Tag Archives: poc-centric narratives

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border

Written by: Mitali Perkins

Illustrated by: Sara Palacios

For ages: 3-8 years

Language: English & some Spanish

Topics Covered: Family, Immigration, Border Patrol, POC-Centric Narratives, Latinx, Mexican-American, Culture & Traditions, Love, Growing Up, Global Community.

Summary: Even though this is a story centering around Christmas, we felt the need to share it sooner rather than waiting for December to come around!

This is a beautiful and emotional story about a family that is separated by a border.  Maria, her brother Juan, and their mother live in the United States.  Their Abuela lives in Mexico.  Around Christmas, they take a bus to a certain part of the border where groups of people can meet through a fence for half hour chunks of time.  They are separated by this large fence, it’s a time that Maria looks forward to.  Though the time is brief, Maria and Juan are so glad to see their Abuela, and get her kisses on their fingertips through the fence.  When their visit time is up, Maria tries to pass a scarf that she knit through the fence, but a border patrol officer stops her.  Juan begins to cry that he can’t pass through a picture he drew for Abuela, and the trio goes back to the beach.  Maria has an idea that might get their gifts to Abuela without completely breaking the rules about passing things through the fence, but will she be able to pull it off?

This is a poignant story about families separated, but still trying to share an important holiday together.  Maria and her brother are a fictional family, but they are celebrating La Posada Sin Fronteras, which is a real festival put on during Las Posadas in the border enforcement zone in San Diego.  I really enjoyed the author’s note in the back, which talks about the logistics of this yearly event when families on different sides of the border come together to celebrate together.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

largeMitali Perkins has written twelve books for young readers, including Between Us and AbuelaForward Me Back To You,You Bring the Distant Near, and Rickshaw Girl, all of which explore crossing different kinds of borders. She was honored as a “Most Engaging Author” by independent booksellers across the country and has addressed a diversity of audiences in schools and libraries, as well as at festivals and conferences. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the United States. She has lived in Bangladesh, India, England, Thailand, Mexico, Cameroon, and Ghana, studied Political Science at Stanford and Public Policy at U.C. Berkeley, and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

sara_palacios-2Sara Palacios studied Graphic Design at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico DF, and has an Associate Degree in Graphic Production Techniques from the School of Design, INBA  (National Institute of Fine Arts) in Mexico. She also has an Associate Degree in Illustration from the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana, as well as a BFA and MFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She has been a part time faculty member at the Academy of Art University since 2014. She is the recipient of the 2012 Pura Belpré Illustration Honor Award and the 2013 Tejas Star Book Award.

 

Sunny

Written by: Jason Reynolds

Cover Art by: Vanessa Brantley Newton

For ages: YA Middle Grades (mention of maternal death)

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Growing Up, Sports, Black Culture & Identity, Track & Field, Dance, Single Parenthood, Friendship, Homeschooling, Resilience, Own Voices. 

Summary: This is the third in Jason Reynolds’ Track series, this time about team member Sunny.

We find out that Sunny is homeschooled by his mother’s friend Aurelia, and she’s his best (and only) friend.  Sunny’s mother died giving birth to Sunny, and his father has never healed from that trauma.  Neither has Sunny.  Because Sunny’s mother was a runner, his father wants Sunny to be a runner too.  But Sunny just wants to be a dancer.  Although Sunny doesn’t want to be a runner, he doesn’t want to quit the track team either.  This book navigates Sunny taking control of his life through reading diary entries in an emotionally raw way as he’s trying to figure out what he wants, and how to tell his father.

Something I really like about the series is the way we learn more about the other characters by way of the internal monologues in other books.  The crush that Patina thinks Sunny might have on her (that she may or may not return) is answered here, for example.  Knowing that I’m nearing the end of the series is a bit distressing, I want their stories to continue!  All in all, a very solid and quick read just slightly over 150 pages that ends with the typical cliffhanger during a track meet.

About the Author & Cover Artist:

180314_FastCompany_JasonReynolds-7Jason Reynolds is one of the most important YA authors right now, he has such finesse and talent with words.  Here is the About section from his website, because we can’t say it any better than he already has:

“Well, if you’ve made it here, that means you’ve survived the huge picture of my face! Congrats! And to reward you, I’m going to tell you all about…me. Sorry. No cake. No confetti. No money falling from the ceiling…this time.

So, I’m a writer. And when I say I’m a writer, I mean it in the same way a professional ball player calls himself an athlete. I practice everyday and do the best I can to be better at this writing thing, while hopefully bringing some cool stories to the world. The stories are kinda like my slam dunks. Except, I’m dunking words. In your FACE! Ha!

I graduated from the University of Maryland (where I spent about 65% of my time writing and reciting poetry all over campus…yeah, that was me) with a B.A. in English, then packed my bags and moved to Brooklyn because somebody told me they were giving away dream-come-true vouchers.

And if I ever find the person who told me that… let’s just say, no one was giving away anything. ANYTHING. Lucky for me I had all these crazy stories to keep me going. Ten years later, here I am, doing my best to string together an “ABOUT” section on my own website about my own books. Crazy.

Here’s what I know: I know there are a lot — A LOT — of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom. If you are reading this, and you happen to be one of these boys, first of all, you’re reading this so my master plan is already working (muahahahahahaha) and second of all, know that I feel you. I REALLY do. Because even though I’m a writer, I hate reading boring books too.”

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.

Soldier for Equality: José de la Luz Sáenz and the Great War

Written & Illustrated by: Duncan Tonatiuh

For ages: 7-11 years

Language: English & Spanish

Topics Covered: Historical Events, Latinx, Mexican-American Culture, Historical Figure, POC-Centric Narratives, WWI, Activism, Activist, Own Voices.

Summary: Luz was born in America, but his family was of Mexican descent.  He is teased for it, and sometimes gets in fights.  When Luz grows up he becomes a teacher and after a long day of teaching children, he teaches night classes to illiterate adults.  He becomes frustrated at the lack of access to supplies in his school simply because he teaches Mexican students.  Luz decides to join the army to demonstrate that Mexican-Americans love their country as much as the white Americans did, and Luz decided to fight during WWI.  He is sickened when he meets others who experienced racism along with him, and is frustrated by the fact that he is taunted by white soldiers in the barracks when they’re supposed to be a united front fighting against the injustices occurring in Europe.

When he goes to France, Luz decided to learn French to be able to keep up with the news.  He soon became a translator and is stationed in a hole underground receiving and translating messages.  Luz thinks about how education has literally built a protective wall around him, and is grateful.  He also becomes an English teacher for other soldiers, most of the Mexican-American like himself! When he returns home, things are not better for the average Mexican-American person like himself, so he began to start organizations dedicated to equity and break down barriers for his community.

This book is beautiful, and gives a lot of detailed historical information about World War I.  Luz is a figure that tried his best to help others and be respected in the process, hoping that if people saw past stereotypes about Mexican-Americans, he would make life better for all.  He began the League of United Latin American Citizens and was involved with many civil liberties organizations throughout the duration of his life.  In the back is a glossary, author’s note, timeline of events, and an index.

This book great, and we love all of Duncan Tonatiuh’s work!  While definitely for elementary aged children because of the talk of war, harm, and specific historical details, it is a great representation of an individual who was patriotic as well as an activist.  We need more books about figures that started grassroots organizations in a quest to make life better for marginalized communities, and this book is a fantastic addition!

About the Author & Illustrator:

duncan-tonatiuhDuncan Tonatiuh (toh-nah-tee-YOU) is the author-illustrator of The Princess and the Warrior, Funny Bones, Separate Is Never Equal, Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote, Diego Rivera: His World and Ours and Dear Primo. He is the illustrator of Esquivel! and Salsa. His books have received multiple accolades, among them the Pura Belpré Medal, the Sibert Medal, The Tomás Rivera Mexican-American Children’s Book Award, The Américas Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award. Duncan Tonatiuh is both Mexican and American. He grew up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York City. His artwork is inspired by Pre-Columbian art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex. His aim is to create images and stories that honor the past, but that are relevant to people, specially children, nowadays.

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh

Written by: Supriya Kelkar

Illustrated by: Alea Marley

For ages: 3-7 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Social-Emotional Learning, POC-Centric Narratives, Sikhism, Global Community.

