This gorgeous and gritty graphic novel will educate everyone, not just indigenous Canadians, about institutional racism and other topics.
The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, illustrated by Kelly Mellings.
House of Anansi, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2015.
Adult graphic novel, 120 pages.
CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature Winner.
Pete and his younger brother Joey only have each other and their drug-addicted mother to get through their violent, gritty urban life. But when their mother’s boyfriend pushes them too far, Pete ends up in jail and Joey in foster care. What will happen to their family? Can Pete’s gang become their new family?
This book is about Canadian urban aboriginals. Because I am American and not indigenous, I was surprised by the way it sucked me in as we read about generational poverty and the systematic dehumanization and institutionalized racism that had affected Pete’s entire family. So much of what I read applies to so many other groups, and reading about Pete and his family was an easy way to absorb how these things can alter a family for generations at a time.
Book with excellent concepts for closing the early achievement gap is sadly tainted with audism.
Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain – Tune In, Talk More, Take Turns by Dana Suskind, Beth Suskind, and Leslie Lewinter-Suskind.
Dutton Imprint, Penguin Random House, New York, 2015.
Adult informative non-fiction, 308 pages including index.
America experiences a significant achievement gap based on socio-economic status. Which also, based on the systemic racism endemic to America, disproportionately affects people of color. Dana Suskind has an idea about what might be causing this, and the surprisingly simple way we can close the gap and empower parents.
I was not planning to review this book here, as it’s a bit beyond the normal scope of my blog – it doesn’t focus on minorities, and the author is a white woman.
However, when reading the first chapter, I found the audism present annoying. Then, after getting into the book, I found some worthwhile information was presented, which is why this was recommended to me in the first place. Finally, checking up on the author, I learned that she was in an interracial marriage (before her husband’s tragic death) which I assume would have given her a different perspective.
We meet Vicki in the most intimate and vulnerable time in her life – after she’s just attempted suicide and is now hospitalized for severe depression.
I got this book through a branch loan (CSviaS) after Naz recommended it to me when we were discussing the sad lack of books about disability with intersectionality. It took a while to come through with holidays interrupting ILL services and me being on vacation, so during that time, I thought of one book in my collection and accidentally encountered another at the store. I’ve also been hitting up Google with the idea of reviewing a number of books about disability by people of color and generating a list for kids, parents, and teachers. Just like early readers, this is one of those little niches of the book world that we need to diversify.
This book is beautiful. That probably seems like a strange thing to say about a book about depression, but the writing is just lovely. It reminded me of To Kill a Mockingbird, not in any way the content, but the writing style. I was quickly immersed in Vicki’s world and wanted her to heal and live.
“Some children were happy at the orphanage. Living there was better than having no home at all.” p. 19
On Her Own: The Life of Betty Brinn, written by Priscilla Pardini, illustrated by Joanne Scholler Bowring.
Elizabeth A. Brinn Foundation, Elm Grove, WI, 2001.
Picture book biography, 32 pages.
In Wisconsin, especially Milwaukee County, Betty Brinn is known for the excellent children’s museum bearing her name. However, not many people know her story, or how her own experiences as an institutionalized, and later a foster child drove her to philanthropy.
The first half of the book focuses on Betty’s birth family and her life in the orphanage. On page 21, she and her sister move to a foster home. Betty was in 17 different foster homes, so this book only focuses on the Stinson family, whom she lived with between ages 13-16. The final pages cover her adult life from struggles to success to her early death from cancer.
This book is ubiquitous at used bookstores near Milwaukee. At one I occasionally visit, there is always a copy on the children’s discount bookshelves, so I picked it up for a dollar. (The paperback retails for $4.50 new.)
I’m glad that I read this because I definitely learned a lot about Betty Brinn’s life and why she was driven to do what she did. However, I also am not sure who to recommend this for. The words and pictures don’t exactly connect to each other. Reading about the author and illustrator, it appears that Priscilla Pardini is an experienced author but had never written for children before, and that really shows in the writing.
There are at least two paragraphs of text in every two-page spread, sometimes more. One two page-spread has seven paragraphs! The text seems to be geared towards a fourth or fifth grade level while the pictures are aimed at a younger audience. The writing is factual but doesn’t really tell a story that engages kids.
Due to the density of the small print, this doesn’t make a good read-aloud. The kids who are drawn to the pictures typically aren’t ready to read such challenging text. And the kids who are able to read the text dismiss it as babyish.
There are some lovely details in the book. The front and back covers have maps of the orphanage and the Stinson’s farm. It certainly gives a comprehensive overview of Betty Brinn’s life. The writing is solid non-fiction. Unfortunately there is a fundamental disconnect between the disparate elements of the book.
If you have interest in Betty Brinn, orphanages, or foster care, then this book may be for you. But I cannot recommend it in general.
“Adam was the one who’d suggested Bannon’s Gymnastix for the field trip. It was just down the street from the day care, and he knew that his little sisters would enjoy it…” p. 44
Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles, with Michelle Burford.
Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2016.
Young adult biography/autobiography, 250 pages.
Not yet leveled.
This is the story of Simone Biles, a gymnast who came to national and international attention as the first female gymnast ever to win three consecutive all-around titles, and then again as she took the Olympics by storm in Rio this year.
This book is co-authored by Michelle Burford, a founding editor of O magazine who has assisted several public figures with their biographies, including Gabby Douglas.