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Re-Introducing 2018 WOW Recommends

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati

Each year, members of the Worlds of Words community recommend monthly books for readers to consider through the WoW Recommends feature. The main criteria is that the book must have a publish date within the last two years. Taking a look back at the 2018 list, I was interested in finding out what had been recommended so that I might read these books and think about how they may or may not resonate with me. I was also curious about what themes were discussed so that I might share my own thoughts about these texts.
WOW Recommends: Book of the Month Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: I Really Want to See You, Grandma

I Really Want to See You, Grandma coverJapanese author and illustrator, Taro Gomi, first published I Really Want to See You, Grandma in Japan in 1979. Finally, it has been published for the first time in English so preschool children can enjoy the simple story and the humorous illustrations. The beginning words and illustration set up the story: “Yumi’s house is on a hill. It has a pink roof. Grandma’s house is on a mountain. It has an orange roof.” Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Drawn Together

Drawn Together coverIn Drawn Together, written by Min Lê with illustrations by Dan Santat, a young boy is dropped off to visit his grandpa. The boy looks reluctant. The Grandpa greets him with joy. The Grandpa speaks Thai, the boy, English. The Grandpa prepares an Asian dish for himself and a hot dog for his grandson. They try to communicate but are unable to cross their language divide. That awkward silence is broken when the boy brings out his drawing pen and his markers. The Grandpa is inspired to bring out his own art supplies, a sketch book, ink and pen. Together they create a new story. The boy says, “Right when I gave up on talking, my grandfather surprised me by revealing a world beyond words. And in a FLASH–we see each other for the first time. All the things we could never say come pouring out.” Through their collaboration in drawing scenes together they build “a new world that even words can’t describe.” Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: A Big Mooncake for Little Star

A Big Mooncake for Little StarA Big Mooncake for Little Star, by Grace Lin, will become a classic read aloud to children for generations to come. The endpapers show Little Star and her mama making a Big Mooncake. When it is baked, Little Star’s mama lays it in the night sky to cool. Little Star’s Mama says “your Mooncake took us a long time to bake, so let’s see if you can make it last awhile. Can you remember not to touch this Big Mooncake until I tell you to?” Little Star replies, “Yes, Mama.” “But in the middle of the night, Little Star woke. She forgot what her mama had said and only remembered the Big Mooncake.” So her little feet went “Pat, pat, pat.” across the sky to take a tiny nibble of the brilliant yellow Mooncake. Over the next nights she takes nibbles out of the Mooncake until it is a narrow crescent. A two page spread shows twelve phases of the shrinking moon with Little Star taking a nibble out of each one until it is a crescent. One night Little Star’s mama goes to look for the Big Mooncake and finds it is gone. Mama asks Little Star, “You ate the Big Mooncake again, didn’t you.” “Yes, Mama,” says Little Star. “Now let’s go make another one.” On the final endpapers, the story ends as it began with Little Star and her mama making a new Mooncake to place in the sky. It is a circle story. The story started with the making of the Big Mooncake and finishes with a new cake being made. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: The Stars at Oktober Bend

The Stars at Oktober BendImbued with lyrical and poignant language, readers of The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard are invited into 15-year-old Alice Nightingale’s wonder and promise-filled world even as she remains on the margins. Alice attempts to manage a broken life and family after being attacked, leaving her with brain damage that may result in her being “twelveness” for the rest of her life. But Alice is resourceful and starts to grow away from her twelveness by relearning language through writing poetry in her Book of Flying, by connecting with Emmanuel (Manny) James, who also has been damaged by the world, and by remaining true to never forsaking her younger brother Joey and “Grandma Glorious.” Alice’s father is dead, and her mother left the country to pursue her career. Grandfather Papa is in prison for killing the men who attacked Alice, leaving the family of three living outside of their Australian town, hidden away from most of the world. Alice is artistic and fills her days with making fishing lures and writing while Joey goes to school bringing books and information for Alice to learn. Because she is often overwhelmed by typical human interactions, Alice cannot attend school and thus spends much of her time alone–until she sees and is seen by Manny. Readers venture with Alice as she grows into her adolescence, hoping for love and connection outside of the family. And as Alice’s world becomes more and more precarious, readers will fall in love with Alice and Manny as they share their pain and love with each other in hopes of overcoming. -Recommended by Holly Johnson. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and BoneLet’s talk about Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, a YA fantasy that opens with a lynching and ends with an author’s note urging readers to rise. In between is nothing but action, emotional turmoil and rarely a chance to breathe. Emphasizing this occurrence, Adeyemi repeatedly echoes Eric Garner’s words, “I can’t breathe.” Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Mommy’s Khimar

