Tag Archives: Persistence

PPBF – Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello

I don’t know about you, but after months of staying at home, I’m ready for some travel – some virtual travel to a new place and time. And what better way to do that than by reading this new Perfect Picture Book biography set in Peru!

Title: Sharuko: El Arqueólogo Peruano/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello

Written By: Monica Brown

Illustrated By: Elisa Chavarri

Spanish Translation: Adriana Domínguez

Publisher/Date: Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books/2020

Suitable for Ages: Grades 1-6

Themes/Topics: biography, archaeology, indigenous culture, bilingual, persistence, curiosity, #OwnVoices

Opening:

This is the story of Julio C. Tello, one of the most important archaeologists in all the Americas. He was born in Peru on April 11, 1880, in the rugged highlands just outside the capital city of Lima, in the shadow of the Andes mountains.

Brief Synopsis: The bilingual biography of Julio C. Tello, the first indigenous archaeologist of South America, who persevered to prove the longevity of the country’s indigenous cultures, who celebrated his ancestors’ accomplishments, and who shared his findings with Peruvians and the world.

Links to Resources:

  • Check out the comprehensive Teacher’s Guide;
  • Sharuko, which means “brave” in Julio’s native Quechuan language, explored and found bones and other artifacts from his ancestors. Explore your home or yard to find objects that belonged to your family and/or are culturally significant. Ask an older family member to explain more about them;
  • Check out these family history activities;
  • Learn about Peru, where Sharuko lived and worked.

Why I Like this Book:

With its focus on persistence, treasure hunting, and honoring the past, this picture book biography, about a man most of us never knew existed, and a country few, if any of us, have visited, left this reader eager to read on and learn about Sharuko, Peru, and the indigenous cultures that flourished there.

Targeting a slightly older reader than the typical picture book, Sharuko is a wonderful resource to encourage kids to explore their pasts, honor indigenous cultures, and be curious. I love how Brown shows Julio’s courage and persistence. We learn that he left his rural home as a child to study in Lima, the capital of Peru. Even with his aunt living there, how difficult this must have been!

As a young man, Julio worked many jobs, including carrying travelers’ luggage and working in a library. He studied medicine, and then he used that knowledge as a springboard to learn more about the artifacts he had seen in the mountains and caves of his youth. Perhaps as importantly, he shared that knowledge, so that the children of Peru could be proud of the civilizations that flourished there in the pre-Columbian era.

Filled with brightly-colored images of the artifacts Julio uncovered, studied, and shared with the world, this new bilingual picture book biography of the founder of modern Peruvian archaeology is a wonderful resource for home and school libraries.

A Note about Craft:

I noted above that Sharuko is targeted to a slightly older age range than the typical picture book. So why do I think Julio’s story is best told with words and images? Given the wealth of objects that Julio uncovered and its setting in a country with which most North American and European readers may be unfamiliar, I found the illustrations to be an invaluable part of this story. Especially for those of indigenous descent, seeing these artifacts must be a real treasure. And for those of us who don’t share that heritage, how wonderful to see and experience these pre-Columbian cultures in these pages.

Note that Brown does not gloss over the killings and destruction by the invading Spaniards, so this book is best read with an adult. Note though, too, that Brown also informs readers that “[a]lthough the Spanish tried to destroy Peru’s Indigenous language, culture, and customs, they were kept alive and passed on from generation to generation by families such as Sharuko’s.”

Brown is the daughter of a Peruvian immigrant, and Chavarri was born in Peru, so this truly is an #OwnVoices work. Among other works, Chavarri illustrated Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del arcoíris, which I reviewed in 2017.

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 – Yusra Swims

As Women’s History Month draws to a close, and as the 2020 Summer Olympics have been in the news this week, I thought this was a timely, new picture book biography to feature as a Perfect Picture Book.

Title: Yusra Swims

Written By: Julie Abery

Illustrated By: Sally Deng

Publisher/Date: Creative Editions/2020

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: swimming, refugee, Olympics, Syria, biography, rhyming, persistence, hope, dreams

Opening:

Just a girl/With a dream./Olympic Games/Swimming team.

Brief Synopsis: The true story of Yusra Mardini, a Syrian swimmer, who fled Syria for Europe and who competed in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics as part of the Refugee Olympic Team.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the Refugee Olympic Team and watch a short video featuring the athletes, including Yusra Mardini, who competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics;
  • Learn about the geography and rich history of Syria before the current conflicts;
  • Learn more about the refugee experience with materials from Amnesty International;
  • Yusra’s dream was to swim for her country in the Olympics. Do you have a dream? Describe your dream in words or pictures.

Why I Like this Book:

Yusra Swims is a hopeful story of one young woman’s persistence and courage to overcome overwhelming obstacles. Especially as we and our children navigate the uncertainties, difficulties, and fear during this unprecedented pandemic and global shutdown, I found it particularly heartening to learn about this talented and courageous young woman.

As a teenager, Yusra fled a war-torn region, she used her swimming skills to save fellow refugees when their overloaded boat lost its motor and began to sink, she resettled in Germany, despite, presumably, not knowing the language, and then she competed in the first Refugee Olympic Team in history. If Yusra doesn’t inspire all of us to use our talents to succeed and benefit others, I don’t know who could!

Abery relates Yusra’s story in short, rhyming text, which makes this an ideal picture book to share even with younger children. Deng’s blue-palette illustrations provide further context as we journey with Yusra to the Olympics.

A Note about Craft:

Aspiring writers often hear that agents and editors are not interested in rhyming text. And rhyming picture book biographies are few and far between. But rhyme works well in this case, and I applaud Abery for utilizing it to quicken the pace to match Yusra’s sport, swimming. It also enables readers to navigate the difficult parts of Yusra’s journey more quickly and focus sooner on the hopeful aspects of her life.

In one poignant spread, Deng adds a kid-relatable detail to the jettisoned possessions: a stuffed animal. My eyes focused on that immediately, and I think kids will be drawn to that, too.

Visit Julie Abery’s website to see more of her children’s books. See interior spreads from Yusra Swims and learn about Deng 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!

Perfect Pairing – Explores a History-Making Photographer

This coming Sunday, a new exhibition opens at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York City: Dorothea Lange, Words & Pictures. To help get ready, I found two picture books about this special photographer and the iconic photograph that became the face of the Great Depression.

Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression

Author: Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrator: Sarah Green

Publisher/Date: Albert Whitman & Company/2017

Ages: 4-8

Themes: photography, Great Depression, persistence, social activism, overcoming adversity, biography

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Before she raised her lens to take her most iconic photo, Dorothea Lange took photos of the downtrodden from bankers in once-fine suits waiting in breadlines, to former slaves, to the homeless sleeping on sidewalks. A case of polio had left her with a limp and sympathetic to those less fortunate. Traveling across the United States, documenting with her camera and her fieldbook those most affected by the stock market crash, she found the face of the Great Depression. In this picture book biography, Carole Boston Weatherford with her lyrical prose captures the spirit of the influential photographer.

Read a review at Gathering Books.

 

Ruby’s Hope: A Story of How the Famous “Migrant Mother” Photograph Became the Face of the Great Depression

Author: Monica Kulling

Illustrator: Sarah Dvojack

Publisher/Date: Page Street Kids/2019

Ages: 6-10

Themes: Great Depression, migrant, Dust Bowl, photography

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era “Migrant Mother” photograph is an icon of American history. Behind this renowned portrait is the story of a family struggling against all odds to survive.

Dust storms and dismal farming conditions force young Ruby’s family to leave their home in Oklahoma and travel to California to find work. As they move from camp to camp, Ruby sometimes finds it hard to hold on to hope. But on one fateful day, Dorothea Lange arrives with her camera and takes six photographs of the young family. When one of the photographs appears in the newspaper, it opens the country’s eyes to the reality of the migrant workers’ plight and inspires an outpouring of much needed support.

Bleak yet beautiful illustrations depict this fictionalized story of a key piece of history, about hope in the face of hardship and the family that became a symbol of the Great Depression.

Read a review at Miss Marple’s Musings.

