LION ISLAND: CUBA'S WARRIOR OF WORDS -- a haunting novel in verse that tells the story of a young man who became a civil rights champion
Lion Island: Cuba's Warrior of Words by Margarita Engle (2016, Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 176 pages)
“Liberty is the beast that is never tamed; it breaks the chains that bind it with blood and fire, to reclaim its rights.” -Antonio Chuffat
This is the true story of Antonio Chuffat, a young man whose ancestors clashed and blended on the beautiful island of Cuba. It is the story of a boy who became a champion of civil rights for those who could not speak for themselves.
The book narrates in verse form the times when Cuba is fighting for freedom from Spain. Enslaved Africans and near-enslaved Chinese servants are forced to work long, backbreaking hours in the fields. Antonio feels lucky to have found a good job as a messenger where his cultural background is an asset. One day he meets Wing, a young Chinese fruit seller who barely escaped the anti-Asian riots in San Francisco, and his sister Fan, a talented singer. Seeing and feeling injustice all around them, the three friends are determined that, in this time of violent rebellion and slavery, violence through guns will not be the only way to gain liberty. The power of written petitions offered hope, and this Chinese-African Cuban messenger boy named Antonio Chuffat documented the war of words.
The book was written by the talented and fantastic Cuban-American poet and novelist, Newbery Honor-winning author Margarita Engle. I immensely enjoy novels written in verse, and Margarita Engle’s verse is astonishingly beautiful. She chose to begin the book with a chapter in non-verse form that describes the historical background of the story. This chapter is rich in information and fabulous because it brings to the surface a dark episode in the history of slavery, this time placed in Cuba: “Beginning in the 1840s, more than 250,000 men were shipped to Cuba and Peru from China as part of a treaty between the Spanish and Chinese empires. Working in Cuba’s sugarcane fields alongside African slaves, Chinese indentured laborers were often forced to sign one eight-year contract after another. Intermarriage between Chinese men and African women created a richly blended culture with unique religious, musical, and culinary traditions. In 1868, a small group of planters in Cuba freed slaves and declared independence from Spain. Around the same time, Chinese Americans were fleeing anti-Asian riots in California. By the early 1870s, 5,000 refugees had settled in Cuba.”
Incredibly powerful, hopeful, haunting and beautiful, this is a must read book for people of all ages.
Find this title in our catalog: Lion Island
Recommended by: Maite
The Book Book by Sophie Benini Pietromarchi (2007, Tara Books; 132 pages)
“Books are like houses. Curiosity always makes me want to open doors. I’ve always thought that the most mysterious doors are the covers of books.”
This is the delightful beginning of an incredibly excellent and humble book. Artist Sophie Benini Pietromarchi invites children on a fantastic journey through the world of bookmaking in The Book Book, a lyrical, beautiful craft work. The journey explores colors, textures, shapes, and feelings. Benini demonstrates how those intangible elements can be turned into pictorial narratives. She also explores the uses of unlikely items, like pencil shavings, onions, dust, and leaves. An egg box becomes a perfect book cover, an onion will work for decorating paper, rough string can bind books and boxes of cornflakes or biscuits can illustrate cars or cities, and also will work on making good book covers.
The book is a visual feast to enjoy with time. Photographs and art are fantastic, and together with the writing, become an invitation to get to work right away.
The Book Book is a tribute to the rich, imaginative world in all of us. This work evolved from workshops with children, which explains the fact that it can be used by children without adult help. But it is also a great tool for parents, teachers or anyone working with children because it features creative and simple exercises in drawing, creative writing, and book-making.
This book is a house that you want to enter and stay for a long time. Find it, open it, and enjoy.
Find this title in our catalog: The Book Book
Recommended by: Maite
AMINA'S VOICE -- brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other
Amina's Voice by Hena Khan (2017, Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; 208 pages)
Amina’s Voice is the latest book by Hena Khan, a Pakistani American author who enjoys writing about her culture as well as all sorts of other subjects.
In Amina’s Voice, she chooses to let her main character, Amina, guide the reader through the days and nights of an almost 12-year-old American girl. Amina’s voice is a powerful one and the reader certainly hears what she has to say. She shares the same questions as many other girls of her age. She has a best friend named Soojin and she is very happy hanging out just with her, but the problem is that now that they are in middle school, everything feels different. Soojin starts hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and she even starts talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Amina doesn’t quite understand this “new” Soojin, but she loves her friend and she tries to keep up with the new changes.
In Amina’s narration, she brings us many details about her family and those details are a pure joy to read. While her life goes on, and she struggles to keep up with the changes that middle school brings into her life, her local mosque is vandalized, and she is devastated. The final chapters of the book are a beautiful example of how a fractured community begins to heal.
Amina’s Voice is a beautiful, fun and interesting book. The author believes in the power of a young girl’s voice, and in this book you will certainly hear it. Recommended to young readers curious about cultural diversity, and those who enjoy strong, young female characters. Best for 8 to 12.
Find this title in our catalog: Amina's Voice
Recommended by: Maite
THE INQUISITOR'S TALE: OR, THE THREE MAGICAL CHILDREN AND THEIR HOLY DOG -- an exciting and hilarious medieval adventure
The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz (2016, Dutton Books For Young Readers; 384 pages)
This is a profound and ambitious book, and an example of great storytelling.
The story starts on a dark night in the year 1242, when a group of travelers gather at a small French inn. It is a perfect night for a story, and everyone in the kingdom is looking forward to learn more about the tale of three children: Jeanne, a peasant girl who has visions of the future (character loosely based on Joan of Arc); William, a young monk with supernatural strength; and Jacob, a Jewish boy who can heal any wound. Together, their powers will be tested by demons and dragons, cruel knights and cunning monks. These three unlikely friends and their faithful greyhound are going to be chased through France to a final showdown in the waves at the foot of the abbey-fortress of Mont-Saint-Michel.
One of the most brilliant parts of this book is the manuscript illuminations created by illustrator Hatem Aly that offers the feel and texture of 13th-century France. They are also filled with the author’s trademark style and humor. The novel is a well-researched and engaging adventure, but it is more than that: it is a sweet and moving story about the power of friendship, curiosity and love of learning, all in a world filled with hate and narrow-mindedness.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is the closing author’s note chapter where he explains where the story came from. He explains how much of the novel is real and how much is made up, offers deep details of the main characters, and he also offers a historical context of the High Middle Ages, the time when The Inquisitor’s Tale takes place.
Find this title in our catalog: The Inquisitor's Tale
Recommended by: Maite
WOMEN IN SCIENCE: 50 FEARLESS PIONEERS WHO CHANGED THE WORLD -- a charmingly illustrated and educational book that celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who paved the way for the next generations
Women In Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed The World written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky (2016, Ten Speed Press; 128 pages)
This juvenile nonfiction book is a bliss and a joy. One of those books I wish I would have had the opportunity to have in my hands when I was a young girl, looking around for female role models in any field in life. Those books didn't exist then; woman scientist wasn’t even a concept.
But now, it is a scientific fact: Women rock, and they rock also in science. Everything about this book is charming. The facts, the portraits of those 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world, the format, and those incredible illustrations included in each chapter. The fifty notable women belong to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from the ancient to the modern world. The art is striking, and the collection also includes infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary.
The reader can dive into profiles of well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Gertrude Elion, pharmacologist and biochemist, Annie Easley, computer programmer, mathematician and rocket scientist, Patricia Bath, ophthalmologist and inventor, or Sau Lan Wu, particle physicist among many others.
This book not only celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female scientists, the book also celebrates diversity and embraces it.
This is a beautiful, gorgeous, excellent book. Read it!
Find this title in our catalog: Women In Science
Recommended by: Maite
THE FIREFLY LETTERS: A SUFFRAGETTE'S JOURNEY TO CUBA -- a powerful novel in verse about an early women’s rights pioneer and the journey to Cuba that transformed her life
The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette's Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle (2017, Square Fish; 176 pages)
“Your Majesty ... I can from Cuba, better than you from any other point on this side of the globe, speak of the New World, because Cuba lies between North and South America ... Heaven and earth, the people, language, laws, manners, style of building, every thing is new...”-- Frederika Bremer, in a letter to Carolina Amelia, Queen Dowager of Denmark, April, 1851 Matanzas, Cuba
“I remember a wide river
and gray parrots with patches of red feathers
flashing across the African sky
like traveling stars
or Cuban fireflies.
