Friday, December 12, 2008

An End of Another Semester

Another semester has come to a triumphant end. Thank you all for visiting my blog and reading my reviews. I hope that you have enjoyed them and have learned about some great multicultural children's literature. If you read these type of culturally diverse and accurate books you will be on your way to supporting the different cultures that are available to the readers and that are in need of further promotion. I hope to soon provide the links to online resources that will also provide assistance in finding similar books and how to select your own.

I hope that you all will come back to visit The Wielded Pen - Children's Corner again after the holidays. Beginning January, my next Library Science children's course will be about poetry!

Thank again for visiting. Have a wonderful and safe holiday!

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.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Native American Lit.: Crossing Bok Chitto

Tingle, Tim. 2006. Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press. ISBN 9780938317777.

*Winner of the 2008 American Indian Youth Literature Awards*
*2008-09 Texas Bluebonnet Award Book*

Living on opposite sides of the river Bok Chitto, which serves as the boundary line between the land of slavery and the land of freedom during the days before the Civil War, a friendship is formed between Martha Tom, a Choctaw Indian, and Little Mo a plantation slave. When Little Mo's mother is sold to another slave owner his family decide to run for freedom and must cross the river's secret stone path at night with the help of the Choctaws.

Crossing Bok Chitto is a powerful story of the connection between the Native American and the African American culture. There is a connection made between the importance of religion, he forbidden slave church, and Choctaw traditions. Each of songs or chants. In particular, there is beautiful imagery used in describing the Choctaw's wedding ceremony and the dresses that the women wear:

"Their white cotton dresses skimmed the ground and their shiny black hair dell well below their waists. The women formed a line and began a stomp dance to the beat of the chanting, gliding to a clearing at the end of town.

"When they reached the clearing, they formed two circles, the women and the men, and the wedding ceremony began. The old men began to sing the old wedding song. It is still sung today in Mississippi and Oklahoma, just as they sang it then

'Way, hey, ya hey ya
You a hey you ay
A hey ya a hey ya
Way, hey ya hey ya
You a hey you ay
A hey ya a hey ya!'"(p. 18).

The illustrations are a combination of muted colors and flat yet beautifully bold realism. There is a strong emphasis on the facial features on of the the Choctaws and the African American slaves. In one instance when Martha Tom and Little Mo are standing side by side and their facial features are similar. The only difference is in the skin tones and hair, Lttle Mo is a rich dark brown with short tightly curled hair while Martha Tom his a rich light brown and has long black hair. Their eyes in particular are the same shape. This is seen through out the book and are used to to rely the emotions and expressions of the characters as well as the overall mood of the story. The clothing worn by the both the Choctaw and the African Americans are culturally accurate, especially in the case of the Native Americans. Martha Tom, her mother, and the men are seen wearing the non-stereotypical clothing and are befitting of the time that the story is set in. Readers will especially enjoy seeing the illustrations in which the slaves appear transparent as they are escaping the plantation and are invisible to the guards and their dogs. They will also love looking at the illustration at the end depicting the Choctaw women wearing their white cotton dresses at night and seeing them and the slaves walking the secret stone path in the Bok Chitto.

At the end of the story there is information on the Choctaws of modern times as well as "A Note on Choctaw Storytelling," in which Tingle discusses the power of storytelling. It does not, however, definitely say that the story of Martha Tom and Little Mo is true or simply a story that was created by combining numbers individual yet connected stories how the Native Americans helped slaves escape the south. This fact, however, does not take away from the overall story. Crossing Bok Chitto is a book that should be shared with readers of all ages and used in connection with other books and lessons on Native American and African American history.

*Starred Review* Gr. 2-4. In a picture book that highlights rarely discussed intersections between Native Americans in the South and African Americans in bondage, a noted Choctaw storyteller and Cherokee artist join forces with stirring results. Set "in the days before the War Between the States, in the days before the Trail of Tears," and told in the lulling rhythms of oral history, the tale opens with a Mississippi Choctaw girl who strays across the Bok Chitto River into the world of Southern plantations, where she befriends a slave boy and his family. When trouble comes, the desperate runaways flee to freedom, helped by their own fierce desire (which renders them invisible to their pursuers) and by the Choctaws' secret route across the river. In her first paintings for a picture book, Bridges conveys the humanity and resilience of both peoples in forceful acrylics, frequently centering on dignified figures standing erect before moody landscapes. Sophisticated endnotes about Choctaw history and storytelling traditions don't clarify whether Tingle's tale is original or retold, but this oversight won't affect the story's powerful impact on young readers, especially when presented alongside existing slave-escape fantasies such as Virginia Hamiltons's The People Could Fly (2004) and Julius Lester's The Old African (2005). Jennifer Mattson Copyright © American Library Association.

