It’s Monday, so it is time for my weekly round-up of the picture books that we have read. We are starting to do a lot of repeating, but those that are new fall all over the place. We are currently at 61 of 300! Thank you Child-Led Chaos for creating such a great thread!
Yesterday I gave you my official post for Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature. However, as I mentioned, the whole concept of celebrating diversity in children’s literature got me thinking about the bigger picture of the books we read and I wanted to focus my posts this week on other great books that we have happened upon that meet the multicultural theme. I want to point out that any book I happened to check out of the library (which is most of them) I picked up before deciding to focus on multicultural literature.
The main group of books I wanted to focus on that we read last week are from a book bag at the library about folk-tales. This is a great place to find multicultural texts. The four books that we read from the bag were Zomo The Rabbit, Only One Cowry, The Great Ball Game, and The Shadow of a Flying Bird.
Zomo The Rabbit is the tale of a trickster rabbit from West Africa. While the book only has animals, you do get the sense of the African theme from the colors that were chosen throughout the book and the fact that the animals are all black. Zomo was a clever rabbit who wanted wisdom. He asked the Sky God for wisdom and was told that he needed to earn it by doing three impossible things. He tricks the three animals he needs to get things from and finds that his lesson is “Three things in this world are worth having: courage, good sense and caution…Little rabbit, you have lots of courage, a bit of sense, but no caution. So next time you see Big Fish, or Wild Cow, or Leopard…better run fast!” Folktales are meant to teach lessons and this one explains why rabbits run fast and that all of our actions have consequences.
The Great Ball Game is a Native American story that tries to explain why birds fly south every winter and also teaches the lesson of acceptance. It is awesomely illustrated with mixed media art rather than straight drawings. The story itself revolves around an argument that the birds had with the animals over which was better, wings or teeth. They decide to have a ball game to decide the argument and the winning side will get to choose the penalty for the losing side. When the teams were formed, one creature was left out – the bat! He had wings and teeth, so where did he belong? First he went to the animals who said it wouldn’t be fair for them to take him since he has wings and must be a bird. The birds wouldn’t accept him because they said that he was too little to be of any help. He went back to the animals and begged to be on their team. Bear, being the wise animal he is, took pity on the bat knowing that “sometimes even the small ones can help.” In the end, it was because of Bat that the animals won and the punishment for the birds is that they had to leave this land for half of each year.
Only One Cowry is a Dahomean tale from Benin, Africa. The summary from Goodreads says “Dada Segbo, the first king of Dahomey, wants a bride. He can afford the finest gifts to bestow upon her family, but he prefers not to part with any of his wealth. So he offers only one cowry shell. How can he find a worthy bride for such a pittance?”I will find the king a wife for only one cowry”, promises Yo, a smart young fellow. And, trade by trade, he does.” But the woman who is to be the King’s bride is also a smart woman and when she finds out that the King only offered on Cowry for her dowry, she tricks him into sending food, wine and clothing for her entire village. It is a great tale and a very fun read.
The Shadow of a Flying Bird is drawn from a Kurdistani tale based on the Old Testament story of the death of Moses. This book was unexpected, but not necessarily in a good way. I had never heard a story of Moses begging G-d to allow him to live, even in another form. G-d tells Moses repeatedly that “everything born has a time to die.” There is a whole portion of Moses fighting to live and then various angels refusing to take his soul, which I am going to admit confused us. This is one of the few times I would have to say I wouldn’t pick it up again.
This is just a jumping off point. Some of my favorite folk-tales that we have read over the years include: Tikki Tikki Tembo, Anansi the Spider, Stone Soup, Something From Nothing, Abiyoyo, and of course all of the many Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and other classic tales retold by every culture.
For more information about Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature, please check out Jump Into a Book and Pragmatic Mom. The mission of this event is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. The event itself is sponsored by Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books, Chronicle Books, and Susan Daniel Fayad: Author of My Grandfather’s Masbaha.
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