In the silence of night
I still hear my mother wailing,
and I see my father's eyes
refusing to meet mine.
I was eight, plenty old enough
to understand that my father was haggling
with a wandering slave trader,
agreeing to exchange me
for a stolen cow.
Spanish sea captains and Arab merchants
are not the only men
who think of girls
This is the beginning of one of the most beautiful juvenile books I've read, a book written by Newbery Honor-Winning Author Margarita Engle, and a book with a fantastic title: The firefly Letters, a Suffragette's Journey to Cuba. Margarita Engle is a Cuban-American poet, novelist and journalist whose work has been published in many countries.
When Fredrika Bremer asked the Swedish Consulate to find her a quiet home in the Cuban countryside, she expected a rustic one, instead of the luxurious mansion in Matanzas, where Elena, the daughter of the house, can barely step foot outside. The freedom to roam is something that woman and girls in Cuba didn't have. Fredrika is accompanied by Cecilia, a young slave who longs for her lost home in Africa. Elena, Fredrika and Cecilia will become friends and they will explore the lush countryside, forming a bond that breaks the barriers of language and culture.
This extraordinary book brings the reader a portrait of early women's rights pioneer, Swedish writer Fredrika Bremer, and the journey to Cuba that transformed her life. As the author writes at the end of the book, nearly all the events described in the book are documented in Fredrika's letters and diaries, but the character of Elena is a fictional one. Cecilia's husband was mentioned but not named in Bremer's letters. She wrote that Cecilia was eight years old when she was taken to Cuba from Africa, and that she said she still missed her mother.
The book is written in verse form, and each chapter is the voice of one of the three women characters. Margarita Engle's imagination and research brings us a mix of fiction and non-fiction that delivers a jewel that readers will love.
Recommended to all, especially those who cherish curiosity and love history, strong women, and traveling to other countries.
Find this title in our catalog: The Firefly Letters
Recommended by: Maite
REVOLUTIONARY WOMEN: A BOOK OF STENCILS -- a radical feminist history and a street art resource, this handbook combines short biographies with striking and usable stencil images of 30 female activists
Revolutionary Women: A Book Of Stencils by Queen of the Neighborhood (2010, PM Press; 128 pages)
This is a gorgeous book of short biographies and striking stencil images of thirty women's heroes: activists, anarchists, feminists, freedom-fighters, and visionaries. The reader can find a well of inspiration from this celebration of surbversive portraits celebrating strong women from all over the world. From Harriet Tubman, Emma Goldman, and Angela Davis, to Vandana Shiva, Sylvia Rivera, and Lucia Sanchez Saornil. From Qiu Jin to Comandante Ramona or Malalai Joya, the book offers a complete radical way to bring history to the hands of readers. A sampling of quotes from key writings and speeches gives voice to each woman's ideologies, struggles, ideas, philosophies and humanity. The stencils are a jewel, a creative and powerful way to bring the likeness of these women into the book.
Queen of the Neighborhood is an all-women collective of writers, researchers, editors, and graphic designers originally hailing from Aotearoa/New Zealand. They are Tui Gordon, Hoyden, Melissa Steiner, Anna Kelliher, Rachel Bell, Anna-Claire Hunter, and Janet McAllister. Taking seed from the original zine, Revolutionary Women Stencil Book, the collective sprouted up from fans and friends who spent the next two years distilling their feminist passion into that book.
I'd recommend this book to readers who are looking for inspiration in strong women of our present and past, those looking for information of strong women from different parts of the globe, and those interested in the art of stencils.
Find this title in our catalog: Revolutionary Women: A Book Of Stencils
Recommended by: Maite
VIRGINIA WOOLF: AN ILLUSTRATED BIOGRAPHY -- equal parts concision, compassion, and unsentimental reverence
Library of Luminaries: Virginia Woolf: An Illustrated Biography by Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford (2016, Chronicle)
Imagine a short but complete biography of one of the twentieth century's greatest writers and creative thinkers, Virginia Woolf, a book filled with beautiful watercolors illustrating the handwritten words that celebrate her life. This is that book, an extraordinary beautiful piece of art and literature that we can enjoy thanks to Chronicle Books.
