Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

Home » 2015 » March

Monthly Archives: March 2015

Going Home, Coming Home by Truong Tran and Ann Phong #WeNeedDiverseBooks #Vietnamese #DiverseKidsBooks

cover Going Home Coming HomeGoing Home, Coming Home is a bilingual (English-Vietnamese) story book for all readers who feel “home is two different places,” on the left and right sides of their heart. The author, Truong Tran, sets this book in Vietnam and based it on his own upbringing. But I think the story will ring true with any family who has left their first home to make a second home in a different country. (more…)

Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off #WeNeedDiverseBooks #WeHaveDiverseBooks #DiverseKidsBooks #Magic #Hispanic #Latino #SingleMom

Real Life: Imagined

cover for Zapato Power-Freddie Ramos Takes OffFreddie Ramos’s story is pretty common: Mom worked to get through community college in order to get a better job, Dad passed away while in the service; neighbors, friends, and teachers all make up the atmosphere for his ordinary life. But one day Freddie gets a box with a pair of purple shoes (which is great because now mom doesn’t have to buy any!) and these shoes give him ZAPATO POWER! So Freddie has the power to zip by in a flash of dust and smoke. How does he use his super powers? Where did the shoes come from? How will this saga continue? Keep reading… (more…)

Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes and Elizabeth Zunon #WeNeedDiverseBooks #WeHaveDiverseBooks #DiverseKidsBooks #Blackpoetry #MilitaryKid

cover Poems in the AtticPoems in the Attic is the picture book story of a seven-year-old African American girl who, during a visit to her grandmother’s attic, finds a box of poetry that her mother wrote as a child. Her mother’s poems are full with the yearning for an Air Force father who is often away and the wonder of discovering new places as the family moves again and again when her dad returns from deployments.

Nikki Grimes, the author makes several bold, creative choices in the telling of this story. The protagonist is never named and the story has a polyphonic poetic narrative voice. The protagonist’s mother’s voice comes through on the right side of the pages in the Tanka poems the protagonist is reading and the protagonist’s voice is represented on the left side of the pages in free verse poetry. (more…)

Happy Hair by Mechal Renee Roe #KidsNaturalHair #WeNeedDiverseBooks #DiverseKidsBooks #Afrohair #curlyhair #naturalhair

cover for Happy HairHappy Hair celebrates natural hair and emphasizes the versatility and beauty of a girl’s ethnic hair texture. Should a young girl pick up this book, I predict she will experience a boost in her confidence about her hair and her overall beauty (and probably get some new styling ideas!) Each illustration features a different hair style (“Fab Fro,” “Bang-n-Bantu,” and “Wash-n-Go” to name a few) communicates pride and strength in the beauty of the “do.” And, a rhyming caption such as “Cool Vibes, Accessorize!” and “Pom-Pom Puffs Pretty Stuff”, accompanies each style on the adjoining page. Young children will easily remember these encouraging rhymes about their hair long after reading this book! (more…)

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quinero #WeNeedDiverseBooks #DiverseKidsBooks #DiverseYANovels #BilingualKidsBooks

cover Gabi A Girl in piecesGabi, a Girl in Pieces is told through the journal entries of Gabi Hernandez, a light-skinned bilingual Mexican-American 17-year-old girl with a lot going on the home front. One of her two best friends is gay, while the other is unexpectedly pregnant, her mother is overbearing, and her father is a committed meth addict. Yet, Gabi still finds joy in her life.

She’s got a lot of angst and a dark sense of humor, which help her deal with her less than perfect circumstances and makes her one of the most relatable characters I’ve ever read. She’s smart, but not brilliant. Strong, but often shy, she usually thinks of the best reaction to a situation only after it’s already happened. She’s self-conscious about her body, lack of money, and drug addict father but not crippled under the weight of these worries. In her diary, she curses regularly, but in the rebellious teenage “I-just-learned-swearing-feels-good” kind of way. Gabi’s two biggest life goals are to get into Berkeley and get a boyfriend. She works diligently at both. (more…)

Lakas and the Manilatown Fish/Si Lakas at ang Isdang Manilatown by Anthony D. Robles #WeNeedDiverseBooks #DiverseKidsBooks #BilingualKidsBooks

cover Lakas and Manilatown FishA colorful, English-Tagalog bilingual romp from Manilatown through San Francisco Bay, Lakas and the Manilatown Fish presents a modern, colorful tale of the legendary kissing fish.

The story begins in a realistic manner: Lakas’s father takes him to the Happy Fish Man to buy a fish to make sinigang. But the fish turns out to be a talking fish and escapes from its tank, kissing people along the way and making them fall “dizzy in love.” It kisses a bus driver and takes her bus, kisses a manong and takes his clothes and teeth, all the while chased by Lakas, his father, the Happy Fish Man, and the manong. When everyone falls into the ocean, the fish jumps in and rescues them. That night, the fish returns home with Lakas and his family and they all eat rice, chile and tomatoes (no fish).

An action-filled story showcasing Manilatown and San Francisco buildings and scenery, Lakas and the Manilatown Fish has the familiar repetition and climactic buildup that will certainly make kids say, “Again!” after each reading. The lovely illustrations by Carl Angel add additional character and color to this striking children’s book.

Recommendation: Recommended; ages 6 and up

Reveiwer: Yu-Han Chao

Buy Lakas and the Manilatown Fish/Si Lakas at ang Isdang Manilatown Now

Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel/si Lakas at Ang Makibaka Hotel by Anthony D. Robles #WeNeedDiverseBooks #Diversekidsbooks #BilingualKidsBooks

covers Lakas Makilaba HotelA hopeful, bilingual English-Tagalog tale about activism and a little boy motivating adults to fight for their rights, Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel is so much more than a mere vehicle for morals, providing musical writing and expressive artwork from cover to cover.

