Friday, July 23, 2010

Picture Book Addressing Diversity

Smoky Night

by Eve Bunting

Smoky Night, Eve Bunting’s story about the Los Angeles riots was awarded the 1995 Caldecott Medal. The book successfully addresses racism using the vivid and colorful artwork of David Diaz. When the Los Angeles riots erupt in the streets of their community, a young boy and his mom learn the importance of getting along with others despite their cultural differences or ethnicity. Smoky Night is a story about how chaotic and dangerous circumstances can bring even the most diverse people (and cats!) together.

In the story, Daniel and his mother look out their window one evening and see looters on the street and far away flames. Daniel desperately holds onto his cat, Jasmine. Some time later, when it’s apparent that they need to flee their apartment, Daniel realizes that Jasmine is missing. Mrs. Kim, their neighbor, whom they do not know very well, has a cat that is missing, too. As the apartment building and the surrounding businesses are vacated, the cats must be left behind. But, Daniel does not believe that the cats are together because they don’t usually get along. Eventually, however, both cats are found hiding in the same place by one of the firemen.

I feel that this book would be an invaluable addition to any school’s media center. The simplicity of the text provides an excellent catalyst for opening discussion with young children regarding others who are “not of their own people”.

Eve Bunting is the author of over 200 titles. Her writing examines critical social issues with sensitivity and understanding. She has succeeded to include diversity in much of her work. Every title she’s written focuses on a different issue. Some of her other books include Night Tree, Summer Wheels, Fly Away Home, How Many Days to America?, and One Green Apple.

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