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A zesty story about roti-making and the joys of intergenerational storytelling, written by F. Zia and illustrated by Ken Min (Lee and Low).
The joy and grace of a peaceful, worshipful Sunday (with a sweet, understated interracial friendship) are perfectly portrayed in this picture book written by Michael McGowan, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher (Random House).
It felt right to end my 40 days of reading with Nikki Grimes' beautiful collection of poems telling the story of Holy Week, illustrated by David Frampton (Eerdman's Books for Young Readers). My favorite? The heartrending lament of Mary, letting her son go into God's arms with The Last Goodbye: "You gave me some sway in his beginning | Why not his end? | Look at him. | I could never kiss away | half those bruises."
An inspiring story about a Bangladeshi girl who wants to go to school but must work as a bricklayer. Thanks to hard work and a loving family, Yasmin's dream comes true. I hope with all my heart that she is representative of the children we'd see in Dhaka working from dawn
to dusk. A wonderful read; highly recommended.
Finally! A picture book featuring a suburban African-American family that has nothing to do with slavery or racism. The message about friendship is beautifully told.
Bubbly, colorful, and exciting, THE GRAND PLAN TO FIX EVERYTHING by Uma Krishnaswami is as entertaining as the best Bollywood "fillums." A middle-grade read stuffed with romance, adventure, and mystery, this entrancing book published by Atheneum was starred by Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. Travel with Dini to Swapnagiri, India, where practicing a little "dekho, dekho" (look, look) and "shuno, shuno" (listen, listen) will lead to a happy-ever-after ending that makes everyone feel like dancing.
How do you present the complexity of busing in the 1970s to young children? With an even-handed, character-centered picture book, of course. Richard Michelson's BUSING BREWSTER (Knopf) jumpstarts the conversation, introducing children to spunky first-grader Brewster, drawn with chin held high on the cover by R.G. Roth.
At his new school, an Irish-American teacher named Miss O'Grady inspires Brewster by not laughing at his dream of becoming President. I couldn't help wondering, though, if Miss Evelyn, the first-grade teacher in his own neighborhood, couldn't have encouraged the same dream in Brewster. That's the question Michelson seems to be hinting at when he writes through Brewster's eyes: "Miss O'Grady's the librarian. She looks just like Miss Evelyn."
A window into a time in history when children participated in one of the
United States' most controversial social experiments, this picture book
is also a mirror for a sweet relationship between a protective big
brother and a happy-go-lucky little one.
Richard Michelson was born in a mostly Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn that became mostly black by the time he was 12. His family stayed, and his father was shot and killed in the family's hardware store by a black man. Michelson has dedicated much of his writing for children to reconciliation between the two communities, and informs each books with extensive research as well as his own lifelong relationships.
Ever wondered why Birmingham airport was renamed the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth airport in 2008? BLACK AND WHITE (Calkins Creek) by Larry Dane Brimner will have you cheering each time you hear the name. As Brimner notes: "Reverend Fred. L. Shuttlesworth never once thought about giving up the fight for human and civil rights. He was, after all, following the path God intended for him, and he'd answered that calling early in his life."
The best children's non-fiction history books chronicle events by combining arresting visuals with lucid prose. Thanks to Brimner's gifts of storytelling and research, a meticulous collection of photographs and letters, and a design that brilliantly pleads the case for the traditional codex, BLACK AND WHITE transports readers into the heart of the civil rights movement. The book brings two characters to life--Shuttlesworth and his nemesis, Eugene "Bull" Connor--as well as the town of Birmingham in the middle of the twentieth century, helping us remember the sacrifice and determination that secured changes we might start taking for granted.
A rousing portrayal of what faithful Christians can and have endured to bring about justice, BLACK AND WHITE singlehandedly makes me proud of our vocation to nourish the imaginations and intellect of the next generation.
A feast for the eyes and mind, FRIDA: ¡VIVA LA VIDA! by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand (Marshall Cavendish), portrays the life of painter Frida Kahlo through poetry, photographs, and reproductions of the artist's work. Bernier-Grand's terse, powerful verses convey Kahlo's strength, beauty, and passionate need to paint, despite a life of suffering and sorrow.
Inspiring for teens and adults alike, this Pura Belpré Honor book explores the tension between love and art—apparently they can feed and destroy each other, but can never live apart, much like Kahlo and her husband, painter and muralist Diego Rivera.
