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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Multicultural Lit, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 31
1. On Making and Using Book Lists - Considering A Recent Mighty Girl Book List

This blog recently celebrated its 9th anniversary. In nine years I've learned a lot about children's literature that I didn't know going in. I've also met, virtually and in person, a great number of very smart folks who review and share books with kids of all ages from all kinds of backgrounds.

I mention this background because I don't jump lightly into conversations that are uncomfortable and that point out shortcomings in books that have received praise elsewhere. Case in point, the recent Mighty Girl book list Celebrating Native American & Aboriginal Mighty Girls for Native American Heritage Month. While there are very positive books on this list, books that show a range of Native American identities and experiences, there are also books that perpetuate ugly stereotypes and misconceptions.

I don't consider myself an expert in this area, but I listen and try to learn. I spend time in my methods course reviewing books with students to help them understand that as both windows and mirrors to lived experience, books must accurately reflect social identities. We read An Updated Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children's Books by Louise Derman-Sparks and How to Tell the Difference: A Guide to Evaluating Children's Books for Anti-Indian Bias by Beverly Slapin, Doris Seale and Rosemary Gonzales. I send them to read blogs such as American Indians in Children's Literature, a blog written by Debbie Reese that reviews and critiques children's and young adult books about native peoples,  De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children, a group blog that reviews and critique children's and young adult books about Raza peoples throughout the Diaspora, The Brown Bookshelf, a blog designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers, and others.

I have written a fair number of thematic booklists since the birth of this blog, though they all fall along the lines of science, math, and poetry. I am always excited to find lists written by others, hoping they will help me and my students find the best books for use in the classroom. I was excited to see the latest post from A Mighty Girl show up in my feed, but was disappointed when I looked critically at the list.

In order to move conversations forward about diversity in children's literature, we must be willing to listen to the voices from underrepresented groups when they tell us we're getting it wrong. We must be willing to set aside "classics" and old favorites when the information they present is inaccurate. Nowhere is this more problematic than when faced with a book sporting a Newbery,  Caldecott, or Printz sticker.

I so wanted to leave this feedback for the author of the list, Katherine Handcock, at the Mighty Girl site, but couldn't find a mechanism to do that. I appreciate all that A Mighty Girl does to empower girls and affirm their place in this world. However, this list contains titles that contain stereotypes and inaccuracies that could actually be harmful and less than empowering. I hope everyone who visits will read this list with a critical eye. Stop by American Indians in Children's Literature and check out some of the reviews Debbie Reese has posted or linked to for books on the list she does NOT recommend, such as Julie of the WolvesIsland of the Blue Dolphins, and Mama Do You Love Me?. While you are there, check out Debbie's list of Best Books.

I hope the folks at A Mighty Girl will reconsider this list and think about replacing some of these titles with books that will truly empower Native American & Aboriginal mighty girls.

For more on this, read Debbie Reese's letter to Katherine Handcock.

0 Comments on On Making and Using Book Lists - Considering A Recent Mighty Girl Book List as of 11/16/2015 5:42:00 PM
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2. Book Love Road Trips!

Guess what... Today is my first guest post ever! You can find me over at The OWL as a part of the March of Middle Grade. Hope you come say hi!

image from here

11 Comments on Book Love Road Trips!, last added: 3/21/2012
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3. The Grand Plan to Fix Everything

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Una Krishnaswami, Illustrated by Abigail Halpin, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011, 272 pp, ISBN: 1416995897

Eleven-year-old Dini and her best friend Maddie are in love. They are in love with Dolly Singh, the most beautiful and talented actress/singer/dancer in all of Bollywood. But they have been picking up on signs - signs that only a true fan would notice! - that Dolly is in some kind of trouble. When Dini's family suddenly moves to India, she knows this is her chance to find Dolly and fix everything. The only problem is, she'll be leaving Maddie behind...

Doesn't this book just look adorable? I love the fact that the protagonist is Indian-American and that much of the story takes place in India. That is certainly a country we don't get to see much of in MG or YA literature. And the introduction to Bollywood, complete with song lyrics and descriptions of big dance numbers, was a welcome break from more typical tween obsessions.

Dini and Maddie's friendship was very sweet, and I can envision two little girls giggling over this book together in real life. In fact, it could be a perfect "going away" present for a friend who has to move - proof in print that distance doesn't end friendships!

And I need to mention that the illustrations throughout are just as charming as the cover.  I think Abigail Halpin just might be my new favorite artist. Check out this interview with both Halpin and author Uma Krishnaswami for more images and details on the creation of The Grand Plan to Fix Everything.

But... something about this story just didn't sit right with me. The third person narration was a small factor in that I never truly connected with Dini. It was also a little too convenient that Dolly just so happened to be living in the same remote, rural village that Dini had moved to. *Don't worry: That's not really a spoiler. Dini figures it out the day that she moves.* In fact, all the way through the book, the narrator makes it seem like Dini is having such a hard time "fixing everything" for Dolly, when really everything just kept (very unrealistically) falling into place.

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4. The Whole Story of Half a Girl

The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2012, 224 pp, ISBN: 0385741286

Sonia is half Indian and half Jewish, but that has never really seemed to matter. At Community, all of the kids in her class are unique, and their teacher - Jack - makes a point of teaching them about all different cultures. But Sonia won't be going to Community any more. Her dad has lost his job, and she will be starting 6th grade at the public middle school.

At her new school, everything is different. Her skin is too dark for some kids, and too light for others. She dresses all wrong, brings the wrong food for lunch, and can't even make the cheerleading team - even though she's definitely better than some of the girls on the squad. On top of all of that, her father is becoming seriously depressed since he still hasn't found a new job. But when Sonia starts hanging out with Kate, it seems like everything is going to change for the better.

The Whole Story of Half a Girl is 100% wonderful. I mean seriously, completely wonderful. This is Veera Hiranandani's first novel, and she needs to write another pretty much immediately.

This is the second middle grade novel featuring an Indian main character that I've read this week, and I hope that Indian culture is slowly becoming more of a trend in MG/YA lit. That being said, I would have loved to have gotten more details about what makes Indian culture unique and different. Sonia has to tell a kid at her new school that her father doesn't wear a turbin, or a feathered headdress for that matter, but other than a brief mention of a family trip to Bombay and a beautiful Indian dress, she really doesn't elaborate on that part of her background. Sonia is also half Jewish, although her mom makes a point of saying that Judaism is a religion, not an ethnicity, so she can't actually be "half" Jewish. As Sonia's mother isn't particularly religious, Sonia herself has received little exposure to Jewish customs, so readers hoping for a mini-lesson on Judaism may be disappointed.

Now I know I'm starting to sound a little negative, but remember what I said: 100% wonderful. Every character is written so realistically, it wouldn't be surprising if Sonia's story turned out to be nonfiction. This could be partially due to the fact that the main character is partly based on Hiranandani's own experiences growing up half Indian, half Jewish

9 Comments on The Whole Story of Half a Girl, last added: 2/29/2012
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5. C'Mon Now, Are Girls in Pretty Dresses Really the Problem?

Lately I've noticed lots of complaining about the plethora of covers featuring girls in fancy-schmancy dresses. And yes, those covers do get old after a while. (Except the dress on the cover of The Selection - that dress is so Carrie Bradshaw, I will never get tired of it!) But are the girls in pretty dresses really the problem?

This month I was really reminded of something that I used to be much more cognizant of: all of the faces, on almost all of the covers, are... well... white.

When I took on my February personal challenge to read only books written by or about people of color, I had a pretty short reading list. I knew I wanted to read Mare's War and The Mighty Miss Malone, but after that... ? Building up my reading list for this month took a little research. I scoured blogs like Reading in Color, Fledgling, and The Brown Bookshelf for suggestions. While I did find some absolute treasures, it really is shocking how few books are published each year by/about people of color. And that deficit is pretty darn obvious if you just scan the covers in the YA section at your local bookstore.

I think there are several reasons for the lack of "color" on YA covers. First, there just aren't a ton of books being published featuring non-white main characters. Second, sometimes the books that are published "hide" the ethnicity of their main characters. Take Marie Lu's Legend. This book is outstanding - one of my favorites so far this year. But looking at the cover, you would never know that June's dominant ethnicity is Native American. I wonder how (or if?) a cover reflecting that face would have affected the public's perception of Legend?

So what's your take, book lovers? Do you really notice race or ethnicity when you're scanning book covers? Does that factor really even matter when choosing a new book? And why do you think so many of our YA covers are so pale?

12 Comments on C'Mon Now, Are Girls in Pretty Dresses Really the Problem?, last added: 2/29/2012
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6. My Month of More "Colorful" Reading

29 days ago, I challenged myself to read only books written by or about people of color. This challenge was partly inspired by Black History Month, and partly due to a realization that since leaving my classroom in Baltimore, I had pretty much stopped looking for books that reflected the faces of "my" students.

I can almost guarantee that I would not have read most of these books without taking on this challenge, and boy-oh-boy would I have been missing out! In an effort to summarize this month of reading, here are a few awards and a few "similar interest groups" for quick reference.

Favorite YA Read of the Month: Tie between Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis and Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena (these two couldn't be more different, but I'll remember them both for a long, long time)

Favorite MG Read of the Month: The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani (love, love, love this book)

Favorite New-to-Me Author: Ashley Hope Perez - I thoroughly enjoyed What Can't Wait and am eagerly awaiting The Knife and the Butterfly. I can't help but feel a TFA bond with Ms. Perez and I'm so thankful that teachers like her exist!

Favorite Blast from the Past: American Girl - Cecile's New Orleans series

Favorite Illustrations: Heart and Soul - The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson (Abigail Halpin is pretty fabulous too, but Kadir Nelson's paintings were just breathtaking)

Favorite Book that Brad Pitt Should Turn into a Movie: Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams

Novels in Verse:
- Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes
- The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle
- Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

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7. Review: Chocolate Me

ChocolateMe Cover 244x300 Review: Chocolate MeChocolate Me by Taye Diggs and illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Review by Chris Singer

About the author:

Taye Diggs is an actor whose credits include motion pictures (How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Chicago), stage (RentWicked), and television (Private Practice). He lives in Los Angeles and New York City with his wife, the actress Idina Menzel, and their son.

About the illustrator:

Shane W. Evans is the illustrator of numerous award-winning books for children, including Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson, and Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper’s Daughter, winner of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award. He lives with his wife and daughter in Kansas City, Missouri.

About the book:

The boy is teased for looking different than the other kids. His skin is darker, his hair curlier. He tells his mother he wishes he could be more like everyone else. And she helps him to see how beautiful he really, truly is.

For years before they both achieved acclaim in their respective professions, good friends Taye Diggs and Shane W. Evans wanted to collaborate on Chocolate Me!, a book based on experiences of feeling different and trying to fit in as kids. Now, both men are fathers and see more than ever the need for a picture book that encourages all people, especially kids, to love themselves.

