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“Dear Mrs. Trump” booklist

Mrs. Trump, you sent ten picture books, so I will recommend ten as well — but there are so many more! My wish is that these books will help you see:

  •  the beautiful resilience of children who stand up to racism and oppression and for social justice and reform;
  • children who are trying to connect with parents who are incarcerated simply because of their immigration status;
  • children who integrate aspects of their own cultures and countries of origin into their new country;
  • children whose parents risked everything to enter the U.S. so they can have a chance at a future free from violence and/or poverty;
  • children who challenge society’s social constraints and are accepted and loved as who they say they are.

(Horn Book reviews included, where available.)

 

Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic written by Ginnie Lo; illus. by Beth Lo (Lee & Low, 2012).
Author and illustrator (sisters) retell how their aunt, a Chinese immigrant to the Midwest, created a family tradition. On a family outing in the 1950s, Auntie Yang discovers a field of soybeans–and a way to overcome homesickness for China while sharing a very special food. The heartfelt story is accompanied by enamel on porcelain art carefully drawn with colored glazes. Glos.

The Boy & the Bindi written by Vivek Shraya; illus. by Rajni Perera (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2016). [Not reviewed by the Horn Book.]

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music written by Margarita Engle; illus. by Rafael López (Houghton, 2015).
A young girl “on an island of music” dreams of becoming a drummer, but only boys play drums. The story is based on Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a “Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers.” Poetic text takes its cues from Zaldarriaga’s chosen instrument. Saturated acrylic-on-wood illustrations capture the island’s musicality and the surreal dream-images that inspire young Millo.

King for a Day written by Rukhsana Khan; illus. by Christiane Krömer (Lee & Low, 2014).
Action-filled collages of traditional fabrics, textured paper, yarn, and more display intricate sky- and cityscapes of Lahore, Pakistan, during Basant, the spring kite festival. Malik, skillfully using his handmade small kite to conquer the bully next door in the kite battle, is a real hero; that he uses a wheelchair is incidental to the story. Useful contextual information is appended.

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation written by Edwidge Danticat; illus. by Leslie Staub (Dial, 2015).
In this gentle story, Haitian American Saya’s mother is incarcerated because she has no papers. Danticat’s direct, resonant prose doesn’t shy away from the realities–telling of the loneliness of missing your mother and the trauma of saying goodbye at the detention facility. Staub’s naive-style oil paintings keep the focus on the child; the larger issue of the plight of refugees and immigrants makes the story universal.

My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood written by Tameka Fryer Brown; illus. by Shane Evans (Penguin Random House, 2013).
Jamie expresses his shifting emotions in a rainbow of colors. His cool purple “Grape-juice drinking…Bobbing to the beat kind of mood” shifts to a “Gloomy gray kind of place” when his brothers are mean, and so on. The stuttering free verse can be difficult to follow; Evans’s hue-specific digital-collage illustrations provide most of this conceptually smart book’s expression.

Red: A Crayon’s Story written and illus. by Michael Hall (Greenwillow, 2015).
Crayon Red is labeled red, but he colors blue, which creates frustration for the other crayons and thus Red himself. Red struggles until new friend Berry asks him to make a blue ocean. Once he lets go of his label, everything turns around, including the other crayons’ minds. Smart design and sharp details keep the story effective and amusing.

Separate Is Never EqualSeparate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation written and illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh (Scholastic, 2014).
In 1947 the Mendez family fought for–and won–the desegregation of schools in California. Tonatiuh uses a child’s viewpoint to succinctly capture the segregated reality of Mexican Americans. The straightforward narrative is well matched with illustrations in Tonatiuh’s signature style, their two-dimensional perspective reminiscent of the Mixtec codex but collaged with paper, wood, etc. to provide textural variation. An author’s note with photos is appended. Bib., glos., ind.

Somos Como Las Nubes / We Are like the Clouds written by Jorge Argueta; illus. by Alfonso Ruano; translated by Elisa Amado (Groundwood, 2016).
Argueta’s bilingual collection gives voice to refugee children who emigrate from Central American countries to the United States in search of safety or better lives. The poems, written in the first person, present the candid perspective of the children’s experiences; they include whimsical imagery but also scary threats. Delicate illustrations present both realistic portrayals and surreal depictions that complement the textual imagery.

