children of the world

March 29, 2010

In honor of the “Nonfiction Monday” community, I have decided to do a bit of a flashback for today’s blog post . . . these are the notes I took when still a graduate student, for a school presentation I gave that featured multicultural picture books. My sole caveat in posting this is that it is admittedly embarrassing for me to display my “schoolwork,” as it were. But I thought it would be helpful for those interested in raising culturally aware little ones, so here it is :-)

The Stories:
[My Intro] “What I would like to do now is to read a few books with you. These are all books that were written in different countries, and in different languages. And you know what’s so neat about it is that kids like you—kids with the same types of people they love, pets that make them laugh, things that make them afraid, and dreams that make them happy—are reading books, just like you are, way over on the other side of the world. They may not look just like you, talk just like you, live in houses just like yours, or learn in schools just like yours, but deep down, in the places that matter, they are kids just like you.”

1. Vaugelade, Anais. Translated by Marie-Christine Rouffiac and Tom Streissguth. The War.
I adored the way this book tackled a potentially inflammatory topic: War vs. Peace, in an amazingly light-hearted and thus un-inflammatory manner. It is simple, uplifting, and wholesome in its message. Could lead to interesting class discussions, for sure!

2. Une nuit, un chat, written & illustrated by Yvan Pommaux [France]
Plopped contentedly on the floor of the library, I chuckled as I read this book, and I concurred with the selectors’ that it was indeed an excellent representative book for this particular collection.
One of the most immediately evident reasons, for me, was that the text is simple, and easy to follow—even for my level of French ☺ As a result, it is excellent for the targeted audience of upper primary school children. Also concerning the language, its rhyming lines and alliteration make it playful, and simply fun to read.
Its theme fits as representative for any international collection, in that it is about family—one of the most universal of themes, and certainly one with which any child can identify.

3. El guardian del Olvido, by Joan M. Gisbert/ illustrated by Alfonso Ruano [Spain]
Reading this book, I placed it at a slightly older level than the previous one—but still definitely within an elementary age group.
This one is longer, with basic prose [rather than rhymes], but still simple dialogue and verbiage—again, understandable for my level of Spanish!
And here again, we have an easily graspable universal theme, of friendship, contained within an uplifting story.

4. Un jour mon Prince Viendra, by Andrea Neve/ illustrated by Kitty Crowther [Belgium]
This story provides a new—again universal and easily understandable—theme, this time of love. And, yet again, I was able to easily understand the word choice and language of the text ☺ This one was at a similar level as Une nuit, un chat, with its spare text of rhythmic and lyrical prose—but not actual rhyming in this one.
One final note of interest, concerning its theme, is that there was a surprisingly sly note to the humor—surprising from my cultural perspective, at least—concerning the theme. My assessment is that this is indicative of Europe’s tendency to be less inclined to talk down to children in their picture books—from what I’ve seen—compared to the U.S.
5. La Petite Marchande d’Allumettes, by H.C. Andersen/ translation by P.G. La Chesnais/ illustrated by Georges LeMoine
When I first read this book I cried. I was immensely moved by this retelling of Andersen’s tale, and I was amazed at my own reaction. Interestingly enough, the language of the story is not what touched me the most. The tale is indeed a highly moving, and immensely sad one; unfortunately, though, I fear I have grown hardened to it by merely being overly familiar with it.
For that reason, I love that La Chesnais and LeMoine have redone the story in a way that brings new poignancy to a potentially stale story. They have brought it to life by the ingenious parallel, via solely the artwork, of the original tale with the modern real-life equivalent of a little Bosnian girl stuck in wartime harsh reality. The truth, of course, is that life really can be every bit as heartbreaking as Andersen’s original story . . . and I am grateful for any way of communicating, in an emotive manner, such truth to sheltered young people today

