Tag Archives: multicultural

PPBF – A Song of Frutas

Today is the last day of Hispanic Heritage month. I think you’ll agree that today’s Perfect Picture Book selection is a wonderful way to celebrate!

Title: A Song of Frutas

Written By: Margarita Engle

Illustrated By: Sara Palacios

Publisher/Date: Athenium Books for Young Readers/2021

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: intergenerational, multicultural, Cuba

Opening:

When we visit Abuelo, I help him sell frutas. We sing the names of each fruit as we walk, our footsteps like drumbeats, our hands like maracas, shaking bright food shapes while we chant with a rhythm:

Mango limón coco melon naranja tononja plátano piña.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl visits her grandfather in Cuba and helps him sell fruit.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Cuba, the setting of this story;
  • What’s your favorite fruit? Why? Find out more about your favorite fruit, learn how to say the name of that fruit in Spanish or another language, and/or sing a song about your favorite fruit;
  • In Cuba and many other Spanish-speaking regions, people traditionally eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and make one wish per month for the coming year. Do you have a tradition in your family to celebrate the new year? Describe in words or pictures things you wish for – either for yourself, your family and friends, or the world;
  • Check out the Curriculum Guide for many more activity ideas.

Why I Like this Book:

With its rhythmic prose and detailed, colorful illustrations, A Song of Frutas is a delightful glimpse into the life of a Cuban fruit vendor and his young Cuban-American granddaughter. For those who have never encountered an open-air market or vendors who stroll the streets with fresh foods and other treats, this is a reminder that food doesn’t need to arrive shrink wrapped on large grocery shelves or bundled into bags on your doorstep. It’s also a reminder of the importance and dignity of the people who provide our nourishment, and the happiness that results when others view these vendors as important members of our community.

Engle’s lyrical text sprinkles in Spanish words seamlessly, much like a family with roots in one culture might continue to use those words or phrases when they move to a new land where another language is spoken. With the English phrase or word often following the Spanish one, or with the Spanish words next to illustrations of the items they identify, both of which happens here, Engle provides a wonderful opportunity for younger children to learn some Spanish.

In the story, the unnamed young narrator is visiting her beloved Abuelo and helping him sell frutas. I love that she finds pleasure in working with him and meeting all of the other vendors and customers. Not surprisingly, her favorite is “la ducera, a woman with the voice of an angel, who croons so sweetly in praise of los caramelos”. The love of chocolate and candies just may be universal!

While much of the story takes place during the visit in Cuba, Engle also reminds readers that travel between Cuba and the United States has not always been possible due to political reasons. A New Year’s Eve “wish is always friendship between countries, so that we can visit mi abuelo more often” and that he, perhaps, can visit the United States, too.

Rather than ending on this more somber note, Engle shows the young narrator and her abuelo exchanging letters, singing “rhymes back and forth…all our hopeful poems flying like songbirds who glide and soar through wild sky” sending hugs to each other until their next meeting.

With its Author’s Note that explains the Spanglish used in the text, to a brief explanation of travel restrictions, and an exploration of the singing vendors of Cuba and Cuban New Year’s eve traditions, A Song of Frutas is a wonderful resource for libraries and classrooms. It’s also a joyful read for families, especially for those that blend multiple cultures.

A Note about Craft:

As is evident from the opening lines, Engle’s use of lyrical language enables the text to sing, much like the narrator and her abluelo sing the fruit names.

A Song of Frutas is a work of fiction, but it’s clear that Engle, who is a Cuban American, clearly understands Cuban society and culture and draws on memories of her visits there to add rich details to this story.

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

PPBF – A Story About AFIYA

Today’s Perfect Picture Book is one of a handful of picture books included in the New York Times’ list of top 25 children’s books of 2020. I think you’ll agree that it deserves this honor!

Title: A Story About AFIYA

Written By: James Berry

Illustrated By: Anna Cunha

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2020

Suitable for Ages: 3+

Themes/Topics: fantasy, nature, multicultural, poetry

Opening:

Afiya has fine black skin that shows off her white clothes and big brown eyes that laugh and long limbs that play.

She has a white summer frock she wears and washes every night that every day picks on something to collect, strangely.

Brief Synopsis:

Each day, as young Afiya ventures forth, the wonders of nature that she experiences imprint themselves upon her white dress.

Links to Resources:

  • Decorate a white sheet or other cloth or paper with the scenes of nature you experienced today;
  • Do you have a favorite outfit? Why is it your favorite? Draw a picture of yourself wearing this outfit;
  • Read and enjoy poems about winter.

