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MTYT: Fred Stays with Me!

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH and Jean Schroeder, The IDEA School, Tucson, AZ

Last week, we discussed how The Bridge Home has a promise of hope in our thinking about the concept of home. Home as something other than a physical location, but rather something more elusive like hope, provides new possibilities and perspectives on home. This week, we take a look at Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt and Tricia Tusa to see what new understandings are possible.

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MTYT: The Bridge Home

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By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH and Jean Schroeder, The IDEA School, Tucson, AZ

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.

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MTYT: It Began with a Page

By Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

We’ve reached the end of our posts celebrating artists of both the visual and written word who inspire us and sustain us. Their works remind us of the beauty of the earth, the celebration of life itself and perhaps, most importantly, the possibilities we all contain to sustain each other through times of challenge. We started with a new picturebook about Emily Dickinson, moved on to discuss a book by Ashley Bryant and then a biography of Pura Belpré. This week we consider Gyo Fujikawa in It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way.

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MTYT: Planting Stories

By Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

As we continue to celebrate artists of the visual and written word who inspire us and sustain us, this week we focus on the book Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré. This work also reminds us of the beauty of the earth, the celebration of life itself and perhaps, most importantly, the possibilities we all contain to sustain each other through times of challenge.

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MTYT: Infinite Hope

By Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

This month we celebrate artists of both the visual and written word who inspire us and sustain us. Their works remind us of the beauty of the earth, the celebration of life itself and perhaps, most importantly, the possibilities we all contain to sustain each other through times of challenge. This week, we provide our takes on a book by Ashley Bryan.

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MTYT: On Wings of Words

MTYT header decorativeBy Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

This month we celebrate artists of both the visual and written word who inspire us and sustain us. Their works remind us of the beauty of the earth, the celebration of life itself and perhaps, most importantly, the possibilities we all contain to sustain each other through times of challenge. We selected three biographies and one autobiography that contain both the written and the visual, allowing for the richness picturebooks and illustrated pieces present to readers. We start with a new picturebook about Emily Dickinson, a comforting global presence, and move on to discuss a book by Ashley Bryant and biographies of Pura Belpré and Gyo Fujikawa in the following weeks. What lives these artists/authors/storytellers lived! What legacies they have given the world, and what joy it was to read these works that celebrate their lives.

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WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: The Blackbird Girls

Cover of the Blackbird Girls depicting two girls in black dresses carrying brown backpacks looking out to a red-hued city with a cloud of black smoke rising into the red sky.Pripyat, Ukraine, Soviet Union, 1986 may not mean anything to many readers but perhaps the word Chernobyl means something. If not, it will upon reading this deeply engaging book about Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko, two middle school girls who find themselves suddenly thrown into the most horrific circumstances when the nuclear power plant—Chernobyl—blows up in their city.

It was a Saturday, a half day at school, when Valentina finds her father not at the breakfast table, and the sky is red. Urged to go to school, Valentina notices the neighborhood is filled with police officers, and while she is curious, no one dares to ask the police any questions. At school, she is confronted by Oksana, an outspoken anti-Semite, who challenges Valentina to a race to show how Jews are the weaker race. Valentina does not comply with the rules that suggest she should just let Oksana win and by doing so, keep her place in the social hierarchy. She outruns Oksana, and it is from this starting point that readers are introduced to the two “blackbird girls,” who must navigate an evacuation from their city without their parents and learn to live together with Valentina’s grandmother in Leningrad, whom Valentina had never met. Valentina’s mother kept Valentina from her grandmother because of her dangerous actions, and while Oksana would never willing live with Jews, she has no choice as her mother is sent to Minsk because of radiation exposure. Valentina’s mother gives up her train ticket to Oksana, an action that again causes great dissonance in Oksana’s thinking about Jews.

This is a fascinating narrative that addresses not only the explosion of Chernobyl, but the political and social realities of Soviet rule in the 1980s. As Valentina and Oksana come to trust each other, and Valentina’s grandmother, readers develop compassion for both girls as Oksana, herself, has secrets that must be addressed. Ultimately, this is a story of hope, of friendship, and of loyalty that is truly inspiring. Based on real events and a real person who was a child in Pripyat at the time of the explosion, this book is a great read for any young reader of history and for those who love to see how overcoming dire circumstances is truly possible. -Recommended by Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Frankly In Love

Cover of Frankly In Love is yellow with blue-green 3D lettering and text onlyFrank Li is, in many ways, like any boy at his high school. He has a best friend and a great desire to have a girlfriend. His best friend is Black, which produces discomfort with his traditional Korean parents, and Frank’s new girlfriend is also non-Korean. Frank, fearful of becoming a pariah like his older sister, hides his relationship from his parents, but soon hatches a plan to work with Joy, one of the “Limbos” who also has traditional Korean parents and a boyfriend who is non-Korean. Joy and Frank “date” one another, which frees them to meet with their respective love interests. This arrangement has its drawbacks. As Frank negotiates his identity as both Korean and American, and all the issues that come with being a savvy teen living in a home that falls back on old prejudices and biases of race and ethnicity, Frank’s story is imbued with humor, profound insights and adolescent sensibility that produces an enjoyable and realistic experience that both delights and challenges readers. -Recommended by Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati Continue reading