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Maria Salvadore
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Maria Salvadore

Books That Reflect, and to Reflect On

Readers are likely to recognize something of their own lives in this new memoir, How Do I Draw These Memories?. Books will do that.


I just read a book for teens that will publish this spring. How Do I Draw These Memories? An Illustrated Memoir (opens in a new window) by Jonell Joshua presents the author’s memories in word and image, unfolding in bits and pieces as most lives do. Some parts are her recollections, others become her memories only after another family member describes their version of the occurrence.

Despite the difficulties confronting Jonell’s family, this memoir is uplifting and amazingly positive, in some ways celebrating the ordinariness of life as well as the power of unconditional love (which I hope) most experience. Readers are likely to recognize something of their own lives in this memoir. 

Books will do that. Remind us that we see ourselves in the ordinary. 

It’s too easy to want to think about books as “mirrors” (where we see ourselves reflected) or “windows” (peering through to share other experiences) far too literally. I neither look like Jonell nor did I grow up in the same circumstances, in the same places, or during same time she did. I still see at least part of me and my life in this book. Perhaps the more ordinary parts — nonetheless, it reminds me that some things are shared quite widely.


That is probably why the Ryan Hart books by Renée Watson can be so broadly enjoyed by so many young readers. Ryan’s sunny personality and totally relatable concerns first appeared in 2020 in Ways to Make Sunshine. The fourth and final Ryan Hart book, Ways to Build Dreams came out in 2023.

Ryan and the Hart family have been likened to Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby books. Afterall, both the Quimby and the Hart families have money concerns but still manage to find pleasure in simple things, the children have recognizable growing pains and concerns, and throughout it all they still find joy.

While Ryan and Ramona don’t look alike — one is Black, the other white — readers of all ages can see themselves reflected as well as looking at another person’s life and concerns. They are both windows and mirrors for all children. Kudos to Renée Watson for presenting an African American family experiencing daily life without trauma, while not forgetting their heritage.

There’s more than pleasure in these books. There is empathy, maybe even confirmation, in the snapshots that create a life well-lived.

About the Author

Reading Rockets’ children’s literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids’ books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Publication Date
February 20, 2024

Related Topics

Children’s Books