Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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I Don’t Have Your Eyes by Carrie A Kitze

I Don't Have Your Eyes by Carrie A KitzeWritten 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

That’s My Mum by Henriette Barkow

Inside page--Kai with his mom and Amelia with her mom

Inside page–Kai with his mom and Amelia with her mom

That’s My Mum is a book that will have obvious significance for many in the Mixed-Heritage communities. One of the things I like about this book is that while the protagonist and first person narrator is Amelia who is brown with a white mother, her best friend whose family gets just as much space on the page is Kai, a biracial white boy whose mom is brown-skinned.Book Cover for That's My Mum by Henriette Barkow and Derek Brazelle

This is only the second picture book I’ve come across that gives attention to the fair-skinned, straight-haired children of brown mothers and the only  picture book with a full story arc that does so. The author smartly pairs Amelia and Kai to show that their emotional responses to the mother mix-up are the same. Together, Kai and Amelia face the emotionally and pragmatically challenging issue of people questioning their relationships with their mothers. Though these two friends find the mother mix-up frustrating and saddening, the language of the book remains

light while giving realistic attention to the children’s feelings and communications with people outside of their family. In a humorous twist to their story, the two friends collaborate to create a solution to their shared issue. Many of their ideas are silly, one of which they reject out of self-love and appreciation for what they look like. Ultimately, they decide to make buttons with photos of their mothers– a solution that if noticed by others would completely clarify their relationship with their parents and will put a smile on the adult reader’s face as it represents the innocence and innovation of children’s minds. Child readers may still be confused.

The author’s effort in the middle of the book to demonstrate through the narrative language, the confusion other people face when interacting with them, actually results in confusing the reader as the illustration and the wording are not entirely clear. Due to this, I’d place reading age at no younger than 6-years-old.
Published by the London based Educational Company Mantra Lingua, the book ships from England and is published in dual languages. My copy is in English with Urdu translation, pictured is an English-French copy but the book cover states that it is available in English with 22 other languages. The one drawback to this book for those outside of England –the four weeks it takes to receive the book when ordering through Amazon.com. Enjoy.

 

Recommendation: Highly Recommended especially for families with brown or yellow parents of white appearing children since this is only the second picture book that I’ve found which acknowledges these parents and children.

Book Review by Omilaju Miranda.

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

cover for My Basmati Bat MitzvahI sucked this book down like a mango lassi. It was smooth, sweet and went down quickly. So quickly, in fact I read it in 24 hours. And then like my girls, I sat back, took a breath and dove back in for a second reading, running my finger along the side of the cup looking for some goodness that I left behind.
Paula J. Freedman created a strong female character, for which I thank her. Tara Feinstein is the girl we all want our daughters to be. She has her own fashion style—
vintage. She plays hoops with her best boyfriend. She still plays dress up at the age of 12 with her best girlfriend. She is pumped to join the robotics team. She is not afraid to stand up for herself, although she is learning to manage it with words and not fists. She also stands up for others, especially when they need a friend. She gives second chances, preferring to see the good in people. She questions her beliefs and seeks for answers.
But life is not all easy peazy lemon squeezy for Tara. She and her friends are going through a season of preteen changes—bat mitzvahs, changing bodies, shifting relationships and first crushes. As Tara prepares for her own bat mitzvah she struggles to understand how she can be Indian, like her mother, Jewish, like her father and remain herself. How can she be Jewish if she is not even sure she believes in God? If she goes through with this Bat Mitzvah, does that mean she is picking her “Jewish side” over her “Indian side”? Will she only date and marry Jewish boys, like her other Jewish friends? My Basmati Bat Mitzvah raises topics many of our bi-racial, bi-cultural children will face or are facing. Tara’s voice is honest and sturdy, allowing readers from all backgrounds to easily put themselves in her place.
On my second read of the book, I unfortunately did not find many leftover bits of goodness stuck to the side of my cup. I found myself bothered by the underdeveloped characters, orbiting around Tara. I wanted more connection with her parents. Tara’s Jewish Gran and her Indian Auntie seem a bit too stereotypical for my liking. And many of Freedman’s characters seemed like superficial offerings- the immigrant child gone wild, the Korean adopted child, the always in trouble child with ADHD, the Muslim child whose father jokes about getting her married at the age of 12, and the perfect child who turns out to have trichotillomania and problems with shoplifting. Perhaps this book would be a good fit for a book group or classroom, so readers could find ways to make these distinctive characters more vibrant and “finish” them. I was also bothered that the robotics club storyline just disappeared. It held such promise of a preteen girl not only psyched about science but also talented, and then offered us nothing except for scenes of teenage romance and angst. The one bright point in my re-read was to explore Tara’s special relationship with her open-minded and very patient rabbi. Every teenager needs to connect with a trustworthy adult outside of their family.

Recommendation: I recommend this book for ages 12-14. The writing itself is suited for ages 9+ but some of the topics, such as, first heterosexual kiss and a friend suffering from trichotillomania might be better received by an older reader.

Book Reviewer: Amanda Setty