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MTYT: A New Kind of Wild

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

As we conclude our week of introducing titles that for us speak to the many aspects of displacement, A New Kind of Wild shares a story that represents how local and applicable the notion of displacement can be for young readers. There are many ways that children are displaced in their daily life—required family moves to other communities or cities, family separations, feelings of not belonging, bullying, and other ways that emotional and physical displacement can occur. A New Kind of Wild is best described by the author’s dedication: “And to anyone who has had to leave a place they love for somewhere new, this is for you” (Hoang, 2020). Ren has always lived in the rainforest where, during the day, he imagines adventures with dragons, unicorns, fairies and kings while surrounded by nature. He must move to the city where he was lonely and finds nothing that stirs his imagination. Then he meets Ava who has always lived in the city and shares with Ren the imaginative wonders of her city life.

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MTYT: Soldier for Equality

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

This third week continues a focus on displacement but as it is found in picturebooks. In particular, this week uses a historical context in emphasizing the sociohistorical nature of this issue.

This story is about José de la Luz Sáenz (Luz) who believed in fighting for what was right. Luz’s life was permanently displaced due to his heritage. Even though he was born in the United States, Luz faced prejudice because of his Mexican heritage. Resolute in helping his people, even in the face of discrimination, he taught English to children and adults… children during the day and adults in the evenings. As World War I broke out, Luz joined the army. He had the ability to learn languages and that ability made him an invaluable member of the Intelligence Office especially during war. Luz discovered that prejudice does not end even if you serve your country during war. Even though he was asked by superiors for his translating abilities he didn’t receive credit for his contributions. After returning to his Texas home, he joined with other Mexican American veterans to create the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which presently is the largest and oldest Latinx civil rights organization and continued to teach English to his people so that language does not become a barrier and they should not be discriminated against. The author uses his typical illustration style and Luz’s diary entries to tell the story of a Mexican American war hero and his fight against prejudice and for equality for his fellow
Latinx.

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MTYT: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Janelle B. Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

This story is set in 2002, a year after 9/11, a politically turbulent time, especially for someone who is a Muslim living in the U.S. like the 16-year-old Iranian/American girl Shirin. As fellow teenagers stereotype her and are verbally and physically reactionary towards her hijab through stares and derogatory comments, she learns to fight back by ignoring them and focusing on her love for music and break-dancing. Her family believes in minding their own business and play down her issues because they have gone through much more under their own regimes in Iran. Her relationship with her older brother is strong. She has been pivotal in aiding him in his studies as he suffers from dyslexia and studies have always been a challenge for him even though he suffers from none of the stereotypes his sister does. He is physically attractive and popular with girls and bears no outward signs of being a Muslim. Shirin lowers her guard once she meets Ocean James. He comes through as a person who genuinely seems to want to get to know her, looking beyond her wearing the hijab. As their relationship evolves the reader comes to know Shirin’s culture and her struggles. Even though we don’t observe displacement in the typical sense of the word in this story, Shirin’s displacement points towards her existence in the U.S. after 9/11.

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MTYT: The Bridge Home

DecorativeBy 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.

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MTYT: A Girl Called Genghis Khan

by Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, and Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Abilities and disabilities go hand in hand and their representations in children’s picturebooks know no bounds, especially in recent publications. Success stories depicted in picturebooks provides inspiration for readers of all ages. For the month of January 2020, Seemi and Celeste provide their takes on the power of strengths and abilities especially those of little-known athletes of local and global origins. This week, they look at A Girl Called Genghis Khan: How Maria Toorpakai Wazir pretended to be a Boy, Defied the Taliban, and became a World-Famous Squash Player, written by Michelle Lord and illustrated by Shehzil Malik.

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MTYT: Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army

by Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, and Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

For the month of January 2020, Seemi and Celeste continue providing their takes on books centered on the power of strengths and abilities, especially those of little-known athletes of local and global origins. This week, they discuss Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army, written by Art Coulson and illustrated by Nick Hardcastle.

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MTYT: Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery

by Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, and Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

This month we look at representation around abilities and disabilities in children’s picturebooks. Last week we discussed The Proudest Blue. This week, we take on Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery.

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MTYT: The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family

Text reads January 2020  Abilities and Disabilities and their Significance in Picturebooks by Seemi Aziz and Celeste Trimble

by Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, and Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Abilities and disabilities go hand in hand and their representations in children’s picturebooks know no bounds, especially in recent publications. In the instance of strengths and abilities; one observes multiple representations of tennis players in recent brilliant picturebooks such as Game Changers: The story of Venus and Serena Williams by the Ransomes, Sisters by Jeanette Winter, Serena: The Littlest Sister by Karlin Gray and Monica Ahanonu. Recently Simone Biles made history when she became the gymnast with the most World medals and most World gold medals of any gender, as well as the female gymnast with the most World all-around titles. This alone may assure Biles presence in future books. Reading about success stories through picturebooks provide inspiration for children of all ages. For the month of January 2020, we will take on the power of strengths and abilities especially those of little-known athletes of local and global origins.

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MTYT: The Bone Sparrow

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Subhi, who is nine, is a member of the Muslim Rohingya people of Burma and lives in an off-shore Australian detention camp. He was born there, unlike his sister Queenie. All he has known is the life in the detention camp. Barbed-wire fences and the brutality of the guards who oversee every moment of the campsite define his entire lived experience. His dreams at night and his ruthless reality during the day intersect in a never-ending labyrinth. The appalling food and living quarters, the enclosed spaces and the forever-watchful guards are what he knows as life. His family consists of his mother, sister and Eli (a boy who takes him under his wing, protects him from bullies and provides better quality food for him and his family). He meets a young girl who lives on the outskirts of the camp, and who has lost her mother recently. She is a prisoner of her own reality. Together both characters make sense of their lives.

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MTYT: Amal Unbound

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

In Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, Amal is an outspoken Pakistani teen who is confident in who she is. She lives in a small village in Punjab (the largest province in Pakistan comprising 62% of Pakistan) and is educated there. She wants to be a teacher and loves reading. She lives there with her father, mother and many younger sisters. Her mother is pregnant again and afraid that she will bear another girl. Amal happens to come in front of the car of the son of village elder and powerful local landlord, Jawad. She confronts the rude person and as a result the landlord calls in Amal’s family debts. Amal ends up in the landlord’s home as a payback. She befriends other servants as well as Jawad’s mother. She has it easy as she is only person serving the mother and not doing any menial labor. In her time there, she discovers criminal actions by the landlord and reports it. She ends up connecting with Asif (a U.S. educated teacher) in the village’s literacy center, funded, ironically, by the Khan family. This is where she learns that the significant family she works for is not invincible. Indentured servitude, class, gender and literacy are some of the themes this novel explores.

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