In the Small, Small Night by Jane Kurtz
In the middle of the night, the world can be a scary place for a brother and sister who have left Ghana behind and ended up, with their family, in New York City–a place where night noises take the place of the storyteller with his Ananzi tales, a place where children might laugh and taunt. I wove Ananzi stories into this picture book that were told to my children by a young man who had come from Ghana to go to college in the U.S., and I used my own memories of traveling from Ethiopia to the U.S. when I was seven to form the heart of the siblings’ journey through the night. Switching continents was often baffling and scary for me. Just as in the book, my siblings were a source of comfort and strength–having someone else in the boat with me–and so were stories. Whether students have grown up in the U.S. or other countries, they can be asked to explore their story traditions. They can use the five senses, modeled in the storytelling scene, to add power to their own writing. They can talk or write about getting through the night or about how to make and keep friends, even ones as different from each other as an eagle and a turtle.