Funny Bones


Author: Duncan Tonatiuh

Illustrator: Duncan Tonatiuh

Publisher and Year: Abrams Books 2015

Number of pages: 35

Genre: Non-Fiction Picture Book


Funny Bones is the story of José Guadalupe Posada the creator of Calaveras, the festive bony figures found in Hispanic culture. The book walks through Posada’s life as he becomes an artist and eventually creates the Calaveras. The book discusses the idea that Posada created the Calaveras to show that although we are different on the outside, everyone is the same on the inside.


This book is great representation of Latino culture, currently and historically.  Because the book contains copies of Posada’s actual original drawings along with Tonatiuh’s imaginative figures, it blends the historical cultural representation along with a more current cultural representation. This book also acts as a learning tool for some Spanish vocabulary. Different Spanish words are integrated into the text with a pronunciation guide and a definition. Having these words interspersed throughout the book acts as a view into the cultural context of specific words as well as a learning tool. The illustrations in the book are full of a wide range of colors. While there are many bright colors throughout the story, there is also a balance of earth tones. This makes the drawings, although done in an art style that is cartoonish, seem more realistic and helps enforce the real historical events that took place throughout José Guadalupe Posada’s life.


Ideologically, this book is full of empowerment and the importance of advocating for change. Posada begins his journey as an art student, but is remembered as an integral influence of change. With his creation of the Calaveras, Posada made a political statement about class divide, which was not something being discussed at the time. The book as a whole is informative about Posada’s life, but also allows for readers to ponder their own life. At the end of the book, the author asks the question “what would Posada’s Calaveras look like now a days?” which leaves room for the reader to apply Posada’s ideas to current life. This book would be a good tool in a classroom to apply Posada’s idea of Calaveras to life today. It would be easy to do an assignment focused around this idea. It is a different way to talk about Latino culture and incorporate different ideology into a classroom.


Dave the Poet: Artist, Poet, Slave

Author: Laban Carrick Hill

Illustrator: Bryan Collier

Publisher and Year: Little, Brown and Company, 2010 (Caldecott honor, Coretta Scott King Award)

Number of Pages: 40 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Dave the Potter tells of Dave, who was a slave in the 1800s in South Carolina (Hill, 2010). He was a very skilled potter while also being a poet. This story honors the craftsmanship of Dave’s pottery along with his poetry.

This story serves as a window into the life of Dave as a slave and as a craftsman. However, this book only focuses on Dave’s pottery and some poetry, but does not tell of his struggles as a slave. In addition, the last three pages of the book highlight some of Dave’s poetic verses while explaining historical facts about him. This book seems to portray Dave as enjoying being a slave in the South. For example, the images show Dave with facial expressions of content and serenity as if he enjoys the current position of being a slave doing his work. As a mirror, it reflects the African American culture and honors a man of color that brought beauty to pottery and poems. As with Dave being a slave, he did not have power. He is portrayed as just going about the day while creating large pots. Yet, the end of the book includes an author and illustrator’s note. Both explicitly state the extensive research they did on Dave (it is all cited in the book), and even visited the place where he was a slave. Though the way Dave was depicted was not exactly accurate (he lost a leg but is drawn with two legs), the author and illustrator made it very clear that though Dave was a slave, the purpose of this book was to honor his craft of pottery and poetry. This story represents the African American culture by honoring a man of color. As the author and illustrator made known, they wanted to represent Dave for his skills as a potter and poet. They portray him as a figure worthy of being remembered as a man of color in history. At the same time, this breaks any stereotype that showed slaves having no creative skills because Dave was able to create beautiful verses of poetry and pottery as a man of color.

Perceptually, the book is a Caldecott honor meaning that the artwork is important to the emotion of the story. In addition, image is on one page while text on another to allow the reader to focus on both text and image. The text is on a solid colored background showing it is to be noticed by the reader. Dave is portrayed as very calm, quiet, and comfortable in work. My criticism of this is that with him being a slave, I think this book portrayed him to be more comfortable with his life as a slave than he actually was. Structurally, there are three pages of Dave’s historical background included at end of book showing that the author and illustrator want to share the story of Dave’s pottery and poetry. In addition, they include citation page and author and illustrator’s note. This shows credibility to where they found their information about Dave’s story while also explaining why they chose to focus on his craftsmanship and poetry. The text and images don’t mirror one another but still need both to gain full experience from book. Also, no framing of the images allows the audience to come into Dave’s story. Overall, this book honors a man with tremendous skill even with its questionable depictions of his life. As a theme from the book, the author and illustrator highlight that the fine arts bring beauty to the world.




Ruth and the Green Book

Author: Calvin Alexander Ramsey

Illustrator: Floyd Cooper

Publisher and Year: Carolrhoda Books, 2010

Number of Pages: 29 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

This historical fiction tells of Ruth and her family’s drive to Alabama to visit Ruth’s grandmother in 1952. Ruth’s family originates from Chicago and travels to Alabama with Daddy’s new Sea Mist Green Buick (Ramsey, 2010). On their travels, Ruth and her family encounter segregation and learn of the Negro Motorist Green Book, a pamphlet that helped African Americans travel and listed places they were allowed to go (hotels, gas stations, and restaurants). Though the story of Ruth is fictional, the book highlights the real historical event of the struggle of travel for African Americans ten years before the Civil Rights Movement.

This book serves as a window because it gives the reader (at a young age) an insight into the struggles of African Americans and historical information about Jim Crow Laws. By serving as a mirror, it reminds the audience that segregation is not good and regardless of skin color, a person is a living human being first. In addition, it serves as a door because the author presents this information to the reader in the hopes that the reader is an advocate against unequal treatment of people. This story clearly represents the African American cultures and their struggles to survive within the confines of Jim Crow Laws in the 1950s. During this time, African Americans were not allowed in certain places in the South solely because of their skin color. As terrible as this was, this book does highlight on a very positive note for African American culture: the sense of community and friendship. Through the “green book,” African Americans met with others in various places on the road and were able to share stories with each other. As Ruth shared when her family stayed in an inn one night, “It felt like I was part of one big family” (Ramsey, 2010). Through the obstacles of segregation and unequal treatment, African Americans were able to come together as one to enjoy times to share their experiences and feel like a family outside of the struggles on the road.

Perceptually, the images are very large showing that the images express the emotions of the text. At the same time, the text is easy to find, meaning that the words are just as important as well. In addition, last page of the book is historical story of the green book to allow the reader to learn the historical facts of the event. The pictures in the story have blurry background showing that the green book is an event in the past. At the same time, the facial expressions of the characters are detailed so that the reader understands the emotional hardships of segregation among group. In addition, the dialect of South is used to be historically in line with the historical event of the green book. Through this book, the African Americans culture honored and remembered for their struggles with segregation. In addition, the reader learns of a real historical event that goes unnoticed. Most important, the biggest lesson of this book is skin color does not make one superior.



Buffalo Dreams

Author(s): Kim DonerIMG_4387

Illustrator/Photographer: Kim Doner

Publisher and Year: WestWinds Press in 1999

Number of Pages: 38

Genre: Fiction


This story is about the Bearpaw family and how they decide to make a trip to visit the only white buffalo on earth which is a symbol in the Native American culture for a spirit named White Buffalo Calf Woman, and the children believe that touching the calf will bring them magic. The oldest child, Sarah, is given an eagle feather from her grandfather’s headdress which is supposed to represent strength to her dreams, and she decides she wants to give this feather to the calf so that “her dreams can grow, too” (Doner p.11). In the end, the two children accidently end up in the buffalos’ pen and have a close encounter with the white buffalo calf’s mother, but before they end up escaping from the mother buffalo, the calf comes over and puts her head into Sarah’s palm.

The illustrations are large and usually take up the whole two-page spread. The images are also unframed which makes the reader feel like they are also experiencing everything with the characters. The images are also very detailed and realistic which again add to the reader feeling like they, too, are a part of the scene. I also noticed that at the bottom of each two-page spread was a dreamcatcher, but it showed the progression of making a dreamcatcher from its beginning stages in the beginning of the story to the completed dreamcatcher at the end. The characters in this story are both described and illustrated as Native Americans which are accurately represented in relation to their culture, not just the stereotypical idea of how Native Americans look, act, or dress.

When first reading this story, I thought that it was just a story about a Native American family visiting a rare white buffalo because they thought it was magical. However, after reading the author’s note and the legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman in the back of the book, I realized that this story was inspired by a Native American legend about a White Buffalo Calf Woman who helps answer the dreams of believers, and an actual white buffalo calf that was born in 1994 named Miracle. I believe this story is a great window for children to learn about the Native American culture because it includes Native American legends and traditions. I also think that this story works as a mirror for modern day Native American children because there are not many stories which talk about Native Americans in a modern day setting. Overall, this story is a great way to introduce Native American culture into children’s literature.


I Have Heard of a Land

Author(s): Joyce Carol ThomasIMG_4391

Illustrator/Photographer: Floyd Cooper

Publisher and Year: HarperCollins Publishers in 1998

Number of Pages: 26

Genre: Historical Fiction


This book is about an African American woman who is travelling westward to claim land in Oklahoma. It describes the challenges that African American pioneer women faced, like having to sleep in a sod hut with a saddle as a pillow, but it also illuminates the pride and freedom that they now have. The story is based on the westward movement in the 1880s, and more specifically, the author’s own family experiences while moving to Oklahoma.

The illustrations in this story both mirror and add to the text of the story. For example, the illustrations describe what the text is saying, but in more detail. Also, every illustration covers the entire page, there is no white space on any page, therefore, every image is unframed. This causes the reader to feel like they are there experiencing the westward movement with the characters. The colors of the images are all shades of brown which give an earthy and powerful mood to the story, but the darker shades of brown portrays a more serious and sorrowful mood. I also noticed that the main character is usually facing or looking to the right of the page which can symbolize her determination to keep moving until she finds her own piece of land.

This story can be used as a mirror to teach children about the Oklahoma Land Runs which allowed not only African Americans to settle and gain land, but also single women. I believe it could also be a window for children to begin to learn about the hardships that African Americans, especially females, were facing at this time in history. I also believe that it could be a mirror for African American females because not often are African American women depicted in literature as tough, hard-working, and independent. This story also touches on the idea of self-perseverance and personal journeys by the way that the main character never gives up on her westward journey even though she may face unexpected challenges along the way. Therefore, I believe this could function as a door to encourage children to always follow their dreams, but also realize that it will not be easy and it will take a lot of hard work and determination but it is worth it. All in all, this story is did a great job of retelling an often looked over event in history that gave African Americans and females the chance at freedom and opportunity.

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream

Author(s): Kristy DempseyIMG_4365

Illustrator/Photographer: Floyd Cooper

Publisher and Year: Philomel Books in 2014

Number of Pages: 28

Genre: Historical Fiction


This story is set in New York in the 1950s, and is about a little African American girl who goes with her mother to work, which is at a ballet school, and she falls in love with ballet. The story continues with the young girl always wishing and dreaming of becoming a prima ballerina, and one day the Ballet Master sees her dancing backstage and allows her to join ballet lessons at the school. At the end of the story, the little girl’s mother takes her to see Janet Collins perform at the Metropolitan Opera House, as she debuts as the first African American prima ballerina, and the little girl then realizes that she can do anything she sets her mind to.

