Tag Archives: #WNDB

Windows/Mirrors Book Review: Each Kindness

© 2016, Logo by L. M. Quraishi

This bi-weekly #Windows/Mirrors series of book reviews, inspired by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, offers children’s books created by or about people of diversity.

“And every day after that…I looked away and didn’t smile back.”

Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis, Nancy Paulsen Books (An Imprint of Penguin Group), 2012, winner of a Coretta Scott King Honor and the Jane Addams Peace Award

This atypical story about unkindness at school centers on the bully and not the bullied.

Read this book because the narrator’s journey from complicit cruelty to regret at missed opportunities will open the eyes and hearts of children, allowing them to examine their own treatment of peers critically, and yet with compassion.

Writers will enjoy the way every word counts, builds and repeats, creating a vortex around the lonely eye of the storm, where the new girl waits to be loved.

Artists will savor E. B. White’s watercolor palette of light and the way he uses expression and perspective to reveal the tensions and center of the story. From the new girl’s downcast eyes or hopeful smile, to a classmate’s sneer or the main character’s scowl, children’s faces draw a painful story to our attention and into our hearts.

Add this book to your collection because we live in a time where each kindness matters.

More books by Jacqueline Woodson:

 

More books illustrated by E. B. Lewis:

“Every little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.”

 

Time to Listen Tuesday: Jacqueline Woodson

This interview of Jacqueline Woodson for the September/October 2016 issue of Poets & Writers magazine highlights the deliberate and courageous choices she has made as an artist to tell the “invisible” story.

A Great Good: An Interview with Jacqueline Woodson

Windows/Mirrors Book Review: Harvesting Hope – The Story of César Chávez

© 2016, Logo by L. M. Quraishi

© 2016, Logo by L. M. Quraishi

This weekly #Windows/Mirrors series of book reviews, inspired by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, offers children’s books created by or about people of diversity.

I am so proud of the American people at this time in history. It seems that nothing can silence the dialogue we want to have about equity, oppression, privilege and inclusion. Although at times we may find it difficult or impossible to find common ground in our conversations with each other, we are talking and we are listening.

Join the conversation! Read a diverse book to a child in your life, and tell us what you talked about. Head over to #TimeToListenTuesday to read a perspective you might not normally seek. Leave a comment and tell me what you think. Thanks for reading!

“Nearly every crop caused torment.”

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Harvesting Hope: The Story of César Chávez, by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Yuyi Morales, Scholastic, 2003, Pura Belpré Honor Book

Highlighting the fierce spirit and warm purpose of César Chávez, this book tells the story of his life from childhood to death, highlighting the birth of La Causa, the 1965 march to Sacramento, and the signing of the first contract for farmworkers in American history.

Read this book because it will evoke a deep empathy for the struggles of migrant workers to put food on America’s tables, and live with dignity and prosperity. From the mockery and punishment that César Chávez endured for speaking Spanish in school to the hunger strikes that changed the fortunes of huge produce companies, the story of César’s vision and determination will inspire all of us to fully inhabit our own power for change.

Writers will enjoy the language that quietly reveals the evolution of César from a beloved child to a fierce fighter for the rights of his fellow farmworkers. As a child, “César thought the whole world belonged to his family” when they still owned their ranch in Arizona. Later it becomes clear that this personal point of reference helped César develop his sense of injustice, first realizing that “farm chores on someone else’s farm instead of his own felt like a form of slavery,” then developing his conviction that “farmwork did not have to be so miserable.”

Artists will enjoy the warm palette and hopeful brushstrokes of Yuji Morales’ luminous artwork, as well as the thoughtful details of every spread. On a page where César’s mother cautions him against physical violence, her dress flows like the land beneath her child, embracing and connecting. When the family loses their ranch to drought, a stubborn horse and looming bulldozer in the background allude to the much larger conflict between family farms and industrial farming. The rounded body shapes in a spread describing the backbreaking conditions of farmworkers evoke Diego Rivera, and on a page where César begins recruiting people to join his fight “one by one,” a single farmworker makes eye contact with him from across the field as she hefts a flat of strawberries.

Add this book to your collection because like its title, this book grows hope that as individuals and as a people, we can make changes in our world for equity and humanity.

