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2020 Global Books: Fantasy Based in Many Cultural Traditions

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

Cover art for The Dark Fantastic includes a Black girl sitting on the edge of a tree village extending her hand to a fantastical bird.For many years, fantasy primarily originated in English-speaking countries and featured European traditions and White protagonists. The popularity of Harry Potter and the Hunger Games and the many books based in Greek and Roman mythology reflect this trend. In The Dark Fantastic, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (2019) argues that fantasy offers readers portals into real and imagined worlds but bars the doors for people of color or subjects them to marginalization and violence. Thomas sees this gap as both a lack of representation and a lack of imagination. Continue reading

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2020 Global Books: Picturebooks about Contemporary Experiences

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

Freedom Soup cover shows a Haitain grandmother in a head scarf dancing in kitchen with child in braids.A long-term issue in global literature is the lack of books showing contemporary experiences, leading to misconceptions that other cultures are set back in time in comparison to the U.S. The global novels for middle grade and young adult readers identified on the 2020 Global Reading Lists are primarily historical fiction or fantasy with the exception of refugee books, a continuation of that problematic trend. In contrast, picturebooks for younger readers include many contemporary depictions of everyday life in a range of global cultures, including Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan, Japan, China, Korea, India, Tibet, Iran, Syria and Indigenous Canada. Continue reading

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2020 Global Books: Refugee Experiences in Children’s and YA Literature

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

Story Boat cover shows two children and a cat sailing in a teacup with a flower for a mast and surrounded by animals and objects.Refugee experiences continue to dominate global children’s and YA literature in books published between June 2019 and 2020. As in previous years, many contain heart-wrenching stories of refugees experiencing displacement due to violence and war and their journeys of hardship and loss. A smaller number focus on life in refugee camps and detention centers, a sense of belonging in a new place, and home as two places in one’s heart. Continue reading

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2020 Trends in Global Literature for Children and Adolescents

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

This month, WOW Currents highlights the trends in global books published in the U.S. between Summer 2019 and 2020. Each summer, I work on an update for the K-12 global reading lists, fiction and nonfiction, to post on the Worlds of Words website. Exploring possible book titles, reading reviews and analyzing themes provides insights into patterns across this annual collection of global books. This post overviews these trends and the subsequent weekly posts each examine one trend in more depth with examples of books. Continue reading

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Children’s Literature and Strong Emotions During Civil Unrest

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

Cover of Daniel and Ismail with the title in English, Hebrew, and Arabic on a orange background with two young boys kicking a soccer ball below the title.Multiple cities in the U.S. have been racked by civil unrest, whether the protesters are frustrated with racial inequalities, face mask policy or simply tired of the limitations of living in a pandemic. Children cannot miss hearing the strong emotions that are projected in the media or felt by adults as they eavesdrop on conversations. The resulting need is to help them think about these big events and the strong emotions that ensue.

While the previous three blog posts have been about just that–helping children think about strong emotions–this week I focus on the thoughts of children as they face civil unrest. What do children think of in the middle of unrest? What do they dream of? As adults working with children, these stories can give us a new focus for discussion as we hear about ways kids cope with stress. Continue reading

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Big Events, Strong Emotions: Anxiety

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

The Pencil cover shows the close-up profile of girl holding up a sharpened pencil to two of her friends.The world economic crisis due to COVID-19 has left many unemployed. Newscasts report on long lines of people waiting to enter food banks or receive relief supplies. Then they report on the latest bankruptcy and use terms that hearken back to the Great Depression. Most of us know someone who has suffered from the economic downturn, which, in turn, creates anxiety in the rest of us.

During the spring semester, my university students struggled to keep up with a full load of classes through Zoom meetings, all the while helping their families out. Students’ families had small businesses that were floundering and other students had parents who had lost jobs, so all were working small jobs wherever possible. During weekly check-ins, I invited students to talk about some of the anxiety they felt as families cut back so they could maximize funds. So, this week we look at narratives of people who are lacking basic necessities. Continue reading

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Big Events, Strong Emotions: Anger

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

Angry Man Cover depicts Young boy with straight brown hair and a grave expression in lower right corner.This past week, I was at my local grocery store, masked and intent on finding the items on my list. As I swung around the corner with my buggy (obeying the one way directional arrows on the floor), a young man walked toward me, clearly not obeying the directional arrows. Furthermore he was not wearing a mask (required in all buildings in the state of Illinois). I was ticked–why did he think he could skip the mask, not follow the arrows telling him where to walk, and endanger my health??? For a moment I debated asking about his required mask, but I quickly dropped the idea and ignored him. My anger was safely bottled up and shared only with people as we discussed behaviors that keep us safe. But that is not the case for many across the country, as people express their anger at racism, the pandemic restrictions and any other big or little thing that has happened (e.g., the sun was too bright; my internet crashed yet again). Understandably, we are reacting to the tension of the difficult past months and an unknown future. As adults, we struggle to remain calm and not overreact. If we ourselves are learning how to express our frustrations in this new time, it points to the necessity of helping kids express and deal with their strong emotions, particularly the focus this week: anger. Continue reading

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Big Events, Strong Emotions: Grief

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

Cover for Paws + Edward depicts a boy in repose on the back of a giant romping dog.These past few months have given us plenty of big issues to think about with children. The pandemic has impacted daily life in families, communities, the economy and what the future looks like. If that is not enough, we are now grappling with overt racism as we hear of prejudice against Asian-Americans and police brutality towards African Americans. Immigration policy and deportations have taken a back seat in the news to race riots. The daily news has created fear and anxiety. Continue reading

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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