October 18, 2016

Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:25 pm by suebe2

Nasreen’s Secret School: nasreens-secret-school
A True Story from Afghanistan
by Jeanette Winter
Beach Lane Books

At one time, art, music and learning had a place in Afghanistan.  Under the Taliban, that all changed.  Soldiers from the hills moved into the cities.  They shut down the schools, especially the schools for girls.  This is the story of one of those girls.

Nasreen’s days were long and boring and sad.  The soldiers had come in the night and dragged her father into the street.  After waiting for him to return, Nasreen’s mother went looking for him.  It was forbidden for her to do this, no woman was allowed to go out alone but with just her and her mother-in-law and little Nasreen, there was no one who could go.

Months passed as Nasreen and her grandmother waited.  Nasreen no longer spoke.  All she did was sit and wait.

Her grandmother couldn’t let this go on.  She had heard about a secret school for girls.  In this school, Nasreen could learn as her grandmother had learned, as her mother had learned.  Nasreen and her grandmother slipped down the lanes to the green gate.  A lady teacher answered their knock and let Nasreen inside.

This isn’t a new book – it came out in 2009.  Yet, somehow I didn’t see it until recently.

Very few of us remember what Afghanistan used to be like.  70% of all teachers were women. So were 40% of the doctors and 50% of the students at Kabul University. With the Taliban, women could no longer work or go to school.  They couldn’t even travel in the streets unless they were accompanied by a male relative — an impossibility with your only male relative has been taken away by the soldiers.

Jeanette Winter was invited to write a book and chose this story to tell.  It is based on a real little girl and her real grandmother.  Obviously, Winter had to make some changes to the story to ensure their safety — or at least to avoid endangering them any further. I love that although this is a story about a girl and her grandmother and other girls and women, Winter shows the part that good men also play.  She tells about little boys who distract the soldiers when they see women and girls heading toward the school.

Share this book with your young readers.  It is truly a story that needs to be told and needs to be heard.


July 27, 2016

Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes by Jeanette Winters

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 7:53 pm by suebe2

Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes
by Jeanette Winters
Beach Lane Books

Joseph Cornell roamed his Queens neighborhood looking for a wide variety of found objects — marbles and figurines, scraps of paper and boxes.  He took them home where he cared for his brother who had cerebral palsey.

When he wasn’t taking care of his brother he spent hours and hours dreaming, remembering and journaling. Working in his shop in the cellar he assembled a unique type of art.  He wasn’t a painter.  He wasn’t a sculptor.  He created shadow boxes. Many of them depicted things that he remembered seeing as a boy — games in penny arcades, water slide in Coney Island, dancers, soap bubbles and more.

He was a quiet man but he enjoyed sharing his artwork with the children in the neighborhood.  He would put together an art show of dream boxes and invite the children.  The children would gaze into the boxes, sipping cherry cola and munching on brownies.  Hopefully a few of them were inspired to do something that Mr. Cornell loved to do — to dream.

Jeanette Winter’s text is as dreamy as Mr. Cornell and her digital illustrations pull young readers into the story.  I love the parallels that she creates between what he remembered from his early life and the art work that he later created.  The one thing that I wish had been done differently is that I would have loved to have seen some of the shadow boxes throughout the text.  Photographs of a few of them appear in the backmatter but I would love to have had a photographic sidebar running along side the text describing it.

I love that this book is more about dreaming than it is about art.  Add to this the fact that it doesn’t make art out to be only sculpture or painting or photography.  It honors the shadow box and the man who created so many to share with children.

Share it with your own dreamers, perhaps before a family trip.  And then each member of the family could create a shadow box of what they enjoyed most.



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