Tag Archives: Slavery

Perfect Pairing of Objects on Journeys

When I saw the haunting cover of Almost to Freedom in my local library, I had to read it. It immediately brought to mind another picture about another child at another time in another part of the world.

 

Almost to Freedom 

Author: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Illustrator: Colin Bootman

Publisher/Date: Carolrhoda Books (a division of Lerner Publishing Group)/2003

Ages: 6-10

Themes: slavery; Underground Railroad; doll; journey

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Lindy and her doll Sally are best friends – wherever Lindy goes, Sally stays right by her side. They eat together, sleep together, and even pick cotton together. So, on the night Lindy and her mama run away in search of freedom, Sally goes too. This young girl’s rag doll vividly narrates her enslaved family’s courageous escape through the Underground Railroad. At once heart-wrenching and uplifting, this story about friendship and the strength of the human spirit will touch the lives of all readers long after the journey has ended.

Read a review at Publisher’s Weekly.

 

The Dress and the Girl

Author: Camille Andros

Illustrator: Julie Morstad

Publisher/Date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2018

Ages: 4-8

Themes: immigration; memory; journey

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A little girl and her favorite dress dream of an extraordinary life. They enjoy simple pleasures together on a beautiful Greek island. They watch the sunset, do chores, and pick wildflowers on the way home. One day, the dress and the girl must leave the island and immigrate to the United States. Upon arrival, the girl is separated from the trunk carrying her favorite dress, and she fears her dress is lost forever. Many years later, the girl—now all grown up—spots the dress in a thrift store window. As the two are finally reunited, the memories of their times together come flooding back. While the girl can no longer wear the dress, it’s now perfect for her own daughter—and the new journey of a girl and her dress begins. Featuring lush illustrations, The Dress and the Girl is a stunning picture book about memory and the power of the items we hold most dear.

Read my review.

I paired these books because both recount journeys of important inanimate objects that accompany their special persons through difficult life changes. The main character and narrator in Almost to Freedom is Sally, a rag doll who is “best friends” with Lindy, an enslaved girl, who is by Lindy’s side as Lindy is whipped, and who accompanies Lindy and her family as they flee slavery utilizing the Underground Railroad. In The Dress and the Girl, the unnamed pair do everything together, until they are separated accidentally following a journey to America. In both of these books, I think the presence of these beloved objects brings comfort to the children. I think telling these stories by focusing on the objects rather than on the children enables readers to witness the events but be somewhat removed as well, something that I found particularly helpful when reading about Lindy being whipped.

Looking for similar reads?

See Ella & Monkey at Sea, about a young girl and her stuffed monkey who move to America.

PPBF: Multicultural Children’s Book Day – The Journey of York

It’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day, an annual event to celebrate new, inclusive children’s books. See below to find out more about the many sponsors, participating reviewers, and events.

Title: The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Written By: Hasan Davis

Illustrated By: Alleanna Harris

Publisher/Date: Capstone Editions, a Capstone imprint/2019

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes/Topics: slavery; Lewis & Clark Expedition; American history; explorers; African-American explorers

Opening:

Long before Thomas Jefferson became America’s third president, he dreamed of western exploration….

In May 1804 Captain Lewis, Captain Clark, and twenty-eight men set out from St. Louis, Missouri, in three boats with the goal of reaching the Pacific Ocean. All but one of those men were volunteers. This is his story.

Brief Synopsis: The true tale of York, a slave belonging to Captain William Clark, who participated in the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the western continent from the American frontier to the Pacific Ocean in the early 19th century.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn more about the Lewis & Clark Expedition;
  • Follow the trail of the Expedition and visit National Park Service sites associated with it;
  • Visit the Statue of York in Louisville, Kentucky;
  • An Author’s Note recounts the story after the Expedition ends and the group returns to civilization;
  • Be an Explorer! Plan an expedition to discover a new destination in your neighborhood. Who will you ask to join you? What will you bring? How will you measure how far you travel and map your route?

Why I Like this Book:

In short, diary-like entries, York, a slave, recounts the travels of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and shares his perspectives on this history-making journey across the unexplored western territories of the United States. Although York left no actual diaries and his thoughts and feelings are extrapolations from other sources, adding his “voice” to the history enriches the story and results in a more accurate account of the events.

