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
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