Multicultural Children’s Book Day

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As a mother who brought up her four children six thousands miles away from her homeland, between two languages and cultures, I’ve always been drawn to multicultural books. Sharing the rich diversity of our planet through its settings and people has always been crucial to me. Such literature opens children’s minds and helps them embrace humanity, regardless of countries of origin, cultures, languages, and religions.

Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press are the co-founders of Multicultural Children’s Book Day. For Valarie and Mia’s bios, click here. MCCBD will be celebrated on January 27, 2016.

The team mission is to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book.

I am thrilled to participate to MCCBD 2016, both as a reviewer and as an author. I will keep you updated when the review of my novel is posted later this month.

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In December I received two complimentary picture books for review. Both The Thunder Egg and Pine and the Winter Sparrow are published by Wisdom Tales Press, a publishing house based in Indiana that focuses on sharing the wisdom and beauty of cultures from around the world. To find more about Wisdom Tales Press, visit them on their website.

Reviewers are asked to be fair and honest. I didn’t have to make a special effort; I found these two books perfect for parents, teachers or anyone who wants to talk with preschoolers and early elementary school students about nature’s crucial role and about human generosity and kindness. These picture books are also excellent to read and study more Native American tales.

 

THE THUNDER EGG

Written by Tim. J. Myers and Illustrated by Winfield Coleman

Ages 5 and up

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While most contemporary people live far away from nature, while many neglect her and take no notice of her constant presence around us, Stands-by-Herself, the main character in The Thunder Egg, lives in complete harmony with her surroundings.

Stands-by-Herself is a shy, dreamy Cheyenne girl. While the other children misunderstand her, her wise and loving grandmother praises her granddaughter for being special.

One year, the summer rains don’t come to the Great Plains. Worry settles among the tribe. What will they eat now that the buffalos have only dry, sparse grass to graze? What will happen to all of them?

When Stands-by-Herself finds a strange looking gray stone, her grandmother tells her that it is a thunder egg that the Thunderbird’s wife may have laid.

The Thunderbird is “the giant eagle, the rain-bringer, whose wings-flaps made thunder, whose flashing eyes made lighting.”

The other children make fun of Stands-by-Herself when she claims that an eagle will hatch from the stone, bringing rain and hope to all of them. Despite the mockery, Stands-by-Herself develops a strong attachment for the stone, similar to a mother’s unconditional love for her unborn child.

At the height of summer, rain has not yet arrived, and with the lasting drought come starvation and soon death.

Stands-by-Herself understands that it is up to her to do something for her people. Despite her deep sadness to part from her beloved thunder egg, she knows she has to give it away and she leaves it on a high ridge near the camp.

Almost immediately lighting comes and shatters the egg. Wind follows. Dark clouds gather. Thunder booms. As Stands-by-Herself returns to the camp rain starts falling, bringing back hope to the people. Everyone starts to praise Stands-by-Herself, the shy and generous girl who saved her people when she gave away her most precious possession.

The elders have already begun telling her story…

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Perhaps because of the many years I’ve spent in California where rain is precious, perhaps due to my numerous cross-country trips in the USA, several taking me through the Great Plains, I relate to the topic of drought and the crucial role of rain. As a non-religious woman I also relate to the Native Americans’ strong relationship with nature and their respect for its power.

This picture book illustrates two important ideas:

  • The human connection to nature and how we can’t live without acknowledging that we are part of a natural world.
  • The importance of generosity and how giving something that matters a lot to us can have a large impact on others.

I would have liked double-page illustrations that typically emphasize either the setting or a crucial scene. But I love the use of drop caps, gorgeously illustrated, that will capture children’s curiosity for details.

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The afterword, notes on the illustrations, and bibliography at the end of the picture book offer additional options for parents, teachers, school librarians who wish to explore more deeply the Native American culture.

The Thunder Egg reminded me of The Legend of the Blue Bonnet, an old tale of Texas retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola, in which She-Who-Is-Alone, a Comanche girl, gives her beloved warrior doll to save her people from the disastrous consequences of drought. As a reward the fields cover in blue flowers. The bluebonnet is Texas state flower.

About the author and illustrator:

Tim J. Myers wrote many books for children. He’s also an artist, poet and songwriter, storyteller and professor of English.

