Community Highlight: Anansesem Introduces Starred Review

Anansesem May 2018 Issue Cover.png

Hi all,

The summer months may seem quiet at times, but really there’s a veritable buzz of activity.  In the world of children’s literature, authors, illustrators, publishers, reviewers, librarians, and even teachers (whose summer breaks are rarely ever actual breaks) are hard at work pushing for diversity, representation and accuracy. Anansesem is in this vanguard.

A brief aside for those unfamiliar with the organization. In their own words,

Anansesem is an online magazine devoted to Caribbean children’s and young adult literature written by both new and established writers. It was founded in 2010 to encourage the writing and illustration of Caribbean literature for and by young people. Major issues are published twice a year in .pdf format while guest posts and online-only features are published throughout the year. 

We are proud to have published some of the most distinctive and distinguished voices in Caribbean literature for young people. Previous contributors to the ezine have included Alix Delinois, Floella Benjamin, Ibi Zoboi, Itah Sadu, Lynn Joseph, Margarita Engle, Nadia L. Hohn, Olive Senior, Tracey Baptiste, Vashanti Rahaman and Verna Wilkins. 

The ezine invites submissions of Caribbean short stories, poetry and illustrations for children regardless of the geographical location of either the author or characters. We also publish book reviews, interviews and non-fiction. Submissions by Caribbean citizens get first priority.

We’re huge fans of Anansesem here at Vamos a Leer, and frequently turn to them to help contextualize and better understand the Caribbean literature that crosses our desks. Their latest announcement has us even more over the moon than usual. They’ve introduced starred reviews! This means that they’re putting the power of meaningful and informed reviews back in the hands of the Caribbean community. Read more about why they’re doing this, what they aim to achieve, and how they’ll go about it, in the announcement from Summer Edward, Anansesem editor-in-chief: Introducing the Anansesem Starred Review (And Giving Caribbean Books For Young People The Reviews They Deserve).

Their May issue (forthcoming) introduces starred reviews for Marti’s Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertad by Emma Otheguy and Beatriz Vidal, The Field by Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara, All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Mike Curato, and Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender. The issue also includes, among other items, spotlights on illustrators Lulu Delacre and Rosa Colán Guerra. Check their website for the full PDF (nominal cost associated) or a free sample of the publication.

Happy reading,
Keira

¡Mira, Look!: Malaika’s Costume

Buenos días!

We are excited to be back with our book reviews. Throughout the semester we will be interweaving book reviews in both English and Spanish, between our new blog member, Santi, and me. Santi will be writing reviews in Spanish, and I will be writing them in English. Since it’s February, the month of love, we will start by bringing you book reviews surrounding the theme of love for community.

Today we are excited to bring you a review of Malaika’s Costume, written by Nadia L. Hohn and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher. This book is an Honorable Mention recipient of the 2017 Américas Award. It tells the story of Malaika, a young girl in Jamaica living with her granny while her mummy works in Canada to provide for them. In the story, Malaika is struggling with not having a costume for carnival, one of the most exciting festivals in her town. Malaika’s worries and frustrations with the costume are interwoven with missing her mummy, struggling to allow her granny to fill that motherly role, and optimistic expectations of no longer having financial issues since her mummy is working in Canada. In the end, Malaika and her granny find a resolution and Malaika dances beautifully in Carnival.

Luxbacher’s illustrations are absolutely breathtaking. I appreciated Malaika’s imaginative rendering of cold and snowy Canada, and how it contrasts her warm and colorful Jamaican hometown. The imaginative aspect of the illustrations mirrors Malaika’s personality. Hohn’s book as a whole explains important issues that countless children face with parents working from afar to provide for their families.

Also, her description of complex relationships from a child’s perspective is refreshing and necessary within today’s multicultural society. Furthermore, Malaika’s day-to-day interactions with neighbors and extended family members give us cultural insight to life in small-town Jamaica. Hohn includes definitions of different words she uses for understanding the cultural context of the text, including explanations of different types of music, instruments, characters and foods. Although the story is told from Malaika’s point of view, the last page’s illustration allows us to place her mother within the story, and better understand her love for her daughter.

I highly recommend checking out Nadia Hohn’s biography on her website. Nadia’s passion for children’s book diversity led her to publish Malaika’s Costume.

She teaches French, music, and the arts at the Africentric Alternative School where she has been an inaugural staff member since its opening in 2009.  She has taught in Toronto public schools since 2003. Out of her classroom and personal experiences, Hohn crafted edited two literary resources for teaching about Black heritage to grades 4-8, titled SANKOFA, which could be great for teaching this month, given that we are entering Black Heritage Month. Out of the resources in the guide, the SANKOFA Music book would pair well with Malaika’s Costume. While the music book must be purchased, Hohn also offers a number of free strategies for how to engage students with Malaika’s story.

