Week-end Book Review: What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World, by Andrea Curtis and Yvonne Duivenvoorden

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

What's for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World, by Andrea Curtis, photography by Yvonne Duivenvoorden (Red Deer Press, 2012)Reviewed by Charlotte Richardson:

Andrea Curtis, photography by Yvonne Duivenvoorden,
What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World
Red Deer Press, 2012.

Ages: 8+

What’s for Lunch? uses a comparison of school lunches around the world as a jumping off point for a wide-ranging discussion of food issues presented in a poster-like layout. Yvonne Duvenvoorden’s attractive photographs of the lunches will draw children in, as will Sophie Casson’s appealingly goofy illustrations. Children will learn not only about the varieties of foods served in schools globally but also about their presentation…

Read the full review

Week-end Book Review ~ What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World by Maya Ajmera, Elise Hofer Derstine, and Cynthia Pon

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Maya Ajmera, Elise Hofer Derstine, and Cynthia Pon,
What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World
A Global Fund for Children Book/Charlesbridge, 2012.

Ages: 4-7

Dressing up means something a little different to everyone, but for children dressing up is always important.  It might mean trying on a parent’s clothes in the back of a closet, putting on a costume for a performance or holiday, painting your face, playing pretend, or wearing a team uniform for a big game.  No matter where, dressing up is special, but the details of dressing up differ considerably depending on the traditions of one’s culture.

Though the outfits vary greatly from place to place, the reasons for dressing up unite us all.  This richly photographed book of smiling children from around the world dressing up in every imaginable way will open windows onto other cultures for children everywhere.  Whether vibrant beads on the head, neck, and shoulders of a Kenyan child or identical navy blue baseball caps on a Japanese team, it is clear that children everywhere delight in dressing up, whatever the occasion.  Captions accompanying the photos suggest the different reasons people wear special clothing and where to find people wearing such garments: folk festivals, cultural events, religious rituals and even school.  A world map highlights the countries the photographed children call home, underscoring the point that dressing up is universal.

Children will recognize the familiar in these pages and will also be delighted to see their counterparts in other countries dressed so differently.  The pictures are likely to inspire a sense of wonder that may lead young children to think about what they share and how they differ from people of other cultures.  The authors also make suggestions for learning more about dressing up all over the world such as going to museums, making masks and costumes on your own, and visiting cultural institutions and festivals.

Expressing one’s self and experiencing one’s culture through clothing is an important part of developing self-identity. This makes What We Wear a perfect book to have on the shelves of a pre-school or primary grade library, inspiring kids to see themselves and children everywhere as part of a global community.

Abigail Sawyer
December 2012

Week-end Book Review – Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by Raúl Colón

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Carmen T. Bernier-Grand, illustrated by Raúl Colón,
Alicia Alonso: Prima Ballerina
Marshall Cavendish, 2011.

Ages 10+

Alicia Alonso, the latest in a series of portraits of Latin figures by award-winning author and poet Carmen Bernier-Grand, is written in lyrical free verse, a style that particularly suits the dramatic life of this beloved Cuban dancer.

Alonso’s long career has been marked by many difficulties. Already a highly regarded dancer in Cuba, she and her young fiancé, also a dancer, immigrated to New York in 1937, when Alicia was 15 and pregnant. She resumed ballet as soon as her daughter was born. In a field known to destroy bodies and careers early in life, Alonso continued dancing until she was in her seventies, despite diminishing vision from a detached retina that led eventually to blindness.

Bernier-Grand tells the story in touching word-sketches of key moments in Alonso’s life: selection for the role of Swanilda in Coppélia; romance with Fernando Alonso, her eventual husband; parental disapproval of ballet as a career; separation from her daughter during her U.S. tours; learning Giselle while blind and hospitalized by using her fingers as her feet; ballet shoes stuck to her feet with dried blood; eventual refusal to dance in Cuba while Batista was in power.

