August Giveaway – Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote

August Giveaway –  Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote

Congratulations to the winner of my first August Giveaway – Amazing Books to Help Students Meet New Americans. One Good Thing about America by Ruth Freeman goes to a teacher in New Hampshire.  This week, it’s a story of migrations for the youngest of readers,  Duncan Tonathiu’s Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote. It’s an award winning hardback picture book, perfect for libraries. I’m reposting my original review that appeared in The Pirate Tree, Social Justice and Children’s Literature.

Photo journalist Sebastiao Salgado documents the movement of millions of the worlds people across countries and continents in his book Migrations. In the preface he writes about some things he came to believe after years of following and photographing people seeking a new home due to war and/or poverty. “More than ever, I feel that the human race is one,” he said and,  “When poverty becomes intolerable, people seek to move on.”  Mexican-American writer and artist Duncan Tonatiuh tells a tale of economic migration for the youngest of readers.  Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: a Migrant’s Tale is the next in Tonatiuh’s tales about families separated by the journey from Mexico to El Norte.  In Dear Primo, a Letter to My Cousin, Tonatiuh creates a cousin in Mexico and a cousin in the U.S.  Pancho Rabbit is the tale of a son in a family of rabbits. His father doesn’t come home to Mexico when he’s expected after months of work in the U.S., and the son follows in his father’s footsteps, traveling north to find him.  Soon he is beholden to Coyote who promises safe travel if the rabbit-son will give him all the food he owns, one item at a time, as Coyote demands it.  Children will fear for this young rabbit especially in the scene in which the coyote is shown as a dark shadow and threatens to roast and eat him. Father and son are reunited, return home to their family, but imagine the next trip north “if there is no food or work…” and danger looms. The illustrations are profound in the telling of this tale. Tonatiuh describes his paintings “as inspired by ancient Mexican art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex.”  He notes that his work is hand drawn, then collaged digitally. They are unique in children’s book illustration and deeply honor the Mexican cultural traditions in art. Tonatiuh  bridges two cultures, having been born in Mexico City, and grown up in both the United States and San Miguel de Allende with a Mexican mom and an America dad. He offers an extensive author’s note and links to research sites on humanitarian issues around illegal immigration into the U.S.

Enter by commenting here. Comment on how you use the book.

August Get-Ready-for-School Giveaway – Books to help kids and teens meet new Americans

August Get-Ready-for-School  Giveaway – Books to help kids and teens meet new Americans


Warren St. John, writer of Outcasts United about a  soccer team made up of refugee kids in Clarkson, Georgia said “children live in this fantastic mosaic of society.”  His hope for the book was that people “might risk the awkwardness of interacting with someone unlike themselves.”   The coach of the team he profiled, Luma Mufleh, recently gave a Ted Talk  called, “Don’t Feel Sorry for Refugees, Believe in Them”.  She invites us to understand the background or refugees and the significance of their success in the world.

St. John’s and Mufleh’s words make if essential to me to do my First Ever  Book Giveaway of books that can help us all to “risk the awkwardness” of interacting that St. John talks about.

Stories in general offer first interactions readers can have with what’s unfamiliar.  I’m in the possession of some stellar ones for children and teens  that came as review copies about recent immigrants and refugees.  This week I begin a giveway to send them out into the world to teachers and librarians and parents who can share them with readers.

My first is One Good Thing About America by Ruth Freeman, a middle grade novel for kids approximately ages 8 -12.   Freeman’s protagonist is Anais; she and her little brother and Mama come to the U.S. from Congo.  Anais helps readers imagine how a child experiences fear and worry for her father; her family does not know where he is, only that he is somewhere in Congo fleeing from soldiers.  Anais tells her story of her first experiences in the U.S. in a series of letters to Oma, her grandmother in Congo.  Through writing, she develops skill in English and follows Oma’s wish to tell her things she discovers and learns from in the U.S.  Anais shows us a skill that many refugees bring to this country – she is multilingual and her teacher admires this.  Anais writes, “I told [my teacher] we speak Lingala, French, and English or maybe a little English. She said it was awesome to speak 3 languages!” (p. 133) One Good Thing About America offers the intimate voice of an elementary school-aged child and allows readers to meet her and to believe in her.

Would you like my advanced reader’s copy?   To enter the giveaway, post a comment here on my blog. Include your e-mail address so I can reach you, and tell me how you could use the book.



Elsa Marston’s Love Affair with Lebanon

Here is what I imagine.  Elsa Marston’s literary love affair with Lebanon and the Middle East might also have been about a love affair with her husband, Iliya Harik. He was from Lebanon and taught at Indiana University all their married life.  Elsa Marston has just died.  I can say she was my colleague, but I had only met her recently, in Mexico City, where I’d never been before.  Here’s an illustration from one of her books,  The Olive Tree, set in Lebanon during what Elsa calls “the troubles.” From her site I find that she refers to the Lebanese Civil War.

The illustration is by Claire Ewart.

Elsa writes, “Because the population of Lebanon includes large numbers of people from several different religious sects–Muslim, Christian, Druze, and others–the people have traditionally tried to share power in ways that reduced friction. From 1975 to 1991, however, Lebanon was torn by civil war, with fighting forces from many different groups within the country and from neighboring countries as well. The war intensified anxieties and anger, which led to violence and heartbreak. In some villages where people of different religions had lived together peaceably for generations, neighbors turned against neighbors. (And in some villages, the people refused to give in to fear and hatred.)

“I was in Lebanon at the outbreak of violence and again when things had more or less settled down. Of course I was deeply distressed by all that happened during those sixteen long years of destruction. But because I try, in my writing, to search for some signs of hope, I decided to write a story about people who are trying to find ways to get past their differences and their memories of hatred and anger. The result is this story, “The Olive Tree,” which I first wrote in 1994.”

Elsa wrote the award-winning collection,  Santa Clause in Baghdad. A film adaption of the title story by Raouf Zaki has been screened internationally and was just released to the public this year of her death.

When Elsa died, she must have been working on  “The Cows of Bayt Sahour” based on a true incident during the Palestinian uprising against Israeli military occupation, ’87-’92. Our mutual colleague, the powerful writer Nancy Bo Flood  ( Warriors in the Crossfire set on Saipan) and I both encouraged her to develop her long picture book text into a novel.

How strange and wonderful that Elsa’s and my paths crossed in Mexico. And how certain that, then, she and Nancy Bo Flood and I should create a program for IBBY on The Literature of Children and War, though Elsa had become too ill to present with us that year in New York City.  I hope  “The Cows of Bayt Sahour” remained her companion and I hope maybe her three sons will tell us if they brought the manuscript to Wisdom Tales who published many of her books.

With deep respect to you, Elsa, for your tales of a vision of peace.