#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] A Very Diverse Fourth Of July To Y’all

"In Brooklyn in the summer not so long ago..." - Jacqueline Woodson, "The World Belonged To Us" illustrated by Leo Espinosa.


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).


For 2022, our reading theme is #DecolonizeBookshelves2022. Essentially, 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

Blue Sky White Stars (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Sarvinder Naberhaus Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Published by Dial Books (2017)
ISBN: 0803737009 (ISBN13: 9780803737006) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I’ve had this book for awhile now in my digital bookshelf, and I am glad to feature it at the perfect moment as the United States of America celebrates Fourth of July.

In the Author’s Note, Sarvinder Naberhaus explained what inspired her to write the sparse but lyrical text in this celebration of the American dream:

This story was written as a parallel between America and its flag – the same words describe both. I began this book thinking of the deep blue sky dotted with white stars that early immigrants to this country saw as they boarded ships headed toward religious freedom in the New World.

The art is stunning, as expected of the unparalleled Kadir Nelson who also wrote a moving Illustrator’s Note at the end of the book:

With each painting, I was inspired to remind readers of the resilience of American principles, and that as we continue to push forward, our strength lies in our willingness to embrace our differences.

What made the book stand out for me (apart from the lifelike art that Kadir Nelson is known for) is the fact that the female author, Sarvinder Naberhaus is originally from Punjab, India – and the way that she related her immigrant family’s experience moving to the United States in the Author’s Note, in their journey towards “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as Nelson mentioned in the Illustrator’s Note.

The art also surfaces how this freedom to pursue one’s dream is a constant struggle – one that has to be fought for as people march on the streets, wresting their power back, “woven together” as a community.

This book is indeed a moving tribute to the incredibly diverse group of people – immigrants and Native Americans – that has built the country known as the United States of America.

The World Belonged To Us (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Jacqueline Woodson Illustrator Leo Espinosa
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books (2022) ISBN: 0399545492 (ISBN13: 9780399545498)
Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

Any new book by Jacqueline Woodson is a cause for celebration – and I was thrilled to find her newest 2022 picturebook via Overdrive – illustrated by Colombian American illustrator Leo Espinosa.

The Fourth Of July has always marked the beginning of summer for our family. Over the past several years (even when we were still living in Singapore), we usually celebrate our summer break with family in the United States which usually starts during the last week of June or first week of July. Woodson’s newest picturebook tastes very much like summer – especially as it was celebrated back in the “olden days” with children not buried in their gadgets but out in the streets, jumping sky-high, book bags flung out into the streets.

There is a nostalgic vibe to the story that most parents would very much appreciate, even as it is now considered “historical” by younger readers – this reality almost like a world away, even as it belonged to this group of diverse kids who owned these streets in Brooklyn.

Linguistic and cultural diversity is taken as a matter of fact – rather than something unusual or particularly noteworthy. What also struck me the most was the sense of safety that these young children felt as they played in their streets until night fell, that was almost taken for granted. I am not sure if this is something that people still feel when out on the streets at night, regardless of the season or the city.

My favourite art from the book is the image above – with the play in shadows and the captured glee of this young girl in pigtails, arms swinging, legs flying off the curb – not to mention the boy bouncing a basketball off the page. There is delight, sunshine, and joy in these pages – find them and read it over and over until winter comes.

#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 60/61 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).

7 comments on “[Monday Reading] A Very Diverse Fourth Of July To Y’all

  1. smallworldtn

    Both of those look AMAZING! My kids are grown now, but I look forward to sharing these with grandkids, when I have them!
    Sarah at SmallWorld Reads.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely love your theme of decolonizing bookshelves in 2022! I recently finished reading Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God by Kaitlin B. Curtice, an Indigenous author. It was so enlightening.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lindabaie

    I’ve loved them both, Myra. Isn’t Woodson’s new book awesome? And Kadir Nelson’s art is always special. Hope you all are doing well!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf

    What a wonderful set of books, Myra! I borrowed Blue Sky White Stars through Libby, because it would be a fitting read to cram in today for July 4 (and it looks absolutely gorgeous). And I still haven’t read The World Belonged to Us, but it is on my list—anything by Jacqueline Woodson is always amazing! Thanks so much for the wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with you that “any new book by Jacqueline Woodson is a cause for celebration!” I loved this one too. I know the artwork in Blue Sky is stunning, but it feels like one of those patriotic books I’m not fond of. Canada celebrated on July 1st, and we just stayed home and had a friend over.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The World Belonged to Us was on my radar for next school year, but I haven’t had a look at it yet. I loved what you had to say about it, so thanks for the great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Blue Sky, White Star is the perfect book to share today. In a world where I’m pretty mad at my nation, Nelson’s illustrations show the beauty there is.

    I have Woodson’s newest PB; I just need to read it and you’ve shown me that I definitely should move it up.

    Happy reading this week!

    Liked by 1 person

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