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MTYT: New Kid

Mary L. Fahrenbruck and Violet Henderson, New Mexico State University, NM

During the month of April, Mary Fahrenbruck and Violet Henderson give their take on a range of award-winning children’s and YA books and honor books for 2020. In the first installment, Mary and Violet discuss New Kid written and illustrated by Jerry Craft. The graphic novel was the winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal and the 2020 Coretta Scott King Author Book Award.


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A Long Time Coming: Fictional Depictions of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Desiree W. Cueto, Western Washington University, WA, written in collaboration with Megan Robinson, Western Washington University, WA

Cover of A Friend For Henry depicting a young boy with black hair playing with colored blocksIn 1965, Nancy Larrick wrote “The All-White World of Children’s Books,” which called publishers to task for limited, almost non-existent representations of diverse characters. Fast-forward nearly 50 years and the same sentiment is conveyed through the hashtag, turned movement, turned non-profit, We Need Diverse Books. According to its website, We Need Diverse Books serves as a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers who advocate for essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. The ongoing work of readers, reviewers, authors and publishing houses connected to the movement has changed the industry in significant ways. However, there is still a long way to go before inclusivity is the industry standard. This WOW Currents post highlights newer titles that move the work forward by reflecting the lives of marginalized groups with depth and complexity. We also consider how some representations in children’s books have remained stagnant and limited to heroic or stereotypical representations. In each segment, we feature the perspectives of cultural insiders: Megan Robinson, Alicen Anijo, Gavin McCormick and Ana Casillas-Sanchez, who enrolled in Desiree Cueto’s Culturally Relevant Materials for Diverse Learners course at Western Washington University. Drawing on their inquiries, we examine representations of Autism Spectrum Disorder, LGBTQAI+, Islam/Muslim Religion and Depression. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Under The Broken Sky

Cover of Under the Broken Sky which depicts two young Japanese girls carrying backpacks and embracing each other, looking out to the viewer on a background of desert and blue sky.Written in free verse, Under the Broken Sky is the story of a family of Japanese settlers in the historical context of Manchuria in northern China in World War II. Manchuria is a forested and rich agricultural land that Japan invaded in 1931 for raw materials due to a lack of resources in Japan. In 1945, twelve-year-old Natsu lives with her father and little sister, Asa, on a quiet farm in Manchuria. Natsu’s mother died while giving birth to Asa, leaving their father in raise them. But Japan is losing the war, and the Soviet Union invades in the summer of 1945, and Natsu’s father is drafted to fight for the Japanese Empire. Natsu, Asa, and Auntie (their neighbor), along with other Japanese settlers, become refugees, fleeing on foot to the city of Harbin, where they live in an abandoned school. Facing a harsh winter, hunger, exhaustion, illness, and bullets from Soviet planes, many die, including Auntie. Natsu and Asa are left destitute and alone. Natsu survives by begging on the streets, and like other Japanese parents, is faced with the agonizing decision of selling her little sister Asa, to a Russian woman in hopes that Asa will be fed, cared for, and kept safe. This story gives readers insight into Japanese refugee families during World War II as well as families today who are forced to leave their homes. -Recommended by Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District. Continue reading

All Listening Together: Biographical Picturebooks About Global Musicians

Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Last Sunday, I attended my first virtual dance party put on by D-Nice on Instagram Live, dubbed Club Quarantine. I’ve seen conflicting reports that there were 50,000 to 150,000 virtual attendees from all over the globe all listening to music and dancing alone together. It was a true stress relief, as music can often be. It also reminded me that music is often a social act. Most of us grow up with some music, and many of us grow up surrounded by music. Music is one way that our identities get formed–through identifying with others who share the same musical interests or culture. Our families raise us with their own musical interests, but we explore on our own, forming our own musical identities. In this post, I will explore picturebook biographies about global musicians that relate to my own musical upbringing and identities. Continue reading

Literary Arts Biographies for Young Readers and Writers

Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Cover of Sounds and Silences, depicting two trees, one drawn realistically and one drawn abstractly.When I was fourteen, I loved poetry. I always loved it, having grown up on a steady diet of recited nursery rhymes and children’s poetry like A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. But something happened in junior high school: The anthology, Sounds and Silences: Poetry for Now, edited by Richard Peck. I loved that it included song lyrics by Woody Guthrie, Leonard Cohen and The Beatles–verses I recognized. What I really loved about this book was that it was my introduction to writers who shaped and continue to shape how I think about the world, my life and the lives around me. “The Rebel” by Mari E. Evans was practically an anthem for the duration of my adolescence. Langston Hughes, e e cummings, Dylan Thomas, this book was my introduction to modern poetry. But, most importantly, it was my introduction to Gwendolyn Brooks. Continue reading

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MTYT: The Dark and the Light

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL, and Deanna Day, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Last week, Susan and Deanna looked at how companionship develops as a result of crossing borders in The Garden: A Novel. This week, they give their takes on The Light and the Dark by Kerstin Hau and how this fantasy picturebook depicts borders not as something that separates people, but as an instrument that creates a possibility of bringing people together.

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MTYT: The Garden: A Novel

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL, and Deanna Day, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

The conflicts in today’s world forces many people to move to new places in hopes of a safer life. Though people may cross borders physically, crossing borders between different people figuratively is often the more difficult task. This week Susan and Deanna give their takes on The Garden: A Novel by Megan Ferrari, another USBBY OIB book, which focuses on a boy from Syria who moves to Canada to escape civil war and struggles to adjust to a new culture and community with help from the people around him.

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MTYT: Lubna and Pebble

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL, and Deanna Day, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

This month Susan Corapi and Deanna Day selected titles that were submitted to the Outstanding International Book committee. The OIB committee reads approximately 500 books and selects 42 distinguished titles that represent the best global books in the world. The committee announced the winning titles at the American Library Association conference in January. Visit the United States Board on Books for Young People(USBBY) website for the complete 2020 list of books where you can download a bookmark and a PowerPoint presentation.

As part of the work of the committee themes and issues were identified across all of the titles and for this column we selected books that address crossing borders, whether literally or figuratively.

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WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Cinderella Liberator

Cover of Cinderella Liberator which depicts the silhouette of a woman with a cake in hand, jumping, and a mouse at her feet on a pale blue background.Many years ago when I was reviewing children’s books for the Los Angeles Times, I was approached by a producer who wanted to do a series for PBS centered on Cinderella stories. The series never materialized but in the process of investigating the proposal, I discovered many different Cinderella stories from all over the world. Since then, I have eagerly read any new book that centers on that traditional story. This new title by Rebecca Solnit presents a much-needed lively and thoughtfully updated version of the familiar fairy tale. Continue reading