Archive for May, 2020

Review of Everyday Ubuntu, by Mungi Ngomane

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

Everyday Ubuntu

Living Better Together, the African Way

by Mungi Ngomane
foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Harper Design, 2020. 240 pages.
Review written April 13, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

This book is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s granddaughter, and it’s full of wisdom learned and demonstrated in South Africa as they worked toward healing their country after Apartheid.

Here is how Desmond Tutu explains ubuntu in his Foreword:

Ubuntu is a concept that, in my community, is one of the most fundamental aspects of living lives of courage, compassion and connection. It is one that I cannot remember not knowing about. I understood from early on in my life that being known as a person with ubuntu was one of the highest accolades one could ever receive. Almost daily we were encouraged to show it in our relations with family, friends and strangers alike. I have often said that the idea and practice of ubuntu is one of Africa’s greatest gifts to the world. A gift with which, unfortunately, not many in the world are familiar. The lesson of ubuntu is best described in a proverb that is found in almost every African language, whose translation is, “A person is a person through other persons.” The fundamental meaning of the proverb is that everything we learn and experience in the world is through our relationships with other people. We are therefore called to examine our actions and thoughts, not just for what they will achieve for us, but for how they impact on others with whom we are in contact.

At its most simple, the teaching of this proverb and of ubuntu is similar to the Golden Rule found in most faith teachings: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” But one who has ubuntu goes a step beyond that. It is not only our actions we are called to keep track of, but our very being in the world. How we live, talk and walk in the world is as much a statement of our character as our actions. One with ubuntu is careful to walk in the world as one who recognizes the infinite worth of everyone with whom he or she comes into contact. So it is not simply a way of behaving, it is indeed a way of being!

The format of the book is simple. After an Introduction, there are fourteen Lessons involving ways you can embody ubuntu. These lessons include stories that illustrate the idea and exercises at the end of the chapter. Each lesson has a different title spread in a bright color with African patterns as the background – it’s an attractive book as well as a meaningful one.

Here are the titles of the fourteen lessons explored in this book:

1. See Yourself in Other People
2. Strength Lies in Unity
3. Put Yourself in the Shoes of Others
4. Choose to See the Wider Perspective
5. Have Dignity and Respect for Yourself and Others
6. Believe in the Good of Everyone
7. Choose Hope Over Optimism
8. Seek Out Ways to Connect
9. The Power of the F-Word – Forgiveness
10. Embrace Our Destiny
11. Acknowledge Reality (However Painful)
12. Find the Humor in Our Humanity
13. Why Little Things Make a Big Difference
14. Learn to Listen So That You Can Hear

You can see that mastering these lessons would indeed make you a better person as you live among other people. The true stories from South Africa’s healing help make these lofty ideals seem possible.

It all adds up to an inspiring and uplifting book. In this time of crisis, it’s all the easier to see that we need to cultivate ubuntu to come together past the difficulties.

hc.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/everyday_ubuntu.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson

Monday, May 18th, 2020

The Parker Inheritance

by Varian Johnson

Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic), 2018. 331 pages.
Review written in 2018 from a book sent by the publisher.
Starred Review
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#6 Contemporary Children’s Fiction
2019 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
2019 Boston Globe/Horn Book Honor Book

The Parker Inheritance is a wonderful tribute to The Westing Game, with a mysterious millionaire leaving money to enhance a town in the south – if and only if someone can solve the clues and tell the story of discrimination that happened in the past.

Many years ago, Candice’s grandmother was city manager of Lambert, South Carolina. She got one of the original letters and tried to solve the clues – but succeeded only in disgracing herself by digging up some tennis courts and not finding the treasure.

Now Candice and her mother are living in her grandmother’s old home for the summer. In the attic, she finds an envelope addressed to her from her grandmother. In the envelope is the original letter – promising treasure for the town and for the person who solves the clues.

Brandon, a neighbor kid from across the street is there in the attic with her when she finds the letter. (They were looking for books to read, because her grandma was good about that, too.) Together, they start researching the people mentioned in the letter, the Washington family, who got run out of Lambert back in 1957.

The book gives periodic interludes from the story of the Washingtons while we follow the main story of Candice and Brandon solving the clues.

