Sunday, November 30, 2008

Inclusive Lit: Moses Goes To A Concert

Millman, Isaac. 2002. Moses Goes to a Concert. NY: Frances Foster Books (Farrar, Straus, and Girous. ISBN: 0374350671.

When his teacher takes him and his fellow deaf classmates to a concert and to meet percussionist friend, Moses learns that when he puts his mind to it he can become anything when he grows up.

Moses Goes to a Concert is an excellent book depicting a main character and his friends who are all deaf. The narrative of the books is simple and clear. It is very much like any other picture books due to the fact that it does not explain in depth that the characters are deaf and the American Sign Language. The text simply states that Moses “can’t hear the sounds he is making [on a drum] because he is deaf” and that his classmates are also deaf. The text also seamlessly replaces the word “says” or “said” with “signs” or “signed.” It is also through the text, that readers will learn that despite being unable to hear, people who are deaf can feel music through the vibrations.

The watercolor illustrations are presented in double-page spreads and are colorful and clear. The clearness of the artwork especially when depicting the characters using American Sign Language (ASL) as not only are the movements of the hands and arms important in ASL but also the facial expressions. Another wonderful element of the illustrations is the portrayal of the Moses and his multicultural classmates. Each child has a different shaped face, hair color and styles that allows the readers to see that anyone can be deaf.

The unique element found in the book is the presence of actual ASL being used. Beyond the text, there are small box inserts in the illustrations that show Moses signing. At the beginning of the book in an Author’s Notes, Millman explains not only the deaf community, but also how to read the arrows and symbols that are used in the story. For each word that Moses signs the illustrations show the motions via arrows and symbols. The word being signed is also at the bottom of the illustration for the readers to recognize the word. There are also three double-page illustrations that show first the teacher’s friend, Ms Elwyn the percussionist who is also deaf, signing, and second Moses telling his parents about the concert he went to and how he can be anything he wants to be when he grows up.

The final element of the book is a visual ASL alphabet for readers to also learn from. Because Moses Goes to a Concert portrays characters who deaf having fund and doing things that everyone else does, this is an excellent choice for any public and school library.

Ages 5-9. This breakthrough picture book about a deaf child works so well that you wonder why there aren’t lots more books like it. We do have nonfiction and bibliotherapy books about how use American Sign Language (ASL), but this is a good story told in pictures and written in English and also in ASL. Moses is deaf. When he plays on his drum, he can’t hear the sounds, but he can fell the vibrations through his hands and through his bare feet. When he goes with his deaf classmates to a concert, they hold balloons in their laps to feel the vibrations. The percussionist in the orchestra is also deaf (she wears no shoes so that she can feel the vibrations through her stockinged feet), and after he wild, and wonderful performance, she meets the deaf children, tells them her story (in ASL), and then allows them to try out all her instruments. With clear line-and-watercolor pictures, the precise hand shapes, movements, and facial expressions of ASL are a natural part of the story. Pictures at the bottom of the page show Moses signing in the words, but when the percussionist tells her story, and when Moses tells his parents about his great time at the concert, the sign language is the action, and the written words are the captions. Deaf children will welcome this joyful story that talks, without condescension, about the fun they have. Hearing kids, too, will want to learn some of the sign language, and with the help of an adult, they can practice the hand alphabet shown at the back of the book. (Reviewed April 15, 1998)0374350671Hazel Rochman.

PreS-Gr 2A group of deaf children is taken to a concert where the youngsters meet the percussionist, a friend of their teacher, and learn to their surprise that she is also deaf. She explains to Moses and his class how she became a percussionist even though she had lost her hearing and helps them understand that anything is possible with hard work and determination. She lets the children play on her instruments and feel the vibrations on balloons that their teacher has given them. Cheerful watercolor illustrations show the multiethnic children enjoying themselves at the concert, while smaller cartoon strips feature Moses's additional comments in sign language. A page displaying the manual alphabet and a conversation in sign language in which Moses tells his parents about his day enhance the upbeat story.Sally R. Dow, Ossining Public Library, NY

*Read Isaac Millman other books with Moses: Moses Goes to a Play, Moses Goes to School and Moses Goes to the Circus.

Inclusive Lit: And Tango Makes Three

Richardson, Justin, and Peter Parnell. 2005. And Tango Makes Three. Illus. by Henry Cole. NY: Simon & Schuster for Young People. ISBN: 0689878451.

* A 2006 Association for Library Service to Children’s Notable Children’s Book *

* 2006 Winner of the Lambda Literary Award *

* 2005 Winner of the ASPCA Henry Bergh Children’s Books Award for Fiction Environment and Ecology *

Based on the true story, two male penguins, Roy and Silo, at the New York City’s Central Park Zoo become inseparable and become a family with the hatching of Tango.

And Tango Makes Three is a charming book about the true story of a family with two dads. Authors, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, created a clear and descriptive text to tell the story of Roy and Silo. Children will easily understand how the twosome did everything together, but they could not lay an egg in the nest that they made like all the other penguin couples with a mom. It is also through the text that the readers will learn how penguins love and interact with singing to each and swimming together, how the parent penguins take turns keeping their egg warm and how they care for their young once hatched.

Families are at the heart of the story. At the beginning of the book, the book describes Central Park as a place where families can go to have fun, especially at the zoo where there are animal families. The authors also describe how animal families can be traditional with a mom and a dad with the mom caring for the babies. There is also the description of how a family begins:

“Every year at the very same time, the girl penguins start noticing the boy penguins. And the boy penguins start noticing the girls. When the right girl and the right boy find each other, they become a couple” (p. 6).

Despite being two male penguins, Roy and Silo knew how to be good parents. They took turns keeping the egg, which their keeper gave them to hatch, warm and they knew how to feed Tango and snuggle her in her nest at night.

Henry Cole’s watercolor illustrations add to the overall delightfulness of the book. The majority of the art is presented in vignette with soft edges that flow into the white pages. The depictions of the animals seen at the Central Park Zoom (e.g. red pandas, toads, and cotton-top tamarins) are wonderfully detailed and realistic. To add to the book inclusiveness of same-sex parents, the illustrations also present human families of multicultural backgrounds. There are families that are African American, Asian American, and Caucasian. Each individual have their own characteristics, different skin colors, a variety of ages and hairstyles.

At the end of the book there is an Authors’ Note that explains to the readers what type of penguins Roy and Silo are, when they met, who were the original parents of Tango, explains that if they visit the Central Park Zoo they will see Roy, Silo and Tango and all of their friends.

And Tango Makes Three is a welcome addition to any library collection.

*Starred Review* PreS-Gr. 2. Roy and Silo were "a little bit different" from the other male penguins: instead of noticing females, they noticed each other. Thus penguin chick Tango, hatched from a fertilized egg given to the pining, bewildered pair, came to be "the only penguin in the Central Park Zoo with two daddies." As told by Richardson and Parnell (a psychiatrist and playwright), this true story remains firmly within the bounds of the zoo's polar environment, as do Cole's expressive but still realistic watercolors (a far cry from his effete caricatures in Harvey Fierstein's The Sissy Duckling, 2002). Emphasizing the penguins' naturally ridiculous physiques while gently acknowledging their situation, Cole's pictures complement the perfectly cadenced text--showing, for example, the bewildered pair craning their necks toward a nest that was "nice, but a little empty." Indeed, intrusions from the zookeeper, who remarks that the nuzzling males "must be in love," strike the narrative's only false note. Further facts about the episode conclude, but it's naive to expect this will be read only as a zoo anecdote. However, those who share this with children will find themselves returning to it again and again--not for the entree it might offer to matters of human sexuality, but for the two irresistible birds at its center and for the celebration of patient, loving fathers who "knew just what to do." Jennifer Mattson

PreS-Gr 3-This tale based on a true story about a charming penguin family living in New York City's Central Park Zoo will capture the hearts of penguin lovers everywhere. Roy and Silo, two male penguins, are "a little bit different." They cuddle and share a nest like the other penguin couples, and when all the others start hatching eggs, they want to be parents, too. Determined and hopeful, they bring an egg-shaped rock back to their nest and proceed to start caring for it. They have little luck, until a watchful zookeeper decides they deserve a chance at having their own family and gives them an egg in need of nurturing. The dedicated and enthusiastic fathers do a great job of hatching their funny and adorable daughter, and the three can still be seen at the zoo today. Done in soft watercolors, the illustrations set the tone for this uplifting story, and readers will find it hard to resist the penguins' comical expressions. The well-designed pages perfectly marry words and pictures, allowing readers to savor each illustration. An author's note provides more information about Roy, Silo, Tango, and other chinstrap penguins. This joyful story about the meaning of family is a must for any library.-Julie Roach, Watertown Free Public Library, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

CONNECTIONS *Read more book with same-sex parents or character like King & King and King & King & Family by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland,

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Inclusive Lit.: Habibi

Nye, Naomi Shihab. 1997. Hibibi. NY: Simon & Schuster Books Young Readers. ISBN:0689801491.