Grade 2-6–Dramatic, quiet, and warming, this is a story of friendship across cultures in 1800s Mississippi. While searching for blackberries, Martha Tom, a young Choctaw, breaks her village's rules against crossing the Bok Chitto. She meets and becomes friends with the slaves on the plantation on the other side of the river, and later helps a family escape across it to freedom when they hear that the mother is to be sold. Tingle is a performing storyteller, and his text has the rhythm and grace of that oral tradition. It will be easily and effectively read aloud. The paintings are dark and solemn, and the artist has done a wonderful job of depicting all of the characters as individuals, with many of them looking out of the page right at readers. The layout is well designed for groups as the images are large and easily seen from a distance. There is a note on modern Choctaw culture, and one on the development of this particular work. This is a lovely story, beautifully illustrated, though the ending requires a somewhat large leap of the imagination.–Cris Riedel, Ellis B. Hyde Elementary School, Dansville, NY

Read Tim Tingle's other picture book When Turtle Grew Feather: A Tale from the Choctaw Nation.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Native American Lit.: Jingle Dancer

Smith, Cynthia Leitich. 2000. Jingle Dancer. Illus. by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publisher. ISBN: 9780688162412.

Jenna dreams to jingle dance in at the tribe's next powwow like her grandmother. However, her dress does not have the important tin jingles to make it tink-tink when she bounce-steps. Through the help of her mother, great-aunt, grandmother, and other women, she slowly, row by row barrows and sews enough jingles to make her dance regalia sing.

Contemporary set Jingle Dancer is a great picture book about girl who is the member of the Muscogee (Creek) and who is of Ojibway (Chippewa/Anishinabe)decent and dreams of participating in a powwow dance like her grandmother does. Cynthia Leitich Smith's narration is wonderfully descriptive yet simple that the story is easily understood by young readers. One element in particular, Smith creates transitions like "As Moon kissed Sun good night" and "As Sun fetched morning" in the story to replaces expressions like "That night" or "The next morning" is beautifully done and will make readers see the stages of the day different.

Through the narration as well as the illustrations, the story is rich with cultural markers. There is mention of dishes made by Native Americans such as flatbread. Jenna's Great-aunt Sis tells her a traditional story of a ball game where Bat who was able to win ball by flying in the air and catching the ball in his teeth. The characters are all female, who are important and respected in Native American culture. Finally there is also an emphasis on the number four, which is an important number in the culture: Jenna needs four rows of jingles for her regalia and there four women who let her barrow a row for her regalia.

However, the most important aspect in the cultural markers is the combination of both the traditional and contemporary way of life. The story is urban set. Jenna wears blue jeans and sneakers. Her cousin Elizabeth is a lawyer and wears a suit. Jenna and the women in the story live in houses or apartments with regular looking furniture. Jenna watches TV like all children.

This combination of traditional and urban life is wonderfully seen in the warm and soft illustrations. Filling the pages, readers will see Jenna and the women, who have light tan skin and dark brown hair, wearing blouses, skirts, jeans and t-shirts, suits, but they will also see the traditional dresses and moccasins that are worn at powwows. There are also other Native American traditional items that are quietly sitting the the backgrounds such as a traditional basket on a table in Grandma Wolfe's house and a dream catcher in Cousin Elizabeth's apartment. There is also barrettes and bracelets that have a traditional design that are worn by Great-aunt Sis and Mrs. Scott.

At the end of the book Smith provides an author note that explains Jenna's Native American background as well as the tradition of the Jingle Dance and other elements that are seen in the story. There is also a glossary that explains what flatbread, Indian tacos, and a what a powwow is.

Well-written story and colorful and subtly detailed illustrations, Jingle Dancer is a culturally rich story that exhibits the importance of family and one cultural traditions in a contemporary, non-stereotypical setting.

This contemporary Native American tale highlights the importance of family and community through a young girl's dream of joining the dancers at the next powwow. Jenna is a girl of Muscogee (Creek) and Ojibway (Chippewa/Anishinabe) descent. She has practiced the steps for the jingle dance by following her grandmother's moves on a video. Now she must get enough jingles (traditionally made of tin, aluminum, or gold canning lids rolled into cones) to sew on her dress to make a satisfying "tink, tink" as she dances. The way Jenna gathers her jingles (borrowing enough to make a row, but not so many that the lender's dress will "lose its voice"), and her promise to dance for the women who cannot dance for themselves illustrate the importance of family and community ties. The colorful, well-executed watercolor illustrations lend warmth to the story. A note explaining Jenna's heritage and a brief glossary are appended. Connie Fletcher Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Kindergarten-Grade 3-Without enough tin jingles to make her dress sing, how can Jenna be a jingle dancer just like Grandma Wolfe at the next powwow? She borrows one row from Great-aunt Sis, whose aching legs keep her from dancing; another from Mrs. Scott, who sells fry bread; one from Cousin Elizabeth, whose work keeps her away from the festivities; and a fourth row from Grandma, who helps Jenna sew the jingles to her dress, assemble her regalia, and practice her bounce-steps. When the big day arrives, the girl feels proud to represent these four women and carry on their tradition. Watercolor paintings in bright, warm tones fill each page. In scenes where she is dancing, backgrounds of blurred figures effectively represent both the large audience and the many generations whose tradition the gathering honors. Seeing Jenna as both a modern girl in the suburban homes of her intertribal community and as one of many traditionally costumed participants at the powwow will give some readers a new view of a contemporary Native American way of life. An author's note and glossary tell more about the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the Ojibway origins of jingle dancing, and the significance of the number four in Native American tradition. This picture book will not only satisfy a need for materials on Native American customs, but will also be a welcome addition to stories about traditions passed down by the women of a culture. Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2000

