Step up to the Plate, Maria Singh
by Uma Krishnaswami
Tu Books, 2017
Set in Yolo County California in the 1940s. The top story features Maria Singh, a girl from a mixed marriage (India/Mexico) who loves baseball, but woven into the story are multiple subplots. The rich layers include: a heartfelt story on how the family and community made up of different cultures support each other during important challenges, even when they may not normally support each other; old laws where people not from America can’t purchase their own land; interracial marriages are not allowed; and baseball for girls. It includes insights on women working during World War II when men were on the battlefields.
I heard Uma Krishnaswami speak at a picture book bootcamp and she gave a talk like no other I have heard. I felt empowered to write. She detailed several of her journeys to publication, sharing how the stories started, evolved and ended. Insightful and meaningful.
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Oskar and the Eight Blessings
Richard Simon and Tanya Simon, illustrated by Mark Siegel
Roaring Book Press, 2015
I begin 2016 with Oskar and the Eight Blessings, a beautifully illustrated, timeless story with a powerful message.
The story begins before the title page, as did the stories of all the Jewish immigrants who escaped the war horrors of World War II. As a young boy, Oskar arrives in New York with an address and a picture of an aunt he has never seen. She lives only 100 blocks away on the avenue called Broadway. He remembers his father’s last words, “You have to look for the blessings.” After a long time walking, he meets a lady feeding pigeons. She gives him a bit of bread to give to the birds, but he eats it. She gives him a small loaf of bread and he has the strength to keep walking. He’s introduced to Superman, he meets Mrs. Roosevelt and his first conversation in America is when he whistles with Count Basie. Along his journey he receives eight blessings.
The author’s note details the American history woven into the fictional story set in 1938 and a map shows the sites at which several of the blessings occurred. The illustrations are done in relaxed comic book style and highlight the many different fearful sights and loving blessings Oskar encounters on his journey.
A very moving story that stays with the reader.
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