Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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How Common Core’s book choices fail children of color

** Children must be able to envision possibilities for their futures. And they must fall in love with books. Culturally relevant books help children discover a passion for reading.**

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, researchers asked, “What do good readers do?” They found that good readers make connections to themselves and their communities. When classroom collections are largely by and about white people, white children have many more opportunities to make connections and become proficient readers. Appendix B of the common core []consistently marginalizes multicultural children’s literature: book lists, school book fairs and book order forms, literacy textbooks (books that teach teachers), and transitional books (books that help children segue from picture books to lengthier texts). [] we must stock classrooms with mirror books for all children. This change in our classroom libraries will also allow children of the dominant culture to see literature about others who look different and live differently.

A second reason we must ensure that all children have mirror books is identity development. They must []see[] artists, writers, political leaders, judges, mathematicians, astronauts, and scientists [that look like them]. They must see authors and illustrators who look like them on book jackets. Children must be able to envision possibilities for their futures. And they must fall in love with books. Culturally relevant books help children discover a passion for reading.

the open book

The Common Core has become a hot-button political issue, but one aspect that’s gone larGuest postgely under the radar is the impact the curriculum will have on students of color, who now make up close to 50% of the student population in the U.S. In this essay, Jane M. Gangi, an associate professor in the Division of Education at Mount Saint Mary College and Nancy Benfer, who teaches literacy and literature at Mount Saint Mary College and is also a fourth-grade teacher, discuss the Common Core’s book choices, why they fall short when it comes to children of color, and how to do better. Originally posted at The Washington Post, this article was reposted with the permission of Jane M. Gangi.How Common Core's Book Choices Fail Children of Color

Children of color and the poor make up more than half the children in the United States. According to the latest census, 16.4 million children (22 percent) live in poverty, and close…

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Call for Submissions

kids_writingMDR, the ‘zine for children from Mixed Diversity Reads Children’s Book Review is seeking prose, poetry and illustrations featuring as protagonists children who fall into one of the seven categories of diversity to which the website is dedicated. The target publication date for the first issue is December 6th and submissions need to be sent no later than November 6th. Please see submissions guidelines here http://mixeddiversityreads.com/mdr-a-diversity-magazine-of-childrens-writing-and-art/mdr-submissions/

Let Garcelle Beauvais Read Your Children Their Bedtime Story Tonight in Person, For Free

cover for I am Living in 2 HomesLos Angeles, CA

Friday September 12
7pm
PAJAMA READING PARTY.

ALL ARE WELCOME

Come one, come all to a beautiful evening where authors Garcelle Beauvais and Sebastian A. Jones will read to you and your kids their two books from the I Am Book Series, I AM MIXED and I AM LIVING IN 2 HOMES. Get your copies signed. Take a pic. You never know who will show up.

I_Am_Mixed_cover-600x598Barnes & Noble at the Grove
189 Grove Dr K30,
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Omilaju Miranda, Founder of Mixed Diversity Reads, Recognized on Thank You Page

gratitude page from I am living in two homes Authors of I Am Living in 2 Homes and I Am Mixed, Sebastian A. Jones and Garcelle Beauvais thanked the founder of Mixed Diversity Reads Children’s Book Review, Omilaju Miranda, amongst other contributors and mixed and multiracial community advocates on the gratitude page of I Am Living in 2 Homes. Pre-book sales of I Am Living in 2 Homes started in June and August 19, 2014 was the release date for the book, which features fraternal twins of mixed heritage, working through the joys and sorrows of life in the aftermath of their parents’ divorce.  Read our review and buy the title for your kids.

First ever openly Trans-identified Picture Book Protagonist: 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert

cover for 10,000 DressesMy gender conforming, princess imitating 4-year-old cis-girl who, like most 4-year-olds, has pretty conservative views about gender roles was drawn to the 10,000 Dresses book cover, which features the protagonist in a crystal blue, sparkly formal gown. I was focused on other writing jobs but I finally took a break when my daughter begged me repeatedly to read the book to her and after we finished it, she asked me to read it another two times which is distinctive in our reading this week. She was very interested in all the dresses that Bailey, the protagonist dreamed up and surprised me when she approved of Bailey wearing dresses even after Bailey’s family called her a boy. The narrative refers to the protagonist, Bailey with the pronoun “her”. However, in dialogue between Bailey and her family members, it comes out that Bailey is a biological male who doesn’t feel like a “boy”. My four-year-old understood feeling but not why we were referring to the character as both “her” and a boy. It was very easy for my daughter to understand that it wasn’t nice for the parents to tell Bailey “don’t mention dresses again!”  and she thought the brother who threatened to kick Bailey was ‘really mean’

