This 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
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
Perhaps 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.
Reviewer: Yu-Han Chao
What’s not to love about an alphabet book with twenty-six profiles of two centuries’ worth of diverse, accomplished women in the arts, sciences, sports, and politics, especially when they’re accompanied by bold, wood-cut style portraits in primary colors?
Children and adults alike will enjoy reading about artist Maya Lin, writer Zora Neale Hurston, Dr. Virginia Apgar, Olympic-winning Flo-Jo, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and more. Each of these women’s stories alone is inspiring, but the collective argument they make is even more powerful: that women can be anything and do anything, and have.
Of the mix, X will likely be the favorite profile of many readers, as “X is for the women whose names we don’t know.” It credits the unsung, the unrecorded, uneducated, matriarchs, ancestors, “all that’s happening now and all that is still to come.” It’s not just for girls and women, either: “It’s for you and for me, the girls and boys and men and women and everyone in between helping to make the world safe, compassionate, and healthy.”
Rad American Women A-Z is a truly inclusive alphabet book for all readers, and even comes with suggested activities, “26 things that you can do to be rad,” a resource guide, books about rad women, further reading, and a list of websites and organizations. Great for home use, this book is also perfect for libraries and classrooms to incorporate into diverse curriculums.
Recommended: Highly, ages 5+.
Reviewer: Yu-Han Chao
Announcing a new and much-needed book for the adoption community.
LIONS ROARING, FAR FROM HOME: AN ANTHOLOGY BY ETHIOPIAN ADOPTEES
Editors: Aselefech Evans, Annette-Kassaye Berhanu, and Maureen McCauley Evans
We are delighted to invite Ethiopian adoptees from around the world to submit essays about what Ethiopia means to you, and how being adopted has affected you. Your voice deserves to be heard. The book’s tentative title–Lions Roaring, Far From Home–is related to Ethiopian history and culture.
Here are some ideas for an essay: Recollections of early childhood in Ethiopia, and what you remember of life in Ethiopia prior to adoption. What life has been like for you in your adoptive country, and might have been like for you had you been raised in Ethiopia. Reflections on family in the country where you were raised, and family in Ethiopia, known or unknown.
You can write…
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Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, is memorable, and not only because it won the prestigious National Book Award in 2014, the 2015 NAACP Image award and is a 2015 Newberry Award Honor Book. At its roots, Brown Girl Dreaming feels distinctly American.
Woodson’s memoir speaks of a connection and separation with family as she reflects on her birth in Ohio, her early years in South Carolina, and her family’s move to New York City. Throughout the memoir she recalls the absence of her father, the strength of her grandparents’ love, and the disconnect of what makes a place “home” as she moves between the American North and South during the 1960s and 1970s.
Woodson’s narrative is linear: the book is organized into four parts and chronologically follows Woodson’s life from her birth to the later stages of her childhood. Told completely in poetic free verse, Woodson’s poetry is easily accessible, following more traditional modes of form and lineation. Each poem is powerful, yet they work cohesively to tell Woodson’s childhood stories of learning to love writing and herself.
Brown Girl Dreaming is not a story that will disappear lightly. Its themes are strikingly contemporary as Woodson’s young narrator lets the reader in on a journey that seeks to understand how race and faith shape a person’s childhood, family, and friendships. This book is one that walks quietly and affects deeply. In short: Brown Girl Dreaming is a book to return to, and a book that will continue to hold its head high for a long time.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended, Ages: 11+
Reviewed by Erin Koehler
Mixed Diversity Reads Children’s Book Review www.mixeddiversityreads.com is growing. We’ve just created a relationship with one of the largest publishers of children’s books in the United States and we need more Readers and Reviewers!
We review children’s books with protagonists who fall into all categories of underrepresented races, religions, family structures, disabilities, sexual orientation and gender identity. We need volunteers who love to read picture, chapter, MG, and YA books and write about them. We often “compensate” with a free copy of the books you review although half of our reviews are of digital copies of the books. Although we have reviewers of all identities, we especially appreciate the “insider” perspective in our reviews so we strongly encourage those who are members of underrepresented populations or who teach or do library work with kids and/or teenagers from underrepresented populations to apply.
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