Tag Archives: poc-centric narratives

Nya’s Long Walk

Written by: Linda Sue Park

Illustrated by: Brian Pinkney

For ages: 4-9 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Global Community, Africa, African Culture, Sudan, Sudanese Life, Water, Medicine, Family, Siblings, Love, Lived Experiences, POC-Centric Narratives. 

Summary: 

Nya and her sister Akeer live in Sudan and must walk a long way to get water.  One day when making the journey, Akeer falls ill and Nya must carry both her sister and the water back to their house.  When she gets back to the village, Nya’s mother realizes that Akeer is sick from drinking dirty water, and they must take her to the doctor.  Tired but strong, Nya comes along carrying all of the supplies they’ll need for the long and arduous walk to the doctor.

This book is a fictionalized tale, but it tells a familiar story for a lot of girls who live in Sudan.  Sickness from dirty water is common, but there are organizations that work to drill wells in the villages that have the longest walks to water.  When these wells are dug, it also gives back valuable time typically spent walking to be allocated to education.  This book talks about an organization started by Salva Dut, a refugee from South Sudan that now digs wells in remote villages.

What we really like about this book is that it highlights an individual from the area making a difference, not a white savior organization.  Dut’s organization is called Water for South Sudan and was started in 2003.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

lsp_72dpi_rgb_200px_2015Linda Sue Park was born in Urbana, Illinois on March 25, 1960, and grew up outside Chicago. The daughter of Korean immigrants, she has been writing poems and stories since she was four years old, and her favorite thing to do as a child was read.

This is the first thing she ever published—a haiku in a children’s magazine when she was nine years old:

In the green forest
A sparkling, bright blue pond hides.
And animals drink.

For this poem she was paid one whole dollar. She gave the check to her dad for Christmas. About a year later the company wrote to her asking her to cash the check! Linda Sue wrote back explaining that it was now framed and hung above her dad’s desk and was it okay if he kept it? The magazine said it was fine, and her dad still has that check.

During elementary school and high school, Linda Sue had several more poems published in magazines for children and young people. She went to Stanford University, competed for the gymnastics team, and graduated with a degree in English. Then she took a job as a public-relations writer for a major oil company. This was not exactly the kind of writing she wanted to do, but it did teach her to present her work professionally and that an interested writer can make any subject fascinating (well, almost any subject …).

In 1983, after two years with the oil company, Linda Sue left her job and moved to Dublin when a handsome Irishman swept her off her feet. She studied literature, moved to London, worked for an advertising agency, married that Irishman, had a baby, taught English as a second language to college students, worked as a food journalist, and had another baby. It was a busy time, and she never even thought about writing children’s books.

In 1990, she and her family moved back to the U.S. because of her husband’s job. Linda Sue continued teaching English to foreign students. It took her quite a while, but she finally realized that what she really wanted to do was to write books for children. In 1997, she started writing her first book, Seesaw Girl. It was accepted that same year and published in 1999.

Since then, Linda Sue has published many other books for young people, including A Single Shard, which was awarded the 2002 Newbery Medal.

She now lives in western New York with the same Irishman; their son lives nearby, and their daughter lives in Brooklyn. Besides reading and writing, Linda Sue likes to cook, travel, watch movies, and do the New York Times crossword puzzle. She also loves dogs, watching sports on television and playing board and video games. When she grows up, she would like to be an elephant scientist.

BrianPinkneyHeadShotAcclaimed artist Brian Pinkney is the illustrator of several highly-praised picture books including The Faithful Friend, In the Time of the Drums, and Duke Ellington . He is a graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and holds a master’s degree in illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Andrea, with whom he often collaborates, and his two children.

Brian has won numerous awards including two Caldecott Honors, four Coretta Scott King Honors and a Coretta Scott King Award, and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award. He has been exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, The Detroit Institute of Art, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The School of Visual Arts, and The Society of Illustrators.

He has been published by Greenwillow Books, Hyperion Books for Young Readers, Little, Brown and Company, Feiwel & Friends, Harcourt Children’s Books, Simon & Schuster, and Random House. His work has also appeared in New York Times Magazine, Women’s Day, Business Tokyo, Ebony Man, and Instructor.

Usha and the Stolen Sun

Written by: Bree Galbraith

Illustrated by: Josée Bisaillon

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social Justice, Bravery, Family, Community, Connections, POC-Centric Narratives, Social-Emotional Learning. 

Summary: 

Usha was born in a land where the sky is always gray.  Hardly anyone remembers the sun, but Usha is lucky enough to live with her grandfather who does remember what it was like to play outside under the warm light.  Usha resolutely decides to bring back the sun, undeterred by the stories that whoever built a giant wall to block out the sun from their village would not be swayed by her pleas.  Through all sorts of travails, Usha searches for the wall and is eventually successful at finding it!  Now comes the harder part, convincing those on the other side to take it down.

This is a beautiful story that emphasizes the power of words over brute force.  Usha is a clever and dynamic character, set on helping her grandfather and the rest of her village experience once again what only the oldest members even remember and the rest simply long for.

This book was generously sent to us by the author, Bree!  We were also lucky enough to be sent a discussion guide that she developed for the book as well.  It gives a list of fantastic questions and jumping off points for meaningful conversations in a small or large group that can easily be expanded to encompass other topics like human rights, social justice, and community organizing.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

RachelPick_Portfolio2015-15Bree Galbraith lives in Vancouver and likes “writing stories that inspire kids and adults to think critically about the world around them, and the ways in which they can challenge the systems in place and create change”.  Bree also holds a masters degree from the University of British Columbia!

 

 

 

jos_e_bisaillonAs a young girl, Josée Bisaillon loved drawing cats and houses. She really enjoyed school and always returned home full of stories to tell. She liked being in the classroom so much that she pursued her education all the way to university, where she studied graphic design. It was there that she fell in love with illustration.

Since 2005, with scissors and brushes in hand, Josée has illustrated more than 30 children’s books, as well as magazines and newspapers for adults, all around the world.

Josée lives just outside of Montreal with her spouse, their 3 children one hairless cat and many paper characters.

 

Hike [released 3/17]

Written & Illustrated by: Pete Oswald

For ages: any

Language: English, but there are very few words in this book!

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Outdoors, Gender Neutral Stories, Family, Traditions, Nature, Environmental Activism. 

Summary: 

Hike is a beautiful wordless adventure between father and child outdoors! This adorable story is one of genuine excitement at spending the day outdoors, and the child remains ungendered throughout the entire story (which we adore).  The pair traverse over logs, take photos, and admire birds.  I also love that the pair pictured aren’t white, it’s so rare we see books that focus on the outdoors with just characters of color! As the story continues, the read finds out exactly why the pair is making the hike.

The captivating illustrations by Pete Oswald convey emotion, movement, and reads like a comic book in places with several smaller vignette’s on some pages, giving context for the pair’s long and winding journey.  There is even a short note about the family tradition the two are fulfilling, and it is one that we would love to integrate into our own family as well.  It’s wonderful to have more stories about families that venerate nature and the outdoors, and are excited to spend time together.  Hike is released on 3/17, just in time to inspire spring adventures!

This book was kindly sent to us by Candlewick Press, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

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Pete Oswald is a #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator and an Annie Award-nominated animation production designer best known for The Angry Birds Movie film franchise and Oscar® Nominated ParaNorman, in addition to multiple animated studio films. He is also known for his work as a children’s book author and illustrator, and painter. Pete’s work includes the #1 New York Times bestselling picture book, The Good Egg, and the #2 New York Times bestselling picture book, The Bad Seed, both written by Jory John.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph

Written by: Brandy Colbert

For ages: YA (underage alcohol use, marijuana use, sex, substance use/addiction)

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Black Culture & Identity, Growing Up, Chicago, Relationships, Dating, Family, Police Interaction (racist treatment), 

Summary: In the summer between sophomore and junior year, Birdie’s aunt Carlene unexpectedly shows up at their apartment above the hair salon that Birdie’s mother Kitty owns and operates.  Birdie has been forced to give up soccer and misses it terribly, and is in a fledgling relationship with a boy named Booker who her parents wouldn’t approve of.  Birdie’s aunt has battled with substance use for the majority of her life, and it seems that everyone feels it’s only a matter of time before she relapses once again.