And Candice and Brandon have to learn about what happened in 1957. They look at pictures in the library. They need to find yearbooks from both the white high school and the colored high school. They find out about a secret tennis match between the two schools. The African Americans won, and there were repercussions.

The puzzle is well done, but the story supports it well – making this much more than just a puzzle book. I’m going to have to reread The Westing Game. It also tells a story of racism – which was sad back in 1957, but is largely overcome over the years. I especially like Siobhan Washington’s emphasis on love and forgiveness and rising above.

varianjohnson.com
scholastic.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

48-Hour Book Challenge Starting Line

Monday, May 18th, 2020

Huzzah! It’s time for my 48-Hour Book Challenge!

The goal: To take a period of 48 Hours and spend as much time as possible Reading and Reviewing. My participation in these started years ago because of Mother Reader, and it’s her logo I’m using. I’m much less organized and don’t have prizes and haven’t gotten hundreds of other bloggers to sign up — but I’m doing it!

I just looked back at my own blog posts in the 48-Hour Book Challenge category, and the first year I did one was 2009. Wow!

This year, I’m planning to spend a bigger proportion of time writing reviews and posting reviews than I usually do, because I currently have 113 reviews waiting to be posted, and if I read and review more books, I’ll just get farther behind.

Also, because I’m starting a Personal Spiritual Retreat at the same time, I’m hoping to read more nonfiction than I usually do. It’s not quite as fun as binge-reading fiction, but I’d like to do some thinking and reflection during this time, too.

Oh, and it’s always fun to include a video of my personal 48-Hour Book Challenge Theme Song!

Seriously, what I love about the 48-Hour Book Challenge is that it makes reading something that I’m not going to interrupt for other activities. (I’ll use audiobooks to get me through the awkward necessity of doing things like preparing food.) It flips a switch in my brain and tells me that I *should* be reading, rather than making “too much reading” be something I feel guilty about.

Anyway, my start time tonight was 7 pm. So for the next 48 hours, until Wednesday night at 7 pm — don’t interrupt me, I will be reading!

Review of As You Wish, by Chelsea Sedoti

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

As You Wish

by Chelsea Sedoti

Sourcebooks Fire, January 2018. 412 pages.
Starred Review
Review written August 2017 from an advance reader copy
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#7 Teen Speculative Fiction

I’m so excited! As You Wish is the first book I’ve read that’s eligible for the 2019 Newbery Award, being a book published in America during 2018 for an audience that includes some group between the ages of 0 and 14. (In this case, it’s for 14 and up.)

I’m writing this review in August 2017 after finishing the book and before having discussed it with anyone at all. So this is entirely my opinion and not the opinion of anyone else – and I have no idea at this writing if the committee will consider it (or even if they’ll decide that the age range doesn’t fit the criteria) or what anyone else on the committee thinks of it. That’s my disclaimer – but I can still post this review after our decision has been announced in 2019. Writing a review will also help me remember what happened in this book as the year goes on and the number of books I’ve read gets bigger and bigger.

As You Wish is about a small town in Nevada near the site of Area 51. Alien hunters come through town often – but the town conspires to give them the message, “Nothing to see here! Move along!” Because the town of Madison, Nevada, has a secret.

That secret is that on their eighteenth birthday, every teen living in Madison gets a wish. And the wish will come true.

There are rules about wishing. The scope of the wishing is the town itself. You can’t wish for something that will affect things outside Madison and thus bring the attention of outsiders. For example, you can’t wish to be the best football player in the country, but you can wish to be the best football player in Madison.

The book starts 25 days before Eldon Wilkes’ wish day. Eldon used to be the best football player in town – he was always naturally talented. But that was before this year, when his friends started getting their wishes. Now he’s a bit at loose ends, not used to being an average player. He doesn’t know what he’s going to wish for.

Eldon has seen lots of wishes go wrong. His dad wished to be the best football player in town – and then he got injured. Now he coaches their team. Eldon’s mother Luella wished that Harmon Wilkes (Eldon’s dad) would love her and only her forever. Trouble is, somewhere along the way, Luella stopped loving him.

