Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH
Let’s talk some terrific picturebooks from 2019’s WoW Recommends! As I mentioned last week, there were three, which is kind of a surprise. I really expected more, but these lovely discoveries are great representatives of the wonderful picturebooks highlighting the natural and social world.
The first book is for the very young. B is for Baby (2019) by Atinuke, the author of the Anna Hibiscus books, is a brightly illustrated and fun book about Baby’s journey to Baba’s house with her older brother. Not one to be left behind, Baby stows away in the basket of bananas loaded on her brother’s bicycle for the ride to their grandfather’s house. The book highlights all the wonderful words within Baby’s adventure that start with the letter “B,” including Baba’s bungalow, the bananas big brother is bringing to their Baba, and the beads within Baby’s hair. The story is wonderfully humorous and perfect for young readers. The book’s cultural elements, largely displayed through the illustrations, give readers a sense of village life within Nigeria. The illustrations by Angela Brooksbank are buoyant reminders of the earth and sky of Nigeria.
The second picturebook highlighted this year is The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family (2019) by US Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad (fencing), is a poignant and uplifting story with vibrant illustrations by Hatem Aly. Celebrating the blue of older sister Asiya’s hijab on the first day of the new school year, as well as the first day she wears the hijab, narrator Faizah, the younger sister embraces the beauty of her sister’s hijab, and the pride of belief and family. Faizah discovers, however, that not everyone shares her feelings about wearing the hijab. Readers experience with Faizah the negative responses Asiya receives by wearing a hijab, and ultimately the importance of embracing who you are with the pride of culture and belief. Doing a bit of research on Ibtihaj Muhammed as an Olympian who wore a hijab when competing, readers might readily see the parallels between this best–selling picturebook and the author’s own experience as the “first” Muslim American to wear a hijab, which occurred during the 2016 Olympics.
Finally, there is Moth: an Evolution Story (2019) by Isabel Thomas and illustrated by Daniel Egnéus. What a fun and educational book that shows how evolution works! Using the example of the peppered moth, the text explains in easily understandable language the concept of Natural Selection and the importance of “mutating” for the survival of a species within an increasingly urbanized environment. But, if change happens again, and the lights of the urban area start to darken, changes will also occur in the offspring of the peppered moth, adapting to the new environment. I want to share this book with kids and say, “Isn’t that amazing?! Look what nature does to preserve itself!” Then there are the illustrations. They are magical. I know what they say about judging a book by its cover, but this cover will draw you in, and then you will be equally delighted by the rest of the book. There is an explanation of the two types of peppered moth at the back of the book, making it a wonderful addition to science classrooms. Of course, some of us just want it for our own collections. It is that beautiful.
What wonderful recommendations from 2019 is all I can say. Delighting us, inspiring us, and perhaps even provoking us–to deeper thought–about the world in both its social and natural aspects.
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