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

[Monday Reading] On Self Doubt and the Quest for Perfection in 2022 Picturebooks Featuring POC Kids

The Paper Bird by Lisa Anchin | Abdul's Story by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Tiffany Rose


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

The Paper Bird (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written and Illustrated by Lisa Anchin
Published by Dial Books (2022)
ISBN: 0593110226 (ISBN13: 9780593110225) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

Annie used to make art with joy, unfiltered. That is, until she started being aware of how others thought of what she creates – and how she makes them – which made her acutely self-conscious.

Annie’s insecurity eventually spread to other things that she does, symbolized here as gray clouds – as she continued to question herself and second-guess the things that initially came so naturally to her.

While it is not that clear to me whether Annie’s friends acted out of malice (perhaps it doesn’t really matter as much as its effect on Annie) – and how she lifted herself out of the gray clouds – I still liked how the quest for perfection among young children has been captured in the image below:

Annie looked at it in dismay; the bird was lopsided with one wing longer than the other. She leaped up to catch it before anyone caught sight of her mistakes.

It is also worth noting that while the main character in this story is a child of color, the artist-illustrator Lisa Anchin is not POC. I would have wanted an Artist’s note at the end where Anchin could have shared her own “gray clouds” and what she did as a child to lift herself out of the doldrums – to add a layer of authenticity to the narrative.

Abdul’s Story (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow Illustrator Tiffany Rose
Published by Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers (2022) ISBN: 1534462988 (ISBN13: 9781534462984)
Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

Abdul is a storyteller – except he hesitates to call himself as one. He finds it difficult to pin down the words that would express the images in his mind.

The image above even suggests that Abdul may be suffering from dyslexia or an undiagnosed reading problem. Yet the story does not revolve around this. I was struck by Abdul’s feelings of defeat and resignation:

Why write his stories anyway? The people and places in his schoolbooks never looked or sounded like the people or places he knew.

As a teacher educator who talks about diverse books unceasingly and the importance of representation, these lines are everything. Abdul felt this way until a published author came to visit their school to talk about his own creative process.

Suddenly, Abdul felt that it is worth the trouble putting down the unruly words on paper to tell a story, his story. However, this does not come easily – in fact, at one point Abdul even felt like erasing himself completely.

Eventually, Abdul discovered that the messiness, the mistakes, the misspelled words are all part of what it means to truly be a storyteller. I love how the growth in Abdul’s character is hard-earned and credible – along with the realization that the most moving stories are not always the ones that are perfectly spelled and written in perfect hand-writing – but the ones that are true and yours. What a disarming picturebook – and one that I am sure to share in my upcoming conference presentations this year.

#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 64 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).

5 comments on “[Monday Reading] On Self Doubt and the Quest for Perfection in 2022 Picturebooks Featuring POC Kids

  1. lindabaie

    Oh, they both sound lovely & supportive of children, Myra. One granddaughter is a bit obsessive with doing the perfect thing in every project. She will benefit from reading the story of another who tries hard to do what they believe is good. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf

    I always appreciate your thoughtful reviews, Myra! The Paper Bird has wonderful illustrations, but I appreciate your comments on some of the ways it could be improved. It is interesting to see how many picture books are tackling depression and other similar feelings—I actually just reviewed one today! (In addition to 2 other books that you had recommended, which I am grateful for!) And I had seen Abdul’s Story but did not realize how powerful the story was, although I have really enjoyed Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow’s work before, so maybe I should have. Thanks so much for the wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing both of these books today. I put a hold on Abdul’s Story, but alas The Paper Bird isn’t available here.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very insightful comments on both books. Thanks for a great post!


  5. Pingback: [NAGC 2022] Dismantling Systemic Racism in Gifted Education thrugh Diverse PictureBooks – Gathering Books

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