Multicultural and Nature Books

(Updated Sept. 7th, 2022). In addition to our annual book awards, we also recommend multicultural and nature books in our regular issues and in this column. Check out these recently published books at your public library. Our 2022 Annual Book Awards Reviews have been uploaded on the website. One of the 2022 winners, Reconstruction has been reviewed below in more details.  

Reconstruction:The Rebuilding of the United States After the Civil War by Judy Dodge Cummings; Illustr. Micah Rauch. Ages 12-15.

“To help navigate the present, Americans must understand their past.” A true statement, and the main reason this book is so timely and should be greatly appreciated by teachers and high school students alike. From 1865 to 1877, democracy expanded because Americans (black & white) worked across racial lines to bring about positive change. Author Judy Cummings weaves the nearly eleven years following the Civil War (known as the Reconstruction Era) with events in the last ten years in America. She compares the criminal acts of today, fueled by white supremacy doctrines and racism with the violence, which destroyed the progress achieved during reconstruction. These criminal acts have opened the eyes of “white America” and forced some laws to change. The justice system has been compelled to apply the laws we have fairly to each person regardless of their race.

Students are asked to compare the politics of the reconstruction era with today’s policies regarding race. Readers are compelled to clearly study the platforms of the Democratic and the Republican parties. How are they the same and how are they different? All Americans need to understand that during the first eleven years after the Civil War there were black men seated in the House of Representatives and at least two senators were black. There were black men & women who owned and operated restaurants, hardware & clothing stores, etc.

Black people could sit anywhere they wanted to on public transportation and inside theaters. There were several flourishing (mostly) black towns. You may ask, what happened? Promises were broken. The federal troops were withdrawn from the rebel southern states. The KKK was formed and Jim Crow Laws were established in nearly every state. Black towns, and black owned business were burned down, destroyed. Hundreds, maybe thousands of black men, women & children were killed or run off of their property.

Reconstruction is often downplayed or overlooked entirely in the classroom. Usually students are just getting into the Civil War when school is over for the year. Today, most Americans, (both white & black) don’t know about the accomplishments achieved during this period. Even in 2022 there are still too many people who never want the truth to be told. That’s the real truth behind today’s controversy labeled “Critical Race Theory.” We are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again if we are unwilling to make a hard, painful study of the Nation’s past, and determined to make changes for the future.

This book is well organized, which makes it easy to understand. It is divided into eight chapters. Each chapter contains many useful photos (both black & white and color), one purposeful comic strip, bullet points to consider and a list of suggestions to help readers better understand the era. In addition there is a two-page timeline with pictures in the front of the book. Also found in the back is a five-page glossary and an index. There is a list of useful resources readers can refer to for more information.

Reviewed by Paulette Ansari, retired librarian, storyteller, and Skipping Stones board member

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole B. Weatherford; illustr. Floyd Cooper. Lerner. This year, the nation observed the 100th anniversary of probably the worst ever racial violence in the country. In 1921, a mob of armed whites attacked the Greenwood district, home of a thriving African American community, looted homes and businesses, and burned them down. As many as 300 blacks were killed and 8,000 were left homeless. The police did nothing to stop the violence. In fact, for 75 years after this massacre, there was no official investigation. This picture book offers a sensitively written, powerfully illustrated introduction to this massacre and helps young people understand the history so we can move forward to a better future for all. Ages 6-10.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom; illustr. Michaela Goade. Roaring Brook Press. Inspired by the recent Indigenous-led movements (like the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline) to protect the sacred Native lands and the nourishing waters that are absolutely necessary for life, this beautifully illustrated book invites us to join the rallying cry to protect our water from ecological destruction. Both the author and illustrator are Native Americans and they infuse their traditional culture and wisdom in this important, ecologically sensitive book. Ages 5 -9.

Reconstruction: The Rebuilding of the United States After the Civil War by Judy Dodge Cummings; illustr. Micah Rauch. Nomad Press. This book examines the period 1865 to 1877—the time when the country began to address the questions of equality and justice for blacks. Who should be eligible for the full rights of citizenship? How should the state and federal governments share powers and responsibilities? Can all people of all races be treated equally? The book offers pertinent context, hands-on activities, critical thinking exercises, and discussion questions. The book includes historical photos as well as useful illustrations. Ages 12-15.

