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Books Open the World

A Little About Myself
Inclusive Literature

Naomi Shihab Nye

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Nye, Naomi Shihab. Habibi. 1997. New York: Simon &
     Schuster. ISBN: 0-689-82523-4.
Plot Summary:
Although not from another country, I can certainly still relate to fourteen-year-old Arab-American Liyana and her younger breother Rafik being faced with drastic changes as their parents move them from suburban St. Louis, Missouri to their new home near Jerusalem.  Might sound exciting to some, but this move comes at a time when the two teens are actively involved with classmates and right after Liyana's first kiss.  Liyana and Rafik's father is a doctor and wishes to return to his native land between Jerusalem and Palestine to practice.
Once in their father's beloved home country, Liyana struggles to understand the "strange" language her grandmother and other family members speak.  Reminiscing about her first kiss and all she's left behind, Liyana becomes homesick.  But, much to her surprise, she encounters a new friend --- Omer.  The two enjoy getting to know one another despite the fact that Omer is Jewish and their friendship is one that is unacceptable in her "new" homeland.
Analysis & Literary Considerations:
Internationally acclaimed author, Naomi Shihab Nye uses a language full of rich vivid descriptions to tell the story of a close-knit highly protective Palestinian family and their life change.  She also incorporates great cultural markers such as the inclusion of authentic words within the text such as kaffiyehs.  Without explanation, the surrounding text provides the reader with enough support for understanding what kaffiyehs are.
Additional markers include the discussion of various foods and customs.  Nye also respectfully maintains the authenticity of a story about an Arab-American family by the names given to the main characters.  Additional characters encountered by the reader once the family arrives overseas holds to the same marker.
Habibi which means darling in Liyana's language and is what her father refers to his childrens as, is divided into many short chapters with headings and ocassional sayings or proverbs included.
Nye's personal Palestinian and American heritage and bi-cultural experiences as a young adult provide her the canvas on which to paint her beautiful story of Liyana Abboud.
Teaching in a school with a large number of middle eastern children finds me beaming with happiness at the idea of using Nye's Habibi in my classroom to not only allow those children a point of connecting but to provide the others with a classic that is filled with so much culturally.

Millman, Isaac. Moses Goes to the Concert. 1998.
     New York: Garrar, Straus, and Giroux.
     ISBN: 0374453667.
Plot Summary:
Author/illustrator and French-born, Isaac Millman, wrote an extraordinary story (with many accompanying sequels) of young Moses and his life experiences as a hearing impaired child.  In Moses Goes to the Concert, Moses and his classmates, who are also hearing impaired, are treated to a surprise by their teacher Mr. Samuels.  He takes them to a special concert -- one in which the orchestra's own percussionist shares the same challenges as the young people.  He is also deaf.  However, through a unique experience the children "hear" the music in their own special way.
Analysis & Literary Considerations:
The inclusion of American Sign Language (ASL) through pictorial images for dialogue between Moses and his classmates (as well as the reader) makes this piece as unique as its topic itself among children's literature.  Millman respectfully tells of the day-to-day activities hearing children (and adults) often take for granted.
The addition of the ASL Alphabet in the back of the book provide the reader a reference for the signs Moses uses as well as an initial point for studying the motions.
Moses Goes to the Concert is illustrated with clear, delicate line-and-watercolor pictures that provide a soft touch to the book.
Of personal interest to myself, the hearing impaired community and particularly children), have such a limited number of books these individuals can make connections to as far as characters with a disability or impairment such as themselves.  Moses Goes to the Concert, and Millman's additional pieces related to Moses, are ones that can serve not only to provide for the aforementioned void, but can also serve as an excellent tool for classroom discussion of the acceptance of individual differences and challenges that come with them.


de Haan, Linda. King and King. 2002. Berkley: Tricycle
     Press.  ISBN: 1-58246-061-2.
Plot Summary:
King and King is a contemporary Cinderella-like tale of finding true love and living happily ever after in a story of Prince Bertie and Prince Lee.  Written in a non-political, non-didactive manner, King and King is a piece that tells of the prince's mother (the queen) adamantly declaring that it is time he married and it shall be by summer's end in order that he may become heir to the throne.
Princess after princess come to see the prince at a chance to become his wife and the next queen.  Prince Bertie, after an exasperating search, just about gives up when, "At last he felt a stir in his heart.  It was love at first sight."  And it wasn't Princess Madeline who pricked the heart of Prince Bertie.  It was her handsome brother, Prince Lee.
Analysis & Literary Considerations:
Written by the Dutch writer/illustrator team of Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland, this debut book has already been translated into four different languages.
The whimsical, collage-flecked, mixed-media picture book has illustrations that remind the reader of those in The Emperor's New Clothes.  Nijland creatively uses a variety of media including foil, paint, fabric, paper, and crayon.  A young reader would find the portrayal of the characters amusing in their gaity as they frolick around on the pages.
Initially the thematic nature of this piece could have a classroom teacher questioning its place in her literature library.  However, given the multiplexity of today's society and the desire to keep an open mind respecting all differences in the world around me while cultivating the same acceptance in young minds, moves me to consider the inclusion of pieces of this nature.
de Haan and Nijland collaboratively created a children's book quite frankly needed in our society today.  In addition, the book was nominated for the Lambda Literary Award and also has a sequel titled King and King and Family.
Finally, I cannot finalize this review without mentioning that King and King does come with controversial discussion among critics, and some districts have even banned the use of literature with the topic of gays and lesbians.

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