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Perfect Lil Blends by Luke Whitehead
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…)
Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash/ Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual by/por Monica Brown
Monica Brown once again delivers a captivating protagonist in the character of Marisol McDonald whose bilinguality, red-headed, brown-skinned physical traits, and mixed Peruvian-Scottish-U.S.American ethnic heritage are significant influences on her daily life. Marisol McDonald became one of my favorite children’s literature characters in the first book in this series, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match. This time around, Marisol is days away from her eighth birthday. While she doesn’t want to choose clothes or a party theme that match, she does want to see her abuelita (grandmother) for her birthday. However, Marisol must deal with the disappointing reality that, despite the fact that she has been doing chores and saving money for two years to pay for her abuelita to visit, a visa for her grandmother to visit the U.S. takes too much time for abuelita to arrive before Marisol’s birthday. With the strategic use of hand made, individualized party invitations to her diverse, multicultural group of friends, Marisol is able to get her mismatched costume birthday party and her abuelita finds a special, and realistic way to make an appearance. The story is told in a rich, first person point of view, which includes a sprinkling of Spanish in the English version and a sprinkling of English in the Spanish version so the reader always feels as if they are living in Marisol’s authentic bilingual world. Palacios’ painted illustrations add to the overall cheer of enjoying this book. And the dual language, English/Spanish telling of the story allow the reader to read the story in both languages in one sitting or read it in English one day and Spanish the next day.
My four-year-old who is rather good at decoding and following a good story didn’t follow all the detailed nuances that go along with Marisol choosing not to match and wasn’t as excited about this story as I was so I put target audience at just slightly older and a better fit for the child who can already read. The quality of the story should make it a favorite for children beyond the age of ten even though they will have already moved on to higher reading levels. For the 5-8 year old reader, new vocabulary is emphasized that will make them excitedly run to the dictionary so they can understand every single word and emotion of this spunky, energetic protagonist. I want to see so much more of Marisol McDonald. Once again, think Madeleine, think Eloise, think Olivia the Pig, think Orphan Annie all updated and in a Peruvian-Scottish U.S.American girl. l I love this character; you and your kids will as well. (buy
Recommendations: Highly Recommended Ages 5-8+
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
Diversity Children’s Books Website is Live
Mixed Diversity Children’s Book Reviews is officially a website: http://mixeddiversityreads.com/.
The Website, which founder Omilaju Miranda began as a page on facebook is now a full website with blog where you can find books with diverse protagonists by specific category. Books are easily locatable on a drop down menu. The site is dedicated to listing and reviewing children’s and YA books with protagonists who are either: biracial/mixed, transracial adoptee, bilingual, lgbt-parented, single-parented, or gender non-conforming. There is also a magazine where the site will feature writing for, and by children, and an opportunity for parents to send in photos and videos of their children reading or reciting stories and poems. Check out the book site and find the book for your little one today. If you are a writer or interested in communications and publicity, the site is actively seeking children’s book reviewers and interns to publicize and network with schools and libraries.
My Hair is So Happy by Nik Scott
I thought any little girl with curly hair would love seeing images similar to herself in this book. My first response when I read it was “I love these illustrations.” As I read, it was exciting to see four girls representing nearly the full spectrum of skin tones and hair textures found amongst African Diaspora and African Diaspora mixed heritage kids. The writing makes a well-intentioned commitment to reforming the language of curly hair from “nappy” to “happy”. There is no story here though and no character-based reasons for a child to attach to any of these characters. Many will find it disconcerting that, in a book that seems to celebrate unity and self-love, the characters are participating in a beauty contest. Although they are all wearing tiaras and “Lil’ Miss Curly” sashes, we all know that competition means someone must be judged better or more beautiful than the other. Also, depending on one’s beliefs, there is language of being “fearfully” made that may be inexplicable to your children. When I read the book to my three-year-old, she asked why the girl was happy, was more interested in the dog in the illustrations and started chanting “My Hair is So Angry.” If I were a child psychologist I would analyze my daughter’s responses and offer insight into how other little girls might respond to this book but I’m not. As a reader and writer, I say the illustrations in this book offer images showing girls enjoying all aspects of life while leaving their hair curly and parents can create many conversations based on these images.