up to the highest height

March 28, 2010

I had no idea how much I had missed those girls. That is the way it goes with children oftentimes–for me at least; it is not the sort of perpetual ache you feel when apart from a significant other. Not a craving sort of longing . . . but one that catches you off-guard with giddy delight. So this afternoon I had the singular delight of being surprised by my own emotion: as I drove towards the house the two were out playing in the park. They saw my car and then, when they recognized me, they began jumping up and down, racing towards the vehicle. I had forgotten their endearing habit of doing this and, also, forgot that I was now driving a modern sort of car that boasts such extravagances as power windows. So I did what I am accustomed to doing, which is to wave them towards the driveway, indicating that I would talk to them once at the top of the hill. Driving the short remainder of the way up the hill, I beamed at them, laughing to myself. And then, when I stopped the car, I ran towards them and was treated to giant, little-girl-version, bear hugs.
And then we flew a kite. They excitedly told me about their new “turtle” kite so, it being a glorious day, we got it out and ran around the field . . . until encountering the rain-soaked portion. Running with children + Looking up at a kite + Wet field = A muddy [but happy] trio :-)


March 24, 2010

It may not be evident from this photo, but it was actually raining all day today–and yesterday, for that matter. So I had to smile at the irony of this shot as I captured it this afternoon [remembering my “starched?” photo from a month ago. Come snow, come rain . . . here in rural New England, nothing can cramp our free-spirited laundering style :-)

equine awakening

March 21, 2010

It was, quite simply, a perfectly Spring-awakening sort of day. So this afternoon, giddy with the possibility of it all [so much so that I excused myself from an indoor gathering], I wandered with my camera. And when I came upon these handsome fellows, I flirted shamelessly . . . they didn’t seem to mind too terribly much :-)

in semi-bloom

March 19, 2010

Remember that single green hint of a changing season? Well, amazingly enough [considering the length of winter hereabouts], it seems to have sprouted some colour. I must admit, mind you, that I did not notice it immediately; in fact, it took me a while to find the flowers even after Mom had alerted me to their existence. But once I had, I was smitten. Spring . . . could it be true?

bubble, bubble . . .

March 16, 2010

This being the first time I have been witness to the Springtime thawing of a lake, it is with no small measure of interest [impatience? :-)] that I am enjoying the ways in which ice and water conduct their space-trading dance . . .

Ah yes, it is beautiful . . . but an ice storm in March? I guess I am not enough of a New Englander to be able to appreciate it. Or maybe I am too prone to excitement over little things like blooming bulbs, so that a new layer of snow and ice feels like a bit of a cruel joke :-)

just a dream

March 13, 2010

I’ve always been a believer in the mysterious nature of dreams . . . or at least I was when I was younger. Somehow, the older I get, the more “practical” my sense of reality has grown, leading to more of a focus on the logistics of daily life and future plans and, sadly, less of an awareness of mystery.
So I am grateful for occasional reminders of this reality that is, I think, just as important in many ways as “real life.” Why else could a dream–a single night’s brain waves–lead to an entire day in which I fought the temptation to daydream myself back into that dream? Ever since I woke up this morning I have been longing to recreate that dream for myself, trying to remember it as vividly as possible. Trying to recapture that other-worldy, wonderfully heartrending ache in the deepest part of my sensibilities.
Silly? Perhaps. But not without meaning. I cannot help but believe that such reminders in the heart are the way we really reconnect with what is most, in the depths of each human soul . . .

an icy ascent

March 10, 2010

Granted, it may not look all that impressive. But this is a very important little bulb: the first of Spring. Mom noticed it this morning and called to announce the birth . . . so I was camera-ready this evening, to document its brave ascent through the elements.

emergency eviction

March 9, 2010

Barbara promptly offered “writing” permission this evening, after telling me the day’s excitement. Granted, my neighbor has provided me with writing inspiration in the past, so she knew what to expect when relaying this particular event as I arrived with the day’s pharmacy pick-up for them:
For several days now, she has been concerned about the odor of what seemed to be some sort of a leak. So today she called for assistance, alerting the authorities that she seemed to have a gas leak. Shortly thereafter the inspector arrived and was directed to the room in question.
When he emerged, some time later, Barbara waited, with some concern, to hear the outcome. He quietly made his notes and she, anxious to see, peered over onto his work log, to see what he was writing . . .
“No gas leak. Dead mouse. Removed mouse. Cleaned area. Odor taken care of” . . . Disaster averted? :-)