This story is as depthful as it is simple and straightforward. Bailey starts out with a dream of 10,000 dresses and excitedly shares her dream of wearing each one with different members of her family, asking them to buy her a dress like the one in her dream. When her brother threatens to kick her because it’s “gross for boys to wear dresses, Bailey runs away and befriends a fashion designing older girl with whom Bailey makes dresses. While I have read the other gender non-conforming classics to my daughter, which are all about biological boys wearing dresses (hint authors and publishers: please write and publish about gender non-conforming bio-girls soon), this is the first one that gained my daughter’s acceptance of a physiological boy wearing dresses. Maybe that’s because my daughter is older now, maybe it’s because I’ve already read three others to her, maybe it’s because this is the first of all these books to be daring enough to actually have the protagonist declare their trans identity. In the other books, the biological boys are fighting to be accepted for wearing traditionally feminine clothes with no mention of them feeling trans identified, whereas in response to her family members telling her that “Boys don’t wear dresses”, Bailey responds with, “But I don’t feel like a boy.” While I think that we need the books that say it’s okay for a cis-boy to wear dresses, barrettes, and pink (My Princess Boy, Jacob’s New Dress, Roland Humphrey is Wearing a What?), hooray for 10,000 Dresses making the full commitment to a character who identifies as trans. The family rejection that Bailey endures is painful but Bailey’s self-acceptance and choice to seek an ally instead of attempting to conform to the intolerant family is a powerful move that leads to a poignant conclusion.

While the gender issue is the primary theme, the sub theme concerned with the creative process–following the story of Bailey’s creative visions and ideas being developed into wearable art–is incredibly valuable; the story ends on the note of creative ingenuity and compromise, allowing two of Bailey’s dress ideas to manifest in one dress. This is a profoundly affirming book for trans or gender non-conforming children and powerful enough to open the minds and hearts of conservative, gender conforming children towards acceptance.

Considering the things my daughter didn’t understand like those mentioned above and what the word “gross” means, I’d say that this is appropriate for cis children 6 and older, while trans and gender non-conforming children should have this book read to them with a parent’s explanation of that which they don’t understand, as early as they have trans feelings. This is one of my new favorite books if only because it is a non-Disney princess, diversity book that my daughter asks to have read to her over and over again.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended. 6+

Book Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

My Nose , Your Nose by Melanie Walsh

cover My Nose Your NoseMy Nose, Your Nose is a little picture book with just a few words per page, talks about more than just noses. “Daisy’s skin is brown, Agnes’s skin is white, but they both have cheeky pink tongues!” And so it goes, with skin, hair (texture and color), length of legs, and eye color. Simple and colorful illustrations depict many children who look similar besides the differences in skin, hair, and nose highlighted in the narrative, teaching children (and reminding parents) that we’re all the same beneath it all.

            This would be a great book for a daycare so that during story time all the babies, toddlers and children can feel included. For children who aren’t exposed to diverse families during daycare or social gatherings, this would be a great way to prepare them for seeing people who look different from them as they grow up.

            My only nitpick here, which is a personal one, is the lack of Asian representation in the text and illustration. That doesn’t stop me from recommending the book, however.

 

Recommended ages: 0+

Book Reviewer: Yu Han Chao

6 Great Reading Apps for Kids | Parents | Scholastic.com

6 Great Reading Apps for Kids | Parents | Scholastic.com.

The Family Book by Todd Parr

cover for The Family Book by Todd ParrTodd Parr makes the idea of family a fun thing to read about in this book illustrated with crayon-colored people. The silly illustrations and simple statements give the reader a feeling of “family” meaning acceptance more than anything else. Using animals and people to represent the many different family structures in our society, this is an easy, sensory stimulating, colorful way to introduce or further conversation on family diversity with your children, especially small children.

