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2020 Global Books: Picturebooks about Contemporary Experiences

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

Freedom Soup cover shows a Haitain grandmother in a head scarf dancing in kitchen with child in braids.A long-term issue in global literature is the lack of books showing contemporary experiences, leading to misconceptions that other cultures are set back in time in comparison to the U.S. The global novels for middle grade and young adult readers identified on the 2020 Global Reading Lists are primarily historical fiction or fantasy with the exception of refugee books, a continuation of that problematic trend. In contrast, picturebooks for younger readers include many contemporary depictions of everyday life in a range of global cultures, including Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan, Japan, China, Korea, India, Tibet, Iran, Syria and Indigenous Canada. Continue reading

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Literary Insights to Social, Traditional and Cultural Aspects of Music

by Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas

Music is often a focus in literature as readers learn about this communicative art form. It is also a way of contextualizing a character, an event or a culture–revealing a diversity of insights into the daily lives and cultures of the people within the stories told. The books shared here, all published in 2019, represent just a few of the ways music exists in our lives. Three of the books are picturebooks sharing family joy that is supported and expressed through music.

Freedom Soup cover shows a Haitian grandmother in a head scarf dancing in kitchen with child in braids.Freedom Soup by Tami Charles and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara is a Haitian story told around the Haitian new year custom of making and eating Freedom Soup, a tradition reflecting the Haitian Revolution. As Ti Gran teaches Belle how to make Freedom Soup, readers experience the process as well as the music that enlivens the experience. The kompa not only provides music as they dance around the kitchen, but most importantly, it provides background for Ti Gran as she tells the story of the Haitian Revolution. Both text and illustration afford readers the jubilant feel of the music. Continue reading