Review: Seedfolks

“All his life in Vietnam my father had been a farmer. Here our apartment house had no yard. But in that vacant lot he would see me.” page 3

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Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Judy Pedersen.
Scholastic, New York, 1999 (first published HarperCollins 1997).
Adult realistic fiction, 69 pages.
Lexile:  710L  .
AR Level:  4.3 (worth 2.0 points)  .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, I would not recommend this to middle grade readers.

Seedfolks is a collection of 13 short stories by different first-person narrators, all revolving around the first year of a community garden in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Normally with short story collections, I comment on each story and then give thoughts on the whole.  Because these stories are so short, I’m going to write two or three sentences about each one and then give my general thoughts at the end.

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Discussion: Problematic Authors

When problematic information about an author comes to your attention…

So…  I’ve read, enjoyed, and highly recommended one Sherman Alexie novel.  As you can see on my 100 Indigenous Books challenge page, I’ve purchased two others, one of which I’ve since read (my page needs some updating) and the other I DNF’d but was attempting to re-read.  That’s two reviews that would have gone up later this year.

I’ve been a bit behind on reading blogs so I was very grateful this issue was highlighted on BookToss.  If you want more info, AICL has an exhaustive list of the best articles and commentary about the topic.  If you are looking for alternative books to read, both have lists (note especially these two), or you can check out my reviews.

However, this all leaves me with a bit of a dilemma.  While I don’t plan to buy any more Alexie books, I have a review and a half to go up, and one already up.  When this post goes live, I intend to edit my previous review with a link and comment about this new development and how it’s changed my opinion of Alexie.  But what about the other books?  I have a review ready, and another book that wasn’t going to get a very favorable review anyway.  It takes a lot of time and effort to read and review books, but I don’t want to promote a problematic author either!  Right now I’m leaning towards just giving up on those two reviews, but I’m curious what others think.

What would you do when an author you have scheduled reviews for turns out to be problematic?

Exciting News from WPT

I know, two posts on the weekend!  But I am finally catching up on old (aka non-urgent) emails and saw the news that Wisconsin Public Television is going to be coming out with a new series about Wisconsin First Nations!

We’ve really enjoyed The Ways and I’ve used it at home and school.  Their Wisconsin Biographies series has a few diverse figures as well.  Both are free to the public.  They also have a lot of free resources in various categories just for WI educators.  I have high hopes for the quality of their new series.  If nothing else I hope to at least educate myself further about WI indigenous peoples – ideally it will work for my students and family as well.

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The twelve tribes of Wisconsin locations and seals (image from UW Madison School of Education)

Review: Prisoners Without Trial

“The barbed-wire fences, the guards, and the surrounding wasteland were always there to remind the detainees that they were exiled, incarcerated Americans, who didn’t know whether they would ever be allowed to return to their former homes.” page 71

Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese Americans in World War II by Roger Daniels.  (Revised Edition)
Hill and Wang, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, 2004.  (Orig. pub. 1993)
Nonfiction, 162 pages including index, appendices, and further reading.
Not leveled.

An overview of the unlawful imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII, including anti-Asian prejudice before the war, and eventual reparations 50 years after the camps.

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Prisoners Without Trial by Roger Daniels.

Every American should read this book.  Daniels distills decades of scholarly research on this and related topics into a succinct and incredibly readable overview.  Nonfiction normally takes me much longer than fiction, but I suspect that I could have read this in one day had other obligations not interfered.

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Board Book Review: My Heart Fills with Happiness

Our tenth board book will bring joy to your heart.
And has narwhals!

My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrations by Julie Flett.
Orca Books, 2016.
Board book, 24 pages.
Lexile:  AD280L  ( What does AD mean in Lexile? )
AR Level: Not yet leveled.

This simple book asks us “What fills your heart with happiness?” and gives many examples of things that might make us happy.

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My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett.

Julie Flett is one of my favorite children’s book illustrators.  She has a great sense of color and space.  As soon as I saw the review at AICL, I wanted this book!  Most of the libraries I work at don’t circulate board books, so this was high on my wish list, but it took a while to arrive which is why this and We Sang You Home were not in use sooner.

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Web: Board Book Lists

Some other diverse board book lists.

So, a while back I mentioned that when I started reviewing board books, it was difficult to find diverse board book lists.  That wasn’t so much because they don’t exist, as because most of the ones I found have problematic content, or are board and picture books mixed together.  Here are a few pretty good ones.

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We Sang You Home back cover with text “When wishes come true.”

AICL has a great list of Native board books.

This is important because most other lists (including some I’ll share) have poor indigenous representation.  I always look for a review from AICL or an #ownvoices reviewer, and check if the author/illustrator are Native.

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Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin.

PragmaticMom has a good top ten of multicultural board books.  The caveat is that I would NOT recommend Mama, Mama, Do You Love Me? – see above for better Native books.

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It’s Ramadan, Curious George by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young.

While it wasn’t recommended as a “diverse books list”, I loved that most of the books on this list are diverse, including Hawaiian, Native, and specialty religious books that are diverse.

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Whose Knees Are These by Jabari Asim, illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

And finally, Drivel and Drool has a list broken down by ethnicity of the main character, with again the caveat to please check the Native books against AICL’s listing as some are problematic.  I like that this book includes some nonfiction board books.

 

Board Book Review: We Sang You Home

Just go buy this book. I’ll wait.

We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrations by Julie Flett.
Orca Books, 2016.
Board book, 26 pages.

This lyrical book is the story of a family – two parents, and the baby they sang home and love.

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The book starts with a couple on a blanket in the forest, singing.  Then they are joined by a tiny baby as they go about their day.  Baby sleeps and snuggles and grows teeth and crawls and gardens with mom and even walks until eventually they are back in the forest singing with baby.

The text is a poem or a prayer written in the second person, which normally I dislike, but works perfectly for this book intended to be read from parent to child.  There are two lines on the left page of every two-page spread except the final one, which ends with the final picture across from the copyright page.

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