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
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)