Teachers interested in using this book with their students might also turn to the Smithsonian’s educator materials, particularly their lesson plan (grades 3-5), titled “The Sounds of an Island: Jamaican Music for the Classroom.” You can also explore excerpts of calypso rock songs by the famous Jamaican calypsonians, Horace Johnson & The Eagle Star, on the Smithsonian Folkways site. For quick reference, here is a full audio recording of Horace Johnson’s music. These resources pair with Malaika’s Costume given that this colorful children’s book is as much about music and dance as it is about family. During the Carnival celebrations that inspired the book, the street is full of soca and calypso – musical traditions that are explained on the website for the Trinidad and Tobago’s National Library and Information System.

If you enjoyed this book, we recommend that you check out the sequel, Malaika’s Winter Costume. Here is a promotional video for the sequel, which shows photos of Carnival in Jamaica.

Saludos,

Kalyn

 


Images Modified From Malaika’s Costume: Pages 3, 7, 29, 30

¡Mira Look!: Haiti My Country

Image result for haiti my countrySaludos todos! This week I will be reviewing Haiti My Country, a collection of poems written by a variety of Haitian school children, illustrated by Rogé and translated from the French by Solange Messier. As we continue with our February theme of love, including love of self, love of community, and love of others, to name a few, this book resonates primarily with themes of love of country and love of nature. Through each individual and unique poem, these children express pride in their country, adoration for its natural beauty, and, ultimately, the love that they have for themselves and for their own particular identities.

haiti-1This book on Haiti also harkens us back to my February posts from last year, where I used Black History Month as an opportunity to focus my book reviews for the month on books about Haiti, a country that is sometimes overlooked in our studies of Latin America. Of course, Afro-Latino culture and populations are prominent in all countries of Latin America, however Haiti’s history and society stands apart, as the majority of the population is made up of Afro-descendents, and it was the first country in the Americas to lead a successful slave rebellion. Some of my posts from last year include, Sélavi / That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope, Eight Days, A Story of Haiti, Running the Road to ABC, and Children of Yayoute. You may also be interested in Keira’s post on Resources to Teach about Haiti and Afro-Caribbean Cultures, or  Charla‘s post on Teaching about Haiti with Love. While Haiti My Country fits in with out general theme of love for this month, it also helps us remember and link back to some great resources and teaching plans from last year.

Continue reading

¡Mira, Look!: Author’s Corner: Edwidge Danticat

edwidge danticat

Saludos todos! As many of you know, once a month we like to take the time to give special attention to our featured authors and their writing. This week we are featuring Edwidge Danticat, the prolific, inspiring author of many children’s, young adult, and adult books, whom many of you may also recognize from several of my previous ¡Mira, Look! posts. Danticat is originally from Haiti and her books often deal with the culture of Haiti and the immigrant experience, providing a wealth of information on the country’s history, culture and current events.

Here is a short synopsis from Goodreads of Danticat’s life and her abundant accomplishments:

Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was twelve. She is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist; and The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States and The Beacon Best of 2000: Great Writing by Men and Women of All Colors and Cultures

Continue reading

Reading Roundup: 10 Afro-Caribbean Children’s and Young Adult Books

Feb 2016 Afro-Caribbean Narrative

¡Buenos días!

I hope everyone is having a great week! I’m glad to be back with our Reading Roundup. This month’s list goes with our theme of Afro-Caribbean narratives. In the spirit of Black History Month, we are highlighting the importance of inclusive conversations in the classroom focused on race and diverse narratives, with a focus on civil rights. As Keira emphasized in her Sobre Febrero post, it’s important for these conversations to continue beyond the “heritage month” period, and so I hope that you’ll use this Reading Roundup list as year-round inspiration in your classroom.

While compiling these titles, I took extra care to include books that simultaneously celebrate the cultural diversity and richness of Afro-Caribbean peoples and acknowledge their difficult histories, including narratives related to slavery, repression, and what it means to be a part of a diaspora community in exile.  Together or individually, I’m hopeful that these titles will prompt meaningful conversations with and among your students.  Below are a few resources that may be helpful as you undertake that effort (thanks to Charla for her earlier posts highlighting some of these materials!) Continue reading

¡Mira Look!: Children of Yayoute

children of yayouteSaludos, todos! We are concluding this month’s theme of books on Haiti with a historical treat from the late Haitian artist and writer, François Turenne des Près (1907-1990), who is considered one of Haiti’s greatest painters. After his death in 1990, his son, Josquin des Près, uncovered his father’s collection of Haitian folktales and decided to compile the materials into a collection of stories for children. He complemented the stories with paintings of everyday Haitian life which his father had produced throughout his lifetime. According to a review by Publisher’s Weekly, “The legacy of the late Haitian artist and writer Turenne Des Près (1907-1990) is vibrantly preserved in this beautifully produced collection of 12 folktales. The stories, originally published in Haiti in 1949 without illustrations, are paired here with paintings culled from the more than 300 works executed by Turenne Des Pres.”

des Pres 6

Although this book is meant for children, adults will also enjoy its amazing historical import. As stated by Publisher’s Weekly, “The book has the sophisticated feel of a museum catalogue, yet it is zesty enough to maintain a child’s attention.” For younger readers, it would be best as a read-aloud; older children may want to read it independently. Continue reading

WWW: Teaching about Haiti with Love

¡Feliz viernes a todos!

