Blackburne, the author of I Dream of PoPo, and Kuo, the illustrator, capture the close bond between a girl and her grandmother in rich text and detailed illustrations. Their story starts in Taiwan where they share precious times together rocking, walking in the park, celebrating New Year’s, eating special foods. Then, the girl and her parents move to San Diego, California. Popo sends the child off with, “Call me every week and tell me about your adventures.” The child reports that she is learning a new language, but misses Popo’s noodles. The granddaughter learns English, “the words form easier on my tongue.” But when she visits Popo the Taiwanese words feel “strange in my mouth.” Yet their hugs are “as tight as before.” When Popo is sick, her granddaughter sings to her and says, “I wish I could reach across the ocean and hold her up.” The story ends with the child dreaming about her Popo. Continue reading
Sweet Pea Summer is the perfect book to enjoy reading aloud during the summer. A young English girl tells the story of a summer when her Mom had to go to the hospital, and her Dad takes her to be with her grandparents in a country village. Of course, the girl misses her parents and has trouble concentrating on her reading, or her art because she is worried about her mother. Then Grandpa suggests that she help him in his large garden full of flowers and vegetables. Grandpa gives her the job of taking care of his prized sweet peas. She also has the opportunity to enter the sweet peas in the village flower show at the end of the summer. Continue reading
Angeline Boulley’s debut novel, Firekeeper’s Daughter, is a contemporary YA thriller about an Ojibwe teen living in the Great Lakes area who struggles to balance her identity, honor her community and pursue justice. Just out of high school, Daunis Fontaine halts her plans to go away for college and instead stay home to care for loved ones. Jamie, an intriguing new guy in town with a mysterious scar, captures her attention before pulling her into an FBI investigation. From here, Daunis experiences trauma to top an already challenging existence. This includes drugs, murder, rape, kidnapping and betrayal. Continue reading
George Takei is well-known as the actor who portrayed Sulu, the physicist on board the USS Enterprise in the Star Trek series. Now in his 80’s, his graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy chronicles points in his life connected to his years in the WWII Japanese internment camps. So how does one go from being an ostracized child surrounded by barbed wire to a beloved TV star? The graphic novel answers that question, but it does much more. It gives a window into the complex history of the internment camps and how one family of five weathered the four-year journey that started in the spring of 1942 with the forced move from their Los Angeles home to the Santa Anita racetrack horse stables. They then spent two years at Camp Rohwer in Arkansas, and finally two years in Camp Tule Lake in Northern California from where they left in March of 1946 to return to Los Angeles. Continue reading
This true story of The Cat Man of Aleppo will always remain in my heart. In this time of the virus and difficult challenges, this true story is an inspiration. A note from the Cat Man, Mohammad Alaa Aljsleed, in the beginning of the book says, “This is a story about cats and war and people. But most of all, it is a story about love”. His love for cats and how he cared for them after the terrible destruction of the civil war in Syria is the focus of the story. Continue reading
José Mujica is no ordinary president. He lives on a small farm with his wife and three-legged dog. He drives a light blue, 1987 VW Bug. When he served as president of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015, Mujica donated 90% of his $12,000 per month salary to charities that worked to support small businesses and those living in poverty. It’s no wonder the citizens of Uruguay affectionately called him “Pepe.” But others around the world called Pepe Mujica “the world’s poorest president.” Pepe dismisses this nickname stating, “I don’t feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle and always want more.” Readers should know that Pepe is also known for unapologetically speaking his truth even if his words cause discomfort. Continue reading
There are many things beautiful about The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang. First, it shares the story of a young refugee from Laos and her grandmother. Then it has richly-colored illustrations. But the most beautiful thing might well be different for each reader. It is an emotional refugee story, a narrative of the challenge of poverty, a theme of acceptance, and a reflection on how beauty is identified. Each can be found in this sensitively told story that evolves from the author’s personal experiences. For me, the most beautiful thing about the book is the intergenerational relationship that reveals a mutual bond of love, respect and admiration, setting this book apart from many others that tell of relationships between children and grandparents. One quote represents the tone of this relationship:
“The luckiest of the grandchildren got to help take care of grandma.”
Both Kalia and her grandma are in the forefront as Kalia lovingly takes care of her grandmother, listening to her stories of growing up. Grandma’s story of life in the jungles of Laos are told as related to Kalia’s questions and the challenges of her family having little money. These stories create a brief cultural and historical background for young readers through a rich interweaving of past events, such as Grandma having to run to escape a tiger, with Kalia’s daily life. But they also create a parallel between the two generations as to the challenges of poverty each faced and the love of family that proved stronger than these challenges.
The Most Beautiful Thing is rich with sensory imagery as Kalia describes her grandmother’s soft but dry skin, her rough feet with “deep cracks filled with dirt from long ago and far away,” and the single tooth that stood strong in her mouth. The mixed media visual images created by Vietnamese illustrator Khoa Le provide both realistic and abstract representations of both Kalia’s life with Grandma and the stories Grandma told. Rich colors and cultural motifs keep the stories visually interesting, often with symbolism that helps to show the passage of time as Kalia gets older and Grandma gets slower, although nonetheless wiser.
Kao Kalia Yang shares the Hmong refugee experience from her own childhood, but most impressive are the memories of family, stories, and lessons learned about “the most beautiful thing,” a grandmother’s smile. The focus is uplifting and invites readers of all ages to consider the beauty of the relationships they create. Among her other picturebooks are Map Into the World and The Shared Room. She has also written for adults. -Recommended by Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas
Author: Kalia Yang
Illustrator: Khoa Le
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
PubDate: October 6, 2020
Each month a committee of Worlds of Words advisors recommends a book published within the last year. Our hope is to spark conversations on our website and on social media about the book that expand global understandings and perceptions. Please join us by leaving a comment. You can also share your thoughts with us by using the hashtag #WOWRecommends on social media. Check out our alphabetical listing of all the books featured in WOW Recommends.
North Korean, 1950. What the world comes to know as the Korean War is imminent. Determined to escape the North Korean regime during the chaotic days at the onset of conflict, the Pak family joins the stream of evacuees headed to South Korea while they feel they have a chance to escape. But then there is a napalm bombing, and the throng of refugees is thrown into turmoil. What happens next is chronicled in Brother’s Keeper, a piece of historical fiction for middle grade students. Continue reading
Cane Warriors by Alex Wheatle follows a fictional character in the true story of Tacky’s War in Jamaica in 1760. In this book, 14-year-old Moa works the Frontier sugarcane plantation for endless hot days and endures the lash of white enslavers. Recruited to participate in an uprising, led by the charismatic Tacky, Moa is terrified but resolved. He agrees to be a cane warrior and fight for the freedom of all the enslaved people in nearby plantations.
“Never look forward to war. It’ll come to we when it’s ready and when it come it never pretty.” (p. 117) Continue reading
In Santiago’s Road Home, Alexandra Diaz tells how twelve-year-old Santiago makes it across the border between Mexico and the U.S. only to be captured by the Border Patrol and placed in a detention center. Santiago has a traumatic family history as an orphan who is passed between his grandmother who abuses him and an aunt who is unkind. When the aunt sends him back to live with his grandmother, Santiago decides to live on the street. Fortunately, he meets Maríe Delores who gives him food and offers to take him to the U.S. with her and her young daughter, Alegría, since Maríe Delores has a sister in the U.S. and plans on living with her. Santiago is able to help the two as they journey to the border. Their relationship develops and he comes to consider them his sisters. Continue reading