Books for Kids: A Review of The Wedding Portrait by Innosanto Nagara

Counting on Community was the theme of this year’s PEPS Benefit Luncheon. Copies decorated the tables and everyone who attended came home with this colorful board book that counts up fun neighborhood activities and relationships.

When PEPS contacted the author, Innosanto Nagara, to ask if we could share his book at the Luncheon, he said simply that community belongs to everyone!

Innosanto Nagara is both author and illustrator, and his first book – another board book – is A is for Activist. Also filled with bright colors and available in Spanish, the book packs in vibrant vocabulary and world-shaping ideas to share with kids. Like Counting on Community, there is also a little secret to spot on each page – a bonus in any read-aloud.

My Night in the Planetarium is a picture book that works well as a read-aloud or for an older elementary reader. The story comes from Nagara’s childhood in Indonesia where his father wrote and produced plays. As a young boy, Innosanto often played roles in these performances. One play was both popular and controversial, with soldiers who attempted to arrest the actors. It was on that night that Nagara went with his mother to spend the night in the planetarium, which was beautiful and comforting. What is remarkable about this picture book, in addition to its luminous illustrations, is how easily Naraga communicates complicated information and history about Indonesia for young children. Although it tells a story that is perilous, there is a strong sense safety and love.

His fourth book is recently out, and we had the chance to review a copy, with the hope that a book tour might bring Innosanto Nagara to the Seattle-area for a signing or event sometime this year. The new book is The Wedding Portrait, another beautifully illustrated picture book for older readers. It starts with the curiosity of kids visiting Naraga’s house and wondering about a framed newspaper clipping that hangs on his wall.

This framed photo frames up the book, which successfully explains how people have peacefully resisted injustice and “why sometimes we break the rules,” using understandable stories from history. Nagara defines many grown-up words and concepts so well, it makes you wonder why we consider them grown-up words at all!

He comes back to the photo in the newspaper by telling his own story, about his marriage and wedding that  took place – with all the invited guests – at a protest. The photo captures a traditional wedding kiss just before the bride and groom were arrested for civil disobedience. The portrait that hangs in their home differs from the traditional wedding photo because it’s a news story that tells how they celebrated their marriage, with family and friends, and in support of the cause of justice.


About the Author

Laura has been writing copy around town, editing even more words and thinking about how we tell our stories to each other. Laura knows her commas, mostly – and admires good writing everywhere. She is an MLIS with a deep interest in books for adults and children. At home, she is the mother of 3 inspiring kids.

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