BOOK REVIEWS

Literature for Young Readers | Professional Literature

(provided by the editorial staff of EMME unless indicated otherwise)



Literature for Young Readers
 

Argueta, Jorge & Gomez, Elizabeth (illustrator). (2001). A Movie in My Pillow. San Francisco, CA: Children's Book. 31 pp., ISBN: 0-89239-165-0 (hc), $15.95 (ages 6 & up).

This collection of poems depicts the confusion and delight that a young boy experienced while immigrating to the United States during the Salvadoran Civil War.  These colorful poems are accompanied by equally colorful and beautiful illustrations.  Each poem is presented in both Spanish and English. Among issues the author, Argueta, covered regarding his immigration to the USA from El Salvador, the topics of language and identity are specifically nested in his poems, "Neighborhood of Sun," "A Voice From Home," and "Language of the Birds."  The juxtaposition of two languages will benefit both English speakers and Spanish speakers in understanding the poems in their own language as well in exploring them with a new language.

Cox, Brenda S. (1995). Who Talks Funny? A Book About Languages for Kids. North Haven, CT: Shoe String Press.  211 pp., ISBN: 0-208-02378-X (hc), $25.00 (ages 12 & up).

This non-fiction book for middle and high school students is a perfect resource for reports, speeches and projects.  The author exposes many fascinating facts about language, linguistic variety, political  implications of language, grammar and more that will spark the interest of readers.  Additional features of this book add to its usability such as appendices on "Words in Many Languages," a glossary of over 80 important linguistic terms, and further resources that point readers to other language-related publications.  This book will also be a valuable resource for teachers of foreign languages, social studies and language art.  With a focus on both language and culture this lends itself as a multidisciplinary tool to inform and motivate students about language and linguistic diversity. 

Giff, Patricia R. & DiSalvo-Ryan, DyAnne (Illustrator). (1995). Say Hola, Sarah. New York: Yearling Books.  86 pp., ISBN: 0-836-82050-9 (hc), $22.60 (ages 9-12).

Sarah Cole is finding it hard to balance her time for the demands of the upcoming Columbus Day celebrations are pulling her in all directions.  Should she spend time working on her school report about Columbus with Benjamin Bean or find the time to continue working on her Spanish notebook with Anna Ortiz, her best friend?  Soon, Sarah finds she has no choice when Anna's cousin comes to visit and Anna spends all her time with her cousin instead of Sarah.  Finally, Sarah understands why Anna's cousin needs so much of Anna's time because she is having a hard time learning to speak English.  Just like Sarah is struggling to speak Spanish!  This delightful story will help readers understand the intensity and efforts that need to go into learning a new language.     

Herrera, Juan F. & DeLucio-Brock, Anita (illustrator). (2002). Grandma and Me at the Flea. San Francisco, CA: Children's Book Press. 31 pp., ISBN: 0-89239-171-5 (hc), $15.95 (ages 6 & up).

Every Sunday Juanito helps his grandma sell old clothes at the remate (the flea market), where he and his friends take part in helping and sharing grandma's vision of the flea market as a community.  Juanito and his friends run from booth to booth giving grandma's healing herb to vendors, and they receive a sack of chilies for their efforts.  They then stop at the jewelry booth and are given a copper bracelet for grandma because she had helped the jewelry vendor send money orders home to Mexico.  With bright beautiful illustrations and bilingual text (English & Spanish) this book tells the wonderful story of what it means to give and receive.  

Herrera, Juan F. & Gomez, Elizabeth (illustrator). (2000). The Upside Down Boy. San Francisco, CA: Children's Book. 31 pp., ISBN: 0-89239-162-6 (hc), $15.95 (ages 6 & up).

Jaunito and his family move to the big city when Juanito turns eight years old. It is time for him to begin going to school, but Juanito is confused by his new school and misses life in the fields working as a campesino (farm laborers).  Everything he does feels upside down.  He eats lunch at recess and plays when it is time for lunch.  The hardest thing is that his tongue feels like a rock when he tries to speak English and he wonders if "I see a row of alphabet letters."  "If I learn them," he asks, "will they grow like seeds?"  Through the sensitivity of a caring teacher and the his loving family, he finds that his ability to express himself does grow like a seed as he begins to explore language through music, poetry and art.  Beautiful illustration and bilingual (English & Spanish) text add to the value of this book. 

Hunter, Sarah H. & Miner, Julia (illustrator). (1996). The Unbreakable Code. Flagstaff, AZ: Rising Moon Publications. 29 pp., ISBN: 0-87358-638-7 (hc), $15.95 (ages 6 & up).

The Unbreakable Code Learn about the daring Navajos, who during World War II devised an unbreakable code from their language, in this story of love and sharing between a grandfather and his grandson.  John, the grandson, is scared for he will be leaving the reservation for the first time in his life.  His grandfather helps him to realize that this will be all right and that he will have some very special things to take with him on his journey.  His grandfather then shares his own story of developing the secret code for the US military and acting as a "code talker" during World War II.  What will John take with him as he leaves the reservation? The Navajo Language, faith and ingenuity!  The story provides valuable information on Navajo's contribution to the US history.    

Levine, Ellen & Bjorkman, Steve (illustrator). (1999). I Hate English. New York: Scholastic.  30 pp., ISBN: 0-785-76832-7 (hc), $13.85 (ages 4-8).

Mei Mei does not want to learn English.  Having just moved to New York City from Hong Kong, she misses home and is resentful of her new surroundings.  At school she does not speak at all and in her after-school learning center she even refuses to speak English.  Mei Mei is paired up with Nancy, a tutor, who is going to help her learn English.  When Mei Mei continues to refuse to speak, Nancy takes her for a walk through Chinatown and talks to her without asking her to speak.  When Mei Mei gets tired of hearing Nancy talk "twenty-two minutes" straight, she begins to talk to Nancy, breaking her long silence.  This story identifies with those language learners who need to listen to a new language before attempting to speak.  The wonderful watercolor illustrations are a great addition to the book.    

Luenn, Nancy & Chapman, Robert (illustrator). (1998). A Gift for Abuelita: Celebrating the Day of the Dead. Flagstaff, AZ: Rising Moon Publications. 269 pp., ISBN: 0-87358-688-3 (hc), $15.95 (ages 5-8).

A Gift for Abuelita This beautifully illustrated bilingual (English & Spanish) book is based on the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead.  After Rosita loses her abuelita (grandmother), she is devastated.  Her family cannot find words to comfort her until her grandfather explains that she can show her abuelita how much she misses her by making her a gift to give on the Day of the Dead.  Rosita does not know what to make for her abuelita.  Then she remembers making tortillas with abuelita, while singing their song "What do my hands say? Pla-Pla-Pla...,."  Howerver, tortillas would not do and Rosita still struggles with choosing a gift for her grandmother.  Finally she makes her abuelita a braid with a "cord...too strong to be broken" representing their love.  This multicultural story could be easily introduced in a language arts lesson focusing on family, aging, and intergenerational interaction.   

Mora, Pat & Colon, Raul (illustrator). (1997). Tomas and the Library Lady. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf. 28 pp., ISBN: 0-679-80401-3 (hc), $17.00 (ages 4-8).

Based on the life of writer Tomas Rivera, this book tells the story of an uprooted child who finds a home in the library.  Tomas, the son of migrant farm workers, spends every summer in Iowa and every winter in Texas.  During one of his summers in Iowa, Thomas' grandfather encourages him to become the family's storyteller because the family was getting tired of all of grandfather's stories.  So, Tomas goes to the library, where he meets the library lady.  She encourages him throughout the summer to explore the library and, when she has time, she teaches him English and he teachers her Spanish.  Sadly, the summer comes to an end and it is time for Tomas to  leave the town. When he goes to say Adios to the library lady, they exchange gifts, a book for Tomas and sweet bread for the library lady.  This moving story will touch the hearts of any child who has found comfort and sanctuary at the library. 

Nagda, Anne W. & Roth, Stephanie (illustrator). (2000). Dear Whiskers. New York, NY: Holiday House.  64 pp., ISBN: 0-823-41495-7 (hc), $15.95 (ages 9-12).

When Jenny discovers that her creative writing pen pal is not writing back to her because she knows very little English, she becomes discouraged with the whole project. With encouragement from her teacher and her pen pal's teacher, Jenny spends time helping Sameera, her pen pal, learn English, hoping that this will lead to a return letter from her.  Jenny comes to understand that moving to a new country and learning a new language are not easy tasks.  Ultimately, Jenny gets creative and finds a very appetizing way to connect with Sameera, which gets her to finally begin writing letters back to Jenny.  This wonderful story helps youngsters understand some of the challenges of learning English as a second language. 

Orgel, Doris. (1996). Don't Call Me Slob-O. New York: Hyperion. 70 pp., ISBN: 0-786-81044-0 (pb), $3.95 (ages 8-12).

Being different is not fun! Both Shrimp and Slobodan realize this through their interactions with other boys at school.  Shrimp (Filomeno) must choose between doing the right thing or being popular when Slob-O (Slobodan) is placed in his class. Slobodan, a recent immigrant to America, must learn how to survive being different, especially with regard to language.  Slobodan is placed in a classroom that is two grade levels below where he should be, so he, as Mrs. Ortiz explains, is to "learn English.  And he can do that more easily in this class."  So not only does Slobodan have to deal with the difficulties of learning a new language but he must now learn how to deal with the differences in age and maturity of his classmates.  This insightful story sheds light on how the placement of ESL students can help and hinder their development in the school. 

Peak, Min. (1998). Aekyung's Dream (revised edition). San Francisco, CA: Children's Book. 22 pp., ISBN: 0-892-39042-5 (School & Library Binding), $14.95 (ages 4-8).

This bilingual (English & Korean) book beautifully portrays the struggle one girl faces in coming to terms with her new cultural surroundings, especially language.  Aekyung, after six months in America, can speak only a small amount of English and her classmates'  teasing persists.  After a vivid dream one night and a visit from her Aunt, Aekyung begins to find a balance in her life between her new language and native Korean Language.  This wonderful story illustrates hopefulness for a balance between the old and the new.  This rarer side-by-side display of English and Korean is a valuable bilingual resource. 

Santiago, Chiori & Lowry, Judith (illustrator). (1998). Home to Medicine Mountain. San Francisco, CA: Children's Book. 31 pp., ISBN: 0-89239-155-3 (hc), $15.95 (ages 6 & up).

Based on a true story, this book shares an often untold piece of American history.  For generations many Native American families were forced to send their children to government-run Indian residential schools that made them unlearn their Indian ways. At these schools, Native Americans were forbidden to speak their native languages. This story follows the events of Benny Len and Stanley during the year that they attended a boarding school before returning home for the summer.  The illustrations add to the mood of this book, with rich earthy colors and great detail paid to many Native American symbols.   

 



Professional Literature
 


Baugh, John. (2000). Beyond Ebonics: Linguistic pride and racial prejudice. New York: Oxford University.
149 pp., ISBN: 0-195-12046-9 (hc), $35.00.

"Why now a book on Ebonics?" (p. vii), begins Dell Hymes, a distinguished linguist, in the Foreword to Beyond Ebonics.  Despite the time gap between the Ebonics debate at the Oakland's School District, which started in 1996, and the publication of this book, the value of this manageably-sized book is immense.  The author, African-American sociolinguist whose expertise lies in the study of Ebonics, provides an informative account of the genesis of the term, Ebonics, which was initially coined by Robert Williams in 1973 to refer to "the linguistic and paralinguistic consequence of the African slave trade" in West Africa, Caribbean, and the U. S. (p. 16).  The original intent of the internationally based linguistic nomenclature has been distorted and misrepresented by media, politicians, educators, and the general public during the national controversy. Ebonics was readily referred to as "incorrect" and "broken" street English and slang of "Blacks."  While recognizing Ebonics as "nonstandard English," the author takes a painstaking effort to explain how Ebonics has developed in slave communities linguistically isolated from the mainstream speakers of Standard English and how it represents a rule-governed linguistic system.  The author's belief in the value of learning and teaching Standard English is well balanced with his sympathetic understanding of Oakland's educators who want to use Ebonics as a bridge to the instruction of Standard English.  Reminding the readers that the distinction between standard and nonstandard dialects is socio-politically motivated, this accomplished sociologist takes us through the process of  separating the linguistic and educational issues from the socio-political discourse of Ebonics, some sprung out of benign ignorance and others grounded on linguistic prejudice and racism.  The author ultimately presses a fundamental question of how to educate children who are disadvantaged because of their cultural and linguistic heritage.  He pleads for enhanced linguistic tolerance by which these children could learn Standard English without feeling ashamed and demeaned.  While the reading may become dry at times due to legal details, this book provides an excellent balanced perspective of Ebonics issues.  

Miramontes, Ofelia B. Nadeau, Adel, & Commins, Nancy L. (1997). Restructuring Schools for Linguistic Diversity: Linking Decision Making to Effective Programs. New York: Teachers College. 315 pp., ISBN: 0-80773-603-1 (pb), $23.95.

