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A Long Time Coming: Representations of Male Queerness in Children’s Literature

Donna Bulatowicz, Montana State University, Billings, MT, and Desiree Cueto, Western Washington University, WA, with Gavin McCormick

This series of WOW Currents, “A Long Time Coming,” centers on the progress made toward diversifying children’s literature and on the need to further this effort. In this final segment, we look at the evolution of LGBTQ+ books. The importance of authentic depictions in these books cannot be overemphasized, as Ellen Oh wrote on her blog, “Because queer kids are still killing themselves over being different (or being told that they’re different) and the greater representation they have in books, the less alone they’ll feel.” Continue reading

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A Long Time Coming: Representations of Muslim Characters in Children’s Literature

By Donna Bulatowicz, Montana State University Billings, MT, and Desiree Cueto, Western Washington University, WA with Alicen Anijo

Cover of One Green Apple depicting a yong girl in a light colored hijab holding an apple with an apple orchard in the background, where other children pick apples.Even though roughly 1% of U.S. adults identify as Muslim (Pew Research Center 2020), few books published in the United States authentically portray this community. This leads to challenges in finding books for Muslim children that represent their religious identity. It also poses a problem for non-Muslim children who need to see religious diversity represented in literature. Books are one way to mitigate prejudice; thus, the importance of a multitude of authentic portrayals of Muslim main characters in books can make a difference. Continue reading

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A Long Time Coming: Fictional Depictions of Autism Spectrum Disorder

By Donna Bulatowicz, Montana State University Billings, MT, and Desiree W. Cueto, Western Washington University, WA with with Megan Robinson

Cover of A Friend For Henry depicting a young boy with black hair playing with colored blocksIn 1965, Nancy Larrick wrote “The All-White World of Children’s Books,” which called publishers to task for limited, almost non-existent representations of diverse characters. Fast-forward nearly 50 years and the same sentiment is conveyed through the hashtag, turned movement, turned non-profit, We Need Diverse Books. According to its website, We Need Diverse Books serves as a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers who advocate for essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people. The ongoing work of readers, reviewers, authors and publishing houses connected to the movement has changed the industry in significant ways. However, there is still a long way to go before inclusivity is the industry standard. This WOW Currents post highlights newer titles that move the work forward by reflecting the lives of marginalized groups with depth and complexity. We also consider how some representations in children’s books have remained stagnant and limited to heroic or stereotypical representations. In each segment, we feature the perspectives of cultural insiders: Megan Robinson, Alicen Anijo, Gavin McCormick and Ana Casillas-Sanchez, who enrolled in Desiree Cueto’s Culturally Relevant Materials for Diverse Learners course at Western Washington University. Drawing on their inquiries, we examine representations of Autism Spectrum Disorder, LGBTQAI+, Islam/Muslim Religion and Depression. Continue reading

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All Listening Together: Biographical Picturebooks About Global Musicians

Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Last Sunday, I attended my first virtual dance party put on by D-Nice on Instagram Live, dubbed Club Quarantine. I’ve seen conflicting reports that there were 50,000 to 150,000 virtual attendees from all over the globe all listening to music and dancing alone together. It was a true stress relief, as music can often be. It also reminded me that music is often a social act. Most of us grow up with some music, and many of us grow up surrounded by music. Music is one way that our identities get formed–through identifying with others who share the same musical interests or culture. Our families raise us with their own musical interests, but we explore on our own, forming our own musical identities. In this post, I will explore picturebook biographies about global musicians that relate to my own musical upbringing and identities. Continue reading

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Resources Around Epidemics and Pandemics

Cholera warning posters by seventh gradersMany readers are looking for virtual escape as movement is restricted due to the spread of COVID-19. Schools nation-wide are closed, but they will soon open either on line or face-to-face and teachers will be keen to help young people make sense of current events. The Executive Board of Worlds of Words came together to determine how we might assist in the effort to find quality literature for young people around epidemics and pandemics.

This post includes a booklist of recently published fiction and non-fiction books as well as links to previously published WOW Currents posts with this focus. We’d love to hear from you too! Provide your comments and recommendations of books and other resources below. Continue reading

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Literary Arts Biographies for Young Readers and Writers

Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Cover of Sounds and Silences, depicting two trees, one drawn realistically and one drawn abstractly.When I was fourteen, I loved poetry. I always loved it, having grown up on a steady diet of recited nursery rhymes and children’s poetry like A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. But something happened in junior high school: The anthology, Sounds and Silences: Poetry for Now, edited by Richard Peck. I loved that it included song lyrics by Woody Guthrie, Leonard Cohen and The Beatles–verses I recognized. What I really loved about this book was that it was my introduction to writers who shaped and continue to shape how I think about the world, my life and the lives around me. “The Rebel” by Mari E. Evans was practically an anthem for the duration of my adolescence. Langston Hughes, e e cummings, Dylan Thomas, this book was my introduction to modern poetry. But, most importantly, it was my introduction to Gwendolyn Brooks. Continue reading

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Dancing On The Shelves: Biographical Picturebooks About Dancers

Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Cover of Swan depicting a young girl with black hair in a pink dress dancing with one arm above her head and the other extended to the side, where wings appear, on a black background.There are countless forms of dance around the world. Ceremonial dance, liturgical dance, social dance, performance dance, and all the countless variations within. For this look at biographical picturebooks of dancers, I look specifically at dancers who have practiced ballet, and some who have moved through ballet to other forms. Continue reading

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Theater Arts Biographies for Young Readers

Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Cover of The Legendary Miss Lena Horne depicting a black woman in a black dress in front of a red background.This month, Wow Currents will focus on artist’s biographies in children’s literature. There has been a significant increase in biographical picturebooks throughout the last decade, and trends have shown that biographies of women have been particularly sought out by publishers. Initially, I wanted to focus solely on biographical picturebooks, however there are a few biographies that I want to highlight that don’t fall into that category, including longer form biographies, graphic narratives, and verse biographies. Continue reading

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Language Hierarchies in Picturebooks

By Nicola Daly, The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, New Zealand

A sign reading No matter where you're from, we're glad you're our neighbor in Spanish, English and Arabic on a green, blue and orange background As I mentioned in in my first post for WOW Currents, I am interested in bilingual and multilingual picturebooks and how they arrange the different language texts on the page. To frame my research in this area, I use a sociolinguistic lens called Linguistic Landscape. This approach is more commonly used to examine how languages are displayed in public spaces (for example a streetscape) on signage, and it is interpreted as a reflection of the status and vitality of languages and their associated communities. Which languages are on printed signs, and which are handwritten? When several languages are on one sign, which is larger, which is first? Continue reading

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Two of My Favorite Books: The Kuia and the Spider and The Bomb

By Nicola Daly, The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato, New Zealand

Cover of The Kuia and the Spider depicting an old woman sitting in a chair in a kitchen looking towards a spider in the upper right cornerIn this post I’d like to share two of my favorite New Zealand picturebooks. One is an absolute classic published back in 1981, The Kuia and the Spider/Te Kuia me te pungawerewere by Patricia Grace and Robyn Kahukiwa (Penguin), and the other, The Bomb/Te Pohū by Sarah Cotter and Josh Morgan (Huia, 2019) is the 2019 New Zealand Children and Young People’s Picturebook of the the year and overall book of the year. They span an era in New Zealand children’s publishing which has seen the increase of local authors being published, and an era during which there has been a Renaissance of the Māori culture and language. Continue reading