We've been looking…

Lynn: Even before our school district decided to adopt the International Baccalaureate program we spent a lot of time trying to find books set in other countries or about other cultures.  Now with IB in the mix, those books are even more important for our curriculum.  So the two picture books we are reviewing today are especially welcome finds.  Both do an outstanding job of presenting aspects of cultures, places and issues outside the US – and both books are wonderful in all other aspects as well.  We’re excited about these!

58238376I’m leading off with The Chiru of High Tibet (Houghton 2010) by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.  The focus group and I read this book together and we all learned so much.  I admit to never having heard of either this small animal or their fabulous wool – shahtoosh – the king of wools.  Tragically the chiru cannot be sheared and the resulting slaughter has brought the chiru to the brink of extinction.  One of the mysteries surrounding them is their unknown calving grounds and the story tells of brave and determined men who set out to follow the chiru there so that they could work with the Chinese government to preserve the area and protect the chiru.  The men pulled carts with their equipment over the rugged terrain,  struggling in the high brutal altitude to discover the chiru’s secret. It is an inspiring story and we were fascinated by the beautifully written text.  Linda Wingerter uses acrylic paintings that reflect Tibetan art and the illustrations have the sense of flowing into the next.  Maps and photographs, an author’s note and bibliography round out this lovely and informative book.  Ideal for use in an IB or any classroom.

rain-schoolCindy: While many students in my wintry area of the midwest keep an eye on weather alerts hoping for a snow day vacation from school and learning, the students in Rain School (Houghton 2010) have a different view. The children of Chad, if they are lucky, get to attend school, but the first lesson facing Thomas and his classmates is the building of the school. The students learn from older siblings to make mud bricks to build mud walls and desks and gather grasses and saplings to assemble the roof. Finally the learning of letters starts and receiving a notebook and a pencil is an amazing joy. Nine months later and “The students’ minds are fat with knowledge.” I just love that line.

Without a meteorologist or a radar map to warn them, they know it is time for the big rains to come…the children head home and the school’s mud walls slowly melt away in the rain and winds…awaiting a new school year in the fall. Author and illustrator James Rumford taught school in Chad and his experience shines forth in the simple text and bright colored pencil, ink and pastel drawings. OSHA probably would frown upon U.S. school children climbing on roofs to build their schools, but we’d do well to figure out additional ways to involve our students in the learning process beyond their text books and multiple choice tests. Sharing books like this one with them is a good place to start.

nonfiction_mondayHead over to Check it Out for additional informational books to celebrate Nonfiction Monday.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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  1. Glad to see that you’ve featured Rain School. I thought it was inspiring. Sometimes it takes a book like Rain School to make one realize how truly fortunate we are in this country.

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