I am an elementary school librarian in an urban setting in Massachusetts. Through the work of creating a more representative and inclusive library collection for my students, I learned a lot about the politics of the publishing industry, the accepted institutional racism and purposeful exclusion of communities in books and that we should be outraged at the continued disenfranchisement of our children.
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Digging In: The Big Red Lollipop

The Big Red Lollipop, by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

This book just makes me happy. I know that is not a very objective or descriptive thing to write about a book, but it's true. I just love it.

My son is in first grade and he is beginning a unit on family culture and traditions. I immediately thought of this book. Sometimes, our cultural traditions are not the same as the dominant culture's that we find ourselves in. That is true for Rubina, a little girl who received her first birthday party invitation. Her mother, Ami, was new to this custom but allowed her to go, on one condition, her little sister, Sana, also went.

This put Rubina in what she found to be an uncomfortable social situation, she wanted to be part of the celebration just like "everybody else", but her mother held tight to an important tradition in their family and Rubina has to call her friend and ask if it's all right for her little sister to come too.
                    I beg and plead, but Ami won't listen. I have no choice. I have to call.
                    Sally says, "Allright." But it doesn't sound all right.  I know she thinks
                    I'm weird.

In the end, the friendship remains intact and the sisters have an even stronger bond. Khan gives us a glimpse into the inner dialogue and sometimes struggle of a child that wants to honor the many cultures in which she belongs.

I would be loathe not to mention the illustrations. They are warm and sunny and sweet. I love the expressiveness of the faces and the beautiful jewel tones in the clothes. The characters are incredibly emotive and we get a sense of how Sana and her sisters are feeling not only through words, but through pictures. 

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