The distinctiveness of this book lies in the true integration of theory and practice.  Grounded on the premise that the primary language supports second language acquisition and cognitive development of ESL students, the authors provide a clear, and useful, conceptual framework of language development to educational decision makers who are in the position of restructuring schools to accommodate linguistic diversity effectively.  They believe any school could make sound educational decisions regardless of its resources and personnel.  In more practical chapters, four "program categories" are offered as options: (1) "full primary language foundation" that provides literacy and content area instruction in students' primary language; (2) "primary language support--literacy only" that is used to "develop strong basic literacy and academic thinking skills" (p. 73); (3) "primary language content reinforcement--no literacy" that is used to "develop an understanding of the significant ideas related to content knowledge" (p. 73); and (4) "all-English" that provides all instruction in English "with little or no opportunity to use the primary language in school" (p. 74).  Category I would be appropriate for schools that have ample resources for primary language development while Category 4 could be used by schools with limited resources and personnel who speak students' primary languages.  In the decision making process the authors suggest that factors of primary and second language development, curriculum and content development, assessment, and community outreach be carefully considered.  The last section of the book demonstrates how their theoretical framework could be put into practice in three case studies--two hypothetical and one real.  Readers are invited to participate in the decision making process with the staff of the two hypothetical cases.  The actual case study illustrates the possibility of methodical restructuring of a school that successfully embraced linguistic diversity of students.  This book would be an excellent resource for administrators who are serious about bringing successful educational experiences to students of other languages.

Ogulnick, Karen (Ed.). (2000). Language Crossings: Negotiating the Self in a Multicultural World. New York: Teachers College. 180 pp., ISBN: 0-80773-998-7 (pb), $22.95.

This collection of 25 "language autobiographies" provides accessible reading. Grouped in five categories, the narratives regarding language and identity speak of a wide range of topics: from the negotiation of identities in the process of learning a new language, to the discovery of new cultural connectedness with parents or grandparents by learning their native languages, to difficulties of learning different languages, to polyglots' "obsession" with learning different languages, to insightful intercourse between language learning and cultural identity.  Although the authors are not all native speakers/writers of English, the shared language is English, which symbolizes the widespread phenomenon of English as lingua franca.  Albeit deficiency in theoretical discourse, these narratives of language learning, embedded in the profound question of identity formation and negotiation, provide great insight to our understanding of the process of learning a new language: English for non-English speakers, other ("foreign") languages for English speakers, and American Sign Language for deaf persons.  They provide excellent case study materials to students of second language acquisition and cross-cultural studies.   

Pennycook,  Alistair, (1996). The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language. New York: Addison-Wesley. 376 pp., ISBN: 0-58223-472-7 (pb), $34.73.

This oldie but goodie work represents solid scholarship transcending the widespread linguistic discourse that "the spread of English is natural, neutral, and beneficial" (p. 7).  The author critiques this "superficial" view of English dominance that prevails in the scholarship of English instruction and linguistics.  While acknowledging the global spread of English, his explanation of "the worldliness of English" contains layers of complexity.  He emphasizes that understanding of the spread of English cannot be divorced from the colonialism of the English-speaking world.  Anglicism during colonization, favoring English-educated locals from the colonized world, contributed to the elevated status of English in local politics and sometimes linguistic genocide of local languages.  However, the author is not too naive in recognizing variant responses of local people to English during the post-colonization era.  Juxtaposing Malaysia and Singapore, he compares two different post-colonial responses to English.  The nationalist movement of Malaysia rejects the dominance of English whereas Singapore embraces English, the colonizer's language, to advance their global economy.  The author commends sensitive observation of the local politics of language, when teaching English to the world population, regardless of the fact that English is indeed widespread as a "worldly" language.

Schiffman, Harold F. (1996). Linguistic Culture and Language Policy. New York: Routledge. 368 pp., ISBN: 0-41518-406-1 (pb), $31.95.

This thoroughly researched book stands on a couple of important premises: first, the language policy is grounded in the linguistic culture of the society; second, the overt language policy should be differentiated from the covert language policy. The discussion of language culture, defined as "the set of behaviours, assumptions, cultural forms, prejudices, folk belief systems, attitudes, stereotypes, ways of thinking about language, and religio-historical circumstances associated with a particular language" (p. 5), is carefully and deliberately interwoven with three case studies of language policies in France, India, and United States. Three cases represent a continuum of language policies from "autocratic centrist" policy of France, which insists unilingualism of French, to "multilingual accommodationist" policy of India, with the US somewhere in between.  The three cases of langauge policies are thoroughly contextualized in the historical root of the language and the language culture of three countries.  For students of the US language policies, two chapters focusing on the United States would be extremely useful.  Myths, facts, and policies regarding multilingual immigrants are carefully sorted out and discussed.  The author made a painstaking efforts to explain peculiarities of bilingual issues revolving around German-Americans in the nineteenth century and California in the twentieth century.  Despite the confusing numbering structure of headings and subheadings, the book provides comparative perspectives on language policies, that are quite insightful and scholarly sound.