She knows there’s no reversing her wish. She could divorce Harmon and move out of Madison. She could go to the other side of the world. But no matter what she says or does or how far away she moves, Harmon Wilkes will never stop loving her.

Eldon does some exploring. He asks people about their wishes. What did they wish? Why did they wish for that thing? Are they happy with it?

I like the way this premise is explored. I like how wishing has taken over the dynamics of the town. People in Madison don’t ask kids what they’re going to be when they grow up. They ask kids what they are going to wish for.

And so many people regret making the wish they did. Even the one person Eldon meets who gave up his wish regrets giving it up. There’s a lot riding on his choice – what will Eldon do?

This book also presents a realistic picture of a jock in a small town who is no longer the star of the team and looking for some meaning, dealing with friends, and also with missing his little sister, who was in a horrible accident when hit by a speeding car driven by a kid who was late for making his wish. If only they hadn’t taken his sister out of Madison so soon, but now she’s in a hospital in Las Vegas in a vegetative state.

My reading year is off to a great start!

chelseasedoti.com
sourcebooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an advance reader copy.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Invitation to a 48-Hour Book Challenge

Friday, May 15th, 2020

I’m not sure how long ago it was, but some number of years ago, my friend Pam Coughlan, who recently became my co-worker, would run a 48-Hour Book Challenge from her blog, motherreader.com.

Pam did a fantastic job with the 48-Hour Book Challenge. She had a start line and finish line. She had prizes. She had a place for you to post. The logo for the challenge I put on this post is totally hers.

Well, she stopped blogging, but for the years that she sponsored the 48-Hour Book Challenge, I liked it so much that I kept doing my own personal ones.

And — I’m taking this next week off. But because of Covid-19, I cancelled my reservation in southern Virginia and my plans to hike to waterfalls. So I will be home — and I’ve decided to use Monday and Tuesday for this year’s 48-Hour Book Challenge.

I have already dropped the ball on inviting other people to join me. Who’s going to clear 48 hours so quickly? But in case you like the idea and want to try it in the next week or so — tell me about it in the comments and if you have a blog, put a link.

Here are the rules: For 48 straight hours, you spend as much time as you can reading and blogging. That’s it. But you keep track of your stats and post your results.

I have to admit, it’s more fun when I spend more of the time reading and less time blogging. But I am already way, way behind on getting reviews posted, so I am going to try to write a review of every book I finish reading and also to post multiple reviews — I don’t want to get further behind.

Oh, and it’s allowed to tide yourself over times when it’s hard to read by listening to audiobooks. I have one loaded to Libby on my phone that I need to listen to. That’s probably what I’ll do while fixing lunch and dinner.

So it will be fun if someone can join me. But whether or not — I hereby declare that I can’t do extra activities on Monday and Tuesday. I need to read!

Review of Pass Go and Collect $200, by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Steven Salerno

Friday, May 15th, 2020

Pass Go and Collect $200

The Real Story of How Monopoly Was Invented

by Tanya Lee Stone
illustrated by Steven Salerno

Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt and Company), 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 23, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

Everybody knows that Charles Darrow invented the game of Monopoly during the Great Depression and made lots of money, right? It’s even explained in the rules.

Turns out, that’s not actually the truth – he took credit – and got money – from a woman’s invention!

Okay, he did improve things. He did make his own boards and add a unique look to the game. But the basic idea of “The Landlord’s Game” was invented by a woman named Lizzie Magie – and she even filed some patents to prove it!

This picture book tells the real story and shows the early versions of Lizzie’s game. Parker Brothers Game Company didn’t buy her popular game, but her friends enjoyed the game and made their own changes and put names on the properties based on the cities where they lived.

The most lasting changes happened in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1930. Ruth Hoskins, a young Quaker teacher, and her friends renamed most of the properties after Atlantic City streets and neighborhoods. They were inspired by locations such as St. Charles Place, Ventnor Avenue, and Boardwalk. Someone else came up with color sequences and dividing the properties into groups of three. Atlantic City players added hotels to the game as well.

This was the set that Charles Darrow played.

Like many others, Charles Darrow began making his own boards to play the game. He even added some improvements. But it was the Great Depression, and instead of giving away the games he was making, he sold copies to his friends.

He also marketed the game and got sets he’d made stocked in department stores for Christmas. After they heard what a hit he was creating, Parker Brothers was finally willing to purchase the game from him.

To protect anyone from copying it, Parker Brothers needed a patent. Can you guess what happened next? Parker Brothers discovered Lizzie Magie’s patent. George Parker then remembered Lizzie trying to sell him her game years before. After having made an earlier claim that Monopoly was his brainchild, Charles Darrow admitted he had worked from an existing game, but he didn’t know who created it.

They ended up buying Lizzie’s patent for $500 (the equivalent of almost $9,000 today) for the rights to publish the game. And then the company went on to make millions from it.

This is how the main text of the book finishes up, leaving the reader to decide:

Today, we know that without Lizzie Magie, there likely never would have been a game called Monopoly for us to play and love. Her initial idea is the heart of the game. And without Charles Darrow, Monopoly might not have become America’s favorite board game. All the other folks who added their ideas along the way helped make it great, too.

So who wins in this story? What do you think? Did Lizzie Magie make a wrong move? Did Charles Darrow? How would you have played it? In any case, there is no doubt that millions of people all over the world adore Monopoly.

How nice to have a book that sets the record straight!

tanyastone.com
stevensalerno.com
mackids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/pass_go_and_collect_200.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration, by Leonard S. Marcus

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

Helen Oxenbury

A Life in Illustration

by Leonard S. Marcus

Candlewick Press, 2018. 288 pages.
Starred Review
Review written 02/20/2020, from a library book

This big, beautiful, heavy book tells the story of the career of the amazing picture book artist, Helen Oxenbury. I was delighted to read it, because Helen Oxenbury’s Tom and Pippo books were a huge favorite of my firstborn child, who is now almost 32 years old.

The pages are as large as a picture book, the paper is thick, and there are almost 300 pages. There’s a decorative ribbon, so this is suitable for a coffee table book, which is where I kept my library copy while I was reading it – but I’m afraid that meant I didn’t get around to it very often. By far the majority of the pages are filled with paintings, and when there is text it isn’t long. So this book doesn’t take a long time to read if you sit down and look. Every time I thought I should give up because I wasn’t getting around to it, I’d read another chapter and be so delighted that I didn’t have the heart to part with it until I was done.

It’s a beautiful book and filled me with nostalgia especially about the books I’d read to my kids. But I also enjoyed the wonderful art from books I hadn’t been familiar with. It’s arranged in a way that you can see Helen Oxenbury’s strengths and her growth as a writer. The story of her career is fascinating, too. She met her husband, the noted illustrator John Burningham, when they were both in art school. She began her own career in the 1960s and continues to this day.

This wonderful book looks in great detail at her many illustrated books and celebrates her life. There’s a Bibliography at the back as well as testimonials from authors she’s worked with. So much fun if you or your child have ever loved a Helen Oxenbury book. And if you haven’t, you’ll discover ones you must find and enjoy.

At the back of the book, we discover that Helen Oxenbury is the one who created the Walker Bear, also used by Candlewick Press. The book finishes with a quote from Deirdre McDermott, the Publisher of Walker Books:

So it is that the story of Helen Oxenbury’s astonishing contribution to children’s books is intrinsically woven into the fabric and legacy of Walker Books and Candlewick Press. She is as steeped in our history as we are in hers. Helen’s beautiful, iconic bear has illuminated the creative path for the thousands of stories that we’ve published, and shines a way forward for the many, many more to come.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/helen_oxenbury.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Julián Is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Julián Is a Mermaid

by Jessica Love

Candlewick Press, 2018. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written May 24, 2018, from a library book
2019 Stonewall Children’s Literature Award Winner
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #6 Other Picture Books

Julián Is a Mermaid is a wonderful story told with magnificent illustrations. On the front end papers we see a young boy swimming underwater while his abuela looks on. Abuela and her four friends – all approximately Abuela’s age and body type – are in the pool, too, wearing swim caps and holding onto the edge.

