Tag Archives: multicultural

Perfect Pairing – is Bicycling

Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday, and he loves to bicycle. So I thought I’d share two picture books featuring children who also love to cycle.

 

In a Cloud of Dust

Author: Alma Fullerton

Illustrator: Brian Deines

Publisher/Date: Pajama Press/2015

Ages: 4-8

Themes: bicycles, diversity, education, disappointment, compassion

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In a Tanzanian village school, Anna struggles to keep up. Her walk home takes so long that when she arrives, it is too dark to do her homework. Working through the lunch hour instead, she doesn’t see the truck from the bicycle library pull into the schoolyard. By the time she gets out there, the bikes are all gone. Anna hides her disappointment, happy to help her friends learn to balance and steer. She doesn’t know a compassionate friend will offer her a clever solution—and the chance to raise her own cloud of dust. Brought to life by Brian Deines’ vivid oil paintings, Alma Fullerton’s simple, expressive prose captures the joy of feeling the wind on your face for the first time. Inspired by organizations like The Village Bicycle Project that have opened bicycle libraries all across Africa, In a Cloud of Dust is an uplifting example of how a simple opportunity can make a dramatic change in a child’s life.

Read my review.

 

 

The Patchwork Bike

Author: Maxine Beneba Clarke

Illustrator: Van T. Rudd

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2018 (first published in Australia by Hachette Australia/2016)

Ages: 6-9

Themes: bicycle, resourcefulness, play, poverty, imagination, North Africa, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

What’s the best fun in the whole village? Riding the patchwork bike we made! A joyous picture book for children by award-winning author Maxine Beneba Clarke.

When you live in a village at the edge of the No-Go Desert, you need to make your own fun. That’s when you and your brothers get inventive and build a bike from scratch, using everyday items like an old milk pot (maybe mum is still using it, maybe not) and a used flour sack. You can even make a numberplate from bark, if you want. The end result is a spectacular bike, perfect for going bumpity-bump over sandhills, past your fed-up mum and right through your mud-for-walls home.

A delightful story from multi-award-winning author Maxine Beneba Clarke, beautifully illustrated by street artist Van T Rudd.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they feature bicycles and children, and, in both cases, economic hardship necessitates the use of either a homemade or donated bicycle. While the focus of In a Cloud of Dust is riding bikes to and from a rural school, the children in A Patchwork Bike use their creation to explore and have fun. In both books, I think readers learn the importance and joy of bicycles, even if they aren’t shiny and new.

Perfect Pairing – Promotes Social Action

I met both of these authors at a fabulous recent Highlights Foundation Master Class for Non-Fiction writers. When I read these books, I knew I had to pair them! And for those heading back to school now, note that the first book features a classroom setting.

Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You

Author: Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrator: James E. Ransome

Publisher/Date: Bloomsbury Children’s Books/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., social justice, take action, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

You can be a King. Stamp out hatred. Put your foot down and walk tall.

You can be a King. Beat the drum for justice. March to your own conscience.

Featuring a dual narrative of the key moments of Dr. King’s life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him, Carole Weatherford’s poetic text encapsulates the moments that readers today can reenact in their own lives. See a class of young students as they begin a school project inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and learn to follow his example, as he dealt with adversity and never lost hope that a future of equality and justice would soon be a reality. As times change, Dr. King’s example remains, encouraging a new generation of children to take charge and change the world . . . to be a King. 

Read a review in School Library Journal.

 

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

Author: Rob Sanders

Illustrator: Jared Andrew Schorr

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: protest, equal rights, concept book, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A primer for peaceful protest, resistance, and activism from the author of Rodzilla and Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

Protesting. Standing up for what’s right. Uniting around the common good—kids have questions about all of these things they see and hear about each day. Through sparse and lyrical writing, Rob Sanders introduces abstract concepts like “fighting for what you believe in” and turns them into something actionable. Jared Schorr’s bold, bright illustrations brings the resistance to life making it clear that one person can make a difference. And together, we can accomplish anything.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they both prompt children to take action to promote social justice. While Be a King encourages children to follow the lead of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights emphasizes actions through an A to Z of social activism. Read together, these picture books will have children ready to boycott, be a friend, march, protest and create a better, more inclusive world, including in their own classrooms.

PPBF – Caribbean Canvas

I found today’s Perfect Picture Book in my local library, and I was excited to see that it’s illustrated by a favorite artist who has long painted this beautiful part of the world.

Title: Caribbean Canvas

Written  & Illustrated By: Frané Lessac

Publisher/Date: J.B. Lippincott, a division of Macmillan Publishers/1987

Suitable for Ages: all

Themes/Topics: poetry, Caribbean islands, multicultural

Opening:

The Song of the Banana Man

Up in de hills, where the streams are cool,/ Where mullet an’ janga swim in de pool,/ I have ten acres of mountain side,/ An’ a dainty-foot donkey dat I ride,/ Four Gros Michel, an’ four Lacatan,/ Some coconut trees, and some hills of yam,/ An’ I pasture on dat very same lan’/ Five she-goats an’ a big black ram. (Evan Jones)

Brief Synopsis: A series of poems and proverbs featuring Caribbean stories and culture and accompanied by paintings by Lessac.

