Good Morning! In the United States we are enjoying a long three-day weekend which means that Sunday morning is extra relaxing. I had the time to quietly enjoy both of these graphic novels which feature characters grappling with typical adolescent issues in additional to the impact of their culture background.
American Born Chinese by Gene Lien Yang showcases the stories of Jin Wang, the Monkey King, and Wei-Chen Sun. Jin Wang’s parents are Chinese immigrants and when Wei-Chen Sun arrives at school directly from Taiwan, Jin Wang wants nothing to do with him. Jin Wang wants to be an all-American boy and date the all-American girl. And the Monkey King has lived for thousands of years mastering skills to join the ranks of the immortal gods. But there is no place in heaven for a monkey!
The author and illustrator employs a fairly unique storytelling trick and does not use a traditional narrative structure. This allows three different perspectives regarding cultural assimilation and race-shaming to combine into one poignant message: “It’s easy to become anything you wish so long as you are willing to forfeit your soul.”
Meanwhile, in Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol, Vera is the odd-duck out in her social circle of all-white affluent kids. Vera immigrated from Russia with her Mom, little brother and sister when she was five. After a disastrous attempt to host a sleep over she turns to her Russian Orthodox Church to find friends. There she hears about a camp which is only for Russian Orthodox kids and convinces her Mom to send her to camp. She figures that it will be easy to make friends with kids with her own cultural identity and background.
Once at camp though things don’t go quite as planned. They speak in Russian as much as possible, sing Russian songs and while Vera’s accent is perfect, it seems she isn’t Russian enough. She is also placed in a tent with much older girls and finds out that there is a big difference between almost ten and fourteen.
I really enjoyed how both of these authors used their personal knowledge to highlight the additional struggle foreign culture can add to growing up in America. While I have always been fascinated by other cultures I am well aware that there are many obnoxious Americans insist on cultural homogenization which is a tragedy. I hope every child (really, adults as well) read these books and work to feel comfortable with their own culture, or, embrace the child whose culture is different from your own. The world is just a more interesting place with diversity and acceptance.
Tell me, please!
Have you come across any other culturally interesting Graphic Novels?
I know, I know. I’m running behind. There have been some big changes to my life outside this blog that have created a little hiccup in my schedule. But, I have all day today to get caught up!
So, lets start with the FGR for Saturday, October 14th. I have been reading some terrifying books during the day. At night, I just can’t do it. I have enough trouble with insomnia. So, I have been lulling myself to sleep with delightful children’s books that lean toward spooky or other wordly. This one is just too cute!
The Supernatural Sleuthing Service, The Lost Legacy by Gwenda Bond and Christopher Rowe is the story of Stephen and his father moving to New York City to live in an unusual hotel, The New Harmonia. This hotel has a resident dragon and his hoard living in the basement. Bigfoot, creatures of the night and the fae are all frequent guests. And, my favorite side character, Elevator, torments riders with his big personality while he carries them up and down.
As is typical of books for grades 3-8, Stephen is dealing with moving to a new city, mysterious and magical artifacts and the self-discovery and social learning that is unique to children his age. This, as I have reiterated again and again, is what makes children’s literature so special. These characters don’t know who they are yet and they have to figure that out, deal with social norms and solve a big mystery. I will never stop reading them and recommending them because I think adults are constantly readjusting our self-knowledge. Except, we aren’t supposed to talk about it.
Stephen makes new friends and foes and together the story is simply adorable. With the characters including those of the night category I felt safe declaring it today’s (well, the 14th’s) FGR!
Tell me, please!?
Can you read truly scary stories right before bedtime?
Its the first day of October! Hallelujah! So, obviously I’m already picking out pumpkin designs and spending quality time on Pinterest compiling Halloween ideas. But this month is a marathon here. I need to stretch.
So, for todays Frighteningly Good Read, I have a great warm up book. Fantastically eccentric and slightly scary, The Cabinet of Curiosities by Stephan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand and Emma Trevayne is the perfect knuckle cracking-let’s get down to business- spook book. This compilation of middle grade short and scary tales is the perfect tool for shifting from summer to fabulous fall. The 36 Brief and Sinister tales included in this book would also be easy read aloud fun when you just need a little more scare into your daily punch.
The book is delightfully quirky. It is broken down into sections or drawers that are labelled innocent and light things “cake” or “song” but include short stories that were found in the shadows. Since the book is a middle grade level, none of the tales are so dreadful or disgusting. Rather each is just a little cup of chilling fun.
I also enjoyed the fun letters and notes written from one “curator” to another. Whatever you do, don’t skip the Meet the Curators at the end. Here the authors describe themselves as, “Tinker of Shadows and Tailor of Lies,” or “Dark Puppetress,” and will give you more books to read by these authors.
Tell me, Please!
Do you enjoy spooky short stories?