Read more picture books by Native American author Joseph Bruchac like The First Strawberries.

Native American Lit.: Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back

Bruchac, Joseph, and Jonathan London. 1992. Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back: A Native American Year of Moons. Illus. by Thomas Locker. NY: Philomel Books. ISBN: 0399221417.

Author Joseph Bruchac and poet Jonathan London present a collection of poems that represent the legends of the year's thirteen different moons and the turtle that are powered by the turtle.

to begin the collection poems there is a brief narrative in which a grandfather explains to his grandson why there are always thirteen scales on a turtle's shell. Each of the thirteen poems are written in free verse and represent stories from different Native American tribes that comprise a lunar calendar. Each poem provides a story and normally an explanation to things in life like why the Potawatomi do not bother bears during the winter or why there is changes in the weather. A wonderful example of this is seen in the poem "Moon of Falling Leaves," which is the Tenth Moon and is a story from the Cherokee nation:

Long ago, the tress were told
they must say awake
seven days and nights,
but only the cedar,
the pine and the spruce
stayed awake until
that seventh night.
The reward they were given
was to always be green,
while all the other trees
must shed their leaves.

So, each autumn, the leaves
of the sleeping trees fall.
They cover the floor
of our woodlands with colors
as bright as the flowers
that come with the spring.
The leaves return the strength
of one more year's growth
to the earth.

This journey
the leaves are taking
is part of that great circle
which holds us all close to the earth (p. 21).

The large illustrations by painter Thomas Locker are beautiful and amazingly detailed The poems are truly enhanced by the magnificent colors and realism.

The cultural markers that are seen in the collection of thirteen poems is in the essence that each poem is taken from a different tribe: Northern Cheyenne, Potawatomi, Anishinabe, Cree, Huron, Seneca, Pomo, Menominee, Micmac, Cherokee, Winnebago, Lakota Sioux, and Abenaki. Within many poems Native words or names, for example, in the poem "Frog Moon," the animal character Little Frog is called "O-ma-ka-ki." Though the illustrations only show nature sceneries, there are several that include subtle images of the Peoples as well as some of their living quarters, such as seen in the illustrations for the poem "Moon of Popping Trees." To identify which tribe each poem's story originated from at the bottom of each numbers the moon and names the tribe.

At the very end of the book the authors provide "A Note About This Book," in which explains that even though many Native American people do use the turtle's back as a calendar are also many other Native people that mark the year by the changes in the seasons and the times of rain and the dry time. There is also the explanation that the names of the moons are sometimes have a different yet similar name.

Through the power of free verse poems and magnificent illustrations Bruchac, London and Locker have created a beautiful book that presents the various stories of the different times of the year from many different tribes that all relate to the moon and the turtle that carries them.

From a velvety moonlit wetland scene in ``Big Moon'' to the glory of a deciduous forest in the ``Moon of Falling Leaves,'' Locker once again proves himself a gifted landscape artist. In illustrating this Native American lunar calendar, he makes forays beyond the Hudson River valley to the lands of the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne, Cherokee and Huron, Abenaki, Cree, and more, catching the seasons in light, clouds, trees, and wildlife. As in his other books, human and animal figures are rather awkward intrusions, with some exceptions--notably a huge, four-square moose in ``Frog Moon.'' Folklorist Bruchac and poet London work together on brief, dignified retellings of Native American legends for the accompanying text, properly pointing out in an afterword that tribes in different areas see different seasonal patterns and hold different beliefs. (Poetry/Folklore. 7-9) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP

Kindergarten-Grade 4-- The book opens with an Abenaki storyteller explaining to his grandson that just as there are always 13 scales on ``Old Turtle's back,'' there are 13 moons in a year, each of which has a name and a story. The poetic tales and corresponding paintings that follow represent myths or legends of different Native American tribes. Although the language of these poems is not particularly memorable or childlike, it does evoke images and passes on some of the traditions of the native people and their closeness to the natural world. The cadence is that of an adult explaining things to a child. Both text and illustrations have a distancing effect on readers. Locker's large, dark paintings stand parallel to or in tandem with the poems but are not integral to them. They create a mood and capture portions of the text, encouraging viewers to look ``at'' rather than ``into'' these images. There is a sense of vastness in these paintings, and sometimes a harshness, but little of the lushness or the warmth of the land. Although the cover illustration of the turtle is inviting and the large format attractive, these are poems that will probably not entice most youngsters on their own. They can be appreciated, however, when presented by an adult and will be a welcome addition to units on Native American cultures. --Kay E. Vandergrift, School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ Copyright 1992

