Sink or Swim and How Did We Get Here?

Two of my favorite Bay Area history books are designed for kids. I always prefer books that are written simply and clearly, and both of these fit that description.

Sink or Swim was written and illustrated by water activists Cleo Woelfle-Erskine and Annie Danger (who, full disclosure, gave me one of my tattoos – but that's for a different post). I emailed Cleo to ask if there were any more copies of Sink or Swim available and he hasn't gotten back to me. I bet he's super-busy right now since he just finished another book that's been getting well-deserved national attention. (There's more on that book at the Greywater Guerrillas site.) I'm not sure if it's possible to find this book anymore, but if you can track one down, your efforts will be worthwhile. Sink or Swim is a short history of Sausal Creek, the creek that runs from the Oakland Hills, through Dimond Park, and underneath Fruitvale. Although Cleo and Annie document a huge loss for the natural and human environment, the tone is compassionate and optimistic. It would be a great resource for an older child to learn about both local history and the international issue of environmental destruction. Here's an excerpt from the introductory material:

Sink or Swim inside.jpg

Another excellent resource for kids and adults is How Did We Get Here by Miriam Walden and the staff of Urban Habitat. This comic tells the history of Bay Area land use with an emphasis on the history of urban renewal and gentrification, and the impact of those phenomenon on communities of color in particular. Illustrator Christine Wong Yap brings the history alive, showing grim, grey freeways snaking through once vibrant communities, but also the human faces of displacement and struggle. The story is narrated by young people, and emphasizes the role of elders, youth, and everyday people in protecting their own communities. You can read another review at tolerance.org.

I'm always interested in suggestions for reading more. If you have a favorite book for kids about history, or a book that deals with a history in a new or different way, I'd love to hear about it.

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