WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: The World’s Poorest President Speaks Out

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

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: The Most Beautiful Thing

Illustrated cover of The Most Beautiful Thing depicts a child kneeling by seated grandmother. They are surrounded by flora.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
ISBN: 9781541561915
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.

WOW News

The Tucson Festival of Books Goes Virtual in 2021

The Tucson Festival of Books goes virtual March 6-7, 2021! The Children’s and Teen sessions will be available on-line and live at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Arizona time. Worlds of Worlds: Center of Global Literacies and Literatures has been involved with the festival since its inception, and we will continue this year as your guide. Download a PDF version of the schedule of the Children’s and Teen sessions. For an accessible schedule, visit tucsonfestivalofbooks.org.

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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: Alicia’s Fruity Drinks/Las aguas frescas de Alicia

By María V. Acevedo-Aquino and Myriam Jimena Guerra, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

This last week of September Myriam Jimena and María talk about their final book authored and/or illustrated by Lupe Ruiz-Flores and Carolyn Dee Flores. The main character, Alicia, will remind young readers that children can support peers and adults to develop new awarenesses.


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MTYT: Lupita’s First Dance/El primer baile de Lupita

By María V. Acevedo-Aquino and Myriam Jimena Guerra, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

Myriam Jimena and María present this week a fourth book authored and/or illustrated by Lupe Ruiz-Flores and Carolyn Dee Flores. They invite readers to reflect upon their experiences with music and dance: Have you experienced music and dance as tools or parts of your identities? Or both?

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MTYT: Let’s Salsa/Bailemos salsa

By María V. Acevedo-Aquino and Myriam Jimena Guerra, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

Myriam Jimena and María have three more bilingual books authored and/or illustrated by Lupe Ruiz-Flores and Carolyn Dee Flores. From now on, readers will notice that each book depicts brave female characters ready to advocate for themselves and others.


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MTYT: A Surprise for Teresita/Una sorpresa para Teresita

By María V. Acevedo-Aquino and Myriam Jimena Guerra, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

This week, Myriam Jimena and María continue to analyze books authored and/or illustrated by Lupe Ruiz-Flores and Carolyn Dee Flores. A Surprise for Teresita/Una sorpresa para Teresita, is the only book this month written by a third author, Virginia Sanchez-Korrol, so they paid close attention to Carolyn Dee Flores’ luminous artwork.


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Locating Resources on Global Children’s and YA Literature

By Kathy Short, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Many authors, illustrators, publishers and literacy organizations offer valuable resources during this time of mandated on-line learning. An ongoing issue, however, is that only a few of these resources highlight global literature, books set in global cultures outside of the U.S. Our goal for this website is to support educators and families in engaging readers with global literature to encourage intercultural understanding across cultures. If you are a teacher educator searching for on-line readings and book lists for your courses or a teacher creating new inquiry units that are global in focus, the following resources can support your work. You can also use these features as examples for students to create their own reviews, vignettes or book recommendations. Continue reading

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MTYT: The Amazing Watercolor Fish/El asombroso pez acurela

By María V. Acevedo-Aquino and Myriam Jimena Guerra, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

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This month Myriam Jimena and María explore the contributions of two authors of children’s literature living in San Antonio, TX: Lupe Ruiz-Flores and Carolyn Dee Flores (mother and daughter). The five bilingual books selected depict strong characters willing to take action to improve their own lives and communities. This week they look at two fish who will rely on each other to imagine and hope in The Amazing Watercolor Fish/El asombroso pez acurela.

My Take Your Take Watercolor Fish Bibliographic Banner, information available at end of post. Continue reading