Read more books by author Joseph Bruchac: Between Earth & Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places, The First Strawberries, The Earth Under Sky Bear's Feet, How Chipmunk Got His Stripes, and Turtle's Race with Beaver.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hispanic/Latino(a) Literature: Mice and Beans

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. 2001. Mice and Beans. Illus. by Joe Capeda. NY: Scholastic Press. ISBN: 0439183030.

Rosa María is planning a big birthday party for her granddaughter Little Catalina’s seventh birthday. As checks her list and prepares all the food, she makes sure that her home mice-free by setting a mousetrap every night. But along with candles, a bag, and cloth napkins, the traps keep on disappearing. In all her preparing for every detail, Rosa María forgets to do one last important thing on her list, but with the help of the mice living in her pantry Little Catalina’s birthday party is a great success.

This is a charming book of a warm and big hearted grandmother Rosa María who tiny house with a tiny yard that has room for everyone “except for a mouse” and the traditions of a birthday traditions that include piñatas and some delicious Mexican foods that include the rice and beans that “no dinner [is] complete without.” There are many subtle yet wonderful cultural makers within Ryan’s narration. There are a plethora of Spanish words and phrases written into the story. Many of the foods that Rosa María cooks are written in Spanish, which many readers would already be familiar with: enchiladas, frijoles (beans), dulce (candy) and tortillas. There other terms that readers may or may not be as familiar with like bolsa (bag), casita (house), cielos (heavens), fiesta, piñata, ratones (mice), feliz cumpleaños (happy birthday), and pasterlería (pastry shop). Rosa María also says on numerous occasions, especially when she forgets something or can’t find an item that goes missing: no importa (it doesn’t matter) and fíjate (imagine that) and qué boba soy (silly me).

Another quality of the text is how it is formatted. It takes Rosa María a week to prepare for the fiesta, and the days of the weeks are highlighted for readers to recognize and for young readers to learn the days of the week. There is also a refrain when she sets the mousetraps every nice to “snap” before she goes to bed, which can be utilized during storytime as a way for the children to participate in the telling of the book.

The bight, cheerful and extremely colorful illustrations fill all the pages and truly helps bring the story to life. Rosa María’s house is pink on the outside and very colorful on the inside. Rosa María herself is depicted as a cheerful and friendly grandmother who wears red-rimmed classes, has a blonde behave hair, long read fingernails, and culturally authentic light brown skin tone. The true celebration of the Hispanic culture in the story is seen at the very end of the book when Rosa María’s large family gathers at her house to celebrate Little Catalina’s birthday. Everyone has light brown skin and brown to black hair and everyone enjoys the great meal that she had made and loved the piñata. Readers will also love finding the mice, who are wearing clothes, in the illustrations.

For readers who do not know any of the Spanish terms there is a glossary and pronunciation guide at the end of the book. Also, on the back cover there are the recipes for the traditional rice and beans that “no meal is complete without.” This a great book that all readers will enjoy and relate to the tradition of a family gathering for celebrating a birthday and opening one’s house to everyone.

Ages 4-7. It’s time for Little Catalina’s seventh birthday, and grandmother Rosa María is ready to celebrate. She has room in her heart and her casita for nearly everyone on this happy occasion – everyone except mice. Grandmother sees to the details, from food to fun. But she forgets to fill the empty piñata, and when she discovers that mice have filled it for her, she opens a place un her joyful heart just for them. The story is charming, but what makes it special is the quiet authenticity of the Hispanic characterizations. Cepeda’s pictures are as good as the story, with bright, funny scenes depicted from human (looking down) and mouse (looking up) points of view. A delightful birthday or anytime book. – Kelly Milner Halls. 2001.

Kindheartedness lies at the core of this story, even if the main character wishes to banish all mice-via a battery of snapping traps-from her hearth and home. Rosa Maria might live in a tiny house, but she wants to celebrate the birthday of her grandchild Little Catalina with a party and lots of food. "When there's room in the heart, there's room in the house, except for a mouse!" So she sets a trap to make sure none of her preparations are snacked upon by the resident mice. Strangely, each evening as she goes to check on the traps after fixing up a batch of enchiladas or frijoles (Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the text), the traps are gone. She blames her own forgetfulness and sets another. Comes Catalina's big day and Rosa Maria suddenly remembers that she has forgotten to stuff the piñata with candy. But it's too late-the children are already whacking away. When scads of candy cascade from the piñata as it bursts, Rosa Maria figures she has simply forgotten that she filled it. Yet when she is cleaning up after the party, she discovers evidence of mice-"RATONES!"-and said evidence also points to the mice having stuffed the piñata for Rosa Maria. So she changes her tune: "When there's room in the heart, there's room in the house, even for a mouse." In artwork as sumptuously rich as Catalina's birthday cake, Cepeda's (Daring Dog and Captain Cat, above, etc.) color-drenched scenes stuffed with detail make Rosa Maria's world a pleasure-giving place. And now that the mice are welcome-these mice, after all, pull their own weight-it might be the most beneficent home ever. (Picture book. 4-7)

