“Maybe, Donavan thought, he wasn’t the only one who felt uncomfortable about Vic’s homecoming dinner.” page 43
Donavan’s Double Trouble by Monalisa DeGross, illustrated by Amy Bates.
Amistad, HarperCollins, New York, 2008.
Realistic fiction chapter book, 180 pages.
Lexile: 550L .
AR Level: 3.8 (worth 4.0 points) .
Note: Donavan’s Double Trouble is the sequel to Donavan’s Word Jar.
Donavan’s got all kinds of troubles lately. Heritage Month is coming up, and he doesn’t know anyone to ask. He’s struggling with math and his younger sister is overtaking him. His favorite uncle is back, but no longer a firefighter. He doesn’t play basketball or teach dance moves anymore, because Uncle Vic’s National Guard unit was called up, and he came home without his legs. Donovan’s not feeling good about these changes – he just wants his old uncle back.
When I was trying to find books about PoC with disabilities, one word was overwhelmingly used to describe this book: sweet. Having read it, I would certainly agree.
I became interested in this after talking with Naz about how seldom people of color are represented in works about disability, particularly fiction. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. People constantly give me books, and I’m always buying more or making great finds on the free shelf at the library. Besides the thousands of books my family owns, we always have at least a dozen library books checked out from various places (usually closer to a hundred…). For at least the past decade, I’ve had an interest in reading books with disabled characters. How could I never have read a book with diverse disabled characters?
The first ordered, but the fourth book received and added to our board book collection.
Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.
Little, Brown, and Company Kids, 2006.
Board book, 20 pages + title & copyright pages.
Whose Toes Are Those? follows a set of ten toes through a series of playtime adventures, including a round of “this little piggy goes to market” while we try to find out whose toes they are. The answer might be surprising!
Finally, an #ownvoices board book. Not only that, but an African-American author and a noted Vietnamese American children’s book illustrator teamed up for this one. I actually bought this just because it was an #ownvoices board book without even realizing who the illustrator was. Of course I would love it because LeUyen Pham is fantastic!
This is a welcome addition to our growing board book collection. I actually ordered this first (knowing I’d buy The Snowy Day at Target because I had seen it there before), but it took a long time to arrive, so it was the fourth diverse board book added to our collection, and sadly, the first #ownvoice board book. (But I’ll find more.*)
This book perfectly exemplifies what I was bemoaning the lack of in my last board book review. In this book, the text and the pictures match up. Each tells a complete story that is even better when combined. The book also invites parent and child to play.
The text is well divided, with no more than a sentence per page in most of the book. It interacts with the pictures and moves around the page in a way that board book text can and early reader text should not. The book is a standard board book size, and the pages are very sturdy and well-printed, with bright colors and readable text.
The illustrations are perfect for a board book. Most pages have good contrast, and the main picture is fairly simple but with a textured background or extra lower-contrast illustrations that draw interest. The main character is drawn with light brown skin (at one point has a visible blush) which is also referred to in the text. The hairstyle is not specifically African-American but could be worn by a variety of little girls. Normally the fuzzy way the hair was drawn would have irritated me. However as this board book draws comparisons between the girl and the reader, I liked that this interpretation left it open for as many girls as possible to find themselves in the main character.
There is a companion book to this text called Whose Knees Are These? which we will definitely be getting. The only drawback to this book is that apparently these are a boy and girl version. Not noticing the pink on the cover when ordering, this one has the lines “All these piggies must surely belong…//to the girl with the sparkling eyes” which makes it less appropriate for a boy when the end states “Why, those are YOUR toes.” We will still read this, but if I could only afford to get one book, or if I give this as a gift, I would choose the version matching the gender of the child.
The only other minor quibble I had was the lines about the piggies traveling to England and Rome. Obviously the line about Rome needed to stay for the rhyme to work, but England could have been replaced with another, non-European country.
Overall, this is a fabulous book in every aspect. Recommended for all children.
*It took a while for me to get pictures for this book. Since then, I have found many more #ownvoices board books, although they are still sparse compared to board books by white authors.
“I found that I almost envied his pain. He hurt because he remembered.” page 74
Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler.
Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2005, my edition 2007.
Modern vampire fantasy, 310 pages.
Lexile: 730L .
AR Level: Not leveled.
NOTE: This book is recommended for adults only.
Shori wakes up in the woods with a ravenous hunger and a taste for blood. She doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or even what she is, but after she bites Wright, he’s willing to help her find out. The only clues they have to start with are a burnt property and Shori’s own instincts and half-remembering.
I came across this novel because Butler was recommended to me as a major speculative fiction author of color. Science fiction and fantasy are two of my favorites, although I’ll read any genre but horror. It was continually bothering me that I hadn’t read any speculative fiction by PoCs, so I wanted to try one of her books.
This picture book biography of Ida B. Wells gives a lovely overview of her life.
Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told by Walter Dean Meyers, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen.
Amistad Imprint, HarperCollins, New York, 2008.
Picture book biography, 37 pages including timeline and quotes.
Lexile: AD900L (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level: 5.4 (worth 0.5 points)
Ida B. Wells stood up for truth and justice with her words and actions, and foreshadowed the civil rights movement in many of her actions. With an illustration at least every other page, and excellent explanations of difficult topics such as lynchings, this book makes Wells’ life accessible to middle grade readers, and could even be read to some younger children with a parent.
Book intended to promote self-esteem for all children is highly problematic for children of color – not recommended.
I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts, 2004.
Board book, 32 pages.
I Like Myself is the story of an exuberant and imaginative little girl* and her dog. The girl states in first person narration that she likes herself in a variety of ways and circumstances.
Each page spread has at least one sentence and some as many as three. The text is rhyming, but the rhymes are at times spread over multiple pages. This book reads like a Seuss imitation, with additional words at the end as padding. It felt like some of Seuss’ affirming early readers, but with a larger vocabulary and a huge disconnect between the words and the pictures. The pace was uneven and relied heavily on the pictures to form a cohesive story. Unfortunately the pictures were even more of a disappointment.