¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! / Olinguito, from A to Z!
Written and illustrated by Lulu Delacre
(Children’s Book Press/Lee & Low, 2016)
Like the rare and beautiful olinguito in the cloud forest of the Andes, Delacre’s abecedario is a rare and beautiful ABC book that will enthrall young readers—and everyone else. Unlike most bilingual books for children published in the United States, Delacre’s elegant alliterative verse forefronts the Spanish and follows with an English translation— “Alto, allá arriba en los Andes brilla un bosque bordado de bromelias/High, high up in the Andes blooms a brilliant forest embroidered with bromeliads.”
Delacre’s exquisite mixed media illustrations include collaged printed patterns in flat acrylic colors on a background of watercolor paper, and leaves and ferns from the cloud forest dipped into ink and pressed onto textured rice paper. The result is a gorgeous palette of bright tropical colors and lyrical text. There are also suggestions for how children can “explore” the pages of the book. Teaching possibilities are as varied as the lives inhabiting the cloud forest. Preschool and up.
A Mystery Bigger than Big: A Mickey Rangel Mystery / Un misterio más grande que grandísimo: Colección Mickey Rangel, Detective Privado
By René Saldaña, Jr. Translated by Carolina Villarroel.
Illustrated by Mora Des!gn Group
(Piñata Books / Arte Público Press, 2016)
Mickey Rangel is a smart, wisecracking 5th grader—an honest-to-goodness detective with an identification card in his wallet and a certificate on his wall. And he’s already solved several cases. Now everyone’s talking about Natalia, the new student. She’s too skinny. Her clothes are worn and shabby. At lunch, she eats too quickly. She sits at her desk too quietly. She doesn’t interact with anyone, never smiles, and never even looks up. Who is she? Where is she from? What is she hiding?
Mickey is determined to crack the case. Finally, he realizes what she is going through: Natalia is one of the many unaccompanied children from Central America, fleeing for her life to the uncertainty of El Norte. A Mystery Bigger than Big/Un misterio más grande que grandísimo is an excellent exploration of the difficulties of immigration and the dangerous lives of children—often without their parents—struggling to get to a safe place. Highly recommended. Grades 3–6.
Sing It! A Biography of Pete Seeger
By Meryl Danziger
(Seven Stories Press, 2016)
Singer and songwriter Pete Seeger said: “It’s true that music can help distract you from your troubles. But some music helps you understand your troubles, and some music can help you do something about your troubles.” Born in 1919, Seeger devoted his life to promoting understanding and activism through music. He was one of the most important musicians of the 20th century.
New York City music teacher Meryl Danziger realized that few of her students had heard Seeger’s name. With his approval and extensive feedback on the manuscript, Danziger has written an engaging chapter book with her students in mind. Upper elementary and beyond.
High School Readers
The Door at the Crossroads
By Zetta Elliott
(Rosetta Press, 2016)
In this sequel to A Wish After Midnight, two Brooklyn teenagers (Genna and Judah) travel back in time to enslavement and resistance in the South, the Civil War, and the Black community of Weeksville during the New York City Draft Riots. Offering much more than the traditional teenage novel, The Door at the Crossroads invites readers to compare Black lives then and now. In what ways are the struggles similar? Different? Where does the spirit of Weeksville live on in communities today? Elliott’s deep knowledge of 19th-century history makes this book of speculative historical fiction an eye-opening read for high school students and adults.
By Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner
When we speak of developing climate justice curriculum, most fundamentally that means putting the experiences and voices of frontline peoples at the center. The poetry of Marshall Islands writer and professor Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner brings the pain and resistance of Pacific Islanders into our classrooms. Her website offers a valuable trove of videos of her performing her poems along with the text. In “Tell Them,” performed at the Paris climate change talks and featured on Democracy Now!, Jetnil-Kijiner offers a cri de cœur about the impact of climate change on her islands:
you tell them about the water
how we have seen it rising flooding across our cemeteries
gushing over the sea walls and crashing against our homes
tell them what it’s like to see the entire ocean level with the land
we are afraid
“All the Real Indians Died Off” and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker
(Beacon Press, 2016)
As Dunbar-Ortiz and Gilio-Whitaker explain: “Most U.S. citizens’ knowledge about Indians is inaccurate, distorted, or limited to elementary school textbooks, cheesy old spaghetti westerns, or more contemporary films like Dances with Wolves or The Last of the Mohicans.” All the Real Indians Died Off is an astute and lively primer of European-Indian relations. “Columbus the Discoverer,” the “welcoming Thanksgiving,” Indian “savagery,” “benevolent presidents,” the “gift of reservations,” “honoring” Native Americans with sports mascots, “casinos have made Indians rich”—Dunbar-Ortiz and Gilio-Whitaker brilliantly dissect these and other myths. These myths are not just unfortunate. They legitimate the ongoing oppression and exploitation of this country’s First Nations people. The language is not always high school student friendly, but every teacher will learn lots from this fine book.
Dirt & Deeds in Mississippi
Directed by David Shulman
(California Newsreel, 2015)
The documentary Dirt & Deeds tells the little-known story of the land-owning Black farmers who were the backbone of the modern Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Most stories of 1960s organizing highlight the role of young activists. Missing from the picture is their relationship with Black farmers who risked their lives and livelihood by putting up their land as collateral to get voting rights workers out of jail. In addition, most freedom schools and voter registration workshops were on Black-owned land. Dirt & Deeds highlights the community of Mileston in the Mississippi Delta, where most Black farmers obtained their land from an all-too-rare New Deal initiative. This is one of the most important new films on the Civil Rights Movement in many years.