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MTYT: Charlotte and the Quiet Place

by Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, and Melissa Wilson, Leeds Trinity University, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK

Rounding off the first month of 2021, we discuss Charlotte and the Quiet Place and take one last look at how mindfulness may help us during this stressful times.

The texts discussed this month may offer readers (and listeners) some peace during these most turbulent times. They are books that thematically deal with the concept of mindfulness through a narrative. There are many new books being marketed for children that are guides to mindfulness practices. A quick browse on Amazon yields pages of “activity books” that offer to help children process feelings, step-by-step manuals for doing meditation with children, and even books to help teach children “growth mindsets”.

Sometimes the best way to deal with a difficult present and an uncertain future is to lose yourself in someone else’s story. Through reading, or being read to, you can experience different ways of living on a deep level. These experiences can give much succor and “practice runs” at figuring out how to live a life well.

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Hidden Stories of Change: Relevant Biographies and Non-fiction for the History Classroom

by Charlene Klassen Endrizzi with Karen Matis

Cover of The Grand Mosque of Paris depicting Jewish families walking into a blue mosque.

This week we continue our exploration of “Hidden Stories” by revealing historical personalities too often overlooked. We zero in on adolescent books highlighting change agents chosen by history preservice teachers.

“I took many history courses in high school and college. Why have I never heard of these events?” (Makenzie, history major). This refrain, in response to Isabel’s Learning Invitation on the nonfiction book The grand mosque of Paris: A story of how Muslims rescued the Jews during the Holocaust (Ruelle, 2010), became a familiar response as we delved further into our hidden stories exploration. Continue reading

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MTYT: After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again

by Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, and Melissa Wilson,Leeds Trinity University, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK

Happy New (Gregorian) Year! To welcome in 2021, we, Seemi and Melissa, are going to explore the concept of mindfulness through critical readings of powerful children’s picture books. We have come to understand that visual and written narratives work simultaneously to add to the understanding and comprehension of children and adults in the present, increasingly visual, world. As the worldwide pandemic of Coronavirus rages on, we all need resources to cope with constant disruptions and uncertainty. Mindfulness is a resource that may benefit both adults and children and one that can be explored through picture books.

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally… it’s about knowing what is on your mind.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

The above quote nicely defines mindfulness for our purposes. Rooted in ancient religious practices, mindfulness came to the United States in the 1970s as a secular way to help people through the work of Kabat-Zinn. In the ensuing half century, the concept has become part of western culture.

Throughout this month we will discuss specific picture books to explore mindfulness with children. The specific texts are: After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty got back up again by Dan Santat, Charlotte and the Quiet Place by Deborah Sosin, and The Three Questions by Jon Muth. As we unravel the narratives, we will add other titles that reinforce the concept of mindfulness. Continue reading

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Hidden Stories of Courage: Relevant biographies for the ELA classroom

by Karen Matis with Charlene Klassen Endrizzi

Cover of How We Are Smart depicting six Black historical figures.

As collaborators in our work with secondary education preservice teachers each fall, we offer a month long look at picture book biographies filled with stories of courageous, determined global citizens that will especially appeal to adolescents.

The selected biographies we share present “Hidden Stories” of diverse writers, historical figures, mathematicians and scientists, all courageous activists who tackled their own set of problems in by-gone years. Our goal focuses on offering inspirational moments through relevant texts, thus revealing spirited advocates for change.

The past year brought unrest into the lives of many adolescents. In the midst of their naturally occurring coming of age insecurities, young people also endured circumstances resulting from health, social justice and political uncertainties. Such upheaval creates openings for middle school teachers to pause and ponder much needed moments of inspiration. We invite you to our discussion of inspiring picture books that encourage adolescents to consider their own lives in juxtaposition to others who also faced uncertainties in their lives. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Cane Warriors

Cover art for Cane Warriors features a blue and black photograph of a young Black boy with an ink drawing of Tacky's Rebellion in the background.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

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MTYT: Picturebooks That Highlight Kindness

Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH and Jean Schroeder, The IDEA School, Tucson, AZ

As we end this month, and 2020, there is more to say about kindness. There is still more to think about in respect to both small and large decisions and actions made. The decisions we have made as individuals, as communities, as societies, will be written about and scrutinized for many years to come. A lot of it will be negative, sad, and horrific. We must remember, however, in the hopes that we will learn to do better as we move forward.

It should also be remembered that throughout this year there have been countless acts of kindness, and those must also be allowed to shine. They, too, have much to teach us. While we focused on novels from areas around the world, we end this discussion with a list of picturebooks for considering kindness and the potential for it.

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The Book to Take Us Home

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Cover of Stormy features a small, curly-haired dog and his ball created in soft hues with pencil and watercolor
It’s the end of 2020, and what a journey we have all been on! In many ways, it has felt like we were lost and far from home even as many of us spent much more time than normal at home. There was also a sense of not knowing where we would land for some, and–for some others–whom to trust. Thus, the sweet and wordless picturebook Stormy (2019) by Chinese author/illustrator Guojing will resonate with many readers on both a surface level and more metaphorically. Even the title let’s us think in metaphorical ways about the last year!

A puppy in the park, no companion of either animal or human type. Enter a young woman who attempts to befriend the pup, but he’s having nothing to do with that. After many attempts and patience, the puppy approaches, and a tenuous bond is forged. But the puppy is still cautious. Who knows how he arrived at the park and what he experienced prior to meeting this new human? The puppy’s caution remains until a storm rages and the two realize the strength of their bond and from then on, the puppy is no longer a nameless, homeless dog in the part, but Stormy, who has found a forever home.

The illustrations clearly tell the story, and are of rendered in soft colors suggesting a calm and gentle sense of being. Exactly what is needed for engendering a sense of care and comfort. This is a wonderful lap book to explore with the very young, and a great book to use with older readers on a metaphorical level, as I cannot help but do at this time in our year, and in our history.

This is a delightful and beautiful story on which to end the year. It has important lessons for all of us, especially those who may have started to question who to trust, and those who remain cautious to the strangeness that has entered our world. Patience, perseverance, and kindness can build bonds. They can also remind us that they are the way back to or the way forward to our “forever” home.

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. To view our complete offerings of WOW Currents, please visit its archival stream.

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Texts for Considering Love

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Cover of Cinderella Liberator which depicts the silhouette of a woman with a cake in hand, jumping, and a mouse at her feet on a pale blue background.
While each book for 2020 could address the concept of love in one form or another, there are two that directly confront the circumstances of romantic love. Those two texts are Frankly in Love (2019) by David Yoon and Cinderella Liberator (2019) by Rebecca Solnit. Both address love from a perspective a bit differently from what many might think of as the typical love story. Continue reading

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MTYT: 28 Days: A Novel of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto

Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH and Jean Schroeder, The IDEA School, Tucson, AZ

This week, Marilyn, Holly, and Jean discuss the harrowing story of Mira in 28 Days: A Novel of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto by David Safier and discuss how even in the darkest of times, the smallest act of kindness can change things.

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