When asked about the concept of home, many of us might conjure up visions of family together at a dinner-table or of vacation. We often think of a physical location, like a house, a street, a neighborhood or a city. But is that home? Or is home something more elusive, maybe harder to grasp or explain, especially if our idea of home is not of a house, or yard or neighborhood? This month, we look at books that address the concept of home and how that concept might be different from the typical or stereotypical. In The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman, we start with a group of orphans living under a bridge in Chennai, India, and then move to a young girl who understands home is where her dog is. We then discuss a longer migration that involves moving from Syria to the U.S. and end with the concept of home perhaps being an object of hope we can hold in our hands, keep in our hearts or imagine with our minds.
By 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.
What can you do once you decide that you can no longer watch your abusive father beat your mother and his rage extends to you and your sister? You can run away and try to make it on your own. That is what Viji does, taking her sister Rukku with her. Rukku is cognitively challenged, but this does not stop either sister from leaving their small village to find their way in the streets of Chennai, India. They are greeted with both kindness and challenges by those around them, eventually settling with two orphaned runaways under a decrepit bridge with tarp tents. This works until the monsoon season and its mosquitoes, chilling dampness and sickness. Viji has to make decisions about this new family, eventually leading them to hope, but not without tragedy first. A lovely narrative about the resilience of children in harsh conditions, the love and care needed to overcome, and the faith needed to face the future. Readers will hope with Viji, Rukku and their two new brothers as they learn to overcome in a world not often kind to children. -Recommended by Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH. Continue reading
By Michele Ebersole, University of Hawaii, Hilo, HI, and Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
This month Michele Ebersole and Yoo Kyung Sung explore the deep and complicated theme of “sense of belonging.” Michele began by creating a text set with a focus of sense of Hawai’i. When she shared it with Yoo Kyung, it helped them explore that sense of place could be a sense of belonging, sense of responsibility, sense of excellence, sense of total well-being, sense of aloha, etc. Perhaps for New Mexico, it would take a sense of high desert, turquoise, Indigenousness, and sense of North and South. They think that “sense of belonging” may capture different dynamics in stories of communities and also reflect young people’s lives within a community as space. The four books they chose illustrate various faces of communities; they show that community is something you enter as a new member and sometimes you are a small community itself. Sense of belonging is a process of making sense of who you are and where you are. This theme unfolds with the four books presented this month through different characters and various locations such as India, Caribbean, and the U.S. They begin with The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman.