Storytime: Journeys

Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy by Tara Dairman, illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan

The simplicity of this book, only a few rhyming words per page, makes it a really great readaloud.

Patterned veil

Covered hair

Desert here

Monsoon there

The format, showing the desert and monsoon terrains separately for most of the book, is a great way to follow two narratives. We’re introduced to cultures that are very different in some ways (the boy goes to school but the girl stays home) but also the same (they sit on the ground to eat and both are victims of their climate.) Both families have to pick up and leave when sand storms (desert) and flood waters (monsoon) invade their homes, and it’s so satisfying when we see them both arrive in a better place. Their worlds come together in a shared spread at a high hill where they share a campfire and songs and cultures. For readers who want more, there’s an author and illustrator’s note that unpack each represented culture.

How to Make an Apple Pie and see the world by Marjorie Priceman

I love the wry voice in this book that sends a girl around the globe, looking for ingredients for her pie. What starts as an easy task, making an apple pie (get ingredients, mix them well, bake and serve) becomes more complicated when the market is closed. “In that case, go home and pack a suitcase,” we read, and then we’re instructed to bring our shopping list and walking shoes and spend the six days we’ll be on the steamship bound for Europe to brush up on our Italian.

From the farm where you gather “superb semolina wheat” you’ll travel to France for a French chicken’s elegant egg, and the chicken which travels with you so the egg doesn’t break. You’ll go to Sri Lanka for cinammon, England for the cow who joins your travels along with the chicken so your milk will be fresh, and so on. Jamaica, salt from the ocean on the way, and finally Vermont for the apples before heading home. There’s a simple map of the world at the back to track your route and an apple pie recipe. Basically, this book has it all, including fun illustrations.

Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Two boys, one in America and one in India, exchange letters, first with pictures of their worlds. I love that their letters begin with, “this is my world,” and not “this is my home in America” or “this is my home in India.” Where we live is our world most days, and there are so many “worlds” in this big world to awaken our curiosity.

In some ways the boys are the same. They both love to climbs trees, but Elliot has a tree house in his tree, and Kailash has monkeys in his, so they are same, same, but different. Bright illustrations take us back and forth, from Elliot’s family of four to Kailash’s family of 23, plus animals. City and country, how they get to school (both on busses but they look very different), their alphabet, and even how they say hello, repeating the simple refrain, same, same but different. It ends with a lovely sentiment, “We’re best friends even though we live in different worlds . . .” page turn to see the boys in their bedrooms, their letters from the other on their walls, and the final words, “or do we?” The simple text and fun pictures are great for readers young or old.

Journey by Aaron Becker

You know how sometimes you’re busy and you just can’t seem to get a breath? I encourage you to sit down with someone you love, maybe someone who’s begging for a little attention, and crack open this wordless book. Take the most beautiful journey together, where a girl draws a door with her red crayon (echoes of Harold and the Purple Crayon here), and enters a lush forest, draws a boat so she can ride down the river, and enters a magnificent city. People pole their boats through elevated waterways that spill into waterfalls (good thing the girl can draw a balloon before she goes over). She enters a world where a boat floats through the sky, and a blimp chases a long-tailed purple bird, and . . . in the end there’s a rescue and a friend. You’ll want to turn back and take this journey all over again.

The Notebook Keeper: A Story of Kindness from the Border by Stephen Briseño, illustrated by Magdalena Mora

“Our home is no longer a home,” Mamá tells her little girl, and so they head to the border, packing only what they can carry. For the girl, that’s her blanket, notebook, and her muñeca (doll). Their lonely group gets larger and more colorful but when they reach the border, they aren’t treated with kindness. They are told to find the notebook keeper who will tell them when they can cross. The illustrations do an excellent job of portraying emotion without getting too heavy for a young child. There is sadness, but there is also hope.

When they find Belinda and her notebook, she takes their name and country and adds them to her list, treating them kindly. Then Noemí and Mamá settle into their new life, living in a tent among many others who are waiting their turn. It turns out even Belinda is waiting, though her smile never fades. When her number finally gets called she chooses someone with generosity in their heart and kindness in their soul to take over the job. Noemí has given her beloved muñeca to another child, choosing to be kind, so Belinda chooses her and her mother to be the next notebook keepers. They go on to encourage, remind and comfort, just like Belinda did. The end is hopeful, with Noemí and Mamá gazing at the sky where birds fly free, holding hands, walking into their future together.

An author’s note explains how the real notebook keepers kept records at the San Ysidro Border, where refugees gather to wait admittance to the US from Mexico. This book is beautiful, and is a great springboard to conversation, and empathy.

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