Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Silence Is Not An Option

Sometimes, as an educator, you'll be in the middle of a lesson or a discussion and a student will say something which stops you in your mental tracks.  You'll wonder, "Why didn't I think of that?"  Truth be told, a number of times when this happens, I cannot help but grin.  (I want to dance and maybe I have once or twice.)  When children are allowed to be their best selves, when we support them in this endeavor, there is nothing they cannot do.

This book, No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History (Charlesbridge, September 22, 2020) edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson and Jeanette Bradley with illustrations by Jeanette Bradley delivers poetic portraits of young activists to readers.  Their accomplishments at young ages are remarkable and a point of ignition.  They motivate all of us to be our best selves.  

A reverso poem by Lindsay H. Metcalf

No voice is too small
to solve a problem
that's big,
A movement 
can spark
within you, 
your family and friends,
your community,
your country---
within your world.  . . .

This portion of the first poem, an inspirational introduction, is the first of two bookend poems.  The following poems, penned by Charles Waters, Hena Khan, Fiona Morris, G. Neri, S. Bear Bergman, Traci Sorell, Lindsay H. Metcalf, Joseph Bruchac, Carol Boston Weatherford, Leslea Newman, Andrea J. Loney, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Janet Wong and Nikki Grimes are presented in a variety of forms.  The second bookend poem, a free verse poem, is written by the three editors.

We meet a child who was bullied for her voice, using that voice to fashion a career in music.  A boy believed you cannot 

hate someone you know

so, he made sure almost all the students in his high school knew him.  He did not stop there but developed a way for others to tell their stories.  At twelve-years-old a girl started a fund raiser still active today for helping those with Down syndrome. (She is now twenty-two).  Have you heard of Levi Draheim?  Rather than live in fear of having water cover his home, he joined others in a lawsuit against the government for their ignorance of climate change.

A child fought for transgender athletes, specifically soccer players, and won.  Cierra "Little Water" would not be silenced about her cancer or her sexual assault.  A boy and his father walked from one end of our county to the other to increase awareness of type 1 diabetes.  Two young women realized the essential importance of water.  Is it too much to ask to protect our water or to have clean water to use in our homes?

At nineteen Zach Wahls spoke about his two mothers and being raised in a loving environment.  It went viral.  At twenty-nine Zach is now an Iowa state senator.  It was a sixteen-year-old girl who sparked what is now the Wear Orange initiative.  Another girl and fourteen of her friends wore their quinceanera dresses in protest at the Texas State Capitol.  It was a challenge to those who would deport immigrants.  Adora Svitak dared to pose the theory that 

adults can learn from kids.

If you believe you can't make a difference, #1000BlackGirlBooks founder dispelled that notion.  

Each author brings their unique writing style to these poems.  Their poems highlight accomplishments and pay tribute to those accomplishments.  Each poem, written with meticulous care, sings out from the pages.  Here is the beginning portion of the closing poem.

A free verse poem by
Keila V. Dawson, Jeanette Bradley, and Lindsay H. Metcalf

Sometimes we see a problem
and our hearts ache,
and we think:
Someone should do something.

But who is the someone?
And what is the something?  . . .

Partnering with the poems is a separate paragraph with further factual information about the activists.  In the lower, right-hand corner on each two-page presentation are ideas of how you can start, duplicate, or continue what that person has done.

On the open and matching dust jacket and book case, illustrator Jeanette Bradley supplies readers with a spirited depiction of children standing up for their beliefs bravely and together.  The light in their hearts shines forth on their faces.  They are determined.  The design choice to have the text on a sign is an excellent one.  The individuals in the background in a purple hue continue over the spine on the same color canvas to the left edge.  Above the people on the back, left, is a poem:

A haiku

No voice is too small
to solve a problem that's big.
Change ripples forward.

On the opening and closing endpapers in a muted black or gray, are quotes from the fourteen activists.  They are written in all capital letters in white.  Before you've read one interior word, you are energized.  On the initial title page, a microphone is beneath the text.  On the formal title page eight of the young people are standing in spotlights, five on the left and three on the right.  The remaining six are showcased on the two pages dedicated to the introductory poem.

These images were

painted digitally in Procreate for iPad on a digital paper design by Paper Farms.

They all span two pages, focusing on the individual in full color.  (Additional elements appear fainter.) The children are highly animated and engaged in their particular activity or are placed within the focus of their protest.  Although the physical characteristics of the activists are understandably different, their representations embody one common feature.  That is resolve.

The background color shown on the dust jacket and book case is used throughout the book.  This allows for our eyes to go directly to the children before enjoying the other details.  The paper is matte-finished and heavier.  When you look at these illustrations it is as if you are looking at a treasured sketchbook where the artist has personally been with each person over a period of time, capturing their personalities perfectly.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is of Jasilyn Charger.  Behind her winding through the background from left to right is the Mnisose, the Missouri River.  On the far left you can see elements depicting her participation in the protest at Standing Rock.  On the right elements portray the long-distance run she and others made to Washington, DC to protest the Dakota Access pipeline. (You can read more about her and others in this article The Youth Group That Launched a Movement at Standing Rock.)

Not only will you be amazed, but you will be strengthened from reading No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson and Jeanette Bradley with artwork by Jeanette Bradley.  You will be compelled to do further research about each one of them.  Trust me.  At the close of the book, the poetry forms employed by the writers are explained.  There are photographs of the authors and paragraphs about each one on the following three pages.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about the editors, illustrator, and poets and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  (I could not find a website for Fiona Morris.)  Lindsay H. Metcalf has accounts on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Keila V. Dawson has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Jeanette Bradley has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  This book is discussed in interviews at author Melissa Stoller's site, at the Bull Horn, at Picture Book Builders, Critter Lit, and at author Vivan Kirkfield's site. (Other discussions are listed at Lindsay H. Metcalf's website.)  At the publisher's website there is an activity guide.  At Penguin Random House you can view interior images.

1 comment:

  1. This is quite the review of NO VOICE TOO SMALL! It's always humbling when others find the stories of these young activists featured in the book inspiring. Thank you!