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Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood Sugar Hill by Carole Boston Weatherford is an illustrated celebration of famous African-Americans who lived and thrived during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The book is written using rhyming text, introducing the people and the culture of the neighborhood. The illustrations are bright and inviting for both young and older readers. The illustrator, R. Gregory Christie weaves style, color, size and placement of the words into the page so the reader is drawn to stop and notice the details of how Sugar Hill might have looked. The last two pages of the book feature short biographies, giving more details about the featured residents. (more…)
Many Ways: How Families Practice Their Beliefs and Religions by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly, published in 2006, is a book that attempts to raise awareness of spiritual diversity within families and faith traditions. The book views different religious traditions through a universal lens, exploring faiths like Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. Rotner and Kelley accomplish this by beginning the book showing children participating in everyday activities like going to school, working, and playing, then shifting into separate traditions that show how these faith-based practices are connected through the global ideas of stories, music, and symbols.
Instead of using the traditional mode of illustrations to show examples of diverse religious and cultural families, Many Ways depicts these ideas through photography. This can be viewed positively, as it demonstrates to readers that a wide variety of religious practices are being celebrated and enjoyed by real children around the world. Children of many religions can read this book and see their own spiritual practices while learning that other children with religions different than their own share fundamental similarities. (more…)
I began reading Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go with my adoptive mother and adult adoptee eyes. As I read, I thought often of my pre-teen daughter who is adopted from Haiti. Although the author, Laura Wagner, does not write into the adoption conversation per se, she offers a story of Haiti and its people developed with respect and beauty.
Many people outside Haiti can only see the country through the perspective of “other”, but Wagner does the excellent work of telling the country’s story of difficulties, danger, and poverty alongside stories of humanity, hope, and strength.
It’s as important for babies and toddlers to feel like their emotions are understood and validated as it is for them to learn how to express how they feel, whether it’s through body language or words. A Kiss Means I Love You, a picture book with photographs of diverse children and families in various emotional and physical states, does just this.
Ranging from a smile to coughs and sneezes, the formula of “a ___ means I’m ___” will help babies and toddlers expand their vocabulary for expressing themselves, and hopefully develop sympathy and empathy through seeing the different children in various moods and states in the book. Like Dr. Seuss’s My Many Colored Days, the simple words on each page may help a child feel their emotions validated and shared by others.
This book would be great for daycares, especially diverse ones—my daughter took it to school and the toddlers matched one another’s names to the children on the pages, seeing themselves in them. A Kiss Means I Love You makes a good bedtime story as well, ending with the familiar line (in a new order), “I love you…goodnight.”
Reviewer: Yu-Han Chao
Recommended: 2-5 years
In addition to portraying families of various ethnicities, All Families are Special shows just about every kind of family: children raised by grandparents, same-sex parents, widower, absentee parent, adoptive parents, unmarried parents, divorced parents, remarried parents, immigrants, and a family with pets. It goes beyond simple listing, however, and addresses the universal sad times and happy times that all these families can experience.
Reading and hearing about all types of families can help readers become more open-minded, and any child who’s part of one of the familial structures listed will feel included and validated. A further value to this book is that it shows that these diverse families go through a lot of the same experiences. Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim wrote of the value of fairy tales and children’s literature—they help children clarify their emotions and recognize their difficulties. This value is present in All Families Are Special, which reminds children that “When there are bad times, families help each other to feel better” and “When there are good times, families enjoy them together.”
Recommended: 5-8 years
Book Reviewer: Yu-Han Chao
December 13th, Atlanta, Ga: African Biracial Orphan Author Launches Two Family History Picture Books
Nigerian-Hungarian Author Theresa Mamah has lived in the United States since she and her twin were orphaned at 13-years-old. The daughter of a Nigerian father and Hungarian Mother, Mamah knew Nigeria as home and Hungary as a destination for maternal-side family reunions and vacations. Preserving the family stories from both sides of her family has been the passion driving her creative endeavors and culminated in the publication of two children’s books, Ice and What the Baby Saw.
She introduces both to the United States Reader at the book Launch, on Saturday afternoon, December 13th where she will be reading from, and signing copies of both books. Full information is on the featured poster and you can RSVP for free to attend. The book launch is from 1pm-4pm. Take your children out for an afternoon of literary fun featuring stories of international, intercultural focus
RSVP for book launch.
