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2019 January

19

Jan
2019

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Picture Book Review: The Royal Adventures of Princess Halima by Jainaba Fye, YaAdam Fye, and Anna Fye

On 19, Jan 2019 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Princess HalimaThe Royal Adventures of Princess Halima: Exploring the Wilderness of Tanzania written by Jainaba Fye, YaAdam Fye, Anna Fye, illustrated by Dolph Banza

From Goodreads: Introducing Princess Halima, the African Princess! Follow Princess Halima of the Kingdom of Affia as she explores the beautiful country of Tanzania while visiting her cousin Dalilah. Her adventure includes hiking Mount Kilimanjaro and a trip to Serengeti National Park! Learn all about Tanzania and its historic landmarks! The Royal Adventures of Princess Halima is a series of tales that will excite, amaze and educate the reader about the different countries in Africa while unlocking the wonders, mysteries of each nation through Princess Halima’s adventures. 

I tested out this book as our nightly chapter book and it was hit. As a parent I appreciate that the book series sets out to demonstrate that Africa is not a country. Not only is it an enormous continent, but it peopled by a huge variety of cultures and histories. Strangely this comes as a surprise to a lot of (usually white) parents, students, and people. Princess Halima introduces readers to the places she is visiting and to her cousins and friends she makes along the way. This was a great opportunity for us to talk about Africa, it’s history of amazing cultures, and its diversity.

The fact that the main character is a princess will appeal to kids in the princess phase. Plus it gives their teachers and parents an opportunity to expand the definition of what a princess looks like and where princesses live. They aren’t just white girls in pink dresses. And they aren’t just interested in clothes and tea parties. Halima is brown-skinned and wearing a more traditional robe and she’s on a trip around the continent of Africa learning about the cultures she encounters as someone who will eventually have a stake in the politics of her own country.

I would absolutely put these books in a transitional chapter book collection. Some of the vocabulary was a little tricky (for an independent reader, certainly not for a child being read aloud to), but the length and relatively simple story line would make it easy for an emerging reader to get through on their own. Many children are also interested in learning about cultures around the world. Giving them these types of books will open up their minds and worlds as well as give them a high interest topic that will motivate them to read the books on their own.

Diversify your chapter books and give kids who are interested in hybrid fiction-nonfiction types of reading material something to get excited about. I also highly recommend these if you have any elementary grade that studies African cultures. And support authors and illustrators of color and the publishers that support them.

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

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11

Jan
2019

In Review

By Elizabeth Wroten

Chapter Book Review: An Angel for Mariqua by Zetta Elliott

On 11, Jan 2019 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten

Angel for MariquaAn Angel for Mariqua by Zetta Elliott

From Goodreads: Christmas is coming, but eight-year-old Mariqua Thatcher isn’t looking forward to the holidays. Mama’s gone and Gramma doesn’t know what to do with her feisty granddaughter. Almost every day Mariqua gets into a fight at school, and no one seems to understand how she feels inside. But things start to change when a mysterious street vendor gives Mariqua a beautifully carved angel as a gift. 

I know I’m a little late in reviewing this as it’s a Christmas book, but don’t pass over this review just yet. An Angel for Mariqua needs to be on your shelves. Mariqua’s mother has been incarcerated for a drug offense and now Mariqua is living with her grandmother attending a new school. Grandma is kind, but also elderly and not well equipped to raise a child. At school Mariqua is teased by one boy in particular, but sometimes by others, for having a “jailbird” mother. All this makes Mariqua feel small and angry and she lashes out at her one friend, her grandmother, and her classmates. She’s not a bad kid by any means, but she’s struggling. Then a chance encounter with a street vendor who gifts her a brown-skinned angel and meeting an older girl from her building helps Mariqua begin to come to terms with the big changes she’s faced in her life.

This is such a beautiful story about a girl making friends and learning to find value and the good in herself. She comes to find joy in small things and small kindnesses, while also coming to accept her situation and the friendship people offer her. When she is befriended by Valina, Mariqua also learns to see that others are also struggling. Valina is a beautiful example of a friend who isn’t perfect (she has her own family struggles that prevent her from keeping all her promises), but sets such a good example for Mariqua of how to be gracious and graceful. I absolutely adore the friendship the two girls form. Valina has been where Mariqua is, as far as being angry at the world for unfair but uncontrollable circumstances, and she can offer so much support to Mariqua as she works her way through her loneliness and anger.

The reading level would be good for strong third graders, many/most fourth graders, and fifth grade readers based on the length and complexity of the text. But I read it aloud to my seven year old (second grade age) and she enjoyed it very much. I would put it in a transitional chapter book section in the library.

I would caution libraries and collections to ensure that they have other representations of black children and children of color. While the book doesn’t pander to stereotypes, it does have an incarcerated mother with drug charges and an absent black father. These are very real issues for some children of color, but it cannot be the only narrative in book collections about families of color. Still, this is an incredibly positive representation of the situation and Elliott is such a wonderful, deft, and sensitive writer that you can’t go wrong with having it on your shelf. Make it a part of your holiday collections, displays, and read alouds.

Final note: If you do purchase this book, please post a review of it on Amazon. This will help other folks find the book and know that it’s worth purchasing. If you use any other book services like GoodReads or your local library’s online catalog be sure to post a review there too! And if your local library doesn’t have a copy, request that they purchase one.

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