WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones by Margriet Ruurs, with translation by Falah Raheem and illustrations by Nizar Badr
Book of the Month, July 2017
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs, with translation by Falah Raheem and illustrations by Nizar Badr

Bilingual English/Arabic text and expressive artwork made from stones tell the story of a boy and his family who must flee their home in war-torn Syria. Their journey is dangerous and grueling, but eventually they find a safe haven. This timely book is an excellent introduction to the concept of refugees and will spark powerful discussions about the consequences of war and the treatment of people forced out of their homes. -Recommended by Janine Schall
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WOW Currents

Crossing Educational Borders with Children’s Literature

By Janine Schall

When I was in fifth grade, each child in my class had to demonstrate a science project. We chose our own topics and after much consultation with my parents and science fair books I decided to mix baking soda and vinegar in a bottle so that I could pop off the cork and make it fly across the room. The ‘POP’ was very satisfying.

educational borders

I don’t remember what grade I got for the project, but it was probably pretty good; most of my grades were. I knew how to perform at school, and, with a few math-related exceptions, I did well academically. Both of my parents completed post-secondary education and it was always quite clear to me that I would go to college after high school. Our school district started tracking children in middle school and there was never any question that I would be in the college-prep track. I believed I was smart because my parents, teachers, and friends believed I was smart. Continue reading

WOW Currents

Crossing Linguistic and Cultural Borders

By Janine Schall

The majority of my childhood and teen years were spent in a small, rural Midwestern town. It was a great place to grow up; safe, good schools, and nice people. I learned a lot about myself and about the world in that little town and when I left after college, in most ways I had an excellent foundation for my future life.

However, in one particular way that place failed me. In the ’70s and ’80s, almost the entire population in that geographical location was White, English-speaking, some variety of Christian, and middle or working class. I grew up surrounded by people who looked like me, sounded like me, worshipped like me, and shared values with me. Life there did very little to prepare me for living in a diverse and global society.

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WOW Currents

Understanding and Crossing Geographic Borders with Children’s Literature

By Janine Schall

Yesterday I drove sixty miles west to attend a meeting on another campus. As I drove, I thought about the borders I was crossing — boundaries between one school district and the next, streets that marked the difference between one town and another, a county line announced by a road sign and a change in pavement. I also paralleled the U.S./Mexico border; when I arrived at the town where the campus is located one left turn would have sent me to the bridge across the Rio Grande River and into Mexico.

Borders are everywhere! But why? What purpose do they serve? How are they established? Who benefits from them? Who is harmed?

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WOW Currents

Crossing Borders with Children’s Literature

By Janine Schall

As an unapologetic procrastinator, I began writing this blog post by surfing the internet, checking out various social media and news websites to catch up on the latest gossip and political disasters. Stories and comments about the proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico popped up on every website I visited, which was both depressing and predictable.

U.S. Mexico border wall, crossing borders

Photo of the U.S./Mexico border wall in Hidalgo, Texas.

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Transgender Characters in Children’s Picture Books

by Janine Schall

10000 Dresses coverAlthough I’ve been interested in children’s books with LGBT characters for over a decade, for a long time that actually meant children’s books with gay or lesbian characters. While picture books with characters who transgress gender roles have been around since the 1970s and picture storybooks with explicitly lesbian and gay characters have been around since 1989, a transgender character wasn’t introduced until 2008 in 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert. Continue reading

The Implied LGBT Character in Children’s Picture Books

by Janine Schall

In the first two posts of this series, I briefly discussed the history of picture books with LGBT characters and provided a general overview of the representations of the LGBT characters. This week I look at books where the characters are not explicitly named or depicted as LGBT, but where they are portrayed in ways that imply an LGBT sexual orientation.

These books fall into two main groups. The first has characters whose behavior and/or interests are different from the mainstream in ways that can be read as LGBT. Continue reading

Representations of LGBT Characters in Children’s Picture Books

by Janine Schall

The collection of children’s picture books with LGBT characters began growing steadily when Heather Has Two Mommies (Newman, 1989) was published 25 years ago. With a few books added most years, there are currently over 100 books in this collection, which fall into five general categories: books with lesbian characters, books with gay characters, books with transgender characters, books with implied LGBT characters, and nonfiction books about families which include a gay or lesbian parent. In this categorization system, I have separated the books with lesbian, gay, and transgender characters Continue reading

Picture Books with LGBT Characters

by Janine Schall

10000 Dresses coverRecent court decisions relating to the legality of same sex marriage and the decision by President Obama to sign an executive order banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by federal contractors are the most recent public manifestations of the long struggle for equal rights and treatment of LGBT people in the United States. These political and judicial decisions both result from and drive cultural changes, which are reflected in popular media, literature, and other cultural artifacts. Continue reading

Story & Place: Discovering the Rio Grande Valley through Literature, Part 4

by Janine Schall, University of Texas-Pan American

In the past three weeks I’ve shared a number of books set in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and written by RGV authors. These books feature the culture and traditions of the mostly Latino, working class population in this geographical region along the Texas-Mexico border.

The border is both a physical and mental construct, present in the lives of all RGV citizens. To the south, a physical barrier is formed by the Rio Grande River and the increasingly militaristic presence of customs agents and border patrol. Continue reading