Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker

Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker

Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker, illustrated by April Harrison (9780525581130)

When Zura’s teacher announces that next Monday is Grandparent’s Day, Zura isn’t as enthusiastic as her classmates about her grandmother visiting the class. Her grandmother, Nana Akua, is one of her favorite people on earth, but Zura was worried that the other children and families might laugh or be mean. Her grandmother looks different than most people in the United States. She has marks on her face representing her tribal family as well as beauty and confidence. When Zura admits to being worried for her grandmother, the two work together on a plan which involves bringing Zura’s quilt with its Adinkra symbols from Ghana. Monday arrives quickly and several other grandparents do their presentations. Zura introduces her grandmother who explains the marks on her face and the important tradition they represent. Then it’s the class’ turn to do their own marks in removable makeup.

Walker explains in her author’s note how she learned about the Adinkra symbols and the tradition of facial marks in Ghana. She uses these elements to tell the universal story of children of color whose parents or grandparents immigrated from another country and whose culture carries through in stories and traditions to the present day. Walker shows how such visible differences can cause pain and worries but also how they serve as a bridge to a deeper understanding as long as we take the time to listen and learn.

Harrison’s art is beautiful. She fills Zura’s classroom with children from a variety of races and cultures. She uses patterns and colors, almost creating the effect of stained glass on the page. The faces of her characters shine, sometimes looking right at the reader, as Nana Akua does when explaining her marks.

A celebration of diversity that show how openness to being different creates community. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.

Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon

Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon

Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (9780884487975)

Celebrate the magic of the color brown in this book filled with poetic words and enticing illustrations. Deep secret brown is the color of the river currents and also the little girl’s eyes. It is the color of her eyelashes which are the same brown as the shadows of the hemlock trees in the woods where they hike. Amber brown is the color of honey and the color of her hair. Radiant brown is the color of the sand at the beach and the color of her skin. Brown is the color of caramel and cocoa, the color of warm family moments on icy cold days and the color of fall leaves and laughter. 

Doyon’s poetry is approachable and accessible for young readers who will see themselves not only reflected on the pages but celebrated for all of their colors. Doyon’s poem is not simple, she insists on looking deeply at the colors and moments that connect us all, the laughter and the love in our families, and the beauty of African-American skin. She has created a picture book that delights in turning what society sees as a negative into a joyous positive party.

The illustrations are pure delight, as you can see from the cover. They take warm autumnal colors, which of course include brown, and create a book that glows in the reader’s hands. Skin color is celebrated, as is diversity in the African-American community. There is pure joy in the illustrations that matches the positivity of the text.

A positive look at African-American families, skin colors and experiences. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

2020 Notable Books for a Global Society

The 2020 Notable Books for a Global Society have been announced. This is an annual list of 25 books created by the International Literacy Association which enhance student understand of people and cultures. The list includes books published during the previous year for grades K-12. Here are the 2020 books:

The Book Rescuer:  How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come by Sue Macy, illustrated by Stacy Innerst

At the Mountain’s Base by Traci Sorrell, illustrated by Weshoyot Alvitre

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Dreams from Many Rivers by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez

Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Cannaday Chapman

Fry Bread:  A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis

Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour, illustrated by Daniel Egenėus

Mario and the Hole in the Sky:  How a Chemist Saved Our Planet by Elizabeth Rusch,
illustrated by Teresa Martinez

Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg

The Moon Within by Aida Salazar

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Orange for the Sunsets by Tina Athaide

The Other Side:  Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border by Juan Pablo Villalobos

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist by Julie Leung, illustrated by Chris Sasaki

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise, illustrated by Paoal Escobar

Room on Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple, illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton

Soldier for Equality:  Josė de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War by Duncan Tonatiuh

Thanku:  Poems of Gratitude by Miranda Paul (Ed.), illustrated by Marlena Myles

Todos Iquales / All Equal: Un corridor de Lemon Grove/ A Ballad of Lemon Grove by Christy Hale

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Review: Dictionary for a Better World by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

Dictionary for a Better World by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes and Anecdotes from A to Z by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini (9781541578937)

The authors that created Can I Touch Your Hair, a collection of poems about race, return with a dictionary that selects powerful words to think about as we work on making our world better. The dictionary includes words like empathy, acceptance, compassion, humility, respect and tenacity. Nicely, no effort is made to include the entire alphabet, rather words were selected for their ability to make an impact. Along with each word, there is a poem written by one of the authors and then also a piece of prose that speaks to their own interaction with the concept and how it has impacted their life. Other elements include a quotation with each word and also a way for the reader to try it out in their own life. 

The tone here is encouraging and positive without underplaying the incredible amount of work needed to be done to make progress on social issues. The focus is on individual responsibility for each of the concepts and taking personal action to make change happen. In their personal stories, the authors make it alright to make mistakes, take responsibility and continue to move forward. The combination of all of the elements for each concept is very powerful, offering a book that can either be read cover-to-cover or that one can dive into a single concept and explore.

The art by Amini uses a variety of media from photographs to cut paper to pressed leaves to paintings. Each turn of the page takes readers into a new concept visually as well, changing from dark colors to vivid green to cool blues and using different formats. 

A unique dictionary that asks us all to do our part in changing our world. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Carolrhoda Books.