I paired these books because they explore Dorothea Lange’s life and the creation of this iconic photograph, as a biography, in the case of Dorothea Lange, and in a fictional account, Ruby’s Hope, that posits how Lange may have met the Migrant Mother and photographed her. Read together, I think these picture books provide a fuller picture of this famous photographer and her most famous photograph. And for those who write picture books, reading these side by side as mentor texts is a fascinating way to explore how best to tell a person’s story.

Perfect Pairing – Loves to Dance

I love to dance into a new month, don’t you? Here’s two picture books to help!

Lena’s Slippers

Author & Illustrator: Ioana Hobai

Publisher/Date: Page Street Kids/2019

Ages: 4-8

Themes: ballet, dancing shoes, perseverance, economic hardship, determination

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Lena can’t wait to twirl and swirl on stage for her school dance recital, but her family does not have the money to pay for new dance slippers. Despite this, nothing is going to stop Lena from dancing. As the day of the recital draws closer, Lena works hard come up with a creative solution and enjoys her shining moment on stage, learning along the way that what you do is more important than what you wear.

Lena’s passion for performing will inspire readers, especially aspiring dancers. Parents will love that it teaches kids not to get caught up in artificial, materialistic ideals. With lovely illustrations, this heartwarming story highlights the power of perseverance and the joy of creativity.

Read a review at The Picture Book Buzz.

 

The Wonder Shoes

Author: Eva Bernatová

Illustrator: Fiona Moodie

Publisher/Date: Farrar Straus Giroux/1990

Ages:  4-8

Themes: ballet, dancing shoes, loneliness, persistence

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A story of a young girl named Emma who is enraptured by the Circus Umberto, which has come to her village featuring a beautiful young dancer wearing bright red dancing shoes. Emma dreams of becoming a dancer herself, and wonderful things happen when she receives her own pair of dancing shoes.

Because of the date of publication, I didn’t find a review of The Wonder Shoes, but my kids loved it when they were young.

I paired these books because both feature dancers and the desire to obtain dance shoes. In Lena’s Slippers, economic hardship and the realities of life in a country with bare-shelved stores leaves Lena scrambling to find the right white dance slippers to join with her ballet classmates. In The Wonder Shoes, lonely newcomer Emma dreams of life as a dancer, and finds friends, and an opportunity to dance, through perseverance and creativity. Both books highlight the joys of dancing and the desire to be part of a group.

Looking for similar reads?

See Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins (Michelle Meadows/Ebony Glenn, 2019) and Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird (Misty Copeland/Christopher Myers, 2014), featured here last spring, and Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México (Duncan Tonatiuh, 2017).

Perfect Pairing – Heads to the Hen House

I think we all know the story of the little red hen. But have you seen these two recent twists on the traditional tale?

 

Holy Squawkamole! Little Red Hen Makes Guacamole 

Author: Susan Wood

Illustrator: Laura González

Publisher/Date: Sterling Books/2019

Ages: 3 and up

Themes: fractured folktale, hard work, self-reliance, persistence, Spanish words

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This tasty take on the classic Little Red Hen story has a deliciously spicy twist! 
Yum, guacamole! That’s what Little Red Hen craves, and she could use some help gathering and mashing the ingredients. So she asks her friends, including an armadillo, snake, and iguana, to lend a hand. Everyone just says “no.” But after Little Red Hen works hard to make the scrumptious fresh guac, all the animals want a taste. In a fun departure from the original tale, Little Red Hen cooks up a comeuppance for the slackers that they’ll never forget!

Read a review by Susanna Leonard Hill.

The Little Green Hen

Author & Illustrator: Alison Murray

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2019 (originally published by the Watts Publishing Group, Great Britain/2018)

Ages: 2-5

Themes: environment, helping others, fractured folktale

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A fun-filled retelling of The Little Red Hen with important messages about caring for our environment and working together!

Read a review at New York Journal of Books.

I paired these books because they are timely and ingenious takes on a traditional tale. Set in Mexico, Holy Squawkamole! tells the tale of the red hen (gallinita roja) who needs help making guacamole. As in the original tale, her friends won’t help until she teaches them a lesson. In The Little Green Hen, the hen tends her apple tree home and establishes an orchard with the help of a dog, sparrow and squirrel. But other animals refuse to help, until disaster strikes, and they learn the lesson of caring for the environment. I love how both authors updated the original tale by setting it in a new locale, Mexico and an apple tree, and adding timely twists, the addition of Spanish terms and a Mexican food in Holy Squawkamole! and an environmental theme in Little Green Hen.

