Bella’s Recipe for Success by Ana Siqueira, illustrated by Geraldine Rodríguez, is on sale on July 13, 2021.
30,000 Stitches by Amanda Davis, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, is on sale now.
By Ana Siqueira and Amanda Davis
What does it feel like to walk in another person’s shoes? To get a glimpse into their experiences, their childhood, their emotions, their every day realities? We all have stories and histories that mold us into the people we are today. Our lived experiences shape our lives and as we grow and evolve, our identities do, too. Although we may never truly know what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes, we do know what it’s like to feel. To feel loss, to feel pain, to feel joy. Emotions are universal. They are raw. They are what make us human. They are what connect us. Through art, writing, and books, we have the power to tell our stories and to learn about other’s stories. We have the power to connect and learn more about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Through their work as authors and educators, Ana Siqueira and Amanda Davis strive to empower others to tell their stories and have witnessed first-hand the positive impact this can have on children if we allow them the time, space, and a voice to share their stories with the world.
For example, in Davis’s high school art room, she facilitates projects where students can learn about other people’s stories. One she remembers fondly is a project she conducted through an educator grant she was awarded from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Learning for Justice. The unit was titled The Power of My Story and was a collaboration between Family Diversity Projects and artist/poet Zulynette Morales. The Power of My Story was a two-part project that served to empower students to investigate their own stories, other’s stories, and how each of our stories intersects. The goal of the project was to deepen their connection with themselves, along with their peers, and people outside of their communities and to develop a positive view of themselves and others through reading, writing, performing, and creating/interpreting art.
For part one of the project students examined their own stories. They had a visit with artist/poet, Zulynette Morales who facilitated a three-day poetry, art, and performance workshop. Students wrote poems about their identity and relevant issues to themselves and their school community using prompts and lived experience as inspiration. Students then performed their poems on stage.
For part two of the project, students learned about other people’s stories. Davis collaborated with a non-profit organization called The Family Diversity Projects to bring a traveling photo-text exhibit titled, BUILDING BRIDGES PORTRAITS OF IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES into the school. The exhibit included photographs and interviews with people who came to the United States as immigrants or refugees from all over the world. The exhibit seeks to challenge damaging myths and stereotypes as a way to prevent bullying and hatred. Students in Davis’s art classes used the exhibit as an entry point into lessons around identity, culture, immigration, and race.
The Power of My Story project culminated in a visual art component and a school-wide student exhibit of written and visual work. Student’s artwork and written reflections conveyed the power of telling their own stories, learning about others’ stories, and how all of our stories are connected. One student in grade nine said, “I learned not just about my story but about the story that other people have to deal with and can’t change. This whole project can contribute to how I view people and their perspectives.” Another student noted, “I learned that it’s important to learn others’ stories of hardship and to find a deeper connection to others.”
In Siqueira’s classroom, she shares about other cultures through real-life stories and through books. Ana engages students in comparing themselves with others. What are the differences and similarities between themselves, their culture, their feelings? She hopes students will be able to see that despite our differences, we are basically the same.
Also, to teach human connection and compassion, Siqueira worked on an interdisciplinary project where she showed videos, read books, and news about unaccompanied minors and refugees coming to this country.
The students reflected on these immigrant situations and put themselves in their shoes. What would they do? How would they feel? Through this process, her students were able to understand and connect with these kids.
For their final project, they did a report about refugees and immigrants, created art to show their own feelings and the feelings of the immigrant kids, and created a song where they welcomed these kids to this country. Check more details in the link below.
Ana plans to integrate even more diverse books into her curriculum. Kids need to see them represented in books. As noted by Tami Charles and Bryan Collier in their picture book, All Because You Matter, “At the first time you opened a book, like a mirror staring back at you, and really saw yourself… same hair, same skin, same dreams.” By seeing themselves and others in stories they can feel, understand and connect.
Similar to their work with students, Davis and Siqueira strive to empower younger generations to connect and recognize the power in sharing our stories and universal emotions through the pages of their own picture books.
For example, Davis’s debut creative nonfiction picture book, 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, tells the true story about the American flag that was put up over Ground Zero in the days following 9/11. It became torn, and tattered and was soon taken down and stored away. Later, the flag emerged and embarked on a historic journey across all fifty states to be restored. On the tenth remembrance of 9/11, the flag returned to New York as a restored symbol of unity and hope.
