Tag Archives: #ReadYourWorld

PPBF – A Rainbow in My Pocket

Continuing the celebration of poetry for National Poetry Month, I’m so happy to feature a poetic picture book that was published April 2016 in English and that I received from the publisher when I visited London last month. Poem in Your Pocket Day is coming up on April 26th (as I was reminded when I visited the poets.org website and checked out their 30 ways to celebrate national poetry month). You’ll see below that the young girl in today’s Perfect Picture Book is set to celebrate – writing a poem each day to keep in her pocket.

9781910328125-768x767Title: A Rainbow in My Pocket

Written By: Ali Seidabadi

Illustrated By: Hoda Haddadi

Translated By: Azita Rassi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd/ 2016 (first published in Persian, Ofogh Publications/2007)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: poetry; #ReadYourWorld; curiosity

Opening:

If you can’t
Fit the Rainbow
In your pocket,
Instead
Make your dreams
So big
You can put
What you like
Inside them!

I’ll write
My dreams,
My wishes,
And my thoughts
On a small piece of paper
And put it in my pocket.
I feel the rainbow
Rising from my pocket.

Brief Synopsis: A young girl shares her observations, hopes, and dreams by writing a poem each day and storing the paper in her pocket.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover Iran, home of the author and illustrator;
  • Write about or draw a picture of something you like or wish to have or do;
  • Keep a journal to write down your thoughts each day;
  • View the book trailer here.

Why I Like this Book:

A Rainbow in My Pocket is a happy, hopeful collection of whimsical observations about the little things in life, questions about nature, and musings about more universal themes. The young, unnamed narrator records her of-the-moment thoughts each day and shares them as distinct free-verse poems with the reader. They range from the everyday experience of waiting for a favorite dress to be washed, dried and ready to wear, dreaming about a hat her mother hasn’t bought her yet, to wondering why ants “queue in such a neat line.” Similarly, she wonders why the sky is blue, as a bird “in a smoky city” answers, “why isn’t the sky blue?”

Like curious young children everywhere, the narrator’s mind flits between small, everyday observations to more thought-provoking ideas. I couldn’t help thinking of that phrase, “out of the mouths of babes” as I read,

I wish people
Would talk using only nice words –
Poetry,
Songs,
Not use harsh words
That prod
And poke you.

I think all of us share this wish, as we encourage our children to let their minds wander, to ponder and question both everyday happenings and big, universal ideas, and to hope for a future as magical as a rainbow following a rain shower.

Seidabadi’s short, lyrical verses are paired well with Haddadi’s colorfully dreamy, mixed- media collages. Haddadi leaves plenty of white space, too, to let readers’ minds wander and wonder.

2016_dg_a-rainbow-in-my-pocket

Interior spread from the text, as reproduced in Mirrors, Windows, Doors

A Note about Craft:

Seidabadi wrote A Rainbow in My Pocket from the first-person point of view. The narrator remains nameless, and even Haddadi’s evocative illustrations give no indication of her exact age or location. This combination, I believe, enables readers and listeners to share in the narrator’s thoughts, and, perhaps let their minds wander among ideas big and small. Likewise, there is no plot, per se. There is, however, movement among ideas, and between everyday questions & bigger picture dreams.

An End Note introduces the Iranian author and illustrator to Western readers.

See also an interview with Haddadi here, and view more illustrations on her Facebook page. In addition to other awards and recognition, Haddadi won the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award 2017 for best illustration of a picture book in the North American market for Drummer Girl, by Hiba Masood; illustrated by Hoda Hadadi (Daybreak Press, 2017).

Read an interview with Seidabadi here, a chat with him here, and visit his Facebook page.

Discover more books published by Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd, “an independent publishing company committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there”. They’ve published a number of books by Iranian authors and/or illustrators, including When I Coloured in the World, Alive Again,  A Bottle of Happinessand The Drum.

While not currently available in US book shops, A Rainbow in My Pocket is available through the Book Depository which ships for free to the US and around the world.

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 – The Field

As the snow is melting and temperature’s rising (a bit!), I’ve been enjoying the sight of teams, families and friends heading to the town sports fields near my home, sports gear in tow. As is clear from today’s Perfect Picture Book, this is a sight that’s replicated on fields near and far – even those that are never snow-covered.

the-field-cover-300x233Title: The Field

Written By: Baptiste Paul

Illustrated By: Jacqueline Alcántara

Publisher/date: NorthSouth Books, Inc/March 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: soccer; teamwork; play; St. Lucia (Caribbean); #WNDB; #ReadYourWorld

Opening:

Vini! Come!

The field calls.

Brief Synopsis: An island field calls a group of children to play a pick-up game of soccer, friend against friend.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about the island of St. Lucia, the unnamed setting of The Field;
  • Match the Creole word to the English word and color the book illustrations in this Activity Sheet;
  • Play soccer, or another sport, with your family or friends;
  • Find more ideas in the Discussion Guide.

Why I Like this Book:

This exuberant debut picture book follows a group of island children as they play a game of pick-up soccer, friend against friend. Not only do the children need to first gather their shoes, ball and goals, but they also must convince the fruit vendor to serve as referee, shoo cows from the field, and decide whether to call the match when the “sky falls” and rain muddies the field.

Paul’s short, poetic text, with many Creole words paired with their English equivalents, coupled with Alcántara’s vivid, mixed-media illustrations make this a book that children and their parents will want to read, and reread.

A Note about Craft:

The word count of The Field is extremely low, with only a few words, at most, appearing on most pages, and with only a few full sentences. The longest sentences I found were a mere five words long! The text, to me, reads as a free-verse poem. With short, staccato phrases and sentences, Paul mimics the action and pacing of a soccer match and helps the reader feel as if s/he is part of the game. As writers, we should consider the subject matter and match the pacing to the subject, as Paul does so well here.

Likewise, in a story about teamwork, Paul (or his editor) chose not to name any characters or attribute any dialogue. I’m presuming this may be because attributing the dialogue would slow the pace. Another result, though, is that this encourages any child reading this story to feel as if s/he is on the field, too, a kind of “Every Child,” effect, if you will.

The two-word title of this book, The Field, captured my attention, and, after I’d read the book, caused me to think back on all of the places I, or my kids, enjoyed playing. Thinking about the many other possible titles this story could have had, makes me realize the importance of just the right title to lure readers in.

Finally, The Field is about universal themes like teamwork and soccer and playing through an obstacle, like rain – things everyone can relate to. But the children playing in this story don’t all wear official soccer gear, or even sneakers, the field is shared with livestock, and no bleachers line its sides. From the illustrations and the inclusion of Creole words, we can guess at its island setting.  From the illustrations, we know a diverse group of kids comprise the players. As author and editor Denene Millner wrote in a recent New York Times Op-Ed piece, children of color “want to read books that engage with their everyday experiences, featuring characters who look like them….White children, too, deserve — and need — to see black characters that revel in the same human experiences that they do.” I’d add to that, that kids who don’t have fancy soccer gear or state-of-the-art fields want to read stories that show kids having fun without those things, too. I think Paul and Alcántara have created a book that fulfills both of these desires.

Among the many reviews, including starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist,  see this interview with Paul in The Brown Bookshelf, Vivian Kirkfield’s PPBF review and interview with Paul, Latinxs in Kid Lit’s interview with Alcántara, and Maria Marshall’s PPBF review and interview with Paul.

This is a double debut picture book. Visit Paul’s website and Alcántara’s website. Alcántara won the inaugural 2016 “We Need Diverse Books” illustration mentorship award.

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 – The Streets Are Free

As students across the United States mobilize to rally support for gun control legislation, I’ve been encouraged to read books that celebrate social activism among children and young people. I found today’s Perfect Picture Book in Canada, although its first publication was in Venezuela, a country from which I have seen very few picture books. I hope you find it as inspiring as I did!

streetsrevisedTitle: The Streets Are Free

Written By: Kurusa

Illustrated By: Monika Doppert

Translated By: Karen Englander

Publisher/date:  Annick Press Ltd./1995 (originally published by Edicones Ekaré/Banco del Libro as La Calle es Libre/1981)

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: social activism; Venezuela; playground; #ReadYourWorld

Opening:

Not very long ago, when Carlito’s grandfather was a boy, mountain lions roamed the hills of Venezuela.

One particular mountain was covered with forests and bushes, small creeks and dirt paths. Every morning the mist would reach down and touch the flowers and the butterflies.