I am so happy you are reading today because I am showcasing a great resource from Teaching for Change, which is another blogging site full of great teaching guides and supporting resources for the classroom. This week, to honor our themes of Afro-Caribbean cultures, Black History Month, Haiti, love and community, I am highlighting their resource for Teaching about Haiti. Because of all the supporting documents available through the page, this resource makes including Haiti in classroom discussion even easier! According to Teaching for Change, “It is important for students to gain a deeper understanding of the history and the roots of…Haiti. The U.S has been involved with Haiti for centuries, yet it has received little attention in textbooks or the curriculum. Part of our commitment to the people of Haiti can be to not only increase our support but also our awareness. As informed citizens, we can advocate for respectful and constructive relations with Haiti in the months and years ahead.” Continue reading

WWW: Stand up, Stand together

¡Feliz viernes a todos!

Thanks for joining me again this week! While this month has not been focused directly on activism, I have still been showcasing some resources on activism and Haiti, tying our themes from this month and the last together. My first two posts this year showed activism in forms that were different than the protesting we might immediately associate with the word. However, since we at Vamos a Leer are focusing on loving one another, community, and self-love, this week’s post will be focused on the Haitians and Haitian-American activists who are standing (quite literally) in protest with Dominicans of Haitian descent in the recent Dominican Republic-Haiti Deportation crisis. For those of you who have not heard about this, you can learn more from Michele Wucker’s article or from this NPR broadcast. This crisis, which involves the mass deportations of thousands of “Dominican-born Haitians,” or second/third generation Dominicans of Haitian lineage, is sparking upset globally. After spending this past summer learning Haitian Creole and visiting the country for myself, I am particularly invested in this topic. But more than anyone, Haitian and Haitian-American activists are upset and are taking a stand on the behalf of Dominican-born Haitians. Continue reading

¡Mira Look!: Running the Road to A B C

Children's Book Review: Running the Road to A B C by Denizé Lauture | Vamos a LeerSaludos, todos! This week’s featured book is Running the Road to ABC, written by Haitian author Denizé Lauture and illustrated by Reynold Ruffins. With stunning illustrations and compelling lyrical prose, this wonderful picture book tells the story of six Haitian children and the miles they travel to get to school. In doing so, Lauture’s tale takes readers on a visual and poetic journey of Haiti’s various landscapes, both geographical and social. While exposing some of the present-day hardships in Haiti, such as running barefoot over rough terrain to get to school, Lauture proudly depicts values such as strength, determination, and a love of learning.

abc 2Lauture introduces his book by dedicating it “To all children who, smiling and laughing,/ laughing and singing,/ singing and smiling,/ stand tall at the golden thresholds of their lives/ and welcome learning and teaching,/ and teaching and learning,/ as the two most endearing experiences in life.” A love and dedication to learning is certainly at the crux of this tale. As Lauture openly embraces the beauty in teaching and learning, his lovely, undulating prose is in itself didactic. Throughout the tale Lauture makes ample use of repetition and symmetrical sentence structures (such as “learning and teaching,/ and teaching and learning”), which can help young readers remember new vocabulary, keep up with the story, and witness the flexibility and playfulness of words. In addition, his long, flowing sentences tend to continue on and on without punctuation, reflecting the long and persistent, yet melodically joyful journey of the schoolchildren. Moreover, the lack of punctuation may reflect the cadence of Haitian Creole, which is generally not a written language. As a result, Lauture’s prose suggests a melody that would make the story perfect for reading out loud—a treat for listeners, and a celebration of Haiti’s rich oral tradition. Continue reading

WWW: Reparations and Confronting the Legacy of Slavery in the Island Nation Known as the First Black Republic

¡Feliz viernes a todos!

Another week has gone by already! And just like that, we are into February. Thanks for reading again. Hopefully 2016 has gone smoothly for everyone reading! I know we are feeling the pace increase a bit here.

As February takes hold, and many classrooms turn to studies of Black History and the Civil Rights Movement, we at Vamos a Leer are turning our focus to the history of Afro-Latinos and Afro-Caribbean people. In this post in particular, I am addressing (very briefly) the widespread history of slavery and its implications particularly within Haiti and other Caribbean countries.

Besides open immigration flows, there are people of African descent in every country in the Western Hemisphere in large measure because Africans were taken forcibly as slaves and transported from Africa to the Americas from the 15th to the 19th century, used as human barter in exchange for goods, spices, and outright income. As slaves, Africans were treated as goods; they were bought, sold, traded, beaten and killed for disobeying unjust rules and regulations set by their owners. Side bar: we acknowledge that this is a difficult topic to teach, but also want to emphasize how necessary it is to have these conversations in our classrooms. For a brief overview of what to keep in mind when teaching about slavery writ large, see the article “Tongue-Tied” by Teaching Tolerance. Continue reading