Posts tagged ‘multicultural’

November 2, 2016

Dear Mrs. Naidu

dear-mrs-naiduTitle: Dear Mrs. Naidu
Author: Mathangi Subramanian
Publisher: Zubaan Books, 2015
Pages: 286
Genre: Contemporary, Multicultural
Themes: Activism, Friendship, Economic Diversity
Ages: 10 and up

Synopsis (Zubaan Books website):

Twelve-year-old Sarojini’s best friend, Amir, might not be her best friend anymore. Ever since Amir moved out of the slum and started going to a posh private school, it seems like he and Sarojini have nothing in common. Then Sarojini finds out about the Right to Education, a law that might help her get a free seat at Amir’s school – or, better yet, convince him to come back to a new and improved version of the government school they went to together. As she struggles to keep her best friend, Sarojini gets help from some unexpected characters, including Deepti, a feisty classmate who lives at a construction site; Vimala Madam, a human rights lawyer who might also be an evil genius; and Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, a long-dead freedom fighter who becomes Sarojini’s secret pen pal. Told through letters to Mrs. Naidu, this is the story of how Sarojini learns to fight – for her friendship, her family, and her future.

Why I Like This Book:

This book is a window into another world, another lifestyle, one filled with hardship, friendship, and community coming together to improve the education for the lower class students. I love the main character Sarojini, who shows that even a 12-year old, a girl full of heart and courage CAN make a difference.

The story is told in epistolary style. Sarojini is writing letters to a deceased Mrs. Sarojini Naidu as part of a school assignment. Mrs. Sarojini Naidu was an activist and freedom fighter during India’s struggle for independence from the British. As the story unfolds, we see the young Sarojini gain strength. She makes friends with the Deepti the new girl from the construction site, and together they are the heart of the Child Rights Club.  Their fight is to make their government school a better place for kids — by advocating for a playground, clean drinking water and more. But gathering support from the community and the local government is a challenge.

I enjoyed the realistic representation of the neighborhood Aunties and the headmaster of Sarojini’s school. While the Aunties initially dissuade the girls and remind them of the dangers of talking to the press, they eventually come to help the Child Rights Club. The headmaster we learn has lost faith in the government from a previously failed attempt, hence the reason he has become jaded.

While this book was published for the Indian audience, I do think there is an audience for this book in the United States. It’s not just for children of Indian ancestry but for any child that is interested in learning about other cultures and what life is like elsewhere. Adults may need to provide some background information on the following topics – fight for Indian independence, slums, government vs private schools in India, views on Hindu-Muslim relations. Short glossary of common words – roti (thin bread), dosa (South Indian rice paper roll), Amma (mother), Appa (father).

Read the Author’s Note to find out the extent of research the author undertook. Impressive.

I highly recommend this book for any middle-school collection.

Find Dear Mrs. Naidu at the following spots:
Kitaab World | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 9383074981
ISBN-13: 978-9383074983

September 21, 2015

Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco

barrioTitle: Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco
Author: Judith Robbins Rose
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015
Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary, Multicultural
Themes: Immigrant Experience, Mentorship
Ages: 10 and up

Synopsis (Amazon website):

“Miss, will you be my Amiga?”
Amiga means “friend” in Spanish, but at the youth center, it meant a lady to take you places.
I never asked myself if two people as different as Miss and me could ever really be amigas.

When Jacinta Juarez is paired with a rich, famous mentor, she is swept away from the diapers and dishes of her own daily life into a world of new experiences. But crossing la linea into Miss’s world is scary. Half of Jacinta aches for the comfort of Mamá and the familiar safety of the barrio, while the other half longs to embrace a future that offers more than cleaning stuff for white people. When her family is torn apart, Jacinta needs to bring the two halves of herself together to win back everything she’s lost. Can she channel the power she’s gained from her mentor and the strength she’s inherited from Mamá to save her shattered home life?

Why I Like This Book:

A richly detailed story giving readers a glimpse of life in the barrio. The plot centers around 12-yr old Jacinta who has one foot in barrio world and one foot in Miss’s (mentor) world which offers new experiences likes gymnastics, swimming pools and French classes. The reader sees Jacinta being torn between doing the things she wants to do with Miss and her responsibilities to the family. The author has done a wonderful job of showing the raw, honest truth about the views of the people and the trials they face. I did enjoy the misconceptions that Jacinta had about Miss, they did add to lighten the story. While their mentorship-mentee relationship was filled with ups and downs, it was a richer experience in the end.

Not just a multi-cultural book but one about socio-economic diversity as well. The book moves along at a good clip with obstacles and conflict around every corner, though at times it did seem a bit much. I enjoyed this book serving as a window into another cultural society however I would’ve liked a little bit more something to help me understand the decisions the parents made for their family. Why did they choose to live in America if it meant living in fear of the police and barely making ends meet? At times the existence of Jacinta’s family seemed so dismal and bleak, I just wanted to see the warmness of the familial bonds instead of what just appeared to be obligations. There is a very nice line near the end of the story which did give me some closure on this aspect.

It’s what families do. And it’s not because we have to. It’s because we choose to do.

The author does a nice job in tying up the story and giving the reader hope that Jacinta has gotten strong from having one foot in each world and is better because of it.

This book has sparked my curiosity about the immigrant experience. Here are some other titles in this genre:
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
La Línea by Ann Jaramillo
Star in the Forest by Laura Resau
For additional books checkout the wonderful list at Pragmatic Mom website.

Find Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0763672351
ISBN-13: 978-0763672355

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Candlewick Press. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

January 16, 2015

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

meandmiranda

Happy New Year!! Hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing holiday break.

I am ecstatic and overjoyed to bring you today’s book review! I first read this beautiful manuscript back in 2012, when Miranda and I were in the same 12×12 critique group. (haven’t heard of 12×12, click the link and find out more about this awesome picture book community. registration for 2015 is currently taking place.) If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Miranda speak/teach .. GO! She is an entertaining speaker and chockful of information. You will be seeing a lot more books with her name as she has FOUR more picture books coming out in the next two years! Now onto the review.

 

One Plastic BagTitle: One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

Author: Miranda Paul (interview)
Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
Publisher: Millbrook Press (February 1, 2015)
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Africa, Environment, Activism

Excerpt:

Isatou shakes sand off her papers. Another plastic bag floats by, and she tucks her things inside.

The torn bag is useless now. She drops it to the dirt, as everyone does. There’s nowhere else to put it.

Synopsis (from One Plastic Bag website):

Inspiring story of five women who creatively dealt with their village’s plastic trash problem. Despite limited resources and ridicule, Isatou and her friends persevered for more than a decade, eventually realizing economic empowerment through their recycled plastic purse project. The book also includes bonus information such as a Wolof language glossary, timeline of actual events, and photos of the women of Njau.

Activities:

Visit the One Plastic Bag teacher’s resource section for tons of activities and information.

Gambia Facts Worksheet, Dangers of Plastic & What You Can Do resource guide, Downloadable Word Search, Bookmark

The coolest was the video demonstration on how to recycle plastic bags into a purse!

Why I Like This Book:

A wonderful book that shows how one single ordinary person, Isatou Cessay, made a difference. The reason I say ordinary is because initially Isatou had the same views as everyone else, which was that plastic bags are good for carrying things and when they break just  throw them on the ground. But when the plastic bag pollution became a problem for the villagers – goats eating plastic bags and dying, mosquitoes nesting in the pooling water – it was Isatou who did something about it. Together with the help of other women from the village they found a way to recycle the piles of plastic bags into purses they could sell in the nearby city. An empowering message for all young readers, that they too can make a difference.

The book is an engaging read as the Gambian world springs to life by awakening the readers senses via the sounds of the Wolof language “Ndanka”,  smells of Gambian food “bubbling peanut stew” and the sights of village daily life. The illustrations are collages of colored paper, paint, and even plastic bags. Checkout the interview at Seven Impossible Things for more sneak peeks into Ms. Zunon’s artistry.