Brief Synopsis: When a barrio outside Caracas becomes too congested and there is nowhere for the children to play, the children try convincing the mayor and then they ask the community to work together to build a playground.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Venezuela, the setting of this story;
  • The children in the story work together to design a playground. What would you include in a playground if you were building a new one? Draw a map of your ideal playground;
  • Is there something at home or at your school that you don’t like or think should be changed? Think about how you can convince your teachers or family to do what you’d like done.

Why I Like this Book:

The Streets Are Free is an inspiring story of children who band together to build a playground in the barrio of San José de la Urbina in Caracas, Venezuela. As Caracas grew, open lands and streams disappeared, replaced by busy streets, crowded buildings and sewers that were unfit spaces for the children to play.

When a group of children discovered an unused lot, they discussed the playground among themselves during an after-school library program and then asked the city government to build the playground. When the politicians didn’t follow through on their promises, the children pestered and prodded their families and neighbors to build it themselves without government help.

Facets of the story that I found most interesting to discuss in a classroom or as a family include the role of the media in spurring the mayor to action, initially; the necessity of persistence to finally solve the problem and achieve a goal; the role of community spaces, like libraries, and helpers, like librarians, to facilitate social change; and the differences between the families who live in the barrio and the politicians who have the power to enact the changes.

Lovely watercolor illustrations bring the barrio to life, especially as the bleaker aspects of barrio life appear in black and white illustrations.

A Note about Craft:

Not only is The Streets Are Free based on a true story, but the problem the children face, and solve, is one with kid-centric stakes: a safe place to play. When thinking about writing books about concepts like social activism, I think it’s important to target the activity to something that’s generally something kids can understand. What’s more understandable for kids than the desire for a playground?

As this is an older book, written for a different market, the text is longer than the current norm and the story begins with information about the lost rural lands that have been replaced by the barrio. I think if someone were to rewrite this story today, the opening would focus on the kids and their problem at the outset, and the information in the current first four pages would be condensed into back matter. Interestingly, too, this book is longer than the norm, at 48 pages.

According to a review I read on Vamos A Leer, Kurusa is the pseudonym of a Venezuelan anthropologist and editor.

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 – Malaika’s Costume

Today’s Perfect Picture Book is another one of my Canadian finds, and its story occurs in the Caribbean – truly a pan-American picture book!

7873637_origTitle: Malaika’s Costume

Written By: Nadia L. Hohn

Illustrated By: Irene Luxbacher

Publisher/date: Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press)/2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: carnival; absent parent; #ReadYourWorld; #WNDB

Opening:

I close my eyes and dance. I am a beautiful peacock. Each feather shimmers – green, gold, turquoise and brown.

Grandma say, “Girl, I think you is definitely my granddaughter for true.”

Brief Synopsis:

When the money for Malaika’s carnival costume doesn’t arrive from Mummy, Malaika and her grandmother must find another way to create a costume in time for the Carnival parade.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

Malaika’s Costume is a marvelous window into Caribbean life and the colorful carnival celebrations that occur on many islands. The story is tinged, though, with the reality of the hardships endured by children left with relatives when a parent migrates abroad to work.

Through Malaika’s eyes, we experience the anticipation of an upcoming Carnival parade in which the children don fancy costumes to dance through the streets. Malaika dreams of strutting like a peacock. But Malaika’s mother is working at a “good job” in Canada, a far-away country that is “cold like an icebox” with snow that looks “like coconut sky juice”. When the money Mummy has promised to send doesn’t arrive, Malaika and her grandmother must improvise, as it seems they, and Mummy, must do on a daily basis. Malaika’s solution demonstrates the resourcefulness she has developed since her mother left for Canada.

I think Malaika’s Costume will appeal to families and teachers wanting to learn about island life and cultural events as well as to those wanting to shed light on the difficulties facing migrants and the children they leave on island.

Luxbacher’s colorful collaged artwork brings Hohn’s empathetic story to life. They helped me feel like I’d enjoyed a virtual visit to the sunny Caribbean. Hand-drawn black-and-white drawings sprinkled throughout the pages are an extra bonus for younger children to find.

9781554987542_2_1024x1024

Reprinted from Groundwood Books

A Note about Craft:

As is evident from the Opening above, Hohn tells Malaika’s story using first-person point of view. Utilizing this point of view brings immediacy to the story, and it enables not only Malaika, but also the reader, to wonder about her mother and the solitary life she leads in Canada.

Also evident in the Opening is that Hohn uses the Caribbean patois  of the unnamed island that is Malaika’s home. This language adds to the authenticity of Malaika’s voice and could be an interesting discussion topic for teachers using Malaika’s Costume in the classroom.

Visit Hohn’s website here.

Groundwood Books “is an independent Canadian children’s publisher based in Toronto” that is “particularly committed to publishing books for and about children whose experiences of the world are under-represented elsewhere.”

For a list of more children’s books that involve Carnival celebrations, see a recent blog post on Anansesem, a site about Caribbean children’s books.

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 – King for a Day

It’s Spring…somewhere! As we cross our fingers in the frosty northern regions of the US that a certain groundhog will not see his (or her) shadow today, I can’t help thinking about places where spring already has arrived and the celebrations that herald that arrival. Today’s Perfect Picture Book features a celebration of spring’s arrival from Pakistan:

main_largeTitle: King for a Day

Written By:  Rukhsana Khan

Illustrated By: Christiane Krömer

Publisher/date: Lee & Low Books/2014

Suitable for Ages: 6-10

Themes/Topics: spring festivals; kites; Pakistan; physical challenges; #ReadYourWorld

Opening:

Basant is the most exciting day of the year! With feasts and music and parties, people celebrate the arrival of spring. And many will make their way to the rooftops of Lahore to test their skills in kite-flying battles.

Brief Synopsis: A young Pakistani boy battles with his kite to snag other kites and become the winner, the king, of the spring festival, Basant.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Pakistan;
  • Celebrate Basant, a festival to mark the arrival of spring, and learn how it is celebrated in Pakistan;
  • Make and fly a kite;
  • Check out more ideas in the Teacher’s Guide.

Why I Like this Book:

King for a Day is a wonderfully diverse book, featuring not just a colorful spring festival about which most of us know little, a glimpse into a city, Lahore, Pakistan, which most of us will never visit, but also a wheelchair-bound main character. With his one kite and plucky spirit, kids will root for Malik as his kite, Falcon, like a great bird of prey, circles and slices the string of the neighboring bully’s kite, Goliath. I think kids will also feel satisfied at the ending when Malik shares a special something with a young girl who is crying.

Krömer’s vivid, collaged illustrations bring Lahore and the story to life. I especially enjoyed the many kites depicted in the middle of the story – so vibrant and reminiscent of a perfect spring day.

_2005789_orig

Reprinted from Krömer’s website

A Note about Craft:

King for a Day is an interesting glimpse into a Pakistani city and festival, that features a boy in a wheelchair. Featuring a physically-challenged main character adds a rich layer to an already culturally diverse story. Interestingly, Malik’s physical condition is not mentioned in the text; rather, we know he’s in a wheelchair only because of the illustrations. In this way, Krömer broadens the appeal of the book and expands the potential audience.

Khan is an #OwnVoices author, but Krömer admits in a fascinating interview with Khan, that she knew nothing about Lahore before starting the project, and the first images she saw were of violence and a male-dominated festival. Anyone who sees King for a Day will be astonished by this revelation. So how did Krömer come to understand the setting and story? In the interview and a behind-the-art look at her process on Lee & Low’s site, she recounts how she viewed a Mughal art exhibit and incorporated the style of the Mughal architecture into her collages, how she visited Pakistani neighborhoods and came to understand the dominant colors to incorporate, and how she purchased Pakistani cloth in the garment district of Manhattan to use in the collages. In a word, I’d say she immersed herself virtually and as physically as possible without actually visiting Lahore. I think those of us who are non-#OwnVoices illustrators or authors can learn from Krömer’s dedication to detail and process as we incorporate characters, scenes, or cultural events about which we may not be all that familiar in our own writing.

Check out Khan’s website, which includes not only information about her own books, but a listing of books about Muslims.

View more illustrations from King for a Day at Krömer’s website.

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!

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018 – Katie Woo: We Love You!

Today I’m posting a special book review of a soon-to-be-released chapter book as part of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018 celebration.  blogger button

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.  Learn more about our sponsors, twitter party, and free items below. And please follow us on twitter, @MCChildsBookDay, and help us spread the word to #ReadYourWorld.

