Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Book Review for ASK ME NO QUESTIONS by Marina Budhos

  Book Review by Allie Davis
MLIS 5653 Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults

Budhos, Marina.  Ask Me No Questions. (2006)Antheneum Books For Young Readers. ISBN 978146949206

Connect with the Author 

     Ask Me No Questions is the fictional account of the Hossain family's experiences following the events of 9/11.  The family had immigrated from Bangladesh eight years prior to the bombing of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in 2001. The family has been hard-working and productive since their arrival, but after the introduction of the US Patriot Act and other sanctions stemming from the War on Terror, their lives change.  No longer safe, and scared of deportation, Mr. Hossain decides that the family must go to Canada, seeking asylum.  However, once they get there, everything changes.  There is no room for them, and they are sent back into America, where he is arrested and jailed immediately.  Nadira and Aisha return to Queens where they live with family until the trial. During the waiting period, Aisha, who has always been the smart girl who is in contention for valedictorian, falls apart.  Nadira, the slow and steady one, must figure out what to do.  Caught between doing right or doing wrong, she accidentally stumbles onto evidence to help save her father and bring her family back together.  
     Within the story, the plight of immigrants of every country is experienced.  The reader sees the way immigrant children are treated at school, constantly having to look over one's shoulder to see if they have covered their whereabouts, not talking about where they have been or what they are doing, and most importantly, the constant changing of jobs and houses to keep their identity hidden.  Budhos does an excellent job of revealing this experience.  We feel the fear they feel, their sorrow and sadness, the loneliness and homesickness, but we also begin to understand why they come to America.  We experience their desire to fit in and become "Americans" who just want to live the American Dream and get an education and a good job.  Budhos also does a good job of making sure that the Muslim culture is incorporated into the story.  She includes words, along with their contextual definitions to describe their daily lives, their clothes, their worship practices, etc.  This is key to understanding why the Muslim culture is ostracized after 9/11 and why they no longer feel safe in the community they have lived in for eight years.  The big cultural issue was the much referred to gender inequalities throughout the book.  The girls are breaking away from this tradition, but many references are made to it such as, "Do you think they would have let me drive the car and take you back if they believed all that gender crap? (27) and "You better watch out, " he warns. You spoil your wife too much" (43).  
     As the plot moves along, Mr. Hossain's fate becomes increasingly unclear when he is accused of making contributions to an enemy organization.  He is detained much longer than normal, and when he is not released or deported immediately, the whole family becomes concerned.  Nadira even considers buying him a fake social security card.  It is during this time that she actually discovers where and what the money is used for that her father was contributing.  This discovery leads to a neat, almost too perfect resolution to the novel which readers who are looking for a happy ending will appreciate.  However, to me, the ending seems unrealistic considering real-life occurrences that were happening during the novel's setting.  
       Another problem I found with the novel primarily concerns its editing and publication.  I found many, many errors as I read the story, and while most younger readers probably would not catch them, I found many of them to be major.  Introductory clauses are not punctuated correctly, words are misspelled, such as "tinny" on page 115, which should be tiny.  Actual dialogues between characters are even sometimes left unquoted. These are things that should have been caught by the editors and publishers before ever going to publication.  Nothing major, just irritating that these things were not fixed. 
       Overall, the novel is a good read, enlightening, and an example of happily-ever-after for a family facing uncertain circumstances.  It is one that immigrant students will be able to relate to while giving them hope that they may truly be able to live out the dream that everyone who comes to America wants to live: to fit in and procure a better life for themselves and their future posterity.  

  • ALA Best Book for Young Adults (Received award in 2007)
  • ALA Notable Children's Book 2007
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of 2006
  • Booklist Editors' Choice 2006
  • New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age 2006
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award (Nominated for an award in 2007)
  • Nutmeg Children's Book Award (Nominated for an award in 2009)
  • Publishers Weekly, "...14-year-old narrator Nadira Hossain and her family are heading north to Canada, seeking asylum from the harassment that has become routine in the U.S. in the wake of 9/11. The family left Bangladesh for America eight years ago on a tourist visa and stayed; the first lawyer they hired to make them legal citizens was a fraud, the second was unsuccessful. At Flushing High in Queens, with a large population of immigrant students, the "policy" is "Ask me no questions," according to Nadira. But just as her sister, Aisha, is interviewing at colleges like Barnard, with a shot at valedictorian, the questions start coming hard and fast to the people of their community-some of whom disappeared in the night with immigration officers, detained for months before being deported. In a desperate move, the Hossains travel to Canada, where they are turned away; their father, Abba, is placed in a U.S. jail cell at the border, their mother remains in a shelter nearby, and the girls return to Queens to stay with their aunt and uncle..." (C) Feb. 6, 2006
  • Horn Book Magazine, "When terrorists slammed planes into the World Trade Center, they changed the lives of thousands of illegal immigrants in the United States. Budhos's moving, quietly powerful novel explores the effects of the Patriot Act and special registration on fourteen-year-old Nadira's family, who arrived from Bangladesh eight years ago and have lived productively but illegally in New York (Queens) ever since...Nadira and Aisha's strategies for surviving and succeeding in high school offer sharp insight into the narrow margins between belonging and not belonging, and though the resolution of the story is perhaps more optimistic than realistic, it feels earned." (C) March 1, 2006
  • School Library Journal"...When Abba's trial begins, Nadira calls upon an inner strength she didn't realize she possessed. Marina Budhos's novel (Atheneum, 2006) paints a compelling portrait of what it was like to be a Muslim teen living in the United States following 9/11. The characters are believable and well-rounded, especially Nadira, who grows from a naive and whiny teenager into a mature, level-headed young woman. Abby Craden's softly accented voice brings to life the emotional turmoil felt by the sisters, and she portrays male and female characters equally well. An excellent listen and an important addition to the study of the immigrant experience."(C) October 1, 2012

Use as an introduction to prejudice, immigrants, teenage girls, family/relationships, illegal aliens, Muslims, deportation, and asylum.
  • Watched  ISBN 0735287147
  • Tell Us We're Home  ISBN 1416980650   
  • House of Waiting  ISBN 0964129221 

Gather other immigration books:
·       Hurwitz, Johanna. New Neighbors for Nora ISBN 0833589733
·       Smith, Betty.  A Tree Grows In Brooklyn ISBN 1433203138
·       Motomura, Hiroshi. Immigration Outside the Law ISBN 0199768439

Monday, December 4, 2017

Book Review for OCTOBER MOURNING by Leslea Newman

Book Review by Allie Davis
MLIS 5653 Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults

Newman, Leslea. 201. October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard. York, PA: Candlewick Press. ISBN  9780763658076

Connect with the Author 

     The book October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepherd was inspired by the actual events surrounding the death of Matthew Shepherd, a young, gay college student in Wyoming.  Shepherd was coerced and kidnapped by two men who pretended to be gay.  They robbed him, beat him with the butt of a pistol, tied him to fence-railing, and left him to die.  Shepherd had been helping plan the University of Wyoming's Gay Awareness Week which included the keynote speaker, author Leslea Newman.  Newman says that her book that followed speaking at this event does not in any way represent the "statements, thoughts, feelings, opinions, or attitudes of any actual person.  All monologues contained within the poems are figments of my imagination; no actual person spoke any of the words contained within the body of any poems. Those words are mine and mine alone" (Introduction).  They are not objective reporting of the actual events although she does give annotative citations and suggestions for further readings at the end of the verse novel for many of the poems' topics.  The poems themselves take the reader through the beginning of Shepherd's last night of life through his death and the mourning of those he left behind.  They are deep, emotional, sentimental works that will leave even the hardest person sad and clinging to loved ones. Each poem is told through the perspective of someone who would have come in contact with him that night: the murderers, the police chief, his parents, his cat, and his lover, to name a few.  Whether a reader is a gay rights activist or not is irrelevant when reading this book.  It is meant to educate, memorialize the work started by Matthew Shepherd, and to help people in all walks of life fit in and be accepted.  
     This novel in verse is told through many different poetic formats.  Each poem is structured in a way to draw the reader into its depth, make the reader feel the mood of the speaker, and to fit the theme of the poem itself.  For example, the poem "Stars"on page 18 "is a concrete poem.  In a concrete poem, the appearance of the poem-how it physically takes up space on the page-adds to its meaning.  In this poem, the words are scattered across the page to represent stars scattered across the sky" (Explanation of Poetic Forms, 106). It is the perspective of the stars in the sky that October night who were light years away and could not help.  Using multiple points of view from the many people who would have been involved in this horrific event leads to an overall understanding that this was not just another "gay" guy.  No matter his sexual preference, he did not deserve to die the brutal death that was administered to him by the two men now serving life sentences in prison for murder.  He was human, and humanity turned its back on him that night.  His death, however, was not entirely in vain.  His death opened the window of opportunity for people to reevaluate the events of that night, to change the course of humankind's treatment of people who are different than ourselves.  Many people have stepped up and stepped in to continue the work started by Matthew Shepherd, to honor his memory, and to continue his legacy.  Through people continuing his efforts and those like the book, October Mourning, many advancements for the rights of LGBTQs have been made since that night in 1998.  
             Overall, I feel like this short, powerful book is one worthy of being added to any classroom or library.  It is one that can be read over and over again.  Its poems can be used to identify with grief on many levels, and they are worthy of use in many different ways including oral speaking, research, critical essays, and more.

