Tag: freedom

Review: Dreams of Freedom

Dreams of Freedom

Dreams of Freedom: in words and pictures (InfoSoup)

An incredible picture book that follows its sister book, We Are All Born Free. In association with Amnesty International, this book celebrates freedom around the world in a variety of ways. With quotations about freedom, the book’s text flies and builds an expectation that no one should live in the different forms of slavery or abridged freedom. The freedoms are large and expansive: the freedom to be a child, the freedom to learn, freedom from fear and freedom from slavery. This book embraces them all, creating a place where conversation can leap from.

The quotes from various luminaries from around the world were carefully selected so that children will be able to understand them. Sources range from the Dalai Lama to Harriet Tubman to Anne Frank. The illustrations are also rich and varied. They are done by various master children’s book illustrators including Mordicai Gerstein, Birgitta Sif and Chris Riddell. Each page of the book creates a singular moment to explore that type of freedom and to create hope and peace.

A strong book about freedom that invites conversation, this book belongs in both public and school libraries. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Call Me Tree by Maya Christina Gonzalez

call me tree

Call Me Tree: lámame árbol by Maya Christina Gonzalez

Released November 1, 2014.

This poetic picture book combines a celebration of trees with one of human diversity.  A boy starts to grow under the earth, reaching his arm up to break the surface of the ground.  His arm and fingers becomes a trunk and branches and soon he too is up in the air next to his tree.  Just as trees have freedom, so does he.  Just as each tree is different from another, he is different from the other people too.  Yet they all have roots and they all belong on the earth and in the world.

This very simple book is written like a free verse poem in both English and Spanish, closely tying biodiversity to human diversity in a clever way.  The connection of humans and trees is beautifully shown as well, in a way that ties each person to a tree like them.  It’s a book that is radiant in its delight in our connection to nature and the way that nature’s diversity reflects on our own.

Gonzalez both wrote and illustrated this picture book.  Her illustrations are colorful with deep colors that leap on the page.  The characters on the page are bold and different, each with their own feel of exuberance or quiet contemplation or strength.  Along with each different child, there is a tree connected to them that equally reflects their personality.  It’s a very clever way to clearly tie humans to nature.

This book could serve as inspiration for children to draw their own personal trees that express themselves or it can be a lullaby to dreams of blue skies and green leaves.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Children’s Book Press.

Two Parrots by Rashin Kheiriyeh

two parrots

Two Parrots by Rashin Kheiriyeh

Inspired by a tale by Rumi, this picture book takes an allegorical look at imprisonment and freedom.  A Persian merchant receives a parrot as a present and places him in a golden cage.   When the merchant heads out on a trip to India, he asks the parrot what gift he can bring back.  The parrot asks him to find his parrot friend and explain that the parrot would love to see him but is unable to due to his cage.  The merchant does as is asked and when he tells the parrot of his friend in the cage, the parrot falls down dead.  The merchant returns home to his parrot and has to tell him about the death of his friend.  At which point the parrot in the cage falls down dead too.  The merchant lifts the dead bird out of the cage and the bird promptly comes back to life and flies out the window to freedom.  The merchant is forced to admit the importance of freedom to living things.  Now he enjoys the beauty of the parrots free in his garden, uncaged.

This is not a straight-forward picture book, rather it is a moral and ethical tale that unwinds in a more traditional way for the reader.  It is a book that is best discussed with others who may see different aspects and different views in the story.  Many children may not have experienced this sort of story before, one that is not difficult in terms of vocabulary but instead presents a more challenging subject in an allegorical way.  Welcome to Rumi!

The art in the picture book is done by a young artist from Iran who has illustrated over 45 books for children.  His work is bright colored and full of texture.  The various papers used in his art have different textures and the colors are so strong and vibrant.  They have a great mix of quirky modern and traditional style. 

A delightful mix of traditional and modern storytelling, this picture book will get readers discussing and thinking about freedom and civil rights.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: I Know a Bear by Mariana Ruiz Johnson

i know a bear

I Know a Bear by Mariana Ruiz Johnson

A little girl gets to know a bear who comes from somewhere that he calls The Land of Bears.  Breakfasts there are sweet as honey, the land is vast, and the rivers are lovely for swimming.  Even the naps are better there, they go on for months.  But he can never return there, since he is in a zoo.  So the little girl has an idea, something that will let him feel a connection with the wilderness and something that she can set free.  It’s a powerful idea too.

Johnson tells this story in very short sentences, which one might think would be terse but instead feel slow and Zen-like.  It is a book about a girl who is forging her own connections with animals, making her own decisions too.  There are no adults in the story, just one little girl and one huge hairy bear.  It is a book about small choices making a big difference in the world.  It is simple and luminous.

Johnson’s illustrations have a wonderful light touch to them.  The pages with the huge bear can be dark and filled with fur, but then the book opens to a new page filled with white and lightness.  They are studies in contrast but also create a book that is a joy to read through with changes of feel from one page to the next.

An empowering story about one little girl and her connection with one big bear and the beauty of freedom.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Schwartz & Wade.

Review: All Different Now by Angela Johnson

all different now

All Different Now: Juneteenth the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

Celebrate the beauty of freedom in this book dedicated to Juneteenth.  Told from the point of view of a young girl, the story is about the first Juneteenth, the day that freedom was first announced for the last of the slaves in the South.  Living in shacks on a plantation in Texas, the day is just another day for the girl and her family and the rest of the slaves.  They worked hard in the hot sun, not knowing that word of their freedom was steadily heading their way.  Then the news arrived and people reacted in different ways, but quickly they pulled their things together and left the plantation behind for freedom.  Now June 19th is celebrated as African American Emancipation Day across the United States.  It’s a joy to have such a beautiful picture book to give to children to explain Juneteenth and why it means so much.

Johnson manages somehow to show slavery in all of its bone-grinding hard work and lack of freedom but also infuse it with moments of beauty, like waking to the scent of honeysuckle.  Her words are poetry on the page, spare and important, speaking volumes in only a few phrases.  The book ends with a timeline of important events and a glossary of relevant terms, making this a very useful book as well as lovely.

Lewis’ illustrations are beautiful.  He plays with light and dark on the page, allowing the light of the hot Texas day to fill the tiny shack but also making sure that the barrenness is evident and the poverty.  The book is filled with light, the sky burned to a pale yellow.  Until darkness which has a richness and endlessness that is sumptuous.  There is such hope on these pages, almost achingly so, particularly as freedom is announced and they turn their faces to a new future.

Beautiful and timely, this book will be welcome in library collections across the country as one of the only picture books about this holiday.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Review: Under the Freedom Tree by Susan

under the freedom tree

Under the Freedom Tree by Susan VanHecke, illustrated by London Ladd

Told in free verse, this picture book is the story of how the first contraband camp formed during the Civil War.  It all started with three runaway slaves who escaped across a river to a Union-held fort.  Though the Confederate Army tried to demand their return, the general at the fort declared them “contraband of war” and offered them protection and a place to live.  The three were quickly joined by a flood of people crossing the line into Union territory and they began to build a home for themselves near the fort.  The freedom tree is the Emancipation Oak which stood witness to the events that unfolded, including the Emancipation Proclamation, which set all of the residents of the camp free.

VanHecke’s verse is loose and beautiful.  She captures the danger the slaves faced in crossing the Confederate line, the risks they took asking for shelter, and the clever solution found by the general.  She offers an author’s note in prose to give more historical context to the camp and the Emancipation Oak. 

Ladd’s illustrations are lush and detailed.  His paintings capture the hope of emancipation, the darkness of escape by water and night, and the beauty of the oak.  The illustrations clearly honor the first three men who escaped to the fort, showing them as they wait for the judgment of whether they must return to slavery or not. 

A little-known part of the history of the Civil War, this book in verse pays homage to the courage of the men who created the contraband camp.  Appropriate for ages 6-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

Review: The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle

lightning dreamer

The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle, award-winning author of verse novels, continues her stories of Cuba.  In this book, she explores the life of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, also known as Tula, who becomes a revolutionary Cuban poet.  Raised to be married off to save the family financially, Tula even as a young girl relates more closely with slaves and the books she is reading than with girls of her own age and her own social standing.  As she reads more and more, sheltered by both her younger brother and the nuns at the convent, Tula starts to explore revolutionary ideas about freedom for slaves and for women.  In a country that is not free, Tula herself is not free either and is forced to confront an arranged marriage, the brutality of slavery, and find her own voice.

Engle writes verse novels with such a beauty that they are impossible to put down.  Seemingly light confections of verse, they are actually strong, often angry and always powerful.  Here, Engle captures the way that girls are asked to sacrifice themselves for their families, the importance of education for young women, and the loss of self.  She doesn’t shy away from issues of slavery either.  At it’s heart though, this novel is about the power of words to free people, whether that is Tula herself, her brother or a family slave and friend.

Highly recommended, this is another dazzling and compelling novel from a master poet.  Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.