WOW Dozen: Books Featuring Trans* and Trans*-accepting Characters

By Mary L. Fahrenbruck and Efrain Alvarez Morales, each with New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

October is LGBT History Month. Established in 1994, Rodney Wilson, selected the tenth month of the year because National Coming Out Day is celebrated on October 11 and the first national march for gay and lesbian rights took place in Washington, DC on October 14, 1979. In conjunction with LGBT History Month, this dozen features picturebooks and novels with trans* and trans*- accepting characters. Unlike stories with trans* characters published in the past, the plot lines in these stories reflect a shift from shaming, resistance, violence and tragic endings to affirming, understanding, compassion and positive endings. Trans* and trans*- accepting characters experience seemingly typical life challenges connected to friendship, belonging and discovering one’s identity. Additionally, in several novels the characters encounter challenges that might seem atypical like interacting with a brujo or the ghost of a deceased uncle, or hunting a monster alongside a creature that emerged from a painting. Ultimately, readers will find the characters, setting and plot lines of each story to be engaging, exciting and believable. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Responsibility to Others

By Kathleen Crawford-McKinney, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

I have been thinking more intently on what it means to be responsible to others. What do we, citizens of the world, have the right to do, or be? Over the past several months we watched people being incarcerated for minor infractions or their cities and lands taken away from them. I wonder who has this type of right to act in these ways to others. Who is responsible for ensuring that these missteps don’t occur in places where people think differently than within our own communities? What would we do, or what should we do if our rights are stepped upon? Who is responsible for taking care of others?

Students in classrooms know their rights and question them within their families and school settings. I hope that they will also push themselves to be responsible to and with each other. To move beyond being kind to each other and to think more broadly about the world. In several of the previous months the themes of the Dozen has encouraged us to think more deeply about the current political world. This month continues with this focus by examining books where the characters look at being responsible to families, to communities, to our environment and to our world. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Intergenerational Global Families in Picturebooks

by Judi Moreillon, Tucson, AZ, and Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Libraries, AZ

For economic, political and personal reasons, families today are spread across countries and continents. They must navigate language and cultural differences and geography to hold their familial ties together. Some children and families are able to travel to visit their relatives in their heritage countries; others are unable to cross borders to maintain their family connections. Some families have only photographs or memories to share of their extended families and ancestors.

In this WOW Dozen, children navigate the challenges that can separate them from their loved ones and their heritage cultures. Some learn the language of their parents, grandparents or other relatives. Some learn about culture through traditional artifacts, food, celebrations and family stories. Some have only hopes and dreams of reuniting with their relatives or maintaining connections to a “home” they may never visit and relatives they may never meet face to face. Continue reading

A Dozen Strong Indigenous Voices in YA and Picturebooks

By Seemi Aziz

There has been a struggle to bring authentic Indigenous voices into books for young readers. Recent publications have been encouraging as more and more insider voices tell stories that are culturally authentic and respectful of the multiple tribal viewpoints in Indigenous communities. This WOW Dozen focuses on bringing to light a few strong and significant examples. Some have received renowned awards with most written and illustrated by members of Indigenous communities. Continue reading

A Dozen Books on African Mythology: The Significance of Black Mermaids and Sirens

By Desiree Cueto and Dorea Kleker, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

African diaspora folklore, myths and legends have been passed down through oral traditions from generation to generation. A prominent figure in stories told across different African nations is that of the mermaid. The half human/half fish water spirit is referred to by different names depending on the specific African nation and unique cultures within. For example, Mami Wata is a deity whose story is told throughout different parts of West Africa. She is known for bestowing wealth and power as well as destruction. A similar figure, called Yemoja is known to the Yoruba people of Nigeria to be a giver of life, and La Sirene is a Haitian spirit of the sea. Over time, the oral stories of mermaids and sirens have been written and published throughout the world and have become the inspiration for several recent picture books and novels. This set of books features twelve books that center on Black mermaids and African mythology. Continue reading

A Dozen Books Dealing with Uncertainty, Grief and Loss

Cynthia K. Ryman, California State University Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

The past two years have been a time of deep introspection for me. When the pandemic began in 2020, around the world everyone was focused on survival. Many did not survive. As the pandemic raged globally, the United States was being torn apart by deep political divides that left many wondering about the survival of democracy in this country. In the midst of this chaos and confusion, the murder of George Floyd ignited international anger and activism in the Black Lives Matter movement. Now the added crisis of war in Ukraine leaves many wondering what this means for the future wellbeing of our global society. As I considered a book list for these times, I decided to share global books dealing with death and grief. Children are deeply impacted by societal and global events and experience intense feelings of uncertainty, grief and loss. Books open the door for discussions around life’s difficulties and the emotions that accompany. The goal of this WOW Dozen is to provide a means for recognizing and beginning to process emotions related to grief and uncertainty. This collection includes books by authors from Argentina, Denmark, Spain, Iran, Great Britain, Asia, India, Norway, Mexico, Canada and the Cree-Métis nation. Each book provides insights on how to begin to process emotions and find a path forward amidst uncertainty, grief and loss. Continue reading

A Dozen Books Celebrating Children’s Voices and Their Impact

Angelica Serrano, Tucson Unified School District, Tucson, AZ

A Dozen Books Celebrating Children’s Voices and their Impact is a set of twelve books, both picturebooks and graphic novels, that embrace and celebrate the voices of children across the globe who have used their voices, creativity and thinking to make a change for themselves and others. This set honors World Children’s Day celebrated on April 30. To commemorate this special holiday, the dozen books selected here resonate the power found within each child as they learn about the world around them and themselves. Children have made tremendous changes for the world and this list commemorates the power that children have within them. We invite you to take a closer look at these books and encourage you to embrace the depicted voices of these children into your hearts as we celebrate their impact on the world. We hope that as you browse through these titles you will be inspired to share them with your children, classrooms, fellow educators and communities so that children’s voices can be known and heard. Children are our greatest teachers and there is so much we can learn from them. It is imperative that we invite children to continue to inspire others with what they have to say. Continue reading

A Dozen Poetry Books

By Deanna Day-Wiff, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Poetry is all around us and is fun to read aloud and share with children of all ages. Poetry builds literacy skills with its figurative language, different forms and structures as well as its rhythm and rhyme. This past year I had the honor of serving on the NCTE Notable Poetry Books and Verse Novels Committee. I read over 300 titles—individual poems, anthologies, narrative poems, biographical poems and verse novels. The committee discussed the differences between poetry and prose and then chose 30 titles that reflected the Notable Poetry Books Criteria. This WOW Dozen focuses on some of the books that were considered but did not make the 2022 NCTE Notable Poetry Books and Verse Novels list. Nevertheless, children and adolescents will still enjoy hearing or reading them. Why not bring poetry to life in your classroom by sharing more of it in March, April for National Poetry Month and every day? Continue reading

A Dozen Books on Activism

By Deanna Day-Wiff, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Children and adolescents are taking action and making a difference in their communities and across the globe each day. This WOW Dozen highlights titles around the theme of activism. Each picturebook or novel shows how young people are working for change on causes that matter to them such as: saving a lending library, turning a vacant lot into a natural space for butterflies or creating light for a community in the dark. Other titles may inspire readers to speak up for climate change, demonstrate peacefully or sing for transformation. Reading aloud these titles could encourage K-8 readers to think about the needs or changes in their own communities to change our world. Continue reading