Mommy's KhimarThe sparkling picture book, Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow with illustrations by Ebony Glenn, is a delightful, warm story about an African-American, Muslim family. The girl who tells the story celebrates her love for her mother and the khimar that her mother wears. On the first page she tells us, “A khimar is a flowing scarf that my mommy wears. Before she walks out the door each day, she wraps one around her head.” The girl loves to play dress-up or pretend games wearing her mother’s yellow khimar. She becomes a queen with a golden train, a shooting star, a mama bird or a super hero in a cape, “dashing from room to room at the speed of light. Daddy snatches me up and I fly. Mommy can’t stop laughing when his bristly beard tickles my cheek with a kiss.” Sometimes Mom-Mom (her grandmother) visits after her Sunday service when the girl wears the khimar, Mom-Mom “sings out ‘Sweet Jesus’ and calls me Sunshine. Mom-Mom doesn’t wear a khimar. She doesn’t go to the mosque like Mommy and Daddy do. We are a family and we love each other just the same.” Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix

Chef Roy ChoiIn this spicy picturebook biography, Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix, authors Jacqueline Biggs Martin and June Jo Lee and illustrator Man One celebrate immigrants and offer a love letter to the remix of cultures through food in Los Angeles. The first lines offer a promise of the zesty text to come. “Chef Roy Choi can chop an onion in an instant, carve a mouse out of a mushroom. He’s cooked in fancy restaurants, for rock stars and royalty. But he’d rather cook on a truck.” Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Escape from Aleppo

Escape from Aleppo by N.H. SenzaiEscape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai serves as a primer on the horrible war that has raged in Syria for 7 years. The novel seems right out of the headlines, but also gives the reader a background of the history of Syria and why its people cherish their country. The story is about 14-year-old Nadia who is separated from her family after their home and neighborhood is bombed. She knows that her family is trying to escape to Turkey, but she is not certain how to get there through the destroyed city. The family leaves messages that help her. Senzai fleshes out the story with flashbacks that fills in Nadia’s background and experiences. I marvel at the characterizations, especially the elderly, mysterious man, Ammo Mazen, who takes on the responsibility of guiding Nadia to find her family. Ammo makes stops as they travel through the city that are intriguing. In one place, he and Nadia encounter people trying to save and preserve artifacts from the city’s libraries and museums. Nadia’s character is also well-drawn. Her growing grit and courage make the reader root for her. In spite of the difficulties Nadia suffers, she helps other–even protecting and taking along on the journey an orphaned 8-year-old boy she finds abandoned. Continue reading

WOW Recommends: Book of the Month

WOW Recommends: Mary’s Monster

Mary's Monster by Lita JudgeWriting in free verse and illustrating in stark black-and-white watercolors for Mary’s Monster, Lita Judge tells the story of Mary Shelley, the pregnant teen runaway who authored the first Gothic horror story, Frankenstein. Lord Byron’s challenge to write a horror story may be the often-cited reason Shelley wrote her book, but Mary’s Monster demonstrates the way the author drew on elements of her own difficult life to create the story of an experiment gone awry. Judge tells the story through Mary’s voice. Her sparse verse weaves the story of Mary’s own rejection with her creation of a monster rejected by society. Continue reading