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Let Freedom Sing by Vanessa Newton
With stylistic, cartoon-like illustrations and a focus on the children’s gospel song, “This Little Light of Mine,” Vanessa Newton tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s until the 21st century in a way that is accessible for children as young as three years old. Filled with illustrations of people of all racial, ethnic, and lifestyle backgrounds working together for freedom, this book is a fun, inviting representation of the United States’ Civil Rights Movement. If you buy this book for your three-year-old, it can grow with them up to the age of ten. Every reader will sing the song that appears, at least in part, on every page. The illustrations tell the non-violent conflict aspect of major moments in the Civil Rights movement, however the language accompanying the illustrations in the foreground typically just names the historical figure saying that they let their light shine. A typical example is an illustration of Rosa Parks on the bus and the words:
“Rosa Parks refused to move,
She let her light shine.”
If your child asks questions, you can fill in the gaps with history at the depth and detailed level that your child can handle. On the inset of some of the pages, there is a more detailed history that you can read to older children. The one exception to what I’ve described above is the image of protestors holding rocks ready to throw them at Ruby Bridges. You may want to turn past that page for younger readers. I am also bothered by the author/ illustrator’s choice to draw Barack Obama as a dark-skinned man more reminiscent of the King children than himself. Other than an inexplicable choice on the illustrator’s part to mis-represent Barack Obama, I like this book for all children.
Age Range: 3-10
Recommendation: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
The Boy with Pink Hair by Perez Hilton
Perez Hilton has written a delectable children’s book about a little boy who is different from everybody else in the world. He is born with bright Pink hair. He is not like his mom or dad. Everywhere the boy with the pink hair goes, people stare and make fun of him. His family loves him and is a happy family and his parents tell him that one day his difference will make a difference. For a while he doesn’t have any close friends but then his parents build him a tree house with a kitchen, giving him a space of his own to cook and he is a food making prodigy. On his first day of school, he encounters a bully but also makes a friend who he invites into his cooking sanctuary. The school faces a crisis and the boy with pink hair solves the problem with his food preparation, bringing everyone together as a community of food preparing teachers and students. Even the bully pitches in to help and eventually they become friends as well. Then, the bully’s father franchises the food creations of the boy with the Pink Hair and he is internationally celebrated and popular. The moral of the story is that even though the boy with the pink hair is different, his difference isn’t what makes his contribution to the world special. He happens to have pink hair and happens to be a cooking prodigy.
Colorfully and engagingly illustrated, this is a book that children of all ages who like vibrant colors and don’t mind several kind of obvious messages or idealistic diversity clichés turned into a story will enjoy. The narrative of overcoming obstacles to relationships and overcoming bullying with collaboration are all positive.
I take umbrage with book’s message that your difference doesn’t matter if you become wildly acclaimed and fix things for all the people who are not considered different. Despite the fact the majority population often only accepts those considered different when they are famous or saviors, this is not what I think young children should be taught. Although the diversity language of “He was born that way” and “His parents didn’t pester him to play games that didn’t interest him,” is familiar language for accepting people in the lgbt community, any child who is in a physical or cultural minority can connect on many levels with the idea of being accepted by their parents.
The protagonist’s difference is an impossible, fun, silly difference that allows all to comfortably discuss diversity and acceptance. Because the book chooses to avoid a direct practical difference or present a complex protagonist, I think it is most valuable when read with an adult and discussing issues of diversity afterwards.Without that discussion, the book is overly PC, vague, and cliche, not really teaching any children how to truly accept difference in themselves or others just because they are human.
Recommendation: Slightly Recommended; ages 5+ with adult to discuss; without adult, leave on shelf
Book Review by Omilaju Miranda
Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen
This lovely story of family bonds in a guinea pig family. Chloe loves her uncle Bobby and is opposed to his getting married to Jaime because she doesn’t want to be unimportant. Her mother explains that when adults love each other that much they want to be married and encourages Chloe to speak to her uncle about her worries. When Bobby, Jaime, and Chloe all spend time together, Chloe realizes she will gain a second wonderful uncle when Bobby and Jaime get married. Then, she endorses their marriage and agrees to be the flower girl at the wedding. On the day of the wedding, she saves the day when Bobby and Jaime forget things necessary for the ceremony. Brannen does a great job of carrying us through Chloe’s emotional changes and showing us how a strong bond with an adult can make a child feel confident that they are the most important part of the adult’s life.
Recommendation: Recommended; Ages 3+
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
King and King by Linda de Hann and Stern Nijland
A quirkily illustrated fairytale of a prince whose mother, the queen requires that he get married so she can have some time to herself. After a succession of princesses come to woo him, he falls in love with a prince chaperoning another princess visiting to woo him. The story is simple and easy to follow and a nice way to introduce children to the fairy tale of what may have been the story of their two dads’ beginning.
