We’ve Got the Whole World in our Hands

Regional focus:  The Whole World

Author & Illustrator: Rafael Lopez

Genre:  children’s literature

Collecting my thoughts for Sail Away Story is a weekend indulgence.  My day job is Director of La Puerta Abierta School and Library in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala.  Last month, our project embarked on a large-scale fundraising campaign to ensure a forever home for our school and outreach programs.  We’ve been busy sharing our story of growth and achievements with supporters and potential donors.

Recently I was challenged by a family friend from California who asked,  “How does a contribution to a school project in Guatemala affect me?”

For a second I was silent and stunned.  I felt myself crawling inward, like a turtle withdrawing into her shell; clearly the potential donor and I  had different global perspectives and priorities.  And then, I found my voice, which wasn’t exactly a roar,  but more like the steady and stable dialog of a melodious blackbird in my garden at  dawn.

“How does supporting education in Guatemala affect me?”

 Let’s talk!

We  live in a world that is an intricate  web of connections and interdependencies.  When we are encouraged to think about what is equitable and just, we can see beyond the initial “me.”  We become aware of the wider world and our role as global citizens.  We understand the complexities of social injustices and feel inspired to be agents of change for the well-being of our world.

If we are to examine the question in more tangible terms, we can connect current issues of immigration of Central Americans north, as they flee social and political injustices.  Among the long list of injustices sits the right to a dignified education.  While I understand that I am oversimplifying complex issues (I am a preschool teacher after all:), I recognize that if we, as global citizens were able to invest in education across boundaries, some families would have more investment in staying in their country of origin and have less necessity to flee.  And now let’s imagine that those children who stayed in their country of origin and received a dignified education grew up with the skills and tools to be agents of change, and then invested in their community, both locally and globally.  Might this one initial act of kindness affect you?  I’ll let you decide.

While I was born and raised in California, I have spent more than half my life in Central America.  My husband was born in Brazil and his parents are Belgian.

My daughters (E) who is twelve and (C) who is nine were born in Guatemala and their first words were in Spanish, “agua,” “mama” “nana.”

While there is a sprinkling of expatriates in our town, the foreign community is small, and my daughters are often asked in casual conversation to share their stories.  Visitors will probe, “Where are you from?”  What languages do you speak?”  “Who are you parents?”  and eventually, “What is you nationality?”

The last question in particular, one that seems simple and straight forward, takes curious minds down a windy road of explanation.  (E) might share that her mom is from the United States and that her father is Belgian, but born in Brazil, and that she was born in Guatemala and possesses both Guatemalan and US citizenship. At the end of the dialog, she’s likely to confess that she feels Guatemalan but looks North American.  (C) might say that technically she’s Guatemalan, but that she is also a mix of Belgium, the United States and Brazil.  After a long-winded dialog (she likes to talk), she’d reveal that she’s a global citizen, a child of the world.

At then, my heart skips a beat, as I imagine a world without boarders, where empathy flows across religion, culture and nationality. When packaged in a child’s perspective, world-peace almost seems attainable.

As I struggle to make sense of the psychology of adults, I often look to children’s books that illustrate in both words and pictures complicated topics in approachable packages.  The joyful picture book, We’ve Got the Whole World in our Hands, by Rafael Lopez gracefully brings insight into the concept of Global Citizenship.

The next time someone asks “How does supporting education in Guatemala affect me?” I’ll be better prepared.  I may suggest that they read We’ve Got the Whole World in our Hands, or invite them to join a class at La Puerta Abierta.  

I might simply share the wise words of Rafael Lopez, “It seems wherever we look these days, there is talk of the things that divide us.  With this book, I wanted to express a message of hope to children that we are all in this together, that each and every child is an essential part of the big, amazing planet we call home.”

About:

Lopez’s We’ve Got the Whole World in our Hands brings new life and perspective to a beloved  folk song first published in 1927.  Using the metaphor of a ball of yarn which soars across the book’s  pages, across boarders,  and with the aid of his vibrant illustrations, Lopez demonstrates how we are all connected and celebrated in the spirit of friendship,  love and peace.

What I love:

  • Lopez’s illustrations are cheerful and diverse.
  • Lopez uses a very simple concept as a tool for complex topics and discussion.
  • Lopez has also published a bilingual (English-Spanish) version of his book.

Discussion:

  • In your own words, what does the metaphor “We’ve got the whole world in our hands,” mean?
  • Have you ever helped another child, adult, or animal?  What inspired you to lend a hand? How did you feel while you were helping?
  • Do you feel that you are similar or different from children who live in other parts of the world?  Why or why not?

Connections:

  • Become a global citizen.  Learn about children from different cultures or countries than your own.
  • Create a collage of the diversity that can be found across the globe.  Keep in mind that there is diversity amongst people and geography.
  • Exchange letters with a pen-pal in another city, state or country.  Ask questions. Share stories.
  • Represent the metaphor “We’ve got the whole world in our hands,” in a drawing.

 

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You’re Snug With Me

Regional focus:  The North Pole

Author:  Chitra Soundar

Illustrator: Poonam Mistry

Genre:  children’s literature

I’ve been away from Sail Away Story for a few weeks, floating in a sea of culturally rich children’s literature.  I spent the last  days of June at the American Library Association Annual Conference  in New Orleans where I had the opportunity to meet authors and illustrators from around the world and to connect with publishers and book distributors who specialize in children’s books with cultural and worldly insight.  I discovered new publishers such as Lee & Low Books, Enchanted Lion Books, and Latana Publishing who offer a wide range of beautiful books that celebrate diversity.  I met inspirational authors and illustrators such as Yuyi Morales, Celia Perez and Mallika Chopra who were sharing their most recent works.  I returned to my home in Guatemala with my suitcases stuffed (and overweight), with an abundance of new books to explore and enjoy with my family and students.  Little by little, I am emerging from a journey around the world via books and ready to share recent favorites with Sail Away Story.  Enjoy!

In You’re Snug With Me, we meet a mama bear and her two new born cubs in the Arctic.  Baby bears are preparing to emerge into the world outside their cave and encounter feelings of excitement and fear and they approach the unknown.  Mama repeatedly assures her youngsters that for the moment, they are safe and snug, and when it’s time for them to part, they will be capable to maneuver the challenges, adventures and journeys of life on their own.

What I love:

  • Mistry’s illustrations are stunning.  She incorporates a love of nature with patterns, shapes and color.  Her illustrations are inspired by Indian fabric and paintings.
  • Indian born Soundar lives in Canada and writes children’s stories with settings in countries around the world.
  • You’re Safe With Me is calm, gentle and cooling in both illustration and text, a book that will sooth emotions for both the young and old.
  • My daughters adore reading this story with me before bed.

Themes: empathy, family, emotions, courage

Discussion:

  • How did you feel on the first day of school when you had to say goodbye to your parents?  How did you feel after the first week of school?
  • What makes you feel safe and snug?
  • Would you like to visit the Arctic?  Why or why not?

Connections:

  • Mistry’s illustrations resemble mandalas.  Traditional mandalas are used for meditation and are designed to promote healing and spiritual growth.  Color your own mandala. Find printouts here.
  • Make a list of warm and cool colors.  Discuss what kinds of colors Mistry uses in You’re Snug With Me.  Experiment with cool colors and finger paint.
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  • Learn about Arctic animals and make a collage with animals found in the Arctic habitat.  Glue them on top of your cool-colored  fingerprint backdrop.
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