WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Blue

A Black girl with a crown hairstyle grinds plants to make the color blueBlue by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond with illustrations by Daniel Minter is an informative and unusual nonfiction book. The beautiful illustrations extend the text that describes varied aspects of the color blue; the complicated history, impact on art, science and much more.

That history started way back in time. “As early as 4500 BC, diggers found blue rocks called lapis lazuli in mines deep below Afghanistan’s Sare-e-Sang valley.” Early sources of the color came from crushed rocks and “in the belly of a certain shell fish.” Later, dyers produced blue from the indigo plants. “In parts of Africa, some merchants used strips of indigo cloth to buy people, and sell them into slavery. … In this evil side of the trade for blue, landowners around the world abused or enslaved countless people just so they could grow more indigo.” In 1905, scientist, Adolf von Baeyer, won the Nobel Prize for “creating a chemical blue.” He made that achievement after forty years of trying. Continue reading

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Rompiendo nuestra burbuja: An International Perspective on Culturally Specific Literature from the United States

Carmen M. Martínez-Roldán, Teachers College, Columbia, New York, Dámaris Muñoz Cataldo and Katherine Keim Riveros, Universidad de O’Higgins, Rancaqua, O’Higgins, Chile

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, cover art“Rompe nuestra burbuja” were the words that Mariposa (self-selected pseudonym), an eight-grade Chilean student, used when giving her opinion about the benefits of reading stories that explore how people from different cultures live. She revealed, “Porque uno aprende nuevas cosas y rompe nuestra burbuja, nos muestra diferentes realidades de la vida diaria [because we learn new things, and it pops our bubbles. It shows us different realities from daily life].”

Teachers in U.S. classrooms are continuously looking for ways to engage their readers with children and young adolescent literature from various cultures, not only to support students’ reading but also to promote cross-cultural understandings needed to cultivate solidarity. Muhammad (2020) captured this concern in her question: “How will my instruction help students to learn something about themselves and/or about others?” (p. 58). Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Authors’ Corner: Traci Sorell

By Danelle Jishie, A Student’s Journey Intern with the WOW Center, Tucson, AZ

Photo by Cody Hammer

Traci Sorell brings visibility to the lives of contemporary Native Americans through the characters she writes. Sorell’s most recent book Powwow Day (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2022), is filled with family, community, and the healing powers of Powwow dancing. Vivid illustrations by Madelyn Goodnight also bring life to the story Sorell cultivates themes such as illness, uncertainty and hope. In Powwow Day, the character River, recovering from an unknown illness goes to the local powwow with her family. Although limited by her recovery, River finds strength from her family and community as the songs and the drums lift her spirits. Readers who pick up this book can experience the colorful world of a powwow.

Sorell’s Books and Background

A festive outdoor powwow scene with dancers and a drum circleAs one of the Native American voices in children literature, Sorell writes for a variety of age levels from young readers to middle grades. Titles for young readers include At the Mountain’s Base (Kokila, 2019), and We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga (Charlesbridge, 2018). And for older readers Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer (Millbrook Press, 2021). Lastly, in collaboration with her dear friend Charlene Willing McManis, Indian No More (Tu Books, 2019) targets the middle grade audience.

Sorell’s books center around Native American characters and culture, inspired by her own background as a Cherokee citizen. Before authoring books for young readers, Sorell ventured into the legal world to help Native Nations and their peoples. Since then, she has entered the literary world to challenge the stereotypical writings of one-dimensional Native characters. Sorell notes regarding her writing of Native American characters that you must be, “intentional with your writing.”

Diverse appearing group of people, including a person in a wheelchair, march in a parade carrying their tribal flags.The shift in the realm of children’s literature surrounding own voices welcomes the characters in Sorell’s book as fully constructed people existing simply as human beings. Unlike the “Pan-Indian” creations of yesterday, books such as We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2021) feature Native characters who come from a difficult background and acknowledge the trauma of the past while being proud people within the present.

Writing Process

While structuring her writing, Sorell recognizes the perfect book stays unattainable. However, spending time to thoroughly research helps create a book with purpose. Writing fully developed characters entails “knowing who is in the story and is their whole humanity showing?” Straying away from characters who are shells of people and creating versatile ones instead provides children a place of belonging within the story. Accurate representation of Native Americans comes into play when children of all backgrounds can pick up a book and relate to the characters despite their differences. Younger generation’s exposure to books with better representation of Native Americans will create a new era in which the image of the stereotypical “Indian” disappears and is replaced with Native representations with full humanity. when drafting her stories, Sorell signifies that Native Americans do not exist solely in the past state of the settler era but are present in modern day society.

Cover of We Are GratefulLeaning on her Cherokee lens, Sorell works alongside others to articulate her vision. She notes that publishing requires more than the author, but rather a team of people working together to create the work of art. Consulting with others to close the gap for missing information or to help visualize her words, Sorell understands that in her line of work, she alone cannot create a book with only one person. Sorell says writing as a children’s author comes with acknowledgement of a collaborative approach as collaborating with an illustrator requires, “leaving gaps open to write their own story through the art.”

Making Classroom Connections

Giving attention to contemporary Native Americans, Sorell enjoys sharing her books within the classroom environment observing that, “we disappear from the school curriculum past the settler era.” Showing children that Native Americans continued to live past colonialism, Sorell remains steadfast in her mission to depict Native communities and their people as thriving in the present.

Woman in blouse and skirt holds a book and an engineering slide.When visiting schools, Sorell often leaves the reader interaction up to the children by using an informal approach open to going where the children take it unless given a formal request ahead of time to present on a specific topic. Socializing animatedly with younger children and taking cues from older children, Sorell interacts with a wide range of young people during her visits. Focusing on the Native lens in children’s literature, Sorell invests herself by welcoming questions and being honest in her answers.

Forthcoming by Sorell

Always planning for future books, usually with several drafts in the works, Sorell’s upcoming books have exciting premises. First, Sorell contributed to She Persisted Wilma Mankiller, a biography of the first female Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation, to the chapter book series from Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger (Philomel Books, 2022). Also, Sorell wrote, a nonfiction middle grade book titled, Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series to be released next year (Kokila, 2023). Another new fiction for middle grades is the novel Mascot, co-authored with Charles Waters also due out next year (Charlesbridge, 2023). Two other books coming soon are two fiction picture books: Being Home (Kokila, 2023) and Clack, Clack! Smack! A Cherokee Stickball Story (Charlesbridge, Summer 2024).

Lastly, a highly-anticipated and emotional read will be the nonfiction middle grade book, Riding the Trail: Cherokees Remember the Removal, co-authored with Will Chavez (Charlesbridge, Spring 2025). Sorell says, “I wanted to write about the trail of tears differently.” Through the book, she shares how modern-day Cherokee youth learn about Cherokee Removal by retracing their ancestors’ path on bikes. Looking at the Trail of Tears through a new lens, the book sheds light on the different facets of Cherokee history, including moving into Osage homelands and arriving to empty plots of land. The book will focus on the trail through the Cherokee youths bike journey and interweave history with an exceptional story through a new perspective.

Authors’ Corner is a periodic profile featured on our blog where authors discuss their writing process and the importance of school visits. Worlds of Words frequently hosts these authors for events in the collection. To find out when we are hosting an author, check out our events page. Journey through Worlds of Words during our open reading hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

WOW Dozen: Global Picturebooks for the Secondary Classroom

By Celeste L.H. Trimble, St Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

There is a common misperception that picturebooks are only for early elementary students. Secondary students and even students in upper elementary often miss out on the particular artistry and poetry that come through the picturebook form. In this month’s WOW Dozen, I bring together examples of global picturebooks that can be explored and enjoyed in secondary English Language Arts as well as the content areas. Books in this list can be used as models for writing, artworks for practicing analysis, avenues for identity development as well as exploration of the experiences of others, inspiration for creativity, tools to deepen content knowledge, and so much more. Of course, picturebooks are vital additions to the classroom library in any secondary classroom, just for the pleasure of reading. Continue reading

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Korean Picturebook Authors and New Trends in Japan

by Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District, Tucson

Summer Is Coming Hangul Cover shows line drawing of a girl with a hose spraying perfect water circles.In recent years, increasing numbers of translated and non-translated Korean children’s literature are available to Japanese readers. Yes, Japanese readers read and consume Hangul (written Korean) directly beyond literature experiences (e.g., language learning). We’ve found several major Japanese publishing companies, JBBY (Japanese Board on Books for Young People), bookstores, and public and school libraries feature books by Korean authors and illustrators through social media and physical spaces. Three beloved Korean authors who also illustrate their work influenced Korean picturebooks’ reputations in Japan positively beyond what Japanese audiences are familiar with over the years (i.e., postcolonial texts). In this post, we share three Korean authors, Heena Baek, Suzy Lee and Heeyoung Ko who are among those gaining great popularity in Japan. Continue reading

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Exploring Korea’s Post-Coloniality through Korean Picturebooks Translated into Japanese

by Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District, Tucson

Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-serving monarch, recently passed away at age 96, after reigning for 70 years. Fourteen countries continue to maintain the monarch as their head of state after gaining independence, despite the collapse of the British Empire in the last century. The death of Queen Elizabeth II could readily accelerate the push by former U.K. colonies to ditch the British crown amid heightened anti-colonial sentiments in the remaining Commonwealth realms (Halb, 2022).

Former UK colonies’ anti-colonial sentiment made us think of colonial histories and facts that are not current hot topics discussed within the global community. Global knowledge of physical outcomes of colonization history is now often romanticized as the beautiful substance of architects, food, festivals, tourism, etc. European countries’ colonial histories in Africa and South America remain aesthetically appreciated based on the historical background of languages, hybrid cultures, diverse ethnicities and educational contexts. Lost are critical perspectives on the colonizers’ past and the colonial indigenous cultures. This leads Junko and I to realize how colonial history among Asian countries is often simplified as Asian history; not knowing who colonized whom in Asia is often a common misperception.

Asian Dragon swoops over landscape to challenge a person in a fieldThis month, Junko and I explore Korean picturebooks translated and published in Japan to analyze colonization patterns in Korea. In 1910, Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan after years of war, intimidation and political machinations; Japan ruled Korea until 1945, the end of World War II. Until then, Korea was one of Japan’s colonies. During the Korean War that followed, South Korea established strong ties to the U.K. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Books Featuring Trans* and Trans*-accepting Characters

By Mary L. Fahrenbruck, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, and Efrain Alvarez Morales, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

October is LGBT History Month. Established in 1994, Rodney Wilson, selected the tenth month of the year because National Coming Out Day is celebrated on October 11 and the first national march for gay and lesbian rights took place in Washington, DC on October 14, 1979. In conjunction with LGBT History Month, this dozen features picturebooks and novels with trans* and trans*- accepting characters. Unlike stories with trans* characters published in the past, the plot lines in these stories reflect a shift from shaming, resistance, violence and tragic endings to affirming, understanding, compassion and positive endings. Trans* and trans*- accepting characters experience seemingly typical life challenges connected to friendship, belonging and discovering one’s identity. Additionally, in several novels the characters encounter challenges that might seem atypical like interacting with a brujo or the ghost of a deceased uncle, or hunting a monster alongside a creature that emerged from a painting. Ultimately, readers will find the characters, setting and plot lines of each story to be engaging, exciting and believable. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teenagers

book jacket shows a scrapbook-style drawing of a girl facing parallel to a street with words on the horizonWhen I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teenagers by Ken Krimstein is a collection of “lost autobiographies” that breaks with many norms readers might expect from autobiographical works. And I predict YA literature readers will be fascinated by the power of these young people’s words and experiences and the “author’s” visual interpretation of their memoirs. Continue reading

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Searching WOW Center Holdings In the UArizona Library Catalog

The recent release of Disney’s Little Mermaid theatrical trailer made a big splash, and we are here for it! In fact, let’s capitalize on that interest to explore a more global lens on mermaids. In case no one noticed, WOW Dozen recently published a list on Black mermaids and sirens in children’s literature by Desirée Cueto and Dorea Kleker. How about we search the WOW Center shelves to see if we can find additional global mermaid books that may also be of interest to young people inspired by Halle Bailey’s portrayal of Ariel? Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Responsibility to Others

By Kathleen Crawford-McKinney, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

I have been thinking more intently on what it means to be responsible to others. What do we, citizens of the world, have the right to do, or be? Over the past several months we watched people being incarcerated for minor infractions or their cities and lands taken away from them. I wonder who has this type of right to act in these ways to others. Who is responsible for ensuring that these missteps don’t occur in places where people think differently than within our own communities? What would we do, or what should we do if our rights are stepped upon? Who is responsible for taking care of others?

Students in classrooms know their rights and question them within their families and school settings. I hope that they will also push themselves to be responsible to and with each other. To move beyond being kind to each other and to think more broadly about the world. In several of the previous months the themes of the Dozen has encouraged us to think more deeply about the current political world. This month continues with this focus by examining books where the characters look at being responsible to families, to communities, to our environment and to our world. Continue reading