If you would like to learn more about Gambia, this book, or the purses check out the One Plastic Bag website. I had the opportunity to see one of these purses at a writing retreat this summer. It was quite amazing.

purses

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

September 8, 2014

Seeds of Change

seeds-of-changeTitle: Seeds of Change

Author: Jen Cullerton Johnson
Illustrator: Sonia Lynn Sadler
Publisher: Lee and Low Books, 2011
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 6 and up
Themes: Environment, Activism, Multi-cultural

Opening Lines

“Come,” Wangari’s mother  called. She beckoned her young daughter over to a tall tree with a wide, smooth trunk and a crown of green, oval leaves.

Synopsis (from Lee & Low Books):

As a young girl in Kenya, Wangari was taught to respect nature. She grew up loving the land, plants, and animals that surrounded her—from the giant mugumo trees her people, the Kikuyu, revered to the tiny tadpoles that swam in the river.

Although most Kenyan girls were not educated, Wangari, curious and hardworking, was allowed to go to school. There, her mind sprouted like a seed. She excelled at science and went on to study in the United States. After returning home, Wangari blazed a trail across Kenya, using her knowledge and compassion to promote the rights of her countrywomen and to help save the land, one tree at a time.

Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace brings to life the empowering story of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman, and environmentalist, to win a Nobel Peace Prize. Engaging narrative and vibrant images paint a robust portrait of this inspiring champion of the land and of women’s rights.

Activities:

Resource Page on the Lee & Low website containing activities, lesson plans, discussion guides for elementary and middle-school students.

Resource sheet from Reading is Fundamental (RIF), contains a scratch art activity, a simple recipe for maize and bean stew, and discussion questions.

Green Belt Movement website – initiative started by Wangari

National Geographic for kids website with facts and pictures of Kenya

Other picture books on Wangari Maathai: Mama MitiPlanting the Trees of Kenya, and Wangari’s Trees of Peace

Why I Like This Book:

A rich, colorful book that engages the audience at multiple levels. The author brings Nobel prize winner,
Wangari Maathai, to life in an accessible way for young readers. The book opens with the importance of the
mugumo tree to Wangari’s people. The reader gains an appreciation of the interconnection between plants,
animals, and humans. During the early years we also see Wangari’s desire to learn at a time
when it was not common for girls to attend schools. It is these two threads which intersect in Wangari’s later
years that lead her to become a champion for Kenya’s environment and women’s education.

I found this book to be empowering because it showed how just a single person with sheer determination
and passion can indeed make a difference in the world. Also that it all started with something so simple,
planting one tree at a time.

Lovers of lyrical language will enjoy the numerous plant metaphors.

Wangari listened as still as a tree, but her mind swirled with curiosity like the currents in the stream.

The rich, saturated colors done in scratchboard art and oil, bring to life the beauty of the African landscape
and native clothing.

seedsofchange_tree

This book is best suited for elementary readers and can be used in conjunction with classroom discussions
about Kenya, environmentalism, or activism.

Come back tomorrow to find out how this book inspired one elementary school to become a platform of
change, when I interview the author Jen Cullerton Johnson.

January 23, 2014

The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac (Multicultural Children’s Book Day)

The Great Race, Story Chinese ZodiacTitle: The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac

Author: Dawn Casey
Illustrator: Anne Wilson
Publisher: Barefoot Books, 2006
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 5-8
Themes: Folktale, Chinese Culture

Opening Lines:
“Many moons ago, the people of China had no calendar. With no way to measure time, nobody could tell one year from the next.

Synopsis (from Barefoot Books website):

Race with the animals of the Zodiac as they compete to have the years of the Chinese calendar named after them. The excitement-filled story is followed by notes on the Chinese calendar, important Chinese holidays, and a chart outlining the animal signs based on birth years.

Activities:

There are tons of Chinese Zodiac and New Year’s activities on the Internet. Below is just a sampling.