* 1998 winner of the American Library Association Notable Children's Book *

* 1998 winner of American Library Association's Best Books for Young Adults *

* 1998 Winner of the
Jane Addams Book Award *

Fourteen-year-old Arab American Liyana Abboud's life was just getting interested when a boy kissed her on the check. However, that very night she learned that her family was moving from their home in St. Louis to live in Palestine where her father had grown up. Now living just outside of Jerusalem, Liyana struggles to become accustom to her new life among a city where Arabs and Jews are in conflict and as she learns who she is as a person.

Nye's novel is a wonder piece of work that portrays a young girl moving and becoming accustom to a new way of life in Jerusalem. Among its many qualities, it is Nye's smooth narrative and imagery is absolutely lovely and provides the readers with a clear and vivid descriptions of things, places, people and emotions. One example of this is in the chapter "Clover Chain," "St. Louis air smelled of tar and doughnuts, old boards washed up out of the muddy river, red bricks, and licorice. Leafy greens of bushes and tress ran together outside their care" (p.40).

Another perfect example is the the chapter "What You Can Buy in Jerusalem," in which the narrative prides the shops, the food, and the people that one would find exploring the streets of the ancient city. It is also in this chapter that readers get to see the cultural markers that fill the book:
"You can buy gray Arab notebooks with soft covers just the right size for folding once and sticking in your pocket. Liyana's cass used them at school and she'd started using them for her own writings. She liked how the place for a 'title' was on what English speakers would call the back. She even started writing in one back to front" (p.115).
The book is filled with cultural marker as it provides a unique opportunity to emerge the readers into a setting that many may not be familiar with at all. One of the most noticable markers is the the tension between the Jews and Palestinians. For Liyana, the conflicts begin to come close to home her grandmother's bathroom is destroyed by Israeli soldiers and when a bomb was set of in the middle of the city. Liyana also has to deal with the growing love for a the boy Omar who turns out to be Jewish, which means their friendship is forbidden.

Clothing, names, food, and customs are also present in book as well. The names are authentic to the culture, such as grandmother Sitti, Liyana's brother Rafik, her new friend Omer, and many more. During her lunch break at school, Liyana will buy hummus, yogurt, or falafel. Readers will also see how people live. Another unique cultural markers is the custom of when a family member returns from the United States, he or she is buy all the female relatives a new dress and help pay for items or pilgrimages. Nye also includes words and phrases in Arabic as well to illustrate how Liyana and Rafik are growing more accustom to the language.

Though the primary culture that is presented in the book is that in Liyana's new life in Palestine there is still moments of cultural exchange, such as whenn Liyana and her family meet her father's family for the first time:
"The women's long dresses were made of thick fabrics, purple, gold, and navy blue, and stitched brightly with fabulous, complicated embroidery. Aunt Lena had rich lines of multicolored rainbow thread wrapped around her wrists. All the women wore gold bangle bracelets. The older ones ad long white scarves draped and knotted firmly over their hair. The young ones had bare heads, which made Liyana feel relieved.

"They wore plastic, slip-on shoes i pastel colors. The modern shoes seem strange with their old-fashio clothes. Aunt Saba touched Liyana's blue-and-yellow Swiss children's watch that had little peopel's heads on the ends of its hands. She put her face down to stare at it and laughed. The women evern touched Liyana's earlobes. She wore no gold earrings, as they did" (p. 40)
Hibibi is a beautiful book that emerges the readers into a different culture and the conflicts that are exists. REaders will learn about the culture and gain a better understanding of it. Plus, those who are from St. Louis will also appreciate the local spots that Liyana remembers being at. This is a highly recommended book for any library collection.

Liyana Abboud, 14, and her family make a tremendous adjustment when they move to Jerusalem from St. Louis. All she and her younger brother, Rafik, know of their Palestinian father's culture come from his reminiscences of growing up and the fighting they see on television. In Jerusalem, she is the only "outsider" at an Armenian school; her easygoing father, Poppy, finds himself having to remind her—often against his own common sense—of rules for "appropriate" behavior; and snug shops replace supermarket shopping—the malls of her upbringing are unheard of. Worst of all, Poppy is jailed for getting in the middle of a dispute between Israeli soldiers and a teenage refugee. In her first novel, Nye (with Paul Janeczko, I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You, 1996, etc.) shows all of the charms and flaws of the old city through unique, short-story-like chapters and poetic language. The sights, sounds, and smells of Jerusalem drift through the pages and readers glean a sense of current Palestinian-Israeli relations and the region's troubled history. In the process, some of the passages become quite ponderous while the human story—Liyana's emotional adjustments in the later chapters and her American mother's reactions overall—fall away from the plot. However, Liyana's romance with an Israeli boy develops warmly, and readers are left with hope for change and peace as Liyana makes the city her very own.

Gr 5-9An important first novel from a distinguished anthologist and poet. When Liyana's doctor father, a native Palestinian, decides to move his contemporary Arab-American family back to Jerusalem from St. Louis, 14-year-old Liyana is unenthusiastic. Arriving in Jerusalem, the girl and her family are gathered in by their colorful, warmhearted Palestinian relatives and immersed in a culture where only tourists wear shorts and there is a prohibition against boy/girl relationships. When Liyana falls in love with Omer, a Jewish boy, she challenges family, culture, and tradition, but her homesickness fades. Constantly lurking in the background of the novel is violence between Palestinian and Jew. It builds from minor bureaucratic annoyances and humiliations, to the surprisingly shocking destruction of grandmother's bathroom by Israeli soldiers, to a bomb set off in a Jewish marketplace by Palestinians. It exacts a reprisal in which Liyana's friend is shot and her father jailed. Nye introduces readers to unforgettable characters. The setting is both sensory and tangible: from the grandmother's village to a Bedouin camp. Above all, there is Jerusalem itself, where ancient tensions seep out of cracks and Liyana explores the streets practicing her Arabic vocabulary. Though the story begins at a leisurely pace, readers will be engaged by the characters, the romance, and the foreshadowed danger. Poetically imaged and leavened with humor, the story renders layered and complex history understandable through character and incident. Habibi succeeds in making the hope for peace compellingly personal and long as individual citizens like Liyana's grandmother Sitti can say, "I never lost my peace inside."Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Greenwich, CT

Have the readers discuss Liyana's struggle for self-identity.
*Ask the readers if they have ever been a situation like Liyana where they had moved or been to a place that was completely different to what they have known, and ask how they felt. Did they connect with Liyana while reading the book?
*Read Naomi Shihab Nye's other work like : What Have You Lost?, Honeybee: Poems and Short Prose, 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World, and The Flag of Childhood: Poems From the Middle East.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Asian Pacific American Lit.: Maples in the Mist

Ho, Minfong, trans. 1996. Maples in the Mist. Illus. by Jean & Mou-Sien Tseng. NY: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books. ISBN: 068812044X.

In this collection of poems translator Minfong Ho presents poems from the Tan Dynasty.


According to the Note from the Translator the poems written during the Tang Dynasty, the Golden Age of China (618-907 AD), are taught to Chinese children. When trying to teach her own children, she decided to translate the poems into English. Minfong Ho further explains that her translations are more literal translations of the original poems.

Ho’s poems are in free verse and are crisp and are mostly understandable. The sixteen poems range in subjects from animals to seasons to plants and more. There are many poems that have lovely imagery, such as in the poem “Moon”:

When I was little
I thought the moon was a white jade plate.
Or maybe a mirror in Heaven
Flying through the blue clouds.

And in the “Mountain Road”:

Far up the cold mountains is a steep stone path.
Nestled in the white clouds is a little house.
We stop our cart to sit among the twilight maples”
After the frost, their leaves glow redder than spring blossoms.

The colorful watercolor illustrations fill the pages; several of which are in a double-page spread. It is through the artwork that the cultural markers are seen. The pages are filled with sceneries of China and houses. The children and the adults are wearing traditional clothing and have traditional hairstyles. In the illustration for the poem “New of Home” readers see a traditional greeting between two people: a man has placed his hands on top of another and is about to bow. Overall, the illustrations also recall the traditional artwork from China that one may find in a museum. There are also Chinese characters in the margins of the each poem and illustration. However, it is unknown what they are and although they add to the overall appearance of the book, the readers are left wondering what they mean.

At the end of the book, Ho provides brief biographies the poets who wrote the original versions of the poems. This is a lovely book of translated poems that were written over 2000 years ago and provides a unique glimpse into the culture’s poetry that is taught to its children.