 

 

PPBF – Ayobami and the Names of the Animals

I saw this picture book last fall on a “best illustrated” list, and the title and cover intrigued me. Thankfully, my local library has a copy, and I’m able to share it with you.

Title: Ayobami and the Names of the Animals

Written By: Pilar López Ávila

Illustrated By: Mar Azabal

Translated By: Jon Brokenbrow

Publisher/Date: Cento de Luz SL/2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: education; literacy; overcoming danger; persistence; war; jungle animals

Opening:

When the war finally came to an end, the teacher went from house to house, telling everyone that the children could go back to school the next day.

Brief Synopsis: When a young African girl, Ayobami, becomes lost on her way to school, she promises the animals she meets in the jungle that she will write their names for them, if they let her pass.

Links to Resources:

  • Ayobami meets several jungle animals on her walk to school. Learn about African jungle animals;
  • What jungle animal do you resemble most? Take this fun quiz to find out;
  • Ayobami was happy to return to school to learn to read and write. What makes you happy at school? What subject do you most want to learn?
  • Compare your journey to school with Ayobami’s journey. How are they the same? How are they different?

Why I Like this Book:

In fable-like prose, complete with talking animals who long to learn their names, Ayobami and the Names of the Animals features a determined young girl who convinces the dangerous jungle animals she encounters that she will write down their names for them if they allow her to pass. Not only will young children learn the names of several African jungle animals, such as crocodile, snake, and mosquito, but I think they will appreciate Ayobami’s tenacity as she negotiates with each animal in turn to reach her goal of learning to read and write. Even young children will be able to follow along as they identify different animals and search the illustrations for the many hidden letters.

I love that Ayobami kept her promises and shared the literacy she gained with the animals by naming them – a sign of dignity or perhaps order that indicates the power of education to bring peace and stability to the world. I especially love López Ávila’s description of how Ayobami learned to read and write by learning “the letters of the alphabet”, learning “how to put them together to make sounds”, joining “the sounds to make words”, and mixing “the words together to make sentences.” The result? “And she heard the music that comes from making words.”

Azabal’s colorful illustrations include letters sprinkled throughout most of the illustrations. And don’t miss the lined yellow endpapers that include the cursive alphabets that many of us might remember from our school days.

A Note about Craft:

You’ll note from the Opening above that the main character does not appear in the first lines. In fact, she doesn’t appear until page three. I think López Ávila does this to give context to Ayobami’s story, to show how the education of one girl can restore order after the cessation of war.

Per the publisher’s website, López Ávila is a Spanish author and doctor of veterinary medicine.

Visit Azabal’s website to see more of her work. Ayobami and the Names of the Animals was a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2018.

Cuento de Luz  is an independent publisher based in Spain that “publishes stories that take the imagination on a journey, help care for our planet, respect differences and promote peace.” It’s a certified B corporation, which means that it uses its business as a source for good, including by printing its books using special “stone paper”.

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 – The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

None of my children is a visual artist or an architect, but all enjoyed designing and re-designing special places when they were young. From my daughters’ connected castles (with a third, for my husband and me, in the middle), to my son’s over-sized drawing of a zoo, to many hours spent together on the computer designing Syms’ homes and even “real” homes with home design software, my children loved architecture and design. I wish today’s Perfect Picture Book had been available when they were young – I know they would have savored every page!

148144669XTitle: The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

Written & Illustrated By: Jeanette Winter

Publisher/date: Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster)/2017

Suitable for Ages: 5-10

Themes/Topics: STEAM; biography; architecture; persistence

Opening:

In Iraq, rivers flow through green marshes. Wind swoops across sand dunes and through ancient cities. Zaha Hadid sees the rivers and marshes and dunes and ruins with her father and imagines what cities looked like thousands of years ago.

