WOW Dozen: Books About Voting

By Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, Westminster College (retired), Rebecca Ballenger, Worlds of Words, University of Arizona, Tucson and Aika Adamson, Worlds of Words, University of Arizona, Tucson

Voters’ rights vary around the world, with some countries granting universal suffrage while others restrict voting based on criteria such as age, citizenship or criminal record. In the U.S., voters’ rights have been marked by obstacles like poll taxes, literacy tests and intimidation at the polls, which aimed to disenfranchise people based on race, economic status or gender. The books included in this WOW Dozen portray pivotal moments (historical and fictional) when communities fought for their voices to be heard in the democratic process. These narratives educate about past injustices and inspire young readers to become informed, engaged citizens who advocate for equality and fairness in voting rights. Continue reading

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Photography as a Tool for Social Change: Biographical Picturebooks

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

Photography is part of the everyday world. Children (and adults, of course) are constant consumers of this medium in personal, social, political, economic and artistic realms. Indeed, practically every aspect of our lives is saturated by the photographic image. Not only are we consumers of photography, most of us are also producers of digital photographs. What began as an art form limited to scientists with specialized chemicals and equipment is now as quotidian as breakfast.

Blonde girl against blue background picks a red flowerLike many artistic practices, photography is often used as a form of activism. The photographic image can help bring hidden or shadowed issues and realities into the public eye, illuminating the world as a way to create change. An excellent way to unlock photographic history and activism for children in accessible and engaging ways is through biographical picturebooks of notable photographers. These stories provide context for how photography became so ubiquitous and essential around the globe, as well as how it has and can be used as a tool for social change, perhaps inspiring young readers to do the same. Although there are a number of excellent examples, for this post I will look closely at picturebook biographies of three artists who used the photographic medium for expression and activism: Anna Atkins of England, Jacob Riis of Denmark and the United States, and Gordon Parks of the United States. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Picturebook Biographies of Musicians

By Janelle Mathis, North Texas University

In a recent study that examined picturebook biographies of musicians, I was interested in what they offered young readers about the value of music in the lives of these individuals. Shared in a recently submitted article, I discovered over 40 biographies that spanned across historical eras, forms of music, ages of musicians and how music impacted individuals which often was the focus of the picturebook. Books were read and reread revealing themes of offering hope and comfort, creating identity, sharing tradition, giving voice to marginalized people and sharing examples of determination, persistence and strength. Below, are a dozen titles that reflect the challenges and successes of musicians in narratives that provide young readers with new insights to the significance of music in these lives and the potential influences in their own lives. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Unspeakable

A stylish 1920s Black family runs from a burning city. Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre chronicles the murderous hostility, humiliation and hope of this largely suppressed historical event in United States. The devastation occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the Black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This third person informational text narrates the incidents that occurred in one of the worst racially violent cases in U.S. Tulsa, during this time, was a prosperous segregated town, where descendants of “Black Indians, from formerly enslaved people, and from Exodusters” thrived in their Greenwood community, once known as Black Wallstreet. “Once upon a time” near Tulsa, is a phrase that is eloquently repeated to depict the prosperity that the people in the Greenwood community created. Then one day, the massacre stemmed from one elevator ride where a 17-year-old white elevator operator accused a 19-year old Black shoeshine man of “assault for simmering hatred to boil over.” This incident resulted in 300 Black people who died, and more than 8,000 left homeless, “…hundreds of businesses were reduced to ash.” It took over 75 years to launch an investigation, which uncovered that “police and city officials had plotted with the angry white mob to destroy the nation’s wealthiest Black community.” Continue reading

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Theater Arts Biographies for Young Readers

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

Cover of The Legendary Miss Lena Horne depicting a black woman in a black dress in front of a red background.This month, Wow Currents will focus on artist’s biographies in children’s literature. There has been a significant increase in biographical picturebooks throughout the last decade, and trends have shown that biographies of women have been particularly sought out by publishers. Initially, I wanted to focus solely on biographical picturebooks, however there are a few biographies that I want to highlight that don’t fall into that category, including longer form biographies, graphic narratives, and verse biographies. Continue reading

MTYT: Freedom in Congo Square

By Holly Johnson, PhD, University of Cincinnati and Samira Gaikward, doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati

To prepare for the Tucson Festival of Books, Worlds of Words focused on stories and ideas presented at the festival. Dr. Holly Johnson and Samira continue this conversation in their discussion of Freedom in Congo Square as they reflect upon a Festival panel’s topic: freedom.

Freedom in Congo Square Continue reading