A collection of tiny poems set against watercolors painted in the Chinese tradition.

These Tang Dynasty poems, translated from the Chinese, were traditionally memorized by children learning to read. Ho (Hush!, p. 227) tells readers in the brief, intimate introduction how the book grew out of her desire to pass these vivid four-line verses on to her own children. The poems are immediate and accessible: "When I was little/I thought the moon was a white jade plate,/Or maybe a mirror in Heaven/Flying through blue clouds." In "News of Home," the poet asks, "The day you left, was the plum tree/By my window in bloom yet?" The sound of a bell at night, the snow-white hair on an old man, frosted leaves "redder than spring blossoms"—these seemingly artless images compress a depth of feeling nicely reflected in the pictures. The dreamlike world of recognition and memory in the watercolors is firmly yoked to the images in the poems. More mature poetry fans will recognize many of the names here; an "About the Poets" section offers brief biographies.

Gr 3 UpA beautiful anthology of 16 short, unrhymed poems written 1000 years ago in China. Although the poems Ho has chosen reflect timeless themes and her translations are fresh and informal, most are too introspective for a young Western audience. An attentive fourth-grader might relate to "On the Pond," in which two boys foolishly leave a trail betraying their mischief, or "Goose," a straightforward observation of a paddling goose, humorously illustrated. But the metaphoric images of a rainstorm en route to ancestors' gravesites, an empty boat tossed in a twilight storm, birds in flight against the vastness of time and space, and even homesickness ("How can a blade of young grass/ever repay the warmth of the spring sun?") seem a bit sophisticated for pre-teens. In her introduction, Ho admits she memorized these poems reluctantly in childhood, coming to appreciate them only years later. Even young children, however, will enjoy the illustrations that complement the lean, moody text. The Tsengs' watercolors are reminiscent of traditional T'ang brush-paintings. Stylized contours of huts and pagodas, birds, blossoms, and children in ancient dress are set in airy, expressive washes of landscape, spring or autumn foliage, and mountains floating in the mist. Chinese characters printed in the right and left margins of each page are offered, unfortunately, without explanation. The three-page appendix, "About the Poets," is a useful lead-in to further research on the 14 men and their work.Karen L. MacDonald, Fairmount Public Library, Sandwich, MA

*Read more books by Minfong Ho: Hush! A Thai Lullaby, The Clay Marble: And Related Readings, and Peek!: A Thai Hide-and-Seek.

Asian Pacific American Lit.: Hiroshima

Yep, Laurance. 1995. Hiroshima: A Novella. NY: Scholastic, Inc. ISBN: 0590208322.

Through a combination of facts and composite characters, Yep presents the descriptive story of the Hiroshima atomic bombing during World War II from the point of view of the Japanese culture.

In Hiroshima: A Novella, Laurence Yep presents a powerful telling of the atomic bombing of the Japanese city during World War II. The story’s text is written in short, crisp sections from the point of view of a Japanese girl named Sachi as well as of Colonel Tibbets the pilot of the U.S. bomber Enola Gay that carried the bomb. The narrative is also full of actual facts of the atomic bomb (e.g. how it works), what life was like in Hiroshima prior to the bombing, and what happened afterwards (from the day of the bombing to years later). There are certain parts of the books that have great power in the details that are provided, for example:

“The bomb goes off 580 meters above the ground. The temperature reaches several million degrees Celsius immediately. It is so hot that the hospital below and everyone inside it disappears.

“Two hundred yards away, people vanish. However, in that instant, their outlines are burnt into the cement like shadows” (p. 22-23).

“People jump into it [a river] to get away from the fire. In the panic, some people are crushed. Others drown. Sachi cannot swim. She jumps in anyway… Soon the river is full of bodies" (p. 26-27).


“Flowers bloom again. Some are beautiful as ever. However, the radiation makes other flowers grow in strange, weird shapes” (p. 31).

Though, with the combination of how the narrative is divided into brief sections and the how many facts the text does not flow at times and read more like a beginning draft of a novel. However, it is because of this short of writing, there is starkness to the story that creates more resonance in the meaning that Yep intended to have. Plus, by having a character such as Sachi, there is another personal level for the readers to connect with within the context of the story.

