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.

Adios Oscar! A Butterfly Fable

Author(s): Peter ElwellIMG_4382

Illustrator/Photographer: Peter Elwell

Publisher and Year: The Blue Sky Press in 2009

Number of Pages: 28

Genre: Fiction


This is a story about a caterpillar named Oscar who meets a butterfly named Bob who tells him he is going to Mexico and that he should visit him when he grows his wings. Oscar becomes really excited about becoming a butterfly, and so he learns Spanish to use while in Mexico, even though the other caterpillars think he is crazy and won’t grow wings. Instead of becoming a butterfly he turns into a moth and at first this discourages him from going to Mexico like the butterflies do, but in the end he realizes that he does not have to limit himself to only doing things that moths usually do. So he ends up flying to Mexico and meeting up with Bob and the other butterflies.

The book is illustrated using very bright colors which symbolizes Oscar’s initial excitement about becoming a butterfly and eventually his freedom from the stereotypical moth activities. I noticed that most of the images were small or framed but a few of the pages were unframed and took up the whole two-page spread. These large images were usually representing a point in the story where Oscar feels excited or happy and it helped the reader relate to Oscar’s joyous emotions. Most of the characters in this story are male and the characters who are portrayed as successful are all male as well, which can make the reader feel that men are more powerful and successful than women.

I had originally chosen this book because I figured that it would have a lot of Spanish words or culture in it, based on the title and first few pages; however, I soon learned that there were only a few words and phrases in Spanish and the Spanish culture was not discussed at all. I do think that this book could be used as a mirror for children who feel pressured to be a certain way, because Oscar also felt pressured to be a moth and do only activities that moths normally do. However, I believe that this book can be a door to teach children that it is okay to be different, and that nobody should not let society put pressure on them to be someone they do not want to be. Overall, I believe that this story has a great message about not letting others tell you who to be, but I think that there could have been more diversity in the story as well.

Oh No, Gotta Go!

Author(s): Susan Middleton ElyaIMG_4360

Illustrator/Photographer: Brian Karas

Publisher and Year: P. Putnam’s Sons in 2003

Number of Pages: 28

Genre: Fiction


This book is about a little girl who forgot to go to the bathroom before she got in the car and she tells her parents that she cannot hold it in. As the story continues the little girl and her parents are on a journey to find somewhere to stop so she can use the bathroom, speaking mostly English and using various Spanish words throughout. Then at the end of the book, the family finds a restaurant where the little girl can use the bathroom, but when they get inside the line is super long and they end up going to the front of the line because she cannot wait any longer, and then the little girl feels relieved after using the restroom.

The illustrations in this book are all brightly colored and have many zig zag lines and shapes, these both representing the high energy and troubled emotions that the family feels while scurrying around town looking for a bathroom. The images are definitely needed to help young readers understand the meaning of different Spanish words. In fact, on one page all the stores are labeled with their Spanish name. It was interesting to read a mostly English book that included a variety of Spanish words, but I feel that this is a great way to introduce young readers to a second language, as well as another culture. The illustrator also did a great job of including a variety of ages, genders, and races within the characters; however, I felt that the main characters who were depicted as a Spanish speaking family were misrepresented and looked very White. Another observation I had was that almost all the female characters in the story were wearing either a dress or skirt, which I feel is a stereotype of the way females dress.

When I initially read the story, I perceived it to be a funny story which included some Spanish words. But I believe that this story could be a window for students to learn more about a second language, specifically Spanish, which can be very helpful in teaching young children how to appreciate another culture and language other than their own. I also think this is a great book for children who may come from a dual language household to recognize the value and importance of being able to speak and read in more than one language. Overall, the book can be a great tool for introducing Spanish to young children.

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 Scar

Author(s): Charlotte MoundlicIMG_4357

Illustrator/Photographer: Olivier Tallec

Publisher and Year: Candlewick Press in 2011

Number of Pages: 31

Genre: Fiction


This story began with a little boy explaining that his mother had just died and left him with just his father. The boy goes through a series of emotions and feelings like being angry that his mother left him, sad that she won’t be there as he grows up, tired from trying to take care of his father, and fearful that he might forget his mother. In the end, his grandmother, his mom’s mom, reminds him that his mother is always with him in his heart.

The illustrations in the story were an important part of this text because they helped add to the overall tone of the story and they helped to depict the feelings of the characters. For example, the color red is the primary color on every page, which can represent a variety of intense emotions such as, anger, fear, love, and passion, which are all emotions felt by the main characters. In fact, the little boy is always a different shade of red depending on his current mood, the more upset or angry he is feeling, the darker the shade of red. I also noticed that the characters sometimes have a mouth on their face and at other times there is no mouth on their faces at all. I think the illustrator did this to show that sometimes the characters may seem fine on the outside, but the text explains that they are still struggling with the loss of the mother.

I believe that this story could work well as a window for children to be introduced to and help to teach the different stages of grief. This could be especially helpful for children who have not been exposed to death to help them to understand the feelings that their friends or family members may have experienced or are experiencing. This book could also function as a mirror for children who have lost a family member, because it can help them understand that having different emotions is completely normal. None of the characters in the story have names, which symbolizes that this little boy and his father can represent all people who feel these emotions, not just this one fictional family. I also believe that it is important to note that the mother is the one who dies in this story, which leaves the little boy with his father to show a different family dynamic where there is a widowed father and his son. Overall, I believe that this is a great story to read to children to help them understand that it is okay to grieve when someone important to you has died, and that there are many stages and emotions associated with grief.

Whoever You Are

Author(s): Mem FoxIMG_4398

Illustrator/Photographer: Leslie Staub

Publisher and Year: Harcourt in 1997

Number of Pages: 26

Genre: Fiction


This book begins with the main character telling the reader, who they assume is a “little one,” that people all over the world may have different homes, skin color, schools, and lands, but they all have a heart that is capable of all the same emotions. Then the story continues to tell the “little one” that people may be different as they get older, but again reinforces the idea that everyone is similar because everyone has the same emotions.

The illustrations in the story are very important in adding dimension to the text on the pages. The author talks about how there are many different people throughout the world, but the illustrator captures the different cultures in the images by including characters of many different ethnicities, genders, and ages. The images are all brightly colored which is inviting for children to look at, as well as creating the idea that differences make the world a more colorful place. Because of the multitude of ethnicities on each page, I would conclude that no specific race has been given power. However, I believe that some of the images portrayed women as the stereotypical gentle caregiver. For example, in the last few pages, a group of women are all holding children in dresses waving goodbye to the main character, even though there were males throughout the story. Another issue I had with some of the images was the fact that I was not sure that all the different cultures were accurately represented, because I was unsure how the illustrator went about deciding how to represent each culture.

I believe that this story is a great way to teach young children about diversity and also about how everyone is similar when it comes to emotional capabilities. I believe that this story works as a window for children to see that there are many different people and cultures throughout the world, which may be different from what they have experienced in their life. This story also works as a mirror for some children because it represents a multitude of cultures, some of which are not often shown in books. I also believe this book can work as a door for children to learn to see differences in other people but to realize that these differences make individuals special, yet all people are the same on the inside. Overall, this story would work well for teaching young children that all humans are similar in that they all have feelings, especially living in a world that tries to put other people or groups down in order to feel powerful.

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.

A Story A Story: An African Tale

IMG_4281 Author(s): Gail E. Haley

Illustrator/Photographer: Gail E. Haley

Publisher and Year: Aladdin Paperbacks in 1970

Number of Pages: 32

Genre: Fiction, Folklore


In this African tale, Ananse, or the spider man, decided one day that he wanted all the stories that the Sky God had in his golden box. Ananse had to first outsmart and capture a leopard, hornets, and a fairy to give to the Sky God in order to receive these stories. But after collecting these items for the Sky God, he received the golden box of stories and brought them back down to share with the people of earth, which is why African tales are now called spider stories.

I believe that this text could function as a window for readers who are not familiar with the African culture because it describes the reason that many African stories are called “Spider Stories,” it mentions a god or religious figure, and the illustrations show traditional African clothing and face paint. I also believe this could be an opportunity to introduce more cultures to the classroom, as well as, the chance to explore more traditional folklores and fables. This story could also function as a mirror for African American children to realize and understand the importance of their culture in a Westernized society. In the text, the Sky God is the character with all the stories and, therefore, all the power. I also thought that the stories were symbolic of knowledge, and Ananse wanted more knowledge but had to prove to the Sky God he was worthy of it first. The Sky God was also illustrated as larger and dressed more colorfully than all the other characters to represent his high status and power. The illustrations throughout the text are very colorful and contain lots of different patterns which help give the story a more energetic and tribal feel to it. I also believe that the images made the story more interesting and added to the overall message of the story.

Therefore, I would say that the text did a nice job of making the reader more aware of another culture and their thoughts and beliefs about why things are the way they are today. The original intent of this story was to help explain to others why African stories are often called “Spider Stories,” but in the process it also showed that someone can be successful even if they have all odds against them.

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.