*Read more books by Pam Muñoz Ryan like Nacho and Lolita.
*When reading the book have the children clap their hand once whenever the story reads “When it was set and ready to SNAP.”
*Ask the children if they ever had a big birthday party like what Rosa María created for her granddaughter.

Hispanic/Latino(a) Literature: Neighborhood Odes

Soto, Gary. 1992. Neighborhood Odes. Illus. by David Diaz. NY: Harcourt Inc. ISBN: 9780152568795.

Through the collection of twenty-one poems, Gary Soto presents celebratory vignettes of life in a Mexican American neighborhood.

Neighborhood Odes is a wonderful collection of poems that celebrates everyday life from running through the sprinkler como un chango – like a monkey, snow cones, eating delicious pomegranates from the tree in an old lady’s yard, tennis shoes, the library, a wedding, a weeping ghost, and much more. Written in free verse, each ode has a different child sharing a story. There is a great presence to each poem that sets the mood and feelings. One perfect example of this is “Ode to La Llorona” (Waling Woman):

They say she weeps
Knee-deep in the river,
The gray of dusk
A shawl over her head.
She weeps for her children,
Their smothered faces
Of sleeping angels…
Normaaaa, Marioooo, Carloooos.
They say she calls
Children, offering
Them candy
From her sleeve.
They say she will
Point a long finger,
Gnarled root of evilness,
And stare a soft
Hole in your lungs:
The air leaks
From this hole
And climbs in the trees.

If you’re on your bike,
Ride faster.
If you’re on foot,
Run without looking up.
In these times,
The sliced moon hangs

La Llorona is the mother
Of drowned children.
Beware a woman
Dripping water in July
When no rain has fallen. (p. 23, 25).

Other moods seen in the poems also reflect excitement, love, and happiness. Though the setting of the odes is in a Mexican American neighborhood, the stories that they tell are universal in nature. All the readers would be able to relate to stories of running in the sprinkler, “The helicopter/Of water/Slicing our legs.,” being stung by a bee. Telling the story of a ghost, the love of a pet, the love for a pair of tennis shoes, and the love of the family photographs taken by Mamá that not as perfect.

Soto also does a beautiful job in capturing the descriptive imagery. This seen in the poem “Ode to Los Raspados” in which a girl’s hair is described, “With hair that swings/Like jump ropes,” (p. 4), a pet cat that is so white that “He’s white/As spilled milk” (p. 30), and eating pomegranates, “The blood/Of the fruit runs/Down to their elbows,/Like a vein,/Like a red river,/Like a trail of red ants.” (p. 57).

There are many cultural markers that illustrate the Mexican American aspects of the collection of poems. The first is the use of Spanish terms and phrases in the each of the odes. Many of the titles have the subject’s name in Spanish, such as “Ode to Los Raspados” (snow cones), “Ode to Mi Parque” (my park), “Ode to Mi Gato” (my cat), while others use the English equivalent. The actual text of the poems is written in English but there are the Spanish words and phrases that included. Family members are called Mamá, Papá, tío, tía, abuelo, abuela or abuelitos. There are also many food names like chicharrones (fried pork rinds), frijoles (refried beans), huevo (egg), and tortillas. There are also several phrases used like ay, ay, mi vida (oh, oh, my life). Though is a great amount of Spanish words and phrases used what makes the poems affective in their craft is that the words and phrases are not translated into English, which would take away the reading experience of those who speak both Spanish and English.

The illustrations that are sprinkled through out the collection of odes add another level of creativity to overall book without overshadowing the poems. David Diaz uses a black and white paper cutout technique that is crisp and detailed in their depiction of some of the poems. Readers will enjoy studying these illustrations due to the contrast of the black and white coloring and all the hidden details that are given.

The final feature presented in Sotos’ collection of odes is a glossary in the back that provides the definitions of the Spanish words and phrases used in all of the poems, which allows readers new to Spanish to learn a new translation of things that they already know.

Neighborhood Odes is a great collection of poems illustrating the love and joy of everyday subjects that everyone can relate to and is perfect for both Spanish and English speaking readers. A must book for any junior poetry collection.

