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

[Monday Reading] Strength In Togetherness in 2021 Picturebooks

"We're Better Together: A Book About Community" by Eileen Spinelli and Ekaterina Trukhan | "Together" by Mona Damluji and Innosanto Nagara.


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

We’re Better Together: A Book About Community (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Eileen Spinelli Illustrated by Ekaterina Trukhan
Published by Highlights (2021)
ISBN: 9781644723289 Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

The concept of building community may be too abstract and fly over the heads of many young children, yet Eileen Spinelli managed to distill it into bite-size pieces for little readers to grasp and emulate. It could start in the playground – ostensibly a child’s favorite place, and awaiting one’s turn on the swing. Or it could also be about reaching out to a neighbor who is sick.

As can be seen in the image above, the art is slightly reminiscent of Christian Robinson’s, particularly his picturebook Another (Amazon | Book Depository – see my review here) and You Matter (Amazon | Book Depository – see my review here). This is my first picturebook illustrated by the Russian artist Ekaterina Trukhan, and I am intrigued.

Using concepts and objects that are familiar to young readers, this sense of building a more inclusive community has been conveyed in a simple (but not simplistic) manner. I was also struck by the sense of initiative that is apparent in this concept of “we” – there seems to be that collectivist orientation that suggests one is able to anticipate the need of others and supply it even before the other person asks for help.

There is also the implicit message that what happens to one also affects the other, thus “we’re better together.” A good primer on building warm, helpful, more compassionate communities.

Together (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Mona Damluji Illustrator Innosanto Nagara
Published by Triangle Square (2021) ISBN: 1644210843 (ISBN13: 9781644210840) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I am a huge fan of Indonesian-American Innosanto Nagara’s art, and I always share his picturebooks whenever I am invited to deliver a keynote address in Indonesia about diverse picturebooks (which I have been doing virtually the past two years). And so, I was thrilled to discover his latest picturebook on Overdrive, written by Iraqi-Lebanese-American activist Mona Damluji.

The idea is fairly straightforward, but conveyed with such poetry and beauty:

One star shines as distant light

And when stars shine together, they make our galaxy.

While there are things that people can do on their own, yes, there is power that can be harnessed with a collective working together. Nagara’s art, is once again, powerfully moving, compelling the reader to be part of a movement with a sense of urgency that only his art can mobilize:

I am amazed at the sense of possibility that both picturebooks inspire in the reader. I hope they both find you soon and that you start getting #organized! 🙂

#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 89/90 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).

3 comments on “[Monday Reading] Strength In Togetherness in 2021 Picturebooks

  1. Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf

    Wow, Myra—both of these books look truly wonderful! We’re Better Together looks like a really accessible and thoughtful introduction to community—it also sent me down a quick rabbit hole reading about Eileen Spinelli (I love her novel in verse Where I Live!). Together also looks simply incredible, and it’s now on my list—I had never seen Innosanto Nagara’s art before, and it is truly gorgeous and energetic. Thanks so much for the thoughtful reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Vidya Tiru

    Thanks for introducing me to Nagara. His art definitely is stunning, I will be sure to look for this book and others by him. As always, love your reviews

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: [Nonfiction Wednesday – My 2022 in Books] Favourite Nonfiction Titles Read in 2022 – Gathering Books

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