Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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Little Chanclas, by José Lozano #DiverseKidsBooks #Chicano #Hispanic #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Comfort Objects and Chicanismo

cover for Little ChanclasLily Luján likes her chanclas, they fit her feet perfectly, they clack clack when she walks, and more importantly, they are part of her identity.

Little Chanclas, by José Lozano,celebrates the individuality of one little girl and her tireless clack clacking. Like most developing children, Lily has found something she loves, something that is comforting and uniquely hers; in early childhood development speak, that’s called a “Comfort Object”. Developing a dependency on a Comfort Object is pretty common among preschool-aged children and helps them cope with the changing world around them. Sometimes the Comfort Object is a blanket or a teddy bear, but for Lily it is her CHANCLAS. (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…)

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

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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

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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

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The Barking Mouse by Antonio Sacre

cover The Barking MouseBased on a Cuban folk tale, The Barking Mouse uses a cute story to serve up the importance of learning to speak different languages. In the story, a family of mice on a picnic runs into trouble when brother and sister mouse taunt a cat, as Mama Mouse and Papa Mouse smooch. When the cat chases them, Mamá Mouse saves the day by barking, which scares the cat and makes him run away. The bright, cartoon illustrations make the story attractive to younger readers, but there’s a fair amount of text on each page, which means that it’s a definite read-aloud book. The story is a little bit silly and might get tired kind of quickly, but there’s a lot of really nice, realistic family joking that’s fun to read.

The text itself is interspersed with English and Spanish, and there’s a glossary at the front of the book to show readers words they might be unfamiliar with. There’s also a note from the author, geared towards parents, explaining his own experiences with bilingualism as well as racial and language- based bullying. This note alone makes the book, and really hammers the moral of the story home.

Reviewer: Alejandra Oliva

Recommendation: Mildly Recommend for ages 4-7

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