Birdie becomes frustrated trying to please her strict and overprotective parents, as well as trying to deal with the growing suspicion that there’s a family secret that may involve her.  could be described as a coming of age novel.  Birdie is trying to live her own life and make decisions for herself, feeling hindered by the expectations her parents have placed on her.  The author brings it about in an accessible way, it would be easy for readers to relate to the pressure Birdie feels.  She also has a pile of secrets that keeps growing as she schemes how to sneak out and see Booker.

We love that LGBTQ characters rethreaded throughout the book as well, normalizing the friendships between straight and queer people and having queer family members.  There is a strength to the family, especially in the way that Kitty doesn’t give up on her sister Carlene.

About the Author:

brandy-colbertBrandy Colbert is the award-winning author of Little & Lion, Finding Yvonne, Pointe, and the forthcoming The Revolution of Birdie Randolph (August 20, 2019). Her short fiction and essays have been published in several critically acclaimed anthologies for young people. She is on faculty at Hamline University’s MFA program in writing for children, and lives in Los Angeles.

 

 

 

Reading Beauty

Written by: Deborah Underwood

Illustrated by: Meg Hunt

For ages: 3-6 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Literacy, Fairy Tale, Problem-Solving, Feminist, Independent Thought, Kindness, Family, Love, Pets, Space, Rhyming. 

Summary: This is the next book from the pair that brought you Interstellar Cinderella, which we loved very much!  Both of us are so excited to get this one, we’ve been waiting with bated breath for it to arrive at our local library.

Princess Lex loves to read!  On the morning of her 15th birthday she wakes up to find that all the books in the kingdom are gone, removed because of a curse that was put upon Lex at her birth.  In order to get her beloved books back, she sets off to find the fairy that cursed her.

This book is great, not only do we see a princess and kingdom that is predominantly POC,  but Lex herself takes initiative to solve the problem of the kingdom’s curse-and uses books to do it! When she does find the fairy that cursed her, Lex treats her with kindness.  A lovely book, with a feminist twist of true love’s kiss!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

60356-2Deborah Underwood has worked as a street musician and at an accounting firm but for years has been a full-time writer who occasionally plays the ukulele. She is the author of several picture books, including New York TimesbestsellersThe Quiet Book and Here Comes the Easter Cat, as well as Monster & Mouse Go Camping, Interstellar Cinderella, and Bad Bye Good By

 

 

 

 

megbio-2Meg Hunt is an illustrator, educator and maker of things. She lives and works in the wooded city of Portland, OR. Her goal is to fill the world with my creations, and make people happy in the process. Her first picture book Interstellar Cinderella was published by Chronicle Books in 2015 and has been given starred reviews from Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly, who also listed it as one of their best summer books of the year. She was featured as one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Flying Starts for Summer 2015 as well. In 2015, she received a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators for Illustrators 58, Uncommissioned category. Currently, her focus is creating charming and colorful character-based illustrations, lettering and patterns for editorial/publishing/product markets.

The King of Kindergarten

Written by: Derrick Barnes

Illustrated by: Vanessa Brantley-Newton

For ages: 4-6 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: School, Social-Emotional Learning, New Places, POC-Centric Narratives, Friendship, Kindness, Own Voices. 

Summary: This book is the cutest!  It is adorable, upbeat, and makes a first day at school seem like no big deal.  Speaking about the daily routine at school in an embellished and royal way is reminiscent of I Will Be Fierce! which turns the ordinary and potentially scary into a fun adventure.

Our main character wakes up excited to tackle the first day, assured by his family that he will be the king of kindergarten.  After brushing his royal teeth, our king begins the journey to school and meets the kingdom, have important discussions, and play outside.  This book is precious in it’s character’s self-assuredness that school is a place for him, he will be seen, heard, and respected.

