Winter Is For Reading

Donna Tarbania

Books make treasured, lasting gifts, and the SPC Marketplace at Plowshares will feature dozens of possibilities. Here are a few ideas, for specific ages and tastes.

Connected Wisdom Living Stories About Living Systems Linda Booth Sweeney, ed. SEED (Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development), 2008

Ages 9 and up

Twelve classic folktales, each revealing a unique example of a "living system," show that what we now call systems thinking has been around for a very long time. In the story of Kanu Above and Below, from Sierra Leone, we see an example of the strength of biodiversity as the nuisance creatures (spider, rat and fly) in the end make it possible for the wise chief to save his child. Clear, simple notes, and delightful full-color artwork, accompany the stories. Says Sweeney, "As kids appreciate and learn about living systems, they see that connections in nature, people, problems and events bind us all." This large-format, full-color volume is a great addition to classrooms and libraries. Silent Music A Story of Baghdad James Rumford. Roaring Brook Press, 2009. Ages 4-8 As Baghdad fell and its citizens struggled to form a new Iraq, a boy named Ali, who loves soccer and loud music but also the art of calligraphy, practiced writing every day. His hero is the master calligrapher Yakut, who in an earlier time of war, kept writing to fill his mind with beauty and peace. The lovely illustrations collage Ali's doodles and jottings amid patterned papers, with Arabic words, translated in places, sometimes embedded in the pages. 2009 Jane Addams Peace Prize Winner.


Claudette Colvin Twice Toward Justice Phillip Hoose. Melanie Kroupa Books, 2009.

Ages 12 and up

In 2000 when he was writing We Were There Too! Young People in US History, Phil Hoose heard about a teenaged girl who had taken the same stand as Rosa Parks, in the same city, almost a year earlier. He tracked down the now-retired Claudette Colvin, and the result is an engrossing story of one young woman's role in one of the most significant social movements of our time. As Hoose writes, "More than any other story I know, Claudette's life shows how history is made up of objective facts and personal truths, braided together." Nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white woman, 15 year-old Claudette had had enough of Jim Crow segregation. Refusing repeated commands to yield her seat on a packed bus, she was eventually dragged off by two policemen, shouting out her constitutional rights all the while. "When it comes to justice," she said, "there is no easy way to get it. You can't sugarcoat it. You just have to take a stand and say, 'This is not right.'" But instead of being celebrated, she found herself shunned by many and dismissed as an unfit role model by the black leaders of Montgomery. Undaunted, she continued to put herself in danger by challenging segregation. A year after her arrest, she and three other women sued the city of Montgomery and the state of Alabama in the landmark busing case Browder v. Gayle. Only after they won, were the city's buses integrated.

This is the story of a smart, angry teenager who made two historically significant contributions to the Civil Rights movement. Through her, we see not only what happened during the Montgomery bus boycott, but how it felt. With bibliography, notes, and many period photographs and documents.

From The Western Door to the Lower West Side Photography by Milton Rogovin Poetry by Eric Gansworth. White Pine Press, 2009.

Ages 16 and up

With the current exhibit of his work at ArtRage Gallery, Buffalo native Milton Rogovin may be familiar to PNL readers. Dubbed "The Picture Man" by the working class people whose lives he documented over 40 years, Milton's work is remarkable for the integrity, realism and compassion with which he approached his subjects.

This new book pairs photographs from Milton's Native American series with a book-length cycle of poems by Onondaga poet Eric Gansworth. In the essay titled "Two Rows," Gansworth writes about his initial ambivalence to undertake the project. Too often, photographers had fabricated and manipulated Indian lives in the service of the photographer's intention. However, Milton's method of documenting people and places quelled any doubts. In an antithesis of studio portraiture, subjects posed where they wanted, in places that held some meaning for them, with the clothes and special objects of their choosing.

Gansworth's poems interact with the photographs to form a unique experience, reflecting the journey made by many from the Seneca Nation's rural reservation culture, to the neighborhoods of Buffalo's Lower West Side. The portraits and poems speak movingly of issues of identity, memory and colliding cultural worlds.

Donna Tarbania coordinates book selections for the Syracuse Cultural Workers catalog and store. If you miss Plowshares, the books are also available at SCW's Tools for Change store, 400 Lodi Street