Over on The Classroom Bookshelf, Erika and I blog with our colleagues Grace, Katie, and Denise about using children's books for a range of curricular contexts. Often, we come across beautiful books that we know belong in the hands of children and/or are ideal for a classroom read aloud. But they may not work for a blog entry that focuses on an expanded exploration of a topic, genre, or theme within elementary or middle level language arts, science, or social studies curriculum. Always, we run out of time! We can't blog about every book that we love each year. One of my goals for 2022 is to use this blog to amplify more books, beyond what I can write about during my rotations on The Classroom Bookshelf.
Two books from Elsewhere Editions, the children's imprint of Archipelago Books, have captured my attention and fit neatly into this category. Elsewhere publishes beautiful books in translation from authors all over the world; too few books from other nations are available to young people in the U.S.
In 2021, Elsewhere published In the Meadow of Fantasies, written by Iranian writer Hadi Mohammadi, illustrated by Nooshin Safakhoo, and translated from Persian to English by Sara Khalili. This fantastical story is conjured up by a little girl lying in bed in a room all grey, but for the green leaves of a few scattered plants. There are seven horses, but one lacks color. So each of the six other horses give some of their color to the seventh horse. The six horses all have homes, but the seventh has none. So again, they share. On and on, the horses give to the seventh horse, losing nothing by doing so. The seventh horse gives birth to a foal equipped with all of the gifts given to its mother. At the book's conclusion, the foal returns to the little girl's now colorful bedroom. In the Meadow of Fantasies prompts valuable conversations about sharing, accommodating, and celebrating one another.
You can read SLJ's Betsy Bird discuss the book as part of her FUSE 8 December 2021 Best Translated Books for Children List.
For example, "Curiosity always climbs as high as possible - to the treetops, the roof, or the chimney." A smiling deer-like slender creature sits atop a chimney as a nest of baby birds look up in wonder.
In contrast, "Envy tramples all that is beautiful. No time to rest-- there are so many beautiful things to ruin!" A furry, determined-looking seven-legged creature makes a list while stomping on a mauve-colored plant.
What Feelings Do When No One's Looking offers pandemic-weary children the opportunity to make sense of the complicated emotions they may be feeling and concrete examples of the feelings they wish to foster, such as joy, kindness, courage, calm, and compassion.
From a text set standpoint, these two books will work beautifully as Duet, paired together. But they would also work well in a Solar System exploration of books featuring humans and anthropomorphized creatures exploring emotions, such as Bear Island by Matthew Cordell and The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld, which our colleague Katie Egan Cunningham has written about, After the Fall by Dan Santat, that our colleague Grace Enriquez has written about, and When Sadness is at Your Door by Eva Eland.