Saturday, July 22, 2017

Recommended: LOLA LEVINE AND THE VACATION DREAM by Monica Brown; GHOSTS IN THE CASTLE by Zetta Elliott

Yesterday (July 21, 2017), I did some work with teachers on evaluating materials about Native peoples. In the Q&A, someone asked if there were some topics that ought not be given to young children. In the years since I've been studying children's books, that has often been a heated discussion. Some people argue that certain topics are "too hard" for children. There's an effort to "protect" them from "harsh" realities of the world.

Who, though, is being protected?

Today's post is about two books--both of which have characters who speak the truths of history to the children in the books. First up is Monica Brown's Lola Levine and the Vacation Dream. 

I read Monica Brown's Lola Levine and the Vacation Dream this morning.



Lola Levine and the Vacation Dream is the 5th book in her very popular Lola Levine series of chapter books (see her post at Latinx in Kid Lit for some background on why she created this series featuring mixed race characters).

In Brown's story, Lola, her brother, and their parents are going to Lima, Peru, where her Tía Lola lives, and where that aunt and Lola's mom grew up.



Lola's little brother is in kindergarten. Lola is in second grade. Their age is one reason I began this post with the question about appropriate content for children. Their aunt doesn't hesitate to talk with them about their Indigenous ancestry and that history in the matter-of-fact way that happens in many Native families.



See that (p. 68)?:
"But around five hundred years ago, Europeans from Spain came and wanted to conquer the indigenous peoples and take their gold and use their land."
"That's not nice!" says Ben. 
"No, it isn't," says Tía Lola. "But even though many died, and the Spanish destroyed this temple and stole the gold, Indigenous people are strong, and we found ways to survive. We're still here. Some are like us and have a mix of Spanish and indigenous backgrounds. But not all are mixed. There are many indigenous groups in Peru who speak their native languages and maintain their traditions."
That page and ones like it in Lola Levine and the Vacation Dream make this book a stand-out. It is definitely going onto my Best Books list.

Lola's aunt is awesome! She reminded me of Aunt Jocelyn--or, Aunt Joss, as Zaria (the main character) calls her--in Zetta Elliott's The Ghosts in the Castle. 



The Ghosts in the Castle is also an all-too-rare series that features Native or children of color. Here's one page from Elliott's book that I am taken with:



At that point in the story, Aunt Joss, her son, and Zaria are in a museum. Aunt Joss hears a father tell his son that the diamonds in that display were from a country that Britain owned, and that they were a gift. Aunt Joss tells the boy:
"If I invite you into my house, you are a guest. Right?"
The boy nods and Aunt Joss continues. "If I don't invite you into my house--if you break into my house--what does that make you?"
"A burglar!" cries the boy, proud to know the right answer. 
The boys father takes him away before Aunt Joss can start talking about empire, invasion, stolen artifacts and words like "savages."

See what I mean? Through these two aunts, Brown and Elliott are telling truths that empower children who too often see their heritage denigrated or misrepresented. Click over to Cynsations and read an interview, there, of Elliott.

And then either buy these two books, or get them from your local library. And if they're not on that library shelf, speak up--like Tía Lola and Aunt Joss! And tell others about these books, too. They're terrific!

Lola Levine and the Vacation Dream is a 2017 book from Little, Brown; The Ghosts in the Castle is a 2017 book from Rosetta Press.





3 comments:

Beverly Slapin said...

YES! I love the LOLA LEVINE books and reviewed them on DE COLORES. Here's the VACATION DREAM review:

http://decoloresreviews.blogspot.com/2017/05/lola-levine-meets-jelly-and-bean-lola.html

conuly said...

I'm glad to hear that they did this well! Sometimes I think that you never find a good bit of representation in a book you review. My nieces are too old for this series, so I haven't read them myself, but I've tentatively recommended them to others - and I'll keep doing it.

Olivia said...

I'm so glad that the Lola Levine series got it right! I purchased them for our library system, so it's nice to know that our kids will be getting the right message.