Sunday, January 26, 2014
Multicultural Children's Book Day - Review of Dreaming Up!
I'm SO excited about this event, folks - tomorrow, January 27, 2014 is Multicultural Children's Book Day. Dreamed up by the amazing bloggers Mia from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie from Jump Into a Book, this is an event designed to bring awareness and attention to the importance of multicultural literature in the world of children. You'll want to visit both Pragmatic Mom and Jump Into a Book tomorrow for all the Multicultural Children's Book Day festivities.
Of course you know this is an issue near and dear to my heart - the need for diversity in literature is what prompted me to begin writing Sprout's Bookshelf and what drives me to continue to seek out quality multicultural books for Sprout and other kids. I'm fortunate now to work in a library system, where a part of my job is ordering all the picture books for our branches. And I can tell you that, while there are some amazing multicultural books being published each year (you'll see proof of that from Multicultural Children's Book Day sponsors Susan Fayad and publishers Wisdom Tales, Chronicle Books, and Lee & Low), it's just not enough. Diverse books not only provide much-needed mirrors for children of color to see themselves reflected in literature, they also give white children a window into the experience of others. And that's vital if we are to raise sensitive, compassionate kids who are global citizens.
I read a whole lot of multicultural kids books over the course of a year and keep lists of hundreds more (check out our Pinterest boards for proof!), so it's never hard for me to find something to recommend when asked for a good pick. I find that some publishers are easy to rely on for thoughtful reads that incorporate diversity seamlessly into the storyline or characters. Lee & Low has long been a go-to publisher for me, and their recent book Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building was no exception. Author Christy Hale has pulled off an incredible feat with this title -- I mean, who would think that a book about architecture could be not only accessible to the picture-book set, but also a page-turner? But Dreaming Up is just such a book.
Right from the cover you know this title is going to be somewhat different. It features an illustration of a brown-skinned youngster building a block tower, against a field of photos of famous buildings. Inside, Hale presents the concept -- on the lefthand side of each spread, an image of children creating their own structures from familiar materials, and on the righthand side, a photograph of a landmark piece of architecture that mirrors the children's creation. Thus, kids who are stacking cups into spires are set opposite a photo of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur. A house of sticks built by two girls flanks a picture of the Bamboo Church in Cartagena, Colombia. And best of all, each spread features a snippet of poetry, artfully arranged in a way that sets off the shape of the building being shown, and which suits the tone of the landmark as well.
I'm hard pressed to say just how terrific this title is, as a resource and as an inspiration. Sprout's eyes lit up when we explained the concept to him. He was every bit as fascinated by the book itself as with the glossary at the end, which shows each building along with the architect who designed it, and gives a brief history of creator and creation. I especially love the quote Hale includes from architect Nader Khalili, who said, "Everything we need to build is in us, and in the place." To me, that sums up the essence of Dreaming Up -- that the seeds that are planted in children as they play, take root in later life, when inspiration of place and material are married with those early dreams.
I love the thought that Dreaming Up may inspire a generation of future architects, designers, engineers, creatives of every sort. And I especially love that when we looked at the faces of all these great men and women, who designed such iconic pieces of artwork, Sprout pointed out that, "They all look different, Mom. And that man (Ghanian architect David Adjaye) looks like me!" Therein, my friends, is the power of diversity -- the dream made possible, viewed through windows and in mirrors.
Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building, by Christy Hale, published by Lee & Low Books