The late Caldecott award-winning children’s book author Ezra Jack Keats is remembered today as a pioneer who broke barriers and introduced more diversity in mainstream children’s literature. Continuing his work, his foundation each year recognizes a children’s book writer and an illustrator for their exceptional work that reflect the experience of childhood in our diverse culture. And so it is our pleasure to feature the 31st annual Ezra Jack Keats Book Award winners for new writer and new illustrator, as well as the three honor winners in this special edition of our book reviews. For lesson plans related to the works of Ezra Jack Keats, visit http://www.ezra-jack-keats.org/lesson-plans/lesson-plans/
“A PIECE OF HOME”
Publisher: Candlewick Press
When Hee Jun moves with his family to West Virginia from Korea, it’s hard to adjust. In Korea he was a “regular” boy; now he is different. In fact, everything is different. His sister has tantrums in school; his grandmother seems older. Eventually, Hee Jun learns to speak English and makes friends. Invited to a schoolmate’s house, he spots a familiar flower from his grandmother’s garden in Korea. He brings a shoot to his grandmother, and they plant “a piece of home.” The subtle illustrations by Hyewon Yum record the gradual changes in Hee Jun as he gains confidence.
“DANIEL FINDS A POEM”
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Random House)
This book beautifully conveys the idea that poetry is all around us, wherever we can see it or just feel it. On Monday, Daniel sees that there will be a poetry recital in the park next Sunday, and he wants to participate. Everyday he encounters a different creature in the park—a spider, a squirrel and so on—and asks what each one thinks poetry is. Of course, each species has a different answer, and their input in invaluable because by Sunday, Daniel is ready with a poem. The rich, colorful illustrations leave Daniel’s ethnicity open to the reader’s interpretation.
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Ed is the dog in a family full of super-talented kids, but Ed feels excluded from certain family activities, like eating at the table, going on trips and using the bathroom. But why can’t he? Could it be because he doesn’t have any special talents? Ed tries and fails to copy the family’s talents but finally discovers that he has his own—like gobbling up food dropped on the floor—and he is definitely appreciated. While any and all dog-loving children will enjoy Ed’s quest for excellence, the lively illustrations by Julia Sarcone-Roach reveal that his human companions are African-American.
“THE GIRL WITH THE PARROT ON HER HEAD”
Publisher: Candlewick Press
When her best friend moves away, Isabel is lonely. Fortunately, the parrot on her head helps her deal with loneliness, fear and making new friends. And Isabel has a system: she’ll sort everything from wolves to the dark itself into boxes and push them into the corner of her room. That will work, right? The child’s perspective is clear in the witty illustrations and the blending of real life and make-believe, which leaves ample room for children’s questions and an adults’ reassurances. The kids in the book are illustrated to have rich brown skin with which readers of various ethnicities can identify.
Publisher: Flying Eye Books
A boy recounts his family’s travels from their war-torn home, which is a city close to the sea that is never named, to someplace that will take them in after everything he knows is plunged into chaos. Their world has been completely upended by overwhelming and mysterious forces. By illuminating that world through the eyes of a child, this book makes these experiences more accessible and bearable, if still frightening, to young readers. Yet sensitive storytelling and beautiful illustrations still leave room for hope, even without the reassurance of the typical storybook happy ending. “The Journey” has been endorsed by Amnesty International.
“ACADEMIC PROFILING: LATINOS, ASIAN AMERICANS, AND THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP”
by Gilda L. Ochoa
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press
In “Academic Profiling Latinos, Asian Americans, and the Achievement Gap,” Gilda L. Ochoa, a professor of Chicana/o-Latina/o studies and sociology at Pomona College, addresses the so-called achievement gap by going directly to the source. At one California public high school where this controversy is lived daily, Ochoa turns to the students, teachers and parents to learn about the very real disparities—in areas like opportunity, status, treatment and assumptions—that lead to more than just gaps in achievement. When she shares the results of her research with the high school, the reader sees the new possibilities—and limits—of real change.
“A WOMAN’S GUIDE TO COLLEGE: NAVIGATING THE TERRAIN TO A BETTER LIFE”
by Carla Andrews-O’Hara
Publisher: BookSurge, LLC
“A Woman’s Guide to College: Navigating the Terrain to a Better Life” is more than a “go back to school; you can do it” message. Rather it is an inspirational how-to guide that takes its reader from the beginning—thinking about going back to school—and addresses every concern and consideration that might be in the way of achieving goals. What makes this book truly inspiring are the dramatic yet everyday stories shared by women who were afraid to return to college and feared their ability to handle the coursework yet found the courage to move forward and change their lives.
“NICARAGUA: EMERGING FROM THE SHADOW OF THE EAGLE 6TH EDITION”
by Thomas W. Walker and Christine J. Wade
Publisher: Westview Press
“Nicaragua: Emerging From the Shadow of the Eagle 6th Edition” details the country’s unique history, culture, economics, politics and foreign relations. With historical coverage spanning from colonial times through the Sandinista Revolution and the FSLN’s consolidation of power in the 21st century, this book offers an accessible overview of modern Nicaragua. The thoroughly revised sixth edition now features a chronological organization in addition to new material that covers political, economic and social developments that have happened since 2011, including the 2011 presidential elections, the FSLN’s wide-ranging constitutional reforms, the Ortega administration’s record on gender equality and the controversial interoceanic canal project.
“MEXICAN COAL MINING LABOR IN TEXAS AND COAHUILA, 1880-1930”
by Roberto R. Calderón
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
The years 1880 to 1930 mark the period in time in Texas’ coal mining era during which the system of mining for coal by hand was both established and eliminated, giving way to a new era of advancing technologies and methods used in mines on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border. “Mexican Coal Mining Labor in Texas and Coahuila, 1880-1930” presents a transnational comparative framework for understanding the complex matrix of mining, investment capital, labor markets, railroad construction and racial ideology in Texas and Coahuila, Mexico, during a period of economic growth and social disruption on both sides of the border.