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Picturebooks: The Wisdom Found in Ages

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

The last week of December, and of 2021, is a great time to think about wisdom, and what we can learn not only from the past year, and from those who have lived many years. Four picturebooks highlighted during the last 12 months include the wisdom of the ages—three grandparents and one country leader. I Dream of Popo is the story of a young girl who misses her grandmother when her family moves to the United States from Taiwan. The young protagonist remembers what her grandmother means to her, and what she learned from her grandmother. And while they are able to use technology to “visit” one another, there is still the longing to be with, and to continue to learn from, this very special person. Readers can relate to the wisdom of their own grandparents or older family relatives. There are their family stories to be heard, memories to hold, and love to take with them as they venture out seeking further knowledge and perhaps, wisdom as they grow. Continue reading

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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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Historical Conflicts and the Toll on People and Other Living Things

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

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.

Four of the books from WoW Recommends 2021 address the toll of historical conflict: Cane Warriors, Brother’s Keeper, Cat Man of Aleppo, and They Called Us Enemy. All offer spaces of contemplation and discovery, discussion and decision-making. All are great reads. 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

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Activities with Audiobook Incorporating Print Books

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

Blended cover
A few years ago, Yoo Kyung and I (Junko) worked with Mr. Wilson’s 8th graders in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), Tucson, AZ. We shared with them Blended (2018) by Sharon M. Draper through its audiobook and printed text. Blended is a contemporary realistic fiction story of Isabella, a biracial 11-year-old girl, with a Black father and White mother. Isabella’s parents are divorcing and having a new family. One week is Dad’s Week, where she spends her week at her dad’s place with his girlfriend and her son in a fancy big house. Alternatively she spends her week at her mom’s (Mom’s Week) with her mom and her boyfriend in a small, not fancy house. Switching houses, nicknames (i.e. mom calls her Izzy and dad calls her Isabella), and school backpacks every week make Isabella feel stuck between the two lives and ripped in two. At school and in public spaces, she faces racial violence, discrimination, and police-involved shooting. Going through all of these, Isabella begins to think of who she is and how her identity, parents’ divorce, and racism impacts her life and relationships with families and schoolmates. (Watch the Blended book trailer here.) Continue reading

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Digging Deeper into Migration Stories through MultiModal Text Sets

By Carol Brochin, Leah Durán, and Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona

This past summer, faculty in the College of Education at the University of Arizona virtually hosted a seminar for K-12 teachers sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Drawing teachers from across the U.S., we looked at the histories and movements of people in what is now Arizona and considered ways to invite students of all ages into our inquiries. Our institute, We the People: Migrant Waves in the Making of America, challenged the perception that migration is a recent negative phenomenon. This two-week virtual institute explored the continuous waves of migration in the U.S. through a case study of Arizona, the last continental state added to the union. We were particularly concerned with the stories often left out of traditional narratives of U.S. history, which are traditionally rooted in the thirteen colonies and so erase the experiences of Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other communities of color. Through interactions with narratives, authors, scholars and museums, our goal was for educators to gain knowledge and strategies to support their teaching by using inquiry strategies from the case study to research migrant waves in their own states.

NEH logo includes US seal with eagle, olive branch and arrows Continue reading

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Exploring Ebook Types For Teaching Resources

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


Today, there is a growing number of quality and newly published children’s and young adult literature available in audiobook and ebook formats through various online educational platforms such as Epic, Storyline Online, and PBS KIDS. Also, many stories are read aloud by educators and book authors and uploaded to YouTube. Jacqueline Woodson reads aloud her book The Day You Begin, Minh Le reads aloud his book Drawn Together, and Kevin Henkes reads aloud Kitten’s First Full Moon. Continue reading

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Talking about Audiobook, Videobook, and more: New Changes the Pandemic Brought

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


Until the pandemic occurred, my (Yoo Kyung) workout routines barely left indoor facilities. I ran on a treadmill, sweated at a hot yoga studio, and moaned at a pilates studio while something was stretching. Then the pandemic circumstance closed many indoor workout facilities. I needed alternatives so I began running and walking in my neighborhood instead of a treadmill. Thinking back, my audiobook history began with the pandemic just like that. Listening to audiobooks shortened my to-read-stacks while I added my running mileages. When I was listening to David Yoon’s Frankly In Love, I completed a lot of house chores because I kept listening as we often say, “I couldn’t put it [book] down”. It was the exact same feeling. When I needed to mark a passage, the audiobook app let me bookmark with and without my notes. What I appreciate most is that I could do other physical activities while I listen to it so I was able to accomplish multiple tasks that include finishing multiple books. Continue reading

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2021 Global Literature Trends: Books about Activism and Conservation

by Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Coer of Rise Up! The Art of Protest depicting a black fist holding a blue paintrbush and an orange paintbrush in front of a red background.
In a time of political division and global uncertainty, despair can be offset by hope through taking action to make a change; a perspective found in global books on activism and conservation. Instead of ignoring global issues or waiting for adults to take action, these books portray the commitment and actions of young people who act to make a difference. These themes go across nonfiction and fiction as well as across ages, providing young people with examples of real people who work for change and with story worlds in which characters act for a cause that matters to them. Continue reading

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2021 Global Literature: Refugee and Immigrant Experiences in Children’s and YA Literature

by Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

The cover of In Search of Safety, depicting a black woman staring contemplatively to the right while sitting in a brown room.
The experiences of refugees dominate the national news, most recently images of Central American asylum seekers at the Mexico/U.S. border and refugees from Afghanistan trying to board planes and attempting border crossings into Pakistan. These experiences also dominate children’s and young adult books, especially in the last ten years with many books about Syrian refugees and refugees from Mexico and Central America. The experiences of immigrant families and children are also increasingly depicted in literature, but instead of focusing on trauma, these books focus on children who navigate multiple cultural identities and locations. Continue reading