The memories and experiences of Hispanic children are celebrated in a collection of short-lined poems from the author of Baseball in April (1990). With the one exception of the deliciously shivery ``Ode to La Llorona'' (a weeping ghost), the mood ranges from tired happiness to downright exuberance. A girl boasts that she doesn't have to pay for raspados (snow-cones) because her father drives the ice-cream truck; Pablo goes to bed without a bath because ``he wants to be/Like his shoes,/A little dirty''; a child eats a spoonful of ground chile pepper from the molcajete (mortar), to his huge regret; others fondly recall picnics, a wedding, the library, running through the sprinkler, and similar pleasures of a California neighborhood. Diaz's occasional illustrations, with the sharp-edged black areas of woodcuts or paper silhouettes, are angular and stylized to near abstraction. Soto's language leans slightly toward the formal (as befits an ode) and is sprinkled with Spanish words, clear in context but also translated in a glossary. (Poetry. 10-12)

Grade 4 Up-- The rewards of well-chosen words that create vivid, sensitive images await readers of this collection of poems. Through Soto's keen eyes, they see, and will be convinced, that there is poetry in everything. The odes celebrate weddings, the anticipation of fireworks, pets, grandparents, tortillas, and the library. Although Soto is dealing with a Chicano neighborhood, the poetry has a universal appeal. A minor drawback is that the Spanish words are not translated on the page, but in a glossary; to consult it interrupts the reading. Still, children will surely recognize the joy, love, fear, excitement, and adventure Soto brings to life. It is the same sensitivity and clarity found in Baseball in April (HBJ, 1990), his collection of short stories. Black-and-white illustrations blend well with the astute verbal imagery. Each selection is an expression of joy and wonder at life's daily pleasures and mysteries. --Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ Copyright 1992.

*Read more books by Gary Soto: Baseball in April and Other Stories, Canto Familiar, Gary Soto: New and Selected Poems, A Fire in My Hands, Living Up The Streets, Accidental Love, and Chato’s Kitchen.
*Have the readers write their own odes to their favorite pastime, pet, or anything that they thought of when they read the odes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hispanic/Latino(a) Literature: Tomás and the Library Lady

Mora, Pat. 1997. Tomás and the Library Lady. Illus. by Raul Colón. NY: Alfread A. Kopf. ISBN: 0679804013.

*Winner of the 1997 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award*

Tomás’ family is migrant workers. Every year they harvest fruits and vegetables during winter in Texas, where they lived, and in Iowa during the summer. When he is not doing chores and bringing water to his family, Tomás plays ball with his brother Enrique and listens to the stories that are told by his grandfather. One year, when his grandfather tells him that he is old enough to visit the library by himself to find new stories, Tomás discovers a world of books that he could get lost in and a nice librarian who encouraged his joy of reading.

Based off of the true story of Tomás Rivera, author Pat Mora presents a wonderful story of part of the life of a Mexican American boy growing up during the 1940s in a migrant family and who discovered a love for reading with the help of a librarian. One of the great aspects of the story is that the readers get a perspective of migrant workers who travels from place to place for work in an old car, shares a house with other workers and sleeps on cots and who goes to the local dump to search for iron that they could sell for money. Tomás and his brother plays ball that that is was sewn from an old teddy bear, and they look for toys and books at the dump. The story also portrays a close-knit family that consists of parents, children and a grandparent. Tomás’ grandfather is the storyteller in the family and is the one begins Tomás’ journey with books.

The narrative contains a nice integration of Spanish words and phrases into the English text. Tomás addresses his mother, father, and grandfather as Mamá, Papá, and Papá Grande. Also through out the book there are phrases such as Buenas noches (good night), En un tiempo pasado (Once upon a time), and ¡Qué tigre tan grande! (What a big tiger!). Finally, there are other time when Tomás counts the steps up to the library in Spanish and also teaches the librarian Spanish phrases and words.

Another wonderful quality of the Mora’s narration is her ability to describe the power of the books that Tomás reads and how he is enveloped into the stories. When he reads his first book the readers follow him as he see “dinosaurs bending their long necks to lap shiny water. He heard the cries of a wild snakebird. He felt the warm neck of the dinosaur, as he held on tight for a ride. Tomás forgot about Iowa and Texas” (p. 13) or when he is riding on a horse “across, a hot dusty desert” and “smelled the smoke of an Indian camp” (p. 21).

Raul Colón’s illustrations truly compliment the story. With a mixture of watercolor, colored pencils and litho pencils on etched watercolor paper there is an amazing and creative textured quality to the warm earth tone artwork. The characters are charmingly depicted. Tomás and his family members have a light brown skin town and dark brown/black hair, except for Papá Grande who has silver hair and mustache. The librarian has peachy cream skin and blonde hair and depicted as warm and friendly.

The illustrations also show how much Tomás loves the books and how he is delves into the stories. Dinosaurs, horses, Indians and teepees will fill the page, and when Tomás reads to his family of a tiger in a jungle, a larger than life tiger is lurking in the background behind the family. This continues on to the end when the readers sees Tomás hugging the book that the librarian gave him before he leaves for Texas and is imagining himself riding on the back the dinosaurs once again.