Why I Like this Book:

Poetic language and dreamy illustrations combine to chronicle the wonders of nature as experienced by a young black girl, Afiya. On the title page, readers learn that Afiya (Ah-fee-yah) is a Swahili name that means health.

Like a young child’s mind, the “white as new paper” dress transforms each day, bearing the imprints of all that Afiya explores and enjoys, from colorful flowers to tigers at the zoo. And as a child’s mind resets after a good night’s rest, so, too, does the dress become a blank slate each morning, after Afiya has washed it each night.

I love the pure joy expressed in the text and the soft illustrations. Afiya almost appears to dance off of the page. I also find the focus on nature so refreshing.

If you’re looking for a picture book to help you forget about our current stress-filled times, I highly recommend A Story About AFIYA.

A Note about Craft:

James Berry (1924-2017) was a celebrated Jamaican poet who lived most of his adult life in Britain. In his text, I think he utilizes the white dress as a metaphor for an inquisitive child’s mind, that soaks up the wonders of nature each day and is washed clear each night, ready to absorb more of nature’s refreshing tonic the following day.

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

PPBF – One Earth

Welcome dear readers! It’s good to be back as the scent of pumpkin spice and the feel of dewy grass on chilly mornings remind us that fall is on its way.

Today’s Perfect Picture Book, a collaboration between an American author and a Brazilian illustrator, stars something that we all share: our beautiful earth. Enjoy!

Title: One Earth

Written By: Eileen Spinelli

Illustrated By: Rogério Coelho

Publisher/Date: Worthy Kids, a division of Hachette Book Group/2020

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: environment, concept book, counting, rhyme, low word count, multicultural

Opening:

One wide, sweeping sky.

Two honeybees.

Three bunnies in a nest.

Four redwood trees.

Brief Synopsis:

In this rhyming picture book, a diverse group of children count up to 10 to celebrate some amazing things about our one world, and then count down from 10 to share some simple steps to preserve this earth.

Links to Resources:

  • Spend an afternoon in your garden or a park and try to count groups of natural things that you find there (ie, one sun, two butterflies, etc.);
  • Make a list of simple steps you can take to help preserve the earth, and practice one or more of them with your family, friends, or classmates.

Why I Like this Book:

This simple, rhyming picture book encourages young children to experience the beauty of nature and to reflect on the ways even one person can help preserve it.

I love that Spinelli uses simple, rhyming text to create so many layers: One Earth functions as a counting book from 1-10 and back again, a reminder to explore and enjoy the beauties of nature, and a call to preserve our earth.

For those cooped up at home who are yearning to travel, Spinelli’s rhymes take readers from farm fields, to redwood forests, and to the beach where seagulls cruise. And the ideas to save the earth are simple things that young children can do themselves or with their families, like picking up trash and turning in deposit bottles.

Coehlo’s bright, detailed, and whimsical illustrations will appeal to young listeners, I think. I also love the diversity depicted, including varied locations and a multicultural group of children.

A Note about Craft:

One Earth is a rhyming poem without a clear story arc or main character, but it works on so many levels to draw readers in and encourage us to take action to save our earth. And with the multicultural cast of characters which Coelho includes, it’s a vivid reminder that, despite our different situations and abilities, each of us can take action to make the world better.

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

PPBF – Your Name is a Song

When I saw the title of today’s Perfect Picture Book and its gorgeous cover, and when I saw who wrote it, I knew that I had to read it as soon as possible. So I reached out to the publisher on a site for reviewers, and I requested an electronic copy (in exchange for a fair and unbiased review). I’m so happy I did so, and I know you won’t be disappointed when you get your hands on this not-yet-released picture book!

Title: Your Name is a Song

Written By: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Illustrated By: Luisa Uribe

Publisher/Date: The Innovation Press/July 2020 (note: this launch date may be delayed due to Covid-19)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: names, self-esteem, pride, heritage, multicultural

Opening:

“I’m not coming back ever again!” The girl stomped.

Brief Synopsis:

On the first day of school, a young girl is upset because neither her teacher nor fellow classmates can pronounce her name, until her mother reminds her of the musicality and beauty of her name and others like it and empowers her to sing it.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a name that others have trouble saying or spelling? How do you feel when someone mispronounces your name? How do you think a classmate feels if you can’t pronounce their name?
  • Try tapping out each syllable of your name or singing your own name;
  • Try these name games;
  • Check out the interview Thompkins-Bigelow had with Mr. Schu about the meaning and importance of names.

