I’ve been reading stories without words. Turn the pages and you see beautiful picture puzzles for all ages of readers. Here is a collection of stories I love, ones I’ve also brought to international students who are learning English. And we have fun composing the story in words from the perspective of many cultures. The first one is a little bit longer than a picture book; in fact, it’s called a graphic book: Here I Am by Patty Kim, with pictures by Sonia Sanchez. Here’s a taste of a boy’s journey in this strange new land.
Mirror by Jeannie Baker is by now a classic and is still wonderful. The book guides us to read two different pages side by side. Each set of pages depicts times of the day of a family, one in Morocco, the other in Ms. Baker’s home country of Australia. I love how one culture becomes much more clear when we see how another culture shares much in common.
I’m including The Red Book by Barbara Lehman because this book could be from any culture, any reader in the world. It’s about the magic and wonder that comes from opening a book.
Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith. A winner of a book from Canada. Like The Red Book this is also about wonder and imagination. Wonder in a red coat.
Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell. I love this book. It is simply a story about kindness overcoming fear, which I include here for the obvious reason among stories of many cultures.
Now, from one of my favorite illustrators, Raul Colon:
A boy alone in his room. Pencils. Sketchbook in hand. What would it be like to go on safari? Imagine. Draw……
That’s what these books seem to have in common. They open their arms to our imagination.
Across the world, families are crossing borders in search of a resting place where their children can be safe and go to school. 2017 saw new books coming out to help children understand the lives of other children displaced by war and poverty.
A Different Pond by the poet Bao Phi, whose family migrated to the U.S. after the American war in Vietnam, and illustrated by Thi Bui is one. Bao Phi tells a story of a small Vietnamese-American boy’s ritual of fishing early in the morning with his father to catch food for supper before his father goes to work, one of his two jobs. The text and illustrations capture the boy’s love for his father, his growing skill in their ritual, his fear, and the tight web of their family as they learn to survive in the U.S. This story is a model for writers who seek to tell their own migration story. The author selects one ritual vital to the life of a migrant family and allows the emotion and the story to flow from it.
One of my favorite books from the list is My Beautiful Birds, about a Syrian child’s survival, written and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo. Del Rizzo’s polymer clay and acrylic illustrations help us imagine the black sky, the walking for days from a small child’s mind. “Day’s blur together in gritty haze. All I have left are questions. What will we do? How long will we be here?” The child has one thing in the camp that becomes home, birds he watches and feeds. And he has his parents who love him.