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Sally Ito is a poet, editor and translator living in Winnipeg, Canada, where she also teaches Creative Writing; she is currently writer. Sally was a book reviewer and contributor to the PaperTigers blog until earlier this year and wrote many of our contributions to Poetry Friday during that time (which is why we decided to post Sally’s selection on a Poetry Friday day!). So we are delighted to welcome her back with her Top Ten list of favourite books, encountered through her work with PaperTigers.
As a prelude, do listen to Sally reading the title poem from her collection Alert to Glory (Turnstone Press, 2011) in the video below.
My Top Ten Picks by Sally Ito
When I joined the Paper Tigers blog contributor team in 2008, the thing I was most excited about was getting to read and review great multicultural books for kids. What I discovered was a plethora of wonderful books that reflected who I was culturally and who my community was, culturally, as well. From my short time with PaperTigers, these are my ten picks of multicultural books for kids. It’s a little Japan-heavy, I realize but I hope you indulge my bias!
Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin, 2008) – I found this quirky picture book amazing and it was an inspiration for me when I was teaching to take my creative writing students out into our immediate neighborhood (an historic district called The Exchange) in Winnipeg to see what we could make of our environment in a creative way.
Naomi’s Tree by Joy Kogawa, illustrated by Ruth Ohi (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2008). This book is about a cherry tree and a Japanese Canadian girl who grew up with it and was separated from it by the circumstances of the Second World War. This book was a personal favorite since the author’s history reflects my own family’s in Canada.
Granny’s Giant Bannock by Brenda Isabel Wastasecoot, illustrated by Kimberly McKay-Fleming (Pemmican, 2008). This is one hilarious book about a Cree-speaking grandmother and her grandson Larf who accidentally bakes a giant bannock by misunderstanding his grandmother’s instructions on how to make the doughy confection from scratch.
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu, translated by Cathy Hirano (Scholastic, 2009). This book is a translation of a popular fantasy series that was also made into a TV series. The story is set in early imperial Japan and features a woman warrior named Balsa who protects the son of the emperor, Chagum, as he carries within him a spirit from another dimension who must lodge in a human host in order to survive.
The Song of the Cicada by Shizue Ukaji. This is a Japanese book, yet untranslated into English, that I discovered while living in Japan in 2011. It’s an Ainu folktale illustrated with textile creations made by Ukaji herself. It’s the story of a woman who prophesies disaster – namely a tsunami – to her people and what becomes of her as a result. A timely read for the year I was visiting the country.
The Fox’s Window and Other Stories by Naoko Awa, translated by Toshiya Kamei. This is a collection of short stories spanning a career of writing by Japanese author Naoko Awa. Magical, enchanting and absorbing are the words I’d use to describe these stories, which have also been referred to as ‘modern fairytales.’
David’s Trip to Paraguay by Miriam Rudolph. A bilingual book with German and English text, this story is about a young Mennonite boy named David who travels to Paraguay from Canada in the late 1920s. Rudolph, an artist, charts the arduous journey with vivid and colorful illustrations of the things David sees on the trip.
Gifts: Poems for Parents edited by Rhea Tregebov (Sumach Press, 2002). We say we read to our children for their sake, but it’s just as true that we read to feed ourselves, too. Poetry is a kind of bread for the soul, and this particular treasury of poems by Canadians really fed me as a poet and a parent.
Bifocal by Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters. This is one book I read in part with my son, who later went on to have the book assigned to him for his English class in junior high school. It’s about two teenagers – Haroon and Jay – who have to negotiate their cultural identities during a tense lockdown situation at their high school.
Aya by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie. I started covering graphic novels for PaperTigers a few years ago as I felt this was a developing trend in books for young people. And this book was one of my favorites! Aya is about a young woman growing up in Cote D’Ivoire, looking to become a medical student, but whose life is inevitably shaped and influenced by those around her with less lofty goals than her.
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Since Constitution Day(which was September 17th), Mark V. Tushnet has been blogging about both sides of the Second Amendment debate. See parts one, two, and three. Today Tushnet, author of Out Of Range: Why the Constitution Can’t End the Battle Over Guns, concludes his series. He leaves us with an important idea: perhaps gun policy debates are missing the point. Keep reading to see what he suggests.
The Constitution isn’t going to end our fights over guns because those fights are part of today’s culture wars. The position a person takes on gun rights and gun control says something about how that person sees himself or herself as part of the national community, and such self-understandings resist change. Supreme Court decisions and social science studies can’t push people from one way of understanding themselves into another way. (more…)Add a Comment
On May 8, 2008, The Japan Foundation in Toronto, Canada, hosted the launch of Naomi’s Tree, a picture book about friendship written by Joy Kogawa and illustrated by Ruth Ohi. It was a fascinating event that included a display of the real sketches and final artwork for the book.
