Jessica Jones has been teaching Art and English in K-12 and college settings for over 15 years. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Journal of the Assembly for Expanded Perspectives on Learning (2014), the Ohio Journal of Language Arts (2014), Poems Across the Big Sky II: An Anthology of Montana Poets (Many Voices Press, 2016), Bright Bones (Open Country Press, 2018) and NCTE’s English Journal (2018). She also presents at regional and national conferences and has served as Writer in Residence for Calcutta Mercy Hospital in India, and with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. She is currently full-time faculty at Kent State University at Stark, where she teaches poetry, creative writing, and composition courses that focus on diversity and social justice. She can be reached at her website.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.The book Professor Granpa Tonio reviewed for the event~
The Adventures of Joy Sun Bear: The Blue Amber of Sumatra, Co-authored by Blanca Carranza and John Lee. Illustrated by John Lee. Joy Sun Bear, Inc., 2018
Something tragic is happening in the Sumatran rain forest. Many animals–orangutans, tapirs, apes, a rhino– must flee deeper into the wilderness to escape the “human machine” that is tearing into their rainforest homes. When Joy and his older sister Ayu, both sun bears, overhear two fleeing orangutans expressing their fear, brother and sister begin to wonder about the danger that is threatening the rain forest animals. When Joy and Ayu arrive at the annual harvest day festival at the Great Big Fig Tree, they learn about the rainforest destruction. A somber mood has overtaken the festival. Keliru, the oldest orangutan and a self-appointed leader, and Papa Bear, Joy and Ayu’s father, are conducting a meeting of rainforest animals, natives to the community Keliru oversees, and refugees who abandoned the rain forest. The Great Big Fig Tree, a valuable food source, is barren, and Keliru has convinced himself that the refugees are at fault because they bear a curse. The refugees must be excluded from Keliru’s community!
Sadly, none of the animals know that a shape-shifting fox–a sly trickster and evil culprit–has worked up his dark magic to make the tree appear fruitless and to place the blame for the problem on the refugees. Immediately after Joy becomes the victim of one of the trickster’s ruses, he runs off to the Dark Forest. There, he meets up with a magical golden bird and a wise frog, both shape-shifters. The bird transforms itself into a hot air balloon that transports Joy to the devastated rain forest where he discovers a mysterious blue stone that has the power to change Joy into a spirit being protected from danger and endowed with the gift of clairvoyance because, as the bird tells him, “you have something special in you.”It is Joy’s command of the stone that eventually restores order and harmony to the animal community and rouses respect for the refugees.
Meanwhile, the frog–transformed into a powerful ancient leader–sets Joy off with the stone on a challenging mission at the story’s final moment, a perfect set up for the story’s sequel and a continuation of Joy’s adventures.
Full-color cartoonish illustrations enliven the narrative and provide the characters with a range of entertaining expressions and movements. The links to online resources for skills development—games, activities, guides– will make reading a very active and enjoyable learning process. The story encourages conversation about rain forest ecology and preservation, respect for nature, the terrible displacement of refugees, human rights, the need for community, and the joy of allowing foreigners a place to live and thrive. Ages 8-12.
Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2002. Ages 5-9.
What’s this book about? “Let me tell you Ella’s story./‘Cause, you see, I was there. From the get-go.” That’s the voice of Scat Cat Monroe, the cool dude narrator-guide who pays homage to Ella’s grit, determination, and remarkable talent in four “Tracks:” “Hoofin’ in Harlem,” “Jammin’ at Yale,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” and “Carnegie Hall Scat.” Scat Cat Monroe tells of the contest seventeen year-old Ella wins at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, an early breakthrough that helped secure her popularity among Harlem audiences who were “eating out of her hand” in the 1930s. Ella then gets noticed by Chick Webb, jazz drummer and band leader, who quickly recognizes her talent and mentors her in the swing style of jazz, an entertainment she and Webb’s orchestra bring to Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom for an extended stay. Later, Ella’s bebop vocals accompany Dizzy Gillespie’s “…ping-pong rhythms that gave bebop its sound.” With Gillespie’s band, she moves into scat singing—“abandoning the lyrics of a song to use nonsense syllables to carry the rhythm”—one of her most famous vocal styles. In the 1940s she joins “Jazz at the Philharmonic,” a traveling troupe of jazz musicians that played to racially integrated audiences, particularly uncommon at that time. The rest, as they say, is history. Ella wins thirteen Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and a National Medal of the Arts.
Why is this a good book? This biography rocks with a writing style that’s hip, musical, and jazzy-poetic, and scratch-board illustrations that keep the story moving with characters that dance, swing, twirl, and soar across electric pages.
Next read: Pair this biography with Ella Fitzgerald singing some of her most famous songs. Try: Ella 100: Ella Fitzgerald: 100 Songs For a Centennial, Verve, 2017.
#Not Your Princess: Voices of Native American Women by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale (Eds.), Illustrated by Indigenous Artists. Annick Press, 2017. Ages 14 & up.
What’s this book about? With blistering prose, poetry, and illustrations, these Native women lay bare physical, mental, and sexual abuse (“I Don’t Want To Be Afraid,” Imajyn Cardinal [Cree/Dene]), lost and found identity (“Stereotype This,” Melanie Fey [Diné]), social marginalization (“Reclaiming Indigenous Women’s Rights,” Nahanni Fontaine [Anishinaabe]), resilience and survival (“Defender of Mother Earth,” AnnaLee Rain Yellowhammer [Hunkpapa/Standing Rock Sioux]), pride and achievement (“More Than Meets the Eye,” Kelly Edzerza-Bapty [Tahitan] and Claire Anderson [Tlingit]), and political activism (“We Are Not a Costume,” Jessica Deer [Mohawk]). There are also pieces that celebrate the richness and sustainability of Native heritage and honor spiritual, social, and personal advocacy, resistance, and rebellion. Indigenous Native American women of power, endurance, and hope populate these pages. Rejoice!
Why is this a good book? Stop. Look. Listen. Here we have an informative, inspiring, gut-wrenching, and provocative collection by more than thirty writers and artists who explore the experiences of contemporary Indigenous women throughout North America.
The book is the winner of a 2018 American Indian Library Association’s Youth Literature Award and many other honors.
Next read: Pair this collection with Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale, Annick Press, 2016. Ages 12 & up.
Imagine by John Lennon, Illustrated by Jean Jullien. Clarion, 2017 Ages 2-7 & all ages
What’s this book about? True to the theme of John Lennon’s famed lyrics, a pigeon bearing olive branches, makes her way though various settings spreading and nurturing respect, harmony, and love among other feathered creatures. Along the way, she offers an olive branch to feathered ones in need of a reminder about inclusiveness, friendship, and kindness.
Why is this a good book? While Jullien’s bold, lively full-color illustrations invite close observation and lots of discussion about cooperation, conflict resolution, and peace. The illustrations bring to life the longing for world-wide tolerance and acceptance Lennon envisioned in his hopeful lyrics and soothing music.
Other good books ask: Can We Make the World a Better Place?
Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story o War and Plea for Peace by Bana Alabed, Simon & Schuster, 2017. YA & up.
What the World Needs Now is Love. Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Illustrated by Mary Kate McDevitt., Penguin Workshop, 2017. Ages 4 & up.