Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

Cover I love my hairThis board book is a first person narrative that lets you hear the defined voice of a child on a journey of loving herself led by her own mother’s love. The book doesn’t fall into the categories to which this page is dedicated however, it is a wonderful celebration of the realistic challenges and versatility of Afro-curly/ kinky coily hair that I think many on this page will find value in reading it with, and for, your children with Afro-curly hair. Discussing everything from necessary oils, the occasional tear-inducing pain of combing and the wonder of hair that braids well, curls into the air and afros out, If you are looking for a resource outside of yourself to validate the natural beauty of your child’s hair, this is one of the best books I’ve seen. As there is no father mentioned, single mothers can enjoy this book as a reflection of their relationship with their children as well.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Ages 4+
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

Adventure Annie goes to Kindergarten’ by Toni Buzeo

cover for Adventure Annie Goes to KindergartenAnnie Grace starts her day with her mom who helps her get ready and takes her to her first day of Kindergarten where Annie tries to create adventures for herself because, after all, Annie Grace is Adventure Annie. She gets into all sorts of trouble around the classroom and school as she single-mindedly tries to find an “adventure”. Eventually, the two quiet, obedient students who her teacher sends to get the milk for snack time get lost and Annie gets her adventure. Mr. Todd charges her with the task of going to find the “milk getters” who are lost. And sure enough, with the help of the walkie talkies that she packed in her adventure toolkit, she finds her classmates and the milk, and brings the wagon of milk back to the class. So, Annie the Adventurer gets to be a super heroine and in the end she is in her mom’s arms with a hug and a smile. Although the story was a little banal and repetitive, Adventure Annie is clearly being raised by a single mom and she’s having a rip-roaring time being herself.


Recommendation: Unenthusiastically Recommended; Ages: 4+
Book Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka

cover for All the Colors of the EarthPoetically, 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.

little blue and little yellow by Leo Lionni

cover for little blue and little yellowlittle blue and little yellow is a cute book with two ragged-edged dots as the protagonists. One dot is blue and one dot is yellow. They hug and become one green dot that plays throughout the day with other dot friends. Then they go home, first to blue dot’s home then to yellow dot’s home and the parents of both reject green dot because they don’t recognize their child in the green dot. When green dot cries, blue and yellow tears come out until “they are ALL tears”. We see a bunch of little blue dashes and a bunch of little yellow dashes then we see the individual yellow and blue dot again. As their original selves, blue dot and yellow dot go home and their parents rejoice by hugging them and then the other parents. When the yellow and blue parents hug each other, they see that they also turn green when they hug. The difference for the parents is they do not allow themselves to become one new green dot. Instead, they visit each other and go out to watch their children play again with part of their green union intact while on either side they are their blue and yellow selves. They are now a role model for little blue and little yellow who are, like their parents, walking around and playing in the same configuration, which is blue and yellow on the edges and green in the middle. They play with other dots of different colors, some of which are also blending together.

This book functions on multiple levels that children of increasing age groups up to adult will be able to discuss and analyze: 1. It teaches children about color combining to make new colors; 2. It teaches children that you can have fun as friends and be affectionate with people of different colors and if you marry you make a whole unique creation. 3. It teaches that you can combine in a relationship while also being yourself hence green in the middle of yellow and blue on the edges. 4. It teaches that when families become united through marriage, even the in-laws change into a new creation. 5. It also teaches that when parents don’t recognize their children because of the way they have changed in their new relationship, they often reject them and it isn’t until they once again recognize their children, perhaps in the arrival of grandchildren, that they accept their children and their children’s chosen relationship but only the most advanced readers will get number 5.

I found it thought provoking on a simple and complex level. It was age appropriate and sparked questions from my 3-year-old daughter while making me recognize it as criticism of exclusionary, familial rejection and prejudiced social practices as well as a critique of in-law relationships especially in cross cultural families.


Recommendation: Very Highly Recommended; Ages 3+
Book Review by Omilaju Miranda

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers

cover of Everywhere BabiesThis 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

Willow by Denise Brennan-Nelson

Cover for WillowWillow, the protagonist of this book has a personality reminiscent of Eloise and Madeline. Her stubborn determination to be imaginative and artistic even as her art teacher, Miss Hawthorne tries to break the spirit of creativity with rigid rules eventually transforms her teacher. Willow’s open, loving spirit is innocent and generous and the story is an inspiring example of adult-child interaction. The illustrations are energetic, riveting paintings that transport the reader into a parallel universe of creativeWorld. I’ve already gifted this book to one of my daughter’s friends. I bet you’ll find it just as infectious and worthy of sharing.

When one reads Willow, it is easy to believe that you are reading about a child of color, however I bought the second book in the series, Willow and the Snow Day Dance and the character’s parents are both white with no explanation of adoption so I’m thinking that I’m wrong about her being a child of color. In addition, when I read A Fire Engine for Ruthie, I noticed, with the illustrations of Ruthie that it is Cyd Moore’s style to draw her girl protagonists with wavy krinkly hair (although that doesn’t negate Willow’s brown skin). I emailed the illustrator, Cyd Moore and the publisher, Sleeping Bear Press asking if Willow is a child of color and have not yet received an answer. Despite that, I’m including Willow on this site because sometimes children just need to see their likeness on the page in a book with a real story and a child with a dynamic personality, and there are plenty of children of color who can look at Willow and see themselves in her light brown skin and wavy hair that grows out instead of down.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Ages 5+

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda