MCBD Book Review Round-Up: Green Pants and Bronze and Sunflower

Another Multicultural Children’s Book Day has come and gone and again, I am happy to say the event was a huge success!

Every year (for the last 4) on January 27th we celebrate all of the great diversity and multicultural Children’s books out there. I am a little late in getting these two reviews posted from 2017 Sponsor, Candlewick, posted…but it’s been busy her at JIAB Headquarters!

First, a little about the publisher. Candlewick is committed to making the world a better place as well as providing over 200 beautiful and diverse book titles a year. They have both their readers and the environment as their main focus to creating beautiful books in a sustainable way.

Today I have two really special reads. The first is Green Pants by Kenneth Kraegel and the second is Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan .

Green Pants

green pants

Jameson only wears his green pants. He wears them everywhere and when he wears them, there is nothing he can’t do. The only problem is, if he wants to be in his cousins wedding, he’ll have to take off those green pants and wear black ones instead with his tuxedo.

Faced with an impossible decision of being in his cousins wedding or wearing green pants, Jameson finds a solution that will make everyone happy.

This book made me laugh out loud and reminded me of my own little girl who wore her patent leather shoes everywhere, even to bed.

Kenneth Kraegel has a magical talent of bringing the character of Jameson to life in a relatable fashion with not only his engaging photos but his fun loving illustrations. On another note Kraegel shows a deep respect for Jameson has his quirks and world views. He shows a patient mother who sets firm but gentle boundaries between wearing black pants and wearing green pants while respecting her son’s feelings the entire time.

This book is a great lesson in respecting individuality while respecting others and their wishes at the same time. A beautiful story that will capture the heart.

“Kenneth Kraegel is the author-illustrator of the picture books The Song of Delphine and King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson, which was a New York Times Notable Book and a Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.”

Bronze and Sunflower

bronzeandsunflower

I was thrilled to receive this book. Back in April 2016 author Cao Wenxuan won the Hans Christian Andersen prize for children’s literature. This is awarded every year to an author who has made an impact on their national culture. Meaning they are a household name in the country they’re from. I had heard of Cao Wenxuan and even seen his books at various book festivals but they were always in Chinese. How excited I was to discover the Candlewick Press has published and english version of Bronze and Sunflower.

This book has a gentle pace which took me a chapter to work through. But please stay with the book through until you capture the flow of it. When that happens we end up in a captivating rural world in China, facing the challenges and dilemmas that faced those people at that time. Wenxuan expertly lets us in through the eyes of two children Bronze and Sunflower.

After a traumatic fire, Bronze became a mute, he simply couldn’t speak. Sunflower arrived from the city during the cultural revolution. Her mother had died and her father left her by herself while he toiled in the fields during the day and had to attend political party meetings at night.

Sunflower knew Bronze as the boy across the river. They would sit and stare, wave, and acknowledge each other from across the river.

One day Sunflower’s father dies in a storm leaving her a complete orphan. The people at the Cadre School took Sunflower to the village to be adopted by one of the families there. After much soul searching, Bronze’s family takes Sunflower in and she becomes part of their family.

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The story continues with deepening the loyal bonds family hold for one another. How they come through difficult times because they work together.

I greatly appreciate the skill and mastery Wenxuan shows in telling this story from a very genuine place. He does not protect the reader from the tragedy and at times tragic human condition.

Because this book is in translation, he has a different rhythm than a usual native tongued English book. It also adds something special to the story. This book is easy to read and brings the reader gently in to this unfolding tale. I recommend it as a unique story and read. I’m so thrilled to have this book on my shelf and have greatly enjoyed the moments I’ve spent inside the pages of this book.

Somethings to Do

Writing Chinese Characters

In the story Sunflower teaches Bronze how to read and write. She hands him a stick so he can write the figures in the sand. Here’s a simple, step by step work sheet so you can try a few easy words on your own.

A Sunflower House

In the story Sunflower’s father loved sunflowers. So much so that he named his daughter after his favorite flower. He painted them when he had time and loved to just walk through them. A secondary theme in the story is Bronze’s family along with Sunflower had to rebuild their home after a terrible storm. In this activity we’re incorporating both themes. Let’s enjoy sunflowers in the shape of a house.

Sunflower Houses are very easy to build. Once it’s grown up into a house, be sure to take a few good books inside to create a cozy afternoon of reading. For instructions on how to do this have a look here.

How to Make Slippers

One of the way Bronze, Sunflower and the family raised enough money to build their new house was to make reed shoes or slippers. I imagine many of us don’t have reeds that we can pound and sew into shoes. Here’s a fabric version of the slippers. 

Bronze and Sunflower Activity Guide

Candlewick Press has put together a very insightful and meaningful classroom activity guide as a companion to this book. It’s perfect for classrooms, book clubs, and among family and friends. You can find it here. 

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