Books Early Readers Features Genre Lifespan of a Reader Middle Grade Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes Voices From The Fringe: Social Justice

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Art, Resistance, and “My Night In The Planetarium”

"A true story about a child, a play, and the art of resistance."

Nonfiction+Picture+Book+Challenge+2020

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2020 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.


My Night In The Planetarium (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written and Illustrated by Innosanto Nagara
Published by Triangle Square(2016)
ISBN: 1609807006 (ISBN13: 9781609807009). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.

My research team and I have been going through eight major award-winning lists of titles over the past ten years, including the Pura Belpre, the Orbis Pictus, Jane Addams, Middle East, and the Freeman Book Awards – of which this particular book won an award.

Innosanto Nagara is no stranger to me. I own a copy of his A Is For Activist, which was followed by Counting for Community (which I have yet to read and find)so I am aware that he publishes children’s books that have ‘revolutionary’ or ‘social justice’ themes.

This picturebook biography not only narrates an exciting snapshot of Innosanto’s childhood, it also serves as a lovely tribute to his home country, Indonesia. As you can see in the image above, the sense of pride (and possibly a tinge of homesickness) is palpable.

Innosanto’s voice is evident throughout the narrative: the light-heartedness, the biting humour, the stark simplicity that conveys a great deal. The image above is striking to me for a variety of reasons: it speaks of a leader who ruled with an “iron fist” and who used the military to instil fear and discourage dissent. This is all too familiar to me, with its parallels to what is currently happening in the Philippines.

Innosanto’s father, however, would not be silenced. He spoke out through his art, and one of his plays became exceedingly popular that the government had the military come to arrest him. Innosanto and his mother spent the evening in the planetarium as a way to avoid the undesirables who were chasing after them.

The narrative was devoid of needless drama, but it was matter-of-fact, truthful, with attempts to transform what could have been a harrowing experience to an adventure. It is not surprising that Innosanto Nagara would grow up to use his art to highlight activism, the power of community, and in this latest picturebook, the transformative capacity of art.


#ReadIntl2020 Update: 37 (out of target 30): Innosanto Nagara was born and raised in Indonesia before moving to the United States where he now lives.

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).

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