My take on the book:

I love the title and cover art of this enduring children’s book. To me, “Chocolate Me” and the boy’s open arms grabs your attention immediately and invites you to dive right in. The illustrations are fantastic and the story involves an important message both kids and parents can relate to.

I give a lot of credit to Taye Diggs for writing this book. As I learned when I had the opportunity to participate in an interview with Taye, this was obviously based on some deeply personal experiences. While I got caught up a few times in some awkward wording in the story, I still enjoyed the creative and compassionate manner in which the story was shared.

All in all, a nice book for parents, teachers and librarians looking for a story with a worthwhile message to share with children and their families.


0 Comments on Review: Chocolate Me as of 1/1/1900
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8. 8th Grade Super-Zero

8th Grade Super-Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2010, 336 pp, ISBN: 0545096766

"Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
'even if you are not ready for day,
it cannot always be night.'" - Gwendolyn Brooks, from "Speech to the Young: Speech to the Progress-Toward"

Reggie is a zero. After vomiting in front of the entire student body on the first day of school, more people now know him as "Pukey" than as "Reggie." He has his two best friends, Ruthie and Joe C, but it's tough to be thankful for two when you're teased on a daily basis by pretty much everyone else.

Reggie's youth group, made up of kids from all different schools, is the only place where he gets to just be himself. When the group gets involved at a local homeless shelter, Reggie stops trying to shrink into the background and actually starts stepping up to lead some things. And it feels pretty good.

But stepping up at school, in front of Donovan, Hector, Sparrow and all of the other kids who love making him miserable... it would take a super hero to do that.

This is NOT at all what I was expecting. I vividly remember seeing this title on at least 6 different blog posts over at Reading In Color last year. I had wanted to read it because Ari was such a huge fan, but just kept putting it off. When I decided to take on the personal challenge of reading ONLY books by or about people of color for this month, 8th Grade Super Zero was at the top of my list. 

Honestly, even though it had such stellar recommendations
10 Comments on 8th Grade Super-Zero, last added: 2/9/2012
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9. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson, Balzar + Bray, 2011, 108 pp, ISBN: 0061730742

"Most folks my age and complexion don't speak much about the past. Sometimes it's just too hard to talk about... [but] you gotta take the good with the bad I guess. You have to know where you come from you so can move forward. Most of us are getting up in age and feel it's time to make some things known before they are gone for good. So it's important you pay attention, honey, because I'm only going to tell you this story but once." - Heart and Soul

First off, the cover is pure gorgeous. I would like to frame it and hang it on my wall. And this weighty book is bursting with similarly stunning paintings - all by author and illustrator Kadir Nelson. What incredible talent.

With a sub-title like "The Story of America and African Americans," you know that this is book is going to be full. Full of history, full of emotion, and full of questions and connections and feelings that come up, long after one has finished reading.

It is told through the voice of an "everywoman" character, whose family history can be traced back to Africa and connects throughout history with both Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. Her strong, comforting voice comes through crystal clear. Tracing the path of her family from slave ships, through cotton fields, across multiple wars, into Reconstruction and the Great Migration, and ending around the dissolution of Jim Crow, there isn't much that this story doesn't touch on. President Barack Obama made his appearance in the Epilogue. 

An incredibly deserving recipient of both the Coretta Scott King author award, and Coretta Scott King illustrator honor for Heart and Soul, Kadir Nelson is a force to be reckoned with. He has made decades of history engaging and accessible for both school children and adults - no easy feat. 

6 Comments on Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, last added: 2/16/2012
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10. Mexican Whiteboy

Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena, Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2008, 256 pp, ISBN: 0385733100

Danny is half Mexican, half white, and completely lost. His dad left him, and now he doesn't feel at home with his mom at his fancy private school in San Diego, or with his dad's family in National City. He used to feel at home on the pitching mound, but lately even that part of his life has been spinning out of control.

Now Danny is in National City for the summer, staying with his dad's brothers and his prima Sofia. He figures that if he can just make himself more Mexican, if he can just learn to speak some Spanish, if he can just get his pitching back under control, then maybe he'll finally make his dad proud. And then maybe his dad will come home.

I have found my new favorite author. So many authors can spin a great story, but it's rare to find a writer whose voice hums like a heartbeat through every page. Matt de la Pena is one of those writers.

I feel like Danny and Sofia and Uno are actual people - alive and walking around southern California. I can vividly picture Uno laughing under his breath, wearing his Steelers jersey. I can see Danny's faded Vanns toeing the dirt on a pitcher's mound. I can hear Sofia busting on them both while she types out a text to one of her girlfriends. Seriously - Matt de la Pena wrote each character so clearly that I wouldn't be surprised if Mexican Whiteboy turned out to be nonfiction.

Through Danny, a wildly talented but also deeply depressed teenage boy, de la Pena describes what it can be like to come from a mixed background, and never truly feel like you belong. Danny's longing was so intense in some passages that my heart literally ached for him.

But Mexican Whiteboy isn't a sad story. It is a brightly painted picture of what life is like for a group of teenagers one summer: the sad and the joyful, the painful and the laugh out loud hilarious. De la Pena writes about young love, but romance really isn't the heart of this story. It's about finding one's family, coming to terms with one's heritage, and developing true friendships. And it is one phenomenal read.

4 Comments on Mexican Whiteboy, last added: 2/17/2012
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11. What Can't Wait

What Can't Wait by Ashley Hope Perez, Carolrhoda Books, 2011, 234 pp, ISBN: 0761361553

Marisa is the good daughter: cooking for her father and brother, babysitting whenever her sister asks, giving half of her paycheck to the family each month.