Through the text and images, 30,000 Stitches highlights people helping people. The story reminds us of the good of humanity. People from all walks of life came together to make the flag whole again and to help one another heal. Along the way, they shared their stories of pain, sorrow, love, and sacrifice. With each stitch, they told their stories and by doing so, they helped heal the flag while also helping heal each other’s hearts. 30,000 Stitches reminds children (and adults) that there is power in our shared stories, there is power in unity, and that if we reach out our hands, we can help heal our hearts.
Additionally, from teachers to students, soldiers, to everyday citizens like you and me, Comport’s illustrations are representative of the diverse people from a variety of communities who came out to connect with their fellow humans.
Traveling over 120,000 miles the flag crisscrossed borders and cross-stitched lives. Stitches were placed by members of Martin Luther King Jr’s family at The King Center in Atlanta, where stories of activism and the struggle for equality was told, and by Navajo Code Talkers in New Mexico where stories of survival were shared.
By depicting an array of people from different jobs, communities, and backgrounds, readers of all ages can see themselves in the story. They may feel more connected to the images and words in the text and possibly feel empowered to share their own stories with others. As one young reviewer wrote, “The illustrations were a reflection of the people who live in America, with almost anyone reading it being able to see themselves on the pages.”
In Ana’s debut book, Bella’s Recipe For Success, illustrated by Geraldine Rodriguez, readers connect with the universal emotions that Bella experiences as she tries to figure out what she is good at. Bella’s hermano can play the piano with her eyes closed. Her hermana can do 14 cartwheels in a row.
Bella’s cartwheels look like a jirafa rolling downhill. And when she plays the piano, her hands are as heavy as elephant feet. With her Abuela’s help, Bella learns that you can always try again.
Throughout the book, Bella feels many different emotions. First, she is jealous of her siblings. Then, she feels like a failure and quits.
Then she feels frustrated with her desastres. And finally, she feels proud and resilient. Through funny situations and tribulations, children will connect to Bella through universal emotions.
Bella is a Latina girl in an intergenerational family. Bella is part Cuban-Brazilian (author) and Mexican (illustrator). Are kids from these countries different from us? Maybe they prefer polvorones to donuts. Maybe they live in a house with abuelos, tías y primos. But do they feel frustrated? Do they feel sad? Do they react the same way? By showing kids we might react differently to certain situations, but our feelings are universal, we are also showing what connects us as humans—we’re basically the same and we should respect each other. We are all people. We all need each other.
In the end, we need stories to experiment and to connect. Whether it’s students sharing their stories in the classroom or children absorbing stories from the pages of books, the power of our stories to connect us as humans through our shared emotions and experiences is a beautiful and necessary component of creating a more kind and understanding world. In his recent interview on Education Talk Radio, member Ezra Hyland noted, “Humans don’t make our stories, it’s stories that make us human (paraphrasing Amiri Baraka). It’s not until we know the stories of each other that we embrace our humanity. When I know the stories of my people and my culture, that’s when I become human myself.”
SCBWI AZ Equity and Inclusion List
Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. Amanda is the recipient of the 2020 Ann Whitford Paul—Writer’s Digest Most Promising Picture Book Manuscript Grant and teaches art at a public high school in Massachusetts where she was selected as 2020 Secondary Art Educator of the Year. Amanda is the author of 30,000 STITCHES: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG and has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology, FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her partner and her rescue pup, Cora. You can learn more about Amanda at www.amandadavisart.com and on Twitter @amandadavisart and Instagram @amandadavis_art.
Ana Siqueira is a Spanish-language elementary teacher, an award-winning Brazilian children’s author, and a published author in the Foreign Language educational market – EL PATO QUIERE UVAS. Her forthcoming picture books include BELLA’S RECIPE FOR DISASTER/SUCCESS (Beaming Books, 2021), IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA(SimonKids,2022), and ABUELA’S SUPER CAPA (HarperCollins 2023) – two-book deal auction. The second book has not been chosen yet. Ana is a Local PBS Media Innovator, Global Educator (IREX), member of SCBWI, Las Musas Book, and co-founder of LatinxPitch. Besides writing, Ana loves to read, teach, and play with her Cuban-Brazilian-American grandchildren. Find more about her and her books here.