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

[Monday Reading] Of Bird Songs and Dragon Letters in 2022 Diverse Picturebooks

"Alone Like Me" by Rebecca Evans | "Rosa's Song" by Helena Ku Rhee and Pascal Campion.


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

Alone Like Me (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written and Illustrated by Rebecca Evans
Published by Anne Schwartz Books (2022)
ISBN: 0593181921 (ISBN13: 9780593181928) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

Liling is a young girl who accompanies her parents to work because she cannot go to school after her family has moved from their mountain home in China to the city.

While Liling does what she can to entertain herself, it is clear that she is among adults who consider her a nuisance. Going to the playground makes things even worse; the kids treat her like an outcast as they jeer and ask her to go back to her mountain home.

The sight of another young girl with a smiling face in a yellow jacket sparked something in Liling: perhaps sadness is able to recognize one’s own, and a quiet act of kindness is the thread that pulls two lonely children together – and handwritten dragon letters.

It was quite interesting to read the Author’s Note and Bio. Rebecca Evans was inspired to write this story after visiting her adoptive child’s home in China and she chanced upon a sad-looking girl on a bicycle, which made her learn about the hukou system: the papers given to a child upon being born, which states the places where she lives and allows her access to public school. Moving to a different city becomes a complicated affair as changing one’s hukou papers may take time. Children like Liling who have moved from their rural hometown to the city can be left without access to public education because of these restrictions. There is also a Q and A conducted by Publishers Weekly which contains information about the extensive research Rebecca Evans did as she wrote this moving story.

Rosa’s Song (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Helena Ku Rhee Illustrator Pascal Campion
Published by Random House Studio (2022) ISBN: 0593375491 (ISBN13: 9780593375495)
Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

Jae is new to the country and misses his home. Everything looks different and unfamiliar, and Jae feels hesitant to reach out their neighbors for fear that he might forget his “new words.”

I like the image above: so stark and empty, mirroring Jae’s spirit. With his mother’s encouragement, Jae found the courage to reach out to a neighbor and he met the bright-eyed Rosa with her parrot named Pollito.

Together, the two friends transformed their little neighborhood to one that brings the scent and sights of home – all through the power of their imagination, and the lovely song that Rosa often sings to her Pollito:

Cuando vuelo lejos, mi corazón se queda aquí. When I fly away, my heart stays here.

Then one day, Rosa just left abruptly with her family, leaving Pollito and her song with Jae. The Author’s Note indicates that this is something that Helena Ku Rhee has experienced growing up:

I grew up in an apartment building near downtown Los Angeles, where people constantly moved in and out. Whether due to a family’s change in financial status, marital status, or even immigration status, young friendships were often disrupted just as they were forming. I wrote this story because I remembered the loneliness that resulted from friends leaving suddenly, frequently without any warning.

Similar to The Paper Kingdom (Amazon | Book Depository) created by the same author-illustrator tandem (see my review here), this story has that ring of authenticity to it that will move the reader. A definite must-add to the list of books of children in transition (see more titles here and here).

#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 71 out of target 100 (Helena Ku Rhee is a POC author)

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).

2 comments on “[Monday Reading] Of Bird Songs and Dragon Letters in 2022 Diverse Picturebooks

  1. Thanks for the introduction to both these books. I’m especially interested in Rosa’s Song but have put holds on both of them at my library.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf

    Wow, Myra—you always find the most amazing picture books! I hadn’t seen Alone Like Me, but the illustrations look gorgeous, and the plot sounds so powerful—I was not aware of that issue in Chinese law before. And I have seen Rosa’s Song before, but I did not realize the illustrations were so gorgeous in that one too! I will try to track them both down. Thanks so much for the wonderful post, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

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