Brown Girl Writer & Dreamer at My Local Library

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Image Credit: Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Random), Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson strode into Cincinnati’s Main Library on June 18th to talk to us about her book Brown Girl Dreaming. Her walk is confident, she wears a nose ring and wore a shirt that said “Black is Beautiful.” She began with a quiet bang by reading from her book Each Kindness and then kept it very real. Not long ago, the Cincinnati Library board unanimously decided not to change their insurance to cover gender confirmation surgery for long time employee, Rachel Dovel. Woodson was honest with us, she said it was difficult for her to be in the space as a gay, out, woman of color who cares about equality. Though she was happy to talk to us, she was also frustrated that the library didn’t support Rachel & equality.

“I stand with Rachel” she said.

I respect and admire her strength in supporting another woman who continues to be strong in the face of opposition.

The next hour was her reading from Brown Girl Dreaming, anecdotes about her two kids and their short attention span, comments about living in Brooklyn, reflections on parenting and her confusion about how to pronounce Chillicothe, Ohio. >_< The mood was comfortable; the crowd wasn’t as big as I hoped it would be but the people in attendance were engaged. I was very happy to see young brown girls in the audience. In the very front row sat a few young white girls who followed along in their copies of Brown Girl Dreaming while Jacqueline read aloud to us (she’d announce what page she was on) and two of the girls had really great questions at the end.

It was a really nice event; I even asked a question about diverse books and her hopes for the future (how could I resist??) and when she signed my book, I got to talk to her a little more. She’s such a cool person!

I wish you the best Jacqueline! Thanks for stopping by Cincinnati, speaking to us and sharing your light.

 

P.S. If you haven’t read Brown Girl Dreaming yet…get on it! 😉

The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window

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Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random House), Jeff Gottesfeld/Peter McCarty

In her diary, Anne Frank tells us about a beautiful chestnut tree that grew outside of her window. This book imagines the events of Anne’s life through the tree’s lens and while doing so, we are reminded of the shock of loss and the horrors of war.

In The Tree in the Courtyard, a horse chestnut tree grows to love the young Anne Frank for her vivacious spirit. Jeff Gottesfeld gives us a very unique perspective of a very familiar and tragic moment in history. The story is very moving; when I walked away from this book, I couldn’t help but think two things 1) Anne Frank was a beautiful writer 2) What a great way to honor her spirit and help children learn not only about history but also about compassion and perspective.

The tree never fully understands exactly why war is happening but it feels and knows the effects of it (much like a child, perhaps). As it grows steadily, it connects to Anne and the occupants of the annex. It likes to watch Anne get lost in her writing and makes sure to blossom beautiful for her. But one day the occupants of the annex are suddenly taken away and only Anne’s father comes back, visibly changed. The tree is distraught. As years pass, other people occupy the annex but the tree finds irony in the fact that people put more love into its care than they did for Anne’s well-being. The symbolism of the chestnut’s saplings spreading around the world and living on, like Anne’s words, is powerful.

Peter McCarty’s illustrations fill the pages in a warm, beautiful brown. The shortened bodies with large heads and expressive faces, deep shadows and hatch marks are signature McCarty. I especially love how he illustrates Anne with her dark, soulful eyes and wispy hair and I love how he gives life to the tree; its limbs seem to stretch lovingly towards Anne and the annex. On the pages that depict soldiers and air raids, straight lines with white space are drawn harshly (like sharp blasts) while on other pages, the lines are softer and ultimately more comforting.

This picture book will surely encourage young readers to learn more about Anne. I hope teachers and parents will use this book to not only discuss Anne Frank, WWII and the Holocaust but to also teach the importance of compassion, love and hope.

 

Recommended for: 1st-2nd Grade and Up
Great for: Reflection, Inspiration, Brilliance, Discussion, History, Family, Relationships, Hope, Love, Peace, Judaism, World War II, Nazi Occupied Netherlands, Holocaust, Tragedy, Resilience, Anne Frank, Perspective
Book Info: The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window by Jeff Gottesfeld/Illustrated by Peter McCarty, 2016 Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random House), ISBN: 9780385753975

Where Do We Go When We Disappear?

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Image Credit: Tate Publishing, Isabel Minhós Martins/Madalena Matoso

I first discovered author Isabel Minhós Martins through The World in a Second. Because I enjoyed that book so much, I wanted to read more of her work. I found a few more titles of hers at my local library. Not all of her books are translated to English yet (from Portuguese) but out of the few I could get my hands on, I thought this one was very good.

Death, loss and change aren’t easy topics to discuss at any age and I know that parents often look for books that gracefully tackle these subjects. What I like about Where Do We Go When We Disappear? is that it’s very reflective, thought provoking and it isn’t necessarily about death, so parents can use this book however they need.

Martins says that for someone to disappear, someone must first notice the disappearance. Therefore, it always takes at least two people for someone’s loss to be recognized; for the missing to begin. And with the missing begins the questions and Martins opens the story to the discussion of disappearance of all kinds of things in our world! This can help a child begin to make connections and start healing. Even socks disappear, for example! (Who knows where they go??) Nothing lasts forever and some things take longer to disappear. But everything doesn’t disappear to NOTHING. Matter is recycled, exchanged and shifts and on and on it goes…

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Image Credit: Tate Publishing, Isabel Minhós Martins/Madalena Matoso

Martin’s evocative text is accompanied by Matoso’s bold illustrations. The bright, blocky illustrations are just enough for the text, to spark discussion. Smiling humans, sad humans, trees, winding roads, nature and the ocean; the pictures are strong yet gentle. Where Do We Go When We Disappear? is a beautiful book that’s good for all ages. It does a great job of starting conversations about existence, life, death and change.

 

P.S. For parents looking for a secular book about death, this book does mention “heaven” but in relation to where puddles go to eventually become clouds. It’s quite interesting.

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Discussion, Change, Death, Family, Loss, Nature, Permanence, Reflection, Relationships, Sadness
Book Info: Where Do We Go When We Disappear? by Isabel Minhós Martins/Illustrated by Madalena Matoso, 2013 Tate Publishing, ISBN: 9781849761604