Worlds of Words: Center of Global Literacies and Literature typically hosts two major exhibitions in our studio space each year and several additional smaller exhibits in our special collections room. The displays are a combination of WOW’s holdings and art/materials on loan. Each includes hands-on invitations designed to help patrons of all ages engage more deeply in story. Take some time to explore some of our past shows, share your thoughts, and let us know what you’d like to see.

Arizona Is a Story

Two people compare a book illustration to the final printed book

Rylan Pugliese (UArizona East Asian Studies graduate student) confers with Aika Adamson (WOW Staff) about the book, Confetti Poems.

The rich and diverse stories of Arizona are on display in an original new exhibit of art, maps and books that showcase the history and perspectives of the state, highlighting this beautiful and complex place. For a limited time, the public can visit “Arizona Is a Story” at the Worlds of Words Center of Global Literacies and Literatures (WOW Center) in the UArizona College of Education.

The Whole World on One Page: International Wimmelbooks

44 vibrant illustrations on the walls of a studio with books and activities set out in the center.

Using very few words or even none at all, wimmelbooks tell stories about the “whole world” and encourage readers to explore and invent their own tales. This traveling exhibit on loan from the International Youth Library (IYL) in Munich, Germany showcases books from around the world from the past 20 years that are often based on actual places. The exhibit is organized in four sections: World Views, Fish and Ships, Pleasure! and City and Beyond. These books invite readers to take a closer look, to marvel and to participate.

Worlds of Words Center Presents – Paper Son: Lee’s Journey to America

room with oil paintings on the wall and books and educational supplies on the cabinet

Wilson Ong’s last name was Wong until the fourth grade when his father revealed he used a false name to immigrate to the U.S. as a “paper son.” His father’s story isn’t that different from Lee’s story in the picturebook illustrated by Wilson, Paper Son: Lee’s Journey to America. Each of Wilson’s original oil illustrations for this book were purchased by Mary J. Wong, also the child of a paper son, and donated to the Worlds of Words Center where they are on exhibit Fall 2022.

Children Draw Themselves: Self-portraits from All over the World In Times of Covid

This self portrait has four sections depicting community attempts to spray public areas, family life, activities no longer allowed, and wildlife. A covid molecule menaces all the scenes from the upper left corner.

Self-portrait of Udhara, 13, from Sri Lanka.

As COVID-19 began its spread around the world, the International Youth Library (IYL) in Munich, Germany, invited children to portray themselves during this unusual time. The response was overwhelming. Over 800 self-portraits from 42 countries and every continent arrived at the IYL. Children aged 3 to 18 depict themselves grey and frightened or colorful and lively, sometimes with a face mask and sometimes without–mostly with big, alert eyes. A curated portion of these self-portraits make up the exhibit Children Draw Themselves: Self-Portraits from All Over the World In Times of Covid, which was on display Spring 2022.

Around the World in 70 Maps: Three Centuries of Cartographic Treasures from Childrens Literature

Young teens reading and discussing the books and posters on display.

Students from Paulo Freire Freedom School explore the exhibit, Around the World in 70 Maps.

The International Youth Library in Munich, Germany created this exhibit around the idea that maps represent how people imagine the world to be, how we perceive it and order it and how we orient ourselves in it. Maps have long played an important role in literature for young people. “Maps help readers visualize and track the plot of the story world in a book. Maps also support readers in going beyond the borders of the page in that story world to inspire new stories and worlds,” says Kathy Short, director of WOW. This exhibit was on display Fall 2021.

Critique to Support and Stretch: A Conversation between Juana Martinez-Neal and Molly Idle

Eva Halvax compares a panel from Alma with the original illustration in the WOW Studio.

Eva Halvax studies illustrations that Juana Martinez-Neal and Molly Idle say are most representative of their artistic voice. Photo credit: Ileana Roman

“Many people connect response and revision to the writing process. This exhibit provides a demonstration of how response and revision occur within the illustration process and of the ways in which illustrators can work together in a generative partnership. The visual conversation in this exhibition is engaging and insightful,” says Kathy Short, Professor of Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies and Director of WOW. This exhibit was on display 2020-2021.

