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Government Practices & Policies, and the Dangers to Individuals

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH


The four novels this week address issues of government practices and policies and how those initiatives impact human beings. The Firekeeper’s Daughter, Your Heart, My Sky, The Beatryce Prophecy, and Unsettled as a text set are a blend of historical realities, fable/fairytale, as well as legends and cultural traditions. The power of these novels is the ability of the authors to create realistic contexts that are often too familiar while highlighting individuals and their responses to that political context. Each of these narratives invite questions about government programming and the gaps within the lived reality as well as the historical documentation of that programming provides entrée into the study of history itself. Who and what is fore fronted? Who or what is silenced or rendered invisible? How can history be re-envisioned, and in what ways can more of the “story” of history be brought into view? How can students of history look beneath the official narrative and, perhaps, bring about change? How do people actually live within the history given? How does one make a life in dangerous times? Continue reading

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A Review of Recommended Books for 2021

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Throughout the year, a member of the Worlds of Words community recommends a book for others to enjoy. In 2021, we highlighted 12 books, and I thought it would be great to see them all together to get a sense of how 2021 unfolded. There are six middle/secondary school novels, one graphic novel and five picturebooks worthy of a second look. Here are the books we recommended:

JANUARY
Cover art for Cane Warriors features a blue and black photograph of a young Black boy with an ink drawing of Tacky's Rebellion in the background.
Cane Warriors (2020) by Alex Wheatle. Set in 1760 Jamaica, Moa is an enslaved 14-year-old boy who works the sugar cane fields. While his family is also on the plantation, he rarely sees them, but does affiliate with a small group of others to consider escaping over the celebration of the Easter holiday. Moa is frightened, but believes in the cause of freedom, and thus is resolved to join the others in either escape or a fight for freedom. This narrative chronicles Tacky’s Rebellion, an actual historical event, and one seldom studied in schools or written about for younger readers. While written in common usage English, the dialogue is Jamaican patois, giving it an authentic richness. A narrative that is both insightful and uplifting, Cane Warrior is a critical addition to Caribbean literature.

Alex Wheatle is a finalist for the 2021 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature and Cane Warriors was Shortlisted for the 2020 Caribbean Readers’ Awards. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Your Heart, My Sky

Book jacket depicts a young girl and boy with their heads together under a garden canopy of produce.
Liana, age 14, introduces life in Cuba during the summer of 1991 and el período especial en tiempos de paz, which seems to Liana to be a governmental euphemism for hunger. Risking punishment, she’s chosen not to attend mandatory “volunteer” farm labor. Amado, age 15, likewise stays home. Both spend their days wandering to avoid camp and find food. The Singing Dog, age unknown, brings Liana and Amado together to help them discover sources to quench their hunger, to alleviate their isolation and to pursue a peace. Continue reading