside down in one split second when her younger sister, Robin, is critically injured on Sarah’s watch.
Over the next months, Sarah is engulfed in guilt and terrified about her sister’s injuries. She longs to experience peace and forgiveness, but isn’t convinced it’s possible for her, not while Robin still lies in a hospital bed.
Sarah moves to her grandparents’ farm during this crisis, into their warm, accepting embrace, and just down the road from her best friend, an African American girl named Ruby Lee.
As Sarah and Ruby start school, more difficulties await them. School integration has come to Shady Creek, and along with it the area’s first African American teacher for the predominantly white students.
Sarah navigates all this with some huge missteps, then has to find her way back with the help of her teacher, her faith, and her solid heart. Beautifully written characters interact with honesty in this great read for ages 9 and up.
Neel lives on an island of the Sunderbans, a tropical home of salty creeks, flowering jasmine, and wild guavas off the coast of India. It’s a home Neel loves to the core of his being, but it’s a tough place to make a living.
That’s why when the corrupt businessman, Gupta, pays men to harvest rare sundari trees or bully widows for rent payments, even good men like Neel’s father turn their backs on long-held values to earn his rupees.
Now, a tiger cub, normally protected in a reserve, has gone missing and Gupta is offering a huge reward for it. Neel and his sister know Gupta means to sell the skin and body parts on the black market if anyone captures it for him. Despite the immense dangers, they’re determined to find it first and return it to safety.
Meanwhile, another treasure is at stake: Neel’s future. He’s a bright student, who could bring honor and success to his family if he’d agree to move far from home for a good education. But the loss of his home-life is not something Neel is willing to accept.
Mitali Perkins weaves Neel’s inner turmoil and outward adventure together brilliantly in a marvelously diverse setting. Excellent, fast read (132 pages) with an environmental message and resources to learn more about efforts to save Bengal Tigers and bring about holistic development to the Sunderbans region. Ages 9 and up.
Brother is 11 years old, the youngest of five boys living with his dad and grandparents on their ranch in Eastern Oregon. As his story opens, his father has just received orders to head with his Army Reserve unit to Iraq for 14 months. That seems like an eternity to Brother.
With his older brothers off at their own military assignments and schools, Brother finds himself the only one left to help his grandparents keep the ranch going. Those tasks are brutally hard, and Brother has never been so sure that he’s cut out for either ranching or the military anyway, as generations of Aldermans before him seem to have been.
So there’s a raft of anxieties snarling in Brother’s heart and mind — about his dad’s safety, his grandparents’ health, the bum lambs he’s tending, the promise he made to his dad to keep the ranch in good shape, and his own misgivings about who he is meant to be. Brother doggedly moves forward with the wise help of his extraordinary grandparents — his Catholic grandmother and Quaker, pacifist grandfather — and the new priest in town, Father Ziegler.
This story is unusually deep, honest, and tender, probing issues of faith, calling, and identity in children. Deep chords of grief run through the story, yet the strength of these characters support us all the way through. Ages 10 and up.
P.S. Can I just say that I really dislike the cover of this book? I don’t like to make negative comments here, but if you look at the cover and say, “Hmmm…not for me,” I just want to recommend that you ignore it and give the story a chance.
Posted in Caldecott Books, fiction, non-fiction, picture books, poetry, tagged bears, book reviews, children's literature, children's poetry, diverse children's books, kid's lit, outdoor play, poetry, recreation, roald dahl, seasons on January 4, 2016| 2 Comments »