Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Check Off your Reading List Challenge 2014.


Click here to sign up. Here is the January-March linky where you can link up your reviews or updates from your reading list.

We are also very excited to share that Pansing Books will be giving away copies of Hugless Douglas World Book to two lucky CORL participants from Jan-March. So link up your posts now!


Click the image below to be taken to the World Book Day Website for more information. Celebration is on 6 March 2014! What are your plans for World Book Day?

Carrie Gelson of There is a Book for That is also hosting #mustreadin2014.


Yesterday, we launched our new theme until the end of April. I used the first book (Nadia’s Hands) as part of my text-set for my course module entitled Use of Multicultural Children’s Books to Promote Socio-emotional Learning in the Classroom. 

My students, consisting of higher-degree students taking their Masters/PhD degree had mixed responses to Nadia’s Hands, but I still thought of sharing both books with you to see if you’ve used any of them in your primary/secondary classrooms. I’m interested to know how children responded to the books.

IMG_1695Nadia’s Hands

Written by: Karen English Illustration by: Jonathan Weiner
Published by: Boyds Mills Press, 1999.
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

I came upon this title in quite a number of professional development texts that look into multicultural titles. The Note found at the start of the book explains that the protagonist in the story, Nadia, is a Pakistani-American girl. And there is a glossary of terms that include the meaning of certain words used throughout the narrative, how to pronounce them, and what they mean.

Nadia is one of the flower girls for her Auntie Laila’s wedding. Her older cousins who have “been there and done that” were quite helpful in their warnings about preventing frozen feet, how to sprinkle rose petals just so, and what kinds of food to avoid so that she will not get sick before the actual march to the altar.


No one told her, though, that her hands will be painted over with mehndi for this special occasion. The glossary of terms defines mehndi as such:

mehndi (MEHN-dee): a paste made from the leaves of the henna tree. It can be applied to women’s hands. When it dries, the paste turns the hands an orange or dark red color. Pakistani women draw elaborate designs with mehndi for festive occasions.

Instead of being thrilled, Nadia found the entire experience quite surreal as she was tasked to sit still and be patient (sabr) as flowers, swirls, and stars were painted onto her hands.


Nadia looked down. She had amber hands with deep orange flowers and swirls and stars. Her hands did not look like her hands. They looked as if they belonged to someone else. She didn’t want these hands that didn’t look like her hands.

Nadia was also concerned about what her classmates would say when she goes back to school the following week. What actually happened during the wedding and what happened to Nadia’s hands I shall leave for you to discover dear friends.

A few of my students who share the same cultural tradition as Nadia shared with me that they were not that moved by the book. It simply did not resonate with them. I suppose it would have made a lot of difference if the author and the illustrator shared more details about why this book was meaningful for them, what made them write this story, and a few more pertinent facts about this particular cultural tradition.

Yetsa’s SweaterIMG_1755

Written By: Sylvia Olsen Illustrated by: Joan Larson 
Published by: Sononis Press, 2006
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

Yetsa and her mother are on their way to Grandma’s house. Yetsa is pretty excited as her grandmother lives near the beach (which Yetsa loves) and she enjoys helping her Grandmother prepare the wool that would be used for the making of sweaters.

When they arrived, Grandma is in her backyard with a huge round-bellied pot, quite similar to a witch’s cauldron filled with water to give the various-coloured fleeces a thorough bath.


I had to laugh when I read the part about Yetsa pulling out a handful of dirt from the fleece – which turned out to be sheep poop. Yuck indeed, but very authentic too. The beautiful images all demonstrate the varied stages of how fleece is washed, soaped, rinsed, wrung out to dry, transformed into big woolly clouds, teased by hand to be more fluffy, ran through a carding machine, then spun, and eventually turned into balls of woolen yarn.


In contrast to the first book which had little background information, this picturebook contains a fairly detailed explanation of what Cowichan sweaters are and the Coast Salish women from British Columbia who have been knitting the sweaters for over a hundred years. Further historical information can be found in the Author’s Note at the end of the story:

In the late 19th century, Scottish settlers came to British Columbia and introduced Coast Salish women to the art of knitting. The women were already skilled and artful woolworkers, having woven Coast Salish blankets for centuries. The knitted sweaters the women quickly learned to make became known as Cowichan sweaters, largely because the Cowichan were the most populated tribe in the region.

Yetsa also happens to be the author’s granddaughter and is said to be the sixth generation of a family of Coast Salish knitters.  Yetsa’s great grandmother, Laura Olsen, is said to still continue to knit beautiful sweaters at 90 years of age.


Currently Reading…


I was not able to finish this book when I borrowed it a year ago. I thought of coming back to it now as I have a feeling that it connects to our theme quite nicely: The selected works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen.



Reading Challenge Update: 38, 39 (25)

*** Video ads other readers may find at the bottom of this post are NOT endorsed by GatheringBooks but are randomly included by WordPress to maintain their site. ***

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

6 comments on “[Monday Reading] Of Painted Hands and Cowichan Sweaters

  1. A great theme- and you can definitely do themes within themes for this one. I should look for Yetsa’s Sweater since the illustrations really caught my eye- very expressive! Have a great reading week!


  2. Wow, Yetsa’s Sweater looks lovely, excellent book for children who want to learn where things come from plus enjoy cultural book! Thanks… Happy reading!


  3. Yetsa’s Sweater is a completely new title to me. It looks great. I will have to get a copy. Thanks.


  4. What a wonderful pile of picture books! I keep looking for Count the Monkeys and Sophie’s Squash at the library. I may have to request them through interlibrary loan. I’m very interested in the new theme, of course, and can’t wait to read posts about it. I also enjoy reading about what you’re doing in your classes. I’m disgruntled with my Children’s Lit class right now and wanting to write a post about it. Maybe later in the week. Enjoy your reading this week!


  5. Myra, you’ve posted so many interesting books here! They all look so interesting! I’ve read 6 of them (all in the collage), but not the others. I need to see what the library’s got. Thanks 😀


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: