Friday, May 26, 2017

A Diverse Picture Book Bonanza

I have quite a few picture books on my desk at the moment and I thought I would share some of my favorite diverse books with you. Some are new, some are old, all are excellent.
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist 
by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
Atheneum BFYR, 2017, Nonfiction, 40 pages, age 5+
I was very curious to read this picture book since I had already read We've Got A Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March, Cynthia Levinson's nonfiction book for older readers that featured Audrey Faye Hendricks. Imagine your 9 year old daughter telling you she wants to go to jail? Well, that's just was Audrey did. She skipped school and marched with other young people protesting segregation in Alabama. Told in the first person, Audrey clearly explains why she did what she did. This is an ideal book for introducing kids to Civil Rights Movement and Audrey's week in jail, with themes of courage and how one person can help make a difference. Newton's colorful digital illustrations catch much of the danger the young protesters faced from the moment they set out until they were released from jail.
You can download an extensive Teacher's Guide for The Youngest Marcher from Simon & Schuster HERE
The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara, illustrated by Sara Kahn
Lee & Low Books, 2016, Fiction, 40 pages, age 7+
Young Luli likes nothing better than to sit in the shade of an olive tree behind his house in Lebanon playing with his three cats, the three Lucys: Lucy the Fat, Lucy the Skinny, and Lucy Lucy. In the summer, when Luli goes to visit family in Beirut, he makes sure to leave the Lucys plenty of food and water. Beirut is exciting, and the visit is full of good food, music and especially books and stories. At the end of the weekend, they are almost home when suddenly there is a scream in the sky, followed by a loud boom and fiery flash in the sky. Luli, his mom and dad return to his aunt and uncle's home where they hope they will be safe, staying in the basement. As the day go by, and his family still can't go home, Luli begins to worry about his three Lucys. Finally, a cease-fire is called and the family prepares to return home. But what will they find after 34 days of fighting and bombing? Will their home still be standing? Or Luli's school? And what about the three Lucys? Have they survived the attacks? Will life ever be the same for Luli and everyone else affected by the fighting? I have always been interested in the way author's depict the impact of war on children and The Three Lucys is an excellent example of this. Young Luli learns how to deal with loss and grief, but finds strength within his family, and also sees how people are able to repair and rebuild their lives in the hope that the future will remain peaceful. Kahn's watercolor illustrations are a contrasting palette of peaceful warm and hostile cool colors, but capture the warmth of family love throughout. Be sure to read the Author's Note to find out more about the fighting that impacted Luli's life. 
You can download an extensive Teacher's Guide for The Three Lucys from Lee & Low HERE
The Water Princess: based on the childhood experience of Georgie Badiel 
by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2016, Fiction, 40 pages, age 5+
Gie Gie may think herself a princess who can do many things, but she cannot make the water come closer to her. So, every morning, before the sun is even up, young Gie Gie and her mother take their water pots and begin the miles long journey to get water for drinking, cooking, and washing body and clothes. When they finally get to the well, there is already a long line of women and girls waiting their turn to fill their water pots. When their turn comes, Gie Gie and her mother fill two pots and begin the long journey home... knowing that tomorrow will come much too quickly and the water pots will again need to be filled. In this simply told story, young readers will learn that not everyone can simply turn on the tap and immediately have clean, fresh water. Hopefully, Gie Gie's story will educate and generate some conversations about solutions to this problem. The illustrations are done in a palette of oranges, yellows capturing the heat of the days in this west African countryside, and the dark beauty of the clear, starry sky. 
To find out more about the problem of water in Africa, visit the Georgie Badiel Foundation.
Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Spearation
by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub
Dial BFYR, 2015, Fiction, 32 pages, age 5+