More books by Kathleen Krull:

More books by Yuyi Morales:

“In a fight for justice, he told everyone, truth was a better weapon than violence.”

 

 

The Crossover: A Windows/Mirrors Book Review

“If my hair were a tree, I’d climb it.”

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The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, Houghton Mifflin, 2015

Rhythm, meaning, heart – all the elements of great poetry, employed to tell a story from a compelling point of view. Two young African American twins struggle with identity, competition, puberty and loss.

Read this book because it’s the real deal, taking on big topics like first love, brotherly love, injury and forgiveness, and especially health, illness and death.

Writers will enjoy the satisfying playfulness of the language, rhythm and onomatopoeia perfectly placed to convey emotion and energy and the ups and downs of growing up.

Add this book to your collection because there are not enough basketball-bouncing, brothers trouncing, soul-sifting, heart-uplifting stories for African American teens out there, and certainly not ones written in flawless verse.

Other books by Kwame Alexander include:

Read more about The Crossover here:

At the 2015 SCBWI LA Conference, Kwame’s keynote presentation features this advice to writers and basketball players and boys alike:

“Hustle dig

Grind push

Run fast

Change pivot

Chase pull

Aim shoot

Work smart

Live smarter

Play hard

Practice harder.”

 

 

Time to Listen Tuesday:

Creative Commons image via clipartist.net

Creative Commons image via clipartist.net

If the only images of brown people you saw in the books you read as a child were of the Gingerbread Man (a character always on the run and destined to be eaten), how would that affect your self-image, sense of identity, and understanding of the world? Six luminaries in the field of publishing for children reflect on how the availability of diverse books affected them as children and what changes they recommend in the field.

“All hands on deck! Teachers. Parents. Editors, Writers. Reviewers. Distributors. Bookstores. Literacy organizations. Youth organizations. All hands on deck!” – Wade Hudson

We Need Diverse Books NOW!

I’ll be spending the next few weeks reading and rereading this important round table discussion about diversifying children’s literature, hosted by the PEN Equity Project. Here are some thoughts from the participants to get you started. Link to full article here.

“I didn’t need to read a book to understand that I should be worried about my position in America. But I did need books to neutralize the feeling.” –Fatima Shaik

“I acquired what I now think of as the cheerful privilege of the white reader—the belief that all books existed purely for my enjoyment, with the easy pleasure of reading and judging them based on emotional reaction rather than representation.” – Cheryl Klein

“I remember how angry I was…when I was first exposed to Black writers such as Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, and Langston Hughes. I should have known about these important cultural carriers and witnesses [before college].” – Wade Hudson

“That journey of loss and recovery—a kind of reclamation which was both emotional and political—is something I carry with me every day I sit down to write and as I move through the publishing world. It informs my outspokenness, my determination to bring radical change to an industry that remains entrenched in a very particular white cultural mindset toward the creation of literature.” – Daniel José Older

“As our nation continues to become even more diverse and the world becomes even more interconnected, what we write just might help children embrace this diversity so that as they become older, they can become informed, responsible, and active citizens in our democracy, and participants in the larger world in which we live.”  – Robie Harris

“There’s something that’s so magical and important about seeing yourself in a more specific way, whether it be race, or religion, or sexual orientation, or geography, or socioeconomic background, or disability, especially when you don’t often/ever see yourself represented anywhere else.” – Alvina Ling

“My question to you and to all those reading this discussion: What does it mean to be courageous in this time of change?”  – Daniel José Older

 

Time to Listen Tuesday: Relando Thompkins-Jones

Photo by durera_toujours, Creative Commons via Flickr

Photo by durera_toujours, Creative Commons via Flickr

Every once in a while I stumble on a blog so thought-provoking and essential that it renews my gratitude for the age of information in which we live. This article by Relando Thompkins-Jones from his blog Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian, perfectly continues the dialogue Ellen Oh and Libby Bray began, about how critical it is for each and every one of us to make space to listen to those less privileged than ourselves.

