#SurvivalStories2021 Books Early Readers Features Genre Lifespan of a Reader Middle Grade Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes Stories Of The Dispossessed

[Nonfiction Wednesday] Launch of April – June Reading Theme with some Sugar in Milk

... in "Jump At The Sun" - Zora Neale Hurston's picturebook biography.

Myra here.

We are delighted to dedicate our Wednesdays to featuring nonfiction titles, as per usual. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

We are pleased to launch our quarterly reading theme from April to June this year on Migrants, Exiles, Refugees: Stories Of The Dispossessed. Essentially, we are on the look-out for books with the following themes:

  1. Stories of exile and movement from one place to another – either by choice or by circumstance

  2. Narratives on im/migrants, belonging and exclusion

  3. Tales of people who are in transition and displaced from their homes

  4. Stories of seeking refuge and sanctuary and finding forever homes

  5. Narratives of loss and dispossession


Sugar In Milk (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Thrity Umrigar Illustrated by Khoa Le
Published by Running Press Kids (2020)
ISBN: 0762495197 (ISBN13: 9780762495191) Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I was really thrilled to find this book via Overdrive. While I am familiar with and own quite a few of Thrity Umrigar’s novels (yet to be read), this appears to be her first book for children. It is inspired by her own story of moving from India to the United States and how she felt terribly homesick for her own family and friends, despite her auntie and uncle doing everything in their power to make her feel welcome.

Not surprisingly, it was a story told by her Auntie that made the young girl feel somewhat differently about her new home. It is an ancient Persian folk tale that the author, Thrity, learned as she was growing up in India, and which she has seamlessly woven into the fabric of this narrative, breathing new life into it. Khoa Le’s artwork is superb here. I initially learned of her artistry in her picturebook The Cloud Princess (Amazon | Book Depository) and Sun and Moon Sisters (Amazon | Book Depository), and her fairly recent masterpiece, The Most Beautiful Thing (Amazon | Book Depository) which I am looking forward to featuring soon. I love seeing how Le’s artistry is evolving with every book she illustrates.

There is deceptive simplicity in this tale-within-a-tale of Persians who sought refuge in India, but was originally turned away by the King who used the metaphor of a cup filled to the brim with milk to demonstrate that there is no longer space in their “little, crowded kingdom.” The story also goes on to show how the two groups of people had to communicate via gestures and symbols because they did not understand each other’s language. The ingenious response of the Persian leader to the Indian king caught me sideways, and is a testament to the potential sweet beauty of different people living together in harmony.

It was the power of this tale that made the young girl perceive her world differently. While, of course, it might arguably pander to the grateful immigrant notion, I feel that it is still an effective narrative that could resonate with so many young people who may benefit from the wisdom that this ancient story holds.


#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 28 out of target 100

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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