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WOW Recommends: Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree

Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia NwaubaniEver wonder what happened to the 276 girls abducted from Chiko, Nigeria in 2014? World-wide attention turned to Nigeria as the terror of the Boko Haram attacked and killed many community members from the village, and then kidnapped the girls. As time passed, the story faded from our collective consciousness. Two female journalists, however, one from Nigeria and the other from Italy followed the story and gathered accounts from 57 girls who escaped from the terrorist group when government forces found and attacked it. Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani is a fictionalized account of what occurred with an afterword by Vivianna Mazza from Italy. Taking the accounts from those the journalists interviewed, Nwaubani now tells the story through the perspective of one girl who survived. Chronicling how the girls were forced to confess to a conversion to Islam or die and then treated as either slaves or wives to members of the Boko Haram, readers will be riveted by the short vignettes that authentically describe the horrors that occurred within the jungle camps of the Boko Haram. The narrative will also remind readers of the 219 girls who still remain lost to their families and community. Continue reading

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Worlds of Words Celebrates International Children’s Book Day

By Alexandria Hulslander, Intern, Worlds of Words

Worlds of Words in the University of Arizona College of Education celebrates International Children’s Book Day with a special exhibit of international honor books for children and adolescents. Lithuania, this year’s host country for ICBD, provides the theme, “Books Help Us to Slow Down.” ICBD has been celebrated for over half a century on the birthday of Hans Christian Anderson, April 2. WOW’s display is free and open to the public from March 25 to April 6.

Carolina Hoyos Slow Reading for International Children's Book Day Continue reading

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WOW Recommends: Merci Suárez Changes Gears

Cover for Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg MedinaMerci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina, recalls the the middle grade experience of no longer being a child but not yet being an adult. This is the confusing age when responsibilities increase though little explanation is given as to why. The age when young people begin to question authority and long for independence, but still look for approval and acceptance. Medina captures all this in this 2019 Newbery Medal winning book. Continue reading

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WOW Recommends: The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle

Cover from The Truth as Told by Mason ButtleMason Buttle is a sweaty mess of a kid. He says so himself. Mason understands where he resides in the pecking order at his school and at his bus stop, where he is apple bombed daily by the local bullies for being, well, Mason Buttle. What Mason doesn’t understand is how the rest of the town views him. He doesn’t learn that until later, when the looks he thought meant “sorry your friend died” really questioned whether or not he was the one who killed his friend. But what no one understands is that Mason is not a liar, and his good, good heart has kept him innocent until his newest friend Calvin Chumsky goes missing. The condemnation that had been hidden from him is revealed, but then, so is the truth —-the truth about so many things in Mason’s life and family. Continue reading

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MTYT: Julian Is a Mermaid

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Julian Is a Mermaid is a wonderfully imaginative story of a young Afro-Latinx boy who realizes he loves mermaids so much that he decides to be one. It began one day after he and his abuela take the subway home from the pool. Julian sees three beautiful mermaids from his subway seat, and he is mesmerized by their dress, accoutrements and amazing fishtails. When Julian and Abuela arrive home, he daydreams about being a mermaid. The illustrations of his transformation beautifully depict his daydream. While Abuela leaves Julian alone for a moment to take her bath, Julian’s imagination allows him to transform into a mermaid using fern clippings and flowers taken from Abuela’s vase to make a headdress and Abuela’s long white drapes for his mermaid tail. Before Abuela returns from her bath, he looks in the mirror and continues his transformation with her make-up. When Abuela sees him, she is noticeably surprised but composed. In fact, she hands him a string of pearls to place around his neck and takes him to join the other mermaids in New York’s Annual Mermaid Parade.
MTYT Julian Is a Mermaid Continue reading

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WOW Recommends: I Really Want to See You, Grandma

I Really Want to See You, Grandma coverJapanese author and illustrator, Taro Gomi, first published I Really Want to See You, Grandma in Japan in 1979. Finally, it has been published for the first time in English so preschool children can enjoy the simple story and the humorous illustrations. The beginning words and illustration set up the story: “Yumi’s house is on a hill. It has a pink roof. Grandma’s house is on a mountain. It has an orange roof.” Continue reading

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Agency and Community in Latinx Immigrant Journey Picturebooks

By Janine M. Schall, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX

This month in WOW Currents my colleagues and I discuss various aspects of children’s literature that features Latinx characters and settings. The Latinx population in the United States has grown dramatically and Latinx people now make up about 20% of the U.S. population. Yet this group remains underrepresented in the media, including children’s book publishing. Continue reading

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WOW Recommends: Drawn Together

Drawn Together coverIn Drawn Together, written by Min Lê with illustrations by Dan Santat, a young boy is dropped off to visit his grandpa. The boy looks reluctant. The Grandpa greets him with joy. The Grandpa speaks Thai, the boy, English. The Grandpa prepares an Asian dish for himself and a hot dog for his grandson. They try to communicate but are unable to cross their language divide. That awkward silence is broken when the boy brings out his drawing pen and his markers. The Grandpa is inspired to bring out his own art supplies, a sketch book, ink and pen. Together they create a new story. The boy says, “Right when I gave up on talking, my grandfather surprised me by revealing a world beyond words. And in a FLASH–we see each other for the first time. All the things we could never say come pouring out.” Through their collaboration in drawing scenes together they build “a new world that even words can’t describe.” Continue reading

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Ronald Himler Captures the Spirit of Resilience

By Elizabeth Trahan, Content Coordinator Intern, Worlds of Words

The art of award-winning picturebook illustrator Ronald Himler captures how the resilience of children creates hope for the future. Worlds of Words’ new exhibit, “Creating Hope through Resilience: The Picturebook Art of Ronald Himler” displays original illustrations from his books that lay bare the struggles children face when they grow up near conflict zones. Himler’s artistry features striking watercolors depicting children in global contexts coping with challenging experiences in their lives. The new exhibit can be viewed through at Worlds of Words in the UofA College of Education.

Lacey Nehls compares original Ronald Himler illustrations to published ones. Continue reading

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WOW Recommends: The Stars at Oktober Bend

The Stars at Oktober BendImbued with lyrical and poignant language, readers of The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard are invited into 15-year-old Alice Nightingale’s wonder and promise-filled world even as she remains on the margins. Alice attempts to manage a broken life and family after being attacked, leaving her with brain damage that may result in her being “twelveness” for the rest of her life. But Alice is resourceful and starts to grow away from her twelveness by relearning language through writing poetry in her Book of Flying, by connecting with Emmanuel (Manny) James, who also has been damaged by the world, and by remaining true to never forsaking her younger brother Joey and “Grandma Glorious.” Alice’s father is dead, and her mother left the country to pursue her career. Grandfather Papa is in prison for killing the men who attacked Alice, leaving the family of three living outside of their Australian town, hidden away from most of the world. Alice is artistic and fills her days with making fishing lures and writing while Joey goes to school bringing books and information for Alice to learn. Because she is often overwhelmed by typical human interactions, Alice cannot attend school and thus spends much of her time alone–until she sees and is seen by Manny. Readers venture with Alice as she grows into her adolescence, hoping for love and connection outside of the family. And as Alice’s world becomes more and more precarious, readers will fall in love with Alice and Manny as they share their pain and love with each other in hopes of overcoming. -Recommended by Holly Johnson. Continue reading