Links to Resources:

  • Draw a picture of a place you enjoy living or visiting;
  • Learn more about the many varied islands of the Caribbean region.

Why I Like this Book:

In this classic collection of 19 poems written by various Caribbean-based poets and a few proverbs paired with her colorfully-detailed, folk-art paintings, Lessac introduces several Caribbean islands to young readers. I love how the various cultures are shared through the words and pictures, depicting a multicultural world of villages, farms and market squares, and the sea.

In Una Marson’s poem, Kinky Hair Blues, the poet shares that she “don’t envy gals/What got dose locks so fair” and instead prefers her own “kinky hair”.  I love the empowering self-acceptance! Similar to the story of the Big Bad Wolf, a West Indian proverb notes that you don’t need to worry about a hurricane if you’ve prepared and live in a cement house. And a few poets discuss their hesitation to leave small islands via emigration or death.

Although the vernacular poetry is at times difficult to read aloud (see the opening, above), I appreciate that it includes the rhythms and vocabulary of island speakers. I also was pleased to discover a celebration of the multicultural aspects of this region, published over 30 years ago.

A Note about Craft:

More anthology than picture book per se, Lessac’s exploration of the Caribbean islands truly is a “canvas” of this varied region. By pairing her own vibrant paintings with the words of native poets, I think she offers a celebration for those who call or called the Caribbean islands “home” and an introduction for those not familiar with the region.

Visit Lessac’s website to view more of her artwork and books.

This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Perfect Pairing – of Grandparents & Balloons

I saw the first book featured today on a shelf in my local library, and I immediately thought of one of my favorite picture books from last year – the recipe, in my mind, for a perfect pairing! Note, too, the publication date of the first book featured and its inclusion of a multicultural family.

 

A Balloon for Grandad

Author: Nigel Gray

Illustrator: Jane Ray

Publisher/Date: Orchard Books, a division of Franklin Watts, Inc./1988

Ages: 4-7

Themes: intergenerational, multicultural, balloons, family, imagination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Unhappy when he loses his silver and red balloon, Sam is comforted by imagining it on its way to visit his grandfather in Egypt.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

The Remember Balloons

Author: Jessie Oliveros

Illustrator: Dana Wulfekotte

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/2018

Ages: 5-9

Themes: intergenerational, memories, balloons, family

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.

But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice!

Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.

Read a review at Children’s Books Heal.

I paired these books because they feature intergenerational stories in which balloons play an important role. In A Balloon for Grandad, the thought that his lost balloon may be traveling to visit Grandad far away consoles Sam, whereas in The Remember Balloons, the balloons symbolize the memories that bind James and his beloved grandfather. Both books feature loving families and deal with difficult topics: the distance that separates many loved ones and memory loss in older relatives.

Looking for similar reads? See Grandad’s Island.

PPBF – Seven Pablos

I’ve wanted to read, and review, today’s Perfect Picture Book from the first day that I learned about it. I put in a hold request at my local library, and there it sat, unfilled for months, until it arrived…when I was traveling! Imagine my surprise when the book magically appeared on the New Books shelf late last week: maybe a staff member read it and decided that my little library needed a copy of its own perhaps?

Title: Seven Pablos

Written By: Jorge Luján

Illustrated By: Chiara Carrer

Translated from Spanish By: Mara Lethem

Publisher/Date: Enchanted Lion Books/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: names, South America, immigrants, multicultural

Opening:

Pablo is eight years old and lives in Chile. His father works in a copper mine, where he spends his days drilling into the rock half a mile underground It is cold down there, but he sweats nonstop.

Brief Synopsis: Short vignettes featuring seven different boys named Pablo leading different lives across the Americas, but sharing similarities.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn more about the countries in South America where many of the Pablos live;
  • Do you share a name with someone? How are you the same or different?
  • Ask a parent or caregiver about the meaning of your name and why they chose that name for you.

Why I Like this Book:

In Seven Pablos, Luján provides glimpses into the lives of seven young boys living in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, New York City, and Peru. All face economic and other hardships. Pablo in Brazil rummages through garbage in a favela in Rio de Janeiro. He doesn’t attend school, because he lacks paper, a pencil, and shoes. One Pablo in Mexico is a refugee from the Argentinian dictatorship and lost several relatives during that regime. Another Pablo in Mexico is attempting to cross the border to follow his parents into the US.  Pablo in New York City is the son of immigrants from Guyana, living in one room with his parents for half of each day, while cousins occupy the room for the other half. The Pablos in Chile, Ecuador and Peru also face hardships.

Despite these hardships, the Pablos share not only their names but also loving families, even when the families consist of a single parent only or are in a different location. And it’s clear that these Pablos share dreams of a better life – whether in the United States, in school in Brazil, or in an Ecuadoran village listening to the music of traveling musicians. As Luján notes at the end, Inside of each is a heart that beats with the same rhythm as the ocean’s waves and the rotations of the planet.