Winfield Coleman is an illustrator and painter, writer, editor, lecturer and ethnological researcher who researched materials on native peoples and their art for over four decades.

Both live in Northern California.

 

 

PINE AND THE WINTER SPARROW

Retold by Alexis York Lumbard and Illustrated by Beatriz Vidal

Foreword by Robert Lewis

Ages 4 and up

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This retelling of an ancient native tale exemplifies in a different way than The Thunder Egg the same bond between living creatures and nature.

When Sparrow injures his wing at the end of fall and cannot follow his family’s annual migration, he doesn’t lose his appreciation for life.

When temperatures drop and Sparrow gets cold he asks each and every tree in the forest for shelter. But one by one Oak, Maple, Elm, and Aspen decline and send him away. Suddenly, little Sparrow misses the warmth of his family, and his heart grows sad and lonely.

Pine tree hears Sparrow’s sobs and immediately worries about him. Before Sparrow can say anything Pine scoops him up and installs him in a high branch where Sparrow spends the entire winter, safely protected from the harsh elements.

With the arrival of spring Sparrow’s family returns to the forest. They all cheer him up, happy to see that his wing is all healed. Sparrow tells them about Pine and how the tree is now his best friend.

Soon after, the Creator calls a council and shames the trees that didn’t offer anything to Sparrow when he was hurt, cold, and lonely. To honor Pine’s generosity, he offers the tree a very special gift. From now, unlike all trees that lose their leaves at the end of fall, Pine will remain green, even at the height of winter.

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Again I’m very much in favor of tales and retelling of tales when it comes to explain the wonders of nature and humanity to young children. Messages of generosity and compassion can be shared through poetically written and beautifully illustrated stories that resonate more deeply with them than direct lessons. I especially like this simple tale that offers grown-ups an opportunity to discuss with small children how nature, and particularly trees, respond to the passing of seasons and how small acts of compassion go a long way.

The author and illustrator have combined their talents to create unity. Words and illustrations are equally lovely and will delight young children as they follow Sparrow and his resilience and fall for Pine’s kindness.

I totally fell for the illustrator’s work. Her depictions of fall, winter, and spring are realistic and yet extremely poetic. All illustrations run on double pages and are filled with light. The palette of colors is subtle yet warm and textured. I especially find her work around the fall season exquisite.

About the author and illustrator:

Alexis York Lumbard is an award-winning author who holds a B.A. in Religious Studies. She thrives to bring the wisdom and beauty of the world’s cultures and religious to young children. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.

Beatriz Vidal is an award-winning Argentinean painter, illustrator and teacher. She divides her time between her native country and New York City.

The foreword is from Robert Lewis, an award-winning storyteller, author and artist from Cherokee, Navaho and Apache descent. He lives in Oklahoma.

 

Although tempted to keep these two beautiful hardcover picture books for my own collection, I will give them to my local library, which has a limited collection of multicultural children’s books and even a smaller folktales selection.

The following information covers all you need to know about  Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016.

Below are the Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld

Multicultural Children’s Book Day has twelve amazing Co-Hosts and you can view them here.

Teachers! Earn a FREE #Multicultural Kids Book for Your Classroom! #teachers, #books #teacherlife

The Classroom Reading Challenge has begun!

MCCBD now has its own Paper.li! A Paper.li is a free online newspaper that aggregates information on the topic of multicultural books for kids from all over the Internet. Please feel free to subscribe and stay up-to-date with this topic.

Diversity Book Lists and Resources for Educators and Parents are now available.

Connect with MCCBD on Facebook

Connect with MCCBD on Twitter #ReadYourWorld

 

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Comments

  1. Kudos all the way around, Evelyne. Here’s a fresh one from my good friend Sylvia Ross: http://www.amazon.com/Fables-In-An-Old-Style/dp/0578168669 I’ve sent her a link to this excellent post.

  2. Anything that helps spread the message that we are all one people and share more things than things than we have differences, is a good thing.

  3. Both of these books look beautiful – I look forward to reading them. It is hard to find newer books about Native American tales so these are really needed. Thanks for your thoughtful reviews.

  4. What a great celebration of one of the best things about books Evelyne, the way they transport us and help us to understand the world and each other.

  5. I assume you have planted yourself in school library associations..:) already? Just so more folks know about your work. I am by profession and formal training a former librarian. But only for adults and in corporate worlds…engineering, law.

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