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Comfort Objects and Chicanismo
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
Going 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
Gabi, 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
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
Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel/si Lakas at Ang Makibaka Hotel by Anthony D. Robles #WeNeedDiverseBooks #Diversekidsbooks #BilingualKidsBooks
A 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
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
Based 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
First Rain by Charlotte Herman and illustrated by Kathryn Mitter is a wonderful tale of personal growth through family love. When Abby and her parents move to Israel they are sad to have to leave Abby’s Grandma behind. As Abby finds out that Israel is an exciting new place, she tells her Grandma all about her new experiences through letters and telephone calls. Abby’s relationship with her Grandma is poignant without being emotionally heavy. Their love carries the reader through the text and Mitter’s bright illustrations. (more…)
Sora and the Cloud is like the children’s book version of a Murakami novel—a surreal adventure that leaves readers unsure what to make of it when it ends. The illustrations are lovely watercolor and ink on rice paper, adding convincing realistic detail to an imaginative story; it’s also written in English and Japanese, so bilingual parents can read the same story to their child.
The book starts out realistically enough: in the opening pages, Sora is a crawling baby. He learns to climb, walk, and as he gets older he makes his way up a tree. At the top of the tree, he cannot resist climbing onto a cloud, which takes him on an adventure through the sky. Sora and the cloud see skyscrapers, an amusement park, a festival of kites, and an airplane before they fall asleep together. Ironically, after falling asleep on the cloud, Sora dreams of realistic things like splashing in a big puddle or digging in wet sand.
Compared to monsters and villains from a lot of fairytales and other children’s tales, this surreal and beautiful journey would make a lovely bedtime story for any child, helping them drift off to sleep dreaming of fluffy clouds and pastel colors while learning some English and Japanese.
Recommended: 3-8 years.
Reviewer: Yu-Han Chao
The story begins with three old men knocking at the door to tell the young narrator’s family that they have seen ghosts in the neighboring field. This tale, as explained on the book jacket, is based on an experience of the author’s ancestor, and takes place in a Japanese American farming community in the 1920s. The body of the story provides no explanation of the time and place, and the vague setting might not grab or hold the attention of children who are looking for something more relatable. What may engage them is the comic flavor of the three old men, referred to as The Troublesome Triplets, and the scared feeling evoked by the ghosts they describe. The suspense builds as the narrator and his father go out to the neighbor’s field to investigate. (more…)