WOW Dozen: Difficult and Challenging Topics in Children’s Literature

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

While teaching a graduate course on the art of picturebooks this past semester, I realized that there has been an influx of children’s books on challenging topics. This piqued my curiosity, and I began digging into the stacks at the Worlds of Words and online. While I found many recent titles about anxiety, depression, death, and grandparents who are growing older, I also thought of books that would pair nicely and help ease the acceptance of these hard topics. Needless to say, picturebooks have never been simple and mono-dimensional and it is there power to speak to the youngest of our audiences, giving them strength. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: A Dozen Ukrainian Books

By Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Kathleen Crawford-McKinney, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

Although we are constantly bombarded with images of the war in Ukraine, many people know little about this country, its culture, or its long history of conflict with Russia/Soviet Union. This set of books reflects a range of perspectives on Ukrainian culture and history, many authored and illustrated by Ukrainians or people with Ukrainian heritage. The stories involve significant historical events, such as Stalin’s mass starvation of Ukrainian people in 1932, the Nazi occupation in 1941-1943, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, and the 2022 siege of Mariupol by Russian forces. Pairing these books with recent news articles connects this history to current events. The strength of Ukrainian people, especially the Jewish population, in the midst of suffering is thus a frequent theme, but the set does include several humorous folktales. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Environmental Picturebooks

by Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL and Annette Y. Goldsmith, Kent State University, Kent, OH

As storms become more frequent and violent, attention to the environment and global warming is increasing. Each title here has a distinct call to action that invites readers of all ages to “rethink, refuse, reduce, repair, reuse, recycle, and revolutionize” (Pêgo, 118-121). Some are biographies of everyday citizens who stood up for protecting our natural resources, others are examples of ingenuity, and several describe the ways animal and marine life can recover when given the space and time to adapt or regain habitats. What follows is a selection from an in-process paper about environmentally-focused books, fiction and nonfiction, discussed through the double lens of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Diverse BookFinder BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) descriptors. We included the original place of publication because we want to explore what other countries are saying about environmental issues. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Books That Should Have Won Awards

Compiled by the Worlds of Words Center Board

November, December and January are every bookworm’s favorite months because many book awards are announced. The National Council of English broadcasts the Orbis Pictus and Charlotte Huck awards before Thanksgiving. In December, the National Book Awards are celebrated and then in the first month of the year, the American Library Association announces the children’s and young adult award winning books for numerous awards such as the Pura Belpré Award, Schneider Family Book Award and the Mildred L. Batchelder Award. At a recent Worlds of Words Center gathering, we discussed the many titles that were acknowledged, but were disappointed that some of our favorite 2022 books didn’t receive greater recognition. This month’s WOW Dozen shares the books that we think should have done better this awards season. What book titles do you think should have won a major award? Please share in the comments section. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Picturebook Biographies of Musicians

By Janelle Mathis, North Texas University

In a recent study that examined picturebook biographies of musicians, I was interested in what they offered young readers about the value of music in the lives of these individuals. Shared in a recently submitted article, I discovered over 40 biographies that spanned across historical eras, forms of music, ages of musicians and how music impacted individuals which often was the focus of the picturebook. Books were read and reread revealing themes of offering hope and comfort, creating identity, sharing tradition, giving voice to marginalized people and sharing examples of determination, persistence and strength. Below, are a dozen titles that reflect the challenges and successes of musicians in narratives that provide young readers with new insights to the significance of music in these lives and the potential influences in their own lives. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Books on Schools and Schooling

By Janine Schall, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Children around the world go to school, but the ways they do so and what happens once they arrive appears very different in diverse places. No matter what it looks like, schools are places of friendship, growth and learning for most children, but they are also situated in a political and cultural context that is worthy of exploration. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Cousin Love

by Mary L. Fahrenbruck, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM and Violet Henderson, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

At the 2022 Latinx Kitlit Book Festival, one of the featured authors mentioned the power and sanctity of “cousin love.” The audience’s overwhelmingly positive reaction caught our attention and caused us to think about picturebooks and young adult novels that featured the special bond between cousins.

Drawing from personal memories about the unique connections we share with our own cousins, we selected picturebooks and young adult novels that highlight the complex family relationships that develop across time and place. These texts highlight the creative ways that cousins sustain their bonds through various forms of communication from letter writing to social media, and gap the distances through visits by car and air travel. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Korean Books Translated Into English

By HeeYoung Kim, West Texas A&M University, Canyon, Texas

Welcome abroad! This month’s WOW dozen takes readers on a journey to Korea. Each picturebook and novel in this column were originally published in Korea and later translated into English. These titles are written by Korean authors who speak Korean and live in Korea. Rudine Sims Bishop’s metaphor of mirrors and windows for multicultural children’s literature is an an invaluable tenet when reading global children’s literature too. Each book on this list introduces readers to the Korean culture as well as themes around imagination, love, loss and hope. Continue reading

WOW Dozen: Global Picturebooks for the Secondary Classroom

By Celeste L.H. Trimble, St Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

There is a common misperception that picturebooks are only for early elementary students. Secondary students and even students in upper elementary often miss out on the particular artistry and poetry that come through the picturebook form. In this month’s WOW Dozen, I bring together examples of global picturebooks that can be explored and enjoyed in secondary English Language Arts as well as the content areas. Books in this list can be used as models for writing, artworks for practicing analysis, avenues for identity development as well as exploration of the experiences of others, inspiration for creativity, tools to deepen content knowledge, and so much more. Of course, picturebooks are vital additions to the classroom library in any secondary classroom, just for the pleasure of reading. Continue reading

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

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