We live in uncertain times and millions of people all over the world are facing great hardship due to political and religious turmoil. Books, as always, offer us solace and hope. This week our Outreach Coordinator, Leena Desai, recommends books that feature teachable moments and convey messages of tolerance, equality, and unity.
See Where We Come From!
Written and illustrated by Scot Ritchie
After writing books like See How We Move! and Look Where We Live!, Scot Ritchie’s new book in the award-winning Exploring Our Community series, See Where We Come From!, reunites us with best friends Martin, Sally, Pedro, Nick, and Yulee. This time, their class is hosting a Heritage Festival to celebrate the customs and traditions of people from all over the world. The five friends come from diverse backgrounds: their parents, grandparents, and ancestors belong to different cultures and so the friends have a lot to show and share with each other. They discover the many ways in which they are different and, at the same time, similar to each other. See Where We Come From! serves as an excellent primer for teachers to have a discussion with their students about heritage and identity. The book includes a heritage craft project and a glossary about the various cultural items mentioned in the story, making it a useful tool to introduce the concept of unity in diversity to the students. Grades Preschool-2
Room on Our Rock
Written by Kate Temple and Jol Temple, illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton
Room on Our Rock tells a deceptively simple story: a group of seals is perched on a rock and when a parent and child seal seek refuge in the same place, they are declined by the seals who tell them that there’s no room on their rock. When read conventionally, from front to back, this comes across as a story of selfishness and miserliness, but when read from back to front, the entire meaning of the story changes. This time, we see the kindness the seals extend to the newcomers by welcoming them on their rock. This is a small book that conveys a very big lesson that is worth imparting to students, especially in today’s troubling political times. The book illustrates the fact that there are two sides to every story and that compassion and inclusion are essential for a just, kind, and peaceful society. Grades Preschool-3
A Sweet Meeting on Mimouna Night
Written by Allison Ofanansky, illustrated by Rotem Teplow
As much as religion is used as a tool to divide people, it is also the catalyst that brings people together and religious observances are especially the time when kindness and cheer overcome differences. In A Sweet Meeting on Mimouna Night, Miriam is looking forward to celebrating the Moroccan Jewish holiday of Mimouna by helping her mother make moufletot pancakes. Syrupy sweet and paper-thin, Miriam loves these pancakes, but there is no flour left in the house. Their Muslim neighbours are happy to share their flour and Miriam and her mother share happy moments with them. Her mother drinks tea, while Miriam makes a new friend, a young girl her age named Jasmine. This is a sweet and simple story, which conveys its message of togetherness without being too on the nose about the subject. Rotem Teplow’s pastel illustrations are gorgeously detailed and make the reader truly feel the cheer and goodwill of this occasion. Grades K-3