The Ugly Dumpling

Author: Stephanie Campisi

Illustrator/ Photographer: Shahar Kober

Publisher and Year: Mighty Media Kids, 2016

Number of Pages: 27 Pages

Diversity, Fiction, Dorning

Genre: Fantasy

The Ugly Dumpling is a storybook about a dumpling in a restaurant that struggles to fit in and find a friend. The dumpling befriends a cockroach and they find the “beauty of the world” together (Campisi, 2016).

Besides the unlikely friendship of a food (dumpling) and insect (cockroach), this story serves as a mirror for the audience to reflect on how people view diversity. In this story, the dumpling is ignored and excluded from participating in the restaurant’s business (no matter how hard it tried) because the dumpling looked different. Not until it befriends and goes on adventures with the cockroach, does it realize the beauty in being different. By the end of the story, the dumpling and cockroach find the power and confidence to accept whom the other is and walk away from those who do not appreciate their beauty in being different. As fantasized as the story and artwork is, this storybook serves as a window to all cultures to practice the virtue of acceptance. In regards to my understanding of culture, this story shares the message of the vital importance of acceptance because regardless of sex, religion, or gender, everyone wants to be included and wanted.

This book attempts to convey this message to such an extent that on the last page of the story is the quote, “Every dumpling needs a friend” (Campisi, 2016) with a website at the bottom of the page. After looking on the website, I found that it was Facebook campaign that promoted against stereotypes and labels of all groups of people ( This continued to further the message of understanding and acceptance of all kinds of people and that being “different” is a wonderful and unique concept. Perceptually, the images take up most of page, which shows that the artwork is more important than seeing the text the author wrote. At the same time, the images and words mirror one another, which allows the reader to visually see what the text is saying. The diversity of people in restaurant shows continuation of people accepting all kinds of people. Structurally, certain words and phrases are bolded or quoted to add emphasize on the theme of the story. For example, the words “beautiful”, “one”, and “own” highlight the importance of individuality. The facial expressions of dumpling change as it befriends the cockroach, showing that the dumpling is accepting its differences and beginning to love itself for whom it is. The main themes of this storybook are it is okay to be different, stay true to yourself, friends can be found in unlikely places, individuality, and do not judge by looks or first impressions.IMG_2823IMG_2824

The Turnip

Author & Illustrator: Jan Brett (author and illustrator)

Publisher and Year: Penguin Random House LLC, 2015

Number of Pages: 30 Pages

Genre: Fantasy

Badger Girl comes across the biggest turnip she has ever seen in her vegetable garden. She asks for the help of family and friends to help her get the turnip out of the ground so the community can enjoy and eat the turnip.

The story serves as a window into how teamwork can accomplish many things. Even though it is unrealistic that animals perform these tasks, they represent how a community with a diverse group of individuals brings strength to the group. In the beginning, the turnip has the power because it will not come out of the ground. Badger Girl continues to fail because she is trying to pull the turnip out of the ground by herself. As the story continues on, other characters in the story attempt to help Badger Girl get the turnip out of the ground. Finally, the turnip finally comes out the ground when the power to help is distributed among all members of the community.

All the animals represent a different type of culture in society (not explicitly stated but they represent diverse groups of people in communities). The story shows that when all kinds of cultures come together to collaborate, things can be successfully accomplished. This theme can be applied to my understanding of culture as a whole because the more diverse cultures involved in a community, the better tasks can be completed. In addition, all animals had respect for one another’s differences. This is an important contribution to my understanding of culture because getting to know other cultures allows for barriers to be broken, which benefits the community as a whole. The pictures are very detailed, colorful, and large, which engages the reader into the artwork of the story. Also, all the animals have elaborate outfits, making them relatable to a human being. The borders include foreshadowing of the next images, which allow the reader to be creative and make predictions as to what will happen next in the story. The images are framed which make reader an observer of this fantasy world in the middle of the forest. The wide range of forest animals symbolizes different cultures among all kinds of people. The images and text once again mirror one other to allow the reader to follow along with the story visually and textually. The turnip symbolizes problems in a community that need teamwork of all members to be solved. Important ideologies from this story are teamwork, using differences to help one another, everyone offers a unique talent to help the group, and problems are not difficult to solve if everyone is involved to help.IMG_2821IMG_2822


A Dog Day for Susan

Author: Maureen Fergus

Illustrator/ Photographer: Monica Arnaldo

Publisher and Year: Owlkids Books, 2016

Number of Pages: 31 Pages

Genre: Realistic Fiction

This book tells of Susan, Spencer’s Great Aunt Alice’s dog. Great Aunt Alice comes to visit Spencer’s family and treats Susan as one of the humans. Finding this odd, Spencer and his dog Barney are on a mission to teach Susan how to be a real dog.

The story serves as a window and mirror into how humans see animals and the idea of individuality. Alice views Susan as an equal and even shares how she refuses to go anywhere that treats dogs as “second class citizens” (Arnaldo, 2016). At the same time, Spencer wants to show Susan what a “real” dog is supposed to act like because he feels that Susan did not sound like him and Barney’s “kind” of dog (Arnaldo, 2016). The moment that Great Aunt Alice arrives, Susan is treated as one of the humans. So, Susan and Alice hold the power over Spencer and Barney. In response, Spencer goes on a mission to show Susan how to be a real dog so that by the end of the story, Spencer has gained power by showing her how to be a real dog at the park.

The illustrator depicted the family in the story as Caucasian so not much diversity is involved in the story. Instead, the culture represented in this book is the relationship of humans and their pets. Alice cares for her dog Susan and wants to make sure she is treated with kindness and respect. Great Aunt Alice’s attitude reflects as a mirror that shows how people in society now see pets as more than just an animal, but as a friend. In addition, another theme comes into play as to who Susan really is. She acts one way with Alice but another with Spencer and Barney. This can symbolize the attempt to influence who an individual is supposed to be. This story has shown me that it is acceptable to be more than just one type of person; an individual can have many personality traits that make him or her unique. The text is clear to find on the page which shows that what is being said is important. At the same time, there are more images than text showing that the artwork is very important to the story and should be paid attention to. Also, communication between two characters is a closer-up image meaning the dialogue is significant to the plot. The text correlates with the image on each page, allowing the reader to hear and see the story. Flashbacks are represented in a dark blue color, which can stand for times that were not good for Great Aunt Alice. This storybook portrays core themes such as the bond between animals and humans, and the importance of self-discovery and individuality.


Abracadabra, It’s Spring!

Author: Anne Sibley O’ Brien

Illustrator/ Photographer: Susan Gal

Publisher and Year: Abrams Appleseed, 2016

Number of Pages: 42 Pages

Genre: Poetry, Realistic Fiction

This story tells of the reawakening of nature and its inhabitants when the spring season comes around. The snow and cold melt away and the blossoming of flowers, sunshine, and green engulf the world.

The story serves as a window for the audience to show the beauty of the spring season. In the spring, nature and all the animals reawaken to beautiful and lively colors. At the same time, humans can be outdoors once again with fresh air and sunshine on their faces. The book also serves as a mirror to remind the reader how beautiful the spring season is. If humans want to enjoy the beauty depicted in this book, then humans have to care for the Earth and protect it. The book has a unique approach to the distribution of power in the sense that nature has the power. Each year, the Earth allows the spring to bring all plants back to life and animals out of hibernation after a long and cold winter. The author and illustrator focus on the “magic” of the spring season that brings the community of animals and people together to enjoy the wonders of nature. In this story, the artwork speaks more than the text because the elaborate and detailed pictures depict the liveliness spring brings to all. By the artwork of the illustrator, my understanding of culture has broadened to mean more than just people. Nature can be its own culture as well.

The book symbolizes the magic and joy that spring brings to the world. At the same time, it sends a message to current generations to protect the earth and its exquisiteness so that spring can continue to bloom flowers with many bursts of color for future generations to enjoy. Just as the last page of the story shows, nature is able to bring children and adults of all types and cultures to enjoy the magnificence of the season. Nature welcomes all and does not exclude based on race, religion, or gender. The artwork is more important because the text is small, and one page opens to another flap to reveal the artwork of spring season. In addition, the animals are noticeably large and close up, which allows the reader to pay attention to the artwork portrayed in the story. The text is simple with words such as “presto change”, “alakazam”, and “open sesame.” This shows that the season of spring is like a magic trick and can bring wonderful things out of the seemingly impossible. This is emphasized by the artwork being very colorful and busy, just like the season of spring. In the end, the main themes of this book are nature reawakens in the spring, humans must protect the Earth to allow spring to continue, spring brings color to the Earth, and spring weather brings people of all kinds outdoors to come together.      IMG_2815IMG_2817

Cakes and Miracles: A Purim Tale

Author: Barbara Diamond Goldin

Illustrator/Photographer: Jaime Zollars

Publisher and Year: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2010

Number of Pages: 30 pages

Genre: Realistic Fiction

This book is a storybook of a tale based on the Jewish holiday, Purim, which celebrates the biblical story of Ester. The main character, Hershel, is a blind boy that uses his imagination and special talents to help his mother bake cookies to sell at the local market for the Purim holiday. I believe that this story serves as a door because regardless of Hershel’s blindness, he has the opportunity to accomplish the same exact activities as people who can see. At the same time, the story serves as a window into the Jewish tradition by exposing and explaining to the reader the importance of the Purim holiday.

In the beginning of the story, Hershel was not given much power because he was blind and doubted by his mother. After Hershel’s visit by the angel, he gained power by proving he was helping his mother make beautiful cookies even though he could not physically see them. This story represents two cultures: the Jewish religion and people with disabilities. Purim is an important holiday that celebrates the survival of the Jews from persecution. This book honors and exposes the reader to the Jewish tradition and culture that might be unknown to many people. In addition, this story highlights the community of people with disabilities. Hershel was able to complete a task that was not “normal” for a blind child. For the reader, this book breaks the social norm that people with disabilities are incapable of contributing to the community. This story has shaped my understanding of culture by broadening my understanding of a new Jewish tradition that I was not familiar with. Through the illustrations, I was able to see interpretations of the Purim holiday, such as the cookies that are baked. In addition, the story illustrates a synagogue. By adding a picture of the synagogue, the reader is able to connect with the message of the story and emerge in the Jewish holiday of Purism visually as well as textually.

Perceptually, the text is on one side of the page suggesting the image is more important than the text. All images are unframed and close up which allows the reader to engage that much more into the story. The opening sentences of the story boldly state Hershel does things as the normal children do, foreshadowing that disability does not make a person with a disability incapable of every day tasks. Structurally, Jewish symbols such as the Star of David and menorah are used to honor and understand the Jewish culture. The mud symbolizes Hershel’s imagination and ability to have creativity. Dull and simple colors are used in the images, which can explain the hardship of Basha, Hershel’s mother, to take on both roles as a mother and father. It can also represent Hershel’s blindness of him not being able to see, but also explains the simplicity he experiences except in his dreams. In addition, the visual images of Hershel completing chores show he does not let disability stop him. The author of the book conveys these themes in the story through Hershel: disability does not limit an individual, holidays bring families and communities closer, and i imagination with determination can bring success.IMG_2812IMG_2811