Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Nappy Hair: Performance and Discussion with Professor Neal Lester and Author Carolivia Herron

photo of Carolivia Herron, Neal Lester, Nappy Hair

Listen to the Call and Response Performance of Caroliva Herron’s children’s book Nappy Hair. Listen to minutes 5:10–10:38. 

Also, read our review of Nappy Hair.

Listen to Carolivia Herron speak about the evolution of the griot’s telling of this story at minutes 19:59-21:42

How Common Core’s book choices fail children of color

** Children must be able to envision possibilities for their futures. And they must fall in love with books. Culturally relevant books help children discover a passion for reading.**

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers asked, “What do good readers do?” They found that good readers make connections to themselves and their communities. When classroom collections are largely by and about white people, white children have many more opportunities to make connections and become proficient readers. Appendix B of the common core []consistently marginalizes multicultural children’s literature: book lists, school book fairs and book order forms, literacy textbooks (books that teach teachers), and transitional books (books that help children segue from picture books to lengthier texts). [] we must stock classrooms with mirror books for all children. This change in our classroom libraries will also allow children of the dominant culture to see literature about others who look different and live differently.

A second reason we must ensure that all children have mirror books is identity development. They must []see[] artists, writers, political leaders, judges, mathematicians, astronauts, and scientists [that look like them]. They must see authors and illustrators who look like them on book jackets. Children must be able to envision possibilities for their futures. And they must fall in love with books. Culturally relevant books help children discover a passion for reading.

the open book

The Common Core has become a hot-button political issue, but one aspect that’s gone larGuest postgely under the radar is the impact the curriculum will have on students of color, who now make up close to 50% of the student population in the U.S. In this essay, Jane M. Gangi, an associate professor in the Division of Education at Mount Saint Mary College and Nancy Benfer, who teaches literacy and literature at Mount Saint Mary College and is also a fourth-grade teacher, discuss the Common Core’s book choices, why they fall short when it comes to children of color, and how to do better. Originally posted at The Washington Post, this article was reposted with the permission of Jane M. Gangi.How Common Core's Book Choices Fail Children of Color

Children of color and the poor make up more than half the children in the United States. According to the latest census, 16.4 million children (22 percent) live in poverty, and close…

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Calling the Doves By Juan Felipe Herrera

cover Calling the DovesCalifornia poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera shares the story of his migrant farmworker childhood through powerful language and colorful illustrations (by Elly Simmons) in Calling the Doves.

Not once is Juan negative about his humble beginnings; he fills these pages with love and poetry. Born on the road to migrant worker parents in central California, Juan grew up in a one-room house his father built on top of an abandoned car he describes as “a short loaf of bread on wheels.” His father makes bird calls that attract doves and his mother recites poetry at dinner, all of this inspiring him: “I would let my voice fly the way my mother recited poems, the way my father called the doves.”

While the language is always evocative, one particular metaphor may confuse readers. All other metaphors work beautifully, for instance, he describes a green canvas as “a giant tortilla dipped in green tomato sauce,” and ”the wolves were the mountain singers.” However, when describing his family eating outdoors, “the sky was my blue spoon, the wavy clay of the land was my plate” may be taken literally by children (and some adults) who might have trouble making sense of these lines.

Besides that instance, this lyrical story accompanied by striking illustrations tell a story rarely seen in children’s literature, from immigration to migration according to the seasons of melon, lettuce, and grapes, to traditional healing arts. A wonderful celebration of migrant and Mexican-American culture, this book is a great way to teach your child poetry as well as diversity.

Recommendation : Highly Recommended. 6+
Reviewer: Yu-Han Chao

Jeremy’s Dreidel by Ellie Gellman

cover for Jeremy's DreidelIt is Hanukkah season and the Jewish Community Center is hosting a dreidel workshop and Hanukkah celebration to mark the occasion. All the children have grand ideas for making their dreidels unique including Miriam’s “green” dreidel made from recycled materials, Jacob’s singing one made from an old music box, David’s bouncing dreidel made from a rubber ball, and Jeremy’s Braille dreidel. Jeremy’s choice of material, clay, initially does not seem as interesting as that of the other children. However, as he begins to model his clay dreidel with mysterious dots, the other children in the workshop soon recognize its uniqueness and, in the process, they learn a lesson about Braille, blindness, and what it means to have a parent who is blind. (more…)

Rebecca’s Journey Home by Brynn Olenberg Sugarman

cover of Revecca's Journey HomeRebecca’s Journey Home tells the story of the author, Brynn Olenberg Sugarman, bringing home her daughter Rachele (“Rebecca” in the story) from Vietnam. Instead of the “Sugarmans”, the family in the story is the “Steins”. While the title centers on “Rebecca”—the Vietnamese adoptee, the story speaks more of the family’s adoption journey. Therefore, young siblings anticipating the addition of an adopted child into their home (or young siblings recently experiencing such an event) can especially identify with this story. (more…)

I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel

I Am Jazz coverImagine a world where it’s no big deal to be transgender, a safe space for everyone. I Am Jazz is the kind of children’s book that brings us closer to that world.

With a matter-of-fact and endearing voice, Jazz explains her journey to getting everyone around her to accept her identity. The book begins like any other children’s book about a little girl: Jazz’s favorite color is pink, and she likes dancing, singing, soccer, and mermaids. The turning point comes after Jazz introduces her best friends, Samantha and Casey, with whom she enjoys cartwheels and trampolines. “But I’m not exactly like Samantha and Casey,” she continues, “I have a girl brain but a boy body. This is called transgender. I was born this way!” Even as a toddler, Jazz tried to correct her mother when she called her a good boy. “No, Mama. Good GIRL!” (more…)

Firebird by Misty Copeland

Firebird by Misty Copeland coverFirebird is American Ballet Theater principal dancer Misty Copeland’s first children’s book. Now fast rising to the top of the American ballet scene, a feat that is virtually unheard of for a dancer of color, Copeland has been very vocal about the old-fashioned but very prominent and largely inescapable role of race in ballet, of her own struggles to be accepted and to advance as a so-called “non-traditional” ballerina. That she only just graced the cover of Pointe Magazine, a leading ballet monthly, at the very same time she debuted as Odile/Odette in Swan Lake makes the subject of this colorful picture book all the more a propos. Speaking to other young dancers of color, Firebird seeks to hearten those who face what seems to be insurmountable adversity. Through illustrations and a simple text that read as honest in their positivity and that, despite the meaning between the lines (i.e. it is ridiculously and yes, unjustly difficult for non-White dancers to make a serious career of dancing), communicate no bitterness and throw out no blame.

(more…)