Because this the story is set in the perspective of the Japanese people, there is a wonderful amount of cultural markers. Sachi and her older sister Riko visit the shrine to say a prayer for their father who is away with the army. When the air-raid sirens sound, the sisters put on their air-raid hoods that is to protect them from burning sparks from fires set by bombs. The sisters and other children their age are also take part in helping defending Japan from the Americans. Sachi is part of the labor service corps that demolishes houses so that any fires would not spread. Riko records phone messages at the army headquarters, which use to be done the soldiers who are now fighting the Americans.

Other cultural markers include the description of many of the wood and paper houses, the description of what the city after is grew back and the description of the twenty-five Hiroshima Maidens who were brought to the U.S. for surgeries to fix their burns and scares that they received from the bombings. There is also a description of a cultural legend when Yep relates the story of a young girl named Sadako, who was sick and died of the radiation ten years after the bombing, learned of the legend that “if she folded one thousand paper cranes, she would get her wish” (p. 46). However, she died despite folding one thousand paper cranes, and now there is a Paper Crane Club that folds paper cranes to honor and remember her and other victims from the bombing.

At the end of the story, Yep provides an Afterwards that explains that the character Sachi is a composite of many children that had survived the bombing and explained how difficult it was to apply the facts due to the fact that many sources may have different information. Finally, at the end Yep also provides the bibliography of the sources that he used for the book.

Because the story is set from within the city of Hiroshima and the Japanese people, Hiroshima: A Novella as a powerful story that can open the eyes of the readers as it is a story that they would be familiar with though through the U.S. perspective. This would a good book to include in a discussion or lesson on World War II and Japan.

*STARRED REVIEW* Gr. 4-7. In quiet, simple prose, Yep tells what happens when the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. He tells it in short chapters in the present tense, switching from crewmen on the Enola Gay to children in a Hiroshima classroom; then he describes the attack, the mushroom cloud, and the destruction of the city; finally, he talks about the aftermath, immediate and long term, including the arms race and the movement for peace. One chapter explains the physics of the explosion and of radiation. The facts are so dramatic and told with such controlled intensity that we barely need the spare fictionalization about a young Hiroshima child who is there when the bomb falls and who later comes to the U.S. for treatment (Yep says in an afterword that she's a composite of several children). The account is fair, nonhectoring, and totally devastating. Though accessible to middle-grade readers, this will also interest older readers, who will find nothing condescending in content or format. Fifty years later, the event is still the focus of furious controversy (even the numbers are in dispute), and this novella will start classroom discussion across the curriculum. There's a bibliography for further reading. ((Reviewed Mar. 15, 1995)) -- Hazel Rochman. Booklist, published by the American Library Association.

Gr 4-6?Through a stacatto, present-tense narration that moves back and forth between the experiences of a 12-year-old girl and the men on the Enola Gay, Yep's novella tells the events of the day the first atomic bomb was dropped and its aftermath. Sachi survives but is badly burned; her sister dies and her soldier father is killed in action. For three years the girl spends most of her time indoors, as newcomers to the city fear the scarred survivors. Then she travels to America for plastic surgery, which enables her to take part in her society again. She returns to Japan, hoping to help other victims. Yep ends with two chapters on the destructive potential of nuclear warfare and on some of the efforts being made toward disarmament. His words are powerful and compelling, and the facts he presents make readers realize the horrors of that day and its impact beyond. As a fictional character, Sachi never becomes much more than a name, but even so, readers will be moved by her tale. Hiroshima has a more adult format than Junko Morimoto's more personal My Hiroshima (Viking, 1990) or Toshi Maruki's Hiroshima No Pika (Lothrop, 1982), both of which tell the story in pictures as well as in words.?Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ

*Read books about one the known victims of the bombing, Sadako: Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr and illus. by Ronald Himler.
*Read other books by Laurence Yep: The Ghost Fox, Dragon’s Gate and Dragonwings.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Asian Pacific American Lit.: Grandfather's Journey

Say, Allen. 1993. Grandfather’s Journey. NY: Houghton Miffin. ISBN: 0395570352.

* Winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal *

Allen Say pays tribute to his grandfather’s life and the love that they share for their home country of Japan and their other home in the United States.

Grandfather’s Journey is a beautiful book that tells the history of the three generations of Allen Say’s family that begins with his grandfather’s journey to America. The narrative is simple, clean and powerful. There are no more than two sentences per page as the illustrations are large, yet the text describes the journey, the love, and emotions had for two different homes that his grandfather and mother knew that eventually Say experienced when he went to America.

The illustrations play an important role in the telling of story. Taking up three-quarters of the page these watercolor art are amazing realistic yet soft. There is a sense of formality with the illustrations the gives off the essence that thee are actually pictures that are in a family photo album. It is through the illustrations that the reader’s see the progression of time, which is especially seen in the changes of clothing (e.g. and the physical aging of Grandfather. While the attention to the details of the clothing and physical appearances of the characters, there is also details as well as soft and subtle artistic freedom in the amazing backdrops of America’s West and of rural Japan. Reader’s would be fascinated in the difference of houses that Grandfather and his family live in depending on which country they are in.

It is through this beautiful artwork that the majority of the cultural markers of the book are seen. To begin the story, Say’s grandfather is depicted wearing his traditional Japanese kimono then is seen wearing European clothing (e.g. a suit, coat, gloves, and bowler hat) while standing on the deck of the steamship that is bound to America. Readers will also notice that each character have slightly different physical appearances though there is the sense of similarity as they are all part of the same family. There is one illustration in particular, when Grandfather “met many people along the way” and “shook hands with black men, and white men, with yellow men and red men.” that also represents these men’s appearances accurately for

With the combination of the narrative that moves the story along and the illustrations that compliment and that adds more power, Say’s familiar story also provides the cultural marker of how immigrants have felt when making a home in another country. Say’s grandfather loved living in California but he also missed his home in Japan. However, when he went back to live in Japan, he missed California. Because of World War II he was unable to return. When Say was sixteen he went to California to see where his grandfather had been, he then experiences the longing for his other home just as his grandfather had. With homes in two different places, Say explains at the end of the book that, “The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other. I think I know my grandfather now.”

Readers will enjoy this powerful story that tells of how a man and his grandson can share the same love and emotions for their two different homes that are halfway across the world each other. A must additional any library.

``The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other,'' observes Say near the end of this poignant account of three generations of his family's moves between Japan and the US. Say's grandfather came here as a young man, married, and lived in San Francisco until his daughter was ``nearly grown'' before returning to Japan; his treasured plan to visit the US once again was delayed, forever as it turned out, by WW II. Say's American-born mother married in Japan (cf. Tree of Cranes, 1991), while he, born in Yokohama, came here at 16. In lucid, graceful language, he chronicles these passages, reflecting his love of both countries--plus the expatriate's ever-present longing for home--in both simple text and exquisitely composed watercolors: scenes of his grandfather discovering his new country and returning with new appreciation to the old, and pensive portraits recalling family photos, including two evoking the war and its aftermath. Lovely, quiet- -with a tenderness and warmth new to this fine illustrator's work. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4+) Copyright 2003, VNU Business Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Say transcends the achievements of his Tree of Cranes and A River Dream with this breathtaking picture book, at once a very personal tribute to his grandfather and a distillation of universally shared emotions. Elegantly honed text accompanies large, formally composed paintings to convey Say's family history; the sepia tones and delicately faded colors of the art suggest a much-cherished and carefully preserved family album. A portrait of Say's grandfather opens the book, showing him in traditional Japanese dress, ``a young man when he left his home in Japan and went to see the world.'' Crossing the Pacific on a steamship, he arrives in North America and explores the land by train, by riverboat and on foot. One especially arresting, light-washed painting presents Grandfather in shirtsleeves, vest and tie, holding his suit jacket under his arm as he gazes over a prairie: ``The endless farm fields reminded him of the ocean he had crossed.'' Grandfather discovers that ``the more he traveled, the more he longed to see new places,'' but he nevertheless returns home to marry his childhood sweetheart. He brings her to California, where their daughter is born, but her youth reminds him inexorably of his own, and when she is nearly grown, he takes the family back to Japan. The restlessness endures: the daughter cannot be at home in a Japanese village; he himself cannot forget California. Although war shatters Grandfather's hopes to revisit his second land, years later Say repeats the journey: ``I came to love the land my grandfather had loved, and I stayed on and on until I had a daughter of my own.'' The internal struggle of his grandfather also continues within Say, who writes that he, too, misses the places of his childhood and periodically returns to them. The tranquility of the art and the powerfully controlled prose underscore the profundity of Say's themes, investing the final line with an abiding, aching pathos: ``The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other.'' Ages 4-8. (Oct.)

CONNECTIONS *Read more books by Allen Say: Music for Alice, The Boy of the Three-Year Nap, Allison, Tea with Mil, Tree of Cranes and Home of the Brave.