Tag Archives: Jeanette Winter

The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter

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The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter

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This non fiction book spread over 56 pages on an AR 4.0 level is the biography of the famed Iraqi architect’s inspiration, triumph over obstacles and accomplishments.  It doesn’t go in to great detail of her life, but gives enough information for children to become familiar with her and be inspired by all that she accomplished not only as an Arab, Muslim woman, but as an architect and trail blazer of design and structure.  The pages are beautifully illustrated and the simple text flows and dances around the pages like her buildings in real life.

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Born in Iraq where rivers flow, wind swoops across sand dunes, and cities existed thousands of years ago, Zaha finds designs and shapes throughout her home and the city of Baghdad.  She has ideas about arrangements of furniture and designs of clothing, she loves that dunes and rivers and marshes don’t have corners.

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She is a Muslim that attends Catholic school and loves math.  She goes to London for college to study to be an architect. She is relentless in her passion and fills notebooks with plans, paintings with what she sees in her mind and graduates with honors.

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She opens her own office and with a few friends, she designs buildings that swoosh and zoom and flow and fly.  The world is not a rectangle, but unfortunately no one wants to build her designs.  She keeps entering competitions, and winning, but they refuse to build her buildings.

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She designs buildings that come from her memory of grasses swaying, and wind blowing over dunes, and shells being cradled.  She designs an opera house like a pebble in the water, with the singer the pearl.  A ski jump that reaches the sky like a mountain.

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One by one, Zaha’s designs become buildings all over the world.  She has over 400 employees and designs buildings, shoes, doll houses, furniture, she does what she likes and urges others to do so as well.  Zaha passed away in 2016, but her visions are still carried out.

 

 

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter

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It is widely written about, even amongst children’s literature, that in parts of the world, girls are not allowed to go to school, but that many find ways to do so anyway.  What sets this book apart is that it is based on a true story, and while there is some hope for Nasreen, overall it is a really melancholy tale without a happy ending.  At 40 pages, author Jeanette Winter once again conveys a story that shows compassion instead of judgement and undeniable admiration for her characters.  Written on a 4.2 level, the story packs a lot into small, simple sentences, and her illustrations do not shy away from the realities of Afghanistan.  While I was surprised to see that twice the book was challenged, in 2014 and 2016, for showing Muslims praying and for violence, I was glad that it was never banned.   The strength and determination of Afghani women should not be silenced, it should be shared and celebrated.

 

The story is told from the point of view of Nasreen’s grandmother.  She is heartbroken that her granddaughter is not allowed to attend school and practice the arts as she was, and even her daughter-in-law, were able to do as children.  Since the Taliban has come things are dark.  Things get worse when one night soldiers come and take Nasreen’s father with no explanation.  When he doesn’t return, Nasreen’s mother leaves to find him, displaying her own strength to independently take on a society that doesn’t permit her to go out alone.  Unfortunately she does not return either, and Nasreen stops speaking.  Grandma learns of a secret school for girls.  Determined that Nasreen should know of the outside world, great risks are taken for many girls to learn in a private home a few doors down.  Dodging Taliban soldiers and neighborhood boys helping keep their school a distraction starts to pay off as Nasreen finds a friend and starts to open her heart.  The book ends with mom and dad still missing, but hope for Nasreen to see through the window education has opened for her, inshaAllah.

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Malala: A Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal: A Brave Boy from Pakistan by Jeanette Winters

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Again I break from my fiction preference to review another book about these two remarkable individuals: Malala and Iqbal.  In this beautiful book linking two brave children from Pakistan, Jeanette Winter’s brings their stories to a young audience in a powerfully simplistic way.  Written on an AR 3.6 level, each story is 20 pages and presented in a flip book format.  Before each story there is a brief Author’s Note about each character in a broader view, for context to be given as needed to the adults to share with the children listening to the book, or for older children to read and deepen their understanding and appreciation.  The sentences are short and the font and presentation is inviting to even early readers.  The pictures are wonderful and do a tremendous job showing the intensity of the environment Malala and Iqbal face, while not frightening the reader.

The Malala portion of the book starts with the Taliban asking for her on the bus and like her biography, then takes the reader to the threats and deterrents they made to girls in school, but on an audience appropriate level.  It tells how they stopped wearing uniforms so that they could be harder to identify and how even burning the girls school didn’t stop them. It then returns to her being shot and going from the hospital in Swat to one in England.  It concludes with her speaking to the U.N. on her 16th birthday.

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The story of Iqbal is a bit harder I think for children to understand as they may not know what a loom is or have ever thought about who makes carpets.  Also the words bondage, Peshgi, outlawed, and mourners are not in their vocabulary .  They should understand that he is sold for an unpaid $12 debt, but that too may need to be stressed and explained. If the kids can grasp this, I really think children as young as kindergarten can appreciate his story.  I love that the author didn’t shy away from the fact that he was shot and killed.   Even if they do not understand all the facets that make Iqbal’s work so incredible.  They will feel inspired that someone so young was so brave.  Iqbal