Why I Like this Book:

I think any child, and even adult, feels awful when peers or an adult can’t pronounce or spell their name, or when someone uses a nickname not generally used or liked. A name is such a personal aspect of identity, which even young children recognize, I think.

In Your Name is a Song, Thompkins-Bigelow captures that feeling and offers solutions that help the young main character find beauty in her name and others that some people may have difficulty pronouncing. The words of her mother empower this young girl to sing her name, and others, when her teacher stumbles on her name once again, and to help her teacher and classmates find beauty in names that had seemed unfamiliar at first.

I particularly like how Thompkins-Bigelow addresses not just the inability of someone’s mouth to form words, but the reality that some names arise from the heart.

Uribe’s colorful illustrations show the young girl and her mother journeying from school to home and then back again the next day, and include magical scenes in which made-up names come from dreams and emanate from the sky, appearing in clouds through which our young girl travels.

Your Name is a Song is a joyous celebration that will help bolster the self-esteem of children whose names are difficult to pronounce or which reflect a particular culture. It also provides a way for other children and adults to think about the importance and beauty of names that may, at first, seem difficult to pronounce or different, and a solution, via song, to overcome that difficulty.

A Note about Craft:

Thompkins-Bigelow doesn’t name the main character until near the end of the book (I’m not going to spoil the ending and reveal it here). I think she does this to keep the reader wondering what name has caused the other children, and even the teacher, to stumble on the pronunciation and to build tension.

A glossary of the names mentioned, their origins, and their pronunciations is included as back matter. The pronunciations also appear in parentheses within the text, to help readers who might stumble while reading.

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

 

Perfect Pairing – of Two Books Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini

Imagine my surprise when I was shelving a picture book that I reviewed a few weeks ago and discovered that the illustrator had illustrated another picture book I had reviewed last year. Could this be the reason for a perfect pairing, perhaps?

Neema’s Reason to Smile

Author: Patricia Newman

Illustrator: Mehrdokht Amini

Publisher/Date: Lightswitch Learning, a Sussman Education company/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: school, Africa, poverty, dreams, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Every day, Neema balances a heavy basket of fruit on her head and traces the dusty path to town that unwinds like a cheetah’s tail. She wants to go to school, but Mama cannot afford the uniform and supplies. Neema saves her money and dreams big dreams, until one day hope skips down the street wearing a red skirt and white shirt.

Read my review.

 

Nimesh the Adventurer

Author: Ranjit Singh

Illustrator: Mehrdokht Amini

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2019

Ages: 4-6

Themes: imagination, adventure, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Nimesh is walking home from school. Except…there happens to be a shark in the corridor. And a dragon in the library! And why would crossing the road lead to the North Pole? A fun-filled story about a little boy with a BIG imagination, Nimesh the Adventurer will surely make even the dullest journey a dazzling adventure.

Read my review.

I paired these books because they feature the work of one illustrator, Mehrdokht Amini. In Neema’s Reason to Smile, Amini’s vibrant and colorful illustrations made me feel like I was journeying with Neema to the village and school. In Nimesh the Adventurer, Amini’s brightly-detailed illustrations render this picture book truly stunning, as they show how one child’s imagination can transform everyday scenes into the sites of true adventures. In both cases, Amini features main characters of color, and her illustrations transported this reader to another time and place.

 

 

 

 

PPBF – Nimesh the Adventurer

It’s Friday, the start of what is probably another weekend of social distancing and staying at or close to home for many of us. But with a book at hand, especially a picture book like today’s Perfect Picture Book, who knows what adventures await!

Title: Nimesh the Adventurer

Written By: Ranjit Singh

Illustrated By: Mehrdokht Amini

Publisher/Date: Lantana Publishing/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-6

Themes/Topics: imagination, adventure, multicultural

Opening:

Hello Nimesh, is school over?

School? My friend, this is not a school! It’s an ancient cave, and shhhh! Or you’ll wake…the DRAGON!

Brief Synopsis: Nimesh, a young school boy, has many adventures as he departs his classroom to journey home at the end of the day.

Links to Resources:

  • Take a walk and think about the many familiar sights along the way. Perhaps you see a neighbor’s cat, trees shading the sidewalk, or a favorite shopkeeper. Think about what these could be, such as a tiger, a haunted forest, or an entertainer, and draw a picture or write a story to show what adventures may lie hidden around you;
  • If you were an adventurer, where would you travel? What would you explore?
  • Discover some Famous Firsts by members of The Explorers Club, an international organization founded in 1904 and headquartered in New York City to promote “the scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural and biological sciences”;
  • Download the Teaching Resources and activity for more ways to enjoy this book.

Why I Like this Book:

In Nimesh the Adventurer, the reader follows along as a young school boy turns the everyday into the exotic. Like a magician, Nimesh conjures up fantastical situations and creatures, from the shark-infested waters of the school’s science wing hallway, to an unusually tall street crossing guard who formerly served a Maharaja, to a pirate ship that comes to life from a ship-shaped cake in a Pastry Shop window.

I especially enjoyed the opening spreads, where the illustration that accompanies the first lines of text quoted above shows Nimesh reading a book about dragon taming. What a wonderful way to show readers how books can spark imagination and transport us to new worlds!

In another particularly engaging scene, Amini’s bright, collaged and painted illustration shows an older woman on a park bench who, in Nimesh’s mind, is a princess. What a wonderful way to highlight the inherent beauty of the elderly!

And for those wondering what Nimesh finds when he reaches home, what fantastical things his imagination conjures, perhaps “a cave full of gold”, or an “emperor’s castle”, or even “a lush forest”, you’ll have to read Nimesh the Adventurer to find out.

Amini’s brightly-detailed illustrations render this picture book truly stunning, as they show how one child’s imagination can transform everyday scenes into the sites of true adventures.

A Note about Craft:

As evident from the first lines, the entire picture book is told in a question and answer dialogue, with Nimesh informing the unnamed questioner, “my friend”, of the marvelous things he encounters traveling from school to home. By keeping the text minimal, Singh leaves more room for the illustrator. By letting the reader in on the conversation, Singh places readers more immediately into the action of the story, as we wonder what Nimesh will encounter next.

Page turns are particularly important in this book, as scenes change from the reality of the journey to the imagined adventures.

This is Singh’s debut. Learn more about Iranian-born, UK-based Amini’s illustrations in this blog post and see more of her work and some of the interior spreads at her website.

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

PPBF – Ariba: An Old Tale About New Shoes

This holiday weekend marks the start of the summer travel season in many places. But for most of us, travels may be out of the question, if not for the entire summer, at least for now. So, I thought I’d share a Perfect Picture Book that includes travel, adventure, and maybe even some ideas to enjoy our time at home.

Title: Ariba: An Old Tale About New Shoes (Based on a story that has traveled around the world)

Written & Illustrated By: Masha Manapov

Publisher/Date: Enchanted Lion Books/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: favorite shoes, storytelling, intergenerational, multicultural

Opening:

From the moment Marcus put on his new shoes, he couldn’t stop moving. He bounced all the way from the living room to the kitchen, circled the house 3 times and the shed 3 times more, climbed the tree in Billy’s backyard, ran up and down the 19 steps to his front door, and accidentally stepped on Carlo’s tail.

Brief Synopsis:

When Marcus tells his grandpa about his new shoes, his grandpa shares an old tale about a pair of shoes, discarded by their owner, that keep returning to him.

Links to Resources:

  • Do you have a favorite possession? Why is it a favorite of yours? Draw a picture of it;
  • In his new shoes, Marcus moves all about his house and yard. Create an obstacle course around your house for your family to enjoy;
  • Marcus’ grandpa tells an old tale about new shoes. Ask an older relative to share a tale with you, either from their own childhood, or a tale they remember hearing when they were young;
  • Ask older relatives to tell you about favorite toys or outfits from when they were young.

Why I Like this Book:

In this quirky tale within a tale, young Marcus’ grandpa transports Marcus, and readers, to a village that seems to be in Africa. There, we meet Ariba, a youth similar in age to Marcus, who, like Marcus, has just been gifted a new pair of shoes. As this tale proceeds, the reader journeys with Ariba, wearing the shoes, of course, to a big city. Here the shoes seem out-of-place. Ariba replaces them, or at least tries to do so. Because every time he tries to donate or discard them, some kindly person remembers how much Ariba valued those shoes and thoughtfully returns them.

I think kids will enjoy guessing how the shoes return each time. I think adults will value the opportunity to discuss how we value our possessions and why we should strive to be our own person, even if our sense of fashion, or our family’s ability to “buy the newest thing”, isn’t the same as everyone else’s.

