Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, September 28, 2018

Together We Are Stronger

Everyone has a story to tell.  Everyone's story has value.  By hearing the stories of others we learn.  When we learn we grow toward being the best we can be.  We know all of this to be true.

We need to remember the person we pass walking down a street, pushing a grocery store cart, sitting at a table in a library, or sitting or standing with us, waiting in a line, has a story we might need or want to hear.  If we listen to their story or read their story, it further validates them and us as human beings of worth.  First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants And Refugees Who Make America Great (Little. Brown And Company, September 4, 2018) written by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace with illustrations by Agata Nowicka is captivating and illuminating at every page turn.

Introducing The Heroes Of
First Generation
The United States is a nation of diversity, from Native American peoples to immigrants and refugees.  Maybe you can trace your family back to the first colonists who came over from Europe, or to immigrants who arrived during the late 1800s.  But immigrants and refugees didn't just come to this country hundreds of years ago.  There are millions of new Americans making this country thrive right now.  

Following a stirring, informative and inviting introduction readers meet eighteen women and eighteen men whose lives have and continue to elevate this country's greatness.  Each of them found their gift, persisted through challenges and used those talents for the benefit of others.  Person by person you feel something wonderful growing inside you.  It's gratitude.

At six a little girl born in a refugee camp in Kenya relocates to St. Cloud, Minnesota.  One year ago in 2017, this little girl, Halima Aden, is showcased on the cover of a magazine in the United States as the first hijab-wearing model.  Google co-founder Sergey Brin fled the Soviet Union with his parents also at the age of six for religious reasons.  One of six children, Maria Contreras-Sweet worked odd jobs to help her single mother when they left Mexico to live in California.  Her mother supported this move knowing opportunities would be better for Maria in America. Maria was the first Latina to start a bank;

a bilingual bank for California's Latinx small-business community.

As a boy (born in 1883 in Syria) Kahlil Gibran came to America with his mother and three siblings seeking freedom from a troubled marriage.  This beloved poet lived in a single room apartment his entire adult life.  When you read The Prophet you will understand why its popularity grew.

A librarian who read her Mary Poppins inspired this first Asian American woman to serve in the United States Senate to learn English faster.  He and his brothers and sisters (ten) living on the continent of Africa ate dirt to curb their hunger.  Meb Keflezighi was the first American citizen to win the Boston Marathon in thirty years.  Did you know conservationist John Muir immigrated to the United States from Scotland?

An Ethiopian orphan and his sister are adopted by a Swedish couple.  Today he owns numerous restaurants throughout the United States.  A Polish immigrant as an infant was instrumental in the women's rights movement.  She suffered for seven months in jail but her notes smuggled out gained national attention in assisting the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.  The stories of these first generation women and men no matter how times you read them resonate long after the book is closed.  The America seen through the eyes, hearts and minds of these thirty-six people is an America to preserve and protect for future immigrants and refugees.

As you read the words penned by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace their thorough research is apparent in the collective biographical essays.  Individual quotations by each person top the entries and are included in the body of the narrative.  Dates and statistics are seamlessly woven into the conversations about each person.  Their use of language allows us to become personally aware of the world in which these people rose to their considerable accomplishments.  Each page also contains at least one but usually two or three separate but significant facts placed within a box in the lower right-hand corner.  Here are some examples from the essays.

Mazie Hirono
"I wanted to do something with my life
that would help people."

In 1955, seven-year-old Mazie Keiko Hirono stood
with her mom and brother on the deck of a ship sailing
out of Yokohama Harbor, knowing they needed 
to leave Japan in a hurry.  Her father's problems with
alcohol and gambling had made him abusive and had
left his family poor and hungry.  Mazie cried a lot
during the trip to Hawaii because she didn't know
what to expect, but she believed in her hardworking
mom.  "My mother was my whole world," she
remembered.  "I learned risk-taking from her."

*Mazie became a US citizen in 1959-the same
year Hawaii became a US state.

Carlos Santana
"I would never take anything
from America that I wouldn't want
to put back a hundred times."

When Carlos Santana was nine years old, his father
took out a violin and played softly.  A bird settled on
a branch and sang along with the instrument.  "It was
as if I suddenly found out my father was a great wizard,"
Carlos recalled, "only this wasn't magic---it was

*Carlos established the Milagro Foundation to
provide money to organizations that work with
children around the world in education, health,
and the arts.

Looking at the opened book case of this title, it's as if illustrator Agata Nowicka has presented readers with portraits revealing the passion at heart in the soul of each individual.  They all look ready to move into action or speak to us directly.  Her choice of color palette here and throughout the book is bold and vibrant.

A royal blue canvas covers both the opening and closing endpapers.  Small gold stars scatter and frame the text on the title and dedication pages.  For each image black acts as the defining hue bringing the elements in each illustration prominently forward.  In numerous visuals red, white and blue are used to excellent effect.

Readers need to pause at each depiction.  Look carefully at the details.  What is meaningful to the individuals and represents their talents, achievements and continued endeavors is present.  It's a gallery of greatness.

This book, First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants And Refugees Who Make America Great written by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace with illustrations by Agata Nowicka, is powerful and meaningful, relevant now and in the future.  Whether you read it as a whole in one sitting or read an entry a day, the impact will be as potent.  I can't imagine a personal or professional collection without this title.  These are stories we need to hear.  These are stories our children need to hear.  At the close of the book both Sandra Neil Wallace and Agata Nowicka acquaint readers with the inspiration and process of their work on this title.

To learn more about Sandra Neil Wallace, Rich Wallace and Agata Nowicka and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  At the publisher's website you can listen to a podcast by the authors about this title.  At School Library Journal you can read a sponsored interview of the authors.  When the cover is revealed at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's site, Watch. Connect. Read., he engages them in conversation about this title and nonfiction in general.

Book Chat with the Editor - Deirdre Jones on FIRST GENERATION from LB School on Vimeo.

I hope you will take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the selections by other bloggers participating in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge this week.

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