Review: Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat

Mamas Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub

Saya’s mother has been taken to an immigration detention center and held for three months. Saya misses her a lot, spending time at night listening to her mother’s voice on the answering machine. Her Papa spends his evenings writing to judges and the media to find help, but no one ever responds. Every week, Saya and Papa go to visit her mother, but it is always hard to leave her behind again. Then Saya’s mother starts to record stories for her, all based on Haitian folk tales, some sad and some happy. Saya decides to write her own letter to the media and gains their attention. Soon Mama is brought before a judge due to the pressure brought by the media and viewers. The judge allows her to return home until her papers arrive.

Danticat is a National Book Award winner for her adult books. In her Author’s Note she speaks to the impact of immigration and separation in her own childhood. In the United States in recent years, over 70,000 parents of American-born children have been jailed or deported. This is an issue impacting every community in our country. Danticat offers not only a view of how this separation affects a child, but also a way forward for both children to feel they are doing something to help and parents who are jailed to stay in touch with their children through stories from their heritage. Beautifully written, this picture book sings the message of diversity, inclusion and humanity.

The illustrations by Staub are lush and colorful. They show the power of the human voice and shared stories in a visual way, swirling the page with images of Mama as well as from the stories being shared. The colors of joy infuse the pages just as the colors of sorrow appear on others. It is a very effective way to show the myriad of emotions that Saya is feeling.

An important book that is beautifully written and illustrated, this picture book belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

Review: Flutter & Hum by Julie Paschkis

Flutter and Hum by Julie Paschkis

Flutter & Hum: Animal Poems by Julie Paschkis (InfoSoup)

In short poems in both Spanish and English, animals are explored in the way that they move and live in their habitats. The book begins with a slithering snake poem that hisses on the page. Other poems include black crows hopping and cawing, the slow movement of a black cow in a golden field, fleeting glimpses of a deer, and the shine of an owl at night. Still other poems focus on domestic pets like dogs and cats who fill the page with their personalities captured in verse on the page.

I was surprised to read in the Author’s Note at the end of the book that Paschkis is not a native Spanish speaker nor a poet. It was Spanish that allowed her to find her poetic voice, which is just as special as her art. She effectively uses her verse in both languages to convey the essence of the animal, celebrating what makes them unique. The poems are stand alone and strong, easily adapted to the classroom for specific units and subjects.

As always, Paschkis’ illustrations are gorgeous. They have a folkart flair about them and have words in both Spanish and English woven into them that let the words become part of the art in a very concrete way. It also gives these bilingual poems a new way to convey the dance of the two languages next to one another.

A dazzling collection of poems, it is welcome both for its bilingual elements and the alluring combination of words and art. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Co.