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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

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2021 Trends in Global Literature for Children and Adolescents

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

Boy wearing headphones looks out a window at European-style houses that cast a shadow of Middle Eastern buildings on the wall behind him..This month, WOW Currents highlights the trends in global books published in the U.S. between Summer 2020 and 2021. The list was created by exploring new books and reading reviews to create an update of the K-12 global reading lists, fiction and nonfiction, to post on the Worlds of Words Center website. This update also provides an opportunity to identify trends and patterns across this annual collection of global books. This post overviews these trends and the weekly blogs over the month of September will examine one trend in more depth with examples of books. Continue reading

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Taking Action to Solve a STEM-related Problem

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

As a teacher, professor, parent and grandparent, I want children, teens and adults to develop a sense of agency–the belief that they can take actions that will impact their world. So this week we are going to look at global stories of people taking action to solve a STEM-related problem. Continue reading