Nonfiction Wednesday – February 23, 2016

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2016 is a weekly celebration of imaginative children’s nonfiction materials hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.

Title:  Anna & Solomon
Author: Elaine Snyder / Illustrator: Harry Bliss
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: 2014
Genre/Format: Nonfiction Picture Book Biography

My Two Cents: 

“Once – and not once upon a time, because this is a true story – in 1897 in Russia there lived a handsome young man who fell in love with a beautiful young woman, and one bright day, under a canopy of leaves and spring flowers, they were married.”

Canada, like the United States, in a nation of immigrants. Ask any Vancouverite about their background and you’ll likely hear stories of families members coming from countries all around the world – I myself am a first generation Canadian, a child of immigrants who were themselves children of immigrants from somewhere else! “Anna & Solomon” is based on the story of the author’s own grandparents, who immigrated from Russia to New York in the late 19th century. Solomon, the author’s grandfather, immigrated first, determined to make enough money in the new country to bring his wife over to join him. Every time he sent money back to Russia to pay for Anna’s ticket to America, however, Anna sent another member of her family over instead! First Anna’s two brothers, then her mother, until Solomon began to lose hope that he would ever seen his wife again! Finally, after many years of waiting, Anna and Solomon were reunited in their new home – America. This is a lovely little story about the immigrant experience,  and the importance of family – Anna puts the needs of her family members before her own, and Solomon, though disappointed, understands how important Anna’s family is to her, and never loses faith that he will be reunited with her again. There are also a few mentions of Jewish culture sprinkled throughout the book, which make this a nice title for encouraging children to learn about other cultural experiences.

It’s also refreshing to see picture book biographies about everyday people, the kind of people whose lives most of us would never otherwise hear about. While kings and queens, politicians, writers, sports heroes, activists and actors are all quite fascinating to read about, most readers have far more in common with Anna and Solomon than they do with any famous person. Picture book biographies like this can help reassure children that every life is extraordinary, and that every person is important, even if they never become a household name or  become famous.

If the illustrations look familiar, it might be because you’ve seen illustrator Harry Bliss’ cartoons and covers for the New Yorker,  or you might have read one of the other picture books he’s illustrated, including Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider, and Countdown to Kindergarten. He’s also the author’s son-in-law, which makes this picture book truly a family affair.