This is especially important given that he is a young boy of color, where in the “real world” there are disproportionate statistics of these young children being suspended and expelled.  Every classroom is obligated to not only ensure the social-emotional learning to tackle new and potentially anxiety-inducing situations, but to also actively work against these myths that young boys of color are somehow more out of control and/or deserving of punishment than any other child in the classroom.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

cropped-img_8599-2Derrick D. Barnes is from Kansas City, MO. He is a graduate of Jackson State University with a BA degree in Marketing. He is the author of the critically acclaimed picture book CROWN: An Ode To The Fresh Cut (Denene Millner Books/Agate Bolden) which recently won the 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Award. It was also a HUGE winner at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards, taking home FOUR Honor awards: the Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, Newberry Honor, and the Caldecott Honor. His first two books were published by Scholastic; Stop Drop and Chill, and The Low Down Bad Day Blues.  His first YA novel, The Making of Dr. Truelove was published by Simon Pulse which was recognized by the American Library Association as a Quick Pick For Reluctant Readers. He is also the author of the best selling chapter book series entitled Ruby and the Booker Boys (Scholastic). His 2011 middle grade hardcover classic We Could Be Brothers was rereleased in paperback in 2017 by Just Us Books. Prior to becoming a published author, Derrick wrote best-selling copy for various Hallmark Card lines and was the first African American male staff writer for the company. He is the owner of a creative copy writing company, Say Word Creative Communications.  He is also the creator of the popular blog Raising The Mighty, where he ‘chronicles the experience of bringing up four beautiful Black boys in America’. His next book, entitled The King of Kindergarten, will be published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. Derrick resides in Charlotte, NC with his enchanting wife, Dr. Tinka Barnes and their four sons, Ezra, Solomon, Silas, and Nnamdi (Nom-dee).

vanessa-new-225x300-2-2Vanessa Brantley Newton was born during the Civil Rights movement, and attended school in Newark, NJ. She was part of a diverse, tight-knit community and learned the importance of acceptance and empowerment at early age.

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was the first time she saw herself in a children’s book. It was a defining moment in her life, and has made her into the artist she is today. As an illustrator, Vanessa includes children of all ethnic backgrounds in her stories and artwork. She wants allchildren to see their unique experiences reflected in the books they read, so they can feel the same sense of empowerment and recognition she experienced as a young reader.

​Vanessa celebrates self-love and acceptance of all cultures through her work, and hopes to inspire young readers to find their own voices. She first learned to express herself as a little girl through song. Growing up in a musical family, Vanessa’s parents taught her how to sing to help overcome her stuttering. Each night the family would gather to make music together, with her mom on piano, her dad on guitar, and Vanessa and her sister, Coy, singing the blues, gospel, spirituals, and jazz. Now whenever she illustrates, music fills the air and finds its way into her art.

The children she draws can be seen dancing, wiggling, and moving freely across the page in an expression of happiness. Music is a constant celebration, no matter the occasion, and Vanessa hopes her illustrations bring joy to others, with the same magic of a beautiful melody.

Firu’s Forest

Written by: J. Leigh Shelton

Illustrated by: Danica Jokic

For ages: 5-10 years old

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Friendship, Social-Emotional Growth, Nature, Natural World. 

Summary: This book is a collection of 3 stories, connected by cameos and the rainforest.

The first story is about a boy named Sebastian, who lives with his grandmother and loves bananas very much.  He plants a banana plant and when his grandmother asks if he plans on sharing the bananas, Sebastian assures her he won’t be able to because he will eat all of them.  Once the tree starts producing fruit and Sebastian makes a new friend, will he be able to stick to his word and decide not to share?

The second story is about two cats, one very friendly and one very scared.  The black cat is extremely cautious, because it had been hurt before.  The two cat friends discuss what it means to be fulfilled in life, and how to be like the smiling sloth even through hardship.  Can the black cat let go of the past and make new friendships?

The third story is about a dog, the titular character Firu.  Firu has the honor of his fur being used to help build a hummingbird nest, thus beginning a close friendship with the tiny egg and subsequently tiny bird that hatches out of it.

These three stories are woven together by both the rainforest setting and the social-emotional growth of the characters that takes place within the stories. What I also like about the three stories in one book is that it allows for conversations with a group about the intertwined storylines, and inferencing about how else the characters might know each other outside of the stories.  The illustrations are beautiful, and we enjoyed the longer text.  The stories are a bit longer than typical picture books, which enabled the reader to know the characters better by the end of the story.  This book could also be used to talk about the environment, preservation, and why we need to be conscientious of how to treat others.

This book was generously sent to us by the author, but all opinions are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

0J. Leigh Shelton is the author of Firu’s Forest and a freelance writer living in Florida.

 

 

 

 

20181030154329643Danica Jokic is the illustrator of Firu’s Forest! She also lives in Florida.