The book belongs to the Library of Luminaries series, a collection of books about luminaries in history in relatively short but always beautifully illustrated volumes offered in an appealing, medium-sized square hardback format that brings a different point of view to the book. You won't find dense text in it, but you will be able to take your time to delight in information about Virginia's family tree, for example, quotes from her letters and diaries, or information about her group of friends, the Bloomsbury group she helped form. The illustrated biography also features little details like her nickname for her husband, or about how slowly her first novel sold, information about what she kept on her desk, and portions of the note she left her husband before she ended her own life.
This book is a treasure for everyone, and especially for those who love Virginia Woolf, biographies, woman’s history and beautiful watercolors. Read it!
Find this title in our catalog: This book is being catalogued
Recommended by: Maite
OLGA AND THE SMELLY THING FROM NOWHERE -- a hilarious and colorful chapter book for readers who love making discoveries and meeting new friends
Olga And The Smelly Thing From Nowhere by Elise Gravel (2017, HarperCollins; 176 pages)
This advance copy got in my hands a few weeks ago and as soon as I opened the book I fell in love with Olga. Olga adores animals, and doesn't adore people so much. She loves to take notes on life around her, and she is going to give the reader the opportunity to peer into her “observation notebook.” She will introduce us to Rita, her best friend, a spider who lives under the bathroom sink, and she will share with us why her arch enemies are two neighbors named Farla and Shalala whose lives are very different from hers. As a matter of fact, Olga's life will change her usual routines when she discovers an odd, smelly creature that looks “like a cross between an inflated hamster and a potato drawn by a three-year-old.” She, of course, adopts the creature, a creature whose only word is “meh,” and that's how she will be named. From that point on, Olga gets her scientist-in-training mindset on and starts with writing down daily observations about “the thing.” Meh is scared of bananas, and Olga can't figure it out what she likes to eat...The adventures begin.
This is a fantastic chapter book on a cartooning shape, with lots of red and white and black in it. Readers 8 to 12 and adults like myself will roar with laughter at Olga and Meh's adventures, and probably will understand Olga's misanthropic humor, and cherish the fact that her attitude and thoughts about human beings softens by the end of the book.
A treasure, read it.
Find this title in our catalog: This book has not yet been released
Recommended by: Maite
TWO WHITE RABBITS -- a moving and timely story about a young girl describing what it's like to be a migrant traveling north to the U.S. border
Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago and Rafael Yockteng (illustrator) (2015, Groundwood Books; 32 pages)
A little girl is traveling with her father, and she doesn’t know where they are going. She entertains herself counting the animals by the road, the stars and clouds in the sky. Along the way, sometimes she sees soldiers, and there are scary times when they are forced to stop because her father needs to earn more money before they can continue their journey. She also meets a friend who gives her a beautiful present.
This is an extraordinary story with incredibly powerful and realistic illustrations that recreate the story of one of the many thousands of migrants that travel north from Central America and Mexico to reach the U.S. border. The book is powerful and a fantastic example of the power of showing a reality, rather than telling it. We don’t really know why the father and daughter in the book are leaving their home and the world they love and know to go to a different country. We can try to guess, but we are not told. We do know about the millions of people around the world becoming refugees every year. The book offers a little bit of information about this reality at the end of the story, information brought by Patricia Aldana, President of the IBBY Foundation. In North America, close to a hundred thousand children from Central America have made the very dangerous trip the story tells to try to find safety and a way to survive in the United States. Coyotes, people whom they pay to “help” them make the trip, often betray and abandon them. And when they finally make it to the border, they might be turned back or arrested.
Aldana leaves us with a question: “What do those of us who have safe comfortable lives owe to people who do not?”
Jairo Buitrago and Rafael Yockteng bring us a fantastic book about refugees and/or migrants. Recommended for all ages.
Find this title in our catalog: Two White Rabbits
Recommended by: Maite