black history, nonfiction corner, social studies

Nonfiction Corner: From Here to There/How Do You Spell Unfair?

From Here to There: A Book of First Maps (Candlewick)
Written by Vivian French
Illustrated by Ya-Ling Huang

For ages: 3-7
Anna lives in the suburbs. Her friend Zane lives in an apartment building. Zane sends Anna an invite to play and includes a hand-drawn map. However, Anna finds Zane’s map “wrong” because he put his house in the middle. So she decides to make her map based on the locations significant to her, including Grandma, who lives far away. In this lesson, Anna learns about scale and perspective. Her dad explains how maps can be scaled to show greater or smaller regions. She also learns about labels on maps and that maps can serve different purposes.

This will not be a comprehensive textbook on maps but an excellent introduction to our youngest readers about their purpose. The illustrations by Ya-Ling Huang are fantastic, with a good variety of professional-looking maps and ones done in a child’s crayon style. The pictures that make up the narrative portion of the story are warm, familiar, and inviting. Smooth pastels lead to cozy soft illustrations. I also appreciated that while this is about maps on the surface, it also addresses the idea of perspective. Anna learns that how she sees the world is not how others do. A map shouldn’t necessarily be about your point of view but a collective perspective that makes it valuable to us all.

This review copy was provided by the publisher.

How Do You Spell Unfair?: MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee (Candlewick)
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Frank Morrison

For ages: 7-10
In 1935, MacNolia Cox won the Akron, Ohio, spelling bee, the first Black child to do so. This got her an invitation to the prestigious National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. Inbetween; she became a celebrated figure in the Black community. She met other luminaries of the time, from Jesse Owens to Joe Lewis. They even held a parade to see her off on the train. Yet, once that train crossed the state line, MacNolia and her mother were told to move to a Blacks-Only car. MacNolia and her mother met more racism at the hotel and, finally, at the spelling bee. She was given a word not included on the official list to push her out of the competition. She was brilliant but couldn’t afford college, so she never went. Unfair is a powerful story that doesn’t shy away from honesty with its young readers.

There’s a concerted effort by reactionaries in America to hide the history of racism from children. They will feign that it’s because they don’t want children to “view their country negatively.” Still, the truth is that they are racists who don’t want to address the wound at the center of America. It is a wound that those who caused it refuse to atone for, to attempt to heal. Instead, they want to act as though it’s some ancient thing no one remembers when it’s just a couple of generations removed from my own. Our children must see how rotten institutional racism is if we hope to stop it. Those more interested in obscuring truth reveal their true intentions; they feel they benefit from inequality and would rather throw their fellow man under the bus over some crumbs than work to build a better society. 

This review copy was provided by the publisher.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s