Lee & Low Books is a small, independent publisher based in NYC, and specializing in multicultural books for children 5-12 years of age. On their website, they say they are “the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States.” They are 25 years old and wholly minority-owned.
They have a mission of: “Increasing the number of diverse books available to children,” and emphasize their control of quality in books and focus on keeping their books in print for longer than usual so that “they have a chance to find their audience.”
They have a social media presence here:
They also have a very active blog site, posting on a diverse range of topics, including interviews with authors and illustrators.
Their catalog is available online, or you can request a hard copy through the website. In their website header, you can view their collection by common core standards, grade ranges or leveled reading categories. Once in the collection store, you can filter further by theme and language.
They have six other imprints under their umbrella, and all are focused on children’s diversity books and games.
Lee & Low has a splash screen with rotating book previews in its main header on the website. One of those titles is Calling the Water Drum, by LaTisha Redding, illustrated by Aaron Boyd.
The illustration on the splash screen caught my eye, and so I clicked on it. It is my recommendation. Following are two reviews.
The first review for this book is from Kirkus:
(Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2016 (Vol. 84, No. 16)) Picture book. Ages 5-10.
“A powerful story of loss and survival, human connection and hope.
Henri plays his red bucket like a drum. It’s his only physical tie to his parents, who perished while attempting to cross the sea from Haiti to Florida in a small rowboat. He survived and was rescued by refugees in a larger boat, and a note with his New Yorker uncle’s name and contact information allows him to find safety in the United States. But Henri is emotionally scarred by the many losses he’s endured, and he retreats into selective muteness. Playing his bucket-drum is a way for him to express himself, and his neighbor, an African-American girl named Karrine, who lost her father in the aftermath of “a hurricane in Louisiana,” provides companionship and understanding. It is to Karrine that Henri speaks his first word when she says: “I miss my daddy, Henri. Do you miss your parents?” and “a sound rises like a wave in my throat. I open my mouth and one word spills out. ‘Wi.’ Yes.” Redding’s distinguished text sensitively portrays the tragedies young Henri and Karrine have faced, and Boyd’s watercolor illustrations expressively convey the love of Henri’s family, the perils of their sea crossing, and the range of emotions he experiences as he finds his way in New York with his uncle and friends. Moving.”
The second review is from Booklist, October 15, 2016:
“Redding tells the heartbreaking story of one Haitian boy’s survival and adaptation to life in the U.S. in this picture-book immigration tale. Henri arrives in New York City traumatized and unable to speak. He has only a plastic bucket to call his own. His friend Karrine teaches him to thump on it once for yes and twice for no, and so his bucket becomes a drum. Henri takes to drumming to fill the silence in his mind and the pain in his heart, imagining the tones to be the sound of his parents’ laughter, connecting with them through his rhythms. Boyd’s expressive watercolor illustrations capture Henri’s emotional struggles and throw the danger of crossing the ocean in a rowboat into vivid relief. The story highlights the realities faced by children all over the world whose lives are uprooted by calamity. Although the context for Henri’s removal from Haiti is unclear, astute readers can be guided to think about why he left, and to make connections to current events.”–Chaudhri, Amina
While both reviews provide a good overview to the story and have positive criticisms – as do I, the Kirkus review gives a more thorough introduction to the story, and draws a potential reader to the book more. Both reviews comment on the emotional illustrations matching Henri’s pain and dire journey from Haiti to the U.S. This was also compelling to me, and an important part of the telling of this story. Both also critique the interesting way in which Redding manifests Henri’s pain and sadness at the loss of his parents.
Also implicit in the reviews and evident to me, is how Redding creates a sad, but hopeful narrative to fill in only the most necessary details; which I suspect is intentional, as so many immigrants have a world of stories in their background that they don’t always share in their present lives.
Chaudhri, A. (2016, October 15). Calling the Water Drum. Booklist Reviews, 113(4), 51. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.central.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=cuny_centraloff&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA468771341&asid=bfac3790d085cde9f271273f07114684
Kirkus Reviews. (August 2016). Calling the water drum. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/latisha-redding/calling-the-water-drum/
Redding, L., & Boyd, A. (October 2016). Calling the water drum. New York, NY: Lee & Low Books Inc.
I love this publisher! They’re very active online and they live by their mission! I’m always perusing their blog and catalogues online at work. Great choice! 🙂
Thanks Sandy! Both their blog and catalog are dense and have lots of variety! They’re bookmarked for me now too! 🙂