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Archive for the ‘Children’s Literature’ Category

One thing I miss about working in a school library is the opportunity to make displays of books for different themes, weeks and months.  Children’s book week is in May this year!  I remember it being in November but since it’s earlier this year it overlaps with Asian Pacific American History month.  Below I’ve outlined a few picture books that speak to Asian American experiences that younger readers (or adults) will enjoy. I will be following up in the rest of the month with some chapter books for older readers as well as some adult books.

Filipino Friends by Liana Romulo and Filipino Celebrations by Liana Romulo & Corazon Dandan-Albano

I found these two books at the LA Times Festival of Books.  I loved the pictures, Sam and his friends seem to be having such a great time.  I was surprised at how many words Romulo was able to fit on a page.  My husband is first generation Filipino-American and can read Tagalog (ie. make the correct sounds) but he does not speak it very well.  He helped me pronounce most of the words and learned that some of the words he thought he knew were wrong.  For example, our niece (who is also his goddaughter) refers to him as “ninong” which, as we found out from Filipino Celebrations means “godfather” rather than “uncle” as he thought.  He also finally learned that a “kalabaw” is a water buffalo, not a cow.  We’ve loaned these books to my sister-in-law for my niece and nephew and I’ll take them back when they’re a little older.  These seem like a great introduction to Filipino words for readers of all ages who want to learn a more about Filipino customs.

Henry’s first moon birthday by Lenore Look

Cover art

In Look’s book Jenny helps her grandmother prepare for her brother Henry’s first moon birthday, complete with ginger and red eggs.

I have only been to one first moon birthday, for my friends’ son.  When you are celebrating a girl you take an even number of eggs for luck and an odd number for a boy.  I did not realize that I would be bringing eggs home and had hard-boiled a number of eggs a day before for use at home.  It was a very strange way to have an abundance of hard-boiled eggs!

The name jar by Yangsook Choi

Unhei just moved to the US from Korea and is having trouble adjusting to a school where no one can pronounce her name.  So she enlists her classmates to help her choose an American name by choosing a name from a jar.  Imagine her surprise when she chooses a slip of paper with her own name on it!

I could relate to Unhei’s trial of a difficult name.  Although Mary-Michelle isn’t hard to pronounce people keep trying to shorten it to Mary without checking with me first.  I love my name and would not change it but unusual names can be difficult!

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Between the time I spent working at the UCLA Lab School, volunteering with Reading to Kids and taking my Materials for Children course, I have developed a love of and respect for biographies for younger readers.  I’ve learned about Jackie Mitchell, the girl who struck out Babe Ruth, the Mercury 13, Elizabeth Keckley, and about a group of women in rural India in the 1970s who saved trees from over development.  These books are a few of my suggestions for readers of any age.  I’ve tried to match my favorite children’s biography with the adult version.  If you see an unmatched book or can suggested another one please let me know in the comments.

Almost Astronauts: 13 women who dared to dream by Tanya Lee Stone

I picked this one up from the LAPL a few years ago as an audiobook and enjoyed it very much.  When I was younger I was fascinated by space, NASA, astronomy and anything vaguely related to the topic.  I’d never heard of the Mercury 13 before reading this book and I had a hard time putting it down.  I had the opportunity to read this book again (this time in hard copy) for my materials for children class last year.  The pictures are amazing, not to be missed.

The Mercury 13: the untold story of thirteen American women and the dream of space flight by Martha Ackmann

This is an adult version of Almost Astronauts.  I have not had the chance to read it yet but it is on my to read list as soon as I have time to walk over to the science library and pick it up. 🙂

Mighty Jackie: the strike out queen by Marissa Moss

Prior to working at the UCLA Lab School I had never heard of Jackie Mitchell, a 17 year old girl who struck out Babe Ruth in a minor league exhibition game.  My dad is a big baseball fan and I while I have missed my shot at baseball I’m great at wiffle ball!  This would be a great read for anyone who’s playing T-ball or has a favorite team

I haven’t been able to find an adult audience biography for Jackie Mitchell, please let me know if you can recommend one.

Mary Lincoln’s dressmaker by Becky Rutberg

I was first introduced to this book when I was pulling books for a black history month display.  I think it’s fascinating to read about historical figures, particularly when there is enough information about them to make an entire book from their story.  We learn about Mary Lincoln but I can’t believe I did not learn about Elizabeth Keckley until I was an adult.

Behind the scenes, or 30 years a slave by Elizabeth Keckley

A chance to learn more about an amazing woman from her own pen.

Aani and the tree huggers by Jeannine Atkins

Okay, I picked this up for the pictures but the story about a small community of women banding together to save their homes is a wonderful one.  The pictures are vibrant and it is a great story to read if your child is interested in learning more about what a small group of caring individuals can do to save something they believe in.  This book is based on true events of a 1970s Indian village.  Sadly I couldn’t find the adult counterpart book for this group of women.

The librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter

The true story of librarian Alia Muhammad Baker in Basra, Iraq who saved much of her library by smuggling home a handful of books at a time.  There is another version of her story by Mark Alan Stamaty which is in graphic novel format.  Another woman I could not find an adult biography of, does anyone know if there is one in the works?

I will leave you with my top 5 (and available counterparts) I have enough recommendations for another list at a different date.  I hope you will share your favorite biographies in either juvenile or adult literature in the comments section.

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