Today’s book recommendation has a multiplicity of diversity in it – the book is bilingual and has a non-gender specific protagonist.
Title: Call Me Tree – Llámame árbol
Written and illustrated by: Maya Christina Gonzalez
Published by: Children’s Book Press, an imprint of Lee & Low Books Inc., Bilingual edition (November 1, 2014)
Languages: English & Spanish
Themes/Topics: trees, equality, diversity, hispanic, gender
Suitable for ages: 6-10
De la tierra
A lyrical bilingual story that follows one child/tree from the depths of Mami/Earth to the heights of the sky, telling a story about being free to grow, imagine and be who we are meant to be and honoring our relationship with the natural world.
Why I like This Book:
I appreciate the author’s choice to make this story gender free. We can all easily fall into boy-girl assumptions and expectations and the story provides narrators and listeners a context to discuss these norms/assumptions and their impact in the home/classroom. I was not surprised to see that other reviewers have assumed the main character is a boy, despite the lack of pronouns and ambiguity in the art. This only highlights the importance of such stories to me, which celebrate a child’s uniqueness.
The text is sparse and poetic, and reads fluently in both Spanish and English, making it a great bilingual text for even very young children. The metaphor of children as unique trees, all belonging, works well and the art rendered in watercolor, ink, and colored pencil is as bright, light and warm as the text. I enjoyed the diversity of the characters portrayed as well as the depiction of many of the children in the yoga poses! The celebration of a child’s connection to nature will also resonate with many children and adults. I would definitely recommend this for all progressive school libraries.
Maya Christina Gonzalez did a great interview last month with the Huffpost on her decision not to use gender specific pronouns in this story. It was this interview that sent me straight to the NYPL to put the book on hold.
Lee & Low Books has a teacher’s guide for this book, which includes “a book summary, background, focus questions, vocabulary, discussion questions, reader-response and other writing prompts, English Language Learner support, and interdisciplinary activities. View and download the teacher’s guide.”
Other great resources cited on the Lee&Low website are: