Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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Documentary Film –“Off and Running: An American Coming of Age Story” by Avery Klein-Cloud and Nicole Opper

Cover for Off and RunningSpanning two years in the life of high school track star, Avery Klein-Cloud, this is the documentary of her journey to reconnect with her birth mother. New Yorker Avery Klein-Cloud is the African American daughter of two white Jewish mothers and sister to two brothers –one Korean and the other African American and Puerto Rican. The documentary opens with Avery reaching out to her birth mother and in a heart wrenching, emotional journey of attempting to balance living a high performer’s daily life with hoping to fill in the voids of her identity, we watch Avery struggle with both of her families, school, and a new found Black awareness as part of her personal self-knowing. At the risk of spoiling, this film is a testimony to the power that love and raising a child with all possible social, familial, and educational advantages have to make sure that those who lose their way make it back home.


I highly recommend this film for everyone and definitely for transracial families and soon-to-be transracial adoptive parents.


Available on Netflix , Shop PBS, and Amazon.

–Transracial Adopted Child (African American/Jewish)

Recommendation: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

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Felicia’s Favorite Story by Leslea Newman

Felicia's Favorite Story by Leslea NewmanThis is a simple story that demonstrates a girl’s self-knowledge and love of her own familial history. It’s Felicia’s bedtime and before she goes to sleep she wants a story but not one from a book—in classic, creative recognition of a young child’s vanity, Newman has Felicia ask her mom to tell her a story instead of reading her a story—the story of her adoption. Felicia and her moms become a family through an at-birth adoption in which New York native Mama Nessa and Puerto Rican native Mama Linda travel to Guatemala to bring Felicia home .
As her Mama Linda tells her the story, Felicia interrupts, often inserting her humor and her own retelling of the story into her mother’s narrative. Felicia isn’t the only one with humor as her mothers join in with humor of their own which includes ponderings of why they didn’t adopt certain animals instead of a child and stories of how they chose Felicia’s name. If you have an expressive child, you and your child will see their quick wit and self-indulgence in the character of Felicia and you and your significant other in the bargaining, nurturing ways of Mama Linda and Mama Nessa. Adriana Romo’s illustrations look like paintings; Romo even frames them in borders that refer to Latin American cultural art, pulling the reader in as admiring observer as well as reader.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Ages 4+

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco

In our mothers house coverThis is one of the best first person narrative children’s books I’ve ever read. The voice is so authentic I thought it was a children’s nonfiction story until I read the back bookflap. An African descendant woman tells the story of her life with her two mothers, Asian brother and carrot-top sister from their at-birth adoptions until their parents pass away, leaving the family home to the protagonist’s brother. Polacco’s narrative style is one of such candor and fluidity that as the protagonist shares with us the milestones of her life from becoming a big sister to seeing her mothers in dresses for the first time to finding emotional comfort in the home after her parents pass away , the reader is increasingly emotionally invested in their ever expanding world of friends, family and tradition. Polacco also includes the conflict of an anti-gay neighbor in the book, who turns the dial up on that confrontational anti-gay anger pretty high without actually saying “lesbian, gay, or homosexual.” The mothers handle the confrontation in a protective and reassuring manner that gives parents reading this book with children the freedom to explain as little or as much about sexual orientation as parents wish, including saying nothing about sexual orientation and just explaining that sometimes people don’t like others who are different. Illustrated with engaging animation and expressiveness, readers will see and feel a full spate of emotions as we do in real life. While the mothers demonstrate friendly touch affection towards each other and familial touch affection toward the children, for some, it will be important to see that the three children enter heterosexual marriages, framed in family portraits near the end of the book. The choice to show the oldest daughter and the son married to people within their “own” racial groups, demonstrates to me a silent acknowledgement of efforts made by the Italian and English-Irish mothers to encourage, support and preserve their children’s unique cultural identities. Complete with three children who grow up to become successful professionals with happy families of their own, In Our Mothers’ House is the multi-dimensional All American LGBT-parent family story.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended; ages 6+

