Mission to Space

missiontospace

Image Credit: White Dog Press (Chickasaw Press), John Herrington

Native American Heritage Month just ended here in the U.S. with constant reports of aggression and violence towards Native peoples at Oceti Sakowin Camp. Snow has fallen on the camp and the water protectors are still standing strong against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I’ve noticed, through media coverage of this situation, that visibility of Native peoples has risen somewhat. When children see Native people standing strong and united against a pipeline that will affect all of us, that helps fight ignorance & combats racism. Stereotypes of Native people are still very pervasive and harmful.

Contemporary stories about Native people, especially written by Native people, are important “mirror” books for Native children who simply don’t see enough of themselves in books. These stories are also vital tools in classrooms full of non-Native children. That’s why Mission to Space is so important; it’s a non-fiction book, written by Chickasaw astronaut John Herrington, printed by Chickasaw Press. Author Zetta Elliott often talks about the importance of community-based publishing and this is a perfect example.

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Image Credit: White Dog Press (Chickasaw Press), John Herrington

In Mission to Space, Commander John Herrington takes us back to his roots as a boy who loved shooting rockets with his dad and brother. Years later, he’d grow up to be an astronaut on the shuttle Endeavor! In this book, simple but effective text is accompanied by vivid photographs. Herrington explains how much work it takes to do something well and in his case, to become an astronaut. That’s an important lesson for children. When he was launched into space, people from his nation came to celebrate; he was the first tribally-enrolled Native person to fly in space!

Children who love science, astronomy and languages will get a lot out of this book. Not only does Herrington give readers a behind-the-scenes look into what it takes to become an astronaut, he talks about how important language is for Chickasaw identity and provides a glossary of space terms in the Chickasaw language. I hope you’ll check this book out!

P.S. Visit the book’s website to see a cool video and take a look at Debbie Reese’s glowing review.

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Astronomy, Determination, Dreams, Role Models, STEM, Language, Native American, Chickasaw, Sovereignty, Native American Heritage Month, Family, Discussion
Book Info: Mission to Space by John Herrington, 2016 White Dog Press (Chickasaw Press), ISBN: 9781935684473

 

A Piece of Home

APieceofHOme copy

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Jeri Watts/Hyewon Yum

Creating a new ordinary.

Not everyone wants to stand out, especially if your family moves to a new country and you suddenly feel different from everyone else. Hee Jun is a self proclaimed “ordinary” Korean boy and his grandmother is a highly respected teacher in Korea…until Hee Jun’s father gets a job in West Virginia and everything changes. Hee Jun’s family goes through a roller coaster of emotions until they find comfort and familiarity in their new lives.

Jeri Watts does a great job of depicting Korean culture and children’s emotions during times of change. This story was inspired by a Korean student who desperately wanted her to understand him and felt out of place in his new home of Virginia. As great as her storytelling is, the book wouldn’t be what it is without Hyewon Yum’s authentic voice coming through in the art. From the first page, I felt like I was back on the side streets surrounding my 초등학교 (elementary school). My school had a 떡볶이 (spicy rice cake) shop across the street just like the high school Hee Jun’s grandmother teaches at. I love how Yum incorporates Korean words and sentences into the illustrations. Her art is evocative and she’s great at characterization and creating story.

APieceofHome2

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Jeri Watts/Hyewon Yum

I really connected to this book because (as you can probably guess) I used to live in Korea. I graduated from college and almost immediately flew over to start a new life as an English teacher. Similar to Hee Jun, I felt out of control and confused at times. He also reminds me of my students, especially the ones who wanted to get to know me but didn’t have confidence in their ability to communicate with me. I made them feel uncomfortable in their own space, which must’ve been nerve-wracking! The world caters to native English speakers but Native English speaking countries rarely cater to non-native English speakers! >_< Like Hee Jun’s grandmother, immigrants bring richness into the United States that shouldn’t be ignored just because they struggle with English.

The other day I snapped this photo of 무궁화 (Mugungwha/Rose of Sharon) growing near my house. It made me think of my city of 대구 and my friends and students there.
Mugunghwa

I hope you enjoy A Piece of Home as much as I did. I think a lot of children will be able to relate to it!

