One of my favorite earliest parenting memories is when I read to my children for the first time. My son and daughter were each only days old, small babies who had just entered the world. I had been looking forward to this moment since I had learned they were joining our family, and I remember those first book sessions so clearly, even now, years later. While pregnant, I had decided that I wanted my son and daughter to love books as much as me, so immersing them early in words – even if they couldn’t yet understand them – would, I hope, lay the groundwork for a love of stories and storytelling. That effort worked, and, today, getting a book out of my son’s hands is almost impossible, while my daughter’s bedroom floor is covered with the books she looks at each night before falling asleep.
Books are, after all, not only an escape from the day-to-day but an excellent way to learn about different people and ways of life. With this in mind, I jumped at the chance to be involved with Multicultural Children’s Book Day, to be held on January 27, 2016.
The Multicultural Children’s Book Day team’s mission to raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature, believing that young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions, and religions. Multicultural Children’s Book Day’s goal is to not only spread the word about kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries. To that end, Multicultural Children’s Book Day encourages readers, parents, teachers, caregivers, and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, and events through a multicultural children’s book linky and the hashtag #ReadYourWorld on Twitter and other social media. Multicultural Children’s Book Day sponsors are listed below. Multicultural Children’s Book Day also has 12 amazing co-hosts, which you can meet here.
As part of our participation in Multicultural Children’s Book Day, my children and I were sent two books to review: Whispers of the Wolf by Pauline Ts’o and The Hunter’s Promise by Joseph Bruchac. Published by Wisdom Tales Press, both books feature Native American characters and stories, and my kids enjoyed them a great deal—as did I.
Whispers of the Wolf – Set among the Pueblo Indians in the American Southwest, Whispers of the Wolf is about a boy named Two Birds who rescues a wolf pup, and then has to chose between keeping the wolf as a pet or letting the wolf return to the wild. The book is for children aged five years and up, and touches on topics such as friendship, confidence, and being accepted. The illustrations by Rosemary Apple Blossom Lonewolf, an American Indian artist whose pottery is included in the Smithsonian, are dreamy and evocative. My daughter, G, age six, liked the book, describing it as “nice and calm.” She added, “The thing that I like about Two Birds is that he actually talked to the wolf and the wolf talked back. Pretty cool, right?”
The Hunter’s Promise – A retelling of an Abenaki tale for ages six and up, The Hunter’s Promise is about a hunter who meets a mysterious woman in the woods with whom he builds a family, only to have that family threatened when he is put under a spell that causes him to forget his loved ones. My eight-year-old son, R, liked the “detailed pictures” in the book, which beautifully captured Native American life and were illustrated by Bill Farnsworth. My daughter was drawn to the plot and was most moved by (upset by might be a better description) the spell that caused the hunter to forget his family. Both kids liked the ending a great deal – you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens!
After reading the books with R and G, I went through our kids’ literature collection and realized that we have only a few books about Native American culture but none that captured the values and life so accurately and respectfully. An omission to be sure, and one that I am inspired to fix, by encouraging my children to select books from our public library and their school library that feature more Native American stories. They’re excited about this suggestion, as both Whispers of the Wolf and The Hunter’s Promise had them asking me questions about Native American history and customs.
Since one of the aspirations of Multicultural Children’s Book Day is to increase the number of books about different cultures in our libraries, I’m planning to donate Whispers of the Wolf and The Hunter’s Promise to my kids’ elementary school in the hopes that others in our community can enjoy these important stories, too.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors #ReadYourWorld
Disclosures: I received the books for free to review for this post, but all opinions are mine. This post includes affiliate links; learn more here.