I think young explorers will enjoy this more-inclusive perspective on American history, and I think teachers will appreciate the questions it raises about the interactions of African-Americans and Native Americans, about other contributions of African-Americans to our history, and about how slavery in frontier areas differed from slavery in the “civilized” regions of our early nation. Of particular interest, I think, is the fact that York voted, with the other Expedition members, on the location of a winter camp in Oregon, but his name did not appear on the official Expedition roster, he “received no pay, no land, and no recognition for his sacrifice”, nor did he receive his freedom upon return to “civilization”.

Harris’ color-filled, rich tableaux feature many natural scenes that brought to mind nineteenth-century American landscape paintings. Several also depicted York at the edges of the scenes to, I think, highlight the divide between the others’ freedom and York’s enslavement.

A Note about Craft:

In a publisher’s note, we learn that The Journey of York “is based on the author’s extensive research” and that “[e]very effort has been made to tell York’s story with historical accuracy, but the author has taken some creative license in filling in the gaps, especially regarding the thoughts and feelings of York, for which little to no historical documentation exists.” For those writing picture book biographies, especially about persons from marginalized groups who may have left no first-person written records, it’s a difficult task to recreate their stories. It’s especially difficult to write that biography utilizing first-person point-of-view and include that person’s thoughts and feelings, as Davis has done here. Despite the risk, though, the reward of a better, more inclusive history is high, when done well, as Davis has done, and when the author and/or publisher warns readers of the “creative license”.

Note the double meaning of the word “journey” in the title: as both the actual journey York and the Expedition members undertook and York’s journey of discovering how the Native Americans revered him as “Big Medicine” and how his strength, and vote, mattered when the Corps was traversing the wilderness.

Learn more about Hasan Davis and his work with children. Visit Alleanna Harris’ website to view more of her artwork and children’s book illustrations.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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!

And now, more about Multicultural Children’s Book Day:

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th 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 homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board:

*View our 2019 Medallion Sponsors here:https://wp.me/P5tVud-

*View our 2019 MCBD Author Sponsors here: https://wp.me/P5tVud-2eN

Medallion Level Sponsors: 

Honorary: Children’s Book CouncilThe Junior Library GuildTheConsciousKid.org

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat BabiesCandlewick PressChickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcito</a, KidLitTVLerner Publishing GroupPlum Street Press

SILVER: Capstone PublishingCarole P. RomanAuthor Charlotte RiggleHuda EssaThe Pack-n-Go Girls

BRONZE: Charlesbridge PublishingJudy Dodge CummingsAuthor Gwen JacksonKitaab WorldLanguage Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ LanguagesLee & Low BooksMiranda Paul and Baptiste Paul,RedfinAuthor Gayle H. SwiftT.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s DaughterTimTimTom BooksLin ThomasSleeping Bear PressDow PhumirukVivian Kirkfield

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board:

Honorary: Julie FlettMehrdokht Amini,Author Janet BallettaAuthor Kathleen BurkinshawAuthor Josh FunkChitra SoundarOne Globe Kids – Friendship StoriesSociosights Press and Almost a MinyanKaren LeggettAuthor Eugenia ChuCultureGroove BooksPhelicia Lang and Me On The PageL.L. WaltersAuthor Sarah StevensonAuthor Kimberly Gordon BiddleHayley BarrettSonia PanigrahAuthor Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing DreidelsAuthor Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu KidTara WilliamsVeronica AppletonAuthor Crystal BoweDr. Claudia MayAuthor/Illustrator Aram KimAuthor Sandra L. RichardsErin DealeyAuthor Sanya Whittaker GraggAuthor Elsa TakaokaEvelyn Sanchez-ToledoAnita BadhwarAuthor Sylvia LiuFeyi Fay AdventuresAuthor Ann MorrisAuthor Jacqueline JulesCeCe & Roxy BooksSandra Neil Wallace and Rich WallaceLEUYEN PHAMPadma VenkatramanPatricia Newman and Lightswitch LearningShoumi SenValerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci SorellShereen Rahming,Blythe StanfelChristina MatulaJulie RubiniPaula ChaseErin TwamleyAfsaneh MoradianLori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam,Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls RevolutionSoulful SydneyQueen Girls Publications, LLC

