Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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Mommy Far, Mommy Near – An Adoption Story by Carol A Peacock & Shawn Brownell #TransracialAdoption #BirthMother #DiverseKidsBooks

cover Mommy FAR Mommy NearMommy Far, Mommy Near is a story of adoption told from the perspective of the adoptee—a little girl named Elizabeth who, along with her sister, was adopted from China by a white American family. Illustrated with gently painted images with a dreamy aura, and the story that unfolds is a sort of coming-of-age narrative, as Elizabeth comes to grips with the details and repercussions of her adoption.

Although she has heard the story her whole life – her mother has a book with a silver cover that shows pictures of the process – the book gently reveals her realization that not only are she and her adoptive family of different ethnicities, but that her “mommy far” is an actual person with a family who had given her up for adoption. (more…)

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Our Baby From China, An Adoption Story by Nancy D’Antonio #TransracialAdoption #WeNeedDiverseBooks #DiverseKidsBooks #WeHaveDiverseBooks

cover for Our Baby from ChinaOur Baby From China, An Adoption Story is exactly that: the step-by-step story of one family’s adoption of a little Chinese girl who they named Ariela Xiangwei. Told from the perspective of the adoptive parents, the book resembles an intimate travel narrative written specifically with their adoptive daughter in mind.

Illustrated not only with photographs from the trip that the parents took in China, almost half of the book is about the famous places the D’Antonio family visits in China. It also includes a slew of more personal family photographs that seem like they would be more at home in a personal collection than in a book for children. (more…)

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

cover for BreadcrumbsIn Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu has penned a lively, wistful tale that gets at so much of the poignancy that is being a 10-year-old. This is a moving story that offers a modern-day account of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” In Ursu’s version, Hazel, a ten-year-old Indian-American girl with white (adoptive) parents is best friends with Jack, the boy next door until Jack mysteriously changes. The adults around them chalk up this change to typical pre-teen turmoil: it’s not unusual for girl–boy friendships to become awkward. But the reader can feel Hazel’s sadness. It’s hard to grow up, it’s hard to change and watch others change. Hazel is caught between wanting to fit in and wanting to keep her special friendship with Jack the way it is. At its heart, this is a story about how we can hold onto our real selves even as we change along with our friends. (more…)

Rebecca’s Journey Home by Brynn Olenberg Sugarman

cover of Revecca's Journey HomeRebecca’s Journey Home tells the story of the author, Brynn Olenberg Sugarman, bringing home her daughter Rachele (“Rebecca” in the story) from Vietnam. Instead of the “Sugarmans”, the family in the story is the “Steins”. While the title centers on “Rebecca”—the Vietnamese adoptee, the story speaks more of the family’s adoption journey. Therefore, young siblings anticipating the addition of an adopted child into their home (or young siblings recently experiencing such an event) can especially identify with this story. (more…)

Perfect Lil Blends by Luke Whitehead

cover for Perfect Lil BlendsPerfect 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…)

When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright

cover for When a Black Girl SingsIf When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright was a dish served at a fancy restaurant it would be described as “adoption woes over a bed of teenage angst served with a side of parental problems and an empty glass of communication.” Doesn’t sound like a favorite dish you would order time after time, but it does fill a definite need on the menu.

The main character, Lahni, is a 13 year old black girl who was adopted by white, heterosexual parents when she was a baby. Living with white parents in Connecticut, Lahni attends a private school, with only a handful of non-white students. She feels completely out of place, alone and unable to connect with friends. Adding to her troubles, her parents are getting a divorce and her father has a new “friend”. Then her mother suggests they try going to church, where Lahni meets and befriends the choir director and the church’s soloist who are both black. She is coerced by her music teacher, who sees promise in her, into joining a singing competition at her school. Lahni joins her church choir to help her prepare for the competition and in the end finds her voice.

I found at many times in this book I was frustrated with Lahni and her parents mainly because they seemed to be hopeless at communicating honestly with one another and others around them. After a particularly upsetting incident at school where a classmate calls Lahni an “African baby on a television special” her mom says, “Maybe she meant it as a compliment.” Or when Lahni’s dad finds her waiting outside the door listening to her parents scream at one another, he simply takes his suitcase and gets into the taxi. Lahni, following the role models set out for her, never talks with her parents (or anyone) about how it feels to be a black child adopted by a white family or about the troubles she has as the only black girl in her grade. Lahni keeps her best friend at bay, only telling her about her parents impending divorce at the very end and then again shuts her friend down when she asks questions. Lahni’s struggle with communication does not end with her inability to share her thoughts, but it seems she is not able to garner messages others are telling her as well. Her music teacher and choir director clearly express on multiple occasions their admiration for her singing, yet even to the end Lahni refuses to have confidence in her ability. That said, the teenage years are not perfect. Transracial adoption is not always heart-to-heart chats and a warm cup of cocoa. And I am NOT a black, teenage girl being raised by struggling white parents, so perhaps I just don’t get it. And perhaps there is some reader in Lahni’s exact situation who will want to take Lahni into her heart because she is singing the reader’s song.

At one point in the story, Lahni is being stalked by a white boy in school who calls himself Onyx 1. This boy focuses his affection on Lahni purely based on his desire to date a black girl. Later he gets in a knife fight with two black boys and he calls them “two black apes”. When Lahni hears this, she is so confused about how a person can want to date someone who is black, nickname themselves “black” and then use racial slurs. In typical teenage style, although scared of Onyx 1, she chooses to handle it on her own. Lahni never mentions it to her parents or to another adult until the end of the book after she is forced in a deserted parking lot to confront him. I dislike the fact that the author had Lahni deal with this issue on her own. Obviously, in fiction the author managed the confrontation to work out in Lahni’s favor but in real life confronting a stalker is truly dangerous. I want the message to young adult readers to clearly state, “ask for help from an adult if this happens to you.” I did however like that the author kept Onyx 1’s character as undesirable and Lahni told him to get lost. Too many times, plots include the “good girl” falling for a “bad boy” when she discovers his soft side.

This book has a light Christian theme to it, but it is not overwhelming. In the beginning Lahni attends church for the first time and by the end she performs “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and realizes she is not singing but she is in fact praying.

Recommendation: This book is suitable for readers age 13+.

Reviewer: Amanda Setty

Diversity Children’s Books Website is Live

Mixed Diversity Children’s Book Reviews is officially a website:  http://mixeddiversityreads.com/.

Book Review Categories Pic for mixed diversity book review page (1024x701)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.