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.
Author: Arthur Dorros
Illustrator: Elisa Kleven
Publisher and Year: Penguin Group 1991
Number of pages: 32
Genre: Fantasy Fiction Picture Book
Abuela is the story of Rosalba and her Grandmother who she calls Abuela. The story begins with Rosalba and her abuela going to the park to spend the day. The story continues on a fantastical journey when Rosalba and her abuela get picked up by birds and begin flying in the sky by themselves. They fly over many different parts of New York City and say hello to many people. They continue to float around and visit different friends and family. Eventually, Rosalba and her abuela land by a lake a take a paddleboat ride.
Abuela is a book that is visually very inviting to children. It contains very bright colors in everything, even though realistically the world is not that bright. It also takes care to separate the text from these inviting and exciting illustrations. Having the text in white spaces along the bottom or on another page would usually seem to separate the text from the pictures, but in this case it allows the two to work in tandem. Because of the business of the colors and patterns used in the illustrations, placing the text in its own simple space draws the eye to the text as well because of the stark contrast. It also makes it easier to read without having it over the busy pictures.
Culturally, Abuela blends typical American and Hispanic culture. That is not to say that these cultures cannot coexist in a person, but rather that this book shows how they do exist. In the book, Rosalba’s abuela uses many Spanish words and then translates them so Rosalba can understand. Culturally, this can reflect the idea that some children growing up in bilingual houses in the United States tend to use and understand English more than the other language.
The setting of the book is in New York City, or rather in the air above it as Rosalba and her abuela fly to different places. Having the Hispanic culture that Rosalba’s abuela brings to the book take place the most stereotypical American city combines these two cultures to represent Hispanic Americans. This book could be useful to children as a window, mirror, or door depending on what culture they identify themselves with. Overall, this book could be good tool to use in a classroom to help learn simple Spanish words. It is also a good book to have to further represent different cultures to cultivate a multicultural classroom experience.
Authors: Garcelle Beauvais & Sebastian A. Jones
Illustrator: James C. Webster
Publisher and Year: Stranger Comics 2013
Number of pages: 36
Genre: Picture Book
I am Mixed is a short picture book centered around two children, Nia and Jay, who are twins. The book depicts the twins with different skin tones and hair color. It starts out with Nia talking about how because she is mixed she is different than most people, even her own brother. Nia goes on to say that she loves who she is and is proud to be mixed. The book then shows Nia with her mother who is telling Nia how much she loves her. The same thing repeats with Jay and their father. The book ends with the phrase, “I am mixed,” and shows Nia and Jay smiling happily.
The illustrations in I am Mixed are colorful, bright, and inviting. Throughout the book, there are many pages that contrast with each other and reflect the texts meaning. While the texting is talking about the diversity of biracial or multiracial children, the illustrations are representing different cultures. On every page, Nia and Jay are smiling largely and appear to be very happy with their family and their culture. Having the Nia and Jay smile throughout the book shows that this book is geared towards encouraging biracial and multiracial children to be confident in themselves and their culture. While the drawings lean towards being cartoonish and inviting, on several pages, the smiles that Nia and Jay have seem a little unsettling. This may not be picked up by children but as an adult, some of the pictures seem a little too happy for the context.
Along with the pictures in the book, the text is very kid friendly and easy to see and read. The text has a short flow to it and physically some words are emphasized through different colors of font. This text is potentially entertaining to children because it rhymes and has little text on each page and draws the attention to the illustrations. The text and the illustrations work in tandem to create a cohesive story that would be incomplete without the text or illustrations.
Overall, I am Mixed is a great source of empowerment for biracial and multiracial children. It discusses the experience of biracial and multiracial children in school and in their family lives. This book can serve as positive representation for biracial and multiracial children. It can also help non-biracial children learn about biracial children and the cut down on common stereotypes biracial and multiracial children face.
