As I mentioned in our Dotters Pick blog, in 2019 I’m hoping to use our blog to feature a few books each month instead of just one. On our Dotters Daughters Picks blog we focus on picture books, middle grade books, and young adult books. Here are a few of the books I really enjoyed in January.
I’ve had The Birchbark House on my list of books to read for quite a long time; I’m glad to say that I finally read it and really enjoyed it. It has been described to me as Louise Erdrich’s answer to Little House on the Prairie - a much-needed Native perspective on a complex period in this nation’s history. While this is probably true, it’s also an oversimplification. In the first book of the Birchbark series, readers are introduced to seven-year old Omakayas and the rest of her Ojibwa family, friends, and neighbors. Omakayas lives with her older sister, two younger brothers, mother, father, and grandmother. This book follows their family through one year on an island in Lake Superior. The work they do to get ready for the changing seasons is a large portion of the narrative, and it is both fascinating and entertaining. Some of the best parts of the book, though, follow Omakayas’s emotional state after tragedy falls on their family. She is asked to deal with serious, confusing, and conflicting emotions while she is still a child. Erdrich moves her characters through these trials gently and gracefully. She also includes much of the Ojibwa language in her book with a list of definitions and pronunciation guides at the back. This is the first in a series of five books, so if your kids like to follow characters for a while, this is a great option.
This book just came out at the end of January and I absolutely love it. Pura Belpré was a storyteller, puppeteer, and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian. She was a champion of bilingual literature and this book celebrates that. Her story is told in both English and Spanish, which is fitting as she was hired to be a bilingual assistant at the library. This entire book is a celebration of both Belpré’s life and the joy of storytelling, down to the beautiful and exuberant illustrations by Paola Escobar.
In 1996, the Pura Belpré Award was established to celebrate a Latinx writer and illustrator who best portrays, affirms, and, celebrates the Latinx experience. Click here if you’d like to learn more about the aware or see a list of winners.
Not Quite Narwhal is a celebration of difference, and family and friends who love you for exactly who you are. Kelp is a unicorn growing up under the sea with a family of narwhals. He has always been different from the rest of his family: he has a shorter horn, he’s a slow swimmer, and he doesn’t like seafood. One day, a current sweeps him to the surface of the water where he sees a creature who looks just like him. He realizes that he is actually a unicorn. Kelp fits right in to the community of unicorns that he meets on the shore. When the time comes for him to leave, he is torn between staying with this new friends who look just like him, and going back to the family he left under the sea. Luckily, he doesn’t have to choose. This is a simple, beautifully illustrated book about the true meaning of love and family.