Mama‚Äôs Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation
by Edwidge Danticat, illustrations by Leslie Staub
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Saya‚Äôs Haitian mother is in jail because the ‚Äúimmigration police‚ÄĚ arrested her at work. Papa writes letters to judges, the mayor and congresswoman, and newspapers and TV reporters. But, no one writes back. Every week Saya and Papa visit Mama ‚Äúat Sunshine Correctional, a prison for women without papers.‚ÄĚ
Saya loves the Haitian stories her Mama tells her about the beautiful wosiyol, a nightingale with a sweet song (also Saya‚Äôs nickname). She misses Mama deeply. And, there is some comfort for Saya when cassette tapes come in the mail. She can listen to Mama‚Äôs voice telling stories and singing the nightingale‚Äôs song.
After one sad time, Saya writes a story herself, to help relieve her sadness. When Papa mails what she has written, a newspaper reporter prints Saya‚Äôs story for people to read. As a result, others get involved, helping to change this family‚Äôs story.
Bright oil paintings convey a sense of island culture. Also, folk art touches ‚Äď like blue and pink nightingales ‚Äď easily combine dream symbols with images from daily life. And, the expressive face of Saya‚Äôs stuffed animal, a monkey, both comforts and accompanies her.
Miami author Danticat was herself an immigrant from Haiti as a child. She writes with tenderness and conviction of a family torn apart because of a need for ‚Äúthe right papers,‚ÄĚ as Saya calls them. This is an important immigrant story for our time.
Dial, $17.99 Interest Level: Grade 1-3¬† (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Library, Doral, Edison, Lemon City, Miami Lakes, North Dade Regional, Opa Locka, West Dade Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)
by Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Patrick Benson
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Raju, a baby elephant and his mother, begin an adventure when the morning is still dark and cold. His repeated question (different from the familiar, ‚ÄúAre we there yet?), ‚ÄúWhen can we go home again?‚ÄĚ receives a patient response from his mother, ‚ÄúSoon.‚ÄĚ
Along this journey they encounter danger. First, they meet snapping crocodiles. Then, a snake comes slithering. And later, a prowling tiger roars toward them. Raju‚Äôs mother, however, knows exactly how to keep her little one safe. She ‚Äústamped her feet so hard, it made the ground tremble,‚ÄĚ and she ‚Äúblew her trunk so hard, it made the trees shake,‚ÄĚ and finally she ‚Äúreared up so high, she was as big as a giant.‚ÄĚ
When they come to the mountain, his mother tells Raju to hold on to her tail. At the top, the two share the beautiful view.
Watercolor illustrations show sun-washed details. Face and body expressions are expertly matched with skillfully written text. Together, carefully crafted paintings smoothly blend the rhythmic flow of language with the subtle emphasis of repetitive phrases.
Although the young elephant is tired and his feet hurt after returning home at dusk, Raju asks, ‚ÄúWhen can we do it all again?‚ÄĚ Even the youngest children will know the answer.
Candlewick Press, $16.99 Interest Level: Pre-School ‚Äď Grade 1 (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library: West Dade Regional, West End Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)
by Sandra J. Howatt, illustrated by Joyce Wan
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† A crescent moon anchors both the story and each picture in this beautiful bedtime book. Illustrations with rounded shapes curve and comfort in seamless combination, with reassuring ‚Äús‚ÄĚ sounds to lull little ones asleep.
Rhyming text steers readers through the moon-bright night. The featured animals are never named. But each one is called a ‚Äúsleepyhead.‚ÄĚ Such repetition quietly leads the child to name the creatures that inhabit this snuggly storybook.
The pencil illustrations are colored digitally and, while it is nighttime, the darkness is warm and welcoming, not scary. The gentle invitation to ‚ÄúLook!‚ÄĚ is used again and again. And, the light from stars and/or fireflies lights up each open page spread. It‚Äôs a comforting reminder that creatures and people all sleep under the same sky.
After following the rhymes and finding all the little ones ‚Äúin houses and in barns,‚ÄĚ the one still missing is ‚Äúasleep in Mama‚Äôs arms!‚ÄĚ
Beach Lane, $16.99 Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten ‚Äď Grade 1
(This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Library, Culmer Overtown, Doral, Edison, Lemon City, Miami Lakes, North Dade Regional, West Dade Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)
Other great choices:
Henry Finds His Word
by Lindsay Ward
Dial, $16.99 Interest Level: Pre-School ‚Äď Kindergarten (This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)
by Liz Rosenberg, Illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Philomel, Interest Level: Kindergarten ‚Äď Grade 2 (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Doral, North Dade Regional, West End Regional.)