I won’t spoil the ending, but trust that everything comes together as the story circles back to Marcus and his beloved grandpa.

This is Manapov’s debut as an author/illustrator. The brightly-colored, collaged illustrations lend an air of fantasy to this story-within-a-story.

A Note about Craft:

I mentioned above that this is a story within a story. The tag line notes that it’s “based on a story that has traveled around the world.” I confess that I don’t recognize the folktale, but Ariba’s story certainly feels like one that could have been around, in some form or another, for ages.

Note that for much of the story, Ariba is an adult. So is the storyteller, Marcus’ grandpa. But Ariba and grandpa both exhibit child-like qualities and, perhaps more importantly, the story begins, and ends, with Marcus, a child.

Enchanted Lion Books “is an independent children’s book publisher based in Brooklyn, New York. We publish illustrated books from around the world, convinced by the power of cultural exchange to inspire curiosity, awareness, and wonder in children everywhere. We reach across time and oceans to find new authors and old treasures to share with a new generation of readers.”

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

Perfect Pairing of Little Things that Matter Most

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter the most in life, like time spent together and stew shared. I think today’s picture books capture these things.

Saturday

Author & Illustrator: Oge Mora

Publisher/Date: Little Brown Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: mother-child relationship, day off, special routines, disappointment, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In this heartfelt and universal story, a mother and daughter look forward to their special Saturday routine together every single week. But this Saturday, one thing after another goes wrong–ruining storytime, salon time, picnic time, and the puppet show they’d been looking forward to going to all week. Mom is nearing a meltdown…until her loving daughter reminds her that being together is the most important thing of all.

Author-artist Oge Mora’s highly anticipated follow up to Caldecott Honor Thank You, Omu! features the same magnificently radiant artwork and celebration of sharing so beloved in her debut picture book.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

 

Thank You, Omu!

Author & Illustrator: Oge Mora

Publisher/date: Little Brown Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: kindness, sharing, community, stew, multigenerational, multicultural

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A generous woman is rewarded by her community in this remarkable author-illustrator debut that’s perfect for the Thanksgiving season, perfect for fans of Last Stop on Market Street.

Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu’s delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself?

Debut author-illustrator Oge Mora brings a heartwarming story of sharing and community to life in colorful cut-paper designs as luscious as Omu’s stew, with an extra serving of love. An author’s note explains that “Omu” (pronounced AH-moo) means “queen” in the Igbo language of her parents, but growing up, she used it to mean “Grandma.”

Read my review.

I paired these books because they both capture and celebrate life’s little moments. Saturday recreates a highly anticipated outing shared by a mother and child, but when several things go wrong, the child realizes it’s the time together, not the activities, that matter. In Thank You, Omu! an older woman shares a rich stew with her neighbors. As we’ve hunkered down and have missed so many “important” events, these two picture books by the talented Mora remind us that it’s time spent with family and sharing with others that truly matter. And we haven’t lost these!

 

PPBF – Dare

I found today’s Perfect Picture Book in London, but it’s also available in the US. After reading it, I wanted to get up and DO something, take positive action. I hope others feel that way, too!

Title: Dare

Written By: Lorna Gutierrez

Illustrated By: Polly Noakes

Publisher/Date: Tiny Owl Publishing/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: social activism, self-esteem, rhyming, poetry, multicultural

Opening:

Dare to dream. Dare to aspire.

Dare to trust… Dare to inspire!

Brief Synopsis: Short rhyming text encourages and inspires children to be true to themselves, to be the best they can be, and to help others and speak out for a better world.

Links to Resources:

  • Try something new: an activity, a food, an outfit, or even visit a new place;
  • Watch the book trailer;
  • Check out the suggested activities in this Teacher Resource.

Why I Like this Book:

In just 93 words divided into short, active, rhyming phrases, Dare encourages all children to be true to themselves, to support causes important to them, and to take action to make the world better. Dare features both small actions, like reading, reaching out a hand to someone who appears to be a newcomer, and stopping to smell a flower, and big actions, like participating in a protest march.

I think the rhyming text will appeal to young children. I also think the illustrations will encourage activity. I especially like that these bright illustrations feature details that stretch the text: the girl on the cover is wearing a hearing aid; several children carry protest signs; a child in a tutu appears to be male; skin colors and hair types span a wide spectrum.

Dare is a positive, hopeful book, that, I think, will be a great addition to home and school libraries, whether you’re looking to encourage positive self-images and the pursuit of dreams or to spur social activism.

