Our 14th board book is simple but surprisingly delightful.
The Hip Hop Board Book by Martin Ander.
Dokument Press, Arsta, Sweden, 2012.
Board book, 22 pages.
“Rap, Breakdance, Graffiti, & DJ:ing – now for the very youngest! The Hip Hop Board Book is a different, colorful picture book about culture and everyday life with fun and clear pictures for small children. A charming book with lots of humor and attitude.” ~Back Blurb
I wish I remembered finding this board book. It’s not brand-new, but hasn’t gotten much buzz – and it’s from Sweden, although the text is in English. Perhaps Amazon recommended it to me when I was ordering some other hard-to-find board books.
“Asha paused to flick the sweat from the crook of her elbow. Suddenly she caught sight of a face staring at her through the coconut leaves.” p. 31
Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins.
Delacorte Press, Random House Children’s Books, New York, 2009.
Historical fiction, 225 pages.
Lexile: 800L .
AR Level: 5.3 (worth 7.0) .
Asha’s father has gone to America to look for a new job, leaving his family in the care of his older brother’s family. Already saddened by the move from Delhi to Calcutta, Asha, her beautiful older sister Reet, and their mother wait and try to fend off marriage proposals, rebukes from the other women, and a life of servitude and confinement.
Asha’s mother suffers from depression and fits that her daughters describe as visits from the Jailer, when her face and mind go blank. She attempts methods of coping such as knitting or cooking, but as their life circumstances deteriorate, she’s unable to function, leaving Asha in charge of their physical safety and everyday needs.
“Today there are at least an estimated 3.5 million Americans of Arabic-speaking descent, and they live in all fifty states. […] The purpose of this book isn’t to separate them out but to fold their experience into the mosaic of American history and deepen our understanding of who we Americans are.” p. xi
A Country Called Amreeka: U.S. History Retold Through Arab-American Lives by Alia Malek.
Free Press, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2009.
Nonfiction, 292 pages.
A walk through American history through the lives of a wide variety of Arab-Americans.
I picked this book up on a whim, but it turned out to be very interesting nonetheless. Mostly, I wanted to know why America was misspelled in the title (Amreeka is the Arabic word for America), and after looking at the blurb, I thought this could be an interesting perspective on American history which I personally had not very much considered before.
Much like Prisoners Without Trial, this book opened my eyes to another important part of American history. Similar to that book, this one also deals with a limited time period, since immigration laws prevented large numbers of Arab immigrants prior to the 1960s. However, Malek tells her story in a very different (although just as engaging) way.
After a brief forward explaining the background, format and scope of the book, she takes snapshots from various Arab-American lives and uses them to illustrate a wide variety of experiences and time periods. In between these vignettes are brief chapters that give immigration statistics, updates on legal and cultural developments, and information about world politics that had bearing on Arab-American lives.
“My dad was always curious about humans, how we react in different situations. He asked us hard questions at a young age, and even better, he listened carefully and respectfully when we answered.” p. 39
Yes, My Accent is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You by Kunal Nayyar.
Atria Paperback, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015 (my edition 2016).
Personal essays, 245 pages.
At only 34, Nayyar is best known for playing the role of Rajesh, an Indian immigrant and astrophysicist with selective mutism, on the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory.
I have a soft spot for diverse celebrity memoirs, especially if I happen to actually know who the celebrity is. This was one of those guilty pleasure books that you know won’t be very filling but want to read anyway.
The format was unusual – more like short essays punctuated by “A Thought Recorded on an Aeroplane Cocktail Napkin” every so often. They are roughly chronological (although this isn’t an autobiography) and roughly written, so I believe Nayyar wrote this himself (or if not, his ghostwriter owes him a big refund).
This illuminated novel in verse tells a story of internal displacement for middle grade readers.
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane Evans.
Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2014.
Middle grade novel in verse, 331 pages including extras but not excerpts.
Lexile: HL620L (What does HL mean in Lexile?)
AR Level: 4.2 (worth 3.0 points) .
Amira is a young village girl who dreams of going to school and learning to read the Koran. But her mother desires a more traditional life for her. Then the Janjaweed attack, and it seems like all dreams, and words, are gone forever. Can a gift restore hope?
This one was a bit of a gamble. I have yet to dislike a book by any of the Pinkneys – individually and collectively they are so talented that the name alone can sell me on a book. Plus I have loved Shane Evans’ work, and the kids find his illustrations appealing too.
But. This is a novel in verse. I wasn’t actually aware that it was illuminated until after purchasing, and Shane Evans’s illustrations did take the edge off. But as I’ve said before, novels in verse rarely work for me. I love poetry and novels, but feel that the combination usually loses something. For this reason, I don’t often seek those books out unless they come highly recommended or with an author/illustrator team I can’t ignore.
Our 31st board book is a beautiful exploration of the many types of Black skin, hair, and eyes.
Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney, photographs by Myles C. Pinkney.
Cartwheel Books, Scholastic, 2006 (originally published as a picture book in 2000).
Nonfictional picture book converted to board book format, 24 pages.
This book that validates the appearance of ALL black children, whether they have dark or light skin and blue or onyx eyes.
The catch phrase here is “I am Black. I am unique.” These words open and close the book and separate the various sections.
Brian Pinkney tackles bravery and Tae Kwon Do in this picture book about a girl with two big problems.
JoJo’s Flying Side Kick by Brian Pinkney.
First published by Simon and Schuster, 1995.
My edition Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Picture book, 32 pages.
Lexile: 590L .
AR Level: 3.2 (worth 0.5 points) .
NOTE: This is a work of fiction, although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
JoJo’s happy living with her mother and grandfather and practicing Tae Kwon Do with her friends. But she has two big problems. The first is the scary tree at the end of her driveway, and the second is her yellow belt test, where she needs to break a board with her foot.
Pretty much I have the whole Pinkney family on auto-buy because there hasn’t been one of their books I’ve disliked yet. They are usually a hit with students as well. This is not the most popular one but a very solid addition to the Pinkney canon.