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Gray Wolf’s Search, by Bruce Swanson

  • September 5, 2009 3:04 pm
Gray Wolf's Search

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This beautiful picture book tells the story of Gray Wolf, a native boy of the Pacific Northwest who is given a task by his uncle, Raven’s Head: Gray Wolf is to find a very important person, and get to know this person well.

Throughout the next year, Gray Wolf asks various animals if they know of this important person. Sister Bear, Brother Whale, and Sister Eagle claim never to have seen such a person. To them, all humans look and act alike. 

Gray Wolf meets with Raven’s Head again, but sadly tells him that he has not found the very important person. Raven’s Head advises him to “look within.”

As I was reading this book, at this point I assumed that the “very important person” would turn out to be Gray Wolf himself. But my 7-year-old son guessed that the important person would turn out to be everyone. And, in fact, my son was correct. Gray Wolf comes to realize that his family and friends are all equally important, and he brings this message back to his clan.

This book provides an interesting message of community to balance the message of individuality that we often get from mainstream culture. We are all important.

I also like the fact that both female and male animals are included. So often, animals in pictures books are almost exclusively male. The paintings in this book are absolutely gorgeous.

I highly recommend this story for ages 5 and up. You can buy this book from my Boys list.

The Only One Club, by Jane Naliboff

  • August 15, 2009 7:05 am
The Only One Club

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Picture book, ages 5-8. It’s Christmas time, and Jennifer’s teacher asks the class to make decorations. Jennifer proudly announces that she will make Hanukkah decorations, because she is the only Jewish girl in the class. That night, she goes home and makes herself a glittery badge that says “The Only One Club.”

The next day at school, her classmates want to join her club, and they try to convince her that they, too, are the only one of something. Jennifer doesn’t want anyone else to join. But when she hears the other kids talking about setting up their own club, she realizes her mistake. She goes home and makes glittery badges for everyone.

This book takes a unique approach to differences. Instead of portraying a character who feels bad about being unusual, it starts with a character who is too full of pride about her exceptionality. Although Jennifer has a lesson to learn, still her pride inspires others to notice and enjoy their own differences.

You can buy this book from my Girls list.

Benjamin and the Word, by Daniel A. Olivas

  • August 14, 2009 3:40 pm

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This picture book for elementary-age children is about a boy whose friend calls him a hurtful name. We never learn exactly what the word is, but we do know that Benjamin is very upset. Benjamin is half Hispanic and half Jewish. He and his father talk about the incident, and Benjamin decides to tell his friend how he feels. In the end, the friendship is restored. 

I read this to my seven-year-old son, who is also mixed-race, and he seemed very absorbed by the story. I like the fact that Benjamin’s father is empathetic and nurturing, and I like the fact that the incident is resolved without a lot of drama. The issue of name-calling is handled in a realistic way in this book.

The text is printed in English and Spanish. This book is published by Arte Publico Press, which specializes in books by U.S. Hispanic authors. You can buy this from my Boys book list.