Tessa's Favorite Picture Books of 2019
It was hard not to pick books that so beautifully captured the love of family, culture, and familial traditions, including Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao (Kat Zhang), Grandpa's Stories: A Book of Remembering (Joseph Coelho), Bilal Cooks Daal (Aisha Saeed), Where Are You From? (Jamie Kim) and You Made Me a Dad (Laurenne Sala,) ... WARNING: Tissues needed for that last one.
I also, of course, chose books that also (age-appropriately) tackled contemporary issues like immigration with Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story From the Border (Mitali Perkins); Islamophilia with Under my Hijab (Hena Khan); toxic masculinity with Big Boys Cry (Jonty Howley); feminism with I Will Be Fierce! (Bea Birdsong) and Mary Wears What She Wants (Keith Negley); and confronting personal biases in What If Everybody Thought That? (Ellen Javernick). The ability picture books have to introduce complex issues like these to young children is one of my many favorite things about them!
But there can only be one absolute favorite ... and for 2019, it is easily Fry Bread: A Native American Family Tradition (Kevin Noble Maillard). It is a beautiful story that captures contemporary Native people's present, past, and future.
Fry Bread is truly something special. In a world where Native voices are often silenced or erased, this title demands to be heard. It breaks the misguided and wrong(!) stereotype that far too many people still ascribe to when they think of of Native Americans – that they walk around in buckskin and headdresses, and live in teepees.
This wonderful gem also shatters the image of what Native people look like. The book features a ton of helpful back matter that breaks down every page, including a note from author Kevin Noble Maillard regarding this representation. He states:
"Most people think Native Americans always have brown skin and black hair. But there is an enormous range of hair textures and skin colors. Just like the characters in this book, Native people may have blonde hair or black skin, tight cornrows or a loose braid. This wide variety of faces reflects a history of intermingling between tribes and also with people of European, African, and Asian descent."
Looking for, reading, and enjoying books about Native people shouldn't be something only done around Thanksgiving – though sadly that seems to be the case for many. Fry Bread is undoubtedly a book that could and should be enjoyed year-round by all types of readers. Don't miss it!