Review: The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Alea Marley (9781454931843)

Harpreet loves to express himself through the colors he wears, particularly the colors of his patka. Yellow was for when he felt sunny, pink for celebrating, red for courage, and blue for when he was nervous. When Harpreet moved across the country to a snowy city, he stopped wearing his colors. Instead, day after day, he wore white to match the cold outdoors and to be invisible. His parents tried to get him to wear different colors again, but he refused. Then one day, he discovered one of his classmate’s yellow hat in the snow and returned it to her. He loved the yellow and the smiley face on it. She loved his patka too. Steadily, Harpreet started to wear colors again, this time to celebrate a new friend.

Kelkar beautifully depicts the power of color in a little boy’s life while celebrating his Sikh religion at the same time. She takes the time to show what each color represents, along with the illustrations depicting what bravery, joy and nerves mean to him personally. The story is tightly written, focused on the nerves and loneliness of moving and finding your way. This focus makes the discovery of a new friend all the more powerful.

Marley’s illustrations show the range of colors that Harpreet has for his patka along with their matching outfits. Harpreet’s emotions, both joyous and sad, are clearly depicted in facial expressions and in body language. It is a huge relief when Harpreet’s world starts to be multicolored again.

Diverse and colorful, this picture book is anything but dull. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing

ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing

ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing, illustrated by Paulina Morgan (9781786037428)

From the very first page, this board book grapples with social justice issues and demands that even tiny children start to think about our world in a more open way. A here is for ability. This book doesn’t stop with just the associated word though, it offers a definition that is accessible for small children, taking each concept and building on it throughout the book. Ewing uses great skill in distilling large and complicated subjects such as race, gender and xenophobia. Her text is uplifting and inspiring to read.

The illustrations are filled with characters of different races, religions, abilities and genders. They are small and friendly, clambering around on the letters and shapes and bringing a bouncy and joyous energy to the entire board book.

A board book that advocates for diversity and inclusion. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Priya Dreams of Marigolds & Masala by Meenal Patel

Priya Dreams of Marigolds & Masala by Meenal Patel

Priya Dreams of Marigolds & Masala by Meenal Patel (9781643439556)

Priya lives with her family in the United States. Her’s is the only house in her neighborhood where an Indian family lives. Priya loves to help her grandmother make rotli for dinner when she gets home. As they make the flatbread, her Babi Ba tells her about India’s spice markets, the architecture, the noises of the traffic, and the monsoon rains. Their house has marigolds strung over the door just like those in India. Priya longs to see India for herself. When winter comes, Babi Ba doesn’t hang marigolds outside any more. Priya has an idea and soon her entire class is helping her make paper marigolds as she tells them about India.

Patel, who is Indian-American, tells a story that focuses on a family’s continued connection to their heritage while living in the United States. Priya is proud of her Indian heritage, loving to hear stories about India and its sounds and sights. Still, there is a sense of distance between her own heritage and the society around her, one that can be bridged by sharing stories. The art in the book is rich will the colors of spices. Deep greens and warm pinks add to the color palette too.

A celebration of Indian heritage and the strength of family. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Strange Birds by Celia C. Perez

Strange Birds A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Perez.jpg

Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia C. Perez (9780425290439)

The author of the award-winning The First Rule of Punk returns with another book about girls expressing themselves and making themselves heard. Four girls are all living their separate lives in a small Florida town. Lane, whose family is facing a divorce, has been sent to live with her very wealthy grandmother at her estate. Lane decides to create her own club, creating invitations that three girls discover. There is Ofelia who longs to be a journalist when she grows up and wants to enter an essay contest to win a trip to New York, but first she has to find her story. There is Aster, who lives with her grandfather and loves to cook. Cat is the third, a girl who loves birds and whose cause against a hat full of bird feathers leads all of the newly found friends to become activists.

Perez’s writing is just as marvelous as in her first book. There is a freshness about it, one that allows readers to quickly enter the world that Perez has created for them. The lightness of the writing belies the depths of the subjects. Perez explores privilege in this book with its cast of girls from different races and backgrounds. She does so explicitly, having the characters speak to one another about it in a natural but also vital way.

The theme of becoming an activist and taking real action to find justice is also beautifully shown in the story. From a grandfather who explains his own activism throughout his life to a woman who serves as a worthy villain in the tale, the actions the girls take are thoughtfully presented and full of good trouble.

Another winner of a read from a great author. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from ARC provided by Kokila.

Review: Back to School by Maya Ajmera

Back to School by Maya Ajmera.jpg

Back to School by Maya Ajmera and John D. Ivanko (9781580898379)

Filled with incredible photographs, this nonfiction picture book explores the different ways that children attend school throughout the world. Some children are homeschooled, others are taught at night, still others study in crowded classrooms. Children take different transportation to school from buses to camels to boats. Some children wear uniforms to school while others wear regular clothes. In all schools though, you learn math and reading. You understand the world better; you make friends.

The text of this book is simple and straight-forward, making it just right for even the youngest children heading to school. Each photograph adds to the larger story of going to school by explaining what is happening in each vivid image and what country the children are from. The photographs are stunning, filled with children from across the globe and offering real glimpses into their lives at school.

Just right for starting a new school year, this is a smile-filled joyous look at learning. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Charlesbridge.