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Books that Invite Smiles

By Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas

As this week brings to a close my sharing some personal highlights of this year’s Outstanding International Book Award list, I wanted to mention a few titles that left me smiling for a number of different reasons. While many of the rich international titles are ones that challenge us to be responsible readers and take on new perspectives and difficult topics, there is also the universally shared pleasure in reading. What makes us smile could be that the situation in the book is one we have experienced or one that is ironically silly; a smile could come from how the illustrator depicts a character with personality, often with the simplicity of lines and positioning; and we could just smile because of the satisfactory solution to a problem that a character finds. While humor and laughing out loud are not outside the reading experience, a smile can be that satisfactory emotional expression that connects us in many ways to our reading.

I Really Want to See You, Grandma cover Continue reading

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Contemplating Children Dealing with Personal Issues

By Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas

While many books position children in personal and social roles that can present challenges, this year’s Outstanding International Books List (OIB) and submissions include some titles unique in both topic and format. The intended audience for these books is child and adolescent readers, however adult readership can gain insights into personal issues faced by children, how they cope, where they need support and the situations in which these issues can be contextualized.

Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna Continue reading

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Explore Imagination through Outstanding International Book Characters

By Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas

Imagination in its many forms is present in much of children’s and young adult literature just as it is in “real” life. It can help us deal with situations that are seemingly beyond our control, express ourselves in authentic ways through other sign systems, create practical solutions to everyday needs or desires, position ourselves in other contexts as we work to understand other perspectives and eras and add an enjoyable fantasy element to our lives. I always enjoy revisiting the following quote: “Imagining possibilities is at the core of understanding other people, other times, and other places” (Wilhelm and Edmiston, 1998, p. 4). I also am reminded of Frank Smith’s idea (1992) that imagination makes reality possible (1992). So, while there are many ways to celebrate imagination in children’s literature, I would like to share, from the 2019 (published in English in 2018) OIB list, a few very basic examples of children using imagination in seemingly simplistic ways. I believe that these are the seeds that can grow into more complex uses of imagination as children grow into creative and responsible adults.

Stories of the Night by Kitty Crowther Continue reading

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USBBY Award-Winning Books: The Role Literature Plays in Supporting Music

By Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas

USBBY LogoBoth the prestigious American Library Association Awards and the USBBY Outstanding International Book Award lists in children’s and young adult literature were recently announced. This list of 39 translated books that cut across age levels from Pre-K to YA offers many genres, themes and countries of origin with a variety of potential uses in the classroom. While the OIB committee, on which I served this year, suggests potential thematic connections in their discussions as well as in the School Library Journal article announcing the list, I would like to share some personal connections I made while reading and discussing these books. Most of these connections cut across the award list, but later this month, I will share some excellent books that didn’t make the final list as well as other recently published books. Continue reading

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MTYT: Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival

Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch with Tuan Ho and Brian Deines is the unbelievably true story of a refugees escape to America. We continue this month’s My Take Your Take with this story that invites readers to experience what it is to be a refugee. It also invites deeper conversation about refugees in America with more personal reflection.

Adrift at Sea Continue reading

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MTYT: Books that Support Young Readers’ Understanding of Refugees

Flight is the story of refugees fleeing in the desert. At first, it appears to be the story about Mary and Joseph’s journey before the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s actually a much darker parallel to the original story. It is a picturebook that introduces the idea of refugees to children and highlights the importance of sheltering refugees. Sometimes shelter is not enough; we need to give them a home, too.

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MTYT: Duck, Death and the Tulip

Compiled by Janelle Mathis

The last My Take/Your Take for April continues with a focus on picture books. For the students involved, part of a doctoral class on critical content and visual analysis of international literature, many picture books became unique points of discussion. In light of the recent 2017 recipient of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, German author/illustrator Wolf Erlbruch, we read Duck, Death and the Tulip (2011) as well as other books by Erlbruch and some scholarly perspectives.

Duck, Death and the Tulip Continue reading