Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School by Suzanne Slade & Nicole Tadgell #BookerTWashington #DiversekidsBooks

cover with books and bricksWith Books and Bricks by Suzanne Slade is a beautifully written biography of an important historical figure whose life story is not nearly as well-known as it should be. Delicately illustrated by Nicole Tadgell, the book chronicles Booker T. Washington’s evolution from enslaved biracial boy to dedicated educator and leader.

Washington was nine when the Civil War ended and all slaves were freed. But, as Slade writes, “Booker didn’t feel free. He had to work long hours in a salt mine so his family could survive.” Having been drawn to books as a child, he begs his mother to get him a book “And somehow, as often happens with mothers, a miracle appeared,” in the form of a spelling book. (more…)

Mommy Far, Mommy Near – An Adoption Story by Carol A Peacock & Shawn Brownell #TransracialAdoption #BirthMother #DiverseKidsBooks

cover Mommy FAR Mommy NearMommy Far, Mommy Near is a story of adoption told from the perspective of the adoptee—a little girl named Elizabeth who, along with her sister, was adopted from China by a white American family. Illustrated with gently painted images with a dreamy aura, and the story that unfolds is a sort of coming-of-age narrative, as Elizabeth comes to grips with the details and repercussions of her adoption.

Although she has heard the story her whole life – her mother has a book with a silver cover that shows pictures of the process – the book gently reveals her realization that not only are she and her adoptive family of different ethnicities, but that her “mommy far” is an actual person with a family who had given her up for adoption. (more…)

Our Baby From China, An Adoption Story by Nancy D’Antonio #TransracialAdoption #WeNeedDiverseBooks #DiverseKidsBooks #WeHaveDiverseBooks

cover for Our Baby from ChinaOur Baby From China, An Adoption Story is exactly that: the step-by-step story of one family’s adoption of a little Chinese girl who they named Ariela Xiangwei. Told from the perspective of the adoptive parents, the book resembles an intimate travel narrative written specifically with their adoptive daughter in mind.

Illustrated not only with photographs from the trip that the parents took in China, almost half of the book is about the famous places the D’Antonio family visits in China. It also includes a slew of more personal family photographs that seem like they would be more at home in a personal collection than in a book for children. (more…)

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