Aurora: A Tale of the Northern and Southern Lights  by Richard T. Parr; illustr. Endre Lothe. KDP/Amazon. A young boy discovers there is really no Santa Claus as he has been told every Christmas. Realizing he doesn’t have presents for anyone he climbs out his bedroom window and runs away. Tired, he falls asleep under a tree in the freezing cold. He is shaken awake by an old man who asks him why he is not home in bed. He tells him there is no Santa Claus, and he doesn’t have presents to give anyone in his family. The old man comforts him by telling him a fascinating story he can retell on Christmas morning as his gift to them. He carries the boy back to his room and as a parting gift tells him how to whistle down the northern lights and be granted one wish. Ages 7-70.

Guru Nanak: First of the Sikhs by Demi. Wisdom Tales. Guru Nanak was the founder of Sikh religion. Guru Nanak, born in India over 500 years ago, traveled through South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula for 25 years sharing his message of one God, heartfelt worship, honest work, peace, sharing, service to humanity, and equality for all. There are now over 25 million Sikhs in the world. Learn about his remarkable life in this beautifully illustrated picture book. Ages 5 – 9.

Finish Strong: Seven Marathons, Seven Continents, Seven Days by Dace McGillivray. Nomad Press. Are you a runner? A sports fan? This is the inspiring story of Dave McGillivray who successfully completed the World Marathon Challenge. He ran seven marathons in one week—that’s running 26.2 miles each day for seven days in a row—then discovered that he needed to have a heart surgery. Six months after his heart surgery he was back to running marathons and finished the Boston Marathon! Ages 7 – 11.

Firdaus Learns About the Heart by Dr. Sara Kulsum Alavi; illustr. Aurica Safiulina. This is a really cool way to learn about human anatomy and the heart, in particular. Firdaus is an elementary grade student at Medina Academy, and she loves science because her teacher, Mrs. Ahmed, makes it exciting and easy to understand. Using activities, diagrams, experiments and fun facts, she teaches students about the human heart. Along the way, we also learn a little about Muslim culture through the student and family interactions. Ages 9 – 12.

Accused: My Story of Injustice by Adama Bah. Norton Young Readers. Adama came to the U.S. from Guinea, Africa at the age of two. She grew up sheltered by her parents in New York City. After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11th, 2001, she began experiencing prejudice and hatred because she was a Muslim. Then, in 2005, when she was just 16, she was falsely accused of being a suicide bomber and arrested. In this engaging book, she shares her harrowing experiences of harassment and humiliation in the detention center. (Also available from the same publisher, Hurricane: My Story of Resilience by Salvador Gómez-Colón. The book offers the true story of Salvador, a high schooler who helped rural residents of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Both of these first person, non-fiction accounts are part of a new series called I, Witness.) Ages 10 – 14.

The Golden Key of Gangotri by Eval N. Danon. Blue Branch Press. Harley is a 21-year-old student in New York, whose father vanished in the high Himalayas. This soul-stirring adventure, set in Northern India, takes readers on Harley’s journey of self-discovery, in which she uncovers the answers she had been desperate to find. Ages 13 – 18.

Honey on the Page: A Treasury of Yiddish Children’s Literature. Edited and translated by Miriam Udel. New York University Press. This wonderful collection of translated stories and poems from 20th century Jewish literature is an outstanding resource for today’s Jewish children in the United States and other English-speaking regions of the world. Arranged by themes including Jewish holidays, history, family, fables and folktales, this 325-page anthology covers both prominent and lesser-known authors from Eastern Europe as well as New York and Latin America. Anyone who would like to understand the Jewish diaspora and its religious, cultural and ethnic heritage will find Honey on the Page a fascinating read! Ages 14 – adult.

Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matter by Veronica Chambers with Jennifer Harlan. Versify/HMH. This outstanding book, with many telling photographs, shares the history of the Black community. The rise of Black Lives Matter during 2020 resulted from a long history of oppression and racism in the country. In this 152-page book, we learn about systematic racism, the art of protesting, people power, and much more, including how to become an activist. The last chapter offers excerpts of conversations with four BLM leaders. The black and white vintage photos of the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s and color photographs from the recent street protests after the brutal killings of unarmed Blacks illustrate the rage and desperation that helped fuel this powerful movement. Ages 13 – adult.

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