For 2022, our reading theme is #DecolonizeBookshelves2022. Essentially, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:
Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized
Welcome Home [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Aimee Reid Illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh
Published by Beach Lane Books (2022)
ISBN: 1534438866 (ISBN13: 9781534438866). Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.
I believe this is the first 2022 picturebook I reviewed this year. I borrowed it primarily because I am a fan of Iranian Rashin Kheiriyeh’s art. Her dedication is also bilingual: written in both English and Arabic for parents expecting a baby soon in their home.
The story opens with the mother cradling her baby and positioning the baby snug and tight into the cradle. I love that it isn’t really clear whether the baby is a boy or a girl. There is also a consistency in the coloring scheme throughout, along with the effusive art with the soft colors and muted hues that remain celebratory.
While I am not a fan of rhyming text, there is something soothing in the way the story is written that makes it seem the most appropriate way of narrating this jubilant welcome to a new addition in the family and the community.
I am slightly reminded of Sleeping Beauty with all the fairy godparents sending their wishes – except that there is no pinprick here – just a joyful celebration of a new living and breathing creature being welcomed “to our blossoming lands, to our sheltering care, to our cradling hands.”
First Laugh, Welcome Baby! by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood and Jonathan Nelson [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson
Published by Charlesbridge Publishing (2018)
ISBN: 1580897940 (ISBN13: 9781580897945) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.
I have been seeing this picturebook shared for awhile now, and was thrilled to find it via Overdrive. The Afterword indicates that there is what is known as The First Laugh Celebration in Navajo or Diné tradition which serves as “a child’s first formal welcome in a family and clans.”
Apparently, each family member is excited to have the honor of being the first person to make the baby laugh because it signifies a special relationship with the child, and the person will have the privilege of hosting the First Laugh Ceremony.
I appreciated how seamlessly the traditional customs and practices are interwoven with the usual daily routines in this family’s everyday life. I also found it amusing that this particular baby seems like a tough sell – his smiles and laugh are pretty hard to come by – reminding me of the trite adage: “A watched pot never boils” as each family member waits avidly for that elusive smile and laugh.
As I was finding out more information about this particular title, I came across this American Indians in Children’s Literature blogpost posted by Dr. Debbie Reese of Nambé Pueblo signifying her concerns about the White co-author of this book, Nancy Bo Flood, and issues concerning appropriation.
I strongly believe that conversations like these need to be brought out and openly explored, even as the picturebooks are appreciated for their added value in the canon of diverse children’s literature. The issues raised are thought-provoking and would definitely accompany all my sharing of this book in professional development workshops. It is also particularly germane as our reading theme has to do with decolonizing bookshelves and how this particular encounter with Nancy Bo Flood as shared by Dr. Debbie Reese can be interpreted in light of this.
#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 18 / 19 out of target 100