Summary: 

We are so flattered to have been contacted by the fantastic @littlefeministbookclub about becoming a part of their influencer program and receiving an affiliate code!  This group is doing such fantastic work bringing quality and diverse books to folks, we couldn’t be more humbled or pleased to help spread their message of diversity and inclusion (especially in the world of publishing)!  When you go to The Little Feminist website, you can use our code THETINYACTIVIST and receive 15% off your order.  They do monthly subscription boxes, and also just came out with the most incredible trio of board books!

Harpreet Singh is a young boy who wears a different color patka (turban) for his moods.  When Harpreet moves to a new place with his family, he wears a white turban for a long time because he is sad.  Will Harpreet ever feel at home in his new school and make a friend? Harpreet is a sweet character very in touch with his emotions, which is fantastic for introducing emotions and decoding the feelings of others for young children.  The illustrations are adorable, and we love the expressions that illustrator Alea  Marley is able to convey.

This book is very sweet for several reasons.  We love seeing a Sikh character normalized, and especially a boy who enjoys wearing pink during everyday life when he feels celebratory.  It’s lovely to see a boy in touch with his feelings and define his style melding fashion and culture.  The added social-emotional growth throughout the story is the cherry on top!  In the back is a note from Simran Jeet Singh, a scholar and professor of Sikhism which gives the reader a bit more background information if they’re unfamiliar with the Sikh lifestyle and religion.

We received this book from The Little Feminist Book Club, but all opinions about both the book and the club are our own.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

img_20190606_210731_673Supriya Kelkar grew up in the Midwest, where she learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. Winner of the New Visions Award for her middle grade novel AHIMSA, (Tu Books, 2017), Supriya is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films, including Lage Raho Munnabhai and Eklavya: The Royal Guard, India’s entry into the 2007 Academy Awards. She was an associate producer on the Hollywood feature, Broken Horses. Supriya’s books include AHIMSA, THE MANY COLORS OF HARPREET SINGH (Sterling, 2019), AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE (Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2020) STRONG AS FIRE, FIERCE AS FLAME (Tu Books, 2020), and THAT THING ABOUT BOLLYWOOD (Aladdin/Simon and Schuster, 2021). Supriya is represented by Kathleen Rushall at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Kim Yau at Paradigm for film/TV rights.

thumbnail_4_528Alea Marley is a children’s illustrator living and working in England.

She loves creating whimsical scenes that are filled with patterns, texture, and bursts of colour! Her favourite mediums to work with are chunky pencils, watercolour crayons, and digital brushes.

Picture Books
Everybody’s Somewhere by Cornelia Spelman, Seagrass Press – October 2017
Loretta’s Gift by Pat Zietlow Miller, Simon & Schuster – August 2018
The Many Colours Of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar, Sterling – September 2019
A Day So Gray by Marie Lamba, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – October 2019

 

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.

Small World

Written by: Ishta Mercurio

Illustrated by: Jen Corace

For ages: 3-6 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, STEM, Space, Growing Up.

Summary: 

This is a beautiful book about how a person’s world grows with experience.  When Nanda was born, her whole world was her mother’s arms.  As she grows up, her world becomes bigger, more magical, and more mathematical.  Corace’s illustrations grow to be more geometric as the book continues, culminating in Nanda’s ultimate trip to expand her world.

Nanda’s world grows as she goes to school, learns new things, and has new experiences.  The reader is able to harness Nanda’s sense of wonder about the world and apply it to their own, thinking about their place in our universe as well as the interests that make their own world grow larger.  The illustrations are beautiful and diverse, and it’s lovely to see an Indian girl be the star of the STEM-driven life she’s making for herself.  There is an author’s note in the back talking a bit about how Ishta became inspired to write the book, and the story behind choosing Nanda’s name!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

Image result for Ishta Mercurio

Ishta Mercurio studied dance and theater at Simon’s Rock College of Bard. In between homeschooling her children, she teaches writers how to use theater techniques to improve public readings. She lives with her family in Ontario, Canada.

 

 

 

Image result for jen corace

Jen Corace is the illustrator of many books for children, including Little Pea. She has a BFA in illustration from Rhode Island School of Design, and she lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island.

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.