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 ArabAgatha Rodi BooksAll Done MonkeyBarefoot MommyBiracial BookwormsBooks My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon ReadsEducators Spin on it Growing Book by BookHere Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin LeeJump Into a BookImagination Soup,Jenny Ward’s ClassKid World CitizenKristi’s Book NookThe LogonautsMama SmilesMiss Panda ChineseMulticultural Kid BlogsRaising Race Conscious ChildrenShoumi SenSpanish Playground

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media:

MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual @McChildsBookDay Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party ( a prize every 5 minutes!). GO HERE for more details

FREE RESOURCES From MCBD:

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/

Don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld!

PPBF – Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea

Those of you who read my Perfect Pairing post this past Tuesday may notice a theme this week: the color blue. And those of you who regularly read my Perfect Picture Book reviews no doubt will be thinking that there must be a refugee or migrant, or a few, among the poems in this anthology.

Title: Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea

Collected By: Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrated By: Bob Hansman & Jovan Hansman

Publisher/Date: Seagrass Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc./2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes/Topics: poetry; sea travel; history; non-fiction; migration; slavery

Opening (from the Introduction by Hopkins:

Standing on a balcony during a recent Caribbean cruise, I gazed across endless miles of water. The sea – awesome, breathtaking, frightening, filled with wonder – has always beckoned dreamers from shore to shore who have, as Rebecca Kai Dotlich phrases it in her poem “Sea,” “traveled away from,/traveled toward…” The sea has also carried less willing travelers across its wide expanses, both those compelled by hard circumstances to brave its blue distances and those captured into bondage to make bleak, terrifying crossings.

Brief Synopsis: A collection of 14 poems, penned by 14 different poets, about sea journeys from the 15th through the 21st century, including those undertaken by choice and those undertaken under duress.

Links to Resources:

  • Back matter includes Notes about each journey and information About the Poets;
  • Have you ever visited an ocean or sea or taken a sea journey? Describe the water or the journey;
  • Write a poem about the sea, a journey or a sea journey.

Why I Like this Book:

In Traveling the Blue Road, Hopkins encourages readers to think of the sea not just as a wide expanse, but also as a road, a route from here to there, along which travelers have journeyed for millennia. Arranged chronologically from the journey of Columbus and his crew in the late 15th century to the present-day journeys of refugees and the lives of itinerant fishermen on houseboats in the Philippines, these poems encourage readers to reflect on both the promise and perils of sea journeys, to gain greater insight into the bravery and fears of the travelers, and to empathize with the willing, and most especially the unwilling, voyagers.

In Voyage, a poem about Columbus’ journey, for instance, Paul B. Janeczko notes “[f]ear growing like a thunderhead”, “flea bites as common as rain”, and the weary sailors’ offering of “a prayer of thanks” when land draws near. In With Fearless Faith and Everything to Lose, Allan Wolf recounts the journey of the Pilgrims, “hopeful souls” who “huddle in the hold” of a ship that is a mere “fragile fleck” as “heathen winds harass and scold”.

Utilizing first-person point-of-view, Marilyn Nelson helps readers feel the fear of enslaved Africans in Kidnapped by Aliens about the 18th century middle passage of slaves. From the notion of the slave traders as “aliens” to the idea of lying “curled around terror, facing the blue unknown”, Nelson creates images that long will linger.

In a pair of poems about the voyages of MS St. Louis in 1939, Jane Yolen captures the hope of the “[b]lue road” in Blue the Color of Hope: On the Ship St. Louis. She then recounts the dashing of hope in Return to the Reich: On the Ship St. Louis, as first Cuba, then the US deny entry to the Jewish passengers, and “[w]e were sent back home/To a place where murderers waited.” And in Mediterranean Blue about 21st century migrants, Naomi Shihab Nye reminds readers, “[t]hey are the bravest people on earth right now,/don’t dare look down on them.”

Evoking, as they do, so many thought-provoking images, the poems in Traveling the Blue Road are targeted to the older end of the picture book range, and, I believe, are a wonderful resource for classrooms and homes, to be read as a set, or individually.