Recommendation: Recommended; ages 5+ .
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza
I am so impressed with this book. Love this story. Slightly reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’ Are You My Mother, Choco is a yellow and blue chick who needs a mother. Many of the animals of the forest tell him they can’t be his mother because he doesn’t look like them until Mrs. Bear takes him in, lets him define what makes a mother and, upon doing those things, the two decide that she is his mother despite the fact that she doesn’t look him. At his new home, Choco has three siblings who are all different species of animal—none of them a bear. This felt so good to read, and the illustrations were rollicking fun. Every home should have this book but I think this is an especially easy way to help a little one see transracial adoption family structure as fun and “normal”.
P.S. My daughter immediately identified the bear as Choco’s mother before the story concluded that it would be so, which I think is a sign that we create “normal” for our children.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Ages 0-10
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids by Kip Fulbeck
From featuring Russian/Korean children who love soccer to Black/Indian children who like talking and drawing with their younger brothers, Kip Fulbeck’s highly acclaimed photo essay, which has traveled life sized as an art exhibition around the country presents photos of Mixed Kids with a description of their racial/ethnic backgrounds and a short essay from the parents or the child on their lives. Despite the photo of the child of multiracial African descent on the front cover, the book has more photos of children of multiracial Asian Descent (Hapa) than any other ethnicities. One of the most comprehensive sources celebrating mixed kids this reviewer has ever seen, a child with racial/ethnic heritages from all parts of the world will find several or more children with whom to physically identify, as well as get to know beyond the surface level, when reading this book.
Recommendation:Highly Recommended for all; Ages 0-Adult
Book Review by: Omilaju Miranda
Sofie’s Role by Amy Heath
Sofie’s mom and dad own the Broadway Bakery, it is Christmas Eve, and Sofie is excited to be working in the front of her parents’ bakery for the first time. Usually she works in the back with dad but today she is going to work with mom and the college students in the front. The hustle and bustle of the bakery is punctuated by the author’s use of onomatopoeia. Children and the adults reading will enjoy making the sounds of adults gulping and sipping, machines whushing to make bread, the galumping of the mixer as they progress through the story. Each illustration is an action painting that brings to life the organized chaos of the work day on Christmas eve at the bakery. The reader will journey with Sofie from being overwhelmed by the rush of customers’ demands to finding the way that she can be helpful. We see that Papa is Caucasian and Mama is African American but Sofie and her families ethnicities are never mentioned.
Recommendation: Recommended; Age: 4-7
Book Review by Omilaju Miranda.
Friends by Eric Carle
I came across this book in my walk through Barnes & Noble today and thought “how precious”. It is the very simple story of a boy who searches through mountains and valleys, trekking a long way through trees to find his friend who moved far, far away. He happens to be a white boy, his friend happens to be a brown girl and in the end, they get married. There is no mention of the fact that the two are different as he goes on his adventure. The illustration is inviting and the book is much more of a display of Eric Carle’s illustrations than of the story. I so like the message of marrying one’s best friend and the fact that the couple resembles so many of our children’s parents.
Recommendation: Recommended; Ages: 3-Adult
Book Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
The Literary Litmus Test: Your First Page
Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)
Employers spend an average of just 30 seconds scanning each job resumé. If you don’t make an immediate positive impression, you won’t get called in for an interview.
The same half-minute scan holds true for your fiction. One page is all you have to hook an agent or editor and entice them to keep reading. Without a strong voice, a compelling hook and sharp writing, you’re doomed for a swim with the slushies.
It therefore makes sense to attend a first page critique. The neighborhood kids may giggle over your tale, your friends might deem it wonderful, and your critique partners may even bless it as ready for submission. But a professional opinion is your best literary litmus test.
A professional first page critique can answer these questions:
- Is your writing appropriate for the genre? Does the voice match the target age range? Is your picture book too wordy; is your…
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How to Become a Children’s Author
Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)
If you want to publish a book for children, the first thing you must do is ask yourself why.
Is your motivation to publish a kid’s book one of the following?
- Your kids/grandkids/nieces/nephews/neighbors/students love a story you’ve written.
- It would be fun to see your name in print.
- You want to sign autographs.
- You want to make money, quickly.
- You want your artist cousin/sister/friend to illustrate it.
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, please read this post. I write this to save you a lot of time and frustration. Because it’s not an easy business. NOT. EASY. AT. ALL.
New writers often believe they can pen one story in an hour or two, never revise it, yet somehow land an agent and a publishing deal—-as if the simple act of writing begets publication.
Hitting one baseball does not mean the Yankees will draft you. Likewise, writing…
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