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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I Am Mixed

I Am Mixed by Garcelle Beauvais and Sebastian A. Jones, illustrated by James C. Webster (Strangers Comics, 2013). 

This is a great book about a brother and sister who are of mixed race and whose parents have different cultural backgrounds, and how the siblings are the best of both. The book has some impressive blurbs from celebrities like Halle Berry and Heidi Klum, and was written by two actor/authors. 

I found the story to be imaginative and fun; I think it would really help mixed kids with seeing themselves represented in a book and to feel proud of who they are. My only reservation is one aspect of the illustrations. There is something unsettling about the characters' eyes in many of the pictures; they remind me of dolls', but more in a creepy than cute way. Maybe kids wouldn't notice, or just it's me, I don't know. But it's too bad because I do feel that it detracts from my love of the story itself. 




Sunday, July 16, 2017

Captain Cat

Captain Cat by Inga Moore (Candwick Press, 2013). 

This is the story of Captain Cat, who is a trader, although not a very good one because all he wants is cats. He travels to an island and meets a queen who has never seen cats before. Turns out the island has a rat problem that the cats are the perfect solution.  This is a nice summer read. 






Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Secret River

The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (2009). 


This is actually a revised and reillustrated edition of the book that was originally published in 1955 and received a Newbery Honor Award. At that time it was illustrated by the great Leonard Weisgard. As you may know, Rawlings is the Pulitizer Prize winning author of The Yearling. While many now consider that novel to be for children or young adults, it wasn't written with that in mind. This story is actually the only one that Rawlings wrote specifically for children. 

 A summary from Kirkus: "There are no fish left in the rivers and streams; hard times have come to the forest, and everyone is poor and hungry. Calpurnia is determined to find fish for her father to sell in his shop. Mother Albirtha, the wisewoman, advises her to follow her nose to a secret river teeming with fish. She finds this amazing river and politely asks the fishes’ permission to catch some of them. On her long journey home she shares her catch with several animals and, of course, Mother Albirtha. Father sells the fish for promises of payment, which are all fulfilled, and soft times come to the entire community."

Rawlings wanted the story to be about an African American girl and purposely didn't use the stereotypical "Negro dialect" that was often used in books at that time.  However, the book wasn't published until after her death, so she wasn't able to have a say in the illustrations, given that she never actually makes mention of race in the story. At that time in children's publishing, portraying children of color was almost non-existent. But Weisgard wanted his illustrations to be true to Rawling's intentions and do his small part in contributing to breaking down the color barrier, so he used brown paper to subtly suggest the characters' race. (Source)  You can see examples below. 



This newer edition is one of the most beautifully illustrated books I've seen. I always love Leo and Diane Dillon's work, but think it particularly shines here. The imaginative illustrations perfectly accompany Rawlings' beautiful fable.