Yang, Kelly, and various illustrators. Yes We Will: Asian Americans Who Shaped this Country. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2022. 978-0-593-46305-5. unpaged. $18.99. Grades K-3.
Yes We Will, a picture book biography by acclaimed middle grade and young adult author Kelly Yang, explores the many ways that Asian Americans have found to belong and thrive in the United States. Yang opens with a little information about the Transcontinental Railroad and the Chinese Exclusion Act, establishing some essential historical context. She then transitions to spotlighting individuals and their accomplishments. Very spare text accompanies showstopping illustrations by fifteen different artists. For example, “We’ll soar to new heights” is paired with Dan Santat’s two-page illustration of NBA player Jeremy Lin flying toward the hoop. Featured individuals include I.M. Pei, Kamala Harris, Vera Wang, Sunisa Lee, Yo-Yo Ma, and many others. Each illustrator’s style is perfectly matched to their subject. An Author’s Note provides more detail on each luminary, including notable quotes, firsts, and awards.
THOUGHTS: While this inspiring book can be read in minutes, it’s worth rereading to fully appreciate the stunning and varied artwork, as well as the range of achievements. Yes We Will is also a great way to kick off biographical research on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from the past and the present.
Picture Book Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD
Mortensen, Lori. Arlo Drans an Octopus. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-419-74201-9. $16.99. Grades K-3.
Arlo likes to draw. One day he decided to draw an octopus because he likes them. Arlo begins to draw when he realizes that it does not look quite right. He continues to draw, only to realize that everything he is drawing does not look right. In fact, this is the worst octopus drawing ever! In his frustration, Arlo throws his drawing, only to remember that he should not litter. As he goes to pick up his drawing, he picks up someone else’s drawing and someone else has his! As he stares at the drawing of a boy, he realizes that an octopus has drawn it and it is fantastic! What will the octopus think of Arlo’s drawing?
THOUGHTS: A fun picture book on confidence and realizing that although we are not perfect, we can still create amazing things!
Picture Book Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD
Solis, Nicholas. The Color Collector. Sleeping Bear Press, 2021. 978-1-534-11105-9 32 p. $14.99. Grades K-3.
Violet is quiet and keeps to herself; yet, there is a bit of mystery that surrounds the new girl at school. A young boy notices that the new girl collects colorful pieces of debris and trash and places them in her backpack on her walk home from school. A red candy wrapper, bright blue cookie wrappers, yellow pieces of paper, green bottle caps, and red leaves disappear into her backpack every day. Full of curiosity, the young boy gently asks the new girl what she does with her collection of trash. Violet takes her new friend home and proudly shows him the mural in her bedroom. Each piece of trash and each colorful piece of debris has found a home in her artwork displayed on the wall. The mural shines bright and depicts the home that Violet misses so dearly. A friendship ensues as the children talk and confide in each other about the stories and the people that mean so much to them. Renia Metallinou’s beautiful art tells the story as much as the author’s words. As the friendship between the two children develops throughout the story, the artwork changes from gray tones to vibrant and bright colors. The beautiful illustrations compliment the author’s gentle and endearing text.
THOUGHTS: The Color Collector would make for a great read aloud for any grade level in the elementary school setting and would encourage conversations about friendship, empathy, and kindness. The story of Violet and her new friend is relatable to anyone that may have moved a short distance, immigrated from a far away county, or even simply longed to belong. It may also hold a special place in the hearts of elementary art teachers, as the book pays homage to self expression and identity.
Picture Book Marie Mengel, Reading SD