Brief Synopsis: As a child in Iraq, Zaha Hadid loved nature; as an architect, she incorporated the swoosh, zoom and flow of nature into her designs.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover Iraq, the country where Hadid grew up;
  • Learn about architecture and elements of design here and here;
  • See illustrations of some of Hadid’s creations and learn where they are in an Afterword, explore more in the Sources, and see photographs of 10 of Hadid’s best buildings;
  • Find discussion questions and curriculum connections in this review;
  • Design and draw your dream house, classroom, park, or other favorite place.

Why I Like this Book:

In The World is Not a Rectangle, Winter combines sparse, lyrical text with gorgeous, often-full page illustrations to tell the story of architect Zaha Hadid. Like Hadid’s nature-inspired designs, Winter’s text flows and swoops across the pages and recounts Hadid’s journey to become a world-renowned architect, despite being a woman in a male-dominated field and a Muslim. I love how Winter shows the reader the natural scenes that inspired Hadid, and I love the many details Winter shares in her text and illustrations. A particular favorite includes reams of scribbled designs and text that highlight the sense of movement in Hadid’s creations and her belief that “the world is not a rectangle.” This spread, and several others, can be viewed at Simon and Schuster (but are not reproducing well here!).

The text and illustrations work together on many levels to highlight the work of a Muslim female pioneer; to inspire children to persevere and reach for their dreams; and to appreciate these architectural gems.

A Note about Craft:

Winter tells Hadid’s story in the present tense, from her childhood in Iraq, to her days as a student and struggling architect, to her time at the pinnacle of success, to the night when “the light in Zaha’s window goes dark.” Only then does Winter switch to past tense, “[s]he has left this world” before returning to present tense with the revelation that Hadid’s colleagues “keep their lights on…keeping her flame burning bright.” Not only does Winter’s choice of present tense render the story more immediate (similar to using first person point of view, I think), but I believe it’s particularly effective in the biography of a woman whose creations will endure for centuries.

Winter uses sparse, lyrical text interspersed with quotations in this longer than usual, 56-page picture book. I particularly think her verb choices are important ways to incorporate movement in the text, as Hadid, herself, incorporates movement in her architectural designs.

The World is Not a Rectangle is an NCTE 2018 Orbis Pictus honor book.

See a review of another book by Winter:  Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan.

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

PPBF: Looking for Bongo

I discovered today’s perfect picture book on the “New” shelf at the local library yesterday. The cover drew me in; I brought it home, read it right away, and decided that the sprinkling of Spanish words is perfect for the day after Cinco de Mayo, this is a wonderful example of a diverse book, and it shows an elderly person in a positive light (see Lee & Low Books’ the open book for a fascinating discussion of ageism in children’s literature).

9780823435654_p0_v2_s192x300Title: Looking for Bongo

Written & Illustrated By: Eric Velasquez

Publisher/date: Holiday House, February 2016

Suitable for Ages: 3-6

Themes/Topics: Loss, intergenerational family, reunion, persistence, multiculturalism

Opening: “Where is Bongo? I need Bongo to watch TV with me.”

Brief Synopsis: When a young Afro-Latino boy’s favourite stuffed animal goes missing, he asks family members for help and searches for it; when he finds the animal, he takes the further step of trying to discover how it went missing.

Links to Resources:

  • Color a Bongo
  • The grandmother, called Wela, plays a significant role in this story (per the Endnote, Wela is derived from the Spanish word for grandmother, “abuela”). Discuss the different names children call their grandparents and the roles they play in their lives and/or homes. Check out grandparents.com for a listing of names used for grandparents throughout the world.
  • Velasquez provides clues to the boy and his family through illustrations. Draw a picture of yourself, a family member or your home and include clues to describe yourself, that person or place.

Why I Like this Book: This is a simple story of a favourite toy gone missing and what the owner does to find and protect if from further loss. I love, though, how the boy persists in his quest, even asking the family pets where Bongo has disappeared. I also love how the boy journeys from family member to family member of this intergenerational family and throughout the apartment. In detailed illustrations, the apartment comes alive and we get to know the family through their possessions that show them to be readers, lovers of music and lovers of fashion. A few Spanish phrases are included, just as one would expect to hear in a multi-lingual family. And in an endnote we learn that there’s a real animal called a Bongo – who knew!

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