On Power & Privilege Denial, and “Hurt Feelings” in Social Justice Work

“Denying the power and privilege we hold can be a way of protecting ourselves from internalizing the reality and gravity of our active and passive participation in oppressive systems…”

“Instead of actively focusing on how we participate in oppression, responding defensively can be an attempt at manipulating marginalized people into making us feel better about ourselves and taking care of our feelings first before we’re able to listen; ultimately derailing any critical dialogue that would have taken place.”

“Feeling “attacked” or “hurt” in the moment from our place of privilege, whatever that may be, fails to compare to the everyday lived experiences of the people who are on the receiving end of the oppression we benefit from.”

Read on! Link to the full article here.

Windows and Mirrors Book Review: Watch the Sky

© 2016, Logo by L. M. Quraishi

© 2016, Logo by L. M. Quraishi

“Jory’s stepfather “was fickle with explanations. Sometimes he shared them. Sometimes he didn’t. But he had no problem giving orders, mostly camouflaged as suggestions.”

Watch the SkyWatch the Sky, by Kirsten Hubbard, Disney-Hyperion, 2015

“Remember: you can’t trust anyone but your family.” Caleb rescued Jory’s agoraphobic mom from an ugly confrontation in the restaurant where she was forced to work after his dad left them. For a while, Caleb offers a sense of safety to the entire family. But now that Jory’s in the fifth grade, he’s starting to doubt the direction of his stepdad’s leadership. Especially since the “signs” have initiated a secretive night-time schedule of digging for the entire family. Worried that the Officials will find out about the little sister he’s not supposed to have, confused about the friendship offered by his peers, Jory’s questions threaten the foundation of trust that has anchored his family for the last few years. But when he realizes what loyalty to his family will really mean, he’s faced with hard truths and new choices.

Read this book because the spare language leads straight into the characters’ inner lives, revealing their fears and doubts as well as their strengths and loyalties. Hubbard flawlessly filters the story through Jory’s ten-year old perspective, illuminating the world as he sees and understands it, creating page-turning tension as his awareness unfolds.

Add this book to your collection because “Jory’s family was a different kind of different.” Middle-grade children are busy building perspective on their families. Developing healthy boundaries depends on the kind of insight that Jory earns in his story; readers puzzling over their own family dynamics will learn from him.

Other books by Kirsten Hubbard include:

Trust. Jory tried to hang on to it—trust in one hand, son in the other–even after he glimpsed the chain saw.”

Time to Listen Tuesday: Daniel José Older

Photo by Philippe Gillotte, via Creative Commons

Photo by Philippe Gillotte, via Creative Commons

“Nuances of codeswitching, racial microaggressions, the emotional reality of surviving white supremacy, self-translation – these are all layers of the non-white experience that rarely make it into mainstream literature, even when the characters look like us.” – Daniel José Older

If you haven’t yet read Daniel José Older’s BuzzFeed article, Diversity is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing, here’s the link.

Some provocative thoughts:

“White supremacy in children’s literature,” Larrick writes, “will be abolished when authors, editors, publishers, and booksellers decide that they need not submit to bigots.” -Nancy Larrick

“Lack of racial diversity is a symptom. The underlying illness is institutional racism. It walks hand in hand with sexism, cissexism, homophobia, and classism.” -Daniel José Older

“Maybe the word hasn’t been invented yet – that thing beyond diversity.” Daniel José Older

Time to Listen Tuesday

© Steven Shorrock via Flickr Creative Commons

© Steven Shorrock via Flickr Creative Commons

Privilege cannot be evaluated in terms of black and white. Privilege by nature is comparative and perceptual. It seems to be part of the human experience to struggle, yet there is a quantitative difference between the struggle to put food before our children or overcome a history of sexual abuse or live with the increased likelihood of attack or incarceration because of skin color…and the struggle to find a parking spot in the city, or host the in-laws for dinner, or get our work published. No matter what the struggle, no matter how privileged we are in this way or that, we seem to have the tendency to magnify our own obstacles, and overlook our advantages.

If you haven’t yet read Ellen Oh’s magnificent article Dear White Writers about defending/creating space for people of color to tell their own stories, go read it now. She voices important concerns about the role of writers privileged by their skin color/ethnic background in supporting and participating in the movement for diverse children’s literature.

According to Lee & Low’s Diversity Baseline Survey, a 2015 statistical analysis of diversity in publishing for children, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks train is still parked at the station. In the past, there wasn’t a train at all, and diverse books just had to walk themselves to the publisher and wait at the back door for a turn to get in. Then maybe there was an occasional train, but no posted schedule and not enough cars. Now we’ve got one line, just one train that leaves once a day, and everyone’s crowding to get on. Who gets a ticket for that train?

What we need to do is take over the train station. When all of us consumed with creating books for children are writing from an expanded perception of the ways our society privileges some over others, and our own roles in that system, we will need more trains. Old lines of thinking and publishing will become obsolete, and those trains will refurbished for a more just and equitable world.

How do we expand our perceptions? It’s not easy and it’s not comfortable. But that’s something we writers already know a lot about. We know how to play with ideas and challenge the absurd. We know how to fill our pens with agony and write toward healing, how to break open the fiction of any -ism to write toward the truth. And we know how to listen.

Time to Listen Tuesday is a new series dedicated to listening to the voices that are speaking out for diverse books for children.

Today’s featured author is Libba Bray, whose post In Support of Ellen Oh challenges us all to confront our own racism, to “do it right…as truth-tellers”, to be “better writers and better humans.” Thank you, Libba Bray, for inviting us to listen.

Listen here:

Image thanks to Steven Shorrock, Creative Commons license

Windows/Mirrors Book Review: Ling & Ting, Not Exactly the Same

© 2016, Logo by L. M. Quraishi

© 2016, Logo by L. M. Quraishi

Ellen Oh‘s article Dear White Writers poses some interesting questions for me as a curator of this Diverse Book Review series. She challenges white writers to support #WNDB by reading, buying and promoting diverse books, not necessarily by attempting to write them. That is not to say that authors can never cross color/other lines in their fiction–many writers of many backgrounds do this successfully. But what happens when privileged writers claim the diverse spaces on publishers’ booklists when we know that those spaces are limited? Writers of color and other diverse backgrounds can get edged out of the opportunity to tell their own stories, as described by Jacqueline Woodson in her post “Who Can Tell My Story?”. Not okay.

So for today’s Windows/Mirrors Book Review, and in honor of the Year of the Monkey, I am pleased to present, telling her own story:

Ling & TIng Not Exactly the SameLing & Ting: Not Exactly the Same, by Grace Lin, Little, Brown and Company, 2010

“‘Oh good,” Ling says. ‘I know this story.’”

If you were ever a fan of Frog & Toad, you will love Ling & Ting. Grace Lin perfectly captures the back and forth of a close friendship between two very different people, and like Arnold Lobel, highlights those differences as the root of the loving humor in her stories.

Read this book because it’s the first of four, so you will get to spend a lot of time with these spunky sisters. The language of each chapter cycles back on itself in a way that always moves the story forward, so it supports readers without becoming repetitive. Likewise, the structure of the book builds a cumulative story to a satisfying ending.

Add this book to your collection because Lin has thoughtfully layered her work to be engaging, accessible to new readers, culturally normative AND culturally informative. Its main characters—two twin girls of Chinese descent—challenge the racist stereotype that “all Asians look alike,” something that Lin considered carefully when developing her story. In the illustrations, the Ling & Ting not only dress identically, but also look identical, until the fateful moment early in the series when the irrepressible Ting cannot sit still for her haircut. But in personality the girls could not be more distinct, even though they amiably share interests and activities in all the stories.

“Making Dumplings” was one of my favorite stories, especially with the artistic reference to In the Night Kitchen on the title page. Lin manages to weave in the cultural meaning of dumplings  without being the least bit didactic, in a way that further illuminates the premise of the entire book—to be twins does not mean to be exactly the same. The following story, “Chopsticks,” hilariously relates a common childhood experience for many—the challenge of chopsticks.

As a writer, I particularly admire the metaliterary element of the stories “The Library Book,” in which a book refers Ting back to an earlier story, and “Mixed Up,” which like Lobel’s “The Story,” contains a story within a story.

More Books by Grace Lin include:

Novels—

Chapter Books—

Picture Books—

Illustrated by Grace Lin—

More from Grace Lin:

“Books erase bias, they make the uncommon every day, and the mundane exotic. A book makes all cultures universal.” —Grace Lin