WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Beast Rider

Beast Rider cover is yellow with an orange zigzagging train with a rider on top.The clear voice of Manuel narrates his powerful story of how, as a 12-year-old, he left his family in Oaxaca, Mexico to join his older brother, Toño. In Beast Rider by Tony Johnston and Maria Elena Fontanot de Rhoads, Toño has gone North to Los Angeles on the freight trains know as the Beast. “The Beast is a network of freight trains that move from southern Mexico to the U.S. border. La Bestia is a deadly way to travel. Getting on and staying on are hard in themselves. Sometimes a rider goes to sleep and falls from the train, to be maimed or killed. … Gangs swarm the tops of train cars looking for victims” (from the Authors’ Note). Continue reading

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MTYT: Soldier for Equality

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

This third week continues a focus on displacement but as it is found in picturebooks. In particular, this week uses a historical context in emphasizing the sociohistorical nature of this issue.

This story is about José de la Luz Sáenz (Luz) who believed in fighting for what was right. Luz’s life was permanently displaced due to his heritage. Even though he was born in the United States, Luz faced prejudice because of his Mexican heritage. Resolute in helping his people, even in the face of discrimination, he taught English to children and adults… children during the day and adults in the evenings. As World War I broke out, Luz joined the army. He had the ability to learn languages and that ability made him an invaluable member of the Intelligence Office especially during war. Luz discovered that prejudice does not end even if you serve your country during war. Even though he was asked by superiors for his translating abilities he didn’t receive credit for his contributions. After returning to his Texas home, he joined with other Mexican American veterans to create the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which presently is the largest and oldest Latinx civil rights organization and continued to teach English to his people so that language does not become a barrier and they should not be discriminated against. The author uses his typical illustration style and Luz’s diary entries to tell the story of a Mexican American war hero and his fight against prejudice and for equality for his fellow
Latinx.

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MTYT: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

This story is set in 2002, a year after 9/11, a politically turbulent time, especially for someone who is a Muslim living in the U.S. like the 16-year-old Iranian/American girl Shirin. As fellow teenagers stereotype her and are verbally and physically reactionary towards her hijab through stares and derogatory comments, she learns to fight back by ignoring them and focusing on her love for music and break-dancing. Her family believes in minding their own business and play down her issues because they have gone through much more under their own regimes in Iran. Her relationship with her older brother is strong. She has been pivotal in aiding him in his studies as he suffers from dyslexia and studies have always been a challenge for him even though he suffers from none of the stereotypes his sister does. He is physically attractive and popular with girls and bears no outward signs of being a Muslim. Shirin lowers her guard once she meets Ocean James. He comes through as a person who genuinely seems to want to get to know her, looking beyond her wearing the hijab. As their relationship evolves the reader comes to know Shirin’s culture and her struggles. Even though we don’t observe displacement in the typical sense of the word in this story, Shirin’s displacement points towards her existence in the U.S. after 9/11.

Decorative Header for A Very Large Expanse of Sea has bibliographic information also available at end of post. Continue reading

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MTYT: The Bridge Home

DecorativeBy Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

As we read contemporary stories about immigration, developing identity, bullying, children facing inequities and challenges in their families, schools, communities, and many other social issues that serve to give voice through story to children everywhere, we see that displacement is a theme woven throughout these stories. Both physical and mental displacement are experiences not uncommon to all young people since the world ‘displacement’ implies being removed from that which is known, comfortable, or expected. If approached in a way that points to the many aspects of displacement that align with everyday experiences, as well as to those experiences that are the result of conflict, trauma or conditions out of the control of the child, these characters can reveal personal attributes that support actions, decisions, and personal perspectives in times of displacement. Such attributes are demonstrations of resiliency and agency in the face of challenge.

In the past few months, globally, both children and adults have been dealing with a variety of forms of displacement–removed from their daily workplaces, activities, interactions with others, and even how they attend to everyday needs. The displacement as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic involves both mental and physical challenges, and yet, we need reminders that these can be met critically, creatively, and successfully. Therefore, this month, we wanted to respond to books that reveal children placed in situations of displacement with the hope that the way in which they handle their situations reflects attributes and actions that speak in hopeful ways to the challenges of readers. For the first two weeks, we will share a novel each week in which a global context reveals children dealing with extreme situations of displacement. In the following weeks, we will suggest other books, inclusive of picture-books, that provide diverse perspectives and situations around the topic of displacement–books that examine displacement in everyday situations and for varied ages of readers.

Banner contains bibliographic information for The Bridge Home that is available at the end of this post. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Stormy

Cover of Stormy features a small, curly-haired dog and his ball created in soft hues with pencil and watercolorStormy, by Chinese author/illustrator Guojing, captures attention from a first look at its cover: a small, curly-haired dog and his ball created in soft hues with pencil and watercolor. The assumption can easily be that this is another lovely dog story, potentially appealing to both young and old. However, opening this book reveals a visual narrative whose art goes beyond just “another dog story.” Continue reading

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MTYT: It Began with a Page

By Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

We’ve reached the end of our posts celebrating artists of both the visual and written word who inspire us and sustain us. Their works remind us of the beauty of the earth, the celebration of life itself and perhaps, most importantly, the possibilities we all contain to sustain each other through times of challenge. We started with a new picturebook about Emily Dickinson, moved on to discuss a book by Ashley Bryant and then a biography of Pura Belpré. This week we consider Gyo Fujikawa in It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way.

My Take header for It Began with a Page lists bibliographic information that is available at end of post. Continue reading

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MTYT: Planting Stories

By Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

As we continue to celebrate artists of the visual and written word who inspire us and sustain us, this week we focus on the book Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré. This work also reminds us of the beauty of the earth, the celebration of life itself and perhaps, most importantly, the possibilities we all contain to sustain each other through times of challenge.

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MTYT: Infinite Hope

By Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

This month we celebrate artists of both the visual and written word who inspire us and sustain us. Their works remind us of the beauty of the earth, the celebration of life itself and perhaps, most importantly, the possibilities we all contain to sustain each other through times of challenge. This week, we provide our takes on a book by Ashley Bryan.

My Take/Your Take Infinite Hope banner includes bibliographic information also available at the end of this post. Continue reading

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MTYT: On Wings of Words

MTYT header decorativeBy Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

This month we celebrate artists of both the visual and written word who inspire us and sustain us. Their works remind us of the beauty of the earth, the celebration of life itself and perhaps, most importantly, the possibilities we all contain to sustain each other through times of challenge. We selected three biographies and one autobiography that contain both the written and the visual, allowing for the richness picturebooks and illustrated pieces present to readers. We start with a new picturebook about Emily Dickinson, a comforting global presence, and move on to discuss a book by Ashley Bryant and biographies of Pura Belpré and Gyo Fujikawa in the following weeks. What lives these artists/authors/storytellers lived! What legacies they have given the world, and what joy it was to read these works that celebrate their lives.

MTYT Header with Wings Of Words bilbiographic information that is also listed at the end of this post. Continue reading

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Resources Around Epidemics and Pandemics

Cholera warning posters by seventh gradersMany readers are looking for virtual escape as movement is restricted due to the spread of COVID-19. Schools nation-wide are closed, but they will soon open either on line or face-to-face and teachers will be keen to help young people make sense of current events. The Executive Board of Worlds of Words came together to determine how we might assist in the effort to find quality literature for young people around epidemics and pandemics.

This post includes a booklist of recently published fiction and non-fiction books as well as links to previously published WOW Currents posts with this focus. We’d love to hear from you too! Provide your comments and recommendations of books and other resources below. Continue reading