[Monday Reading] A Very Diverse Fourth Of July To Y’all


It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date).


For 2022, our reading theme is #DecolonizeBookshelves2022. Essentially, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized

Blue Sky White Stars (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Sarvinder Naberhaus Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Published by Dial Books (2017)
ISBN: 0803737009 (ISBN13: 9780803737006) Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

I’ve had this book for awhile now in my digital bookshelf, and I am glad to feature it at the perfect moment as the United States of America celebrates Fourth of July.

In the Author’s Note, Sarvinder Naberhaus explained what inspired her to write the sparse but lyrical text in this celebration of the American dream:

This story was written as a parallel between America and its flag – the same words describe both. I began this book thinking of the deep blue sky dotted with white stars that early immigrants to this country saw as they boarded ships headed toward religious freedom in the New World.

The art is stunning, as expected of the unparalleled Kadir Nelson who also wrote a moving Illustrator’s Note at the end of the book:

With each painting, I was inspired to remind readers of the resilience of American principles, and that as we continue to push forward, our strength lies in our willingness to embrace our differences.

What made the book stand out for me (apart from the lifelike art that Kadir Nelson is known for) is the fact that the female author, Sarvinder Naberhaus is originally from Punjab, India – and the way that she related her immigrant family’s experience moving to the United States in the Author’s Note, in their journey towards “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as Nelson mentioned in the Illustrator’s Note.

The art also surfaces how this freedom to pursue one’s dream is a constant struggle – one that has to be fought for as people march on the streets, wresting their power back, “woven together” as a community.

This book is indeed a moving tribute to the incredibly diverse group of people – immigrants and Native Americans – that has built the country known as the United States of America.

The World Belonged To Us (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Jacqueline Woodson Illustrator Leo Espinosa
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books (2022) ISBN: 0399545492 (ISBN13: 9780399545498)
Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

Any new book by Jacqueline Woodson is a cause for celebration – and I was thrilled to find her newest 2022 picturebook via Overdrive – illustrated by Colombian American illustrator Leo Espinosa.

The Fourth Of July has always marked the beginning of summer for our family. Over the past several years (even when we were still living in Singapore), we usually celebrate our summer break with family in the United States which usually starts during the last week of June or first week of July. Woodson’s newest picturebook tastes very much like summer – especially as it was celebrated back in the “olden days” with children not buried in their gadgets but out in the streets, jumping sky-high, book bags flung out into the streets.

There is a nostalgic vibe to the story that most parents would very much appreciate, even as it is now considered “historical” by younger readers – this reality almost like a world away, even as it belonged to this group of diverse kids who owned these streets in Brooklyn.

Linguistic and cultural diversity is taken as a matter of fact – rather than something unusual or particularly noteworthy. What also struck me the most was the sense of safety that these young children felt as they played in their streets until night fell, that was almost taken for granted. I am not sure if this is something that people still feel when out on the streets at night, regardless of the season or the city.

My favourite art from the book is the image above – with the play in shadows and the captured glee of this young girl in pigtails, arms swinging, legs flying off the curb – not to mention the boy bouncing a basketball off the page. There is delight, sunshine, and joy in these pages – find them and read it over and over until winter comes.

#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 60/61 out of target 100

July 4, 2022 at 06:31AM Myra Garces-Bacsal