But Marisa dreams of going to the University of Texas to study engineering, and ber calculus teacher thinks that Marisa is actually smart enough to make it happen.

But her father has all but forbidden her to go to college.
Her mother doesn't want her to leave home.
Her sister needs her to be a full-time babysitter for her niece. 
So college can wait. Family can't, right?

What Can't Wait really struck a chord with me. I saw so much of myself in Marisa's calculus teacher. Ms. Ford was constantly pushing Marisa, telling her not to make excuses, emphasizing that college was her "ticket out." But as the reader of Marisa's story, I knew that she was barely keeping it together - that she was bound by duty and loyalty to her family, and most especially to her niece. I actually found myself getting angry at Ms. Ford for not cutting her some slack. Why couldn't she try to understand what Marisa was going through? At the same time, I kept flashing back to conversations that I had with my own students. Pushing, pushing, and pushing them to do their best, to be the best - even when I had no idea what they were up against outside of the confines of our school. But then at the same time, wasn't Ms. Ford ultimately right? No matter how valid an excuse is, it's still an excuse. At some point, everyone has to decide for themselves "what can't wait," and then follow through and live with that decision.

Ashley Hope Perez has written a novel that is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes uplifting, and always 100% realistic. She has given her readers a candid look at what it might mean to be a part of a Mexican family. She has infused the Spanish language into nearly every paragraph, making her readers feel like they are truly listening in to Marisa's world. She has forced me to reexamine my own though

4 Comments on What Can't Wait, last added: 2/18/2012
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12. American Girl: Cecile's New Orleans Series

The American Girl 1853 series: Cecile and Marie Grace by Denise Lewis Patrick and Sarah Masters Buckey, American Girl, 2011

Cecile Rey is one of the "gens de couleur libres" or "free people of color" living in New Orleans in 1853. Together, she and her friend, Marie Grace, experience all that the diverse, busy city has to offer: Mardi Gras parades and costume balls, outdoor French markets, helping to fight a yellow fever epidemic, volunteering at a local orphanage, and performing at a city-wide benefit for the orphaned children.

Happy Mardi Gras, book lovers! In honor of the holiday, today I'm featuring a series set in New Orleans, and the first two books take place during Mardi Gras!

I was first inspired to cover this American Girl series after seeing a feature on author Denise Lewis Patrick on The Brown Bookshelf. I'd never given a thought to the authors behind my beloved American Girl books, and reading the story of how Patrick was asked to author the Cecile series piqued my interest. The Cecile series is unique from that of the other American Girls because she shares her books with a girl named Marie Grace. I read "Meet Marie Grace" and then all of the Cecile books in the series, and it's very clear that the two authors plotted the stories out together. Between the two "Meet ____" books, some lines were actually word-for-word the same. I'm really not sure why they chose to have two main characters this time. If any of you know, please fill me in!

On the surface, the Cecile/Marie Grace series follows the same "formula" as every other in the AG line.  We "Meet" the girls, they go through some "troubles" but eventually save the day, and everyone ends up stronger and wiser. A little didactic, yes... but these characters are brave, self-confident role models for little girls today. I really like the fact that each book includes a chapter of nonfiction in the back, explaining how the events in the story are a reflection of real events from the past.

Cecile's story is notable because, unlike so many black characters in historial fiction - including 10 Comments on American Girl: Cecile's New Orleans Series, last added: 2/21/2012
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13. The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle, Henry Holt and Co, 2010, 160 pp, ISBN: 0805090827

Fredricka Bremer - Swedish suffragette, novelist, and humanitarian - traveled to Cuba in the hope of discovering a modern-day Eden. Instead, she found an island of contrasts: sparkling, tropical waters carrying boats full of children in chains; lush, vibrant landscapes that Cuban women were not free to explore, or even learn about.

Together with Cecelia, the slave girl who was her interpreter, and Elena, her wealthy host's daughter, Fredrika tells the tale of the Cuba that she experienced - both the ugly and the beautiful.

Novel in verse: yay! Multiple narrators: double yay! These are two of my favorite writing techniques, and I believe that they elevated this extremely short story into something more like art.

The Firefly Letters is a sleek little novel - I think it only took me about a half hour to read cover to cover - but the themes that it tackles are huge: slavery, gender roles, education, and classism. Whew. Real life suffragette Fredricka Bremer traveled to Cuba in 1851. Author Margarita Engle was able to use Bremer's letters, sketches, and diary entries from that time period in order to write The Firefly Letters. Bremer was shocked and dismayed to find that slaves, some as young as eight-years-old, populated much of the island. On top of that, she protested against the limited rights and educational opportunities that were afforded to free Cuban women and girls. In The Firefly Letters, the other two narrators - Cecelia and Elena, are both confused and delighted by Bremer's "radical" ideas concerning freedom and women's rights. 

For me, Elena never became a very "real" character. Instead, she seemed more like a generic representative of all girls born into privilege on the island. And maybe that was because she was a product of Engle's imagination, while Cecelia was actually based on a real person - a young slave girl who Bremer described in her diary. Cecelia was clearly extremely intelligent; she could speak multiple languages and because of her skill as a translator, she was one of the most valuable slaves on the plantation. I imagine that her interactions with Bremer had a life-changing effect, and I hope that her baby was able to grow up as a free person.

For all of the weight behind this novel's history, it is truly a simply told story. It could easily be used in a classroom as part of a study o

4 Comments on The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba, last added: 2/22/2012
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14. Drawing From Memory

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say, Scholastic Press, 2011, 72 pp, ISBN: 0545176867

Allen Say uses photographs, cartoons, paintings, and of course, words to illustrate an autobiographical look at his early years as an artist.

When was the last time you met a twelve-year-old who lived on his own in an apartment in a huge city? Probably never, right? Well that was real life for Allen Say. 

Say had always known that he loved to draw, even when it was to the detriment of his school work and strongly discouraged by his own father. But when his grandmother told him that he could live alone in his own apartment if he got into a prestigious middle school, he suddenly got a lot more interested in studying. Once he was living on his own, Say tracked down the famous Japanese cartoonist - Noro Shinpei - and asked him to be his sensei, or mentor. Shinpei agreed, and forever changed the course of Say's life.

It was fascinating to read about an life that was so completely foreign from my own experiences. Independent from his parents, he spent the vast majority of his time with Shinpei, other teachers, or other art students. He was committed - heart and soul - to developing his craft, willing to spend whole months on a single sheet of paper, learning to draw with charcoal. 

Not surprising when you consider the fact that Say is an artist, the illustrations are critical in reading and understanding his story. In fact, Drawing From Memory reads almost more like a scrapbook than anything else, with a collage of photographs, archived cartoons, and "drawings from memory" filling in the gaps left by the words.

I picked up Drawing From Memory only because it was a contender in this year's Battle of the Books. While I was presently surprised by how engaging it was, I have to admit I'll be surprised if it makes it out of Round 1 of the BoB. It just seems a little too simple. Then again, I've yet to read its opponent - The Grand Plan to Fix Everything - so who knows? *Update! I recently finished TGPtFE and wasn't a huge fan... In fact, I think Drawing from Memory now has my vote for this round!
2 Comments on Drawing From Memory, last added: 2/25/2012
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15. Read Around the World Challenge: March Link-Up

Read Around the World Challenge

March Link-Up

readaroundtheworldchallenge150x150 Read Around the World Challenge: March Link UpThe Details:

  • Make sure that before you link-up your reviews, you sign up for the challenge on the challenge post.
  • Anyone, even non-bloggers can participate. Open worldwide. If you don’t have a blog, just link to your Amazon, Good Reads or other review posting.
  • Link as many reviews as you’d like throughout the month. Each link to an actual review will earn you an entry in the drawing.
  • February’s Winner: I’m thrilled to tell you that Kevin Westerman (@superdaddykw) won the February contest and won a copy of All Aboard: Elijah McCoy’s Steam Engine by Monica Kulling

book cover final 7 revised copy front 5x1l 240x300 Read Around the World Challenge: March Link Up

2 Comments on Read Around the World Challenge: March Link-Up, last added: 3/7/2011
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16. Book Review: A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk

coatescover Book Review: A Hare in the Elephants TrunkA Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk by Jan Coates

Review by Chris Singer

About the author:

Jan Coates has woven Jacob’s story into novel form so that young Canadian readers can learn more about this heroic youn man, his ordeal, and his hope for his homeland. Jan in the author of Rainbows in the Dark (2005).  She lives in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

About Jacob Akech Deng:

Jacob Deng now lives in Nova Scotia, is married and has a young family. His foundation, Wadeng Wings of Hope, seeks to build schools for young children in southern Sudan.

Watch the trailer:

About the book:

In the little village of Duk Padiet in southern Sudan, a boy named Jacob Deng thrives on the love of his mother, the companionship of his sisters, the excitement of learning how to look after his uncle’s herds of cattle. The year is 1987, and suddenly in the night soldiers from the north invade the village, looting, burning, and killing. The war has arrived, and the life of Jacob will never be the same.

This novel is based on the real life experiences of a Sudanese boy who, with thousands of other boys from the region, fled for his life and spent seven years walking through deserts, grasslands and forests, crossing crocodile-infested rivers, surviving life in massive refugee camps. The so-called Lost Boys of Sudan – as they were called by an American aid organization – numbered as many as 27,000, and while many died – from starvation, attacks by wild animals, drowning, or through the brutality of the military – many survived. Jacob never returned to his village, but though he was only seven years old when he had to flee, he somehow managed to live through an almost unimaginable ordeal.

Throughout the seven years covered in this story, Jacob resists the temptation to join the liberation army. Steadily Jacob finds himself more and more adhering to his mother’s advice that getting an education is crucial to escaping the cycle of violence that afflicts his country. Jacob’s struggle, then, is to persist in seeking out teachers and eventually a school where his ambition to learn about the world can be met. Through it all he learns about loyalty and love for close friends who have been thrust together with him on this extraordinary journey, and also about the guiding light provided by the memory of his mother.

