Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Liam Kingbird's Kingdom: Liam the lion by Andrew Stark, illustrated by Emily Faith Johnson

Capstone, and their imprints Stone Arch and Picture Window, have a really excellent selection of intermediate early readers and beginning chapter books featuring a diverse selection of children. These are also made by creators from those same cultures. So far they have included several different Latinx characters, Asian characters (including the first chapter books to feature American-Hmong children and their families), and this year their new offerings include an indigenous child, Liam Kingbird, who lives on an Ojibwa reservation and has a cleft lip.

He is introduced with a series of simple statements, including his heritage and cleft lip, but also that he is imaginative and likes to draw. The story focuses on his worries about attending a new school on the reservation. Once there, he meets another boy, Jeremy, who focuses on Liam's cleft lip and initially says some unkind things that make Liam feel bad. After talking to his mom, Liam gets together his courage and with the support of the kids in class sees the positive side of being called a "lion" and settles into his new school.

The author, like Liam was raised on an Ojibwa Reservation and the illustrator is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa. Simple illustrations in color show Liam's feelings and emotions and the text, written in paragraphs, should be accessible to most 2nd graders. The story is followed by some additional information about Ojibwa history and culture, a simple glossary, and some questions to discuss the text. The book doesn't paint Jeremy as a bully, just as a kid who talks without thinking and inadvertently hurts Liam.

Verdict: A must-have for collections already including other similar titles and some much-needed diversity for this age group. This is also a nice, simple story for readers to discuss in class and it's great to see multiple identities smoothly blended into the story as well. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781666395051; Published January 2023 by Picture Window/Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

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