Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Highly recommended! DREAMERS by Yuyi Morales

The first library I knew as a child was a cardboard box full of books. You see, I went to a government day school on my reservation. We didn't have a library. What we had was a librarian from the nearby public school, who would drive to our school every couple of weeks, with a box full of books. That was our library. That I remember it is an indicator of how much books mattered to me then, and now.

Libraries of books are, indeed, special places.

Books in libraries, can be very special, too. A lot of people have warm memories of a book they liked. They've also got memories of horrible books, too, so I'll note that as well!

The point is, books touch our lives. Some of them find a place in our beings. They snuggle in and keep us warm in ways that we might not be conscious of all the time, but, they are there. That warmth is what I've feeling today (again) as I read (again) Dreamers by Yuyi Morales.

Why? Because within its pages are books that have found a place in my being, and seeing them in the pages of Dreamers warms me all over again. (A note to my friends and colleagues who study children's books: what is the word to describe an author or illustrator referencing the work of another author or illustrator in their book? Is it intertextuality?!)

Let me show you what I mean. Here's Home to Medicine Mountain by Chiori Santiago. Its illustrations are by Judith Lowry. Published in 1998 by Children's Book Press, I remember it well because it was the first picture book I found that did right in telling readers about boarding schools.

And here is When We Were Alone. Written by David Alexander Robertson and illustrated by Julie Flett, it is also about boarding school. It was published in 2017 by HighWater Press.

Dreamers is essentially a book of memories wrapped up in the embrace of what is possible. We see a mom, and the love she has for her baby as they take journeys together: from one country to another, from one book to another, from one age to another.

Gosh--as I pore over the art and the words and the book covers, I smile again and again. I remember reading some of the other books Morales depicts to my kindergarten and first grade students (they're all grown up now) at Pojoaque Elementary School in the late 80s and early 90s and when I chose to be a stay-at-home mom, I read those books to my dear little one (she's all grown up now, too!).

Dreamers is one I would definitely have read to my students and my daughter. Today, it will invite conversations that will vary tremendously, depending on locale, students, and the dreams of the teachers who gathers students around them at storytime. And the back matter will appeal to puzzlers. Well, maybe "puzzlers" isn't the right word. The back matter includes a list of books that inspired Morales. Finding their covers would be lots of fun! And she's got a paragraph called "How I Made this Book" that lists items she photographed to create the book. With a little one on my lap, I'd be reading that list and looking for the items in the pages of the book. [Back to say that if you head over to The Making of Dreamers at the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog, you can see photographs of those items.]

My heart is warmed, too, by Yuyi Morales, the person who I've come to know over the last few years. I met her in person in June of 2018 in New Orleans for the American Library Association's annual conference. After lunching together in a tiny eatery, we walked over to the convention center so I could register. My name tag said "retired" because that's what I said when I registered. She said something like "you're not retired" and I told her I didn't have a university affiliation. I didn't really know what to put on the registration form. I said something like "I wonder if I can submit something like bad ass as my occupation (my daughter said that to me once, which was way cool). We laughed and she told me to put it on there. Then the next day when I got my copy of Dreamers, she signed it for me...

See? It says "To Bad ass Debbie!"

That day, we walked and talked for a couple of hours. Laughing and learning from each other: two women who want the world to be better than it is and who--with our work and our words--are trying to help it become a better place. Here's a photo she took:

I didn't mean to make myself such a big part of this review, but in fact, I guess I'm coming full circle at this point.

Books can wrap us in warmth, and those who create them can be beacons for us in difficult times. That's Yuyi Morales. A beacon of warmth, of light, of delight, of life.

Note: Yuyi is not a Native woman. On her website, she writes that was was born in Xalapa, Mexico, and that she is Mexicana. Her book is being reviewed on AICL because it includes Native content.


Mia Wenjen said...

What lovely memories this book evokes. I am excited to read it!

Erika said...

I had just submitted my September book order with Dreamers in it when I came across this post. I already love Yuyi Morales, but now I'm doubly excited to see this book when it gets here!