  • Audie Award (Nominated for Award in 2013)
  • Stonewall Honor Book
  • New York State Charlotte Award (Nominated for Award in 2014)
  • SCASL Book Award (South Carolina; Nominated for Award in 2014
  • Booklist, "On October 6, 1998, 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming, was lured into a truck, driven into the country, savagely beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die which he did, five days later. In the 68 poems that make up this novel-in-verse, Newman re-creates the events and circumstances surrounding this unspeakably vile hate crime and offers a moving tribute to a young man she regards as a martyr. Her poems are told from multiple points of view, including that of the fence, the rope that bound the boy, and a doe that stood watch over him. The beautifully realized selections are also written in a variety of forms, ranging from haiku to villanelle, from concrete poetry to rhymed couplets. Each form (discussed in an appendix) matches the tone and mood of its content, creating an almost musical effect that is both intellectually and aesthetically engaging. Written with love, anger, regret, and other profound emotions, this is a truly important book that deserves the widest readership, not only among independent readers but among students in a classroom setting, as well. Most importantly, the book will introduce Matthew Shepard to a generation too young to remember the tragic circumstances of his death." (C) September 15, 2012
  • School Library Journal, "Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, died nearly 14 years ago, of wounds inflicted during a violent beating. Just before his brutal attack, he and other students had been planning a Gay Awareness Week; Newman was the keynote speaker at this event, which took place a week after the assault...What impact will the depiction of such an event have on today's teens, many of whom were just born at the time of its occurrence? Put simply-a tremendous impact...Many teens will see how very far we've come, while others will see how far we still have to go. Either way, the book will be a valuable addition to poetry and fiction collections" (C) Nov. 1, 2012
  • Voice of Youth Advocates"... Less than a week after Matthew's death, the author of October Mourning was scheduled to give a speech for Gay Awareness Week-at Matthew's former university. This speech had been arranged way before Matthew's tragic death, but the importance and meaning of the speech completely changed. This book was written as her way of dealing with his death and its impact on the world. In addition to the almost seventy unique poems, valuable supplements are available at the end of the book. The epilogue explains the author's fated keynote speech for Gay Awareness Week at the University of Wyoming, where Matthew Shepard attended college. The notes section contains references to factual documents that inspired-and were used in-each particular poem. "Explanation of Poetic Forms" reveals each poem's form and explains each in detail. Some poems are modeled after other poems, and the inspiration is given due credit. This is a powerful book that is useful not only to promote tolerance and peace but is also a great way to study poetry forms and authors, as well as writing itself. This is a must-have book for school and public libraries." (C) Dec. 1, 2012.


Gather more Leslea Newman titles to read such as:
  • The Best Short Stories of Leslea Newman. ISBN 1-55583-775-1
  • Just Like a Woman.  ISBN  0-9702152-3-1
  • I Carry My Mother. ISBN: 0-692-27705-6

Gather other Stonewall Honor Book titles to read such as:
·       McLemore, Anna-Marie. When the Moon Was Ours. ISBN 9781250058669
·       Downham, Jenny. Unbecoming. ISBN  9780545907170
·       Stevenson, Robin. Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community. ISBN 9781459809932

Monday, November 27, 2017


Book Review by Allie Davis
MLIS 5653 Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults

Bryant, Jen. 2016. Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille. Illustrated by Boris Kulikov.  New York, NW: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN  9780449813379

Connect with the Author 

    Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille is a biography picture book of how 15 year-old Louis Braille came to invent the Braille alphabet.  Early on in this short children's story, we see how Louis's eyesight is accidentally destroyed and how he compensates for his mistake.  At home, he dreams of the day when people will quit saying, "I'm sorry," and instead, figure out a way to get him books to read.  When that does not happen, a noble woman in his French town helps procure a place in the Royal School for the Blind. The author does an excellent job of helping the reader FEEL what Louis felt as he was desperately trying to get to the books for the blind at the school; he just has to be the best student he can be. Louis is extremely disappointed when he realizes that only several sentences can be placed on a page with raised text books he eventually gets to "read."  His ardent desire to read drives him ever onward to progress, inspired by a code invented by a military captain for sending secret messages.  After many years and much revision, the Braille alphabet slowly emerges.  This incredibly intense but endearing story is much enhanced by Kulikov's whimsical pictures.  In many of the frames, Louis is sitting by the window, symbolic of his desire for a window of opportunity.  This story is also told with many French words which have a pronunciation guide at the beginning of the story and contextual translations within, making it an authentic and exciting journey to Braille's France.  Six Dots is a little heavy on wording for very young readers, but the story itself is relevant to readers of all ages.  
     The book takes us from Louis Braille's birth through his completion of the Braille alphabetic system.  It begins in Coupvray where his family lives and where he sustains his injury in his father's workshop.  Not much of this life is presented except to show how intelligent he is in his early years, and how he continues to learn even after he is injured.  Readers are compelled to understand his frustration with the lack of needed resources to complete his education, and any person who is an avid reader will feel compassion at his plight.  We continue through his stay at the cold, crowded School for the Blind in Paris where he continues his education.  A bit of foreshadowing through words and images is present when we learn that Louis is using his fingers to play music on the organ, hinting at the sensitivity of his fingertips. Finally, the reader feels his success and his joy when his invention is complete, comprehending just how important it was and is, when Helen Keller says, "We, the blind, are as indebted to Louis Braille as mankind is to Gutenberg."  
      Popular cultural belief that people with disabilities cannot function normally is clearly debunked in Six Dots, and although Horn Book Magazine says the story is much embellished, Jen Bryant says that this is her attempt to understand what Louis Braille FELT like.  A question and answer section at the end of the story helps shed true light to what life would have been like in the 1800s and what Braille went through.  Between the two portions of the book, an accurate and dramatic portrayal draws the reader in.  
       Overall, I feel like this simple book is one worthy of being added to any classroom, library, or personal collection.  It is one that can be read over and over again, and it very well could be passed down through the generations.  Louis Braille's lasting contributions to the blind are indeed captured in both words and images in this delightful picture book that children of all ages will love and enjoy. 

  • Schneider Family Book Award (Won Award in 2017)
  • Junior Library Guild Selection 
  • Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2016
  • Amazon Best Non-Fiction Books for Children 2017
  • Bank Street College of Education and Children's Book Committee Best Chidlren's Books of the Year 2017 *with Outstanding Merit
  • Chicago Public Library Best Informational Books for Younger Readers 2016
  • Children's Book Council, "2017 Best STEM Books"
  • Children's Book Review, Best New Picture Books, September 2016
  • Keystone to Reading Elementary Book Award, Intermediate List 2017-2018
  • National Science Teachers Association Best STEM Books of 2016
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2017
  • Society of Illustrator's Original Art, 2016
  • 2017 Texas Topaz Reading List
  • Walking Brain Cells Top Ten Nonfiction Books 2016
  • Booklist, "As a child, young Louis Braille surprised everyone in his French village with his curiosity and energy. Sadly, an accident with an awl blinded him first in one eye and then, when infection spread, in the other. Though Louis learned to navigate daily life, he missed the knowledge gained through reading, and applied to the Royal School for the Blind, where books with raised letters provided a slow and unsatisfying alternative. But when introduced to a French military code written in patterns of dots, Louis wondered if it could be expanded into an actual language. This picture book is fairly text heavy, and it could have benefited from the inclusion of actual Braille in addition to the diagram of the Braille alphabet on the endpapers. Still, Kulikov's illustrations beautifully capture Louis' cleverness and tactile nature. Particularly effective are spreads where Louis focuses on his hearing: line drawings laid over a black background represent the sounds he hears. An interesting exploration of the life of a little-discussed inventor.." (C) June 1, 2016.
  • School Library Journal, "This picture book biography of Louis Braille (1809-59) strikes a perfect balance between the seriousness of Braille's life and the exuberance he projected out into the world. The text highlights Braille's determination to pursue an education. Readers will learn how he attended the Royal School in Paris and was frustrated by the lack of books for the blind, an obstacle that set him off on a long quest to invent an accessible reading system. Braille ultimately found success by simplifying a military coding technique that had earlier been introduced but was far too complex. The focus on Braille as one of the world's great inventors is apt, and by taking a close look at his childhood, his family, and his experiences as a young person, Bryant makes Braille's story even more powerful. She writes from his perspective, which brings a level of intimacy sure to resonate with readers. ..." (C) Sept. 1, 2016
  • Publishers Weekly"After an accident in 1819 left a young Louis Braille blind, he traveled to Paris at age 10 to study at the Royal School for the Blind, where he was disheartened to discover that the books available for children like him fell far short of his hopes: "Words as large as my hand! Sentences that took up half a page!... Even if I read a hundred books like this, how much could I learn?" Kulikov (W Is for Webster) makes striking use of chalky blue lines against black backdrops to create ghostly images of the world Braille could no longer see, suggesting a landscape re-created in his mind's eye. Bryant's (The Right Word) sensitive first-person narration draws readers intimately close to Braille's experiences, and an author's note and q&a add further depth to a stirring portrait of innovation and determination." (C) August 15, 2016.

Use as an introduction to Louis Braille, the Braille language, blindness, France, schools for the Blind, teachers, senses, and coding.

Gather more Jen Bryant titles to read such as:

  • The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. ISBN  008253854   
  • Splash: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin. ISBN  0375867120
  • The Trial. ISBN:  0440419867

Gather other Schneider Family Book Award titles to read such as:
·       Lord, Emery. When We Collided. ISBN 1681192039
·       Reynolds, Jason. as brave as you. ISBN  1481415913 
·       Giles, Gail. Girls Like Us. ISBN 0763662674 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


  Book Review by Allie Davis
MLIS 5653 Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults

Lin, Grace. 20. Where the Mountain  Meets the Moon. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0316038636

Connect with the Author 

     Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a wonderful example of author, Grace Lin's well-documented and researched Chinese children's novels. This fantasy book takes us to the Valley of Fruitless Mountain of China, where Minli works with her parents in the rice fields, barely making ends meet.  She dreams of a world somewhere else as her father tells the rich stories of Chinese folklore.  Not coincidentally, Minli's name means "quick thinking," and because of her quick thinking, Minli makes her way out of numerous scrapes that would stump other children her age.  
     Folklore and fairy tales meet in this story that begins with Minli's desire to change the lot of her poverty-stricken family by changing the Valley of Fruitless Mountain to a place that is productive and nourishing.  We hear the tale of how the mountain became barren, how the Jade Dragon's children sacrificed themselves to save the people of earth by becoming rivers; we learn how the Old Man of the Moon binds people together with red string, we and are introduced to magic paintbrushes that bring paintings to life.  Minli's best friend is a dragon who has been brought to life with such a paintbrush.  All of these tales are authentic Chinese tales from Grace Lin's cultural heritage, researched during her time spent in China.  Her photographs were the inspirations for the simple one-color illustrations placed sporadically throughout the novel.  While this story is fantasy in genre, the elements included are meticulously researched and authentic, leaving no room for stereotyping the Chinese culture.  
     Where the Mountain Meets the Moon begins in the Valley of Fruitless Mountain, and it ends there also.  However, Minli's adventures take her to many places during her travels to find the Man in the Moon.  She has heard that the Man in the Moon can answer her question about how to change her family's fate, and she sets out one evening to find him.  During her adventures, she meets her dragon friend, monkeys (whom she outwits), a talking fish, the Chinese emperor himself, a green tiger, and many other characters from Chinese cultural history.  It is only near the end of her journey that she realizes she already has what she is looking for, a loving family, which is more important to her than any earthly treasures.  It is in that moment of realization that she chooses to help her friend, the dragon, by asking the Man in the Moon why the dragon cannot fly.  Unwittingly, in asking this question, she changes the fate of her own family.  Lin magnificently weaves many pieces of the folktales and stories together, leading the novel to its resolution and bringing Minli back home to her patiently waiting parents who have reconciled with each other in her absence, another theme that has developed during the course of the story.  
       As previously mentioned, many aspects of the Chinese folktales and culture are presented as the story unfolds.  Many of these elements were also touched on in other Asian cultural books talked about in previous blogs--the magic paintbrush and the moon people, for example.  These cultural stories become the most relevant part other than items that might be considered stereotypical such as the rice fields and koi goldfish.  No part of the book is written in Chinese, due in part, I think, to the difficulty of including calligraphic words alongside the English text.  However, enough other Chinese information is included for the reader to know and understand that the novel is Chinese in nature.  The dragon symbol is defined in text (only to be used by a king),  the pillows used to sleep and sit on in many Chinese homes are described, and the peach trees that China is so well-known for are used to illustrate the consequences of greed.  
       Overall, the novel is a fantastic journey through the maturing of a young girl, and the book ends with Minli being rewarded for her lack of selfishness.  Her mother finds out that riches are not really what she wants in life; rather, she wants her daughter.  Her parents are brought back together after many years of emotional separation when they almost lose Minli, but in the end, they realize that "fortune was not a house full of gold and jade, but something much more.  Something she already had and did not need to change. 'I didn't ask the question...because I don't need to know they answer'" (259).  

  • Newbery Honor Book (Recieved award in 2010)
  • Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature (Received award in 2010)
  • Young Hoosier Book Award (Nominated for an award in 2011)
  • Rhode Island Children's Book Award (Nominated for an award in 2011)
  • Young Reader's Choice Award (Nominated for an award in 2012)
  • Sunshine State Young Reader's Book Award (Nominated for an award in 2011
  • Georgia Children's Book Award (Nominated for an award in 2011)
  • Maine Student Book Award (Nominated for an award in 2010)
  • North Carolina Children's Book Award (Nominated for an award in 2011)
  • California Young Reader Medal (Nominated for an award in 2012)
  • Nutmeg Children's Book Award (Nominated for an award in 2012)
  • Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award (Nominated for an award in 2012)
  • Iowa Children's Choice Award (Nominated for an award in 2012)
  • Nene Award (Nominated for an award in 2014)
  • Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Award (Nominated for an Award in 2014)
  • A New York Times bestseller
  • A Today show Al's Book Club for Kids pick
  • A Booklist Top 10 Science Fiction/Fantasy for Youth Book
  • Booklist, "Starred Review* In this enchanted and enchanting adventure, Minli, whose name means quick thinking, lives with her desperately poor parents at the confluence of Fruitless Mountain and the Jade River. While her mother worries and complains about their lot, her father brightens their evenings with storytelling. One day, after a goldfish salesman promises that his wares will bring good luck, Minli spends one of her only two coins in an effort to help her family. After her mother ridicules what she believes to be a foolish purchase, Minli sets out to find the Old Man of the Moon, who, it is told, may impart the true secret to good fortune. Along the way, she finds excitement, danger, humor, magic, and wisdom, and she befriends a flightless dragon, a talking fish, and other companions and helpmates in her quest. With beautiful language, Lin creates a strong, memorable heroine and a mystical land. Stories, drawn from a rich history of Chinese folktales, weave throughout her narrative..." (C) May 1, 2009
  • Horn Book Magazine, "...The story's many elements are entwined, neatly symbolized by the intricately tangled red threads of destiny that, as Minli discovers, are overseen by the Old Man of the Moon. The book's format reflects this interconnectedness: interspersed with the main text are folktales explaining past events or stories allowing characters to relate their experiences..." (C) 2010
  • School Library Journal"...Taking a string of destiny and a page from the Book of Fortune to Never-Ending Mountain, Minli makes a kite which becomes a bridge that only she can cross. Allowed just one question, she asks why Dragon cannot fly. When she takes away the gray stone on top of Dragon's head, he flies. Jade Dragon is reunited with one of her children, the mountain becomes lush green, and Jade River becomes clear...."(C) July 1, 2010

Use as an introduction to traditional Chinese folktales; fantasy/magic; fairy tales; dragons; moon; Chinese imperialism; and rice farming. 
  • When the Sea Turned Silver  ISBN 0316125970
  • Starry River of the Sky  ISBN 0316125970
  • Rhe Year of the Dog  ISBN 031606002X

Gather other Newbery Honor Books:
·       Hale, Shannon. The Princess Academy ISBN 161963131
·       Preus, Margi. Heart of the Samurai ISBN 1419702009
·       Farmer, Nancy. The House of the Scorpion ISBN 0689852231

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review for THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH by Laurence Yep

Book Review by Allie Davis
MLIS 5653 Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults
Yep, Laurence. 2003. The Magic Paintbrush. Illustrated by Wang Suling. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0064408523

Connect with the Author 

     The Magic Paintbrush is an endearing little novel by Laurence Yep that takes a sad situation and turns it into a joyous journey of discovering family heritage and love.  Steve, the main character, has been orphaned when his parents die in a house fire.  He must live with his grandfather and uncle, even though he is very afraid of the stern men.  Steve loves to paint, and when his parents were alive, they were able to provide art supplies to help with his school work and hobby.  However, his grandfather is very poor, and it isn't until he fails an assignment because he needs a new paint brush that Steve finally asks for one.  The illustrations provided are black and white pictures presented at the beginning or end of each chapter.  All of these illustrations are culturally sensitive, with accurate facial details describing the Chinese characters.  They visually help describe what happens when Steve's grandfather gives him a family heirloom paint brush supposedly made from a unicorn horn.  Things and places magically come to life as Steve paints them.  
     The novel's setting changes places several times throughout the short novel.  We are taken to places such as Grandfather's birthplace and the peach orchard; we meet people like the Lady on the Moon, and Mighty Mister Pang who has to eat 1000 fancy courses at a hotel he paints.  But most importantly, readers are acquainted with the plight of many immigrants in large cities.  They are tenants of run-down buildings that are not up to code, crowded apartments, and low-paying jobs because of men like Mister Pang who are selfishly doing whatever benefits themselves without regard to the people inside.  Yep uses this opportunity to show these injustices in a kid-friendly but very visual way.  In the end, Mr. Pang is punished, and Steve and his family realize they truly love each other and agree to talk about their problems rather than hold them inside like they had before.  Although Steve's family helps to better the life of the people in their apartment through the punishment of Mr. Pang, they also learn another important lesson.  People must be very careful what they wish for; we must think about possible consequences for our dreams and desires.  
       Cultural aspects are minimal in the story.  We are aware of elements China is well-known for such as the wonderful peaches and the beautifully scented flowers.  We have descriptions of buildings and pictures of Chinese clothing and food, but for the most part, the setting is in modern-day America. Nearly all of the book is surrounded by this element.  The characters look Chinese, and they talk about China and their past lives, but the story is consistent with modern times and experiences.  Other than the pictures that Steve paints coming to life, the characters are believable and authentic.  
       This book is a super-easy read that children of all ages will enjoy.  Who doesn't love magic and realistic fantasy?  Steve takes us on a journey to China using elements of Chinese folklore and history.  There is an emotional aspect that most people will be able to relate to-the loss of someone close and the grieving process, but Yep manages to add enough comic-relief into the mix that it works well and is not so heavy that the youngest readers will be bored.  In my opinion, this is a must-read for any teacher trying to incorporate Asian culture into classroom or educational settings.  

  • Georgia Children's Book Award (Nominated in 2002)
  • Booklist, "...Yep combines realistic fiction and fantasy in a story involving a young Chinese American boy growing up in San Francisco. Orphaned third-grader Steve lives with his grandfather in a one-room Chinatown tenement. There's little money for food or extras, and the boy is convinced that his grandfather resents his very presence. When Steve's school paintbrush wears out, Grandfather offers him an old one of his, and, suddenly, everything Steve paints becomes real. Quickly, life becomes easier, and with the necessities under control, Steve and his grandfather find time to gain a better understanding of their complex relationship. e..." (C) February 1, 2000
  • Publishers Weekly, "... After his parents are killed in a fire, eight-year-old Steve experiences cultural and generational shock when he goes to live with his immigrant grandfather and Uncle Fong in a Chinatown tenement. Convinced that the stern, disapproving old men don't want him, his grief and misery are compounded by shame when he's penalized at school for not buying a new paintbrush--which his penurious grandfather can ill afford. The rapprochement begins when Steve's grandfather gives him a family heirloom, a paintbrush said to be made with the hairs from a unicorn's tale. Suddenly, whatever the boy paints springs to life, from a steak to the Chinatown moon of legends, transforming their dreary life. ..." (C) March 13, 2000
  • School Library Journal"...Steve learns about his grandfather's past, about Chinese legends, and about life as a "Chinatowner." He discovers that his relative does indeed care about him, and that even though magic is enticing and exciting, its power should be used judiciously because, like nature, it cannot be controlled. Humor is evident when a greedy slumlord abuses the magic and is sufficiently humbled. Through simple yet sensitive dialogue, the author weaves a tale of alienation turning into affection, and of good prevailing over meanness..."(C) March. 1, 2000

Use as an introduction to Asian-American folktales, Chinese places, orphans/foster homes, death/lose,  and fantasy/magic.
  • Dragonwings  ISBN 006440859
  • The Rainbow People  ISBN 0064404412
  • Hiroshima  ISBN 0590208330

Gather other art books to read such as:
·       Conolly, Sean.  The Life and Work of Leonardo da Vinci. ISBN 1403484929
·       Venecia, Mike.  Diego Valazquez. ISBN 0516269801
·       Bassil, Andrea.  Vincent Van Gogh. ISBN 0836856023 

Book Review for TEA WITH MILK by Allen Say

Book Review by Allie Davis
MLIS 5653 Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults

Say, Allen. 2009. Tea with Milk. Saint Louis, MO: Turtleback Books. ISBN  0606106944 

Connect with the Author 

     In Allen Say's  Tea with Milk, the main character, Masako, or May, is a Japanese-American girl who lives in San Francisco with her immigrant parents who are from Japan.  Early on in this short children's story, we see the balance of May's world.  At home, she is Japanese; at school and with her friends, she is a typical American girl who eats pancakes and drinks tea with milk and sugar.  She has dreams of going to college and getting an apartment, but her dreams are put on hold when her parents become homesick and move back to Japan.  The author does an excellent job of comparing and contrasting May's two worlds, describing both her world in Japan where she is expected to be a proper Japanese girl who marries a proper husband who has been arranged for her and also the world she dreams about where she drives a car and speaks proper English with others.  Mr. Say adequately portrays the hardships she faces for being a "foreigner" in her mother country.  The other students make fun of her, and she never feels like she fits in.  Yet, the readers are not really led to feel sorry for May.  Rather, readers sense immediately that she is not going to be the typical Japanese daughter.  So a burning question develops within pages of the story's beginning.  What is Masako going to do? 
     The novel's setting begins in San Francisco where May has been her whole life.  Not much of this life is presented except to show that she loves the modern city life.  Once the family moves back to Japan, everything changes.  We see her culture presented in more depth.  She takes lessons in flower arranging, calligraphy, and the tea ceremony.  Her parents higher a matchmaker to find her a rich husband.  However, none of this suits May, and she takes matters into her own hands.  She wants to live on her own like an American daughter, so she "runs away" to Osaka to live on her own.  
       Culture is clearly evident when May reaches Osaka.  She takes a job in a department store after applying for the position using the calligraphy she had learned in school.  Her parents are not happy because it was "shameful for ladies to work" (20).  Inadvertantly, when May translates for some English-speaking customers, she is given the position as the store's guide for foreign business men; however, she has to wear the normal Japanese Kimono.  She thinks it is funny that "she had to look like a Japanese lady to speak English" (24).  Her new position becomes especially critical to the plot of the story when she meets a young man named Joseph.  They end up regularly drinking tea with milk and sugar together, eventually learning that happiness is being together, the main theme of the story.  
       Overall, I love this theme of the short story.  May never feels completely happy in Japan because of her American birth.  She dreams of going back to San Francisco and living the city life.  She wants noise and freedom that is offered to women in America.  She does not feel like she fits in with the Japanese lifestyle, yet she remains true to herself despite being made fun of and despite disappointing her parents.  It isn't until the end of the book that May realizes that "home isn't a place or a building that's ready-made and waiting for you, in America or anywhere else" (30). Joseph helps her understand that "home" is what she really wants, and it doesn't matter which country.  

  • School Library Journal Book of the Year (Won Award in 1999)
  • Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year (Won Award in 1999)
  • American Library Association Notable Books for Children (Won Award in 2000)
  • Booklist, "...Masako becomes a foreigner in her parents' country, longing for home in San Francisco. Instead of college, she has to go back to high school to learn Japanese. She must learn to be a "proper" Japanese lady. Say's watercolors are quieter in line and color this time, and the text is much longer. Together, they tell an elemental story that will appeal to everyone who feels a stranger at home. ..." (C) March 15, 1999.
  • School Library Journal, "...May, as she prefers to be called, who, after graduating from high school in California, unwillingly moves with her parents to their native Japan. She is homesick for her native country and misses American food. She rebels against her parents, who force her to repeat high school so that she can learn "her own language"; the other students tease her for being "gaijin" or a foreigner. Masako leaves home and obtains a job in a department store in Osaka, a city that reminds her of her beloved San Francisco. Her knowledge of English quickly makes her a valued employee and brings her into contact with her future husband, Joseph, a Japanese man who was educated at an English boarding school in Shanghai. They decide that together they can make a life anywhere, and choose to remain in Japan...." (C) May 1, 1999
  • Horn Book Guide"Continuing to explore place and home, Say tells the story of his mother, first introduced to readers in Tree of Cranes. Born in California to Japanese immigrants, Masako is miserable when she moves to Japan with her parents after high school. The illustrations capture Masako's unhappiness and also her eventual contentment as she learns to combine two cultures." (C) September 1, 1999.

Use as an introduction to art/paintbrushes, love stories, kimonos, history, Japanese Americans/Japan, Asia, biography, and Autobiography.

Gather more Allan Say titles to read such as:
·       The Inker's Shadow. ISBN  0545437768
·       Grandfather's Journey. ISBN 0547076800
·       Silent Days, Silent Dreams. ISBN: 0545927617 

Gather other ALA Notable Books for Children titles to read such as:
·       Fogliano, Julie. Old Dog Baby Baby. ISBN  1596438533
·       Pizzoli, Greg. Good Night Owl. ISBN 1484712757
·       Watts, Jen. A Piece of Home. ISBN  0763669717