New Trends in Transnational Asian Children’s Books

By Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico,
and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District

A couple of weeks ago, I (Yoo Kyung) celebrated a student’s cross-departmental achievement. At the dinner in honor of this achievement, the strawberry ice cream prompted those at my table to share their “favorite” things. With my reputation as a teacher of children’s literature courses at a local university, my table-mates asked what my five favorite children’s books were. Then someone asked me, “Do you think children’s books in this country are getting better or worse?”

new trends in transnational Asian children's books, The Name Jar Choi, My Name Is Yoon Recorvits, Baseball Saved Us Mochizuki, The Bracelet Uchida Continue reading

Community Outreach Literacy Practices After the March 2011 Earthquake

By Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico,
and Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District

Toppan CSR Report_2012_P.9 copy

Last week we explored a range of Japanese picture books describing natural disasters. The books became significantly meaningful to children in Japan when the earthquake of 2011 occurred. Allowing time for thinking and talking about the earthquake through picture books developed even more meaning outside of school. Social outreach programs thru mobile libraries were essential for young readers as they, in part, ameliorated the effects of the earthquake for children who lost their schools and access to books. We’d like to explore the traveling library as a type of Japanese cultural artifact that will continue to be important in its future. Continue reading

Japanese National Trauma: Changing Trends in Japanese Picture Books Since the Tohoku Earthquake

by Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM & Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District, Tucson AZ


“March 11th, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake takes place in Tohoku area including Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi, 231 miles northeast of Tokyo at a depth of 15.2 miles. The earthquake causes a tsunami with 30-foot waves that damage several nuclear reactors in Fukushima. It is the fourth-largest earthquake on record (since 1900) and the largest to hit Japan… The confirmed death toll is 15,893 as of October 9 2015” (CNN Library, 2015).

The Japan Tohoku earthquake resulted in global environmental concerns despite the fact that earthquake originally appeared to be a limited “Japanese” event. Continue reading

Natural Disasters: What Should Children Learn?

by Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico & Junko Sakoi, Tucson Unified School District

hurricane-63005_1280This month we will discuss social meanings inherent in children’s literature, specifically addressing some recent global and national natural disasters that resulted in the heavy loss of human life as well as the destruction of homes.

Continue reading

Russia Was Always There!: Reading World History through Russia Connections

by Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

Language binds the past to the present. With the advent of high-tech, wireless devices that is even more evident as people interact in new and unique ways reflecting rapid evolution in language. New words are born every day while other words slip into obscurity. In many ways, everyday language becomes a “fashion” as it mirrors social changes, trends, and contemporary issues. Historically linked language became really evident to me some weeks ago when I was watching a Korean reality show. An actor in his late 40’s used the word “Soviet” in place of Russia. When hearing this, other participants teased him as a veteran of the Ice Age. Continue reading

Beyond the Nutcracker, Baba Yaga, and Ivan the Fool: Russian Children’s Books Mirror Ideology

by Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM


Russian children’s literature and culture are obscure subjects in the West. When they come up in a conversation, even the most Russia-savvy students shrug their shoulders and produce a genuinely puzzled look on their faces “ (Balina & Rudova, 2008, p.xv,)

Earlier I looked at two books, Breaking Stalin’s Nose and Arcady’s Goal, set in repressive Stalinist Russia. I then introduced The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia, an informational text describing the establishment of the Soviet Union. In doing so I developed a real curiosity about the development of children’s literature written in Russia. Continue reading

Not-So-Happily-After: Russia’s Last Imperial Family and Broadening the Landscape of Children’s Russian Literary Experiences

 by Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

RomanovsIn the story Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine (Whelan, 2014), the queen loves to swim. Her swimming is not without a dilemma: how does a queen swim and still maintain “propriety?” The more she thinks that she shouldn’t swim, the more she wants to swim. In the end, her husband solves the problem. Sharing this not so public side of Queen Victoria is what makes this a truly delightful book. In the illustrations, the queen isn’t depicted with glamorous looks or in elegant dress, despite the fact that she was one of the most powerful monarchs in Europe. Instead, she looks like any ordinary middle aged woman Continue reading

Historical Injustices Revisited: New Stories for Young Readers

 by Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

dependency-62283_640December has always been my month to contribute to WOW Currents. In many ways, it has become a special month for me since it is at the end of the year and offers me, like everyone else, an opportunity to reflect on the past twelve months. As we mentally “write our stories” at years end, our reflections often lead us to revise what some of these recurring and evolving “stories” might look like in the next year. We share and connect through these stories. They are an important medium that enriches the many facets of our lives.

As I surveyed new historically based titles, some of those “old” histories have taken on a new patina. Continue reading

Hearing Unheard Voices: New Mexico’s Children’s Literature

by Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico

NMLiteraturewLand of Enchantment! — official nickname of the state I live in: New Mexico. I recall being urged to acquire some kind of “Green Chile literacy” about the culture and history of New Mexico before even packing for Albuquerque. (Green Chile sauce was selected as the best “iconic” American food in 2013). So this week, my focus is on the unheard voices of significance in local literature that helps readers experience and even question cultural omissions and the consequent cultural marginality that results. More importantly, how do we assess how that marginalization in local literature affects readers who identify themselves in books about “my/our place.” Continue reading