Category Archives: Own Voices

Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician

Written by: Lesa Cline-Ransome

Illustrated by: Raúl Colón

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: STEM, Women in Science, Historical Figure, Space, Segregation, Racism, POC-Centric Narratives, Black Culture & Identity, Historic Events. 

Summary: Katherine was an incredibly intellectually gifted child, starting 2nd grade at age 6, and 5th grade the year after.  Her parents strongly valued education and moved the family closer to the West Virginia Institute, where Katherine started high school at the age of ten and college at the age of 15 on a full scholarship.  Years later, after graduation and teaching, she got a job in the segregated computing office at Langley Aeronautics.

Katherine was disciplined, hardworking, and brilliant.  She soon blazed her own trail as the only permanently working woman and woman of color in the office where she was originally placed on just temporary assignment.  She was instrumental in the Space Race and has inspired too many people to count, especially young women of color to embrace their intelligence and interest in STEM.

This is a fantastic book that describes just how pivotal Katherine Johnson was to American history during the Space Race of the early 1960’s.  Having these books that intellectualize women, especially women of color during segregation is crucial for students to have a comprehensive history of the United States.  Katherine Johnson was largely ignored until recently, and there is additional information about Katherine in the back of the book.  This is a great book for older children, especially after reading some of the other Hidden Figures books or watching the movie!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lesa_nola-2-2Lesa Cline-Ransome grew up in Malden, MA, a suburb just outside of Boston, the daughter of two nurses and the youngest of three. She considers consider herself very lucky to have grown up with a mother who loved to read. Each week Lesa’s Mom would take Lesa with her to the local library so that she could stock up on books. As Lesa grew older she would venture off into the children’s section and gather up her own collection to check out. Through her mother Lesa realized that reading could become a wonderful escape and writing even more so. When her mother gave Lesa a diary as a gift, she first filled the pages with the “very important” details of her life—adventures with her friends, secret crushes and the many ways in which her family drove her crazy. Then Lesa began creating my own stories! Lesa became interested in children’s books the year she married. Her husband, James was working on illustrating his first book which allowed both of them to look at picture books in a new way. When they’d browse books in bookstores, he studied the illustrations, she read the stories. Lesa eventually completed a graduate degree in elementary education and through coursework became truly immersed in children’s literature.

raul-colon-706247Raúl Colón is the award-winning illustrator of many picture books, including Draw! an ALA Notable Book and recipient of the International Latino Book Award; Imagine! an ALA Notable Book, a New York Public Library Best Book for Kids, and a Bookpage Best Book; Susanna Reich’s José! Born to DanceAngela’s Christmas by Frank McCourt; and Jill Biden’s Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops. Mr. Colón lived in Puerto Rico as a young boy and now resides in New City, New York, with his family.

Muslim Girls Rise

Written by: Saira Mir

Illustrated by: Aaliya Jaleel

For ages: 8-13 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Muslim Women, Trailblazers, Historical Figures, Self-Empowerment, Feminism, Sports, Culture & Identity, Global Community, Own Voices. 

Summary: 

This book is a lovely book, almost anthology-like, of 18 Muslim girls (and women) that are changing the world and blazing trails.  Some are well-known public figures like Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, and champion fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.  Others, like Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah and comedian Negin Farsad might be less known.  The beauty of this book is that the short single page profiles of these strong and intelligent women is that they span the globe and professional career market.  Sports, fashion, legislation, and STEM.  These women are fantastic role models for any job aspirations!

Muslim Girls Rise is a wonderful addition to any bookshelf, and having these women as inspiration to pursue one’s own interests and dreams.  Unfortunately also, Islamophobia is so prevalent that this book can also serve as a line of defense.  Collecting stories of strength and resilience helps a person develop their own, and have individuals to look up to in times of hardship or perhaps deciding on what career trajectory to take.  Either way, these short stories will inspire any reader to change the world in their own way!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

SARIA MIR is a Muslim physician from Washington, DC, who has searched far and wide for books to help her daughter find feminist role models who share her heritage. Saira wrote Muslim Girls Rise for her, and hopes to share it with other children eager to learn more about these extraordinary, path-breaking women.

 

 

 

 

aaliya-45AALIYA JALEEL is a freelance illustrator, character designer, and visual development artist. She is currently majoring in animation at the University of Texas at Dallas with plans to work as a visual development artist after graduation.

This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work

Written by: Tiffany Jewell

Illustrated by: Aurélia Durand

For ages: YA middle grades and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: BIPOC Narratives, Social Justice, Activism, Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias, Education, Community Organizing, Self-Empowerment, Self-Reflection, Race Theory, Own Voices.

Summary: 

Alright so we might be a little late on this book coming out, but our lives are a bit wonky (just like everyone else’s!) and we’re just getting around to writing about this brilliant book now.  Seriously, where to even begin? This is the book we all need when we’re young.  Written by powerhouse Tiffany Jewell and beautifully illustrated by Aurélia Durand, this book was carried around and devoured immediately upon arrival to our house.  

This Book is Anti-Racist takes what young people know about the world and themselves and expands upon it, empowering young people to stand up for themselves and others by understanding the systems of oppression that are at work everyday.  While this and so much more social justice education should be typical curriculum in schools, it’s often not.  Even CRT classes are hardly offered in teacher education programs, which is a travesty.  In order to create ripples of change, we need education.  Not addressing the white supremacy and oppression that subversively operate is what keeps the wheels of marginalization turning effectively.  This book is one that can be sand in the gears, teaching readers to examine their own lives and the world around them while seeking out ways to change it for the better.

Brilliantly created, this book is required reading for every single human on the planet.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

0115_RW_Tiffany_Jewell_photo_credit_James_Azar_SalemTiffany Jewell is a Black biracial writer, antiracist educator and consultant, and mama. She spends her time baking bread and macarons, building LEGOS, watching British detective shows, and dreaming up how she can dismantle white supremacy. Tiffany currently resides on the unceded traditional land of the Pocumtuc and the Nipmuck with her two young activists, her partner, and a turtle she’s had since she was nine years old. She is in her 15th year as a Montessori educator and nearing two decades of work in schools with young folks, families, and educators. This Book Is Anti-Racist is her first book for children and young adults (and definitely not the last). Follow her on social media @tiffanymjewell.

Portrait-Aurélia+DurandAurélia Durand’s art is a vivid celebration of diversity. She dedicates her artistic voice in making representation matters. Aurélia represents Afro-descendants as joyful, proud, and empowered — a united community whose destinies are intertwined. These colorful personalities present the unified voice of a global community whose hopes, dreams, and desires present a future inclusive of all. 
Aurélia has made a wild variety of creations with augmented reality, animations, paintings, murals, and illustrations.
She has been working with different clients such as Adobe, Facebook, GIPHY, DIPSEA, Instagram, Tinder, Apple music, Standford University, QuartoKids, Refinery 29, Califia farms, ESPN, and more.
Recently she illustrated the book “This book is anti-racist ” through the publisher “Quarto kids” printed for the US, Canada, and the UK.
Take a look at her Instagram: www.instagram.com/4ur3lia/

 

Piece by Piece

Written by: Susan Tan

Illustrated by: Justine Wong

For ages: 5-12 years

Language: English, a few Chinese words. 

Topics Covered: Family, Asian-American Experience, Chinese-American Identity, History, Historical Architecture, Museums, Social-Emotional Learning, Own Voices. 

Summary: 

This book is about Emmy, and the strong relationship she has with her grandmother Nainai who lives in China.  Nainai comes to visit during the summer, and the special activity the two of them share is going to new museums every week.  Before leaving, Nainai makes a blanket for Emmy out of fabrics that have memories for the both of them attached.  Emmy loves the blanket very much, and takes it everywhere.  Emmy’s dad takes them to a new museum and says there is something very special to show her there, but Emmy is skeptical because Nainai isn’t there with her.

Suddenly Emmy realizes her beloved blanket is missing, and is distraught.  Assured by the museum staff that they’ll be on the lookout, Emmy realizes that they’re near an entire house like the one Nainai grew up in, inside the museum!  The pair is at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts.  There’s really a house brought from China inside!  Emmy walks around the house, steeped in memories of Nainai.

This is a beautiful book about both big emotions and Chinese family history.  Emmy has a lot of sadness and grief that Nainai is back in China, and grapples with these big emotions during her exploration of the house.  We are lucky enough to live in the Boston area and have been to the PEM, getting into our own exploration of the house!  In the back of the book is more historical information about the house, and how it got from China to the museum.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Tan-Author-Photo-683x1024Susan Tan “wanted to be a children’s author since eighth grade when I was named “most likely to be a children’s book writer” in the middle school yearbook. In high school, I worked in the Children’s Room of my local public library, and in college I sketched picturebook outlines in the margins of my school notes. 

But I didn’t really start writing books of my own until after college, when I was earning my PhD at the University of Cambridge in Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature (sense a pattern?). I began writing funny stories from my childhood while I rode the bus in the mornings, and in bed before I fell asleep at night. These stories gradually came together into my first book, Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire.