Two White Rabbits written by Jairo Buitrago; illus. by Rafael Yockteng; translated by Elisa Amado (Groundwood, 2015).
A girl and her father travel by foot, by raft, and by train. As they travel, the girl counts the things she sees: “I count the people who live by the train tracks.” Originally published in Spanish, this quiet picture book highlights the experience of a child refugee or immigrant; Yockteng’s contemplative graphic illustrations clearly depict the pain, frustration, and boredom of the journey.

Liz Phipps Soeiro About Liz Phipps Soeiro

Liz Phipps Soeiro is an elementary school librarian in the Cambridge, MA, Public Schools. She is an advocate for inclusive libraries and active in her community to create spaces that are welcoming to all students. She tweets @Cport_Special @ReflectLibrary and blogs at reflectivelibrary.blogspot.com

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Comments

  1. Bethany Ericson says:

    Thank you so much Liz. The children of Cambridge are in incredibly good hands. The choice of sending Dr. Seuss also seems a bit tone deaf at best, as I was reminded of this recent Atlantic article as well: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/08/reading-racism-in-dr-seuss/536625/

  2. Britne M Nance says:

    Thanks Liz!!

  3. Thank you handling this with class, knowledge while still remaining gracious. Your book list is stellar!!! Makes me want to make sure my local schools all have them. 😊

  4. What a respectful letter and broad reading list. I always wanted to teach, and do (finance to adult state employees) but because I was a business major and have an MBA, I can not teach in public schools. There are many layers of prejudice in this country. Though my expertise includes explaining P/E ratios, index funds and spend down strategies, my education was actually quite liberal and required courses in science, literature and humanities.
    I am 54 an not in a position to get another undergraduate degree in an “appropriate” major. Someday, this ban may be lifted. It will be too late for me.

  5. Christine Chevalier says:

    Beautifully written, Ms Soeiro! I sincerely hope it doesn’t fall on deaf ears. I would suggest you include in your recommended reading list books for Queer kids and kids with Queer parents – they count too! There is a great deal out there now – more than “Heather Has Two Mommies”! I’ve attached the following – https://www.bustle.com/articles/87976-30-lgbtqia-positive-childrens-books-thatll-teach-kids-how-beautifully-diverse-the-world-is – I hope you will take these, and others, into consideration when recommending books for kids and parents. Keep up the struggle for ALL children!!! Love and Light…

  6. Sheena Ratliff says:

    As a librarian I believe you are an example. I personally wouldn’t want this as my child’s example. You couldn’t politely accept a gracious gift and leave politics out of it? So very liberal. As for Dr. Seuss being worn? Please, it’s a classic that my family and many others treasure.

  7. Andrew michael says:

    So, the FLOTUS gives books and Liz responds with a political diatribe couched in polite phrases that pushes only the leftist agenda and everyone on here is ok with that? Yeah, let’s all give someone pushing mental illness as normal a big round of……..silence. How about instead of pushing political ideas off on others, you simply say “thank you for thedonation” instead of making it a political attack simply because uou can?

  8. Hades Helpdesk says:

    Weird. In another blog you complain about the “last 500 years” and about the US in general, in that typical Critical Theory way that frames everything in a neo-Marxist class and race struggle; but here you note that some of these books are about “children whose parents risked everything to enter the U.S. so they can have a chance at a future free from violence and/or poverty.” Well, which is it? Is the US the place that oppresses people, or the place people flee to to get away from oppression?

    This is what always gets me about the Critical Theory “religion.” Like all religions, that provide comprehensive and uncompromising world views based on a series of unfalsifiable statements, it is generally inconsistent, and seems mostly about “sticking up for our side” (ie, “you are either for us, or against us”). I’m still looking for some intellectual consistency here.

    BTW while I’m sure you feel you’re currently being martyred–how glorious for a True Believer to suffer for the Faith!–it’s interesting that I’ve yet to see a news outlet repeat the part of your letter that frames Dr. Seuss as some kind of racist. That’s luck on your part–most people if they read that would dismiss you outright as too extreme, even if they otherwise agreed with your “speaking truth to power” moment.

