A Dozen Strong Indigenous Voices in YA and Picturebooks

By Seemi Aziz

There has been a struggle to bring authentic Indigenous voices into books for young readers. Recent publications have been encouraging as more and more insider voices tell stories that are culturally authentic and respectful of the multiple tribal viewpoints in Indigenous communities. This WOW Dozen focuses on bringing to light a few strong and significant examples. Some have received renowned awards with most written and illustrated by members of Indigenous communities. Continue reading

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Bookbird as a Resource for Contemporary Themes and Issues in Literature

By Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

Girl and her dog in an airplaneJune’s earlier post in WOW Currents focused on the wealth of international authors and their works that can be explored by investing time in the nominees, finalists and winners of the Hans Christian Andersen 2022 award. A source to begin this exploration is through Bookbird, A Journal of International Children’s Literature, where an issue each year is focused on these outstanding authors and illustrators of children’s literature. Given the challenge that we all face — identifying global literature to use with students and in research — I wish to continue thinking about Bookbird as a resource by focusing on recently published issues and the themes therein. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Wishes

A group of emigrants wrapped in blankets huddle on a sailboat while one girl looks at the reader against a starry, foggy background.Wishes is a compelling story about a Vietnamese family’s escape to find a new home across the world and the impact of their journey on one of the youngest children. The story is told through the young girl’s experiences and the wishes made by inanimate objects such as the rice packets that wishes they were deeper and the clock at the departure that wishes it was slower. The story is inspired by the author’s autobiographical accounts of her personal fears and experiences as a young immigrant and refugee in the 1980s when she and her family were forced to leave Vietnam. The story is seamlessly told in prose with beautiful illustrations resembling each wish along her journey. Each illustration and wish leads to her final wish—for a place to call home. Continue reading

A Dozen Books on African Mythology: The Significance of Black Mermaids and Sirens

By Desiree Cueto and Dorea Kleker, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

African diaspora folklore, myths and legends have been passed down through oral traditions from generation to generation. A prominent figure in stories told across different African nations is that of the mermaid. The half human/half fish water spirit is referred to by different names depending on the specific African nation and unique cultures within. For example, Mami Wata is a deity whose story is told throughout different parts of West Africa. She is known for bestowing wealth and power as well as destruction. A similar figure, called Yemoja is known to the Yoruba people of Nigeria to be a giver of life, and La Sirene is a Haitian spirit of the sea. Over time, the oral stories of mermaids and sirens have been written and published throughout the world and have become the inspiration for several recent picture books and novels. This set of books features twelve books that center on Black mermaids and African mythology. Continue reading

Bookbird as Resource: Exploring the Hans Christian Andersen Award Nominees

By Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

As a co-editor of Bookbird, A Journal of International Children’s Literature, the journal of IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People), I am currently involved in putting together the Hans Christian Andersen Winners and Finalists issue. Readers here may be quite familiar with Bookbird and the many scholarly insights around international children’s and young adult literature that it offers readers. Books to explore, creators of literature, activities centered around children’s literature, exploration of themes, ideologies, theoretical perspectives and cultural insights make Bookbird a wealth of global information. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua

A young girl with braids holds a basket full of fruit on her head. She stands in front of a field of pink flowers, and two mountains in the background frame the cover.As a reader and educator who is drawn to the artistry of Duncan Tonatiuh as well as stories of indigenous people, I immediately welcomed Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua into my library. Both the author and subject were new to me, and after many close readings I am still finding multiple reasons to appreciate the poetic text and research of Gloria Amescua, the uniquely created illustrations of Tonatiuh, and the biography of a woman, Luz Jiménez, whose life is both a historical monument and an example of being true to one’s cultural identity. Continue reading

A Dozen Books Dealing with Uncertainty, Grief and Loss

Cynthia K. Ryman, California State University Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

The past two years have been a time of deep introspection for me. When the pandemic began in 2020, around the world everyone was focused on survival. Many did not survive. As the pandemic raged globally, the United States was being torn apart by deep political divides that left many wondering about the survival of democracy in this country. In the midst of this chaos and confusion, the murder of George Floyd ignited international anger and activism in the Black Lives Matter movement. Now the added crisis of war in Ukraine leaves many wondering what this means for the future wellbeing of our global society. As I considered a book list for these times, I decided to share global books dealing with death and grief. Children are deeply impacted by societal and global events and experience intense feelings of uncertainty, grief and loss. Books open the door for discussions around life’s difficulties and the emotions that accompany. The goal of this WOW Dozen is to provide a means for recognizing and beginning to process emotions related to grief and uncertainty. This collection includes books by authors from Argentina, Denmark, Spain, Iran, Great Britain, Asia, India, Norway, Mexico, Canada and the Cree-Métis nation. Each book provides insights on how to begin to process emotions and find a path forward amidst uncertainty, grief and loss. Continue reading

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Ukraine: Unexpected Connections and Insights

by Charlene Klassen Endrizzi and Grace Klassen

A single story or book cannot completely portray the richness or ambiguities of one culture (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2009). As we study media images of atrocities occurring within Ukraine, we pause to wonder about these vibrant, resilient people and their varied stories. This exploration allows us to develop a more comprehensive understanding of universal themes relevant to many cultures which emerge from Ukrainian children’s authors. Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Authors’ Corner: Joseph Bruchac

By Megan McCaffrey, Governor’s State University in Chicago, Chicago, IL

Bruchac sitting on a hide, holding a drum and smiling.

Photo by Eric Jenks

Author Joseph (Joe) Bruchac, a storyteller most of his life, sat in conversation with children’s literature students at the University of Arizona on January 31, 2022, a session which I attended. Raised by his maternal grandparents who lived down the road from his parents, little “Sonny,” as he was called, did not know much about his Native American roots. Once Bruchac began to explore his Native American heritage in college, he became drawn to his Abenki roots. He says, “I knew as a child, for example, that we had native heritage, but I did not know much about it.” Bruchac was born in October 1942 in upstate New York, and he still lives in Saratoga Springs above what was his grandparent’s gas station and general store where he was raised. Today, Bruchac operates a bookstore in the former general store. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Freedom Swimmer

Photo of a boy in the water at night preparing for a swim.I recommend Freedom Swimmer because of the distinctiveness of the topic as well as the literary quality. This historical fiction novel powerfully captures life for children under the Communist Party during China’s Cultural Revolution. The book is inspired by events that transpired in the life of the author’s father after Mao Zedong seized control of the of government from his intellectual and political adversaries within the Communist Party of China. Continue reading