Mirror by Jeannie Baker – a book review

We are now “settled” (what does that word mean anyway?) in Waco, Texas.

I’m learning about the many cultural differences between Indiana and Texas. (I won’t get into all that here!)

All my Kids Books Without Borders books are unpacked and on shelves. Since we are currently renting, I am grateful for a large garage where all my books are set up. Here are a few photos at various stages:

I am now getting back into running Kids Books Without Borders again. My apologies to all those who are waiting for their orders – hopefully the back orders will be going out soon. Thank you for your patience.

I’m also anxious to start blogging again – lots of blog posts, some half written, others in my head, should make their way to you this Fall as I get myself back on track. Here is my first blog post from Waco, Texas!: …

Every now and then a picture book comes to my attention that I have to share with all of you, raising a family in two or more different cultures. Mirror by Jeannie Baker is one of them.

Mirror is a children’s book unlike any other. It is a wordless picture book that speaks volumes about culture – both similarities and differences. This is a must for any third culture kid’s library.

In this book, we follow a day in the lives of two children and two families, one in Australia and one in Morocco, North Africa, from the rising of the sun and early morning until the last rays of sunlight disappear over the horizon as both families gather for their evening meal.

What do I love about this book?

1. I love the format. When you open the cover, there are 2 sides, 2 parallel stories. The introduction on the left side is in English, on the right side in Arabic. The Western and Moroccan stories are designed to be read side by side. The Western side is read from left to right and the Moroccan side is read from right to left.

2. Jeanne Baker’s unique collage art work using both natural and artificial materials such as sand, earth, clay, paints, vegetation, paper, fabric, wool, tin and plastic, creates a visually stunning display, both for little and big eyes. The artwork is full of details to be studied and can be used as a search and find for smaller children. I like Jeanne’s use of both natural and artificial, a clear and often conflicting picture of our own world, our homes and our communities. The use of technology permeates both the Western world and the African world, standing in sharp contrasts to the natural beauty.

3. I like the fact that Jeanne, a native of Sydney of Australia, traveled to Morocco and experienced the culture, the sights and the sounds, as well as the friendliness and warm hospitality of the people there.

4. The rug – The Morrocan story begins in the early morning with a women praying on her prayer rug then working on her loom weaving a beautiful carpet. The family weaves carpets then sells them at the local market. The Australian story ends with the family gathering around the fireplace one of those same carpets they purchased that day at a Middle Eastern carpet shop in Australia, with handmade carpets imported from Morocco.

5.In both settings, there was a place for creative projects and expression. In this Moroccan village, the woman weaves colorful rugs, in Australia, the father and the child worked on rebuilding the fireplace.

6. I appreciate how the author/illustrator highlights the desire to know and connect with the rest of the world in both cultures.

7. I also like that the book centers around family life: eating together, working on projects together, doing chores as a family and going on outings together. The Moroccan family unit also includes the grandparents who live with the family and share in family life.

8. The wordless book format allows for lots of conversations with your child about culture and the world, both differences and similarities. For the TCK, this is a great way to talk about your child’s birth country and the country they are living in now. How is Morocco and Australia different from where we live? How are they similar? After reading the book, encourage them to draw their own version of their birth country and adopted country.

I encourage you to get a copy of this book wherever you may live!

Mirror by Jeannie Baker

Age Range: 5 – 9 years

Grade Level: Kindergarten – 4

Publisher: Candlewick; Bilingual edition (November 9, 2010)

Awards:

  • Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year Award Joint Winner 2011
  • Children’s Book Council of Australia Junior Judges Award – Picture Book of the Year Award Honour Book 2011
  • Indies (Independent Booksellers Association Awards) Children’s Book of the Year Winner 2011
  • NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature Shortlisted 2011
  • International Youth Library White Ravens Award 2011
  • Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards Children’s Book Category Shortlist 2011
  • British Book Design and Production Awards, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Education Category Winner 2011
  • CJ Picture Book Awards, CJ Culture Foundation, Korea New Publications Category Finalist 2011
  • International School Libraries Network Singapore Red Dot Book Awards Shortlisted 2010-11

Other children’s books that address cultural differences:

In a Country Far Away by Nigel Gray (author), Philippe Dupasquier (illustrator)

(1991) – in this older picture book, the author compares the lives of two boys, one in the United States, and one in rural Africa. Although the illustrations are more traditional, the contrast between the two cultures are striking. The book is a great tool for striking up conversations with your child about poverty and wealth, simplicity and technology, rural and urban settings. For ages 3-6.

Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw (2011) –

This is another striking book that I highly recommend. It was birthed by the author as a result of her experience as a teacher in Nepal. Sue organized an art exchange with friends from the United States and her students in Nepal. The story centers around a young boy named Elliot who lives in America and Kailash, another boy who lives in India. The two become pen pals and exchange both letters and art work. They learn that although there are many differences, they both enjoy similar things like pets, drawing, school, family and friendship. The colorful art work will appeal to children, as they reflect the world through a child’s eyes, using childlike drawings to depict their different lives. Winner at the Ezra Jack Keats Award.

As always, please share any other books that your family has enjoyed or share your thoughts and comments on this theme. Thanks!

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4 thoughts on “Mirror by Jeannie Baker – a book review

  1. Sounds like a charming book with lots of family conversation-starters!
    Hope you are enjoying Texas! Having lived in Southern Texas for five months, I found it to be a unique culture– even very different than other parts of the state.

    Praying for you and Tim as you continue your new adventure!

    Like

  2. Yes! We love Mirror too! We first found it at a local library in Australia but I knew it would be a must for our unit on Africa when we started homeschooling in South Sudan this year.

    Like

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