Foreign Settings: YASMIN’S HAMMER Review, by Ann Malaspina (Author) & Doug Chayka (Illus.)

If you like heartfelt and inspiring picture books, stories that do make a difference in this world, then Ann Malaspina is definitely an author to watch. And it’s official, I’m a fan! Where’s the Facebook page?

I loved Ann’s previous book, Finding Lincoln (Illustrator: Colin Bootman; Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company, 2009), set in the 1960s and putting the Civil Rights Movement in the spotlight. It was an emotional reading, because the difficulty for children to have access to books reminded me of situations I witnessed growing up.

Yasmin’s Hammer (Ann Malaspina; Illustrator: Doug Chayka; Publisher: Lee & Low Books, 2010). The title intrigued me. And no, I won’t give away the reason behind the author’s choice. Read the story and be surprised like I was. 🙂

Yasmin’s Hammer is the type of stories that makes me very happy. I close the book feeling inspired, my heart has been touched in a unique way and sure enough I can’t wait to share it with other people. Yasmin, the main character, is a strong and proactive little girl that rises in the midst of her difficulties. A cyclone devastated her family’s house and left her parents, her little sister and her, homeless and pretty much penniless.

The story is never preachy, yet contains lessons of perseverance, determination and generous spirit. It is beautiful to see how close and genuinely loving the family is. It is heartbreaking to know of Yasmin’s dream, a dream that we take for granted in our society.

Ann Malaspina appears to have mastered the art of writing about difficult and sensitive topics in a way that opens the four to eight year-old (and grown-up) to the history and reality of the world, while empowering him at the same time.

Yasmin’s Hammer is, in my humble opinion, a must-read for the younger generation, an opportunity to learn together a little bit about Bangladesh’s streets and food and to discuss the issue of working children, while examining what can realistically be done.

Does your library carry it?

Have a great day and happy reading! 🙂

Disclosure: I received Yasmin’s Hammer ARC from the author.

Picture Book: FINDING LINCOLN, by Ann Malaspina, Colin Bootman (Illustrator)

Few picture books got me emotional to the point of crying, and to do so in a public space. When a book is real and resonates with all the fibers of being, well, you just can’t help it.

I read FINDING LINCOLN, by Ann Malaspina, several times; it never failed to touch me and to force my admiration: admiration for Ann, for Colin Bootman, the wonderful illustrator, and the people who, as civil rights activists, inspired this story. Every read is a delight. The text, which tackles issues such a racism and segregation, is written delicately and conveys the gravity of what was at stake in 1960s in terms of equality of rights, within the grasp of a child’s understanding.

Finding Lincoln is not only about freedom, but also about books and a love of reading that transcends racial prejudices and opens the community to a world of possibilities. There is a beautiful scene where Louis, the main character, is seen with his dad reading young Abe Lincoln’s biography. One of my favorite lines is from a curious Louis asking his teacher, “Did President Lincoln shake things up when he was a boy?” I do not want to spoil your reading but I would say this: watch for the librarian! 😀

The book concludes with a summary of President Abraham Lincoln’s biography and of the Civil Rights Movements. It also mentions cases of several Black activists standing up for their rights, marching into libraries and prosecuted for their protest actions, as well as the impact that had on the American Supreme Court. I can’t help but be reminded, Black History month or not, that these events took place not too long ago. That it took place in the late sixties for a Black person, an American citizen to have a library card does not make it old. In fact, I am appalled by how much still needs to be accomplished. As a Black kid Louis took risks to find the biography of a president in the library. The reality is that it is still challenging for a child today, regardless of his or her ethnicity, to have access to a variety of books regarding “minority” figures and history. It was challenging for a Black person to step into a library back then. Today, ironically, it seems challenging for a book about a person of color to make it into a bookstore or a library, thus into the hands of readers. I am glad that several publishing houses recognize and address that need; however, just as I wondered in the case of the civil rights why it took us so long to get it right, I am also left to wonder how long it will take for more books like Finding Lincoln to be published…

Back to our subject matter few picture books, in my humble opinion, manage to interest children and adults alike. Finding Lincoln in that regards does not disappoint. I am definitely recommending it and offering it to the kids and adults I know. I want my whole family to read it and it is one those books that has the “forever” spot in my bookshelf!

Needless to say I hope you will check it out and read it with your family! The illustrations are superb; Colin Bootman wonderfully captured the emotions in both situations and characters, and I am not afraid to say that the text will win over most reluctant readers. I kept wondering what was next as I turned the pages…

With all that said, I am very excited because Ann Malaspina has agreed to an interview, so you will have the opportunity to learn more about her and her writing process soon! *It is now up to me to keep up with the interviews schedule. Working hard, I assure you, but hélas, I did fall behind. Blame it on school.* Ann will also guest blog on Multiculturalism Rocks! some time in the future. 🙂

Notable links:
Finding Lincoln. Picture Book, 2009.
Written by: Ann Malaspina
Illustrated by: Colin Bootman, Coretta Scott King Honor Artist
Published by: Albert Whitman & Company

And remember: February 12 is Lincoln’s Birthday. Hope you all have a wonderful week! Let me know if you would recommend a picture book you liked on the same topic. *Smile*



Edited 02/09/2010 @ 4:41 PM