1. Culture or group portrayed: Asians. 2. Book information: Liu, S. and Protopopescu, O. (2002). A Thousand Peaks: poems from China. Berkeley, Califor1. Culture or group portrayed: Asians. 2. Book information: Liu, S. and Protopopescu, O. (2002). A Thousand Peaks: poems from China. Berkeley, California: Pacific View Press. 3. Summary: This is a book of classical Chinese poetry, spanning several dynasties. The book shows the original Chinese, the literal translation, and then an English interpretation, as well as background or further explanation regarding the poet or the poem. There are some pen-and-ink drawings, as well as a few color illustrations (I’m not sure what they’re composed of, as I’m not too versed in art) of China. 4. Cultural/Multicultural evaluation: A Thousand Peaks showcases classical Chinese poetry. It gives a great deal of background for a slim book, and as stated earlier, gives the original Chinese characters and how they would be literally translated before giving an English context. The afterword discusses a little of the process of Chinese-to-English translation, while keeping the meaning or spirit of the poem intact. I think this is an important resource for anyone wanting to learn about Chinese poetry. 5. Conclusion/verdict: Recommended for middle school, as some of the concepts might be difficult for younger readers. ...more
1. Culture or group portrayed: Asian (Chinese, set in Beijing). 2. Book information: Compestine, Y. (2011). The Runaway Wok: a Chinese New Year Tale. N1. Culture or group portrayed: Asian (Chinese, set in Beijing). 2. Book information: Compestine, Y. (2011). The Runaway Wok: a Chinese New Year Tale. New York: Dutton Children’s Books. 3. Summary: It’s Chinese New Year, and the Zhang family wants to celebrate with their friends, but they are short on money. They send their son, Ming, to market with the last of the eggs so that he can buy some rice. At the market, however, Ming is distracted by an old man with a broken-down wok, which speaks to him. Ming trades the eggs for the wok and brings it home, to the disappointment of his parents, until the wok speaks to his mother. The wok asks to be clean, so Mrs. Zhang scrubs it until it shines, and then it runs away. The wok travels to a rich man in Beijing, and takes heaping piles of food back to the Zhangs. He then travels to the rich man’s son, who is purchasing lots of toys and fireworks for New Year, and takes all of this back to Ming. Finally, the rich man’s gold is also taken by the wok and brought back to the Zhangs, who have a grand feast with their friends and neighbors. The wok, meanwhile, goes back to the rich family and ends up spiriting them away, no one knows where. 4. Cultural/Multicultural evaluation: The book portrays a Chinese family in Beijing during the New Year. The illustrations are very whimsical and colorful, and evoke the spirit of the time. The author, in a note at the back of the book, discusses more aspects of the Chinese New Year, such as important foods eaten during this time. The story is based on a Dutch folktale about a sharing pot, and while this book has the wok act as a Robin Hood-esque figure, taking from the rich man and giving to those who have none, that’s still stealing, and I’m not sure if that’s something we want to be teaching kids is okay. There is also a recipe for festival fried rice in the back of the book. 5. Conclusion/verdict: Recommended with reservations. Again, not so much the cultural aspects, just the fact that the wok is stealing from others. Perhaps it could be used in a classroom as a teaching moment, the differences between sharing and stealing. Without some sort of dialogue in tandem, however, I feel that the meaning might be misconstrued.
1. Culture or group portrayed: Asian-Americans. 2. Book information: Kadohata, C. (2004). Kira-Kira. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 3. Sum1. Culture or group portrayed: Asian-Americans. 2. Book information: Kadohata, C. (2004). Kira-Kira. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 3. Summary: This is the story of the Takeshima family, who move from their neighborhood in Iowa down to Georgia, where Japanese families are very rare. The parents work in a poultry factory, under sometimes humiliating conditions. Their dream is to buy their own home someday. Katie, the middle child and narrator of the book, idolizes her older sister, Lynn, who teaches her everything she knows. When Lynn becomes very ill, it begins to tear the family apart, and Katie must try to see the kira-kira (glittery, shininess) of life again. 4. Cultural/Multicultural evaluation: The book is set in Georgia during the nineteen-fifties, so the concept of racism is explored, though not in extreme detail. Lynn teaches Katie about people not being very kind, and Katie notices that the other mothers in town do not address her own mother. The poultry workers wish to unionize, and Mrs. Takeshima does not want to hear their talk, as she is afraid for her job, especially because it is hard to find work as a minority. The children’s uncle wishes to be a land surveyor, and even though he has the skills, no one will hire him, undoubtedly because he is Japanese.
Although the plot was a little predictable, I did think the characters were very well-drawn and relatable. The children stick close together as it is very hard to make friends in their mostly-white town. Lynn does have a friend she seems to be close with, but when Lynn develops lymphoma and gets weaker, her friend drops her. I especially found Katie’s reaction to Lynn’s illness at times very real; Katie is very mad at her sister and almost resents her being ill. Of course, she feels guilty for feeling this way and wishes she could take it back after Lynn passes away. However, it can be a very common reaction during a trying time with a loved one, so I appreciated the author giving that realism to Katie. 5. Conclusion/verdict: I would recommend this book. As I stated earlier, it is a little bit predictable (as an adult reading it, I knew from the beginning that Lynn would not survive), but children would find this relatable. Plus, it has a good message – one should try to find the kira-kira in everything, that silver lining, that glittering bit. ...more
1. Culture or group portrayed: Latino-Americans 2. Book information: Alegría, M. (2006). Estrella’s Quinceañera. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for1. Culture or group portrayed: Latino-Americans 2. Book information: Alegría, M. (2006). Estrella’s Quinceañera. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Adults. 3. Summary: Estrella Alvarez is turning 15, and her female relatives are driving her crazy, planning her a quinceañera (a traditional coming-of-age party) that she doesn’t even want. Estrella is caught between her barrio in San José and the world of the Sacred Heart Academy, where everyone is white and wealthy. To complicate matters, she’s falling for a boy from her neighborhood, but her father thinks he’s a cholo (thug) and won’t let her date. Will Estrella ever figure out who she is? 4. Cultural/Multicultural evaluation: This has the elements of a typical teen problem novel – fitting in, parents just don’t understand, guy troubles – with the further complications of cultural and generational divide. Estrella’s parents have pinned all of their hopes on her, by dint of her scholarship (her father is very fierce about her education and doesn’t want her to date and possibly lose everything) and her age (her mother and aunt were never able to afford quinces of their own, so they want Estrella to have the very best); Estrella chafes under their decision-making, as they never ask her what SHE really wants. At Sacred Heart, the private school she attends, her closest girl friends are white and well-off; Estrella is embarrassed to have her mother pick her up in her broken-down minivan. Classmates have made comments about her being the “maid’s daughter.” Estrella bends and twists herself to fit into their narrow worldview, even letting herself be called “Star” because it’s too hard for her classmates to pronounce her real name. This sort of identity crisis, in different ways, is familiar to many teenagers. Estrella likes to use Spanish words interspersed with her English, and there are definitions in her own words as headings for each chapter, as well as a glossary in the back of the book.
5. Conclusion/verdict: Recommended for upper middle to high school. ...more
1. Culture or group portrayed: Latino-Americans 2. Summary: Chico is a young boy in a migrant family; they travel throughout California, working in the1. Culture or group portrayed: Latino-Americans 2. Summary: Chico is a young boy in a migrant family; they travel throughout California, working in the fields. Chico is starting third grade, but he doesn’t want to go, because he’s always the new kid, and sometimes the other kids pick on him. His mother sends him, anyway. The bus driver is rather gruff, but his teacher seems nice and Chico is taken with her right away, especially after she sees how quick he is at math. At lunch, the fourth-graders come by and start to bully Chico, by making fun of his lunch and insulting his mother. He stands up to them, and manages to resolve the confrontation without violence. All of the other children cluster around him, amazed at his confidence. 3. Cultural/Multicultural evaluation: If you take away the racial aspect of Chico’s character, you are still left with a story that many children could relate to – being the new kid and trying to fit in, the possibility of bullies, and standing up for yourself. For some Latinx readers, however, First Day in Grapes offers a story they especially can relate to – migrating families, and dealing with outsiders who don’t care to understand your culture and would rather just make fun of you. It also highlights that education is important; even though Chico feels that he doesn’t need to go to school because he wants to be a race car driver, his mother tells him that “We all have jobs, and school is yours.” 4. Conclusion/verdict: Highly recommended for the reasons above. This was also a Pura Belpré Honor Book for illustration in 2004. ...more
1. Culture or group portrayed: Latin-Americans. 2. Summary: Young Jorge comes to the United States from El Salvador, which is in the midst of civil war1. Culture or group portrayed: Latin-Americans. 2. Summary: Young Jorge comes to the United States from El Salvador, which is in the midst of civil war. He and his father settle in the Mission Hills district of San Francisco; his mother and brothers are able to come later. In English and Spanish, the author’s poetry speaks of being a child straddling two cultures, the one in which he was born and the one in which he lives. 3. Cultural/Multicultural evaluation: A Movie in my Pillow is a dual-language book; each poem is in English and Spanish. The illustrations are done by Elizabeth Gomez, who is also Latin-American (she was born in Mexico City); they evoke a colorful neighborhood in California. Mr. Argueta’s poems show the differences between his new culture and his home culture – one poem speaks of mangoes in cans, when he used to just pick them from trees; chickens are wrapped in plastic here, where he used to sleep next to them in El Salvador. Some of the poems are also about being a kid – his bike, a yo-yo, and even an amusing one about his friend telling him how birds actually fly. The author uses some words that may be unfamiliar to readers, such as papusas, but they are explained in little footnotes at the bottom. 4. Conclusion/verdict: I highly recommend this for upper elementary students. I feel it is a good addition to a library collection, as it speaks to those of other cultures trying to navigate their way through American culture. Also, the poems are simple, yet beautiful, and accessible to everyone....more
A well-researched and readable book on dating and romance in today's world, and by a comedian, no less? I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It waA well-researched and readable book on dating and romance in today's world, and by a comedian, no less? I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was also quite humorous in places. Our modern era has made it both easier and tougher to find people to click with. One of the best takeaways was that we should consider sites and apps like OkCupid and Tinder as an 'introduction service,' not a dating service. Match, chat for a little, and then meet face to face. I've had the endless online back and forth before. If I'm still talking to you after message three, and we're still hitting it off, take it offline. Otherwise, you're not serious and you're wasting my time. Anyway, I recommend the book....more
Summary: Ali is a fifteen-year-old boy growing up in New York’s inner city; his mom works two jobs and hiCulture or group portrayed: African-Americans
Summary: Ali is a fifteen-year-old boy growing up in New York’s inner city; his mom works two jobs and his father, while still in his life, no longer lives with them. Ali spends his time learning to box and hanging out with his neighbors in the next brownstone, nicknamed Needles and Noodles. Needles has Tourette’s syndrome, and Noodles is very defensive because of this. Needles gets his nickname because Ali’s mom teaches him how to knit in order to avoid another meltdown from his condition. Things get along okay, until the boys decide to get into one of the big parties on the other side of the neighborhood, a place where boys their age shouldn’t be. When an altercation breaks out, Ali learns that sometimes, family isn’t just the one into which you were born.
Cultural/Multicultural evaluation: I found the character voices to be authentic and easy to read. There is some neighborhood slang, but it’s common and can be inferred from the text if one is unfamiliar; they mainly speak like most young boys do. The characters are well-defined and not caricatures; Ali is a bit wiser than his peers, but also has enough innocence about him to make him a well-rounded character. Noodles is a pretend tough, but he has an inner geek that enjoys comic books. Needles could have been a little more defined, although this may have been by design, as Needles has a more insular life than his brother. What violence there is in the book is not gun violence; everyone fights with their fists. I also really liked how inclusive the neighborhood was, and that they looked out for each other, especially Needles.
Conclusion/verdict: I highly recommend this book because I think it’s an important addition to a library collection. Young African-American boys can find a character to relate to in Ali, and I think there is a good takeaway message about family that all young adults could benefit from....more
This book is about Melba Liston, who was a 20th Century jazz musician. A self-taught trombone player, sheCulture or group portrayed: African-Americans
This book is about Melba Liston, who was a 20th Century jazz musician. A self-taught trombone player, she went on to play with many jazz greats, such as Duke Ellington, and toured with Billie Holliday in the late 1940s. She faced some opposition as a woman as well as an African-American. There is an afterword describing Ms. Liston’s life in more detail, as well as a discography if one wishes to listen to her music.
Little Melba is a book about African-Americans, both written and illustrated by African-Americans. The illustrations are gorgeous oils and depict the time period as lively and colorful. The images of African-Americans are not stereotypical or uniform; every face is unique, from shading to expression. The text and images do not shy away from the racism and sexism Ms. Liston faced, albeit in simpler language for younger readers; for example, an image of a Southern Hotel with the words “the best service for WHITES only.”
Conclusion/verdict: Highly recommended. It sheds light on a lesser-known, but no less interesting, person, and has the overall message to continue striving, even when it gets difficult. ...more
Summary: All Peter wants to do is whistle for his dog, Willie. But he just can’t seem to do it! Will actiCulture or group portrayed: African-Americans
Summary: All Peter wants to do is whistle for his dog, Willie. But he just can’t seem to do it! Will acting like a grown-up make him learn it faster? Sadly, no. Peter does not give up, though, and his perseverance pays off – he can finally whistle. Willie hears it and Peter is so happy, he must go home and show off to Mom and Dad. They are so proud of him and send him to the grocery store, and Peter goes, whistling all the way.
Cultural/Multicultural evaluation: While this book has a main character, Peter, who is portrayed as African-American (as is his family), Whistle for Willie portrays a neighborhood where children play together regardless of race. Peter’s thoughts are not in stereotypical language, and the plot, such as it is, is easily accessible to all children; not being able to do something, like whistle, is a common frustration. The hope that being older (as when Peter puts on his father’s hat, hoping it will help him learn to whistle) will fix your problem is also something to which all children can relate. The illustrations are colorful collage and show a vibrant neighborhood, although one can tell that this is a different time period (Peter is sent to the grocery store alone, for example). There is a good message here, without being “preachy,” that perseverance pays off.
Conclusion/verdict: Recommended for young readers. ...more
A bit flawed, but still mostly readable. I watch people become super addicted to their phones, and with all the tech we already have, a Meme device (aA bit flawed, but still mostly readable. I watch people become super addicted to their phones, and with all the tech we already have, a Meme device (all knowing and way beyond your smartphone) doesn't seem too far out of the realm of possibility. However, some portions of the plot seemed to drag, and the protagonist was irritating. A good first effort....more
A bit dated now, as it's from the early seventies, but shows that some things never change. Still fad diets, still crazy supplements that supposedly mA bit dated now, as it's from the early seventies, but shows that some things never change. Still fad diets, still crazy supplements that supposedly melt the fat while you sit on your bum, the only things that have changed are where these things are sold (we now have the internet). From Sylvester Graham to Dr. Atkins and other food faddists inbetween, the author shows some of the craziness our society has participated in, all in pursuit of health....more