  9. Liz,
    It appears your list only includes books published within the last 5 years. Also, it appears your list is specifically compiled with an agenda. Do students in elementary school, who are just learning to read and to find reading fun need to be introduced/exposed to political and more mature or complex or extraordinary ideas/storylines? I know that my children just want a plain and simple fun book.
    I believe your list reflects your own interests, again, an agenda you want to push onto the children of other parents. I would love to see statistics that show how often the books on your list are self-selected by children versus 10 Dr Seuss books.

  10. Robert Williams says:

    Agree with Andrew. I’m glad Liz is not teaching my child, pushing an extreme political view onto students instead of teaching a balanced curriculum.

  11. Mickey Nowak says:

    One can respectfully disagree. This was not respectful disagreement. Would it be too much to say “Thank you for the donation but I would like to tell you about some of my favorite children’s books”. As for Dr Seuss – Is it your position that you refuse to have his books in your library? That part is unclear. Although it is quite popular to beat up on dead people who aren’t around to defend their position.

  12. Leave it to another liberal to try and politicize something as simple as a book donation. Not even Dr. Seuss can escape liberal hatred anymore. Let’s be real here. This wasn’t about Dr. Seuss at all. I’d like to know where this librarian was when Michelle Obama was reading Cat in the Hat to children (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDQuAD2aNHk) or when Barack Obama was praising Dr. Seuss “All You Need to Know, You Learned from Dr. Seuss” (http://www.truthrevolt.org/news/obama-all-you-need-know-you-learned-dr-seuss).

    So was Dr. Seuss racist then? Or is he just racist now because Trump won the election. Nothing the Trump’s do can ever be perceived as good because you people are so filled with hate and anger over not getting what you wanted. Give me a freakin’ break already. Get a life.

  13. Leave it to another liberal to try and politicize something as simple as a book donation. Not even Dr. Seuss can escape liberal hatred anymore. Let’s be real here. This wasn’t about Dr. Seuss at all. I’d like to know where this librarian was when Michelle Obama was reading Cat in the Hat to children (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDQuAD2aNHk) or when Barack Obama was praising Dr. Seuss “All You Need to Know, You Learned from Dr. Seuss” (http://www.truthrevolt.org/news/obama-all-you-need-know-you-learned-dr-seuss).

    So was Dr. Seuss racist then? Or is he just racist now because Trump won the election. Nothing the Trump’s do can ever be perceived as good because you people are so filled with hate and anger over not getting what you wanted. Give me a freakin’ break already. Get a life.

  14. Lenny Lynch says:

    Dr Seuss’ “The Sneetches and Other Stories” published in 1953 was named by the National Education Association as one of the top 100 books for children in 2007 and ranked 63 among top 100 picture books in 2012. Ms.Soeiro should read it along with numerous other Dr. Seuss works that provide words of encouragement and reflection to children of all races and ages.

  15. Diane Burns Brads says:

    I guess that all of the schools across the country that celebrate Dr. Suess’ birthday with a week of fun Dr. Seuss activities are backward and provincial. The librarian who was so ungracious does not represent her profession well. I don’t forget that Mrs.Trump is from a communist country. I am sure that she has very painful memories of oppression. I imagine that may have included adults who believed it was their job to cram their own ideology into the minds of children. I am so happy that the children in my family are not in this librarian ‘ s school district.

  16. Interesting that “Mike” has two different profiles. Spamalot? As for “politicizing”, funny it’s only “liberals” who do this, right?? Or perhaps they are responding to the very politicized, corporatized turn that the Dept. of Education has taken under Betsy DeVos – interesting that the Dept could only come up with these titles for Mrs. Trump.

    Next thing you know, librarians will be shamed as “ungrateful” and “uppity”, just like black football players have been. They should take what they’ve been given and respect their betters, obviously.

  17. Shirley Harvey says:

    Liz
    You did a great job in that letter. Never be silent. Your recommendations were right on. You did it in a gracious way. Again, thank you.

  18. I am a liberal. Perhaps because I am also a southerner, I would have thanked the First Lady for the gift, shared my list of books with her in hopes of broadening her knowledge of children’s books, and quietly forwarded the books my privileged school didn’t need to a library that did need them. It’s possible that both women’s hearts were in the right place, but I see no positive outcome from making an issue out of this – just more division and anger.

  19. This moved me to tears, so glad to know librarians like you are out there in our schools! Please keep up the good work.