The team at MCCBD has worked hard to raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. This is even more important as our little corner of the world becomes more and more diverse. Young readers need to see themselves in the books they read and they need to hear the voices from their cultures speaking to them from those pages. They also need to see the faces of those unlike them and hear the voices that have been silenced. So it is with heartfelt thanks to MCCBD that I offer my review of two special books from Wisdom Tales Press.
Over 1,000 years ago a fable about the interaction of animals and humans came about and in this new retelling of an old fable, When the Animals Saved the Earth, humankind is once again on trial for disrupting the natural order of things. Described as an Eco-Fable, author Alexis York Lumbard begins the story in an idyllic island in the bright blue sea. The animals live freely and happily and they are watched over by the spirit king Bersaf.
A storm brings humankind to the island and as you can imagine with the attitude of manifest destiny, the beautiful little island is no longer peaceful nor pleasant for the animals. Eventually the animals end up taking the humans to court where King Bersaf must decide how to bring peace back to the island.
When the Animals Saved the Earth is a well told story and the pictures by Demi are beautiful. Part of the charm of this book for me comes from the story’s rich history. Lumbard recounts it in the Author’s Note which appears opposite the title page. This book is easy to read and for the most part well suited for children ages 5 and up. I would advise parents to preview the book as there is one scene of the market place where cuts of meat are hanging and blood is dripping down. There is also another page depicting animals that have obviously been whipped to the point of bleeding. These illustrations may not be suitable for more sensitive children.
The message regarding empathy and caring for the world and creatures around you is a timely one I believe, however, I also feel that parents need to use their discretion regarding the rather graphic depiction of the treatment of the animals. Other than that, the drawings are wonderful and this book is sure to become a favorite among picture books.
Red Cloud’s War is the second book I had the pleasure to read. This fictionalized story of a true incident in history by Paul Goble is the account of the Fetterman Fight of December 21 1866 from a young Native American’s point of view. Drawing upon actual published accounts from Native Americans and material from white historians, Mr. Goble produces a fascinating tale full of action and emotion.
Young readers have an opportunity to experience the battle from the Native perspective which offers insight into how Native people viewed the invasion of their land. Stories about Indians and cowboys or white soldiers and the settling of the West are nowhere near as prevalent now as they were in days gone by. Still, this little piece of history as told by Goble offers today’s youth the other side of the story which was sorely neglected when grandparents and great grandparents heard stories of wars and battles between Indians and whites.
The original artwork adds another layer of beauty to the telling of the tale as the detailed renderings draw the reader into the story. I believe young boys in particular will enjoy the story and the pictures. Even though it is a story about a clash of cultures and the resulting death and destruction, it is a story told with feeling and it gives a voice to so many who have been marginalized. Again, I would suggest that parents preview the book to determine its suitability for more sensitive children since it does involve some scenes that may be unsettling.
A big Thank You shout out to the co-creators of this wonderful event – Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press.
Another huge Thank You to the sponsors of Multicultural Children’s Book Day:
Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books*Lil Libros
Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk*Candlewick Press
Silver: Lee and Low Books*Chronicle Books*Capstone Young Readers
Bronze: Pomelo Books* Author Jacqueline Woodson*Papa Lemon Books* Goosebottom Books*Author Gleeson Rebello*ShoutMouse Press*Author Mahvash Shahegh* China Institute.org*
As stated at the beginning, the mission of the MCCBD team is evergreen. We all need to work together to bring diversity in reading into our schools, our libraries and, of course, our homes. I personally wish to thank Wisdom Tales Press for their dedication to “sharing the wisdom and beauty of cultures from around the world.” I also thank them for providing the books Red Cloud’s War and When the Animals Saved Earth for review.