Recommendation: Recommended. We rarely see these many representations of different types of curly-haired children on the page and these girls are also happy and happy about their hair so if that is valuable to your little one, buy the book.
Book Review by Omilaju Miranda.
All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka
Poetically, the children of this book become the natural bounty of the earth, their skin color and hair textures compared to the beautiful colors of nature and hair compared to the textures of other living creatures.
With typical sentences/stanzas like,
“Children come in all the colors of the earth—
The roaring browns of bears and soaring eagles,
The whispering golds of late summer grasses,
And crackling russets of fallen leaves,”
a child is able to glean a confidence-inspiring insight into their physical look. This is a beautifully illustrated book that lives up to the lyrical poetry of its narrative. The illustrations go far beyond the normal representation of the human rainbow and, with very detailed rendering of facial characteristics, skin complexions and hair textures, the reader sees real differences in many, many different ethnic types. On the pages of this book, children of every ethnic heritage will find reflections of themselves enjoying life and the world around them. While every physical type of child is represented in ‘All the Colors of the Earth,’ only interracial families are represented, which I think is an exceptional and novel choice however disappointingly inconsistent with the universal inclusiveness of the other illustrations.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Ages 3+
Book Review by Omilaju Miranda.
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
This sweet board book is a like a buffet of babies charming both children and adult readers. The author, Susan Meyers, and the illustrator, Marla Frazee, celebrate baby’s first year of life beginning with swaddled newborns, through all the late night rocking and feeding, into the crawling and playing, exploring life all the while and ending with a cake-covered baby on the first birthday. It is very clear Meyers and Frazee spent a lot of time just watching babies and families. It is also unmistakable they had a message when writing this book—diversity is joyful. We see light-skinned hands lifting a dark-skinned baby and a light-skinned baby reaching out for dark-skinned hands. We hear that babies can be fed “by bottle, by breast, with cups and with spoons.” We see two moms, single parents, two dads, twins, a variety of body shapes and sizes, grandmas and grandpas, and many combinations of skin tone. This book really is the I Spy of family diversity, so the reader will have no problem finding a picture that resembles himself and his family.
The one criticism I have for this book is we do not see any persons with physical disabilities. There is one grandmother holding a baby on her knee while her cane rests beside her, but no obvious example of a child or parent with a disability. We see babies crawling and one baby learning to walk, but it would have been lovely to have seen a child with a walker or braces on her legs. Beyond that, I have nothing but glowing remarks for this book. It is an old favorite of ours and my go-to present for 1-year olds, given that it ends with a birthday party. The closing of the book also speaks to me personally as the mother of an internationally adopted child. “Every day, everywhere, babies are loved—for trying so hard, for traveling so far, for being so wonderful… just as they are!” This simple inclusion of “traveling so far” always made me and my child feel as if the story was hers.
Recommendation: I highly recommend this book for ages 9 months to 3 years. It deserves a place on every book shelf in every home and every place of learning.
Book Reviewer: Amanda Setty
I Love Saturdays y domingos by Alma Flor Ada
This is a valuable book to show the bilingual and bicultural immersion of a girl who is multiracial Mexican and Caucasian USAmerican. On every alternate page the protagonist speaks Spanish with her Mexican grandparents. On the surface, the grandparents are different—in addition to their race/ethnicity, the USAmerican grandparents live in the city or suburbs, the Mexican grandparents live on a farm near a fishing pier. The illustrations are lively and evocative. It is a formulaic story of comparisons: My grandpa buys me balloons: my abuelo buys me a kite; my grandma makes pancakes; my abuela makes me huevos rancheros…fourteen pages in, I drifted from boredom. Despite the fact that the comparisons went on for too long in my opinion, the parallel lifestyles and interests of the grandparents makes a powerful impression on the reader of the similarities of people who seem very different. Although the details of their lives are very different, both sets of grandparents love their pets, enjoy the circus, like making things by hand, create exceptional ways to make the protagonist happy and, of course, love their granddaughter.
The plot turn which is actually fun should have come earlier in the book—the protagonist has a party at her house that both sets of grandparents attend during which the grandparents help out with the children. The Pinata and the traditional Mexican birthday song are fun. You and your child may actually want to learn the song as I did.
Recommendation: Mildly recommended
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
I Don’t Have Your Eyes by Carrie A Kitze
Written with transracial adoptee children in mind, this book, with a series of lyrical statements, contrasting the differences in the physical appearances of children’s and parents’ body parts to the emotions, attitudes , and life perspectives associated metaphorically with the physical, sensorial, or functional purpose of the body part, communicates the conscientious and humane value system that parents teach and transfer to their children with such fluidity and beauty that you feel the text bringing you and your child closer and helping your child see the best in themselves and their depthful connection to you. In no cheesy, but a substantial, poetic, non-didactic prose, the book really conveys that who we are and who we help each other grow to be inside is what is valuable and what makes us family. The illustration is beautiful, realistic and includes illustrations of many different parent-child racial pairings including parents and children who share the same race but obviously different features so it doesn’t have to read as a book about “all of us racially different kids”; a child walks away from this book understanding that no one looks exactly like their parents but the loving way we navigate in the world is the offspring of our parents way of raising us.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Ages 4-12
Book Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
PBS Kids’ “Superwhy!”
If you have not yet discovered the PBSKids show “SuperWhy,” discover it. The main characters—Whyatt/SuperWhy, PrincessPea/ Princess Presto, Red/Wonder Red, Alpha Pig, and Webster are children and pet superheroes living in storybook village whose special powers are related to literacy i.e spelling, phonics, writing and reading. In each episode they help solve a child’s problems by flying into a classic fairy tale in which the child’s problem parallels that of the fairytale protagonist. Then, the SuperReaders save the day by changing the story so that the child in trouble and fairytale protagonist triumph over their issue. This show helps the toddler and preschooler engage in a fun adventure that builds their valuation of reading and helps the early reader learn reading concepts. They cover a full range of reading comprehension and word construction concepts. This is definitely ELA enrichment in the form of entertainment.
The lead character, Whyatt, as described by the SuperWhy wikis and obvious when you watch the show, is definitively olive skinned as is his family. While their ethnicity is not discussed, he has an appearance that many in the mixed and multiracial communities would see as a reflection of themselves. Princess Pea, a green-eyed, brown-skinned girl with waste length wavy hair is actually mixed. In the second episode of the first season, the team flies into the story of Princess Pea’s mother who is the original Princess of “The Princess and the Pea” where we meet her mother who is of African Descent and father who is Caucasian. We rarely see the families of the Super Readers but every episode is going to be a fun, learning episode.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan
Naomi Soledad Leon Outlaw is a ten year old girl who lives with her great-grandmother and disabled brother in Avocado Acres Trailer Rancho in Lemon Tree, California. She hasn’t seen her mother in seven years, and her father is in Mexico. Naomi is an avid reader, list maker and soap carver who is devoted to her family and loves works. Her world transforms one afternoon when her glamorous looking mother, who has changed her name from Terri Lynn to Skyla, shows up unannounced with armfuls of gifts. Although Naomi is thrilled to meet her mother, she feels overwhelmed. When it emerges that Skyla is an alcoholic who has been in and out of rehab and that she not interested in Owen, Naomi’s brother, because has a disability, Naomi becomes quickly disillusioned.
The novel follows Naomi’s coming of age story and her development into a young woman. Her unconventional family is made up of her great-grandmother and brother, but also includes her neighbors from Mexico, and her estranged father. In an effort to reconnect with the children’s father – and to thwart Skyla’s attempts to take Naomi from her home – their great-grandmother takes them on an impromptu road trip to Mexico in their airstream trailer, named Baby Beluga. They arrive in the country right before La Noche de los Rabanos, The Night Of The Radishes, a Mexican festival where carvers create elaborate artwork out of radishes. The Leons, they find out, are renowned as carvers, and Naomi experiences a deep cultural immersion in discovering her Mexican roots, wearing a traditional Mexican Village woman’s blouse and huraches, and carving radishes with her friends.
‘Becoming Naomi Leon’ is a poetic, poignant novel with excellent character development and gentle treatment of difficult subject matter. It’s a classic coming of age story that incorporates the positive aspects of cultural mixing, and handles this complex family structure with grace and insight. The discovery of the long lost Mexican father is the highlight of the narrative.
Recommendation: Any advanced reader will enjoy this book, which could also be a good book to read to a child who is ready for chapter books to read aloud.
Book Reviewer: Jill Moffett