The Diverse Bookshelf: Puppets and Blocks

The two books I have to share this month are STEAM related, meaning they tap into art and science themes, concepts, and ideas. They are less about explicit diversity, but are excellent examples of incidental diversity, where they feature diversity without focusing on it. 

I would also like to mention that Lee & Low Books, a publisher that puts out high quality, diverse children’s books, is compiling monthly lists of diverse children’s literature for each month. Here is the link to the January list, it includes books about Martin Luther King, Jr. and diverse titles for National Hobby Month. It’s a really fantastic list and highly recommend checking it out. 

 PuppetsAshley Bryan’s Puppets by Ashely Bryan, pictures edited by Rich Entel

Ashely Bryan’s Puppets is a collection of poems Bryan wrote to accompany the puppets he creates from beach trash. Bryan combs the beaches near his house for bits of natural and manmade garbage- from cloth to bones to shells to glass- and then uses them to create these amazing puppets. He gives each one a name and has written a poem that both addresses what their components are, their personality, and their story. Names are all of African origin and there is a list at the end where he talks about what the words mean and which language and people they are from. 

This book has a lot of directions it could be taken in with provocations. Cam is really interested in using recycled materials to make our own puppets and using the book as a model and inspiration for our project.Puupets 2 There is also the them of ocean pollution (for older children see the Scientists In the Field book Tracking Trash), ocean currents and how they push trash around, and ocean clean-up. The book could also lead to exploration of African folklore, culture, and diversity on the continent. And of course there is the poetry. 

The book is laid out with two page spreads that feature a group portrait of a handful of puppets. These spreads are followed by individual portraits and their corresponding poems. Bryan has intentionally included two or three puppets that do not have names or poems to encourage readers to write their own. Bryan’s poems are simple yet powerful and they give a lot to talk about. Through descriptive, symbolic language he links the pieces that compose the puppets to their personality and invented histories. There is plenty to talk about with the use of language and symbolism in these poems, yet they are simple enough that young readers can connect with and understand them. 

An outstanding book. 

Dreaming UpDreaming Up: A Celebration of Building written & illustrated by Christy Hale

Dreaming Up is another amazing poetry book. This one pairs illustrations of children playing with traditional toys (blocks, stacking rings, sticks, sand) and a picture of a famous building. The pictures are paired with a shape poem about the building the children are doing, meaning each poem is shaped like the building or toy. 

Again you could place this book out with some sort of provocation to play with blocks or toothpicks and gumdrops or even a basket full of sticks. Seeing the interplay between children’s play and adult work, as well as the inspiration they can give each other, is quite powerful. 

Of course the book could, with slightly older children, make a great poetry study. The poems take different forms in regard to rhythm and rhyme, but there is also the physical form of them to pore over. Placing this book out with transparency sheets, pictures or other notable architecture, and pens might invite budding poets to create their own shape poems. 

The end of the book features information about all the buildings seen in the book and about their architects. The list of architects is surprisingly diverse as well with only a few white male architects. These brief biographies may serve as jumping off points for children interested in learning more about the field of architecture. Dreaming Up 2

The children and their quiet play scenes in the illustrations remind me a lot of the scenes in Greda Muller’s seasons books with the exception that these children come in all different colors. 

Another excellent addition to children’s bookshelves.  

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