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MTYT: Story Boat

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH and Jean Schroeder, The IDEA School, Tucson, AZ

Picking up from our discussion of Other Words for Home last week, we will be discussing another book that questions the concept of home. This week’s read, Story Boat by Kyo Maclear and Rashin Kheiriyeh, is sure to take us on a memorable journey.

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MTYT: Fred Stays with Me!

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH and Jean Schroeder, The IDEA School, Tucson, AZ

Last week, we discussed how The Bridge Home has a promise of hope in our thinking about the concept of home. Home as something other than a physical location, but rather something more elusive like hope, provides new possibilities and perspectives on home. This week, we take a look at Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt and Tricia Tusa to see what new understandings are possible.

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MTYT: The Bridge Home

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By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH and Jean Schroeder, The IDEA School, Tucson, AZ

When asked about the concept of home, many of us might conjure up visions of family together at a dinner-table or of vacation. We often think of a physical location, like a house, a street, a neighborhood or a city. But is that home? Or is home something more elusive, maybe harder to grasp or explain, especially if our idea of home is not of a house, or yard or neighborhood? This month, we look at books that address the concept of home and how that concept might be different from the typical or stereotypical. In The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman, we start with a group of orphans living under a bridge in Chennai, India, and then move to a young girl who understands home is where her dog is. We then discuss a longer migration that involves moving from Syria to the U.S. and end with the concept of home perhaps being an object of hope we can hold in our hands, keep in our hearts or imagine with our minds.

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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: It Began with a Page

By Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

We’ve reached the end of our posts celebrating artists of both the visual and written word who inspire us and sustain us. Their works remind us of the beauty of the earth, the celebration of life itself and perhaps, most importantly, the possibilities we all contain to sustain each other through times of challenge. We started with a new picturebook about Emily Dickinson, moved on to discuss a book by Ashley Bryant and then a biography of Pura Belpré. This week we consider Gyo Fujikawa in It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way.

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MTYT: Planting Stories

By Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, and Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

As we continue to celebrate artists of the visual and written word who inspire us and sustain us, this week we focus on the book Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré. This work also reminds us of the beauty of the earth, the celebration of life itself and perhaps, most importantly, the possibilities we all contain to sustain each other through times of challenge.

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