A Note about Craft:

Gutierrez uses short, rhyming phrases to encourage action. Verbs dominate the text: dare, dream, aspire, inspire, see, speak, sing, dance, lend a hand, and more.

Gutierrez also leaves a lot of room for the illustrator. I especially appreciated the phrase, “Dare to do what hasn’t been done,” accompanied by an illustration of several children in a cardboard “boat” exploring the world. And nowhere does the text state “save the environment”, but the illustrations add that layer to the book.

Learn more about the author and illustrator of Dare.

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

PPBF & MCBD – The Unexpected Friend: A Rohingya Children’s Story

Friday is always a favorite day of the week, because I get to post a Perfect Picture Book and read reviews of new picture books posted by fellow bloggers. Today is a very special Friday, though, because it’s the annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day, and regular readers know how much I enjoy sharing books that shine a light on other cultures and that help build empathy for children whatever their backgrounds or abilities. To learn more about this special celebration, see below!

Title: The Unexpected Friend: A Rohingya Children’s Story

Written By: Raya Rahman

Illustrated By: Inshra Sakhawat Russell

Publisher/Date: Guba Publishing/2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 and older

Themes/Topics: Rohingya, refugee camps, bird, injured animal, multicultural, Islam, hope, #ReadYourWorld, Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Opening:

It was the end of afternoon prayers. Faisal had just left the mosque and was waiting for his friend Rahim. Suddenly, he heard a faint chirping noise in the bushes.

Brief Synopsis: Faisal, a young Rohingya refugee, finds an injured bird in the bushes and nurses it back to health, even after he has injured his own arm in a fall.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

The Unexpected Friend provides a window into the lives of Rohingya children living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, for those, like most of us, who have little knowledge of what these children and their families face, why they are in this situation, and what we can do to help.

It’s also a mirror for those living that life. In a situation in which education is scarce for children, having a picture book for these children to see themselves is so important. And its creators are having it translated into Bengali and Burmese to enable these children to read it.

I especially like that even with this heavy topic, children in a refugee camp because of genocide in their native country, the focus is not on the horrors that they’ve fled or that they endure daily. Rather, Rahman has crafted a fictional account that offers realistic depictions of the refugees’ hardships, including crowded conditions, food lines, a busy medical clinic, and the necessity of gathering firewood in the forest. But Rahman doesn’t dwell on these conditions; rather, she shows how despite his circumstances and the fall that injures his own arm, young Faisal cares for an injured bird. He rescues it, convinces his mother and sisters to help care for it, and, in a truly selfless act, parts with his new-found friend once it heals.

Featuring a child who, in the depths of deprivation, cares for another, reminds us all of the need for empathy for other humans and animals. I also love the message of hope this story relates: the healed bird flies back to the wild, a symbol that Faisal and his family may also enjoy a better life someday soon.

Most of the illustrations are understandably rendered in earth-toned hues, befitting the refugee camp setting. But there are pops of vibrant reds, yellows, and greens depicted in clothing worn, and, most importantly, the red bird itself. The endpapers are also photographs of a Rohinyga camp, with the images of Faisal, his family, and the bird superimposed on the back papers.

A Note about Craft:

Writing a story set in a refugee camp and featuring a young refugee and his family is no easy task. How does one avoid portraying the protagonists as mere victims and their lives as total misery? In The Unexpected Friend, I think Rahman accomplishes this feat by portraying a main character, Faisal, who is not only true to his religion, the story begins as he leaves the mosque following afternoon prayers, but who also is willing to help another creature, even in the midst of his own misery. And while Rahman doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of life in the camp, she mentions them as Faisal passes the food lines and crowded clinic on his return with the injured bird to his sisters and mother, rather than merely portraying Faisal, or another family member, spending hours in those lines. And by placing an injured bird at the heart of the story, Rahman reminds readers that these refugees, too, can someday fly from the camp to start a new life.

Guba Publishing is “an independent publishing house based out of Oakland, California making children’s picture books, flashcards and posters with a focus on fun and quirky illustrations and telling diverse stories inspired by our Bengali roots.”

2020 Multicultural Children’s Book Day Poster by Jerry Craft.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.

Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues.

MCBD 2020  is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

 

Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,

Platinum

Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,

Gold

Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,

Silver

Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,

Bronze

Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers BooksTimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books,  Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales

 

Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture GrooveLauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here!

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

I received a copy of The Unexpected Friend to review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020.

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