History for the Child Bibliophile

©2017 E. R. Smith All Rights Reserved

 

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In Praise of Our Fathers and Our Mothers by Leo and Diane Dillon

 

 

Bibliophiles love books; I consider myself a book lover. Worry about how my child would perceive literature was a concern.  Many children struggle with reading and therefore hate it.  I began my child’s collection before her birth.  As she grew I read books with characters she liked, but also literature with characters she would need to know. Thankfully she is a slice of cheese just as sharp as her   mother.  Her current obsession is Manga; my only challenge now is keeping her at Y rating for youth 10+.

Learning should be fun and engaging.  Certain genre lend to the imagination therefore they are best for beginning readers.  Fables, legends, tales told by griot, have been a necessary piece for communities that felt apart from the larger society. Tales crafted to inform, protect, as well as to enrich the lives of children by affording them a legacy.  A heritage.  These five have to read” books enrich with stories as well as art.  Old and new readers will readily engage.

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A Wave in Her Pocket:  Stories From Trinidad   By: Lynn Joseph

A Wave in Her Pocket by Lynn Joseph offers a treasure of myths and fables from Trinidad.  I try to read this book with the cadence of a born and bred Jamaican; to lend to the understanding that all cultures have a history of storytelling.  The clever character Tante is the family anecdotalist with a tale for every occasion.  Tantie’s tales originate in West Africa and some are were formed in Trinidad.  My favorite are the names of the mystical creatures “Soucouyant”, “Ligahoo”, “Graveyard Jumbies”, scarey tales true; but geared to teach a lesson.  Artist Brian Pinkney’s scratchboard technique gives movement to the illustrations, on page 28 the illustration is simply mystical.  A mini Glossary on page 49 defines terminology used in Trinidad.  This book can be used as a nightly reading or as a reference for a study on culture for social studies.  It’s a gem for so many reasons.

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Kadir Nelson offers a wealth of history, artistry, and quotes from noted historic figures.  Nelson’s paintings ally the telling of America’s history through the eyes of the African American.  In the Author’s Note he states,

Painting historical American subjects pushes me to learn more about who I am, where I come from, and the role my ancestors played in helping form our country.

The African slave trade begins the tale in the voice of an engaging young woman. She outlines American history through to the civil rights era.  I love the timeline at the end of the book.  A supportive index is supplied also to assist young researchers in finding a topic. Heart and Soul should be purchased in hardcover, this is a book to be shared, treasured, and passed down through generations.

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Painting by Kadir Nelson entitled “Slave Ship” on pages 16 and 17.

Cut From the Same Cloth:  American Women of Myth, Legend, and Tall Tale by Robert San Souci.  When one thinks hero one often forgets heroine.  San Souci’s research spans America introducing ladies such as Hiiaka from Hawaii, Hekeke from San Francisco, and Annie Christmas from New Orleans.  Using the forces of lightening, intellect, and physical force these gals reinvent the idea of what girls can do.  51ge8yxpgll-_aa300_

Extensive research is listed in the Sources and also offers a detailed bibliography.  Illustrations by artist Brian Pinkney lends drama and movement to the stories.  I cannot express enough the necessity for hard covered books. Teach children to care for and even show case literature with pride; right next to their video games if they must.

The People Could Fly:  American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton.  Ms. Hamilton explains the importance of folktales in the Introduction.

Out of the contacts the plantation slaves made in their new world, combined with memories and habits from the old world of Africa, came a body of folk expression about the slaves and their experiences….The slave teller made the rabbit smart, tricky, and clever, the winner over larger and stronger animals….To the slaves, the rabbit came to be identified with themselves, which makes these tales highly unusual in animal folklore genre.

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The Beautiful Girl of the Moon Tower is a favorite part of this collection.  A short bibliography at the end is great for researching further.  Kids these days Google everything, so there will be loads of information to discover.  Artists Leo and Diane Dillon make this book a keeper.

Her Stories also by Virginia Hamilton continues her wealth of knowledge in folklore. She teams up again with noted artists Leo and Diane Dillon.  Students should know the names and works of a number of artists along with the noted Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci,  and Michelangelo.  Understanding how artists lend visuals to a story is a lasting understanding.  Graphic design is a new way artists are lending their vision.  When discussing the past to children, visuals are essential in helping to shape an awareness for a time long past.  The paintings are vibrant and should be housed in a way that keeps them lasting.

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“Manuel Had a Riddle” excerpt from The People Could Fly:  American Black Folktales

Belonging to a society of illustrators the Dillons have shaped historical visuals for more than a decade.  My favorite story in this collection is Woman and Man Started Even.  It is a lovely and funny tale of a couple going directly to God to solve their arguments.  Resources are listed at the end; children can used these to make up their own new legends and continue the tradition.  When children create they learn to love and appreciate.  New bibliophiles will be formed.  Feel free to share favorites of your own in the comments.  I look forward to reading them.

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