The book still hasn’t started. On the title spread, we see Julián and Abuela walking to the train station, with three tall, beautiful women flamboyantly dressed as mermaids walking behind them.

The book officially begins on the train. The mermaids get on the train, too. The text reads:

This is a boy named Julián. And this is his abuela.
And those are some mermaids.

Julián LOVES mermaids.

One of the mermaids waves to Julián. We can tell that the big book he’s reading has a picture of a mermaid inside.

The next spreads show Julián’s imagination. He’s in the water. He kicks off all his clothes but his underwear. A swarm of fish sweeps past – and Julián has a tail! He’s a mermaid! Another big fish gives him a necklace.

But he’s pulled out of the dream when the train reaches their stop. The mermaids wave good-by.

At home, while Abuela is taking a bath, Julián wants to live in his imagination a little longer. He takes off his clothes except his underwear, makes a mermaid crown with plants and flowers (this part is all shown with pictures), puts on lipstick – and uses the fluffy lace curtain from the window to make a beautiful tail. Julián stands triumphant in the same pose as in the picture on the cover.

When Abuela comes out, she doesn’t exactly look happy. We can see Julián considering what he has done.

And then, Abuela, all dressed now, gives Julián a bead necklace to complete his outfit. They go out the door together.

We aren’t sure where they’re going – but as they walk, we see many people, all dressed as sea creatures.

“Mermaids,” whispers Julián.

“Like you, mijo. Let’s join them.

And Julián and Abuela end up walking along the beach as part of a long ocean parade, all sorts of people in wonderful costumes – and the mermaids from the train right in front of them.

On the back endpapers, we’ve got Abuela’s swim group again, but this time they’re all underwater and they have all grown tails. Julián the mermaid is swimming beneath them.

The first lovely thing about this book is the illustrations. They are exquisitely and beautifully done. (In fact, I would be so happy if this book won the Caldecott.) All the people are distinct characters, and the art carries the story in most of the book.

But what’s especially lovely is that nowhere at all is Julián told that a little boy shouldn’t imagine being a mermaid. Abuela looks askance at him for taking down her lovely lace curtain – but even that she goes with.

And I love, love, love the way she encourages his imagination by letting him join the parade of others dressed as he is.

And nobody puts any restrictions on this boy’s imagination.

candlewick.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/julian_is_a_mermaid.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Orphan Band of Springdale, by Anne Nesbet

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

The Orphan Band of Springdale

by Anne Nesbet

Candlewick Press, 2018. 433 pages.
Starred Review
Review written April 25, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#6 Historical Children’s Fiction

Reading The Orphan Band of Springdale made me happy. I liked the main character, Gusta Neubronner, and seeing the world through her eyes was a delightful experience.

The book begins as her father puts her on a bus – and leaves! He told her where to sit and put her suitcase onto the rack above her, and then got off the bus. Instead of getting back on, two men in uniforms came onto the bus looking for him.

The setting of the book is 1941 in Maine. Gusta had lived with her parents in New York City. Her father, who was born in Germany and hated the Nazis, was a union organizer. But anti-German sentiment being what it was, as well as anti-union sentiment, he had become a fugitive. Her mother got a job and couldn’t take care of Gusta, so she was sent to her grandmother in Springdale, Maine.

Now, Gusta’s mother had told her a story about her grandfather, who built the house in Springdale. He had been a sea captain and found a chest full of real wishes. They looked like coins that sparkled mysteriously. He didn’t believe it at first, and made frivolous wishes, which all came true.

“He said that after a day or two, he suddenly realized the seriousness of the situation. These were actual wishes, and he was wasting them. He would pick up one of those odd little coin things and wish for his sardines (for example), and after that, he said, he could tell that Wish was all used up. It didn’t sparkle anymore, he said. It just looked empty.”

“How can a coin be empty?”

“I don’t know. That’s how he described it. And of course that made him realize he couldn’t keep wasting those Wishes; he needed to think it all through more carefully, make wishes that counted. And then – right that very day – something really terrible happened: the ship he was on hit a reef and sank.”

The entire chest with Wishes sank in the sea. But one Wish remained, in his pocket.