Saya, a young Haitian American girl, misses her mother more than anything. But her mother is being held in an immigration detention center. Saya and her father visit her mother every week, but she still misses her so much that each day she listens to the message her mother put on their phone's answer machine. One day, she accidentally erased the message and can no longer her her mother's voice. Then, Saya received a cassette tape in the mail, and that night she falls asleep listening to her mother singing, then telling her a bedtime story. Meanwhile, Saya's father writes letters to everyone - judges, politicians, TV reporters - all to no avail. One day, Saya asks to write her story, too. A few days later, a newspaper reporter calls and wants to talk to Saya. Her story is published, and is even told on TV. Her mother gets a hearing in front of a judge, is allowed to go home and wait there for her papers to be processed. This is, above all, a story about the impact that removing an undocumented parent who has committed no crimes has on her family. In 2015, when it was published, this book held possibility and hope for families caught in these circumstances. In 2017, that hope is gone, but the negative impact on a child remains. Staub's oil painted illustrations are colorful and whimsical, with blues and pinks predominating and reflecting a Haitian folk art style. 
The Anti-Defamation League has produced an excellent guide about Mama's Nightingale for educators which can be found HERE
Jamal's Journey written and illustrated by Michael Foreman
Anderson Press USA, 2017, Fiction, 32 pages, age 4+
Jamal is a young camel crossing the desert with a caravan for the first time. He's a little slower than the adult camels and tired, but as he says camels must walk, walk, walk. A sandstorm suddenly hits the caravan, and when it is over, it is night and Jamal finds that he has gotten separated from the rest of the caravan. Trying to find his way back, he meets different desert animals, but none offer any help or direction. Jamal is finally found by one of the caravan's falcons, who helps him find his way back where he belongs. Eventually, the caravan reaches a large modern city (Dubai) and the market place, where Jamal gets a new harness and a new attitude about walking. I think this is a nice look at another culture, so different from our own. There a lot in this book that could generate some lively discussions with young readers. I have to admit, I assumed the boy on the cover was Jamal, and I was wrong. Foreman has included a nice note at the beginning that explains why he chose the name Jamal for the camel. Theme's in Jamal's Journey include adventure, friendship, loyalty, fear when lost, relief when found, and having a purpose in life. Foreman's earthy watercolor illustrations really impart life in the desert using a soft palette of sandy yellows, blues and greens. 
I Just Want to Say Good Night written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora
Nancy Paulson Books, 2017, Fiction, 32 pages, age 3+
When her father comes home after a day of fishing, he tell Lala that it's time for bed. But Lala's isn't ready to go to sleep quite yet. Her excuse for bedtime procrastination? Saying goodnight to every animal she can find in her small village, including all the little ants crawling along the ground. In the end, she finally gets into bed with a good book she wants to bid good night to - none other than Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon. Isadora's bright oil and ink illustrations are richly textured and appear to set this story in the African plains, although that isn't mentioned. This is a nice bedtime story, but be prepared for young readers to imitate the refrain Lala tells her parents: "I just want to say good night to..."
Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
written by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2016, Nonfiction, 40 pages, age 5+
Living in Cateura, Paraguay, where scouring the trash from nearby Asunción to recycle and resell is a way of life, Ada Ríos liked to imagine that truckload of garbage was "a box of surprises." And that turns out to be just what they are when Favio Chávez arrived in town and offers music lessons to the children of Cateura. With more children wanting music lessons than instruments to play, Chávez knew he had to do something. After experiments, trials, mistakes and finally success, instruments were fashioned for the children from Cateura's garbage dump and the Recycled Orchestra was born, and it didn't take long for them to become world renowned musicians, including Ada and her violin. Comport's beautiful mixed media collages carry the theme of music throughout, including bits of paper with musical notes on them in the garbage piles. She has captured what life is like living so close to a dump so well, you can almost smell it. The author includes important back matter about the Recycled Orchestra.
You can find an extensive Teacher's Guide for Ada's Violin HERE
A Bike Like Sergios's by Maribeth Boelts,
illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
Candlewick Press, 2016, Fiction, 40 pages, 5+
More than anything, Ruben wishes he could have a bike like Sergio's. Then the two friends could go riding together, instead of Ruben running alongside Sergio's bike. But Ruben also knows his family can't afford a bike, in fact, they sometimes have difficulty providing the things the family needs. One day, while in the grocery store buying bread for his mom, Ruben sees a $1.00 fall out of a lady's purse. He picks it up, figuring it's only $1.00, but when he gets home, he realizes it is really $100.00. With one hundred dollars, Ruben could buy a bike like Sergio's. But how would he explain that to is family? Well, he won't have to when he realizes has fallen out of his backpack pocket at some point. He spends the next day thinking only about what he lost, when he realizes he put the money in a different pocket. Rich again, that bike is almost Ruben's, that is, until he stops in the grocery store to pick up juice and sees the lady who lost the $100.00. Knowing now how she must feel, Ruben follows her and returns the money. Now, Ruben has a really wonderful story to share with his family. This is a great story about the struggle a person feels when they know what the right thing to do is, but their desires get in the way and cause lots of guilty feelings. In the end, though, Ruben learns an important lesson about feeling empathy for another person. Boelts's digitally assembled watercolor, pencil, and ink childlike illustrations offer the right kind of balance to that the story's ultimate doesn't weighed it down and turn kids off.    
You can download an extensive Classroom Guide for A Bike Like Sergio's from Candlewick Press HERE
Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy's Story of Survival
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho, art by Brian Deines
Pajama Press, 2016, Nonfiction, 40 pages, age 6+
It's 1981, and now it is  time for Tuan Ho, his mother and two sisters to escape Vietnam and seek freedom, just like his father and older sister had in 1980. It is a trip that won't be easy and one that many don't survive. Sneaking out in the middle of the night, the family is dropped at the water's edge. There, soldiers begin shooting at them, until a skiff appears that takes them to an overcrowded fishing boat. It is hot and humid, without much drinking water. The, the boat springs a leak, and on the third day, the engine dies and the refugees find themselves adrift at sea. Luckily, on day six, an American aircraft carrier spots them, and welcome the refugees aboard. Eventually, the Ho family make their way to Canada and reunite with the rest of their family. This true story is a powerful example of how picture books can shed light on events of the past that share a similarity to those that are happening in the world today. Dienes' highly textured oil on canvas illustrations capture all the fear, secrecy, and perils experienced by the Ho family, done in hot and humid oranges and yellows, with cooling blue touches. 
Nim and the War Effort by Milly Lee,
pictures by Yangsook Choi
Square Fish, 1997, 2002, Fiction, 40 pages, age 6+
It's 1943, and all the kids in Nim's San Francisco school are competing to see who can collect the most newspapers for the war effort. Her aunt has promised to leave papers tied in a red string for her, but when she goes to pick them up, they are gone. When she meets classmate Garland, she notices her aunts newspapers in his wagon. When Nim says something to him about it, he tells her that she can't win the competition, it's an American war and only an American can win, "not some Chinese smarty-pants." When Nim asks a doorman at a fancy Nob Hill building if there are any papers she can have, his is more than happy to oblige, with a winning amount of papers. But, now Nim has a dilemma - she is supposed to be a Chinese school, something her grandfather is adamant about her being on time for, but she needs to get the papers to school in order to win the competition. Nim's solution is surprising, but in the end it angers her strict grandfather. Can she will back his trust and respect? This is a great WWII picture book about cheating, racism, and misplaced patriotism that will certainly resonate with today's young readers. The muted illustrations done in a palette yellows and browns of really give readers a sense of the past, but make Nim's white shirt and red wagon really standout.  


1 comment:

  1. Recently I've enjoyed The Ring Bearer by Floyd Cooper, Bravo: Poems About Amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle, Sing Don't Cry by Angela Dominguez, Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander & a few others, The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, I am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis, and The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Agra Deedy.


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