I remember how much I anticipated Saturday afternoons, when my sister would walk me to the Flushing Public Library for my weekly fix of books. Ana, a girl growing up in rural Colombia, shares that eagerness for stories in WAITING FOR THE BIBLIOBURRO (Random House) by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra. Like me, Ana also discovers the joy of creating her own stories.
Recommended by my librarian, Jean Holmblad of the Newton Free Library, this gorgeous picture book is inspired by another librarian, Luis Soriano Bohórquez. A visionary man who grasps the power of books to change the world, Bohórquez spends hours transporting them to children around Colombia on two donkeys, Alfa and Beto.
I'd love to read this story to kids and let them feast their eyes on Parra's paintings. Then I'd ask, "Why did the man go through so much trouble to bring the children books to read?"
Check out this trailer of a 2011 PBS documentary on the mission and work of Bohórquez:
Cook up a steaming pot of Wakame Miso Soup (recipe included in the book) and settle down to read this tale of two grandmothers. THE WAKAME GATHERERS by Holly Thompson, illustrated by Kazumi Wilds (Shen's Books), introduces us to the joy of gathering wakame seaweed in the surf crashing on a Japanese shoreline. Thompson's heartfelt story and Wilds' lively art illuminate the tension of inheriting two cultures which in the past have been enemies, as well as underline this generation's call to retain a costly peace.
A child who is adopted asks questions, some aloud and some in secret, about why she doesn't find herself with her birth family. In SWEET MOON BABY (Knopf), a peaceful picture book by Karen Henry Clark, illustrated by Patrice Barton, the text starts with a clear declaration about the worth of the child: "One summer night in China, a baby girl was born. She was perfect."
Next, in a tribute that's rarely found in books dealing with adoption, Clark and Barton devote two full spreads to the child's birth parents. They are both "happy and sad," acknowledging the difficult gains and losses of adoption for a family unable to keep a child. A wise reader will pause, let the child's eyes dwell on the loving hands tucking the baby into a basket, and wait for questions.
If none come, we move on, reading and seeing the miracle of protection through the baby's wait for a family, and the growing love and desire of the waiting parents (also "happy and sad," as are most people waiting for babies through adoption.)
With each quiet spread, the reader and hearer of the story are given space and grace to comment, notice, and question—a key part of healing in the adoption journey. Through this soft, loving story the child grasps the fact that for her, too, the adoption experience is allowed to be both "happy and sad."
Since I was in bliss for four days (see above and name that beach), whisked away by my love, I'm posting briefly. Here are four days worth of picture books I read and enjoyed for Lent, each encapsulated by one word.
As Jan Reynolds explains in CYCLE OF RICE, a stunning photo/picture book from Lee & Low, the so-called Green Revolution almost destroyed sustainable farming practices in Bali. CYCLE OF RICE is a tale of hope, illuminating for kids how an ecologist with vision can help local people restore the land and revitalize their economy. Read this with your kids before eating a bowl of rice.
Looking for a girl hero in a middle-grade novel with a heart to protect
the abused? You'll find her in THE TROUBLE WITH HALF A MOON's Dellie
(Putnam | 2011). The author, Danette Vigilante,
grew up in Brooklyn's Red Hook housing project, and her "insider's"
mastery of the setting magically transports us there. We feel the blue
flakes on the playground benches, hear the sound of approaching sirens,
basketballs dribbling, and neighbors' fights, and smell the antiseptic
used by Dellie's mother to clean the elevators.
Vigilante's first person
tween voice effortlessly weaves in details about Puerto Rican culture
in this debut novel. Dellie honors her hard-working, loving, strict
parents, staying true to the culture's norms, even as she decides to
break a few rules for the sake of someone in need. Perfect read to illuminate for
tween girls that so-called "small" choices can make a difference in
their own lives and in their communities.
Many picture books portray the gains of adoption, but few celebrate it while admitting the reality of all that a child loses. GOYANGI MEANS CAT by Christine McDonnell (Viking) gently and lovingly allows a child to grieve the experiences that came before. Parents who read this book aloud tacitly permit their child to express the grief that is an inevitable part of adoption.
The author is an adoptive parent and a school librarian, and her understanding of and respect for children shines throughout this lovely book. Child-centered illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher echo the theme of a safe space to explore loss.