Jun 7, 2020

Storm Season: Thunderstorms and Protest Marches

Covid 19 note:
Government officials at various local and state levels have "opened up" completely, some are relying on data to do so gradually, and most are recommending  physical/social distancing and urging use of scientifically-justified masks. Some "open" places are requiring masks, with skirmishes occasionally ensuing when an attempt is made to enforce rules. Sadly, some with fewer restrictions are already reporting hot-spot increases in cases.
We are also in the midst of an extensive  BLACK LIVES MATTER protest movement. It began in Minneapolis, spread throughout the US, and has grown to global public demands for change. 
At first, a spontaneous reaction to the horrific murder of GEORGE FLOYD erupted. Floyd suffocated under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer who was immediately fired and is now charged, along with the three other officers who aided/allowed that to happen. The gut-wrenching horror generated by a nine minute video of Floyd's murder is undeniable. It awakened and mobilized (finally) those of us in the dominant culture who have not stepped forward sooner or stronger in the past. 
I use the expression dominant culture intentionally. The phrase "white privilege" raises defensive hackles among far too many, including those who counter BLACK LIVES MATTER with ALL LIVES MATTER. 
Evidence is painfully clear that we live in a society in which that is not yet true. 
There is NO way to deny that our centuries-old social system was created/sustained by, and unfairly benefits, those with WHITE skin. 
I do not say RACE. Race is an artificial construct developed to sustain the dominant culture.
One's skin tone and ancestry do not change that fact of their humanity. 
We are ALL the HUMAN RACE. 
However, those among us with darker skin ARE NOT treated as equals, let alone human.
That is especially true of African Americans or anyone considered "BLACK".

Please DO NOT ask Black people to tell you what to do to help. 
It is OUR (Whites') responsibility to admit the truth and work to undo the trauma resulting from this system. That begins with learning-- reading, listening, becoming active allies. That requires work, on ourselves as individuals and on society at large. 
In the midst of a serious journey ahead, and amidst the horror of the video of George Floyd's murder, (and so many other clips of violence against Blacks, especially Back men and boys) it is crucial for all of us to also see and appreciate the joyful and natural and HUMAN aspect of BLACK LIVES. They DO MATTER. 

As summer arrives, severe weather will make today's recommendations especially timely. There are some humans who revel in storms streaked with lightning and shuddering with thunder. Other humans have instincts that rival any in nature when ominous storms approach. Many children require constant support to weather the terror they feel during storms. Wildlife lacks the option to snuggle safely under a quilt on a couch, but they do seek shelter and hunker down for the duration.
I'm happy to say that there is an expanding array of outstanding books portraying Black children in a wide range of ways, doing things that any/every child might be doing. Not as many as there should be (and will be), but the publishing industry is slowly improving. Resources for some recommended lists are also becoming more abundant, and I suggest starting with THE BROWN BOOKSHELF, United in Story.
As for these featured picture books, let's begin with WHEN THE STORM COMESwritten by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. Click Ashman's name, above, to find links she provides for creative home activities for kids, and some helpful links for adults toying with the idea of writing picture books, too.
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2020

WHEN THE STORM COMES is a rhymed narration of how various living beings respond to an impending storm. The story begins and ends with humans, but along the way a range of Earth's air, land and water creatures react to their awareness of threatening weather in a variety of ways. 
In the process, storms of varying degrees are revealed and safety is sought. The reality is that storms cause damage, too, which is treated in a realistic but kid-friendly way. 
There is reassurance amid the informative sequence, with the final spreads bringing together human and some of the non-human characters to recover, repair, and reunite in a neighborhood that has weathered the storm.

Pair this book with another rhymed storm story that explores human and nature's response to storms, WAITING OUT THE STORM by JoAnn Early Macken (2010)

A Denene Millner Books,
Simon & Schuster 2020
The illustrations for WHEN THE STORM COMES are suited to the down-to-earth tones and tempo of the story, setting the events in familiar scenes with movement and familiar relationships. MY RAINY DAY ROCKET SHIP is written by Markette Sheppard and illustrated by Charly Palmer. Palmer's illustrations involve deeply saturated colors in wide and loose strokes that call to mind some of Chris Raschka's works. The sweep of the pages and density of tones provide a perfect opportunity for Palmer to showcase expressions, emotions, and details with masterful use of white and yellow highlights that lift the characters and action off the page. 

MY RAINY DAY ROCKET SHIP also uses simple rhymed/near rhyme text and features a young Black boy with a dog. In this case, as the rain arrives he imagines new ways to use  familiar indoor toys and materials to explore OUTER SPACE! 
This little boy greets the dawn through rain-drenched windows with a "been there and done that" eye on his toy box. His dreary prospects are lifted into worlds as yet undiscovered by a flash of imagination and clever engineering. The creativity is all his, but Dad and Mom play warmly supportive roles. The closing spread finds the boy and his dog tuckered out and tucked into bed. Basking in moonlight from a window with a bright urban skyscape, they are lulled to sleep under a solar system mobile.

Both books are warmly welcoming to all readers, both offer STEAM and MAKER connections, and both invite sharing of personal and family rain and storm stories. The next time you're looking for way to pass a rainy day, I hope you'll keep these titles in mind. 

Whether you choose to act from home or join protestors on the streets, please protect yourselves by washing hands, wearing masks, and maintaining physical distance as much as possible. If staying home is your best choice, I respect that.
But please make the effort to grow and learn. (Click here for adult book titles, click here to find links for books for kids representing diversity, and take a few minutes to watch/listen to this reflection by Trevor Noah about social contracts.
When it comes to social contracts, by the way, I struggle to understand why anyone would resort to physical violence when told to wear a mask, a simple accommodation that increases the health of the community. Let's stay peaceful out there, folks, and if you don't like the rules in one store or restaurant, exercise your white privilege to take your business somewhere else. 

1 comment:

Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.