Snake Mobile Craft
Chinese New Year’s Activities for Kids – Pinterest Board
Chinese New Year Lesson Plans, Printables, and Crafts
More Chinese New Year Printables – puzzles, word searches, coloring sheets.

Why I Like This Book:

A simple, colorful re-telling of the origin of the Chinese zodiac and why cats hate rats.

The Jade Emperor decided to name each of the 12 years after an animal. To decide the order he announced The Great Race, the order in which the animals finished would determine the order of the calendar. Cat and Rat were best friends and also the smallest animals in the race. Clever Rat got them a ride on Ox. However, over-ambitious Rat pushed his friend Cat in the water and later ran-ahead of Ox to win. Cat never gets over the betrayal and this is why cats hate rats.

The text and artwork do a great job of engaging young readers. The artwork is done with paper collages and acrylics which works well in keeping the artwork simple, colorful, and childlike. The back matter contains information on Chinese festivals and more characteristics about the twelve animals and the people born in those years.

GreatRace_HC3

(Click to see a larger picture)

As a picture book writer, I know every word has to be carefully chosen to convey the right meaning and tone. For this reason I was somewhat bothered by the line below, which follows the scenes of Rat consciously pushing his friend cat into the water and running ahead of Ox to win the race.

“Rat may be small but he is also smart!” the Jade Emperor laughed.

I do realize the author can’t deviate from the original story, however it’s the subtext (probably unintentional) that it was okay for the rat to be mean and sneaky that bothered me. Maybe if the cat gave chase to the rat at the end I would have felt a little better.

Regardless of my pet peeve I do think this is a lovely book and is still good for introducing kids to the Chinese zodiac. Perfect timing with the Chinese New Year coming up.

This is review is a part of Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) and Multicultural Children’s Book Day! To see additional PPBF recommended books please visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book.

MC_collate

I am very excited  to be a book reviewer participating in Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature on January 27th, 2014Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump into a Book have organized this event to raise awareness for children’s books that celebrate diversity and to get those books into more classrooms and libraries so more little eyes can see them. Proudly sponsored by Lee & Low Books, Wisdom Tales Press, Chronicle Books, and author Susan Fayad.

Why is Multicultural Children’s Book Day so important?

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

More than 60 bloggers are joining together to share books and ideas to celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day.  Please join us on January 27, 2014 for book reviews and multicultural activities.

Visit our collaborative Pinterest board, Multicultural Books for Kids, to see more great books and check out all of these amazing blogs participating in the event!

2GirlsLostInaBook · 365 Days of Motherhood · A Bilingual Baby · A Simple Life, Really? · Africa to America · After School Smarty Pants · All Done Monkey · Andi’s Kids Books · Anita Brown Bag  · Austin Gilkeson · Barbara Ann Mojica ·  Books My Kids Read · Bottom Shelf Books · Cats Eat Dogs · Chasing The Donkey · Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac · Children’s Books Heal · Church o Books · CitizenBeta · Crafty Moms Share · Discovering The World Through My Son’s Eyes · Early Words · Flowering Minds · Franticmommy · Gathering Books · GEO Librarian · Gladys Barbieri · Going in Circles · Growing Book by Book · iGame Mom · I’m Not The Nanny · InCulture Parent · Itsy Bitsy Mom ·Just Children’s Books– Kid World Citizen · Kristi’s Book Nook · Mama Lady Books · Mama Smiles · Mission Read · Mother Daughter Book Reviews · Mrs AOk · MrsTeeLoveLifeLaughter · Ms. Yingling Reads · Multicultural Kids Blog · One Sweet World · Open Wide The World · P is for Preschooler · Rapenzel Dreams · School4Boys · Sharon the Librarian · Spanish Playground · Sprout’s Bookshelf · Squishable Baby · Stanley and Katrina · Teach Mama · The Art of Home Education · The Brain Lair · The Educators’ Spin On It · The Family-Ship Experience · The Yellow Door Paperie · This Kid Reviews Books  · Trishap’s Books · Unconventional Librarian · Vicki Arnold · We3Three · World for Learning · Wrapped in Foil 

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Barefoot Books. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

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