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Community, Immigration, Friendship, Korea, Korean Culture, Inner Strength, Difference, School Life, Diversity, Discussion, Language, Confidence
Book Info: A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts/Illustrated by Hyewon Yum, 2016 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763669713

Wild Berries

WildBerries

Image Credit: Simply Read Books, Julie Flett

 

Guess what? It’s still Native American Heritage Month! Yippee!  If you didn’t see my first post celebrating this month, please check out my review for Hiawatha and the Peacemaker!

Wild Berries is a sweet little book. Julie Flett is Cree-Metis and lives in Vancouver, BC. Wild Berries is written in English with words translated into the n-dialect (Swampy Cree) of Cree. This particular dialect of Cree is from the Cumberland House area of Saskatchewan. As you enjoy the story, you can also pick up a few Cree words. Flett includes more information about the various dialects of Cree and a pronunciation guide at the back of the book.

In this book, Little Clarence and his grandmother set out for the day, exploring nature and picking all types of berries. Clarence starts out on her back but grows into a boy who is curious about his surroundings. He especially loves big, sour ininimina (blueberries). There are many animals in the woodlands and when his bucket is full of sweet berries, he is sure to leave a few as a gift for the animals…and they are thankful. The readers get a gift as well, Flett includes a recipe for Wild Blueberry Jam at the end of the story.

Flett’s style reminds me of cut paper though it looks to be watercolor and digital illustration. She uses basic shapes to make eyes, arms, animals and trees. The bright red orange sun follows the grandma and her grandson as they enjoy the day together. Maybe you’ll want to go berry picking after reading this book, I know I sure want to!  Come on spring.  🙂

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Diversity, Native American Heritage Month, Cree, Language, Colors, Food Culture, Family, Animals, We Need Diverse Books
Book Info: Wild Berries by Julie Flett, 2013 Simply Read Books, ISBN: 9781897476895

Math Curse

Mathcurse

Image Credit: Viking (Penguin Group), Jon Scieszka/Lane Smith

To celebrate 40 POSTS on Read It Real Good, I invited my good friend Nida to write about one of her favorite books. I met Nida while teaching English in Korea and she is particularly great with languages and linguistics.  I didn’t know about Math Curse until she started raving about it BUT I do love Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, or as I like to call them, the 90s Picture Book Dream Team. You might be familiar with their classics The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man. Welcome Nida and please enjoy her review:


Have you ever sat in a class (or meeting) and stared at the clock, counting the minutes, pondering and planning the rest of your day? If the answer is yes, then welcome to the Math Curse.

Math Curse opens with Mrs. Fibonacci telling her students, “You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem.” One girl discovers just how true those words are as she wakes up the next day to find that everything around her makes her think in mathematical terms. The reader follows her thoughts throughout the day where she can’t help but regard everything in her daily routine as a problem to solve, including her other subject classes. Despairing that she’ll never escape the math curse put upon her by her math teacher, she finally solves the ultimate math problem (with the help of a clever little pun) that frees her. She learns that although math may be everywhere, it’s no longer something to dread.

Math Curse is one of my favorite books ever. I love books that are designed to make you think, and this book definitely does that! But it’s not all about the math. The book is also filled with clever wordplay that will appeal to any little linguists out there. The best part is that this book can grow with a child. I first read it when I was 8, before I knew what the Fibonacci sequence, binary numbers, or the quadratic formula were. When I finally learned about those things in middle school, I remembered the Math Curse, went back to read it again, and appreciated it on a whole new level. Even as an adult, I am often plagued by a math curse as I try to figure out how to do everything I need to do within the hours of the day. Talk about a book for all ages!

This book will obviously be a hit with anyone already interested in math or language, but I also highly recommend it for parents who wish to engage their children with an interactive, relatable story. It’s important to understand: It’s not about getting the right answers (which can be found on the back cover, by the way), but rather exercising your brain and challenging yourself to see things in different ways.

 

Recommended for: 1st/2nd grade and up
Great for: Mathematics, Problem Solving, Language, Discussion, School Life, Frustration
Book Info: Math Curse by Jon Scieszka/Illustrated by Lane Smith, 1995 Viking (Penguin Group), ISBN: 9780670861944