Two Children’s Books About Crossing Borders

What better way to learn about people who immigrate from Mexico to the United States than to read their personal stories? Let’s look at two sets of biographies nominated for 2018 Cybils awards, each with their own approach and voice.

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Artist and author Yuyi Morales stepped across the border from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico to El Paso, Texas in 1994. She writes about her experiences in Dreamers, the English version and Soñadores, the Spanish version.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreamers/Soñadores is creative, dramatic, beautiful.

The English text is enriched with gems of higher-level vocabulary (for example, “resplendent”) and Spanish words (amor, caminantes, lucha). It gives room for learning.

The illustrations are gorgeous (Morales is a Caldecott Honor artist) and are full of symbolism. For example, the monarch butterfly on the cover represents an insect that migrates from Canada and the U.S. to Mexico and back. According to the author, the snakes represent difficulties in one’s path (see her explain some of the symbolism in this YouTube video).

The core message not only reveals the trials and joys of coming to a new place, but also celebrates the importance of books in easing the transition.

“Books became our language.
Books became our home.
Books became our lives. “

We are all for promoting/celebrating books!

Be sure to visit the back matter, which is also full of gems:

  • Check out the extensive list of books (45+) that inspired the author, such as Freight Train by Donald Crews.
  • Read Morales explanation in “My Story” that the tile of the book isn’t a reference to undocumented immigrant children who were brought to the United States — as the word is currently used — but has the broader meaning of imagining a better future.
  • “How I Made this Book” lists all the things she photographed and scanned for the illustrations. Send readers on a hunt to see if they can spot the items listed.

Dreamers/Soñadores is a complex and vibrant book. It will appeal to many different readers for many different reasons. Share a copy today.

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In contrast, Deborah Mills , Alfredo Alva, and illustrator Claudia Navarro use a bilingual approach with La Frontera / The Border: El viaje con papá/ My Journey With Papa, displaying the Spanish and English sections on the same page.

La Frontera takes the reader on the arduous and at times frightening trip made by a actual immigrant child. Over thirty years ago Alfredo Alva moved from La Ceja, Mexico to Texas with his father because their family had no means to support themselves. They waded/swam across the Rio Grande when Alfredo was only eight. At first, they lived in an old bus and Alfredo went to school while his father worked. Alfredo’s father gave him a $100 bill to carry with him at all times. It was for the bus fare back to his mother if he was ever deported without his father.

Although this is a picture book according to Amazon, the text is much denser than for Dreamers. There are two or three paragraphs of Spanish and then English on each two-page spread. This allows the story to unfold more fully, but puts it closer to a middle grade title.

The acrylic, graphite, and digital collage illustrations complement the story well. The back matter has black and white photographs of Alfredo and his family, plus a map of their journey.

La Frontera is children’s biography genre at its best. Young readers are likely to come back to it again and again.

Dreamers:
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Neal Porter Books (September 4, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0823440559
ISBN-13: 978-0823440559

Soñadores:
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Neal Porter Books (September 4, 2018)
Language: Spanish
ISBN-10: 0823442586
ISBN-13: 978-0823442584

La Frontera:
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Barefoot Books; Bilingual edition (May 1, 2018)
Language: Spanish and English
ISBN-10: 178285388X
ISBN-13: 978-1782853886

 

Disclosure: These books were provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

STEM Friday #Kidlit Review The Honeybee

This month we are exploring some of the fantastic nonfiction children’s books that have been nominated for 2018 Cybils awards.

Let’s take a look at the cute picture book, The Honeybee by Kirsten Hall and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.

Following honeybees as they gather nectar, bring it back to the nest and process it, Kirsten Hall’s rhyming, passionate text is wonderful.

For example, when a honeybee visits a flower:

There now, it drills now,
the bee sips and spills now,
there now, it swills now,
it sits oh-so-still now.

The pleasant alliteration and numerous verbs to keep the reader entranced.

Unfortunately, I’m not as entranced by the illustrations. In fact they exhibit some of my worst pet peeves:

1. Legs on the honeybees’ abdomens.  Insects legs are attached the middle section (thorax) only. I know, the illustrations are cartoons, but it wouldn’t be difficult to extend the lines to the right place.

2. Honey bee nests out in the open on a tree branch. This mistake goes back to Winnie the Pooh, where the honeybee nests are actually wasp nests. Most of the time the European honey bees nest in tree cavities or other enclosed spaces in nature. That’s why hive boxes have walls on all sides. If the nests are in the open, such as on a cliff face, they are well under a protective overhang.

Would I not recommend the book because of these problems? No, because now that you know, you have an opportunity to explain to children. Sometimes we learn more from the mistakes.

The Honeybee is a sweet celebration of these beloved insects.  Caveats aside, it is still a fun informational picture book.

Related:

  1. Have some honey on crackers as a snack (after reading the book).
  2. Check out the related hands-on honey bee science activities at Growing With Science blog.
  3. Visit our growing list of children’s books about honey bees at Science Books for Kids.

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (May 8, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1481469975
ISBN-13: 978-1481469975

Disclosure: This book was provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.Opens in a new window Note: this is a new link as of 10/2018.

#Nonfiction Monday #Cybils: Chris Barton’s Picture Book Bio of Barbara Jordan

Let’s explore some of the fantastic nonfiction children’s books that have been nominated for 2018 Cybils awards.

Today we have the inspiring new picture book What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton and illustrated by Ekua Holmes.

Barbara Charline Jordan was born in Houston, Texas in 1936. Before long, she was known for her oratory skills. She recited poetry and gave speeches in school. After she graduated from law school, her speaking skills led her into politics. Eventually, she was elected to the U. S. Congress where she fought against discrimination.

You can hear Barbara Jordan’s voice in the rhythm of Chris Barton’s brilliant text.

That voice
That big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident voice.
It caused folks to sit right up, stand up straight, and take notice.

The alliteration of the adjectives adds to the effect.

He also repeats the title throughout for emphasis:

“What do you do with a voice like that?

Ekua Holmes’s mixed media illustrations capture the time, which was the late 1960s and early 1970s. They are as bright and bold as Barton’s text.

The back matter consists of an author’s note and a two-page spread time line. In it readers discover that Barbara Jordan, who retired early from public service because she had multiple sclerosis, died too young at 59.

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? begs to be read aloud. Pull it out for Black History Month, for Women’s History Month, and for all the months of the year. Barbara Jordan’s voice should be remembered.

Activity Suggestion:

Check YouTube for some of Barbara Jordan’s speeches.

Sidebar:  How long does it take for a book to be published?

In the back matter, Chris Barton says he started writing the book in 2013. On his blog, he announced he had sold the text to Beach Lane Book in September of 2015. The book was published last month on September 25, 2018, the final step in a five year process!

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (September 25, 2018)
ISBN-10: 9781481465618
ISBN-13: 978-1481465618

 

Disclosure: The book was provided by my local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

nonfictionmonday

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog. (Note:  this is a new URL for October 2018).

STEM Friday #Kidlit Mama Dug A Little Den

This month we are exploring some of the fantastic nonfiction children’s books that have been nominated for 2018 Cybils awards.

Let’s look at the sweet picture book Mama Dug A Little Den by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Steve Jenkins.


Have you ever spotted a hole in the ground and wondered what or who made it? Jennifer Ward finds the answers for you and presents them in the two layer text format that works so well.

Perhaps you’ll come across a den,
dark and deep and wide.
And it will make you wonder…
Who or what might be inside!

The main story is gently rhyming text with short sentences, perfect for reading aloud. When readers want to find out more, they can read the accompanying text which is denser and has more advanced scientific vocabulary.

The illustrations are paper collages by award-winning illustrator Steve Jenkins. (I must have a defective gene or something, but I have never enjoyed his collages as much as everyone else seems to.)

In the author’s note in the back matter, Ward explains that although the title suggests “mama” dug the dens or holes, in some cases the males dug the holes, or two or more animals worked together. Some, like the Eastern cottontail rabbit, may “borrow” burrows from other creatures. Also, some of the animals live in the burrow throughout their lives, not just when they have offspring. So informative.

Mama Dug a Little Den will likely to appeal to young readers who enjoy nature and animals. It would also be wonderful for reading snuggled together at bedtime. Share a copy today!

Suggested activity:

Pretend you are in a burrow. Build a “fort” out of chairs, pillows, and blankets and read the book inside.

Age Range: 3 – 8 years
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (August 21, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1481480375
ISBN-13: 978-1481480376

 

Disclosure: This book was provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.Opens in a new window Note: this is a new link as of 10/2018.