Although there is little story line and only snippets of information about each Pablo, I think Seven Pablos is a timely and important book for classroom and family discussion as issues of immigration and race feature on the news each night. With its message of hope and inclusion at the end, and Carrer’s child-like color and graphite illustrations, I found Seven Pablos to be a haunting read, whose glimpses into these varied lives will linger.

A Note about Craft:

Luján uses one name to tie the stories of seven different South and Central American children together. Although he could have focused on just one of the children, by featuring seven, I think he brings breadth to the issues facing children in economically-challenged households in a way that focusing on one child may not have done.

Luján is an Argentinian poet, novelist and musician living in Mexico.

Carrer is an award-winning Italian illustrator.

Enchanted Lion Books is an independent children’s book publisher based in Brooklyn, New York, that publishes “illustrated books from around the world”.

This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Where Are You From?

Who hasn’t heard the question that forms the title of today’s Perfect Picture Book? I have vivid memories of the first weeks at university when this question could be heard in every classroom, corridor and dormitory. I probably asked it myself. But when a classmate mimicked my accent and posed the question, I confess to wondering if I truly belonged and feeling rather hurt. Luckily, today’s Perfect Picture Book exists to help those now facing that question.

Title: Where Are You From?

Written By: Yamile Saied Méndez

Illustrated By: Jaime Kim

Publisher/Date: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: identity, self-acceptance, family, intergenerational, multicultural

Opening:

Where are you from? they ask.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl asks her Abuelo, “Where am I from?”

Links to Resources:

  • Ask older relatives for information about your family history;
  • Create a family tree. Be creative – it doesn’t need to be an actual tree. Our family used flower petals to feature each person in our immediate family. You could use other shapes to highlight features that define each person (sports equipment, animal shapes, etc). Check out some other ideas here or use this printable tree with spaces to include family names and/or pictures.

Why I Like this Book:

In lyrical text, Where Are You From? explores a question that troubles children of mixed heritage who seek to understand why their skin tone or hair or language may be different from those around them. Interestingly, the unnamed narrator asks the question of her Abuelo, not because she notices the differences, but because others ask her, questioning whether she belongs.

I think all children wonder where they’re from, but for children whose features differ in some way from others in their school or community, this is an especially important issue. Thankfully, the young narrator has a wise grandfather who understands his granddaughter’s concerns and reassures her of her family’s love.

Kim’s rich illustrations provide a colorful accompaniment to Méndez’ text, as Abuelo describes the places of origin of the narrator’s ancestors.

A Note about Craft:

In Where Are You From?, Méndez utilizes first person point-of-view, which helps make the story seem more personal. But interestingly, the title and first lines indicate that the narrator reacts to the words of those around her. By using a question as the title and including “you” in that question, Méndez also draws readers into the story and may make them consider their own family or cultural background. It may also help them realize the hurt they cause when they pose this question to someone who differs somehow from the group.

Check out Méndez’ website to see more of her books. See more of Kim’s work at her website. There’s also a Spanish-language version of this picture book.

This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

 

PPBF – Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

As I was preparing this post, I couldn’t help but think of the ticker-tape parade occurring just a few miles or so (as the seagulls fly) from my home. The feting of the world champion US women’s soccer team included not just a celebration but a call for equal pay for female soccer players and the recognition by these athletes that they could use their success to advocate for social good. While I have no evidence that these women read today’s Perfect Picture Book, I have every reason to believe that they would support its message.

Title: Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

Written By: Rob Sanders

Illustrated By: Jared Andrew Schorr

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: protest, equal rights, concept book, multicultural

Opening:

Assemble. Take action. Create allies.

Brief Synopsis:

A concept book that explores the various ways to fight peacefully for equal rights.

Links to Resources:

  • Make a banner or sign to show an idea that you support or that you want to protest;
  • Think of three things that you and your family or classroom can do to help the environment, support a favorite cause, or welcome a refugee;
  • Download the Educator’s Guide to discover more ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

From A to Z, Sanders provides concrete examples of ways to advocate peacefully for equal rights. With short but lyrical text, Sanders prompts young readers to ask questions, become informed, and take action for what they believe. I love the many verbs used that encourage action. I also love that so many options are offered, including giving time, having hope (and being hope), praying, and voting, among many, many others. Finally, I love that the vocabulary stretches young listeners, especially as there’s a comprehensive Glossary with pronunciation guide, so that children can learn the language of protest. A note about the history of Peaceful Protests rounds out this wonderful concept book that will have families and classrooms excited to take positive action.

Schorr’s cut-paper illustrations are vibrant and add so much context to the sparse text. I found the two-page spreads with one word or phrase particularly powerful, especially “unite” with its many hands of varying hues raised in peace signs.

A Note about Craft:

A book about taking action should leave its readers and listeners ready to take action, but how does an author do that? I think with his sparse text, in short, choppy sentences, all starting with verbs, Sanders encourages people to get up and do something. The low word count also has the effect of leaving space for the illustrator, which Schorr utilizes to include a wide range of diverse characters and cultural and historical references that adults will appreciate and enjoy sharing with youngsters.

This Perfect Picture Book entry will be added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!