“She counts steps, etches the stage in her mind.
Spotlights of different colors warn her
she is too near the orchestra pit.
She moves, a paintbrush on canvas…
She imagines an axis
and pirouettes across her own inner stage.”

Raúl Colón’s stylized pastel illustrations poignantly evoke ballet’s beauty and Alonso’s suffering, despite which she has had one of the longest, most esteemed careers in ballet history. Vision in one eye was partially restored in 1972. Alonso, who founded the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, still choreographs dances at age 92.

Back matter includes a detailed biographical narrative of Alonso’s life; lists of some of the ballets she has danced and choreographed and awards she has won; a glossary; an extensive bibliography of sources and websites; and notes on the text. While the simple story of the ballerina’s life will appeal even to very young children, the reference material is rich enough for an older child to use for a research project. In the process of understanding a woman artist’s life struggles, young readers will also learn much about U.S.-Cuban relations.

Charlotte Richardson
February 2012

Week-end Book Review/PaperTigers Book of the Month: “One Well” by Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods PLUS “Ryan and Jimmy” by Herb Shoveller

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

[As we move into our new theme of Water, this post reprints our review of two titles in Kids Can Press' superb CitizenKid series; One Well is also our current Book of the Month]

Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods,
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth
Kids Can Press, 2007.

Ages 8-12

Herb Shoveller,
Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together
Kids Can Press 2006.

Ages 8-12

There would be no life on this planet without it: every organism on earth needs water to survive. Both One Well and Ryan and Jimmy demonstrate in different ways just how precious a resource water is and how we have a responsibility to look after it and ensure that it is kept safe and clean and indeed available.

One Well uses the symbolism of a well to represent all the water on the earth. Animals come to the well to drink; fish live in the well, we need the well for our own drinking water… but the well is now severely at risk from pollution and over-exploitation. We all have a responsibility to be “Well Aware” and to teach our children to become Well Aware also. This is a good resource to set that in motion. The enormity of the facts and figures given is by no means diminished by the symbolism here; indeed, the notion of the well allows even young children to grasp the notion of just how precious our water is and that we cannot take it for granted. Rosemary Wood’s illustrations which swirl through the text intensify the image of the well but also ensure that the metaphor is not taken too literally.

Meanwhile, Ryan and Jimmy is the truly remarkable story of a six-year-old Canadian boy’s determination to build a well in Africa and the series of life-altering events that followed. He was so horrified to hear at school that there were children in the world who did not have safe drinking-water, that he doggedly set about raising money to build a well in Africa. News of his determination filtered into other people’s lives and the ripple effect of his actions eventually gave rise to the setting up of Ryan’s Well Foundation. A class pen pal scheme brought Ryan into contact with Akana Jimmy. They then met in 2000 when Ryan and his family travelled to Uganda to see for themselves “Ryan’s well” in Jimmy’s village. Then in 2002, Jimmy’s life was dramatically changed when rebels attacked his village and captured him to be a child soldier. Although he managed to escape, his life was now at risk. Eventually, he managed to get to Canada, where he was awarded refugee status and became a member of Ryan’s family. Now, both Ryan and Jimmy are involved in the Foundation and have travelled all over the world, raising awareness about the importance of clean water. To date, 319 wells have been built in Africa, South America and India, bringing clean water to more than 450 000 people.

Full of photographs and pictures of letters and drawings, laid on a background of varying bright, earthy African colors and patterns, the book is visually exciting; the story is even more so. The writing is well paced and serves the facts up straight – if it aims to inspire, it certainly succeeds.

These two books compliment each other well (indeed One Well actually cites Ryan’s Well Foundation) and are invaluable resources both for the introduction of water as a school topic and for follow-up reading at home. One Well gives the facts and figures and reasons why we should be taking care of this precious resource; Ryan and Jimmy provides the inspiration for even young children to recognise that every little bit helps and that they can make a difference.

Marjorie Coughlan
November 2007