Beginning with archival images, and utilizing a predominantly blue and gray palette, the Hansmans’ pastel, charcoal, pencil, crayon, marker and cut paper illustrations evoke the past and are often, themselves, poetic and abstract, furthering the emotional impact of the poems they accompany.

A Note about Craft:

I read Traveling the Blue Road a few weeks ago because it’s a nominee for a Cybils Award, in the poetry category, for which I’m serving as a first-round panelist. The haunting poems have stayed with me, and I chose to review it here because, I believe, the historical perspective the collection offers will help children, and adults, understand better the hopes and fears of today’s desperate sea travelers – the refugees and migrants. I also believe that with its ability to evoke images and convey emotions, poetry is a wonderful medium to tackle tough subjects, such as those raised here. I invite writers to consider whether a difficult story you’re writing may work better as a rhymed or free verse poem, a series of poems, or a novel in verse.

Visit Hopkins’ website to learn more about this prolific and award-winning author, poet and children’s poetry anthologist.

Per the book jacket, St. Louis-based father-son artists Bob Hansman and Jovan Hansman first met at City Faces, a program whose “mission is to create and provide a safe haven and strong peer-based environment for all children living in Clinton-Peabody public housing”. Bob taught art classes at City Faces, and later adopted Jovan, an active participant as a young teen, who now runs the program.

An imprint of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., Seagrass Press “aims to nurture young readers as they grow by offering a range of informative and entertaining titles.”

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!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Imani’s Music

I happened upon this Perfect Picture Book recently in my local library. Based on the cover and title, I thought it was solely about music. But it is so much more and is a story that will stay with me – I hope you agree.

 

9780689822544_p0_v1_s192x300Title: Imani’s Music
 

Written By: Sheron Williams

 

Illustrated By: Jude Daly

Publisher/date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster, 2002)

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: Slavery, origin myth, music, crickets, ancestors, storytelling

Opening: “Born during the planting season of eighteen nine and aught, my grandfather W.D. was a man of the ‘Used-to-Be’ who resided in the ‘Here-and-Now’ ‘cause time and living life had dragged him there. He was hailed in five counties as a storyteller that could wrestle a tale to the ground. He danced on the path ‘tween the ‘Used-to-Be,’ the ‘Here-and-Now,’ and the ‘What’s-Gon’-Come.’ Shoot, it was folks like him that fed the path and kept it alive.”

Brief Synopsis: The narrator’s grandfather relates the story of Imani, a grasshopper, and how Imani brought music to the world in Africa and across the oceans in a slave ship, to the slaves in America.

Links to Resources: Make music in traditional ways, either by whistling through blades of grass or flutes fashioned from reeds, or drumming on hollowed tree stumps or even pots and pans.

Make and play your own musical instruments.

Tell the story of a journey you or an ancestor has taken. Or ask older relatives about journeys they have taken.

PBS.org has a list of child-friendly books exploring slavery.

Why I Like this Book: This story-within-a-story weaves together two narratives: the experience of enslavement and the origin of music, both told by the narrator’s grandfather, W.D., a master storyteller.

Imani’s Music has a much higher word-count than the norm in picture books today, and the title character, Imani, isn’t even introduced until page 5. But I believe that the addition of a storyteller serves an important purpose: it helps distance the listener from what, arguably, is one of the most difficult topics to explain to young children, slavery. Weaving the story of Imani, a music-loving grasshopper who accompanies his enslaved friend to the new world, into the narrative allows the listener to focus on the beautiful music from Africa that survives and evolves in the new world, bringing hope, solace and a glimmer of goodness into that world.

I’d only recommend this book for older children, despite the distance Sheron Williams builds into the story. Imani, like his friend and fellow captives, is torn from his beloved Africa and family. He bewails the helplessness he feels, unable to provide food or water to so many or even let the folks back home know where their loved ones disappeared. The images of hopeless captives is heart-wrenching, with only a cricket’s sad tunes to console them.

The voices of the young narrator, Grandfather W.D., and the other characters come through so clearly in Imani’s Music. Descriptions such as W.D. “could step over the river of time like it was a rain-puddle pond”, or a “wallop of tune fell on Imani, and the world soaked up the rest like a sponge” drew me into the narrative, as did South African artist Jude Daly’s illustrations. I really felt like I entered another time and place – the “Used-to-Be”.

 

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!