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).


This is my first official post at GatheringBooks this year. I’ve missed writing down my thoughts on books and engaging with all you fellow bibliophiles! I hope you are having a safe and healthy 2022. The first few weeks of the year had thrown all of our best-laid plans out of whack, with the pandemic blindsiding us yet again. At any rate, I am excited to officially launch our reading theme for the year, which is somewhat related to our previous year’s on #SurvivalStories2021.

As I have noted in my progress page, similar to last year, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized

These two picturebooks published in 2021 provide the perfect opening to our reading theme. Both our grounded in painful truths yet deliberately hopeful; both are created by authors and illustrators whose narratives reclaim light and stars for communities of color.

Bright Star [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written and Illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Published by Neal Porter Books (2021)
ISBN: 0823443280 (ISBN13: 9780823443284). Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I have always been a huge fan of Yuyi Morales – she has a unique style to her art that is visually arresting, full-bodied, and celebrates brownness that makes me, as a reader, feel seen – and embraced. In this latest picturebook, the story begins with one’s tiny eyes opening into the morning. This full page spread below takes on a different nuance with all that is going on with the world.

The Afterword reveals that the main ‘characters’ in the story are actually this whitetail fawn who trustingly follows its mother in the Sonoran desert where other creatures thrive and live – the gorgeous setting made otherworldly and ethereal by Morales’ art. Morales explained:

I made this book because at the borderlands, fences and walls have been constructed to stop people from crossing into the United States. One-hundred-year-old saguaros have been bulldozed. Paths animals regularly travel have been blocked by impenetrable barriers. 

The image above strikingly drives home the point that political decisions, too often made by privileged, entitled, impetuous human beings – can have disastrous consequences for other creatures – not just hapless human beings struggling with their lot in life. As Yuyi Morales noted “you and I are connected” – and for ill or good, our decisions do have consequences that are far-reaching, way beyond the confines of our imagined bubble.

What makes this story work for me is its voice of hope – the capacity to first reimagine a different world, because notwithstanding ugly walls and the occasional petty leader/politician – it remains a “most beautiful world” indeed.

Light For All [Amazon | Book Depository]

Written by Margarita Engle Illustrated by Raul Colon
Published by Simon Schuster / Paula Wiseman Books (2021)
ISBN: 1534457275 (ISBN13: 9781534457270) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I was delighted to find Margarita Engle’s 2021 picturebook via Overdrive. Unlike her previous more lyrical picturebooks, this one takes on a more direct approach in terms of how immigrants find their way into the shores of the gigantic woman bearing a torch that provides “light for all.”

There is a recognition that light-seekers come to the United States for a variety of reasons. While there are those who may come of their own volition, bringing their polished skills and aspirations – others may have little choice and are seeking refuge because their life circumstances prevent them from remaining in their own homes.

In the Author’s Note, Engle further explained:

While praising the Statue of Liberty, people often refer to the United States as a country of immigrants. That phrase ignores the true experiences of Indigenous and African American communities, who were either here before conquerors and immigrants arrived, or were brought by force, kidnapped, and enslaved.

The narrative acknowledges the United States’ fraught history and the complex, intersecting social and linguistic identities constantly navigated by immigrants who love both their countries of origin and the country that has given them sanctuary. Raul Colon’s gentle hues enclose the reader with glimmering light and “shared hope” for all.

Do you have any suggestions for our reading theme? We will be happy to hunt your recommended books down.

#DecolonizeBookshelves: 1/2 out of 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).

3 comments on “[Monday Reading] Bright Stars and Light for All in 2022

  1. Yes, the Pandemic just keeps rolling along. . . I have Morales’ Bloom on the list, Myra, and I agree, it is sad to think about the loss. I loved Margarita’s book, happy to see it here! I’ll think about your theme & hope I can find some to recommend. One that I think fits is My Two Border Towns by David Bowles. It’s interesting to see how the father & son navigate both places but there is a sadness at the end when they bring some things to those they’ve met who are waiting, waiting. Have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf

    I’ll never know how you manage to track down so many lovely picture books—both of these are immediately near the top of my picture book TBR list! (And I’m excited, because I finally got acquainted with my library’s physical book catalog, and they have WAY more physical copies than they do ebooks, so I can actually get ahold of both of these!) Bright Star sounds like such a powerful and unique story—I had never thought about how all of the border “protections” impact animals and plants in addition to people, and the art looks absolutely stunning, so I will need to track that one down. And I had seen Light for All, but your review is a lot more convincing—honestly, I think the bright yellow of the cover made me think the art wouldn’t be as good as it looks here! Thanks so much for the wonderful post, Myra!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s lovely to see your blog here again Myra. The artwork in both of these is just stunning! As soon as I read about Bright Star, I went to put a hold on it. Unfortunately none of my libraries have Light For All – yet.
    I really like how you have framed this as decolonizing bookshelves. Reading books has helped me begin the process of decolonizing myself. It will be a long project I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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