My take on the book:


3 Comments on Book Review: A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk, last added: 3/29/2011
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17. Read Around the World Challenge: April Link-Up

Read Around the World Challenge

April Link-Up

readaroundtheworldchallenge150x150 Read Around the World Challenge: April Link Up

The Details:.
  • Anyone, even non-bloggers can participate. Open worldwide. If you don’t have a blog, just link to your Amazon, Good Reads or other review posting.
  • Link as many reviews as you’d like throughout the month. Each link to an actual review will earn you an entry in the drawing.
  • March’s Winner: I’m thrilled to tell you that Beth from Library Chicken
  • won the March contest and won a copy of Show Me How by Vivian Kirkfield.
  • This month’s prize drawing will be done at 11:59 pm EST on April 30th so you have until that time to make entry/reviews counting for March’s prize drawing.
  • April’s prize: Lucky’s Little Feather
  • peggyslittlefeather Read Around the World Challenge: April Link Up


    1 Comments on Read Around the World Challenge: April Link-Up, last added: 4/8/2011
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    18. Book Review: The Greedy Sparrow

    greedy cover Book Review: The Greedy SparrowThe Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale by Lucine Kasbarian (Illustrated by Maria Zaikina)

    Review by Chris Singer

    About the author:

    Lucine Kasbarian

    is a syndicated journalist and Director-on-Leave from Progressive Book Publicity. A graduate of the NYU Journalism program, she is the former Director of Publicity for Red Wheel, Weiser and Conari Press, and previously was Publicity and Marketing Manager at Hearst Books. Kasbarian is also the author of Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring People (Dillon Press/Simon & Schuster, 1998) and was a contributing editor for Cobblestone magazine’s special issue, the Armenian Americans (Carus Publishing, 2000). The granddaughter of Armenian genocide survivors, Kasbarian has held leadership positions in the Armenian Youth Federation and the Land & Culture Organization. Among other organizations, she belongs to the National Writer’s Union, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Women’s National Book Association.

    The author and her husband, journalist David Boyajian, live in Belmont, Massachusetts and Teaneck, New Jersey. For the production of The Greedy Sparrow, the author served as the model for the illustrator’s rendering of the bride’s features. The bride’s wedding costume in the book bears a strong resemblance to that of the author’s own folkloric bridal gown.

    About the book:

    The Greedy Sparrow is an Armenian folktale that has been handed down orally in the author’s family for many generations. The tale has also been in the greater Armenian oral tradition for centuries. The story begins in old Armenia with a sparrow who catches a thorn in his foot. As he asks for help, he sets off an intriguing cycle of action that transports him through the Armenian countryside, encountering people engaged in traditional folkways. The Greedy Sparrow ends with a surprising twist and conveys moral messages about greed, selfishness, manipulation, and the use of one’s judgment.

    My take on the book:

    One of the reasons I started a Read Around The World Challenge

    was because I wanted to share some of the fables and folktales from other countries I have read. Fables and folktales not only offer young readers an o

    0 Comments on Book Review: The Greedy Sparrow as of 1/1/1900
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    19. Book of a Thousand Days

    Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale, Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, 2007, 320 pp, ISBN: 9781599900513

    When Lady Salen is locked in a windowless tower for seven years after refusing to marry Lord Khasar, her mucker maid, Dashti, is required to join her in captivity. 

    Although the tower is filled with more food than Dashti has ever seen, their supply is quickly depleted by families of rats and Lady Salen's selfish appetites. Although danger is certainly lurking outside their walls, Dashti knows that death by starvation is even more certain if they remain in their tower prison.

    Upon escaping, Dashti is certain that they have overcome their greatest challenge, but she has no way of knowing that the outside world has changed forever, and the struggles that lie ahead will test her courage, her patience, and even her heart.

    Shannon Hale is one of those authors who readers are just wild about! After reading Princess Academy last year, I could see why. The story was clever and inventive, charming but still completely unpredictable. I loved it!

    Diving into Book of a Thousand Days, I could quickly see many similarities between the two. The language was still poetically simple - equally suited for racing through pages or sitting and s

    1 Comments on Book of a Thousand Days, last added: 4/24/2011
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    20. One Crazy Summer

    One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Amistad, 2010, 224 pp, ISBN: 0060760885

    When Delphine and her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, are shipped all the way across the country to spend the summer with the mother who abandoned them, they have absolutely no idea what they're in for.

    Some time in the past six years, their mother Cecile has changed her name to Nzila, and she wastes no time in letting the girls know that she doesn't want them anywhere near her home.

    Because the only thing Nzila will feed them is air sandwiches - "Go on back to the room. Open your mouths, and catch one." - the girls go down to the People's Center every morning for breakfast, and end up staying for Black Panther summer camp.

    Even though, according to Vonetta, "We didn't come for the revolution. We came for breakfast," the girls end up getting a powerful education regarding Huey Newton, Lil' Bobby, and what Power to the People really means.

    It might be one crazy summer, but it's a summer these sisters will never forget. Surely is.

    You know how some books just get so much hype that there's no way they could ever live up to it? One Crazy Summer is not that book. All of my expectations? Exceeded.

    Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are each completely their own person with very distinct personalities. At the same time, no three sisters were ever closer. 
    "When my sisters and I speak, one right after the other, it's like a song we sing, a game we play. We never need to pass signals. We just fire off rat-a-tat-tat-tat. Delphine. Vonetta. Fern."
    Even Cecile quickly became one of my favorite characters - regardless of the fact that she seemed completely disinterested in her own daughters. With her crazy get-ups, strange penchant for shrimp lo mein, and stubborn refusal to call Fern anything but "little girl," I just couldn't get enough Nzila Cecile.

    Rita Williams-Garcia has taken an incredibly turbulent, pivotal time in our nation's history, a

    2 Comments on One Crazy Summer, last added: 4/27/2011
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    21. Review: Alphabet Kids

    logoABC Review: Alphabet KidsThe Alphabet Kids book series

    Review by Chris Singer

    About the series creators:

    Allegra Joyce Kassin is the creator of the Alphabet Kids concept. She is a devoted mother of five and grandmother of seven. With a strong belief in family values and deeply committed to multicultural understanding, she brings unique vision, clarity, continuity and extraordinary leadership to the Alphabet Kids team. She is involved in every aspect of development of the Alphabet Kids characters and their stories. She has brought them to life to share with the children of the world! Allegra Joyce has been engaged in wide ranging philanthropic activities from childhood well-being and health to community development and educational enrichment for over thirty years.

    Patrice Samara is co-author of the Alphabet Kids books and Executive in Charge of Development. An Emmy Award-winning producer and United Nations NGO Representative, she has with over twenty years expertise in communications and entertainment. She has won over fifty awards for creativity and excellence including two Parent’s Choice Awards and the 2010 Global Citizenship Award for Helping Humanity from Orphans International. Patrice combined her dedication to educational equality, literacy, and multiculturalism utilizing her global resources to make the Alphabet Kids a virtual celebration of diversity.

    About the books:

    The Alphabet Kids books follow the adventures of Allegra, Elena, Isaac, Oni, Umar and Yang, a group of children having fun while learning about their diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The stories are intended to help children learn to love who they are and realize that people who are different can be very good friends, as well as a number of other valuable life lessons.

    book big allegra 150x150 Review: Alphabet Kids

    Allegra likes learning to draw at the Alphabet Afterschool Center. When Allegra sees that the children are using a lot of drawing paper, she tells her friends what her mother told her about saving trees. Find out what she said in Allegra’s Apple Tree.

    Allegra’s Nationality: Italian-American

    book big elena 150x150 Review: Alphabet KidsElena was excited that it was her birthday. But when none of her friends at the Alphabet Afterschool Center wished her Happy Birthday, she became very upset. The Alphabet Kids did not want her to know that they had been making secret plans all along. Find out what happens next in Elena’s Birthday Surprise.

    Elena’s Nationality: Hispanic-American


    book big isaac 150x150 Review: Alphabet Kids

    2 Comments on Review: Alphabet Kids, last added: 8/11/2011
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    22. Review: I Am Different! Can You Find Me?

    iamdifferent Review: I Am Different! Can You Find Me?I Am Different! Can You Find Me? by Manjla Padmanabhan

    Review by Chris Singer

    About the author:

        Manjula Padmanabhan is an artist, illustrator, cartoonist, playwright and novelist. She has illustrated 21 children’s books, and has had a longrunning cartoon strip, Suki, in the Sunday Observer and later the Pioneers. Her play, Harvest, was selected from 1470 entries in 76 countries for the Onassis Prize in 1997.

    About the book:

    On every page of this inviting book, young readers will discover one item that’s unlike all the rest—a different color, a different shape, reversed from left to right, or just asleep when others are awake! Paired with each picture puzzle is the question “Can you find me?” in one of 16 languages. Children will have fun trying out Hebrew, Arabic, French, Swahili, and American Sign Language. And they may find that “different” is just as nice as “same.”

    My take on the book:

    This wonderful picture book is clever, entertaining and full of teachable moments about the unique differences in all of us. Each page has a bright and colorful puzzle which challenges each reader to find the one thing in it which is different. Complementing each picture is the question, ” Can you find me?” in one of 16 languages. Young readers will enjoy learning how to say the phrase in other languages as well as learning about the origin of some familiar English words (giraffe, ukelele, candy and more).

    This book is truly a treasure for teachers and librarians looking for engaging books to share with young readers. The book features an answer key to the puzzles as well as some discussion about the diversity of languages. Just a side note, but many of the puzzles may be quite challenging for younger children. Fortunately, there’s really not a wrong answer for each puzzle as many of the pictures feature differences depending on the viewpoint and perspective of each individual reader.

    For more about this book, visit this link to read Manjla Padmanabhan’s blog on the Global Fund For Children’s ‘On The Road’ blog.



    1 Comments on Review: I Am Different! Can You Find Me?, last added: 8/23/2011
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    23. Review: 14 Cows For America

    14cows 300x270 Review: 14 Cows For America14 Cows For America by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez (in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah)

    Review by Chris Singer

    About the author:

    Author Carmen Agra Deedy was born in Havana and immigrated to Georgia with her family during the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution. She has been writing and traveling around the world telling stories for almost twenty years. Her books have received numerous awards and honors. She lives in Georgia. www.carmendeedy.com and www.beautifulmartina.com.

    About the illustrator:

    Illustrator Thomas Gonzalez, also born in Havana, moved as a child to the United States, where he became friends with Carmen Deedy. An artist and painter, he directed advertising campaigns for such clients as Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, NASCAR, the NFL, and McDonald’s. Gonzalez lives in Georgia.

    About Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah:

    Collaborator Wilson Kimel Naiyomah, a native of Kenya, received an MS in molecular biology from Stanford University in 2008. He was awarded a Rotary International World Peace Fellowship and began studies in peace and conflict resolution in Australia in spring 2010.

    About the book:

    In June of 2002, a very unusual ceremony begins in a far-flung village in western Kenya.
    An American diplomat is surrounded by hundreds of Maasai people. A gift is about to be bestowed on the American men, women, and children, and he is there to accept it. The gift is as unsought and unexpected as it is extraordinary.

    A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks, and hearts are raw. Tears flow freely from American and Maasai as these legendary warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away.

    Word of the gift will travel news wires around the globe. Many will be profoundly touched, but for Americans, this selfless gesture will have deeper meaning still. For a heartsick nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hope and friendship.