9781515822776Title: Katie Woo: We Love You!

Written By: Fran Manushkin

Illustrated By: Tammie Lyon

Publisher/date: Picture Window Books, a Capstone imprint/2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-7

Themes/Topics: friendship; team work; #ReadYourWorld

Opening:

Katie was talking to JoJo. She said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to be in a club?”

“For sure!” said JoJo. “It would be the best!”

Brief Synopsis:

Katie Woo, a young Japanese-American girl, starts a club, hosts a sleep-over, learns about volcanoes, and attends a father-daughter dance with her friends and family.

Links to Resources:

  • Make peanut butter and jelly sushi using the recipe found in the book;
  • Katie has a lucky kimono. View and color a kimono;
  • Learn about and make a volcano, like Katie and her friends do;
  • Katie and her father attend a daddy-daughter dance. Explore some kids’ dances and activities.

Why I Like this Book:

In four short, brightly-illustrated stories that are the perfect length for beginning readers, Katie Woo and her friends start a club, enjoy a spooky sleep-over, work together as a team to build a volcano, and attend a father-daughter dance. Katie Woo: We Love You! is the 10th book in this popular chapter-book series.

In “The Best Club,” Sophie, one of Katie’s classmates, starts a club that will be the “best”. But when no one measures up to Sophie’s definition of “best,” Katie and her friends rebuke Sophie for her mean attitude and exclusionary actions and form their own club, that they then allow Sophie to join. By showing readers how to confront and overcome discriminatory attitudes and actions, I think this story will help readers overcome these attitudes in their own classrooms. I also think this is a great discussion starter about what it means to be the “best” at something, thereby helping bolster kids’ self-esteem.

In “Katie’s Spooky Sleepover” a new friend, Janie, is scared by a spooky story and borrows Katie’s favorite lucky kimono to calm herself. I like that an object from Katie’s heritage is appreciated by her friend. This could also give rise to a discussion about different objects or cultural traditions that people use as comforts or as lucky omens.

Team building and a science lesson are the themes of “Katie Blows her Top,” as Katie learns to control her anger and her friends learn to take turns as they build a volcano together.

Finally, in “Daddy Can’t Dance,” Katie tries to teach her clumsy father to dance and shares a trick to keep her toes safe while they dance. Although I was surprised that it was a Daddy-Daughter dance instead of a parent-child dance, one of Katie’s friends attended with an uncle and another with a grandfather, thereby including kids who may not have a father at home.

A Note about Craft:

The Katie Woo books feature culturally-diverse characters that encounter situations and overcome problems that could affect any child. The characters seem oblivious to skin color and ethnicity. And by featuring a number of different cultures, Asian, Muslim, African-American, and Latino, Manushkin is able to focus on the similarities that unite us in everyday experiences, thereby offering a mirror for children from many backgrounds.

Find out more about Fran Manushkin and her other chapter and picture books.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Capstone Publishing’s mission is to help “children develop a love of reading and learning, no matter their ability level”. In addition to the Katie Woo chapter book series and many other titles, Capstone published the award-winning A Different Pond, that I reviewed in December. Capstone provided an advance copy of Katie Woo! We Love You! in exchange for a fair and honest review.

And, as promised above, see the list of MCBD 2018 sponsors and learn more about this amazing celebration of Multicultural Children’s Books!

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

HONORARY: Children’s Book Council, Junior Library Guild

PLATINUM:Scholastic Book Clubs

GOLD:Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Loving Lion Books, Second Story Press, Star Bright Books, Worldwide Buddies

SILVER:Capstone Publishing, Author Charlotte Riggle, Child’s Play USA, KidLit TV, Pack-n-Go Girls, Plum Street Press

BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal BoweGokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

2018 Author Sponsors

Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina

Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan BernardoAuthor Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne BroylesAuthor Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and MysticPrincesses.com, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports QueenAuthor Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and  MFL Publishing  Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham  Author Natasha Yim

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.

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

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

This entry is being linked to the Multicultural Children’s Book Day list. Check out the other great #ReadYourWorld books and blogs featured there!

 

PPBF – The Little Black Fish

Susanna Hill asked on Facebook the other day what everyone was reading on a snowy winter’s day. I thought about what’s been on my nightstand, and what would be a good, longer story for parents and children to share. Today’s Perfect Picture Book came to mind, especially as we acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the current administration in the US, and think about what we tell kids about questioning authority, respecting others, and being receptive to those who are different from us.

