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Perfect 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…)
Bintou’s Braids tells the story of a little girl who dreams of being pretty. To Bintou, this means having long, flowing braids with beads and seashells attached like those of the women in her West African village. However, in her culture, she is not allowed to wear such braids because little girls were expected to focus on play and learning instead of vanity. Throughout the story, Bintou seems to wander about on the outskirts of all the celebratory happenings in her village—primarily observing the events surrounding her brother’s baptism; but she spends a good deal of the story observing and longing to experience the fine details of the elegantly braided hairstyles that the women in her village wear. Soon, Bintou becomes central to the happenings in the village when she springs into action to save the lives of two boaters.
More than a story about hair, Bintou’s Braids shares a story about loving every step of your journey—in life and in hair. I appreciated the fact that her wise Grandma Soukeye was steadfast in ensuring that Bintou held onto her youth. Bintou did not get the hairstyle of her dreams that was promised by her aunt for being a hero, but in the end, the blue and yellow ribbons wrapped around her four hair knots with birds flowing from them made her feel like a pretty little girl—a smart and brave, pretty little girl.
Geographically, Bintou is worlds apart from little girls in the United States, but her story highlights cultural diversity as well as the fact that inasmuch as we are different we share similar concerns. Credit must also be given to Shane Evans whose artful illustrations with their golden tones and rich blues complement and enliven Bintou’s dreams and life.
Highly Recommended; Ages 6+ (The text may be a bit too wordy for younger children with shorter attention spans.) (buy)
Book Review by; La Tonya Jackson
This is a lovely, simple story that deals with some complex identity issues without allowing any of those issues to feel heavy. A Mixed Heritage girl goes on a journey that affirms all the parts of her identity—Caribbean African Princess and United States acculturated, freckle-faced, city girl. At the center of this story is Lyra—a freckle-faced brown girl who lives on the tenth floor of an apartment building in the city but her mom tells her she is an African Princess. Starting with the light mentioning of Lyra’s African Princess ancestor captured from Africa and taken to the Caribbean, the story then moves to showing Lyra’s life as a city princess in the United States. Illustrated with collages, that make the reader feel like they are in the middle of an African Diaspora quilt world, the story of African quilts and robes that have traveled around the world as physical surviving representations of African heritage is shown without being told.
When the kids make fun of her for claiming to be an African Princess, Lyra’s family plans a visit to see her mother’s kin in the Caribbean. Daddy, from whom Lyra has presumably inherited the reddish hair and freckles, helps Lyra count down the days to the trip. In the Caribbean, Lyra’s great aunt, shows her quilts made by hand which they use as Lyra’s royal robes. Lyra’s aunt also explains that from the original African princess in their family who had many children—there are now African Princesses all over the world and Lyra is one of them. After the visit to the Caribbean, Lyra is stronger in her identity as an African Princess. I like the fact that she doesn’t have to give up any part of her heritage to be the African Princess descended from a long line of African Princesses.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended;Age: 5+
Reviewed by: Omilaju Miranda