Category Archives: hope

Reflections

Reflections

“The mind of an adult begins in the imagination of a child.”

Kwame Alexander

 

It’s been a tough week. Violence, death, injustice. We can barely keep our heads above the flood of emotions.

 

Award winning Children’s author and poet Kwame Alexander spoke on NPR – Weekend Edition Sunday about the recent unrest in our country – Reflecting On Police Shootings, Author Kwame Alexander Focuses On Next Generation. His words helped calm the waters.  They enlighten and uplift.

 

What Kwame said is true for many of us in this kidlit business. It is more fulfilling to focus on children. Children’s authors have responded by sharing their creativity and focusing on the children. I too found an artful outlet by creating a meme using the character I introduced in my book, THE KING CAKE BABY.

 

He may be naughty & naked, but the King Cake Baby loves all. I know he believes baby hugs are the best.

KCB hugs FB

It is times like these that literature is a way to help children feel safe and provide comfort. Kwame shared this poem he wrote fifteen years ago.

When

 

When the world is not so beautiful
The flowers waste water
The women can no longer find their song
The children refuse to play
There are no men to teach to love
The ground inside collapses
The coldest winter screams
The summer burns red
The sea is full of blues and the sky opens up
At least I’ll have poetry
A gathering of words
A get-together of emotions
A font of ideas
Hope with wings

 

~ Kwame Alexander, children’s author and poet

 

Read on and go forth and hug!

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Let Them Play by Margot Theis Raven

Let Them Play by Margot Theis Raven

Today’s pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday is Let Them Play

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Written by: Margot Theis Raven

Illustrated by: Chris Ellison

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press (2005)

Suitable for ages: 7 and up

Themes/Topics: Little League Baseball, US history, segregation, racism, Jim Crow south, Civil Rights, perseverance, resistance, resilience

Brief Synopsis: The story depicted in Let Them Play is true. In 1955, a segregated South Carolina had sixty-two official Little League teams. Only one of them, the Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars had African-American players. Like most young boys who loved baseball, they wanted to play, but the other white teams didn’t want to play them. After the sixty-one white teams pulled out of the Little League and formed another program, the Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars became state champs by default. However they did not qualify to play in the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania because they hadn’t actually won any games or their state’s tournament. The team ended up going to the World Series anyway in hopes of taking the field. The title Let Them Play is what the boys heard from the crowds in attendance who wanted to see them play.

Opening pages:  “Most folks say it was Coach Ben Singleton who pulled the all-star dreams from the sky over Harmon Field and sprinkled them in the eyes of 14 boys the summer of 1955. Not that baseball dreams weren’t already rising high as the heat waves on noonday porches all over Charleston’s Upper Westside.

Boys wanted to be Jackie Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and mothers like Flossie Bailey on Strawberry Lane wanted to find their missing mop handles. Stickball players like her son John used the handles as bats to hit half-rubber balls and sandlot player made mitts from paper bags or cardboard sewn with shoelaces.” 

Why I like this book: Its baseball season and opening days are happening all over the country. My kids participated in team sports because we wanted them to learn about rules, and what it takes to be a team player as well as other life lessons.  There is much to learn from sports, like sportsmanship and playing fair. We also know kids learn that sometimes life can be unfair and even harsh.

Let Them Play is about the true life events of young athletes who were treated differently based solely on the color of their skin.  The bigotry and discrimination these young players experienced were common during this time, especially across the southern United States.  This story gives readers specific examples of what it was like for African-Americans who lived in the Jim Crow south during segregation where racism was so prevalent. It also shows readers examples of pride, perseverance, resilience and resistance. For those looking for a story with wonderful examples of how oppressed people navigated life under adverse conditions, this one hits a home-run.

 

Resources:

See discussion questions and activities from the William Allen White Children’s Book Award  here.

Check out author Susanna’s Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page here to read more of today’s book reviews.

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I AM A BEAR by Jean-François Dumont

I AM A BEAR by Jean-François Dumont

I AM A BEAR  is my pick for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday post!

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Written/Illustrated by: Jean-François Dumont

Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, English Edition 2015
Originally published in France under the title Je Suis un Ours by Kaléidoscore, 2010

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: homelessness, poverty, compassion, kindness, friendship, hope

Brief Synopsis: I AM BEAR is a story written from a bear’s point of view who sleeps on the sidewalk, on cardboard boxes, in old clothes. We learn early on people do not like this dirty, smelly, hungry, homeless bear which makes him sad until he meets a little girl.

Opening pages:  “I don’t know how I got here… I have no memory of my life before, just a few images that flash before my eyes from time to time, like the car headlights that sweep over my bed at night. All I know is that one morning I woke up here, on this street, and I haven’t left since.”

Why I like this book: This is a heartwarming story about what life is like for someone who is homeless and sleeps on the streets. It allows readers to experience the despair many homeless feel when trying to find food and or shelter. And the humiliation they feel when asking strangers to help. The bear realizes that people no longer pay attention to him but on one day when sitting on the sidewalk feeling grumpy, a little girl walks up to him and asks, “Why do you look so sad?” She reminds her of a ”teddy bear”. Unlike the adults bear encountered, this act of kindness gives him hope.

This is a wonderful story to introduce young children to a difficult topic. The bold illustrations keep readers engaged and helps deliver a message about social ills such as homelessness and poverty that exist everywhere.

Resources:

Click here for The Teddy Bear Project based on another book, The Teddy Bear about a boy who gives a bear to a homeless man.

Click here for teaching kids about poverty using chocolate. Especially good at this time of year when those of us celebrate Thanksgiving by overindulging in food.

Click here for lesson plans from Teaching Tolerance: A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center geared toward grades 3-5 about poverty and homelessness.

For more of today’s book reviews, click here  to go to author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page.

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