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Tofu Quilt, by Ching Yeung Russell

  • December 19, 2009 3:56 pm
tofu quilt

Click on image to buy book

I’ve never seen a book quite like Tofu Quilt. It is a collection of 38 free-verse poems about the author’s childhood in Hong Kong during the 1950s and 1960s, and her desire to become a writer, despite the fact that she is a girl and is not expected to have a career.

At the age of five, Yeung is rewarded with a special dessert called “dan lai” for being able to recite Chinese poetry from memory. The reward awakens in her a desire to become educated and have enough money to buy more dan lai.

Her mother sends her to a private school, despite the fact that the family is poor. At the age of eight, Yeung writes letters for her illiterate grandmother, and at the age of 10, she does piecework for factories in order to earn money to buy books. At 12, she sells a story to a local newspaper, and this is the beginning of her writing career.

The poems are simple, story-like, and heartfelt. Some are humorous. Here is a poem about Yeung’s favorite teacher.

Secret Wish

I remember Mr. Hon

once said that

a person should see more things

and open his eyes

if he wants to write a good story.

Ma cannot afford to send me off

to see things.

So I decide that

when I grow up,

I will not marry a doctor,

or a lawyer,

or a teacher,

or a businessman.

I will marry a bus driver,

who can drive me everywhere

to see the world

and it will be


And he must look like

Mr. Hon.

You can buy this book from my girls list.

Picture Books with Gay Parents

  • December 12, 2009 7:29 am

Asha's MumsA New York school librarian has compiled a list of over 80 picture books featuring gay parents and/or a gay theme. Gay-Themed Picture Books for Children lists books from large publishers and small, and even some publishers outside the U.S.

Included are many books like Asha’s Mums, featuring gay parents. Also included are books in which children deal with relatives or close friends who are infected with AIDS; several books about non-traditional families in general; books in which gay parents adopt a child; and a few books about boys who are teased for being a “sissy.”

The list is so long that it seems somewhat overwhelming at first, but if you scroll down and look on the right side, you will see that the books are categorized, so if you’re looking for books about, for example, lesbian mothers and their sons, you can click on that link and up pops three relevant titles.

The site also has links to other gay-themed book lists.

The list is compiled by Patricia Sarles of the Jerome Parker Campus Library in Staten Island, New York.

Playing War, by Kathy Beckwith

  • December 5, 2009 7:21 am
playing war

Click on image to buy book

A group of five children (four boys and a girl) decide, one summer day, to play “war” with pine cones for bombs, and sticks for guns. One boy, who has recently come to the United States from another (unnamed) country, starts to play but decides to go home when his friend Luke declares, “I’m going to blow their heads off.”

The next day, Luke suggests playing war again, and wishes he could be in a real war. Sameer reveals that, in his home country, he lived in the middle of a war, during which a bomb destroyed his house and killed his parents and brother. The friends are shocked at Sameer’s story of the tragedy of war. Luke decides that they ought to play basketball instead.

This picture book reveals the horrors of war in a gentle, sympathetic way. It would be a good book to get elementary-school kids talking about issues of war and peace.

You can buy this book from my boys list.