    My take on the book:

    My wife and I lived 40 miles away from the World Trade Center. Like many others, we have both been profoundly affected by this atrocity. While our daughter is too young to be told the story of September 11th, some day she will and the first book I’m going to show her about it will be 14 Cows For America.

    This is a beautiful book on so many levels. Not only is it a beautifully illustrated and touching story, but there’s so many wonderful lessons for young readers. It powerfully puts forth the message that all of humanity is one and when one of us suffers through such an atrocity, we all truly suffer as one. We are all brothers and sisters and to see our brothers and sisters of the Massai in Kenya grieve together with all of us is very powerful.

    On another level, I appreciate how this book dispels myths many may have about people in Africa. I loved reading Wilson Kimeli Naimoyah’s afterword where he discusses getting a scholarship to come to the U.S. and study medicine. Naimoyah is proof positive that everyone has the potential to be who they want to be. Wilson’s visit back home and the book’s description of the Massai people also shows that just because a culture lives much simpler than us, doesn’t mean they are any less capable of being an intelligent and wonderful people.


    1 Comments on Review: 14 Cows For America, last added: 9/11/2011
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    24. Review: My Birthday is September 11

    my birthday is september 11 Review: My Birthday is September 11My Birthday is September 11 (And Other Short Stories) by Nicole Weaver

    Review by Chris Singer

    About the author:

    Nicole Weaver was born in Port-au-Prince Haiti. She came to the United States when she was ten years old. She is fluent in Creole, French, Spanish and English. She is a veteran teacher of French and Spanish. She is the author of a children’s tri-lingual picture book titled “Marie and Her Friend the Sea Turtle.” The story is about a Haitian little girl who resided by the beach in Haiti. Her second trilingual children’s picture book will be published by Guardian Angel Publishing. The book titled, “My sister is my Best Friend ” will be published in 2011.

    About the book:

    Growing up is filled with new experiences and they partner emotions. Our trials in life teach us compassion and help us to empathize with others. Our difficulties make us who we are, helping each of us to find our place in the world.

    In this collection of short stories, simple acts of kindness make a world of difference in the lives of individuals. The theme of compassion weaves through all five stories, inspiring readers to discover this important lesson in life; we were created to help others.

    My take on the book:

    This is a nice collection of stories which touches on topics from bi-racial adoption and bullying to overcoming the tragedies of 9/11 and natural disasters through giving and paying it forward.

    While touching on these topics, this collection for middle and teen readers shares the common theme of being stories about children dealing with real life struggles, and how kindness and empathy can turn someone’s life around for the better.

    Here’s a quick breakdown of the stories:

    * “My Birthday is September Eleven” – The title story of the collection is about a boy who was born on 9/11/01 and finds it hard to celebrate his birthday because of the tragic events of that day.

    * “Zebra Boy” – A bi-racial boy stands up to a bully because of the support from his best friend.

    * “The Good Samaritan” – An anonymous donor contributes the money necessary to help a group of fifth-graders pay for a life-saving surgery for a classmate.

    * “No More Hunger” – Ronald becomes impoverished after a devastating hurricane destroys his village in Haiti. Unable to survive on his own, he is rescued from certain death by a kind stranger.

    * “A New Life” – A bi-racial boy finally escapes a difficult past when he is adopted by a caring couple.

    The stories are well-written and can be useful for inspiring an excellent discussion between middle and teen readers and their parents and teachers.

    As I read the stories, I kept thinking of Gandhi’s quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I think these stories hold that kind of potential for young readers. They may be inspired to make a positive difference in someone’s life by either contributing financially to a cause, showing empathy for others or even standing up beside someone being treated unjustly.



    1 Comments on Review: My Birthday is September 11, last added: 10/24/2011
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    25. Review: The Bamboo Dance

    thebamboodance Review: The Bamboo DanceThe Bamboo Dance by Cress Sia and illustrated by Lisa Butler

    Review by Chris Singer

    About Hartlyn Kids (from their website):

    Hartlyn Kids Media, LLC is an independent children’s book publishing company dedicated to exposing children and their parents to the diversity of cultures around the world. The name Hartlyn comes from the two locations that each of the creators is from – Hartford and Brooklyn… and we also have read that it is a name which means full and joyous! Our business inspiration stems from the Maya Angelou quote:

    Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.

    Our books are designed to give a true and authentic snapshot of the day in the life of a child from various regions around the globe. The books are not only representations of the culture of the region but also each one is written by local authors who have immediate access to knowledge of the area. Each of our books are written with the global child of ANY age in mind.

    We hope that a parent would be comfortable reading to their child, we envision children being able to read on their own and also foresee parents being engaged by the books to use as learning tools. In each book, readers will learn about the richness and diversity of world cultures, while at the same time learning that we are not so different after all.

    With each book, the readers will have an interactive and intriguing experience of traveling the globe… one book at a time.

    About the author:

    Cress Sia grew up in the Philippines but spent a few years in the United States for some high school and college education. She is a pharmacist by day and a creative writer by night. She lives with her family in Cebu, Philippines.

    About the illustrator:

    Lisa Butler grew up in a small town in Connecticut and studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. She loves to travel and has been to France, The Netherlands, Haiti and Anguilla; but her favorite place is at home in Connecticut with her kitty, Tuxedo.

    About the book:

    Meet Paco and Diego, two Filipino boys, as they learn to dance the tinikling, the national dance of the Philippines. Along the way, they will learn that practice makes perfect, especially when you have the encouragement of your friend!

    Watch the book trailer:

    My take on the book:

    2 Comments on Review: The Bamboo Dance, last added: 10/27/2011

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