The Climb to the Top

Sky Dancers-the-climb-to-the-top-climb-fear-skill-familyI loved climbing trees as a child, that exhilarating, terrifying race to the top. I can still remember the thrill of reaching hand over hand until I found myself high in the canopy of leaves. The world appeared smaller, less intimidating. Hidden from sight, ensconced in a private world, my imagination soared. To this day heights both fascinate and intimidate me.

So, when I came across Sky Dancers written by Connie Ann Kirk and illustrated by Christy Hale, I was particularly intrigued. It tells the story of a young Native American boy’s family tradition as steel workers on some of New York’s largest, tallest and most famous constructions. It is a fictional piece based on history.  The boy’s family represents many Mohawk tribe members who actually worked the high steel in the early years of the twentieth century.

The story opens with John Cloud trying to talk himself into climbing a tree beyond where his fear holds him in place. He thinks about his dad, who at that very moment was walking the girders of a Manhattan sky scraper building it higher and higher into the sky.  John replays memories of his grandfather‘s tales of his own time as a sky walker.

The boy wonders if he’ll ever be as brave and strong as his dad and grandfather. He also wonders if his grandfather will ever fulfill his promise to bring him into the city and actually see his dad on the job. When that day finally comes, John is overawed with pride.

This is a sweet story of inter-generational links that bond families together. Click To Tweet It offers a welcome window onto an ethnic group that tends to be under served in children’s literature. The story is a refreshing break from the typical themes we see associated with Native Americans: riding horses, hunting, etc. And, it is not an “issues” book. On the contrary, it depicts these Americans as normal families who do the typical things all families do: love on another, share family stories, go to work, etc.

AQ #AdoptionAttunementSky-Dancers-the-climb-to-the-top-climb-fear-skill-family Adoption-attuned Lens:  This story easily lends itself to discussions of generational family patterns which could include both those of the birth and adoptive families. Each has value, attraction and contributes to making the child who he is and who he will choose to become.

Sky Dancers prods us to ponder the way we overcome our fears, grow our skills and develop mastery. One of the cultural memes about the Native Americans historical role in the high steel construction industry attributes their skill to their having a special aptitude. Some people feel that categorizing their bravery and skill as an unearned “gift” that comes to them effortlessly diminishes the personal fortitude and persistence it takes to overcome instinctive fear and perform in dangerous conditions. Sky Dancers offers an easy path to discussions about talent, perseverance and achievement and how each contributes to one’s success.

What Is #DiverseKidLit?

Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

DiverseKidLit

We hope this community serves as a resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, October 7th and the first Saturday of each month.

Upcoming Theme

Our theme for October (7th) will be #ownvoices. The #ownvoices hashtag was created to draw attention to diverse authors and illustrators who are creating books that honor their own heritage and experiences. Please share your favorite titles or authors / illustrators with us!

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

The most-clicked post from the previous #diversekidlit was one I am sure we all could use: 19 Multicultural Children’s Books teaching Kindness & Empathy. This fabulous collection of picture books covers a wide range of cultures and topics including issues around immigration, acceptance, jealousy, and more. Thanks for sharing, Svenja!

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Becky @ Franticmommmy
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an online bookstore for South Asian children’s books, toys and games
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Gayle Swift, Author of ABC, Adoption & Me
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Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at thelogonauts.com.

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What Makes A Family?

In our mothers house.PolaccoAs an adoptive parent, an adoption coach and a writer on adoption issues, I found In Our Mother’s House by renowned author, illustrator Patricia Polacco exceptional. As is probably obvious from the title, the story focuses on a/n (adoptive) family with two mothers. Readers searching for stories that include LGBTQ families will appreciate this upbeat and poignant tale.

Written as a flashback from a now-adult adoptee who recalls some treasured and delightful memories of her childhood, In Our Mother’s House focuses on the positives, on how families can look different but still be about the love and care that connect them. Lesbian parenting is not the focus of the book; it is the backdrop. The story concentrates on the warm, supportive and “regular”  family that the children and their two mothers shared. Love, tolerance and joy thread throughout.

While most of the neighborhood characters welcome and embrace this unique family, one does not. Polacco makes the point subtly—the children wonder why Mrs. Lockner grumps at them whenever they meet her. The mothers concentrate on reaching out to neighbors (all of them) to create community.

The illustrations include a dazzling array of diversity. Many lend themselves to further exploration of cuisine, language and neighborliness, etc. Although the story is about a family formed through adoption, it doesn’t concentrate on adoption issues, makes no mention of the emotional struggles that adoptees often face nor does it mention birth parents, etc. In Our Mother’s House is a sweet, feel-good book about the wondrous blessing of a loving family. Great book!

A Family Collage in Beautiful Color

sugarplum 2Recently the internet lit up with the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks . Imagine my delight when I came across this gem: I Bet She Called Me Sugarplum by Joanne V. Gabbin Illustrated by Margot Berman. It impressed me in many ways. First, and foremost, it is a book about an Afro-American family, the stories memories and experiences that bind them together. A small but integral part of the story reveals that the child came into her family through adoption. Both she and her adoptive family are Afro-American as well. The exquisitely detailed collages,  illustrate the story and serve as a metaphor for the stitching together of an adopted family.

Told in rhyming poetry, the story highlights the relationships that tie family generations together. This is an important way of quilting extended families together and is especially valuable for fostering connectivity in an adoptive family.

The story is upbeat and respectful for the little girl’s birth family and nurtures her ability to regard them with love, kindness and a sense of being valued. All are excellent goals for an adoptive family. The adoptive mother clearly affirms this attitude: “Another mommy loved you and left you to our care.” When parents approach a child’s history with this kind of acceptance, it encourages an open dialog. This helps kids feel comfortable discussing questions and feelings that arise from their adoption.

It includes a paper doll cutout, which encourages a wonderful—and somewhat forgotten—way of role playing that encourages the reader to imagine being the child in the book!

The warm and tender feelings, the gorgeous illustrations, and the lush text make this an excellent read. All kids will enjoy this book whether they are adopted or not. As an adoption coach and an adoptive parent, I would give this book five stars.

 

Sugar Plum