Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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The Have a Good Day Café by Frances and Ginger Park #Korean #DiverseKidsBooks #WeNeedDiverseBooks

cover The Have a Good Day CafeFrances Park and Ginger Park’s picture book, The Have a Good Day Café, tells the story of Mike and his family’s food cart where they sell his favorite American foods like pizza, pretzels, and popcorn. When his Grandma moves from Korea she has trouble adjusting to her new American lifestyle, and Mike becomes frustrated with her, wishing that she wouldn’t “day dream so much about the past.” As the summer progresses Mike’s family encounters too much competition for street food and he and his Grandma work together, ultimately creating the “Have a Good Day Café.” (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

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

First Rain by Charlotte Herman

cover for First RainFirst 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…)

Jasmine Skies by Sita Brahmachari

Alternate photo for Jasmine SkiesWhen I heard Sita Brahmachari had written a sequel to Artichokes Hearts (Mira in the Present Tense) I could not wait to get my hands and eyes on it. Like a memorable character does, Mira had gone on living in my mind and I was excited to see where her creator had taken her. But while Brahmachari’s second novel does continue to focus on Mira and includes character references from her previous book it did not feel like a sequel or a continuation from the first novel. So while it did not satisfy my curiosity, it does mean this book can stand on its own. A reader can begin with Jasmine Skies and not feel lost.

Jasmine Skies reintroduces the reader to Mira Levenson at the age of 14. After the passing of her grandfather, family ties were tenuously rekindled and Mira is on the way to Kolkata, India to meet her grandfather’s side of the family for the first time. In her bag she has letters taken without permission from her mother. Mira believes these letters hold the clues to discover the reason her grandfather never returned to India and why Mira’s mother and her same aged cousin, Anjali, stopped speaking. Despite the strained relationship, Mira is excited to be staying with Anjali and her daughter, Priya for three weeks. She is excited to meet members of her family for the first time and to get to know Kolkata, the place her grandfather told her stories about all her her life.

(more…)

Hannah’s Way by Linda Glaser

cover for Hannah's WayInspired by a 1996 exhibit at the Minnesota History Center named Unpacking on the Prairie: Jewish Women in the Upper Midwest, comes a heartwarming picture book written by Linda Glaser and illustrated by Adam Gustavson. Hannah’s Way tells the story of Hannah, a young school age girl who has moved with her family from Minneapolis to a new town in northern Minnesota. The reader is brought along with Hannah as she overcomes the anxieties of moving to a new school and trying to make new friends. The central conflict hinges on her class picnic falling on a Saturday, the day of rest for Orthodox Jews in which they cannot work or ride in cars. As the story unfolds Hannah tries desperately to appease her family and her religious beliefs, while also wanting to make new friends that will love and accept her.

Gustavson’s illustrations are detailed works of art with a feel of historical authenticity. The images are large in scope, depicting Hannah’s world with a narrative power as strong as the story.

Hannah’s Way is an uplifting story not only for those who have felt isolated due to religious differences, but for any school age child who has had to move from a previously familiar place to a new home. Although Hannah struggles to balance what it means to be true to her faith, while also wanting to fit in with her classmates, at the end of the book she learns an unexpected lesson about kindness that will move any reader.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended Ages 3+

Reviewer: Erin Koehler

Nina and the Traveling Spice Shed by Madhvi Ramani

cover Nina and the Travelling Spice ShedIf your readers like the Magic Tree House series, they will probably be interested in Nina and the Traveling Spice Shed. Nina is a British Indian, who really would like nothing to do with India. At school, Nina’s class is doing projects on foreign countries and despite her parents’ strong suggestions she wants to report on any country BUT India. Yet, she arrives late to school and the only country left is India. Not able to face her parents and her disappointment after school, Nina visits her eccentric Aunt Nishi. Aunt Nishi sends her to the spice shed in her backyard and that is where Nina’s traveling adventures begin. Nina’s first stop—there are more books to come—is predictably India. She discovers India is more than “hot weather and poor people”. (more…)

Elan, Son of Two Peoples by Heidi Smith Hyde

cover Elan son of two peoplesElan, Son of Two Peoples by Heidi Smith Hyde and illustrated by Mikela Prevost is an artistically captivating and rustic story about thirteen-year-old Elan’s journey to becoming a man across the cultures of Judaism and the Acoma Pueblo. Set in 1898, Elan and his parents travel from their home in San Francisco to Albuquerque, New Mexico where his mother’s family lives. Elan’s father is a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, and his mother is the granddaughter of a Pueblo Indian chief. The story takes place just days after Elan’s thirteenth birthday, a very important coming-of-age marker in both cultures. The reader does get a glimpse of his Bat Mitzvah and his Jewish culture, but a majority of the story focuses on Elan’s trip to New Mexico and the ceremony that honors him as a Pueblo tribesman. (more…)