Saturday, 3 September 2016

Last day in the collection (Day 9)

Well, this will be my last posting. What an adventure this has been.

Working in the Marantz collection has far exceeded any expectations I had. The quality and the quantity of the bilingual books (and indeed the whole collection) is very high, and seeing the range of approaches to creating bilingual books has been really interesting. The location of the Marantz collection in the Reinberger Library at KSU is very beautifully laid out, and I have had a lovely working space. I do encourage you to visit if you ever have the opportunity.

Describing how bilingual books are designed, and considering what the linguistic landscape they present tells us is an ongoing journey for me.  I am thrilled with the spreadsheet of data I am able to take home with me. I have also learned a great deal from the content of the books. From learning about famous Latino men and women such as Cesar Chavez, who created a union to improve the working conditions for Latino Farm workers to Pura Belpre who created spaces for Spanish speakers within the New York public library system; from the experiences of being a Vietnamese child medical evacuee to being a child in a Japanese intern camp during World War II; from how to make a piƱata to how to build a burrito; from the concept of wabi sabi to what racism feels like. In addition to the dual language nature of the book, they are very powerful in their content. [I have to apologise for the lack of diacritics on the Spanish names. I need to work out how to do these]

I also had the unexpected honour of being able to speak (by Skype) with Alma Flor Ada, an educator and prolific and esteemed author who has played a pivotal role in the development of dual language children’s literature in the United States.

Beside the Marantz Collection, the Reinberger Library has also got many other interesting books, including full sets of the Newbery and Caldecott awards, and I have enjoyed looking through these too.

Not part of the Reinberger, but part of the Department of Special Collections and Archives in the larger university library is a room full of Babar books (in over 20 languages) and memorabilia (3600 pieces in total), donated by a collector named John L. Boonshaft. I was lucky enough to go up into this room and open a first edition copy of the first Babar, and looks through some of the file boxes filled with Babar merchandise of many kinds, from backpacks to bed sets!

The little town of Kent has been a joyful surprise as well. From its delightful town centre, including the “Newdle” shop, the Black Squirrel Gallery, and the yoga studio, to the beautiful paths beside the Cuyahoga river. The loan of the bike from my colleague Marianne made all the difference to my mobility.

I also had the joy of a trip into Akron with Professor Belinda Boone after work on Friday. We visited the Akron art gallery and public library, both beautiful public buildings. And as we returned to Kent we had a magical drive through the Cuyahoga National Park.

I want to end by thanking the Kent State University School of Library and Information Science for hosting me, and in particular the Kenneth and Sylvia Marantz Picturebook Collection Fellowship. Michelle Baldini and Marianne Martens have gone out of their way to ensure my stay was comfortable and enjoyable. I have learned a great deal and made new friends. I hope to be back!

Friday, 2 September 2016

A day of many languages (Day 9)

Yesterday night I had the absolute pleasure of visiting my colleague Marianne Martens home in a beautiful neighbourhood quite near the university. Two of her colleagues also came, and we had a lovely barbecue dinner with salads, hot dogs and burgers. Then a delicious brownie and icecream dessert which I enjoyed all the more for my usual avoiding sweets approachJ

My day at work involved reading dual language picturebooks with Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan, Khmer, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Swahili, Hebrew, German and Portuguese. A very multilingual day, it was!

In languages which use a Latin alphabet, such as Vietnamese, the approach in presenting the two languages is very similar to that which I found in the Spanish-English books. The languages are one above each other on a page facing the illustration page. One beautifully illustrated and moving book called The Little Weaver of Thai Yen Village/ Co Be Tho-Det Lang Thai-Yen by Tran-Khanh-Tuyet (Children’s Book Press, 1986) is a story about a little Vietnamese girl (Hien) whose village is bombed and who is taken to San Francisco Bay area for medical treatment by a US humanitarian medical relief organisation. Her parents have been killed, and she is looked after by an American couple who send regular parcels to help families in Vietnam. Hien is given a loom so she can weave blankets (as she used to do with her grandmother) to include in these packages.

Another moving book published by the Children’s Book Press is called A Place where Sunflowers Grow (Lee-Tai, 2006), and is about Mari, a girl living in the Japanese intern camps during World War II. One of the interns starts running an art class, and encourages the children to draw things which they are happy about in the camp. Mari cannot find anything to draw until her teacher suggests she draw something that used to make her happy, and this is what opens the door for Mari. She draws her back yard at home, and takes it back to her mother who puts it on the wall. The text in this book is placed on the pge facing the illustration page, and English is above the Japanese text, much as was the case for the Spanish-English books I’ve looked at.

Wabi Sabi (Reibstein and Young, 2008) is a visually stunning book which opened vertically rather than horizontally. The story is about the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, a notion concerning appreciating “Beauty and harmony in what is simple, imperfect, natural, modest and mysterious”. The story is told via a cat called Wabi Sabi, and famous Japanese haiku epitomising wabi sabi are cleverly incorporated into the story. The English text is either at the top or bottom of the sumptuous collage illustrations by Ed Young, and the haiku are incorporated along the sides of the illustrations, written from top to bottom in traditional style. I am sure that the vertical orientation of the book is influenced by the Japanese orthography.

I should finish the rest of the books tomorrow, and then get back to filling gaps in my spread sheet.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Indigenous languages, and non-Latin orthographies (Day 8)

Have I mentioned that I am in a 12 story building which is the library at KSU? I am based on the third floor in the Reinberger Library and have taken the steps from Day 1. At home I always walk up the seven floors in one of the buildings at Waikato when I arrive, just to keep a bit of heart fitness, you understand. I am also a keen tramper (hiker), and doing the stairs each day means it’s not quite such a shock when I go trampingJ. Well, on the third day I came into work, I suddenly realised I could do the stairs here too, not at that stage realising it was 12 floors! So here I am perspiring, knowing that my 7 floors when I return home is going to be a doddle. I might have to do it twice….or maybe not.

Well, I have now officially finished the 215 Spanish-English picturebooks. I still need to come back and fill some gaps, as I mentioned earlier, but I am moving on to the books which have other languages first. Just because I can (as one of my friends likes to say- you know who you are).

I had a little taster yesterday afternoon when I analysed the six indigenous language bilingual picturebooks. The languages include Cherokee, Cree, Navajo, and Inuit. Yes, there are only six books in this category which probably reflects the status of indigenous languages, or maybe not. I am not sure what the criteria for the books collected in the Marantz collection were. I need to find out more about that.

The most interesting thing about these books is that Cherokee, Navajo and Inuit use non-Latin alphabets. Harking back to my previous entry about how books distinguish between the Spanish and English texts, of course this is not a problem when the orthographies are patently visually dissimilar.

My favourite book is called Sequoyah (by James Rumford, Houghton Mifflin publishers, 2004), about a Cherokee man who invented the orthography for the Cherokee language. His name might be familiar to you with a different spelling: sequoia, the name used for the giant redwood trees. The book explains these trees were named for Sequoya, the man who invented the Cherokee alphabet. Sequoya began working on his idea for a writing system in 1809, and presented the syllabary of 84 symbols (each symbol stands for a syllable rather than a single sound, a bit like Japanese hiragana) to the Cherokee Nation in 1821. To see what the syllabary looks like, here is a link

Groundwood Books is a Canadian publishing house I have come across while looking at some of the Spanish-English  dual language picturebooks. It also produces books in First Nation languages and Inuktituk, such as the beautiful little book called Alego (written and illustrated by Ningeokuluk Teevee, 2009) about a little girl going clam digging on the sea shore with her grandmother. It shows Alego (the little girl’s name) discovering many different creatures at the beach and then going home for clam soup with her grandparent. The illustrations are in coloured pencil, and give you a sense of the community and environment that the pair live in. Colour is used gently to match the gentle tone of the text. It would be a delight to share with a child.   In this book the Inuktituk text is given first, and in my humble opinion, this is as it should be. Minority languages, especially indigenous one, should always come first. If you’d like to see the Inuktituk alphabet, also a syllabary, developed from the Cree orthography, look here

Now, I am moving on to books with Asian languages and English.  I’ll be interested to see what happens with orthographies which are not written left to right as is the case in English.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Translanguaging (Day 7)

The books I alluded to yesterday are a set of 3 written and illustrated by Lynn Reiser, published by Greenwillow Books (an imprint of Harper Collins). One is called The Lost Ball/La pelota perdida (2002). Straight away I loved the endpapers which are filled with pictures of different kinds of balls: basketballs, soccer balls, tennis balls, golf balls, baseballs, yarn balls. It kind of acts as a visual glossary, but what is different about it, is there is only one language label beneath each ball, not two. So under some of the pictures of a baseball the label is ‘pelota de beisbol’ and under another the label is ‘baseball’. I liked this approach.

But the best bit was when I opened the story and saw how the author/illustrator/designer of the books (I’m not sure who makes these decisions, and it probably varies from publisher to publisher and maybe from book to book) had decided to represent Spanish and English on each page. The story is about two boys, each with a dog playing with a ball. For each dog the ball is thrown, and the dog brings back the wrong ball. The rest of the book shows the two boys searching for the owner of the ball their dog has brought back: “Is this your ball?” “No, our ball is a golf ball”. In the end the boys find each other and are able to exchange balls.

Most of the books I have been looking at present both languages on the same page, using some kind of visual cue to separate them. There is usually a space between the two texts, and often also some kind of small illustration or line between the two texts. Sometimes a large capital letter is used at the start of the paragraph (I believe these are called drop caps) using one colour for English and another for Spanish, and sometimes completely different colours are used for the entirety of each text. This is what The Lost Ball does: orange is used for English and green for Spanish, but the unique aspect of the design in this book is that the two texts are not always identical in meaning because each voice belongs to a different boy. On the first page there is an English voice in orange and a picture of Richard with an orange hat and giving his dog with an orange colour an orange ball, and below is a Spanish voice beside a  picture of Ricardo in a green cap giving a green ball to a different dog with a green collar.

