Decorative WOW Currents Banner
Decorative WOW Currents Banner

Picturebooks That Focus on Black Children and Their Families

Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

Cover of Tiara's Hat Parade depicting a young black girl smiling with a blue hat on her head as her mother smiles down at her while making a green hat.

As I continue sharing topics or theme that seemed to be predominant in the many books read by our Notable Children’s Books (ALA) committee, in this WOW currents I will share picturebooks focused on Black children and their families. While this is not a new topic within the books published each year, children’s literature advocates are quick to note that among our diverse populations, the demographics, as continuously recorded by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center regarding populations does not align proportionately with the books published that reflect diverse children. Books sharing the stories of Black / African American children have been continuously increasing in terms of rich tapestries of historical events, previously untold stories of significant individuals, and general narratives of childhood across genre. However, this past year I found interesting, important, and pleasing, the continuous and abundant submission of realistic fiction picturebooks to our committee that specifically focused on the contemporary Black child and family relationships. Among these many books from 2020, I noted culturally specific stories, universal narratives around Black families, and books that celebrate and affirm identity for a child within these families. The seven titles shared here are merely a sampling of these books that stood out for me over 2020 but ones that uphold the potential of children’s literature to serve as mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors (Rudine Sims Bishop, 1990) for children across the globe. Continue reading

Decorative WOW Currents Banner

Picturebooks Created by Authors and Illustrators Outside the USA

Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas, Denton, TX

Recently, I was asked if I saw any particular trends in children’s books in the USA over the past few years. It didn’t take long for me to respond given that during the past two years, I had the privilege of working with other educators and librarians on ALA’s Notable Children’s Books committee. As stated on its web page, “As applied to children’s books, notable should be thought to include books of especially commendable quality, books that exhibit venturesome creativity, and books of fiction, information, poetry and pictures for all age levels (birth through age 14) that reflect and encourage children’s interests in exemplary ways.” Continue reading

Decorative WOW Currents Banner

Hidden Stories of Hope: Relevant Picture Book Biographies for Science Classrooms

by Karen Matis with Charlene Klassen Endrizzi

In our last WOW Currents entry of the month, Charlene and I consider the challenges of supporting science preservice teachers. In past weeks we examined the usefulness of Young Adult picture book biographies to humanize complex content in ELA, history and math classes. We believe middle school learners deserve occasions to study change agents whose lives demonstrate a bridge between complex school content and purposeful use of this content in everyday lives. Continue reading

Decorative WOW Currents Banner

Hidden Stories of Determination: Relevant Picture Book Biographies for Math Classrooms

by Charlene Klassen Endrizzi and Karen Matis

This month of WOW Currents invites readers to examine adolescent picture book biographies providing relevant disciplinary points of connection for middle school math learners. Three books focus on determined female mathematicians with an additional text featuring a football player of note who pursued his passion for art following a professional sports career. Continue reading

Decorative WOW Currents Banner

Hidden Stories of Change: Relevant Biographies and Non-fiction for the History Classroom

by Charlene Klassen Endrizzi with Karen Matis

Cover of The Grand Mosque of Paris depicting Jewish families walking into a blue mosque.

This week we continue our exploration of “Hidden Stories” by revealing historical personalities too often overlooked. We zero in on adolescent books highlighting change agents chosen by history preservice teachers.

“I took many history courses in high school and college. Why have I never heard of these events?” (Makenzie, history major). This refrain, in response to Isabel’s Learning Invitation on the nonfiction book The grand mosque of Paris: A story of how Muslims rescued the Jews during the Holocaust (Ruelle, 2010), became a familiar response as we delved further into our hidden stories exploration. Continue reading

Decorative WOW Currents Banner

Hidden Stories of Courage: Relevant biographies for the ELA classroom

by Karen Matis with Charlene Klassen Endrizzi

Cover of How We Are Smart depicting six Black historical figures.

As collaborators in our work with secondary education preservice teachers each fall, we offer a month long look at picture book biographies filled with stories of courageous, determined global citizens that will especially appeal to adolescents.

The selected biographies we share present “Hidden Stories” of diverse writers, historical figures, mathematicians and scientists, all courageous activists who tackled their own set of problems in by-gone years. Our goal focuses on offering inspirational moments through relevant texts, thus revealing spirited advocates for change.

The past year brought unrest into the lives of many adolescents. In the midst of their naturally occurring coming of age insecurities, young people also endured circumstances resulting from health, social justice and political uncertainties. Such upheaval creates openings for middle school teachers to pause and ponder much needed moments of inspiration. We invite you to our discussion of inspiring picture books that encourage adolescents to consider their own lives in juxtaposition to others who also faced uncertainties in their lives. Continue reading

Decorative WOW Currents Banner

The Book to Take Us Home

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Cover of Stormy features a small, curly-haired dog and his ball created in soft hues with pencil and watercolorIt’s the end of 2020, and what a journey we have all been on! In many ways, it has felt like we were lost and far from home even as many of us spent much more time than normal at home. There was also a sense of not knowing where we would land for some, and–for some others–whom to trust. Thus, the sweet and wordless picturebook Stormy (2019) by Chinese author/illustrator Guojing will resonate with many readers on both a surface level and more metaphorically. Even the title let’s us think in metaphorical ways about the last year! Continue reading

Decorative WOW Currents Banner

Texts for Considering Love

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH

Cover of Cinderella Liberator which depicts the silhouette of a woman with a cake in hand, jumping, and a mouse at her feet on a pale blue background.
While each book for 2020 could address the concept of love in one form or another, there are two that directly confront the circumstances of romantic love. Those two texts are Frankly in Love (2019) by David Yoon and Cinderella Liberator (2019) by Rebecca Solnit. Both address love from a perspective a bit differently from what many might think of as the typical love story. Continue reading

Decorative WOW Currents Banner

Picturebooks that Celebrate!

By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH


This week needs a celebration, and these three books answer the call! We have Hands Up! (2019) by Breanna J. McDaniel and Shane W. Evans, The Tale of Rabbit and Coyote (1998) by Tony Johnston and Tomie de Paola, and Birrarung Wilam: A Story from Aboriginal Australia (2020) by Aunty Joy Murphy, Andrea Kelly, and Lisa Kennedy. These books celebrate three cultures that have historically been underrepresented in literature for young people, and all make great read alouds for younger children as well as mentor texts for older readers. Continue reading