Best-Selling YA novelist Heidi Durrow Discusses Multiracial Identity with Omilaju Miranda of Mixed Diversity Reads
Heidi Durrow is a super woman. The New York Times best selling author of the 2008 PEN/Bellwether award winning The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, that gained unintended popularity amongst the YA audience is also an ivy-league and Stanford University educated lawyer, and journalist who hosts the national podcast ‘The Mixed Experience‘ and organizes the annual Mixed Remixed Festival, celebrating the arts produced by biracial and multiracial peoples.
On November 14th, Durrow, who is the daughter of a white, Danish mother and black, U.S.American father, interviewed Omilaju Miranda, founder of Mixed Diversity Reads Children’s Book Review, ostensibly to discuss Mixed Diversity Reads Children’s Book Review as a resource for those seeking picture and YA books with mixed heritage protagonists.
But the conversation veered into an unplanned discussion of multiracial U.S.American identity as well as literacy and representation in children’s literature. Listen to the interview here and become a new fan of ‘The Mixed Experience‘ Podcast. Follow Heidi at @ and the Mixed Remixed Festival at @mixedremixed or on facebook at Mixed Remixed.
Perfect Lil Blends: A Reality Book that Celebrates the Diversity of Multicultural Children is like a series of love letters from parents to their children accompanied by their children’s portraits. Compiled by Luke Whitehead, the founder of Mixed Nation, this is a photo essay of children of mixed heritage from almost every racial, cultural, and ethnic background. Yes, most of these children are exceptionally beautiful however, similar to, but more personal than, Kip Fulbeck’s photo essay book Mixed, each photo of a child is accompanied by a description of the child’s life interests and a note of dedication from the parents to the child, making this more than a vanity book of portraits. (more…)
This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman is an easy way to introduce a child to the joy motivating people to celebrate in Pride Parades every year. Easy to follow, simple, two line rhymes in inconspicuous locations on the pages, which seem to overflow with vibrant illustrations, describe the many sights common in a Gay Pride Parade. Not a part of the sparse text, but present in the illustrations are many of the political messages that are commonly seen at a Gay Pride Parade. While the illustrations are fun, this isn’t like the books we normally review, which represent LGBT-parents leading a family. There are children in a few of the illustrations but most of the illustrations feature adults having parade fun, which means that in addition to images of people with rainbow colored hair, parade floats, flags and Carnivalesque costumes, there are illustrations of men without shirts and adults kissing. When I saw the images of bare chested men, bikini-top wearing marchers and adults kissing, I had a strong oppositional reaction to the idea of showing this to a child however reading the discussion guide in the back of the book helped me to see that a child looking at these illustrations would not read the same sexual context that I see, into these images. (more…)
Education & Empathy; Thong’s Round Is A Tortilla & Green Is A Chile Pepper and the Importance of Diversity in Toddler Literacy
One thing that’s most lovely about books directed at very young children is their ability to invite and include. The books Round is a Tortilla and Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Greenfield Thong are musical and colorful representations of the Mexican-American subculture.
The inclusion of subcultures and images which portray children of color is so immensely important to the development of empathy. Exposing very young children to stories where foods, colors, cultures, and concepts are dissimilar from what they see, allows them to see the world differently. In addition, finding comparisons is equally important. So, in these books, instead of something being round like a cookie, it’s round like a tortilla, or instead of green like the grass it’s green like a chile pepper. The shapes and colors are the familiar and the tortilla and chile pepper are the unfamiliar (unless you cook some spicey food!). In addition, if your child does happen to be part of the subculture represented, the mere presence of people who look (have brown skin, in the case of these stories) like your child reinforces their own sense of inclusion.
So, a little brown girl with a red flower reads a book while sitting on the sill of a square window. This story could be any children’s book, but that seemingly small adjective: brown, changes everything! It doesn’t alter reality, because in reality our county is made of complex color combinations and subcultures, but it alters the trend in children’s books. A book about shapes is important for skill-building and recognition; it helps reinforce terminology, language and develop synaptic pathways for your child, but oh! That brown, that little qualifier, brown: well, it encourages diversity, inclusion, empathy, it reinforces the representations of the self.
Finally, the minds of children are both absorbent and reflective. They can, like a sponge, retain all that’s around them while simultaneously finding themselves, and their place in that same space. Round like a Tortilla invites your child to consider shapes outside the normal concepts, it includes your child-of-color or a non-related subculture and it helps children absorb information while finding their own reflections. What more do you need in a toddler’s shape book?
Highly recommended for ages 0 – 4
Reviewer: Rachelle Linda Escamilla