Throughout the book the orange text (English) belongs to the boy with the orange hat and the green text (Spanish) belongs to the boy with the green hat. On some pages the texts say the same thing: “Today is a good day to play ball in the park, Comet” and  “Hoy es un lindo dia a la lepota en el parquet, Cometa”, and other pages the two texts are different: “Is this your ball? No, our ball is a tennis ball” and “Es esta to pelota? No, nuestra pelota es una pelots de basket” [Is this your ball? No our ball is a basketball]. Aside from the green and orange colours used for the text, the balls, the dog collars and the boys’ hats, and a range of colours used for the other balls featured, the illustrations are in black and white, and there is a wonderful double spread illustrations where  both boys can be seen in the same location looking for the owner of their ball but not yet seeing each other. In this scene the boys each buy an icecream and cross to the other side of the page, and from then on the green text is on the LH page and the orange text is on the RH page. There is so much to see and work out visually! Of course, finally the boys meet each other, exchange balls, and play together. In the final page as they farewell each other, there is a mixing of the languages. I so enjoyed reading this book and working out the clever visual techniques used by the author/illustrator/designer!

Lynn Reiser has also written two other books in the collection about two little girls, Margaret and Margareta, and similar techniques are used for representing the two languages, this time with pink for English and blue for Spanish. In one book, the two little girls go to the park with their mothers and meet each other there. Despite not knowing each other’s language, they play, and by the time their mothers call them to go home, they are each using some of the other’s language (with its own colour) embedded in their own language: “Mama this is my amiga [friend] Margarita, and her gatita [toy cat], Susanna. We had a fiesta [party] and a siesta [nap]”. Note the square brackets are mine and are not needed in the book due to the context.

Ofelia Garcia talks about the idea of ‘translanguaging’, which is a term used to describe how multilingual people do not keep languages separate; they mix and mingle all of their linguistic resources according to context. This idea of keeping languages very separate on different pages or divided by colour can be seen as a very monolingual approach to language, but Lynn Resier’s books both come to a place where the languages are mixed in authentic ways. In a way her books kind of explain translanguaging and language acquisition to readers, and I really appreciate this approach.

Now, what treasures will I find today?

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Marisol McDonald and Super Diversity (Day 6)

Another beautiful day, more beautiful books. I am slowly getting to the bottom of my pile o Spanish English picturebooks. I think I should finish them by Tuesday afternoon, and then I’ll spend Wednesday checking through and filling gaps. The gaps are there because as I go through the books I become aware of new columns of information I want to collect, and up until that point, I haven’t got the information for previously analysed books. (Does that make sense?)

There are two series of books I have been really amazed by today. The first is a series about Marisol McDonald, an eight year old who has ‘Flaming red hair and nut-brown skin’ and who prefers things not to match. Read more about the books here
There are two of the series in the Marantz Collection. They are delightful tales of a feisty girl who doesn’t quite fit in. In one book we are shown how Marisol loves to do and wear things that don’t match (Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina), and in the second (Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash/ Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual) Marisol has a party where there isn’t a princess theme or a soccer theme or a pirate theme. She sends her friends different invitations and they all turn up dressed differently and she loves it. The illustrator, Sara Palacios, does absolute justice to the outrageous colour and energy needed to represent this wonderful little girl and her family. From the illustrations we see her mum has dark skin and black hair, and her dad fair skin and red hair. No comment is made on this in the text, though. It is interesting to read the note from the author, Monica Brown: “I wrote this book because, like over 6 million Americans, I am multiracial. I’m the daughter of a South American mother and a North American father, and my childhood was spent in a close community of cousins, tios, and tias [aunties and uncles]. Like Marisol, my cousins and I are mixed- indigenous Peruvian and Spanish mixed with Scottish and Italian and Jewish, not to mention Nicaraguan, Mexican, Chilean and African. One thing most of us do share are freckles….People sometimes ask us “What are you?”…..Our mothers told us we are Americans, yes, but also citizens of the world. My life (and I bet yours too) is bound up with the history of many peoples, and like Marisol McDonald, I open my arms wide and embrace them all”.

Wow. How about that for diversity. And how about that for a statement. While my background is not as diverse as Monica’s, I do see myself in some of the statements she makes, and I wish I had been able to read these to my own daughter whose heritage includes English, Scandinavian, Irish, Sinhalese, Dutch, and German.

Most of the books I am reading include notes about the authors and illustrators, and in most cases it seems authors are telling a story from their own lives, or retelling a story their parents or grandparents told them, or creating a story about an important person in South American or Latino American history. Lots and lots of windows for someone like me to look through, and lots and lots of mirrors for young readers in the US (and other places) to see their physical and/or linguistic reflections in.

That’s enough for one day. I’ll tell you about the second series tomorrow. It does amazingly creative things with language…J