We’re heading toward the holidays, which means my library system is gearing up for their annual “It’s Time for Kind” campaign, where we encourage our communities to show kindness to one another. This year, it means a LOT. I won’t get on too much of a soapbox here, but I will say that I live in a state where people are arriving scared and alone, and need kindness more than ever. These books have been out for a few months, so consider these when you’re putting together readers advisory lists or book displays, or planning storytimes this season.
Written as a poem, All You Need is a meditation on what one needs for a fulfilling life, from the basics – sun and rain, food and water – to the higher needs, like “a place where you are welcome” and “words to share your thoughts”. Illustrator Jasu Hu tells the story of a young woman who grows to be an artist, nurtured by the land and the people around her. Inspired by Schwartz’s story, illustrator Jasu Hu’s watercolor illustrations bring a tenderness to the work that fits beautifully with the gentle lyrics and leaves touches of Chinese culture throughout the story, including a swallow, ever-present in the tale, to deliver words of happiness and homecoming. Back matter from Schwartz and Hu each explains their motivation. The main character presents as Asian, with touches of Asian culture and landscape throughout. All You Need is a reminder of how simple and fragile our needs are and is a beautiful opening story for storytimes.
All You Need has a starred review from School Library Journal.
A group of parents file into an ESOL (English as a Second Language) class, while their children head into the free childcare area while their parents are in class. The children play alone, not understanding English, until Luli decides to bring everyone together with one word that they all understand: tea. She sets up a tea party around a table and calls out “Chá!”, the Chinese word for “tea”; the children recognize the word, which sounds similar to the word for tea in their languages: Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Spanish, German, Swahili, and Portuguese. The children sit together and share tea while the caregiver watches, delighted. Showing that language brings us together more than it divides us, Luli and the Language of Tea features a group of children from all over the world coming together in friendship. Each time the word “tea” is spoken it is illustrated in a colorful font with a phonetic spelling in parentheses. Endpapers feature colorful cups of tea from different countries. Colored pencil illustrations add a childlike innocence to this joyful story. Back matter includes an author’s note, a note on the languages spoken in the story, and notes on immigrants living in the U.S. and how they enjoy their tea. Author Andrea Wang’s website includes a bibliography of sources and audio of various children’s literature creators speaking the word for “tea” in their own languages; there’s also a downloadable educator’s guide. An excellent storytime choice.
Luli and the Language of Tea has starred reviews from Booklist and Shelf Awareness.
This is the Spanish translation of a book I fell in love with when I reviewed it in July. Terry Catasús Jennings writes about a little home that welcomes a family new to the U.S., and how that family turns that little house into a sanctuary where they, and their extended family, can come, be safe, and begin a new life. The Spanish text is lyrical and makes for a beautiful readaloud; Pura Belpré medalist Raúl Colón’s pencil and watercolor artwork frames pivotal moments in the characters’ lives to create powerful moments, from arriving home to a bustling household to people coming together to forge a new life when they’ve been forced to leave the old one behind. I have copies of both the English and Spanish translations on my shelves. One of the best books you’ll read this year.
Visit Terry Catasús Jennings’s webpage to see more of her books and read her own story; the inspiration for La Casita de Esperanza.