To provide a story behind the story of Tomás and the Library Lady there is “A Note About the Story” that explains who Tomás Rivera was. It was because of the discovery of books with the help of a librarian that let him become a writer, poet, and professor.

With the combination of a well blending of Spanish words and phrases in the English text and illustrations that present the world within books readers who speak of English and Spanish will all love this book.

A charming, true story about the encounter between the boy who would become chancellor at the University of California at Riverside and a librarian in Iowa. Tom s Rivera, child of migrant laborers, picks crops in Iowa in the summer and Texas in the winter, traveling from place to place in a worn old car. When he is not helping in the fields, Tom s likes to hear Papa Grande's stories, which he knows by heart. Papa Grande sends him to the library downtown for new stories, but Tom s finds the building intimidating. The librarian welcomes him, inviting him in for a cool drink of water and a book. Tom s reads until the library closes, and leaves with books checked out on the librarian's own card. For the rest of the summer, he shares books and stories with his family, and teaches the librarian some Spanish. At the end of the season, there are big hugs and a gift exchange: sweet bread from Tom s's mother and a shiny new book from the librarianto keep. Col¢n's dreamy illustrations capture the brief friendship and its life-altering effects in soft earth tones, using round sculptured shapes that often depict the boy right in the middle of whatever story realm he's entered. (Picture book. 7-10) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Grade 2-4?Tomas Rivera, who at his death in 1984 was the Chancellor of the University of California at Riverside, grew up in a migrant family. Here, Mora tells the fictionalized story of one summer in his childhood during which his love of books and reading is fostered by a librarian in Iowa, who takes him under her wing while his family works the harvest. She introduces him to stories about dinosaurs, horses, and American Indians and allows him to take books home where he shares them with his parents, grandfather, and brother. When it is time for the family to return to Texas, she gives Tomas the greatest gift of all?a book of his own to keep. Colon's earthy, sun-warmed colors, textured with swirling lines, add life to this biographical fragment and help portray Tomas's reading adventures in appealing ways. Stack this up with Sarah Stewart and David Small's The Library (Farrar, 1995) and Suzanne Williams and Steven Kellogg's Library Lil (Dial, 1997) to demonstrate the impact librarians can have on youngsters.?Barbara Elleman, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc

*Read more books by award-winning author Pat Mora like: Confetti: Poems for Children, The Rainbow Tulip, Delicious Hullabaloo, and Dona Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart.
*Read more books about libraries and librarians like: Library Lion by Michelle Knuden and Illus. by Keven Hawkes, The Library by Sarah Stewart and Illus. by David Small, and Library Lil by Suzanne Williams and Illus. by Steven Kellogg,

Friday, October 3, 2008

African American: Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color

Alexander, Elizabeth and Marilyn Nelson. 2007. Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color. Illus. by Floyd Cooper. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong. ISBN: 1590784561.

Through a collection of poems, authors Elizabeth Alexander and Marilyn Nelson tell the true story of teacher Prudence Crandall who opened her school to African American girls in 1833 Canterbury, Connecticut and of their perseverance through the actions of the townspeople who are racially opposed to Crandall’s decision to teach young misses of color.

Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color is a beautiful book of poems that relays the story of a teacher and her African American students’ during the 1830’s. Award-winning poets Elizabeth Alexander and Marilyn Nelson’s collaboration presents twenty-four poems, separated into six parts, provides vignettes to the story. The poems are written in the sonnet form. Each have fourteen lines and either follows the traditional rhyming scheme or follows the innovative free verse style. Several are creatively separated into multiple stanzas to make the specific sonnet affective in telling and can become an overall intriguing poem for the readers to read and reflect upon.

Each poem has a different voice and portrays different thoughts and feelings that tells the story from its beginning with students leaving their home to attend the school to learn, to the education, to when Miss Crandall and her students hearing and experiencing the heated opinion of the townspeople, to when Miss Crandall has nothing left but to close the school. Despite being in poetic form, the text remarkably is rich and understandable to the readers. This is particularly seen in the sonnet “Fire from the Gods:”

I didn’t know how much I didn’t know.
Like Brer Mosquito on Brer Elephant,
now I know my capacity for awe
is infinite: this thirst is permanent,
the well bottomless, my good fortune vast.
An uneducated mind is a clenched fist
that can open, like a bud, into a flower
whose being reaches, every waking hour,
and who sleeps a fragrant dream of gratitude.
Now it’s “illegal,” “illegitimate”
to teach brown girls who aren’t state residents.
As if Teacher’s stealing fire from the gods.
As if the Ancestors aren’t tickled to death to see
a child they lived toward find her minds infinity (p. 19).
and in “End”:
Upturned stacks of Webster’s blue-backed spellers.
broken slates. Liberators burned to ash.
Ninety panes of first-floor windows smashed,
frame wood splinters and jagged as tinder.

