#SurvivalStories2021 Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Joy and Peace in Literature Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Joyful (and Defiant) Dreams of Young Girls of Color in 2020 Picturebooks

"A Girl Like Me" by Angela Johnson and Nina Crews | "One Girl" by Andrea Beaty and Dow Phumiruk.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

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 (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. 

A Girl Like Me [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Angela Johnson Illustrations by Nina Crews
Published by Millbrook Press (2020)
ISBN: 1541557778 (ISBN13: 9781541557772) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

The story begins with young girls’ dreams – followed closely by how those dreams are systematically discouraged or diminished by societal norms and other people’s expectations:

Yet despite of, and maybe even because of, the words of discouragement received from the people around them, the girls in this story persist and go out of their way to do the unexpected.

There is this constant call to be like everybody else, to “get down here with the rest of us” – and to stop climbing upwards, onwards, reaching for the stars.

While I confess to not particularly liking the collage style used in the narrative – which might be compounded by the fact that I was reading it in an ebook format – I loved seeing the girls’ bright and happy faces, and reading their brief afterword where they described who they are and what they dream of being. The last several pages also disarmed me, with this empowering message of “making everything bigger than the dream.”

One Girl [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Andrea Beaty Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
Published by Harry N. Abrams (2020)
ISBN: 141971905X (ISBN13: 9781419719059) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

This gorgeous picturebook made it to my top favourite picturebooks read in 2020. While I loved Andrea Beaty’s Questioneers Picturebook Series (including Ada Twist, Scientist and Rosie Revere, Engineer just to cite a few), this one left me with my heart on my throat – probably because I see myself reflected in this brown, bright-eyed girl holding a book.

Each page contains only a few words: brief lines, describing how this luminous book that dropped out from the skies can prove to be transformative to this young girl who opened its pages and was forever changed by the experience.

While I generally dislike rhyming text – the surreal storytelling here is lyrical and simply defies poetic borders or boundaries. This universe of books illuminated so glowingly by Phumiruk also moved my sensibilities. I remember that as a young girl, I always had my nose buried in books: they were my friends and my deliverance from a home very much like the one depicted here – showing me entire lives and possibilities outside that which I can see from within the confines of my existence.

In the Author’s Note, Andrea Beaty explained the inspiration behind One Girl:

Everything we have ever known or might ever imagine can be held between the covers of a book. That knowledge is a precious and powerful thing. Education shares that power and helps its recipients become their most amazing selves. But what if someone is kept from an education? That is the situation for over one hundred and thirty million girls around the world. Factors like poverty, political situations, remote living, violence, and child marriage keep girls out of classrooms and stop them from reaching their full potential. 

The statistics shared by Beaty is sobering: imagine 130 million young girls deprived of education – and this continues up to the present time. The Author’s Note ends with a call to action, and a web resource where concerned readers can make a difference.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 16 / 17 out of target 100

(Dow Phumiruk is Thai American | both Angela Johnson and Nina Crews are POC)

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] Joyful (and Defiant) Dreams of Young Girls of Color in 2020 Picturebooks

  1. Definitely can’t think of picture books from my childhood that encouraged anyone to succeed, and it was rare to see BIPOC characters. These both look very encouraging.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I will have to find copies of these books for my five year old daughter. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not so sure about those collages either, but I do love the message of A Girl Like Me. One Girl looks wonderful. I only wish my library had either of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Whoa. The artwork in One Girl is phenomenal!! I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for this one, Myra. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I still haven’t read One Girl yet but someone else was just talking about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Completely Full Bookshelf

    What great books! The collage style of A Girl Like Me is a bit odd, but at least unique, and the message sounds really powerful. One Girl looks stunningly beautiful and powerful, and I’m glad you saw yourself in it—I know how powerful that can be. Thanks for the wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

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