The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle


Author: Rick Riordan

Illustrator/Photographer: None

Publisher and Year: Disney Hyperion 2016

Number of pages: 361

Genre: Children’s Fiction Novel


The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle is the first book in the Rick Riordan’s new series The Trials of Apollo.  This is Riordan’s third series in the Percy Jackson universe, the first being Percy Jackson and the second being Heroes of Olympus. These three series are based around the concept that the ancient Greek gods are still around in modern times and are continuing the tradition of creating half human half god children called demigods. These series create a timeline of events, all leading up to The Hidden Oracle. The book takes place from the God Apollo’s perspective. The basic plot of the book is that Apollo is being punished by Zeus and for his punishment he is turned into a mortal teenager. In order to regain his godly status, Apollo must redeem himself in some way. Apollo meets a twelve year old named Meg who becomes his companion and guide on his quest. The book is full of adventure, friendship, and past regrets.


This book is not only a great adventure story, but also a great story for representation. Many times in the novel, Apollo is forced to think about the past mortals he has loved. He continually thinks about Hyacinthus and Daphne, two mortal humans he had fallen in love with throughout his years as a god. While they are both influential to Apollo’s emotions throughout the story, they are, more importantly, of the opposite gender. This novel not only creates a fantastical world of adventure, it also brings in a realistic depiction of a protagonist who identifies as bisexual. There are also other characters in the story that are not straight. This novel is an example of diversity in sexual orientation in a novel. Too often, especially in children’s literature, are protagonists only depicted as straight, which can be detrimental to children that do not identify that way.


Overall, this book addresses many hard hitting themes like family dynamics, emotional abuse, and grief. This novel is engaging, exciting, and a good source of representation on many different issues. The rest of the Trials of Apollo series will be released over the next couple of years and cannot be spoken for on its depiction of diversity. The Hidden Oracle can be a great source of diversity for many students, and can broaden their world view while being an engaging and adventurous story.

March: Book One


Authors: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

Illustrator: Nate Powell

Publisher and Year: Top Shelf Productions, 2013

Number of Pages: 121

Genre: Non-fiction

march book one page preview 1In March: Book One John Lewis tells about the struggle he has gone through and witnessed since the beginning days of segregation. He highlights the highs and lows of the Civil Rights Movement, and how much influence he had in the process.

This book works hugely as a mirror. There are so many people that can identify with this text, and it is always helpful to get history on one’s culture. This book could work as a mirror for those who can identify with it, a window for those who can’t, and a door for those could learn a lesson from it. The 1950’s-1960’s weren’t an exciting time for African Americans, and John Lewis elaborates on that. In the beginning of the graphic novel, the Whites have all of the power. As time goes on and more Black people realize how powerful a peaceful protest could be, they begin to gain power. The use of peaceful protests is something that is still prevalent and effective today. Perceptually, the pictures mirror and add to the text, and vice versa. Most of the text is dialogue, and the rest are descriptions of scenes, people, and situations.

Structurally, the novel is set up as typical graphic novel would be: pop-out speech balloons and lots of pictures. The characters continuously move to the right, which symbolizes them moving forward. The entire book is in black and white, but the reader can still feel when a scene is “darker” than others. This may also be because the book was about problems between Blacks and Whites, so it would make sense to have the book in black and white only. Some backgrounds are white with black panels, which makes us feel lighter and less tense about what is going to happen next. Other backgrounds are black with white panels or no frames at all. There is usually a life-changing moment occurring on these pages. Ideologically, this story can serve to teach readers about African American history, if nothing else. It shows that everything does not have to be solved with violence, and that peacefully hashing things out can be more beneficial. This story also teaches readers that there are perks to being the bigger person and not letting others get to you.

Terrible Things: An Allegory for the Holocaust

IMG_4274Author(s): Eve Bunting

Illustrator/Photographer: Stephen Gammell

Publisher and Year: The Jewish Publication Society in 1989

Number of Pages: 28

Genre: Fiction


This story begins with a scene of animals in the woods, where everything seems to be going well until the “Terrible Things” come to the woods demanding to take different animals that have a specific trait like having feathers or being able to swim. The “Terrible Things” get away with taking the different creatures because none of the animals try to help the other ones because they do not want to make the “Terrible Things” angry with them. Therefore, group after group of animals are taken away by the “Terrible Things” until all the animals in the forest are gone, except for the one little rabbit who finally decides to go warn the other animals in the forest about what had happened.

This book is intentionally written as an allegory for the Holocaust, and therefore, this book can act as a window for children to learn about this tragic event from history. I also believe it can also act as a door to encourage children to stand up for others and to also question authority. This story shows the “Terrible Things” using coercion to assist in becoming more powerful, which illustrates how the Nazis gained their power in Germany in the 1940s. I believe that this story accurately depicts how the Holocaust occurred and how the people in Germany allowed it to happen, which was out of fear of questioning their authority figures and in hoping to save themselves. When first looking at this book, I noticed that the words are seen on both the top and the bottom of the pages, the “Terrible Things” are always placed at the top of the pages, and that there was no color used throughout the story. From page to page the text seems to be in a different location and I believe that this could represent the chaos that was occurring in the forest and the fact that nobody knew what was going to happen to the animals next. The illustrations within this text are extremely powerful because they are all black and white images and this lack of color exemplifies the dark and cold tone of the story. The images of the “Terrible Things” are always at the top of the page or above the other animals to symbolize their power and high status. I believe that the story itself is deep, but these images give another dimension and seriousness to the words being spoken.

The message that this story is trying to send the reader is that authority should be questioned because sometimes the reason they are powerful is because of the power the people have given them by not questioning them. I also believe that the story was also trying to explain the importance of standing up for others, especially those that do not have a voice.

Why War is Never a Good Idea


Author: Alice Walker

Illustrator: Stefano Vitale

Publisher/Year: Harper Collins, 2007

Pages: 28

Genre: Poetry


Without referring to any war in particular, Alice Walker in Why War is Never a Good Idea, poetically personifies war and its devastation. Walker depicts war as an unpredictable, out-of-control, blind, bad-mannered, gluttonous, and unwise force of man that is inconsiderate of the destruction it wreaks on innocent victims.

 Walker’s book certainly functions as a mirror for readers, especially children who have immigrated to the United States in search of safety and security, or felt firsthand the devastation of war (e.g. through death of a loved one, or flattening of one’s hometown). In addition, Walker’s poem introduces readers who have never felt the impacts of war to war’s many unknowing victims: a boy and his donkey, nursing mothers, ancient artifacts, pumas and parakeets, and civilians who are left to die from contaminated water. Walker’s picture book also calls readers, young and old, to not blindly support a tradition or concept (war) simply because it is old. For, as Walker comments: “Though War is Old / it has not become wise,” carrying with it a bundle of unforeseen consequences and striking at a moment’s glance (p. 16).

 Power rests in the personified hands of War, who acts without thinking, attacks without warning, and consumes without asking. The victims, both human and inanimate, are the unfortunate recipients of war’s havoc. Why War is Never a Good Idea shows lower-class native people (Asian, Hispanic, and African American) and their culture to be destroyed by war. While accurate, this depiction does not fully represent war’s devastation. Only on the final page of the book does a white family of three appear as a victim, individuals who will also have to drink the contaminated water. Non-White soldiers are not the only ones exploited by the war.

 The text communicates the differences between what war is and is not, highlighting how unforeseen consequences lie in this difference. The text also emphasizes the innocence of what war destroys, be it a boy dreaming of polenta and eggs for dinner, or a mother singing a lullaby to her baby. Weapons of war and destruction are illustrated realistically (compared to cartoon drawings) and described rather elusively. The photographs interact with hand drawn landscapes for a dramatic effect (e.g. wheel of truck ripping through the paper on which the village is drawn; little green soldier figurines sucked into a wave of grimy, contaminated water…). Images magnify how from all different angles—taste, smell, sight, and touch—war is bad and futile. Images also elaborate on the cruelty of war. All of the pre-war images of villages and natives are illustrated with a rainbow of bright colors to show their momentary peace and freedom. The colors turn more eerie and burnt as destruction ensues. Why War is Never a Good Idea promotes a global anti-war attitude, criticizes the unlimited power of war, and raises ethical concerns regarding the effects of war on victims.

The Bicycle Man

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Author/ Illustrator: Allen Say

Publishing Information: Parnassus Press Oakland California, 1982

Number of Pages: 39

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Picture book

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On the sports day of a school in the south island of Japan, two American soldiers play a few tricks on a bicycle. Students cheer for them and they have a good time together.

The book is a first-person narrative of the author who went to school in Japan. It is based on historical facts. Just after World War II, Japan was still recovering from the damages from the war. However, this story demonstrates that piece of history from a very different view of point. I can hardly notice that the war just happened by looking at such a peaceful and quiet village. The book functions as a window for children to look at another culture. A lot of cultural elements are presented in the book such as various traditional Asian games and the fact that people bow to greet each other. One of the critiques I have about this book is that, I think the book might convey an idea that only Americans can lighten up the life of Japanese by portraying the American soldier showing off his bicycle skills. American characters exist as rescuers and they are depicted a lot taller.

Perceptually, the author and illustrator uses water colors and ink to draw the illustrations which shows calm and peace. Brighter colors are used to depict the joyful atmosphere. The book does a great job stressing diversity and culture. The author takes good care of diversity issue since the numbers of male and female in the illustrations are about average. Besides, one of the American soldiers is African American. Structurally, most of the text and images do not overlap. Some ideology conveyed in this book is culture based. Asian philosophy stresses on group spirit more than individuality. And the principal emphasizes “the spirit of sportsmanship” which is “Whether we win or lose, let us enjoy ourselves” (P. 8). The other ideology the book conveys is that children are innocuous. The conflicts between countries do not necessarily mean conflicts between individuals. Although the war just ended, Japanese children are still very warmhearted to the two American soldiers once they get to know them. War means cruelty, blood and death but on the other side, people can get along well with all differences. That makes us think about the real purpose of a war. The book is extremely insightful.

Brothers in Hope

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Author: Mary Williams

Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie

Publishing Information: Lee & Low Books Inc., 2005

Number of Pages: 36

Genre: Historical Fiction, Picture book

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Garang and his family live a happy life before the war comes. He goes on a journey first to Ethiopia and then to Kenya with other boys who are lost. Finally, they are rescued and provided a home in the United States.

The book shows a historical fact by demonstrating a tough journey Garang and his friend have. The text functions as both a window and a mirror for children to look back at history and reflect many kinds of harm done by wars. During the journey, friendship, brotherhood and tenacity are presented.

I found some of the illustrations problematic. I do agree that the rescuer Tom and the teacher in the school are positive characters. However, the illustrator keeps depicting white people much taller and bigger that the Sudan boys. Besides, white characters are put in a higher space of the images. That may give children an impression that white people are supreme and stronger than black people.

Perceptually, the text in this book is relatively dense. The lost boys are moving to the right which demonstrates that they are moving forward but not secure. The book uses dark color to depict a depressing atmosphere. When people thought there were soldiers, the horizon on the image suddenly disappeared which signifies that people are nervous. Structurally, text and images overlap. The images are not framed which helps reader to actually participate in the story. Ideologically, the author and the illustrator hit on the following four aspects. Firstly, the book stresses on family bond. Garang’s father used to encourage him to be brave and not afraid of cattle. Garang always remembers his father’s words, “Garang, be brave. Your heart and mind are strong. There is nothing you cannot do” (P. 2). Secondly, the book promotes individuality. We can see distinguished characteristics of leadership on Garang through the journey. He makes decision for the group, allocates the work and encourages them to go to school. Thirdly, while talking about individuality, the book also helps children realize the importance of teamwork. The value of a group is presented when the boys help each other to go across the river. They never leave anyone behind. Fourthly, the book teaches children to cherish the peace we have today.

The Herd Boy

the herd boy

Author/ Illustrator: Niki Daly

Publishing Information: Frances Lincoln Limited, 2012

Number of Pages: 30

Genre: Non-fiction, Picture book


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Malusi is a South African herd boy. The job is very hard but he does it very well. He and his friend both have their own dreams. While his friend Lungisa wants to be a soccer player, Malusi wants to be president when he grows up.

This book demonstrates multiculturalism through a typical day of a South African herb boy Malusi. The text functions as a window for children to notice and explore the differences in the world. On the other side of the earth, there are different types of food, different clothes, and people with different skin color speaking different language. The kids there do not live in fancy houses. They get up early to work instead of rushing to catch the school bus in order not to be late. They take care of animals not for fun but for a living. This book was published just a few years ago. However, I can hardly find any modern elements from both texts and illustrations. It shows children that people elsewhere are living a very different life. People can be different in various ways but dreams are universal.

I found one of the plots in this story problematic. Children might be confused when they saw Nelson Mandela in “a shiny new car” with a man in suit driving for him (p. 21). On one hand, the strong contrast between the car and “the dirt road” reveal the gap between different classes. On the other hand, it is a symbol for a hope of development country, both in wealth and in technology. I think a better way to express this plot is to talk more about how Nelson Mandela gets to his place and further specify the necessary characteristics of leadership.

Perceptually, the book uses narrative sentences to tell a relatively complete story. Almost all of the colors in the book are dark which reflects the relatively poor living condition. The pictures in the book are not framed but the text and images are completely separated which construct the feeling of looking into another world and another culture. The horizon exists all the time except for the last picture which depicted Malusi’s dream. Structurally, the text and images do not overlap. Ideologically, the story encourages children to be brave. When facing difficulties, keep calm and find the best solution. At the same time, it is okay to have dreams and fight for them — even if they seem to be unreachable right now.