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 speak of joy, friendship, and finding hope and beauty in everyday things. They surface voices of young children of colour, filled with courage and wrapped in multiple languages speaking truth.
Layla’s Happiness [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie Illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin
Published by Enchanted Lion Books (2019)
ISBN: 1592702880 (ISBN13: 9781592702886). Bought a copy. Book photos taken by me.
Layla’s name means “night beauty” – and throughout the story, it is evident how this girl is filled not only with beauty, but with unmitigated joie-de-vivre.
In this conversation with creators Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and artist Ashleigh Corrin, they described their active collaborative work in this book project, which is quite unusual for the creation of a picturebook where author and illustrator usually work autonomously from each other. As Black women, they are committed to surfacing joyful voices of Black children and ensuring that Layla’s Happiness shines through the pages.
Layla also spoke of her father who is from South Carolina, and her mother who reads poetry to her. This moved me deeply as it characterizes my own relationship with my daughter with whom I often read poetry to.
It is a book that speaks of joy coming from forgotten things, it is a wide-armed celebration of purples and plums, and the connections made with the outdoors, friends, and dancing the salsa “under the magnolia tree.”
The book ends with a poignant question, asking the reader “what is happiness to you?” I see a lot of potential conversations with young readers after reading this story: articulating the many things that gives us happiness, the little things that provide us a measure of peace.
The Day Saida Arrived [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written By Susana Gomez Redondo Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer Translated by Lawrence Schimel
Published by Blue Dot Kids Press(2020)
ISBN: 1733121250 (ISBN13: 9781733121255). Copy provided by translator. Book photos taken by me.
Saida does not speak the language of her new home. Her family came from “a land of bazaars and archways and colorful tiles.” It is not surprising then that Saida spoke in a language of tears and grief – for all that she has lost – and the strangeness of the new city that she has difficulty understanding. Paradoxically, Saida’s name means happy in Arabic.
After, I kept looking for her words,
to see if between us,
the words and me,
we might untie her laughter,
and her voice.
The story is told from the perspective of Saida’s friend, who had taken it upon herself to know Saida and her voice and the words she speaks. This is a beautiful story of openness and compassion, courage and vulnerability, learning and discovery.
I love the introduction to Arabic words (sorely needed by this reader) and the innocent and playful way through which an intimacy blossomed through languages that can not be more different from each other, yet bound together in faith and friendship. This is one of the most beautiful stories I read this year. Make sure you find it.
#ReadIntl2020 Update: Both author and illustrator of Layla’s Happiness are POC from the United States of America.
The Day Saida Arrived: Susana Gomez Redondo is from Spain, Sonja Wimmer is from Germany – book translated from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel.