For the last few weeks, I have had the 23 books on their way to the Many Voices Collection (MVC) at my home. They have had a lot of attention in that time, and a number stick out as particularly special. Here’s my top 4, with a few special mentions at the end.
Joint 1st place: ‘We are Water Protectors’ and ‘Where’s Rodney?’
‘We are Water Protectors’, written by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade
Carole Lindstrom’s ‘We are Water Protectors’, with its stunning illustrations by Michaela Goade, tells the story of the Indigenous fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the ‘black snake’ that threatens all life.
‘Water is the first medicine. It affects and connects us all.
When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth and poison her people’s water, one young water protector takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.’
Brave and determined, the girl we meet explains the threat and the need to take action – how her people are affected (‘Tears like waterfalls stream down’); how everything is connected; why we must act (‘we are stewards of the Earth’); how we must act together. It is a moving and lyrical rallying cry, firmly rooted in First Nation culture and lore, with some of the most beautiful illustrations we have seen in a children’s book.
Celebrating first nation voices
This book is one of three books we’re donating to the MVC which is authored and illustrated by women with First Nation heritage. Author Carole Lindstrom is Anishinaabe/Metis and is tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe; she writes about the connection between her culture and the land. Award-winning ullustrator Michaela Goade is of Tlingit descent and is tribally enrolled with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of alaska, where she grew up.
Appeals to a range of ages
Water Protectors also has appeal across a wide age range; I had assumed that it might not work for pre-schoolers, with, for example, the metaphorical image of the ‘black snake’ requiring a certain level of understanding of language to really make sense, but actually my 4-year-old wanted this book over and over again, and it was a great way in to talking about the idea of representing something like a pipeline as an animal. In fact, the pictures really spoke to my younger daughter. At the same time, it could also be a great ‘in’ for an older child, complete with it’s fact section, further reading and Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge at the back.
‘Where’s Rodney?’, written by Carmen Bogan, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
‘Rodney was inside, but he wanted to be outside. Outside was where Rodney always wanted to be.’
We join a young boy called Rodney in his urban school classroom – a place where he struggles to comply with expectations and is always out of seat. He is a joker and a clown, dreaming of other things – what adults reading this book might identify as ADHD. His teacher asks him to define the word ‘Majestic’, and he can’t.
As the story develops, we realise Rodney has not experienced much of the natural world; when he hears his class is going to the park, he expects it to be an unattractive triangle of grass his mother wishes he’d avoid on the way home. However, the class is going to a much bigger park – perhaps Yosemite, given the book has a back cover link to the Yosemite Conservancy.
Suddenly Rodney is in his element. The beautiful pictures of a child who struggles in a conventional classroom finding such blatant joy in the natural world are really moving.
At the end of his trip, Miss Garcia asks,
“Do you like the park, Rodney?”
“Oh, yes,” he said softly.
The book tells a wonderful story that a preschool child can easily enjoy, whilst touching on hugely important themes like neurodiversity, belonging, nature as healing, and race and access to nature.
3rd place: it’s Rocket!
Third place stays firmly with the rubbish-busting surfer girl that is Rocket, in Nathan Bryon and Daop Adeola’s ‘Clean up!’. You can read about why I love this book in a previous post here.
4th place: Old Enough to Save the Planet
Showcasing an international cast of 12 young environmental activists, this book charts each of their successes and spreads the message that we are each smart enough to make a difference. With a forward by Anna Taylor, Leader of the UK Student Climate Network, and full of beautiful, colourful illustrations, this feels like a real message from a group of young people to all young people of the world: a call to action that ends with a list of how the reader can help save the planet, ten things you can do to make your voice heard, and links to a range of inspiring kid-friendly websites. Perhaps my one reservation is the framing of the book, of kids needing to ‘save the planet’, and that this puts too much of a burden on their shoulders and could cause anxiety for some; other than that, inspiring stuff, beautifully packaged.
Three more special mentions:
- ‘Ruby’s Sleepover’, by Kathryn White and Miriam Latimer – because it’s just a wonderfully straight-forward tale about two friends using their imaginations on a camp out sleepover, and my daughter loved it
- ‘The Vast Wonder of the World’, by Melina Mangal and Luisa Uribe – because I learnt about African American biologist and scientific pioneer Ernest Everett Just, about whom I knew nothing before
- ‘Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees’, by Franck Prevot and Aurelia Fronty – my favourite of the Wangari Maathai books, because of its beautiful ilustrations
Available to borrow soon!
The books are off to their new home with the Oxford Poetry Library and Children’s Allotment Many Voices Collection tomorrow, and will be available to borrow at the collection’s upcoming pop-up at Flo’s Place in the Park on Saturday May 8, between 10 and 12. Find out more about how to reserve and borrow books on the Oxford Poetry Library website.
We’d love to hear about your favourites
If you fancy writing a review, we’d love to hear from you.