“A single Wish,” said her mother. “One last Wish left. He kept that Wish safe, and he brought it back home with him. And you know what? He never used it, his whole life long. That’s what he told me, anyway, and I knew him when he was very, very old.”

He’d put the Wish in a box on a shelf, somewhere in the house. Can Gusta find it while she’s there? Can she use it to solve some problems?

And there are some problems while she’s there. Her father’s a fugitive. She meets her grandmother, who now runs an orphanage, and other relatives, including her uncle, whose hand was injured working in the mill and now needs an expensive operation or he can’t work. Gusta knows that the law is on his side, but without a union there, what can one person do?

But the most fun is the oldest girl in the orphanage, Josie, and Gusta’s cousin Bess. Gusta has brought her father’s French horn with her. When she plays it, she’s letting out her heart. Josie has a beautiful voice. Together they form the Honorary Orphan Band of Springdale (Josie being the only one who’s an actual orphan).

I laughed delightedly when I read this paragraph when the band finally performs:

They played “Angeline the Baker” and “Hard Times in the Mill” and a couple of cheerful, quick-moving songs they had made up themselves, and it’s safe to say no band composed of French horn, ukulele, voice, and bean jar ever had a more enthusiastic reception anywhere.

You’ll learn a little history reading this book about life on the home front just before the United States joined World War Two. But mostly you’ll have fun reading about some good-hearted characters in difficult circumstances trying to set things right – with or without a Wish.

candlewick.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/orphan_band_of_springdale.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Reawakening Our Ancestors’ Lines, gathered and compiled by Angela Hovak Johnston

Monday, May 11th, 2020

Reawakening Our Ancestors’ Lines

Revitalizing Inuit Traditional Tattoing

gathered and compiled by Angela Hovak Johnston
with photography by Cora De Vos

Inhabit Media, Ontario, Canada, 2017. 70 pages.
Review written May 11, 2020, from a library book
2020 American Indian Youth Literature Young Adult Honor
Starred Review

I read this book because it won a 2020 American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor in the Young Adult category, and I’m glad I did.

This book tells the story of the Inuit Tattoo Revitalization Project, an effort begun by Angela Hovak Johnston to revive the traditional tattooing of the Inuit people. Here’s a small part of her explanation in the Introduction:

This eight-year project began with my personal journey to permanently ink myself with the ancient symbols that were worn by my Inuit ancestors. The last known Inuk woman in the Nunavut area with tattoos done the traditional way passed away in 2005; that is when my passion grew. Knowing she was the last inked Inuk woman, I strongly believed tattoos couldn’t become just another part of history that we only read about in books, so I pushed forward with my dream of having tattoos. I knew I had a role to play. It took me years of hard research and finding the right tattoo artist to do these markings on my face. Not giving up, in 2008, I finally had my first facial tattoos. Inuit traditional tattoos, almost lost as a result of missionaries and residential schools, have come back. While tattoos skip three generations in some families, through this project, we thankfully had the pleasure of inking a family of women who carried three generations of new tattoos.

This book documents a part of the project where Angela and her team met for five days in April 2016 at the Kugluktuk Heritage Visitor Centre in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, and gave traditional tattoos to the Inuit women who came.

The photographs by Cora De Vos, an Inuk photographer, make this book exceptional. Each participant gets a spread. On one side the woman explains the significance to her of the tattoos she received along with various pictures of receiving the tattoos or modeling the tattoos. On the opposite side, there’s a portrait of the woman with the finished tattoos, often in traditional Inuit clothing, and always looking beautiful and strong.

Each woman speaks for herself, which makes the text a little bit repetitive, since receiving the tattoos meant similar things to many of the women. But I did appreciate that all were given a voice and a moment to shine. All the women are truly beautiful and this project brings that out in such a lovely way.

The photos are so gorgeous, readers might be tempted to try to get similar tattoos for themselves, so there is an Author’s Note about cultural appropriation at the back – this project is going to focus on giving Inuit women the opportunity to receive the traditional tattoos first.

The book is full of hope and joy about Inuit women reclaiming their history and traditions. You can see their emotion in the photographs and hear the pride in their voices. This is a lovely thing for anyone of any ethnicity to witness, and I’m very glad I discovered this beautiful book.

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