The lines here are filled with vivid metaphors and musicality, such as a sky the color of mangoes, a woman whose face “looked like a tomato,” and one of the first characters Lakas meets sings, “The roof was leaking in my hotel room / and the rain hit my buckets, TICK-A-BOOM! TICK-A-BOOM!”

The illustrations by Carl Angel make each page an explosion of color, with endearing depictions of working class characters and the little boy, while the rich landlord wears a hideous outfit of green thousand dollar bills.

Lakas gives all his change to the men singing or dancing in the street, and even surrenders his lucky dime to the rich landlord in hopes of changing his mind about evicting Lakas’s new friends, the tenants about to be displaced. Lakas organizes the tenants in a protest, and like the tenants of the Trinity Plaza Apartments in San Francisco in 2002, they win their battle.

Recommendation: Recommended; ages 6 and up

Reviewer: Yu-Han Chao

Buy Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel Now

A Wreath For Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson #WeNeedDiverseBooks #DiverseKidsbooks

cover EmmettTillThis is a somber and sobering collection of poems with illustrations which attempt to capture the kind of cruelty that nobody wants to explain to their children, but we have to, don’t we? Nelson writes, “Forget him not. Though if I could, I would / forget much of that racial memory,” and she writes with such charge, with such sorrow that sits in your mouth, the kind of sorrow that you don’t want to swallow because if you do, maybe you’d forget.

Marilyn Nelson remembers the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955; she was nine. Emmett was 14 years old, and the book, although strong enough for the minds of adults is gentle enough for a discussion with a bright, open child. The vocabulary is advanced, probably more suited for a pre-teen, but a smart 8 year old would be fine with the language. In fact, it could be a good vocabulary building book with phrases like parallel universe and terms like witness and atrocity.

While reading the piece I often wondered, is this the kind of thing you read with a child? And over and over the answer is yes. Nelson addresses this in her foreword, where she explains the form which her poems take, “Instead of thinking too much about the painful subject of lynching, I thought about…the strict form [and how it is] a way of protecting myself”. So would a parent have to delve into the harsh topic of lynching? Not unless you felt your child was ready for such a thing, but this book would still reach out to your child because children are smart and understanding. They have sadness and complications. They understand our sadnesses, our triumphs and sorrow, and although deep and dark, sadness must break to light. The illustrations in this book lend themselves to brightness, they call on those silver-lining moments, and they represent, just as Emmett Till does, innocence.

Recommendation: Recommended; Ages: mature 8 year olds – 14

Review by Rachelle Escamilla

Buy A Wreath for Emmett Till

The Great and Mighty Nikko by Xavier Garza #Diversekidsbooks #WeNeedDiverseBooks

cover for The Great and Mighty NikkoBeyond Duckies

We all know that the five little ducks went out to play, and we all know that counting sheep before sleep is the best for calming the kids down, but how about counting Lucha Libres? The Great and Mighty Nikko is a fantastic, colorful, bilingual, counting book.

So, Nikko’s mom just wants him to stop playing with his wrestling figurines and get to bed, but Nikko has something else in mind, and that’s when it happened: NIkko and the reader leave the bedroom and enter a wrestling arena where one after another masked warriors enter the stage to do battle.

Xavier Garza and Cinco Puntos Press really did a fantastic job here. Luche Libres are such a great childhood favorite and thus provide an accurate cultural representation for readers. Often times, publishing companies don’t have editors with perspectives which allow for nuance in othered cultures. So tired, old images and concepts begin to grade on readers: there are only so many pinatas, tacos and burritos the Mexican/Chicano culture can get behind. This book provides diversity for the Publishing World, but it also breaks up the stereotypes that have been perpetuated by that same world. The Great and Mighty Nikko! will be released on August 4th, 2015

Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Ages 18 months – 5 years

Reviewer: Rachelle Escamilla

Buy The Great and Mighty Nikko on Pre-Order Now

Heather Has Two Mommies –25th Anniversary Revised Edition by Leslea Newman #DiverseKidsBooks

Heather-Has-Two-Mommies 25th EditionPerhaps you’ve heard of Heather Has Two Mommies already, because after all, the book has twenty-five years of controversial history under its belt. But in 2015, this new edition really doesn’t come across controversial anymore. The main conflict in the story is how Heather will fare on her first day of school, not how many mommies she has. As the teacher Ms. Molly at the end of the book says, “Each family is special. The most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love each other.”

Grammatically, the last two words should have been “one another” (three or more people), not “each other” (two people), but we can excuse that because “two” is a recurring theme in this book. It’s Heather’s favorite number and reflected everywhere in her life: she has two arms, legs, eyes, ears, hands, feet, pets, and mommies.

Although at one point during story time Heather wonders, “Am I the only one here who doesn’t have a daddy?” we realize this isn’t the case when the teacher invites the class to draw pictures of their families. The results illustrate a variety of families: traditional nuclear, single mother, single father, three-generation, divorced and remarried, and of course, Heather with her two mommies.

Heather Has Two Mommies is a first-day-of-school story that honors all kinds of families, as a socially-conscious children’s book should. This book will help any family transitioning a child to a new classroom or environment as well as teach them that while we come from different homes, what matters most is love and acceptance.

Recommended: 3+

Reviewer: Yu-Han Chao

Buy Heather Has Two Mommies-25th Anniversary Edition