Author: Patricia Polacco
Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Publisher and Year: Aladdin Paperback 1988
Number of pages: 29
Genre: Picture Book
The Keeping Quilt is a Sydney Taylor award winner. This book is about the tradition in a Jewish Russian family and the quilt they have passed down for generations. It begins with the narrator talking about her Grandmother coming to America as a young girl and only having a dress and a babushka from Russia to remember it. Eventually, she outgrows her dress so her mother helps her turn it into a quilt. The story goes on to show how the quilt has been used for many different things in the family, and has eventually made its way down to the narrator who wishes to one day pass it on to her daughter.
Illustratively, this book is masterfully created. In the illustrations, the only thing with color is the quilt. Before the quilt is made, the babushka and dress that will eventually be turned into the quilt have color as well. Having only the quilt colored further reinforces the significance of the quilt to this family. Because the quilt is the central focus for the story, having it the only thing colored draws the eye to it and allows it to be the main focus even if there is a lot going on in the picture. The color of things that are not the quilt is important as well. Instead of having the quilt being the only thing colored in a greyscale world would make it seem like the quilt is the only source of warmth in the story. Instead, the illustrations depict the scenes in sepia tones, which add softness and warmth to the pictures. In the story, the quilt is a source of warmth and feelings of love, but having the other images in the story done in warmer tones reinforces that the quilt symbolizes this because that’s what the family has made of it.
Overall, The Keeping Quilt is a heartwarming story that represents both Russian and Jewish culture. Through the repetition of the weddings depicted in the story, the reader can see that even though there are changes that have been taking place in the world, family traditions can be modified and still stand strongly.
Author: Monica Brown
Illustrator: Julie Paschkis
Publisher and Year: Henry Hold and Company 2011
Number of pages: 26
Genre: Non-Fiction Picture Book
Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People is a recipient of the Américas Books Award. This book is a picturebook about Pablo Neruda, originally named Neftalí, and his experiences in Chile. In the beginning, it shows Neftalís initial interest in the nature he experiences in Chile. The book then walks through Neftalí’s schooling and the change of his name from Neftalí to Pablo Neruda. As he grows older, Neruda becomes interested in social justice and speaking out against many injustices he sees in the world. Neruda was both an advocate and a poet and often times these two sides of him worked together. The book clearly illustrates just how Neruda was truly a poet for the people.
The importance of text placement in Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People goes beyond the initial body of text in the book. While the story text has short simple sentences which are easy for children to read, there is also text and words placed amongst the illustrations. Neruda’s inspiration was from the world around him, and the illustrations do an excellent job to reflect that. Without the words in the illustrations, the illustrations would be bright, colorful, and reflect what was written in the text. Overlaying words on the illustrations allows the reader to see what it was like living in Neruda’s world.
The story text itself is at the bottom over plain backgrounds and is easy to read. The short sentences of the text gives children the chance to read the book for themselves because of the simple sentence structures. The simple sentences also gives the text an easy flow. Although this book would not be considered poetry, there is a sort of poetic flow to the text.
Overall, this book allows readers to not only be informed about Pablo Neruda’s life, but also experience the world through Neruda’s eyes. Ideologically, this book sends the message of advocating for social justice and using talents to help others. This book is a good tool to use in a classroom because it combines poetry, history, and social events. The drawings invite children to be interested, and the story gives children a more cultured historical understanding.
Author: Ellen Levine
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Publisher and Year: Scholastic Press 2007
Number of pages: 36
Genre: Non-Fiction Picture Book
Henry’s Freedom Box is the recipient of a Caldecott Honors. This book tells the story of Henry “BOX” Brown. Henry is a slave and as a child his master sends him to work for his master’s son. While working in a factory for his new boss, Henry meets Nancy, another slave who is owned by a different master. Their masters allow them to get married and they end up having three children. Unfortunately, Nancy’s master runs out of money and sells her and her children. They are carted off before Henry gets to say a proper goodbye and he is heartbroken. Henry goes on to meet Dr. Smith who helps Henry escape by shipping him to Philadelphia in a box. Henry gets shipped, and is free in Philadelphia.