We were there with our audio recorder running. We captured Joy Kogawa’s introduction of the book and Ruth Ohi’s explanation of the illustration process and then a demonstration of her technique.
On this edition of Just One More Book!!, excerpts of the book launch event and an interview with Joy Kogawa and Ruth Ohi.
Thank you very much to Ken Bole, President of The Canada Japan Society, for making us aware of this event.Display Comments Add a Comment
Chicken, Pig, Cow is a warm, sweet story with great humor that captures a child’s imagination.
Chicken, Pig, Cow
by Ruth Ohi
Annick Press (September 2008)
ISBN-10: 1554511569, ISBN-13: 978-1554511563
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Chicken, Pig, and Cow are toys that live in a Popsicle-stick barn a young girl created. They love it there, and think it’s perfect–aside from the dog that drips drool on them. But one day when the girl’s gone out, Chicken and Pig climb out, leaving Cow who can’t–and then Dog comes to play. At first Cow’s afraid of Dog, but in the end they all become friends.
I love the way Ohi writes as if the toys are alive and can do things on their own–the way young children imagine they might. Chicken, Pig, Cow has a playful child-like quality and innocence. There’s also a great warmth and a soothing quality about the story, which comes through Ohi’s word choices (”warm and cozy an smelled just right”) and voice, as well as through her sweet illustrations.
Ohi weaves humor throughout the story. The humor feels fresh and young, the way a child might think (though adults may read some of the humor as dry humor) “‘I thought it didn’t rain indoors,’ said Chicken”, when the dog was drooling on them. Ohi also uses exaggeration as humor “Cow fainted” (in response to seeing dog). The humor works beautifully, and adds to the good feeling. I loved the humor.
Young children may enjoy knowing that there is no threat to Cow, even though Cow thinks there is. It will be clear to the child from the text that Dog is friendly and wants to play, from his wagging tail, his lying down, and his wrapping his body around cow. Ohi’s illustrations also reflect this.
The dialogue is short, interesting, and helps move the story forward quickly. The story moves nicely from cozy situation, to problem, to solving the problem. Characters are simply called by what they are (the cow is Cow, the girl is Girl) and this may help readers to more easily relate to the characters and identify them.
One thing that didn’t work for me was suddenly being told close to the end that Dog had made a door in the barn. I wanted to see the door being made–the Popsicle sticks flying off, hear about cow’s reaction. Surely cow would have noticed. The absence of the mention when it happened took away, for me, some of the satisfaction of the ending, since the new door was part of that ending.
I also would have liked to see a sentence or two more that showed us the friendship that developed between Cow, Pig, and Chicken, and Dog, and how it came about, instead of just being told that they became friends. (I didn’t think they were becoming friends, exactly, when they were trying to save Cow.) But the book still left me with good feeling.
Overall, the story is pleasing, warming, and sweet. It’s a book I’d give any child, and especially one needing comfort or uplifting.
Ohi’s gentle illustrations build on and enhance the text. The soft watercolor feels warm and soothing, and the rounded curves of the characters add to this feeling. The characters are sweetly colored, and stand out on the page; Cow is white with purple spots and has a pink snout, pig is pink, and chicken is yellow with orange feet, beak, and comb. The browns–found in the Popsicle-stick barn and Dog, feel warm.
The characters don’t just look like toys, they look like little animated creatures. They remind me a bit of Sandra Boyton’s illustrations. They’re cute and appealing to look at.
The illustrations feel light and airy, which is increased by the amount of white space on each page, and the lack of backgrounds. Characters appear with a few necessary setting details or with a small bit of shadow to ground them on the page; this ensures that the focus is on them. The shadows are a light purple, which reminds the reader of Cow, who is an important character.
There is a bonus illustration in the front matter shows the girl creating the animals out of modeling clay, revealing that the girl brought them to life in more ways than one. This adds to the story, and is fun for the reader to discover.
This is a light-hearted, warm, feel-good book. Highly recommended!Display Comments Add a Comment
A to Z Challenge Day 3: C . 5 Stars REVIEW #100 Chicken makes a block city Girl makes, just perfect by adding a beautiful statue. Cities are exciting! Along comes Pig, zipping, zapping, and zooming—until he smashes into Chicken’s statue, destroying it—and the city. He gets angry [...]Add a Comment