9781910328194Title: The Little Black Fish

Written By: Samad Behrangi

Illustrated By: Farshid Mesghali

Translated By: Azita Rassi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd./2016 (first published in Persian, Kanoun Parvaresh Fekri, Iran/1968)

Suitable for Ages: 7 and up

Themes/Topics: daring to be different; curiosity; exploration; death; #ReadYourWorld

Opening:

As the nights grew longer and the year turned towards winter once more, an old fish settled herself to tell a story. She was telling the story to her twelve thousand grandchildren fishes. It was an exciting story full of danger and some sadness, but it was a story that also carried wisdom. The old fish wanted her grandchildren to learn from Little Black Fish’s story without them having to go into the dangers and sadnesses of life themselves.

Brief Synopsis:

The Little Black Fish dreams of a world beyond the stream. He ventures forth to learn what lies downstream, and in so doing, he encounters many wonderful things, and overcomes, many, but not all, dangers.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover more about Iran, where the author lived and the illustrator still lives;
  • Learn about rivers and streams;
  • Explore a new place or see what’s beyond the next hill or up the next street. Draw a picture of something new that you discover.

Why I Like this Book:

Although the word count is high in this story within a story, the many layers of The Little Black Fish make it well worth reading. I think even very young kids will relate to the Little Black Fish and his desire to see the world and meet other, different creatures. Behrangi captured the boredom, questioning and curiosity of young children in this spunky fish, and perceptive children will view it as a mirror into their own behavior.

I also like that this fish states clearly what many dreamers, social activists, and others have only thought: “I don’t want to spend my life swimming up and down and around, and then grumbling that there isn’t anything more to life. Perhaps there is more to life, and perhaps the world is more than our stream!”

Mesghali’s graphic illustrations date to 1968, but seem fresh and contemporary. Young children will enjoy picking out the distinctive Little Black Fish as he is depicted on his journey.

In “About the Book”, the editors reveal that the Shah’s government in Iran banned The Little Black Fish in 1968 when it first was published as it “was written and read as an allegory for a nation in which it was dangerous to dare to be politically different.” Even today, the story of a fish who dares to be different, to mingle with creatures of different species (or we could substitute race/religion/nationality/class), question his elders and leave the protective stream (or we could substitute home/neighborhood/school/country) to see the world will resonate with children, and adults, of all ages, I think.

A Note about Craft:

I mentioned above that The Little Black Fish is a story within a story. This works well, as it allows for a happy ending, even though, spoiler alert, the black fish dies at the end of his story. Interestingly, one of the 12,000 grandchildren listening to the story kept thinking about the Little Black Fish, the stream and the wonderful creatures described. That little red fish was female – a good reminder that curiosity is not gender-restricted.

Death figures prominently in this story. Not only does the Little Black Fish die, but he accuses his mother of killing his friend, a snail, the Fish encounters a doe wounded by a hunter, a crab munches on a frog, and pelicans devour small fish. Although death and the circle of life are depicted in American picture books, I found Behrangi’s depictions to be less sugar-coated than that of most contemporary writers for young children. As author Matt de la Peña asked in a recent article in Time, however, is the role of the writer to expose children to difficult topics, “to tell the truth or preserve innocence?” I think by reading books like The Little Black Fish, we can learn how authors from different cultures and/or times handle this question and learn from these approaches.

Azita Rassi translated The Little Black Fish into English for this edition, which is very helpful for those of us who don’t read Persian. Translations such as this are essential for those hoping to #ReadYourWorld and learn about important works and traditions from other cultures.

Discover more books published by Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd, “an independent publishing company committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there” and publishing a number of books by Iranian authors and illustrators.

According to his website, Meshghali continues to create art today in his Tehran studio. He has been awarded the first Graphic Prize, Sixth International Children Books’ Fair in Bologna, for The Little Black Fish
 in 1968, an Honorary Diploma, Bratislava Biannual, Czechoslovakia, for The Little Black Fish in 1971, and the “Hans Christian Anderson Award” for his contribution to children’s books illustration in 1974.

While not currently available in US book shops, The Little Black Fish is available through the Book Depository which ships for free to the US.

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!