WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Welcome to the Wonder House

A blue cover wth a small figure in the bottom left corner looking up through a telescope.In Welcome to the Wonder House, a book of poetry by noted poets Georgia Heard and Rebecca Kai Dotlich, readers are invited to explore twelve rooms filled with poems and objects. The poems will inspire creativity and wonder in young readers. In each room, readers can become historians, scientists, mathematicians, astronauts, architects, geologists, artists or writers while contemplating topics such as nature, space and ancient history, as well as ordinary items. For example, in the Curiosity Room, poems and yellow tinted and cream-colored pictures of dinosaur fossils, planets and meteor collisions spark readers’ interests in natural resources and planets. The poem titles demonstrate the span of resources: Why do diamonds wink / and shine?/ What is quartz?/ What is lime? / What fossils still / sleep underground? / How does our Earth keep spinning around? (p. 4). In the Nature Room, readers explore a stormy sky with rain and thunder: Thunder drums the skin of sky, / striking / an / electric / scar / from cloud to cloud. (p. 12). All poems cover science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) topics and will be a great addition to STEAM lessons for all age groups. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Biographies of Latin American and Latinx People in STEM

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

With increasing emphasis on nonfiction in the classroom, we must remember to seek out nonfiction that features people from diverse backgrounds. Representation matters in nonfiction as much as it does in fiction! Yet, while 25% of U.S. children have Latin American heritage it remains difficult to find quality nonfiction featuring Latinx characters, settings, or experiences. Continue reading

Decorative WOW Currents Banner

Celebrating New Authors and Illustrators at the 2024 Tucson Festival of Books

By Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Two girls holding dolls with a hay bale behind themFestivals are an opportunity to connect with well-known authors who win awards and are on best-selling lists. Plenty of those authors are coming to the Tucson Festival of Books this year, such as Kate DiCamillo, Donna Barba Higuera, Roshani Chokshi, John Parra, Sayantani DasGupta, Jennifer Nielson, Kazu Kibuishi, R.L. Stine, Marissa Meyer, Shelby Mahurin, and Gene Luen Yang. They will appear on panels, solo sessions, and workshops, giving readers a chance to talk with the authors they admire and love to read.

What is often overlooked is that festivals are also an opportunity to meet new authors and illustrators who are making their mark on the field, adding their books as new favorites. Recent illustrators who have published picturebooks will appear on panels and give illustrator studios this year. Jonathan Nelson is the Diné illustrator of Forever Cousins (2022) and A Letter for Bob (2023), demonstrating his commitment to illustrating Native stories by Native authors. A Letter for Bob celebrates the treasured family car that has taken a young girl’s family through happy and sad times. In Lian Cho’s new picturebook, Oh, Olive! (2023), Olive loves to smear, spatter, and splash with a brush in each hand, but faces the displeasure of her parents who are serious artists, painting proper perfect shapes. Continue reading

Decorative WOW Currents Banner

Experience the 2024 Tucson Festival of Books

By Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

As a long-time attendee and presenter at professional conferences for educators, book festivals were a new genre for me when I first started working with the Tucson Festival of Books 14 years ago. I quickly realized that the audience was much broader for a festival, many of whom are parents, children and teens with different preferences than educators. A festival needs to balance authors who have popular appeal and write series books with authors who are critically acclaimed, and well-known authors with emerging authors. The sessions also need to offer laughter and playfulness as well as discussions of critical issues.

Over time, we have developed different types of sessions for the children/teen section of the festival to appeal to the different audiences. The overall festival has over 300 authors and 130,000 attendees. 65 of those authors are picturebook authors/illustrators, middle grade authors, graphic novel creators, and young adult authors, who present over 100 sessions. One strength of our program for children and teens is that many of the sessions are in rooms that seat 40-50 people to allow for more intimate interactions with authors, instead of only large auditoriums where authors are at a distance. This WOW Currents highlights the types of sessions and a few of the authors who are coming this March. Go to the festival website for a full list of authors and sessions for the entire festival. Continue reading

Authors' Corner

Authors’ Corner: Margaret Chiu Greanias

By Rebecca Ballenger, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Photo by Erin Sloan Photography

Unlikely author Margaret Chiu Greanias struggled in Language Arts and English classes throughout school but still managed to write her first book in fourth grade. And that was it for a long time. Then, during the last quarter of her last year in college, Greanias took a creative writing class that turned things around for her writing career. Today, her picturebooks include Maximillain Villanous, Amah Faraway, Hooked on Books and her newest release, How This Book Got Red. In this Authors’ Corner Greanias discusses her new book, representation in children’s literature, her writing process and school visits. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: The Kingdom Over The Sea

A young girl on a red flying carpet flies towards a Middle Eastern castle over the sea.The Kingdom Over the Sea by Zohra Nabi is a fantasy adventure that begins in an ordinary seaside town in the U.K. and quickly (and chaotically) sails away to Zehaira, a world of alchemy and sorcery. At home in the U.K., 12-year-old Yara and her mother share a language and culture seemingly to themselves. Yara’s documents indicate a start in Iraq, but Mama has been vague about their past. The more Yara asks, the more painful it becomes for Mama to answer. She promises to tell Yara when she gets older.

But then Mama dies, leaving a cryptic letter with instructions and no answers. Yara must leave the home she knows. As she flees town, Yara encounters racism and xenophobia directed towards an Iraqi family on the bus. When the conflict passes, Yara realizes they do not speak the special language she shares with Mama. The experience reinforces Yara’s feeling of not belonging. Yara is left alone to discover the truth about her past and heritage in a magical new world. To get to Zehaira, Yara is swept off by a frightening ferryman over a storming sea that Nabi likens to the twister that takes Dorothy to the world of Oz. Like Dorothy, Yara searches for home, only it’s a home she’s never known. In her effort to retain her cultural identity when home is fragile, Yara desperately searches to understand her heritage and to find community. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Biographies of Latin American and Latinx Activists, Politicians and Freedom Fighters

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

Latin American and Latinx people have a long history of fighting to make their world a better place. In the face of oppression, discrimination, or inequality leaders have emerged to work for change across generations. Sometimes they do so by working within the system as a political or military leader but sometimes they seek change by working outside the system to disrupt institutionalized injustice.

This collection contains 12 picturebook biographies of Latinx and Latin American activists, politicians, and freedom fighters working for political freedom, better working conditions, environmental justice and more. Some of these people are beloved by all, while others have controversial histories. While the causes, movements, and actions vary, each biography depicts someone passionate about their cause and focused on improving their community. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Social and Emotional Growth and Children’s Books

By Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District, Tucson, AZ

This COVID-19 post-pandemic era has been difficult for many of us. In the school district I (Junko Sakoi) am working for, stories have played a significant role in social emotional support for children and teens. Stories have eased their anxiety, stress, fear, and trauma, and helped them find a way to cope with the difficulties. This collection includes PreK–12 titles that portray young characters’ social and emotional struggles. These books could help children build resilience through self-discovery and growth as they cultivate empathetic connections and caring perspectives in relationships. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: The Patron Thief of Bread

A gargoyle on top of a cathedral. The Patron Thief of Bread by Lindsay Eagar is the story of eight-year-old Duck, who was found in a river as a baby and “adopted” by and cared for by a band of street urchins in Medieval France. The Crowns, a band of young thieves, are the only family Duck has known and even though Gnat, the group’s leader, is not especially fond of her, the group is her family, and they survive by stealing money and food from vendors in street fairs and town markets across their region. Orphaned children were often overlooked, abused, or ignored and thus had to fend for themselves, regardless of how young they were. However, the Crowns were skilled at stealing and thus a threat to other bands. They move from town to town as a way of avoiding bands of older orphans as well as punishment by a town justice once they become too visible in any particular place. Continue reading

Decorative WOW Currents Banner

Enriching the Story of Europe’s Middle Ages

By Holly Johnson, Professor Emerita, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

A gargoyle on top of a cathedral. Creating a love of history in many young people often feels like a Sisyphean effort with some time periods garnering more attention than others. I personally love the history of the American West, so it came as a big surprise that several of my favorite books for young people focus on Europe’s Middle Ages. With such wonderful literature available, a spark could be lit and young people’s imaginations could take flight. Continue reading