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Category Archives: First Generation American
Frances 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…)
Adults may find turkey dry and tasteless, but for Tuyet a turkey is symbolic of being the cultural majority, of fitting in, doing what one is supposed to do. Duck for Turkey Day follows a little Vietnamese American girl, Tuyet, who’s terribly upset her family is having duck for Thanksgiving. What follows is an engaging story of accepting of one’s heritage as well as general diversity.
Immigrants often have to negotiate how to preserve and honor their traditions while allowing their children to grow up American, and this book portrays a matter-of-fact immigrant family that plans on cooking some delicious duck regardless of what their little girl thinks. Some parents may give in to their Americanized kids and cook American food, but as Tuyet finds out, some of her classmates had noodles, enchiladas, or tofu turkey on “turkey day” as well. (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
Inspired 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
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…)
In the United States, much is made of accepting minorities and “exotic” cultures, but The Way We Do It In Japan reverses this scenario by dropping a little American boy, Gregory, and his mixed family (Jane from Kansas and Hidiaki from Japan) in the middle of Tokyo.
Gregory learns to do things “the way we do it in Japan” when it comes to bathing, sleeping, and speaking Japanese. But at school he finds that his peanut butter sandwich is “the wrong kind of lunch” as everyone else has rice, fish and fermented soybeans. The next day, however, the cafeteria makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for everybody to make him feel included. In real life, however, while this may very well happen in Japan, school cafeterias in the U.S. are unlikely to all of a sudden serve fish and fermented soybeans to show their acceptance of Japanese students. So is the message here that foreign countries will always whole-heartedly embrace Americans?
The illustrations that accompany this thought-provoking story are feature exaggerated facial features, and the father’s shifty-looking facial expressions can be particularly distracting. Despite that and the debatable lesson, this book still presents a positive model of cultural acceptance, and also teaches some Japanese terms, pronunciation, and culture.
Recommended: 4-9 years
Elan, 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…)
This book, written by husband and wife team Rick Noguchi & Deneen Jenks, is a real gem. It tells the story of a young Japanese American girl, Mariko, and her family as they return to California after being imprisoned in American concentration camps (also known as internment camps or relocation centers; simply referred to as ‘Camp’ by Japanese Americans of that time) during World War II. An authors’ note provides additional context at the end of the book.
I found this book to be excellent in several ways. To begin with, the artwork of Michelle Reiko Kumata is a revelation. It is apparent that the illustrations were based on actual black-and-white photos from the 1940s, but Kumata’s pictures bring the story to life in beautiful full color. Drawn with bold outlines, her pictures are full of patterns and textures from period fabrics, shadowing that adds depth to every scene, and subtle, authentic details such as the furoshiki-wrapped bundle that one woman carries on her way to Camp. Though the story’s subject matter is far from uplifting, it was still a joy to gaze at every page of this book. (more…)