Cilla is based on my own family and deals with the questions, challenges, and many joys that navigating different racial and cultural identities can bring. A second book in the Cilla series, Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book is A Classic will be released this March, with a third Cilla book coming in 2019.

More about me: I was the 2015 Gish Jen Emerging Writers Fellow at the Writers’ Room of Boston, and when I’m not writing, crocheting, or reading, you can find me teaching at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.” 

Justine-Wong-Illustration-LORESJustine Wong is a food, book, and lifestyle illustrator based in Toronto. She is the creator behind the project ’21 Days in Japan: An Illustrative Study on Japanese Cuisine’, consisting of paintings for 100 meals discovered while she traveled Japan. She has since lived in Tokyo for a year and have the pleasure of illustrating in editorial publications, story books, and advertising campaigns in Canada and internationally. Most recently, Justine illustrated her first children’s book ‘Piece by Piece’ for Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.

When she is not illustrating, you can find her beach-combing along a coastline, tending to her backyard garden, or having soft conversations with her two cats Kumo and Opi. 🙂

She is also a dedicated member of Toronto creative collectives Lunchroom and Makeshift Collective, where they practice and rebuild the ways we collaborate and grow together.

The roots of the Peabody Essex Museum date to the 1799 founding of the East India Marine Society, an organization of Salem captains and supercargoes who had sailed beyond either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. The society’s charter included a provision for the establishment of a “cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities,” which is what we today would call a museum. Society members brought to Salem a diverse collection of objects from the northwest coast of America, Asia, Africa, Oceania, India and elsewhere. By 1825, the society moved into its own building, East India Marine Hall, which today contains the original display cases and some of the very first objects collected.

The Vast Wonder of the World (Biologist Ernest Everett Just)

Written by: Mélina Mangal

Illustrated by: Luisa Uribe

For ages: 5 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: STEM, Black Culture & Identity, Scientists, Historical Figure, Outdoors, Natural World, Trailblazers, Curiosity, Education, Racism. 

Summary: 

In 1911, Ernest was a scientist in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  Woods Hole is on Cape Cod, and still a massive town for oceanic research today!  Ernest was gifted at caring for the creatures he took from the ocean, when others weren’t so careful, and Ernest was gifted at seeing the whole picture instead of just the tiny piece he was currently researching.  Ernest was especially gifted at studying how life begins from an egg, and became the entire world’s leading authority!

Ernest loved reading, but as a child had to relearn to read all over again after he contracted typhoid fever.  He observed everything around him, especially the natural world.  Ernest left the segregated South for boarding school, but when his mother died he didn’t know how to cope, so he just studied harder.  When he took a biology class in college, his entire world opened up and his lifelong fascination with cells began.  Ernest became a professor and taught his students to care for both the organisms they studied and their scientific instruments, to be kind and to observe as much as possible.  When he showed that the egg was just as important as the sperm in creating new life, he became world-famous and often worked in Europe where he was treated better.  He eventually moved with his family to France and became an independent researcher.

This book’s storyline is gorgeous, and the illustrations stunning. The story addresses both science and the systemic racism and oppression that Ernest faced because he was Black, despite being one of the most talented and intelligent biologists in the country.  In the back there is a lengthy Author’s note with a photo of Ernest, and timeline of his life, detailed information about his scientific work, and some quotes by Ernest himself.  This is a beautiful book and we are glad we found this to learn about someone new in the scientific world that worked for so many years nearby where we live!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

melina-mangalMélina Mangal loves being outdoors! From her website: “My earliest memories begin near the shores of Lake Superior, climbing trees, collecting rocks, and listening to birds. I love writing about nature and its place in young people’s lives.  Stories from faraway times and places have always captured my imagination as well.  I like to imagine what life was like as I walk along the river, or visit an historical site.  I work as an elementary school librarian, introducing students to great books, the exciting research process, and new technology.”

image-asset-4Luisa Uribe is an illustrator “living in Bogotá, Colombia. I love children’s books but venture into other fields from time to time. My favorite activities in no particular order are drawing, reading and chasing the cat around the house.”

Tanna’s Owl

Written by: Rachel & Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley

Illustrated by: Yong Ling Kang

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English, some Inuktitut (pronunciation guide in back as well)

Topics Covered: First Nations, Residential Schools, Own Voices, Responsibility, Pets, Growing Up, Indigenous Voices. 

Summary: 

This is a lovely book based on author Rachel’s own life experience raising an owl.  Tanna, or main character, receives an owlet from her father one day with instructions to care for it and make sure it has everything it needs.  Tanna jumps at the chance initially, but becomes a bit worn down when Ukpik the owl requires more and more attention without any affection given in return.  It is a wild animal, after all.

We were drawn into this story, with its unique and truthful outlook.  This book acknowledges that Tanna doesn’t always feel like raising Ukpik is rewarding, and that is refreshing.  At the end of the summer, Tanna must return to school (leaving Ukpik behind), which upon reading the Author’s Note the reader learns that she is educated at a Residential School.  When she returns the next summer, Ukpik has learned to fly and isn’t there anymore.  Tanna has a lot of respect for the owl, and is glad that she helped it thrive despite not always being excited to wake up early to catch lemmings for it to eat, or clean up all the poop.

I really loved how Inuit cultural values were woven into this story, and coupled with own voices lived experiences from Rachel’s childhood.  This story emphasizes the value of hard work and appreciation for nature, it’s a fantastic real aloud for young people who might be expressing interest for a pet as well!

This book was sent to us by Inhabit Media, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Qitsualik-TinsleyOf Inuit-Cree ancestry, RACHEL QITSUALIK-TINSLEY was born in a tent on northernmost Baffin Island. She learned Inuit survival lore from her father, surviving residential school and attending university. In 2012, she was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for numerous cultural writings. Of Scottish-Mohawk ancestry, SEAN QITSUALIK-TINSLEY was born in southern Ontario, learning woodcraft and stories from his father. Training as an artist, then writer, Sean’s sci-fi work won 2nd place at the California-based Writers of the Future contest, published by Galaxy Press. Rachel and Sean have worked for decades as Arctic researchers and consultants. In writing together, they have published 10 successful books and many shorter works, celebrating the history and uniqueness of Arctic shamanism, cosmology, and cosmogony. Their novel, Skraelings: Clashes in the Old Arctic, was a Governor General Awards Finalist and First Prize Burt Award winner.

 

Yong Ling Kang is a full-time freelance illustrator. Having worked in animation studios and a publishing company for some years, she’s now living and working from home based in Toronto.  Raised in tropical Singapore, she find comfort in playing water sports, taking walks in green spaces, and savouring spicy food. A glass of milo peng / teh-c siu-dai anytime!

 

What Stars Are Made Of [released 3/31]

Written by: Sarah Allen 

For ages: Middle Grades, 5th and up.

Language: English

Topics Covered: Growing Up, Own Voices, Turner Syndrome, Neurodiversity (NLD), STEM, Women in STEM, Friendship, Social-Emotional Growth & Development.

Summary: 

Hot damn, I’m glad this book exists.  This middle grade novel follows 12 year old Libby over the course of a school year.  Libby has difficulty making friends, and talks to famous women in science that she’s learned about inside her head.  When Libby’s sister Nonny moves back home because her husband Thomas is on a longterm job in another state and Nonny is pregnant, Libby is both excited and worried.  Libby has Turner syndrome, and because of this she has some complications like giving herself shots daily, and sterility.  She’s worried that the baby might need extra help too.

This book covers a wonderful amount of topics throughout the story, and I seriously could not put it down.  Libby navigates family dynamics, making friends with a new girl at school, and figuring out how to win a Smithsonian contest with a 25k grand prize (that could really help Thomas and Nonny). Libby has a good relationship with her teacher Ms. Trepky who encourages her to submit the essay and works with her on editing.

There is a particularly beautiful part of the book that really stuck with me after finishing it.  Libby and Ms. Trepky are in the classroom, discussing how the world is shaped by individuals, but the individual that changes the world is also shaped by an innumerable amount of people themselves.  Libby takes a moment of reflection and comprehends the magnitude of the fact that “the world was shaped by billions and billions of unknown hands…that meant [she] could sculpt and write on the DNA of the universe from [her] little corner of it, too, no matter [her] smallness or genetics or scars” (p137 of ARC).  This is a profound realization for a middle schooler, and a mindset that we have sought to emulate by creating ripples of change wherever we can.  For us, that means sharing stunning Own Voices texts such as this one.  This book comes out on March 31st and please do yourself a favor and devote a few hours to this splendid read, you will absolutely not regret it.

This book was generously sent to us by Macmillan, but all opinions are our own! Note: the quote we cited may differ slightly from the published edition, we will be checking for correctness once the edition is actually published.

About the Author:

Headshot-cred Sarah AllenSarah Allen got her MFA in creative writing from BYU and while Utah will always be her home, Sarah moved around a bit and currently lives in the Seattle area.

Pretty much every area of writing interests her, and regularly submits short stories, poetry, articles, and other fun things. Sarah is a Slytherin (with a Hufflepuff exterior), overenthusiastic about most things, and a shmoosher of dog faces. Her superpower is speaking fluent movie quotes.  Sarah is also a major lover of Pixar, leather jackets, and Colin Firth.