Visual Narratives: Connecting Across Languages and Cultures

Teens post word bubbles on copies of interior illustrations from the book, The Arrival

Two Tucson teens imagine what the characters in Shaun Tan’s “The Arrival” may think or say in one of the exhibit invitations. Photo by Annika Hanson.

WOW shared “Visual Narratives: Connecting Across Languages and Cultures, an exhibit of global picturebooks that tell stories primarily through visual images. The exhibit is inspired by the “Silent Books, from the World to Lampedusa and Back,” a traveling exhibit of global books from the International Board on Books for Young People. This exhibit was on display Fall 2019.

Creating Hope through Resilience: The Picturebook Art of Ronald Himler
Ronald Himler Elastic Band
The art of award-winning picturebook illustrator Ronald Himler captures how the resilience of children creates hope for the future. Worlds of Words’ exhibit, “Creating Hope through Resilience: The Picturebook Art of Ronald Himler” displays original illustrations from his books that lay bare the struggles children face when they grow up near conflict zones. Himler’s artistry features striking watercolors depicting children in global contexts coping with challenging experiences in their lives. This exhibit was on display Spring 2019.

Create. Play. Learn.
Create Play Learn Courtney Gallant
“This exhibit is a lighthearted exploration into the meaning Create. Play. Learn. has within children’s literature,” says Kathy Short, Professor of Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies and Director of WOW. “It encapsulates the experience of childhood, how children are always creating, playing and learning to bring meaning and significance into their lives.” This exhibit was on display Fall 2018.

Stitching Stories: Hmong Customs and Symbols as Told through Storycloths
Stitching Stories
This exhibit featured traditional Hmong storycloths from WOW’s Mary J. Wong collection along with children’s books and hands-on activities for all ages. “Stitching Stories: Hmong Customs and Symbols as Told through Storycloths” highlighted the oral and textile storytelling traditions of the Hmong people. Examples of storytelling through textiles from Vietnam, Panama, Peru and Turkey were also on display Spring 2018 and Summer 2022.

Hello, Dear Enemy!

Hello, Dear Enemy!

Photo by Jen Ryder

The news is bleak. Even in homes where comfort and security are the rule, the media confronts children and adults with images of war, animosity and displacement. Some are directly affected while others have many questions, and all seek answers. The traveling exhibit, Hello, Dear Enemy!, does not provide answers, but it does provide a path to conversation. Worlds of Words was the first stop for this powerful collection from the International Youth Library in Munich, Germany. This exhibit was on display Fall 2017.

Inspiration to Celebration: Publishing Journeys

Joan Sandin

The idea for Coyote School News came through Joan’s friend, María Amado, whose family had an Arizona town named after them. Joan and Maria are about 15 years old in this photo and did not have driver’s licenses. Fortunately, this automobile had no motor!

This exhibit featured the publishing journey of Coyote School News by Joan Sandin, an award-winning author, illustrator and translator. Sandin’s original artwork for Coyote School News hangs in the WOW Studio, and the Mary J. Wong Collection showcases her journey of publishing the book. Newspaper covers from two publications that feature the voices of young reporters, the Little Cowpuncher and Bear Essential News, also hang in the exhibit in the WOW Hall Gallery. This exhibit was on display Spring 2017.

Code Making and Perspective Taking

Rhiannon Scavone, Grade 11

With the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, The University of Arizona community reflected upon and honors the tragic loss of sailors and marines killed aboard the USS Arizona. In keeping with this remembrance, Worlds of Words created a must-see WWII exhibit, Code Making and Perspective Taking, that focused on the Arizona experience with the war. This exhibit included art from students at Van Buskirk Elementary and Tucson High Magnet School inspired by the books and art on display. This exhibit was on display Fall 2016.