The story of Henry’s Freedom Box has the potential to be very influential to a classroom. It is sometimes difficult to find a historical book about slavery that does not shy away from the horrors of the time, but this book stays historically accurate. The illustrations in this book add to the historical accuracy of this book because they are mostly realistic. The illustrations were created by starting with a pencil sketch and applying watercolors and oil paints. This helps creates realistic looking pictures that also have a sketchy texture to them. Having the illustrations look realistic and sketchy at the same time adds depth and interest to the story. Instead of having it look like recreations of photographs, the sketchiness allows for more texture to the drawings where it may not typically be.
The text placement is seemingly random, but it is placed to fit with the pictures. The illustrations take up the entire page and add a lot of depth to the story. Because the illustrations take up so much space, the text is sometimes placed off to the side or is placed over a portion of the illustration that is not the main focus. The disruption of the placement of the text from page to page draws the attention of the reader to the illustration as they scan the page to see where the texted is placed. Overall, this book is beautifully crafted and would be an excellent tool to use in a classroom when discussing slavery.
Author: Renée Watson
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Publisher and Year: Random House 2012
Number of pages: 31
Genre: Picture Book
Harlem’s Little Blackbird is the story of singer and performer Florence Mills and her success in a business where black people were not welcome. The story begins in Florence’s childhood home when it is storming. Her mother is singing and says it is the best way to block out the storm. Florence starts singing and when the storm passes she thinks “If my voice is powerful enough to stop the rain, what else can it do?” Florence continues to use her powerful voice and become well known for being a performer and challenging the racial segregation of the time. Florence is not always welcome where she is preforming, but it does not stop her from inspiring change in others through her powerful voice.
Harlem’s Little Blackbird is a beautiful story that combines illustrations and text to cultivate a unique experience. Twice in the story Florence says a phrase along the lines of “if my voice can do this, what else can it do.” Each time Florence says this it marks a change that is about to happen. The first time she says it she is before she starts singing and preforming for other children and then eventually adults. The second time she says it is before she decides to advocate for change in the way black people were treated in theatre. Each time she says this phrase, the phrase is done in a different font and surrounded by borders which further emphasizes the idea that everyone can make a change if you start small.
The ideologies of this story are very beneficial to a classroom. Harlem’s Little Blackbird does not shy away from the problems that Florence faced in her time as a performer. The book blatantly shows that the struggles Florence faced by being a black performer in a society that only valued white people. It depicts how Florence’s family was not allowed in to see her preform when she was a child and that she had to threaten not to preform to get them into the show. This reinforces the idea that at the time, and still today, a lot of media marginalizes a certain group for another group’s entertainment. Overall, this story is a great historical story to read with a class because of its engaging illustrations and important message.
Author: Anna McQuinn
Illustrator: Rosalind Beardshaw
Publisher and Year: Charlesbridge, 2014
Number of Pages: 24
This book is about a little girl named Lola who creates a garden with her parents. Throughout the book we see how she goes about making her gar
den and we see it grow into a beautiful creation.
This text can function as a window, mirror and a door for the readers. It would
function as a window for readers who have never planted a garden of their own. In the text they will see and learn the process of how to create a garden and what one needs to help a garden grow. For readers who have experience with gardening this text would function as a mirror since it is something they can relate to. When reading this story they can connect their own experiences with Lola’s experiences. This text can also function as a door for readers who want to apply Lola’s idea to their own lives. Maybe for these readers after reading this text realize how fun it can be to plant a garden and they go off and plant on of their own. The main characters of this text are African Americans but there is diverse culture throughout the story. When Lola has her friends over to see her garden three different cultures are represented. This presence of culture makes the story a lot more relatable for many different types of readers. I like how in this story Lola decides that she wants to make a garden and she works hard to make it happen. She goes to the library to pick up books about flowers, goes to the seed store, and learns how to care for a garden. This shows how independent Lola is that she is able to work hard for something she wants without her parents doing all the work for her. I think that this is an important message for young readers to see so they know that if they want something in life they will have to work hard to achieve it, someone will not do it for you.
The images within this text are beautiful. They are full of color and the images seem to come alive when the flowers start to grow. In the text Lola is always facing towards the right showing that she is moving forward with her garden. It is seen in the illustrations how excited Lola is to plant her own garden just like her mom’s. I really enjoyed reading this book; the images made it fun and it can show readers that if they work hard towards something they want they can create a beautiful thing.
Author: Karen Katz
Illustrator: Karen Katz
Publisher and Year: Henry Holt and Company, 1999
Number of Pages: 24
The Colors of Us is a picture book about a young girl named
Lena. Her mother is an artist and shows Lena how to paint skin color. Lena at first only thin
ks that brown is brown so her mom takes her around town and
shows her all the different colors of skin there is.
This book can function as a mirror or a window. On every page of this book there is a character from a different culture. Since there is so much culture a lot of readers can relate to the book if they see their own culture or similar skin color within the book. For a reader who hasn’t been exposed to the cultures that are in the text then it would function as a window. These readers are then looking into this book and seeing different cultures they may have never seen before. There is a lot of diversity within this text. Every page has a different race. On each page Lena sees someone she knows and points out the color of their skin and compares it with food. For example on page 7 there is a picture of Lena’s friend Jo-Jin who looks to be of Chinese decent and Lena compares her skin to the color of honey. I really like how the author describes the different colors of skin using food. For young readers they will have a better time imagining the colors when they are described using something they know. This way they will not just consider someone who has a darker completion as brown. Young readers will see that there are so many different shades of brown and that it’s okay to be darker or lighter than the people around them. Another thing I liked about this text is that in the image there are no gender stereotypes. The girls are playing sports, listening to music, or dancing. They are not confined by their gender to certain activities.
This text is full of beautiful colors. The images mirror the text perfectly. For example when Lena states that one of her friends skin is a “light cocoa brown” or ‘butterscotch” (Katz, page 9) the images actually resembles those foods. All the images are very close up and very detailed. On each page there is only one character with a busy background like a city street of restaurant. Even though the backgrounds are very small they are still filled with culture from the character that is taking up the page. I really enjoyed this book it has beautiful illustrations and the message that we are all the same just different shades is very clear.
Retold: Bobbi Miller
Illustrator: Megan Lloyd
Publisher and Year: Holiday House, 2012
Number of Pages: 29
Miss Sally Ann and The Panther is a story about a woman named Miss Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind and her adventure with Fireeyes the panther. The story starts off talking about all the things she does which is spin yarn, make clothes, and milk cows. On day she goes into the forest and runs into the panther, they fight for days then they become good friends. The panther ends up living with Miss Sally Ann in her house and they cook, clean, play and sing together.
This text could function as both a window and a mirror for the readers. It would function as a window since it is story that will probably never actually happen in real life. So readers are on the outside, looking in at all the crazy things that are happening to the panther and Miss Sally Ann. On the other hand it could also function as a mirror for a reader if they have personally experienced getting into an argument with a friend then realizing that the fight is not worth losing the friendship. The only two characters that are in this text is Miss Sally Ann who is a White female and Fireeyes the panther, no cultural diversity is seen. I noticed that in the beginning of the story the author listed off all the chores that Miss Sally Ann does. All the chores that were listed were stereotypical female jobs. In the middle of the story Miss Sally Ann breaks the stereotypical gender roles when she fights off the panther. But at the end of the story when the panther and Miss Sally Ann are friends she goes back to doing stereotypical females chores like gardening. Besides the stereotypical gender roles throughout the text I really enjoyed this book, it was entertaining and funny.
I love the pictures that are in this book. On every page the images are all framed but unique. In the beginning when Miss Sally Ann is doing her chores the pictures are relaxed and bright. When she goes into the forest the color scheme starts to get darker. Once the panther is introduced the images are coming out of the frame making it feel more hectic. For example on page 12 Miss Sally Ann has Fireeyes by the tail and he is digging his way out of the frame and there is splatted mud all over the page. This allows the reader to feel like they are a part of the action. When the fight is over and Miss Sally Ann and Fireeyes are friends the images become more controlled and the colors again become brighter. I really enjoyed how the illustrator did this because the colors help the reader feel scared when they are fighting or happy and warm when they become friends and are sitting by the fire. Overall I enjoyed this book, I think it would be better without the gender stereotypes but it was entertaining and the images were beautiful.