#DecolonizeReading2023 Books Early Readers Features Genre It's Monday What Are You Reading Lifespan of a Reader Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Knowing One’s Own Story in 2023 Picturebooks

"You Are A Story" by Bob Raczka and Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell | "The Knowing" by Ani Di Franco and Julia Mathew.


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). It has been awhile since I joined this reading community and I intend to be more present this year, life circumstances permitting.

This year, 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
  5. Translated or international literature

You Are A Story (Amazon)

Written by Bob Raczka Illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell
Published by Neal Porter Books (2023)
ISBN: 9780823449149 (ISBN10: 0823449149) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I was immediately taken by the book cover of this 2023 picturebook – with each child being the cover of their own books; stars of their own stories. It is a book that depicts everything that a child is: a living and breathing being, an animal, a voyager, a body of water – the image below is one of my favourites:

At the same time, the book is also filled with the infinite possibilities a child can become as a human being – and as found in one of the full spread pages: we are always in the process of becoming; that is part of what being human is all about.

This capacity to reinvent one’s self, the idea that one is nowhere near completion, but forever evolving – can be a comforting thought for many.

There is dynamism in the storytelling and in the art that would definitely appeal to young and not-so-young readers alike. It taps into our innate sense of wonder about how we constantly surprise ourselves in our becoming.

the knowing (Amazon)

Written by Ani Di Franco Illustrated by Julia Mathew
Published by Rise x Penguin Workshop (2023)
ISBN: 9780593383759 (ISBN10: 0593383753) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I am a huge Ani DiFranco fan, having witnessed one of her rare live concerts in Singapore many years ago. Her edgy, caustic, confrontational songwriting has always spoken to me – in all its audacity, intensity, truth. I was thrilled to discover that she has written a picturebook that apparently she wrote for her youngest child.

Similar to the earlier book, it centralizes one’s story, one’s narrative, one being a repository of many tales – ones that came before and ones that are yet to be told. While I am not usually a fan of rhyming text, there is a musicality, a repetitiveness to some of the words here that may be attributed to Ani Di Franco’s background as a singer-songwriter, which I did not mind as much as I normally would.

The art is created by Julia Mathew (her first picturebook apparently) of Indian descent, and I enjoyed the ephemeral splash of muted colors in the pages with this brown-skinned girl navigating between that which is evident on the surface: one’s skin color, one’s appearance; and that which is “underneath,” the “unseen” aspects that constitute one’s self.

It is this core, this essence within one’s being, the ‘knowing’ that binds human beings to one another – regardless of who we are or where we are in the world. I think the message would have been made even more powerful had there been an Author’s Note detailing what this ‘knowing’ signifies to Ani Di Franco, and the inspirations behind the art work of Julia Mathews, and how this ‘knowing’ moved her.

#DecolonizeReading2023 Update: 28 out of target 100 (the knowing)

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] Knowing One’s Own Story in 2023 Picturebooks

  1. You Are a Story is a beautiful book!


  2. lindabaie

    I shared You Are A Story today, too, Myra, a special book for all! The Knowing is new to me, will certainly look for it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll be on the lookout for these books. I’m sure we have them at the bookstore.

    Liked by 1 person

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