I can no longer protect my students.
Strangely, it is not God’s words that ring
in my head as I search for understanding,
rather, words that I saw on a charred reader:

I must remind you that the earth is round.
Men and animals live on the surface.
There is no comfort in these words,
yet the fact of them comforts me: schoolbooks.

I am a teacher of colored misses,
But I can no longer protect my students (p.44).

Within each poem, to create the authors added to the different voices that they created is have different tones and how they address people. The schoolgirls call Miss Crandall “Teacher,” “Miss Teacher,” “Teacher Pru,” and “Miss Crandall” The poem “Miss Ann Eliza Hammond” wonderfully illustrates a student’s opinion and speech:

I brought here, in a bag between my breasts,
money from Mama’s friends who had bought herself,
then saved enough, by working without rest,
to free four friends. This woman gave me her wealth
of carefully folded dollars to I could take
Miss Crandall’s course of study. And within a week
of my arrival, I was summoned to appear in court.
The judge ruled I’d have to pay a fine, depart,
or be whipped naked.

Honey, the first white fool
that thinks he gone whip me better think again.
Touch me, and you’ll draw back a nub, white man.
I ain’t payin’, and I’m stayin’. People’s dream brought me to this school.
I’m their future, in a magic looking glass.
That judge and the councilmen can kiss my rusty black (p. 26).

Floyd Cooper’s illustrations are a pure compliment to the poems. Through an innovative subtractive multi-medium technique, the artwork is colorful with a color scheme of neutral tans and accents of pinks, greens, purple, and blue and provides a softness that adds to the overall presence that is given with the book. In particular are the depictions of the students. Not one looks a like and have varying sizes of noses, lips, skin color and hairstyles. In particular the portraits for the poems “Miss Ann Elizabeth Hammond” and “Arson at Midnight” are beautifully executed. To keep the book appearance light and airy the illustrations are kept to one or two per two-page spread and only occupy a corner or side. There are double-page spread illustrations at the beginning of each of the six sections that depict the schoolhouse and the students. Though the clothing is more representative of what was worn during and after the Civil War, the illustrations are wonderfully done and are perfect for the book.

To complete the book there is an introduction that provides the details and historical facts to put the poems into context. Finally, there is a note from the authors that present information on the creative process of their collaboration and how their poems only present a certain parts of the entire story that allow the readers to think, imagine, and explore the meanings of the poems with the historical story.

Though their story is relatively unknown, through the collaborative work of Alexander and Nelson, Prudence Crandall and her schoolgirl are now part of the treasured books that tell the powerful stories of this part of America’s history. This book is perfect for all school and public libraries.

Twenty-four clear, beautiful poems in different voices tell the stirring history of white teacher Prudence Crandall, who defied bigotry in Canterbury, Connecticut, in 1833 by setting up a school for 20 young African American women, many of them freed slaves, who dared to attend. Alexander and Nelson, both Connecticut poets, use dramatic sonnets to tell how Crandall and her students braved resistance to “teach and learn.” The pupils speak directly of the anguish of family parting (illiteracy “means silence when you leave home”); the wonder of learning (“I didn’t know how much I didn’t know”); the racism, including the “etymology” of invective (“no one in town will sell us anything”); and the horrifying climax of “Arson at Midnight,” when 300 men attacked the school and closed it down. A long introduction details the historical facts, and in a final note the poets (Nelson is Connecticut’s poet laureate) talk about how each has used the sonnet form. The images in their poems and in Cooper’s quiet, dramatic pastel illustrations compellingly capture the haunting history. Pair this picture book for older readers with Suzanne Jurmain’s The Forbidden Schoolhouse (2005) and books about the KKK -- Hazel Rochman. Booklist, published by the American Library Association.

Two years after Suzanne Jurmain's nonfiction chronicle, Forbidden Schoolhouse (2005), comes a glorious poetic celebration of the teacher and students at a Connecticut school that defied mid-19th-century convention to educate African-American girls. Divided into six sections, four sonnets in each, the voices of the 24 girls tell, one by one, the tale, from hope and excitement at the beginning of the enterprise to fear and defiance as forces both institutional and vigilante conspire to destroy Miss Crandall's School. Nelson's sonnets adhere to a strict form while Alexander's explore the boundaries of the form; each distills the powerful emotions inspired by the story. For example, "Fire from the Gods": "I didn't know how much I didn't know, / Like Brer Mosquito on Brer Elephant, / now I know my capacity for awe / is infinite. . . . " Cooper's soft pastel illustrations provide a muted counterpoint to the text, mixing depictions of school and students with images of the natural world in a lovely rhythm. A foreword provides a brief prose history of the school; a concluding authors' note explains their collaborative process. (Poetry. 10+)

*Learn more about Miss Crandall, her school and her students with the book: The Forbidden School House: The True and Dramatic Story of Prudence Crandall and Her Students by Suzanne Jurmain
*Have the students explore the resources available on the Prudence Crandall Museum’s website: