The reviews in this issue highlight books with strong, spirited characters whose existence depends on the resiliency they bring to problematic situations. This resiliency is complicated by the complexity of sociocultural factors that constrain or sustain the efforts of each individual. Such complexities are often beyond the control of the characters and reflect the realities of life while providing many points of connection for readers across countries and eras.
Inside Out and Back Again shares the story of a young Vietnamese immigrant who in the 1970’s begins a new life in Alabama. Delicate poetic text shares a story of endurance and resilience through cultural tensions. Likewise, cultural complexities mount in The Great Wall of Lucy Wu as this American adolescent pursues a course not often sought by a young Chinese-American girl—captain of her basketball team—and struggles with what it means to be both Chinese and American. Determination and strong family influences support her efforts to be resilient while mindful of her cultural heritages. In Queen of Hearts and The Wild Book physical challenges become obstacles that call for strength and spirit. Queen of Hearts takes readers to WW II Canada where a young girl contracts tuberculosis and must remain in a sanatorium. The Wild Book, another book written in poetic text, tells the story of a young girl in Cuba’s turbulent early 20th century struggling with dyslexia.
In a more contemporary setting, Beneath a Meth Moon: An Elegy and In Darkness tell the dark stories of youth whose situations seem to spiral out of control due to a natural disaster. The former shares a young girl’s story who, after losing her mother and grandmother to Hurricane Katrina, discovers meth and begins the journey from the false sense of power that meth offers to the personal struggle to overcome its control. In Darkness takes readers to Haiti where a young man must survive being trapped within the rubble created by an earthquake as well as the socio-political climate—a situation demanding both physical and mental fortitude. Both books end with the potential for hopeful futures that lie within the resiliency that the reader observes in the making.
For those who find personal connections in the reciprocal support between animals and people, two titles add new perspectives to such powerful relationships. Saving Zasha takes readers to post WWII Russia and an action filled, suspenseful story of a boy who demonstrates a heightened sense of agency when his family harbors a German shepherd dog for fear it will be killed in the political climate of the time. The Scorpio Races, a fantasy novel, involves readers in the seemingly realistic portrayal of wild horses coming ashore where the attempt to leash their power is a dangerous but fulfilling ritual.
The two picture books in this issue provide other ways of considering resiliency. The name Diego Rivera brings to mind an artist whose life was filled with personal and social conflict. However, Diego Rivera: His World and Ours, focuses on his efforts to share the history and plight of the common citizen of Mexico in his extravagant murals. One other title is a reminder of the complexity of the natural world within which its inhabitants survive and continue each day. The cyclical pattern of the Kamehameha butterfly is shared in Pulelehua and Mamaki,a fantasy story framed authentically in its author’s knowledge of gardening in Hawaii. This picture book not only relates the resiliency of the natural world but it also is a reminder that beyond resiliency lies transformation–a thought that creates hope within each of the contexts of the books in this issue.