It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). 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.
These two picturebooks deal with what it means to be different from everyone else. Both books also demonstrate how sharing stories either from one’s cultural roots or from books that one has read – can prove to be liberating and serve to normalize differentness.
Mariama: Different But Just The Same [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Jeronimo Cornelles Illustrated by Nivola Uya Translated by Jon Brokenbrow
Published by Cuento De Luz (2015) Title in Spanish Mariama: Diferente Pero Igual
ISBN: 8416147604 (ISBN13: 9788416147601). Borrowed from Zayed Central Library. Book photos taken by me.
Mariama is from a little village called Fulakunda in Gambia (which I have only just figured out by reading the Illustrator’s Dedication). She and her family have moved to a far away country “after a long journey by car, train, boat and plane.”
Things were very strange for Mariama, especially when she attended school where she does not speak and understand the language. Even the food and how people eat are very different too. When Mariama felt overwhelmed, her mother gave her a very helpful advice:
“Well, you have to tell your new friends that in this great big world, there are lots of other places that we sometimes don’t pay attention to and forget. If you talk about your land, nobody will forget your people.”
I like how determined Mariama is to learn about her new country, while at the same time she followed her mother’s advice on sharing stories to her new friends about the country where she came from. I teach a PhD course on Teaching Learners with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds and this particular book is a clear reflection of what it means to be both culturally and linguistically diverse in a classroom setting.
Perhaps my only peeve is how Mariama was continually depicted to be from Africa. I would have wanted more stories about her little village, Fulakunda, rather than the repeated mention of Africa – given how there is also diversity even from within the same continent.
The Day You Begin [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Jacqueline Woodson Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books (2018)
ISBN: 0399246533 (ISBN13: 9780399246531). Literary Awards: Charlotte Zolotow Award Nominee for Highly Commended (2019), Jane Addams Children’s Book Award for Younger Children (2019), Monarch Award Nominee (2020), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Picture Books (2018). Borrowed from Singapore National Library Board Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.
The opening sentence of this book is like a mentor text in writing: clear, concise, powerful:
There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.
From that sentence alone, one can already sense the courage it takes someone who feels different to begin and face the day, and walk into a room where most everyone look and sound the same, except one’s self.
But then again, sometimes, it isn’t just the way one looks, or speaks, or where one is from. It could be the fact that everyone else have gone somewhere grand or exotic during the summer break, while one is stuck at home, caring for one’s younger sibling, and reading books. I love the image above – while there is desolation and longing, the book that the girl is holding seems like a talisman of sorts, allowing her to fly free like the birds in the skies.
It is a story’s capacity for redemption and pride and courage that spoke to me so, as the image above. I cherish the fact that books such as these exist. Find it, hug it close to you, and read it aloud to someone who will feel comforted by its truths.
#ReadIntl2020 Update: 18 of 30 (country): Mexico (Rafael Lopez is from Mexico)
Jacqueline Woodson is a person of color. Jeronimo Cornelles & Nivola Uya are both from Spain.