The illustrations in this book are large and drawn with detail. All the images have a pinkish-brown color scheme, which I believe adds warmth to the images and makes the reader feel comfortable with the main character. The illustrations are also unframed and take up the whole page, which helps the reader to feel as though they are also experiencing everything with the characters. Also, the way the text is placed on each page almost resembles movement and dancing, which can be related to the little girl’s never ending dream of becoming a dancer and how she is always moving towards her end goal.

When first reading through this story I thought it was a great story about a little girl who never gives up on her dreams of dancing, but after reading through the story again, and reading the author’s note, I realized that there was a deeper message within this story. The author was inspired to write this story based on the true event of Janet Collins becoming the first prima ballerina to be hired from the Metropolitan Opera, and the story briefly touches on segregation within the U.S. pre-Civil Rights Movement. I believe that this story could be used as a window for children to learn about segregation and how everyone was not allowed the same opportunities. However, this story does not explicitly state anything about segregation or the Civil Rights Movement, and the young girl is portrayed in a way that is very happy, which does not send the reader the correct message about the hardships that many African Americans may have faced during the 1950s. I also think this book can be used as a mirror for African American children who may feel like they have struggled with having the same opportunities as white children, and also for children who are living with a single parent who has to work a lot in order to provide support for their family. This book could also be used as a door to teach children to never give up on their dreams. Overall, I believe this story does a great job of encouraging children to follow their dreams, but I am not sure that this book accurately represents the way many African Americans felt during segregation.

The Wall

Author(s): Eve BuntingIMG_4401

Illustrator/Photographer: Ronald Himler

Publisher and Year: Clarion Books in 1990

Number of Pages: 29

Genre: Fiction


This story is about a little boy and his father who go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in order to find the name of the little boy’s grandfather, who is the father of the boy’s father. While the father is searching the wall for his father’s name, the little boy is looking around at the other visitors and describing the gifts left at the wall. In the end, the boy’s father traces over his father’s name that is on the wall and takes the paper home, and the little boy is proud that his grandfather’s name is on the wall but he wishes he were there.

            The images in this book do a great job of reinforcing the somber tone; for example, the color gray is used in every image, the details of the images look a bit blurry or smudged, and most of the images are not framed all the way which makes it seem like they are fading away. All the background characters drawn in this book are white but the main characters seem to be of Hispanic descent, however, they don’t look that different from the other white characters except for their dark brown hair. This instills the idea that many of the Vietnam veterans were white, which can give the impression that the white man is the hero in war and that other ethnicities were not as valuable in war. I also noticed that the two main characters were males and many of the other characters discussed in the book were males, and this also gives the wrong impression that men are to be associated with war which can also show that men are valued more than women in war and in society.

I originally thought that this book was intended as a way to teach young children about how to cope with the loss of a family member. But I realized that this book could also function as a window for children to learn about the effects of war on the more personal level, as well as, teaching them about the Vietnam War and how it impacted America as a whole. For children who have lost a family member, specifically to war, this story can be used to mirror their feelings to show that it is okay to grieve for a loved one. Overall, this story does a great job of explaining a deep message to young readers.

Smoky Night


Author: Eve Bunting

Illustrator: David Diaz

Publishing Information: Voyager Books, 1994

Number of Pages: 28

Genre: Historical Fiction



                        Smoky Night is the Caldecott Award-winning book that tells the story of a young boy and his mother witnessing the rioting in the streets below their apartment building. When a fire breaks out they must flee for safety all while taking in the wreckage the rioters have caused in their neighborhood. They find safety in a shelter, and the incident unifies the people of the neighborhood.

The book was published in 1994, which led me to wonder if there was a particular incident that could have inspired the story. Sure enough, the story was inspired by the rioting that took place in 1992 after an incident of alleged police brutality against Mr. Rodney King. I think this book does an exceptional job of providing children with a window to look at this piece of history, as it gives the perspective of a child living through that chaos without being too detailed or frightening for young readers. The story mainly focuses on the child’s search for his cat, who gets lost in the midst of tenants fleeing from the apartment, which can be both problematic and useful. I can see where readers may find this problematic as it shifts focus away from the riots and focuses more on the lost cat. However, this can be useful as it makes the story more accessible to a younger audience.

The illustrations of the book were certainly eye-catching and very additive to the text. The background of each page featured real-life objects (such as hangers, plastic bags, and wooden signs) that conveyed the point that this story is based off of real-world happenings. Furthermore, the illustrations are done in dark paint and are always featured on the right-hand page which demonstrates the mood of chaos and dreariness that surrounds the events in the story. The illustrations are framed with thick, black paint, so readers are looking in on this story from afar. In addition, although the text is always featured on the left-hand page, it is written on a crumpled paper which further demonstrates the mess of the situation playing out in the story.

This book provides children with an accessible window to examine a real-life event through the eyes of a child living through it. Furthermore, they are taught the value of coming together in a tough time, as the neighbors in the story demonstrate.

When Marian Sang

Author: Pam Munoz Ryan

Illustrator: Brian Selznick

Publisher and Year: Scholastic Inc. 2002

Number of Pages: 32

Genre: Nonfiction




This is the true story about how one little girl proved that dreams really do come true. Marian Anderson has a voice like none other and her talent is seen by many people. Soon she works hard enough to go to music school and she keeps learning and learning till finally she is heard from different countries all over the world.

This story is such an inspiration to many children with high hopes and dreams. It serves as a mirror for some, seeing themselves as Marian and wanting to perform just like she did. This book can function as a door to open children’s eyes that anything is possible, and if a person works hard enough, they can succeed. It also gives the real life challenges and struggles that Marian had to face as she continued to become a better singer. It gives the reality of dialogue and situations that African Americans faced such as blacks not being able to apply for music school or not being able to preform in “Whites only” theatres or auditoriums.

Perceptual- Marian faces hatred and racism throughout the book. When she applies for music school, the woman behind the counter tells her that she doesn’t service Negros.

Structural-  The text is either written on the side of the pictures or below the pictures. The pictures are not framed so the audience feels involved instead of looking in like an outsider. In one of the pictures, Marian sings with the choir and the robes look like they have stars on them, which could foreshadow Marian’s stardom that was about to come.

Ideology- The issues with racism and how even though Marian had an outstanding voice, she was still treated as lower than common whites because of the color of her skin. She had to sit with the other African Americans when she rode on the train, and the President of the United States had to issue an order to let her sing in a whites only space.

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Author: Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrator: Kadir Nelson

Publisher and year: Hyperion Books for Children 2006

Number of Pages: 37

Genre: Nonfiction




This is the true story of Harriet Tubman. She was a slave in the south who escaped and eventually gained her freedom. She went back to her former master’s plantation and took with her other slaves who longed to be free. This story tells of her miraculous journey and her unwavering faith in God.

This is such a wonderful book because it serves multiple purposes. It teaches children about real people who changed history. It teaches children that Harriet Tubman was real and she led many slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. It opens doors for kids who might be curious about who she was and after reading the book, they go and search and learn more about her. Some kids can connect with her struggles, struggles meaning doubting in her faith or overcoming an obstacle. This book can serve as a mirror for children who might see themselves in certain situations and the book can provide a sense of encouragement.

Perceptual- In some circumstances, Harriet Tubman prays to God asking him to stay with her, or help her find her way to freedom. And God always answers her, reassuring her that everything is going to work out.

Structural- When God speaks, His words are in all capital letters, maybe symbolizing that He is bigger and more powerful than any of Harriet’s problems. His texts are also printed so that it fits with the setting on each page. For example, when the wind is blowing or waves are presents, the text is curved and moves up and down.

Ideology- Not all white people were for slavery. In the book, the author tells of white people helping Harriet Tubman escape from her plantation to a free state, and even then after she went back to free more slaves.

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