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

The Purim Superhero by Elisabeth Kushner

cover for The Purim SuperheroThis is the coolest story book, exceptional in that dialogue is plentiful—it is full of the realistic conversation that goes on between children and their peers as well as the adults in their lives. Nate has to decide what to be for the Purim Celebration at his synagogue but more importantly, he has to decide whether to be himself—a boy who wants to dress up as an alien— or a follower of the crowd. The crowd in this case is the group of boys in his Hebrew class who are dressing as superheroes. His fathers encourage him to be strong enough to be himself and he comes up with a surprise costume that makes him feel like he is true to himself and will be welcome with the boys in his class. I thought we would get through this entire story without discussing the way in which Nate’s family is different but ultimately as a part of the conversation encouraging Nate to be himself, he and his fathers make a reference to his fathers’ dedication to being their true self. However, conversation over his fathers being two dads instead of a mom and dad does not take up much space in this lovely story about an elementary child’s apprehension over being different from the group and the imaginative solution he finds to restore his confidence. A lovely story for every child who at some point will want to resist peer pressure to express him/herself.

Recommendation: Recommended; ages 4-7

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

Molly’s Family by Nancy Garden

cover for Molly's FamilyKids don’t bite their tongue and with the blunt challenge of a six-year-old, Nancy Garden starts this story in which the protagonist, Molly responds verbally and emotionally to her classmate telling her that she can’t have the two mothers that she has drawn as part of her family make up. Molly’s mothers are her birth mother and adoptive mother (which is an important distinction in this category of books that have a strong representation of families made through adoption instead of one of the partners giving birth) but Molly doesn’t know those facts until later in the story when her mothers explain that to her . The teacher and a couple of Molly’s classmates are sympathetic to her hurt feelings and discomfort. Following the incident in the classroom, the teacher and then both of Molly’s mothers explain to her that the family you have is the family that is both possible and real. But the issue is not solved for Molly with these affirmations; she is still unsure of the validity of her two mother family, she is aware of her difference and has lost her confidence which is demonstrated by her leaving the drawing of her family at home on the 2nd day of the story. In a believable parallel with the process children whose home culture is significantly different from the societal norm go through to move from shame and insecurity to validation and acceptance of their families, it is only when the teacher tells Molly again that a child can have two mothers that Molly finally opens up to observing the ways that others are different and her family is real. Realistic illustrations and believable dialogue strengthen this story that gives a child of gay parents an understanding of their validity and other children an understanding of how families differ and live in harmony.

Recommendation:  Highly Recommended; ages 5+

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson

And Tango Makes Three coverSo, did you know that there was a true story of two male penguins partnering for life, adopting a penguin chick and raising her? Neither did I until I reached the end of And Tango Makes Three, but this all happened at the Central Park Zoo and what a wonderful way for us to see that family takes all constructs in the animal world as in the human world. I think that the fact that this is a true story should have come earlier in the story, to make it more universally appealing as the wonder of it all is that the way the penguins manage their life as a couple and family is very similar to the way that humans find their way, emulating their hetero-normative parents and fellow citizens. Until I knew that this was a true story, I kind of felt like the book was agenda driven which was uncomfortable; once I knew it was a true story I was in awe at the universality of relationship experiences that may very well cross all species. Roy and Silo (the protagonist penguins) are good sitters to the egg given to them by the zookeeper, and when Tango emerges from the egg, they are good parents to her. Because of the straightforward comparative writing, I would say that this book is like a National Geographic story for preschoolers and elementary students with appealing illustration that makes entertaining use of the page. The story is one that everybody of all ages should know to increase awareness and acceptance in society. I tend to like stories that are strong in plot and character internally and independently whereas And Tango Makes Three depends a little too much on comparing the same-gender couple to opposite gender couples and penguin families for my tastes but there is value in informational picture books as well as those grounded solely in good story.

 Recommendation: Recommended; ages 3+

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

 

My Mommy is a Boy by Jason Martinez

cover my mommy is a boyOften our best messages to young children are short, simple and honest. My Mommy is a Boy is just that. It is a story told from the point of view of a 4-year old girl about her female mommy becoming a male. This book addresses some of the questions a child of a transgendered parent might have such as, what to call mommy after she becomes a boy and why a person might want to change her gender. The story also reassures the reader that no matter the gender, the parent’s love for the child never changes. The illustrations match the simple nature of the book and remind me of a homemade book which is perfect considering ‘My Mommy is a Boy’ was written by a transgendered parent to express his love for his daughter.

Recommendation: Recommended for ages 4 and up.
Reviewer: Amanda Setty