Recommendation: Recommended; 2+
Reviewer:  Omilaju Miranda

Jackie’s Gift by Sharon Robinson

cover for Jackie's Gift by Sharon RobinsonWhen Jackie Robinson bought his first house in Brooklyn, NY, some people in the neighborhood sent around a petition trying to keep him and his family out because they were black. It failed and upon moving in, the first friend Jackie Robinson made was a young Jewish fan, Steven Satlow. Steve comes over and helps the Robinson family decorate their Christmas Tree. When Robinson learns that the Satlows don’t have a Christmas tree, he thinks it is because they can’t afford one and buys them a huge Christmas tree. The Robinsons end up learning about a new religion and culture and both the Satlows and Robinsons demonstrate communicating with grace and appreciation in the face of misunderstanding. Ultimately, out of appreciation for Jackies gift, the Satlows chose to have a Christmas tree and a Menorah for Hannukah that year and the Robinsons learned that Jews don’t celebrate Christmas. Written by Jackie Robinson’s daughter, Sharon who writes in the afterword that the Satlows and Robinsons are still friends.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended; ages 5+
Book Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

Shades of Black by Sandra L. Pinkney

cover of Shades of BlackThis seems to be one of the most celebrated books of the early 21st century for speaking to children about color, race and having pride in one’s Black identity. When I asked people for help in the face of my daughter having trouble from other kids regarding the difference in my and her skin complexions, everywhere I asked, several people suggested this book. It is a photo essay, that on an elementary school level, displays and discusses, in lyrical, free verse poetry nearly the full range of phenotypes of African Diaspora children from white as Vanilla Ice Cream to Blue Midnight. Unlike the children we see on t.v. and featured on many Natural Hair, Black Beauty, and Mixed Heritage websites who are breathtakingly beautiful, the children in Shades of Black are average-looking kids with whom many kids can relate. Although it is not a story book, Shades of Black also stands out amongst children’s books featuring children of the African Diaspora because, unlike most story books that choose medium brown skinned characters as protagonists whether the family is monoracial or interracial, Shades of Black also gives attention to the lightest and darkest of the African Diaspora Spectrum of complexion. While many children of monoracial Black Heritage, Mixed Heritage black and white, or Mestizo Latino and black, will find someone in this book who reflects them or comes close to it, there is only one child who may represent those whose heritage is also South Asian, and none who look like they are also of East Asian Heritage. There are plenty of braided hair styles and one child with dreadlocks featured in this book but no girls wearing afros. What is not here sharpens the focus on what is present: this book is effectively dedicated specifically to the different colors of skin and eyes found amongst children of African Descent.
Because of that contradiction between skin colors of white, brown, gold, orange, etc. and their categorization as “Black,” which can seem illogical to the young child (like my own 3-year-old) who has learned their colors but doesn’t understand the intricacies and inconsistences of racial labels, this book is appropriate as is for the child who has already been introduced to the concept of “Black” as an ethnic/racial group or as a way to introduce your child to “Black” as an ethnic/racial group. For the pre-literate child who doesn’t understand “black” as a race/ethnicity, you can change the words to “I have African Ancestors” and still share the book with them.
I find it challenging that this book presents children who I suspect are either biracial or Multigenerational Mixed Kids as “black”  without acknowledging their mixed heritage. Although I don’t agree with this choice from the editor it is an opportunity for parents to discuss with their child how being of African Descent gives one a place in the Black community even when of Mixed Heritage. On the two pages whose statements are “I am Black. I am Unique,” the author chose to feature,” light-skinned children with light eyes as if being black is only unique when “black” manifests in an obviously mixed phenotype. I feel that on one of these pages, a brown or dark-skinned child with brown eyes should have been featured. Pinkney (the author) also features children with hazel green eyes on two different pages, giving two different descriptions for the same color eyes. I cannot find any logical reason behind this choice because the two children featured are also nearly the same complexion; this focus on the same color eyes would have been more effective if the children were different complexions.


However, and whenever you read this book to your child, it is a valuable celebration of the full spectrum of skin colors and many physical traits found amongst children of African Descent.


Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Age Group: As is–after the child knows that “Black” is a racial category; If changing the words to “I have African Ancestors” –age 3+

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda