CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 7 . . . . November 21, 2008
Gumboot Books and The Rotary District 5020 have shown that a book can be much more than a book. Their project, A World of Stories, is proof that children's literature has the ability to make positive change in the world through the virtue of good stories and the initiative of good people. Fifty percent of the proceeds are put towards funding global community literacy projects. In order to make this book happen, authors and illustrators from around the world donated their time and energy to make this book a wonderful read and an important literacy initiative.
For teachers, educators, and parents, A World of Stories is an excellent resource. The concept of the book, which maps out nondenominational international holidays, provides a base for teaching about major holidays celebrated around the world; about issues affecting the world and, of course, about all of the fun days we often miss, like September 19th's "Talk Like a Pirate Day." Beside each piece is a succinct explanation of the holiday that the story addresses, revealing the significance and meaning of each day.
The stories, themselves, are rich with opportunities for working with an elementary school class. Kari-Lynn Winters' "Rhyme or Reason," Audrey Schumacher's "No NO Day," and M.W. Penn's "The Number Tree" are just three of the stories that would make interactive and exciting read-alouds for young students. Further activities for all of the stories are being prepared on the world of stories project website.
Dan Bar-el's play, "Long John," is a hilarious and modern tale of John Silverman as he tries to gain some sympathy for the pirates of the world on a daytime talk show. The play incorporates pirate talk in the body of the play and definitions along the border so that children (or adults like me) can later impress their mateys like a true buccaneer and avoid being a squiffy when September 19th rolls around. Aye, t'is true.
In "Seashell Island," Christophe Jeunot takes a magical approach to revealing the significance of World Ocean Day (June 8th) and of sharing the natural environment. While the Mine Monster seeks to steal all of the seashells from the seashores, a little boy named Alex manages to show him that we are all connected to the natural world and each other. This story is both fantastical and subtle in showing the importance of working as a community and preserving natural habitats.
David Michael Slater and illustrator Izabela Bzymek reveal the strength needed to STAND UP to bullies in the wordless story "The Labyrinth." The images symbolically capture the internal journey of a young boy who struggles to challenge a bully. Without the use of words, Bzymek does a brilliant job of leading the reader through the narrative and depicting the boy gathering strength.
The illustrators in this compilation use a variety of techniques to produce complicated and interesting visuals for children to read. Jayleen Weaver illustrated "Calling the Fish," a story to recognize Grandparents Day (second Sunday in September). Her use of digital media creates crisp illustrations that set a feeling of natural tranquility and capture the wonder and whimsy of learning from grandparents.
While I enjoyed reading all of the stories and lingering over every illustration, my personal favourite was "If War Were..." by Mrs. Perry's grade one class with artwork by Julia Karlinsky. Karlinsky reflects the children's perspective in the poetry, and the children use powerful metaphors to reveal the impact of war.
Although I have highlighted only a portion of what can be found in A World of Stories, each narrative had a unique approach to conveying a holiday story. As a compilation, this book is also unique as the international holidays come together to create a portrait of the world by reflecting the values and concerns of the global community. All of the illustrations and stories weave educational information into entertaining and thoughtful stories. A World of Stories never disappoints; it gives us a little slice of who we are as individuals in the bigger picture of humanity.
Brianne Grant is a student in the Master of Arts in Children's Literature at the University of British Columbia, and Executive Councillor-West for IBBY Canada.
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