Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka

cover for All the Colors of the EarthPoetically, the children of this book become the natural bounty of the earth, their skin color and hair textures compared to the beautiful colors of nature and hair compared to the textures of other living creatures.
With typical sentences/stanzas like,
“Children come in all the colors of the earth—
The roaring browns of bears and soaring eagles,
The whispering golds of late summer grasses,
And crackling russets of fallen leaves,”
a child is able to glean a confidence-inspiring insight into their physical look. This is a beautifully illustrated book that lives up to the lyrical poetry of its narrative. The illustrations go far beyond the normal representation of the human rainbow and, with very detailed rendering of facial characteristics, skin complexions and hair textures, the reader sees real differences in many, many different ethnic types. On the pages of this book, children of every ethnic heritage will find reflections of themselves enjoying life and the world around them. While every physical type of child is represented in ‘All the Colors of the Earth,’ only interracial families are represented, which I think is an exceptional and novel choice however disappointingly inconsistent with the universal inclusiveness of the other illustrations.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Ages 3+
Book Review by Omilaju Miranda.


And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson

And Tango Makes Three coverSo, did you know that there was a true story of two male penguins partnering for life, adopting a penguin chick and raising her? Neither did I until I reached the end of And Tango Makes Three, but this all happened at the Central Park Zoo and what a wonderful way for us to see that family takes all constructs in the animal world as in the human world. I think that the fact that this is a true story should have come earlier in the story, to make it more universally appealing as the wonder of it all is that the way the penguins manage their life as a couple and family is very similar to the way that humans find their way, emulating their hetero-normative parents and fellow citizens. Until I knew that this was a true story, I kind of felt like the book was agenda driven which was uncomfortable; once I knew it was a true story I was in awe at the universality of relationship experiences that may very well cross all species. Roy and Silo (the protagonist penguins) are good sitters to the egg given to them by the zookeeper, and when Tango emerges from the egg, they are good parents to her. Because of the straightforward comparative writing, I would say that this book is like a National Geographic story for preschoolers and elementary students with appealing illustration that makes entertaining use of the page. The story is one that everybody of all ages should know to increase awareness and acceptance in society. I tend to like stories that are strong in plot and character internally and independently whereas And Tango Makes Three depends a little too much on comparing the same-gender couple to opposite gender couples and penguin families for my tastes but there is value in informational picture books as well as those grounded solely in good story.

 Recommendation: Recommended; ages 3+

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda


A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza

cover for A mother for chocoI 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

The Rabbits’ Wedding by Garth Williams

cover for The Rabbits' WeddingIn this delightful story meant to parallel interracial relationships, a black rabbit and white rabbit play together in the forest. In between games, the black rabbit keeps “just thinking.” He doesn’t tell the white rabbit what he is thinking until half way through the book when she insists that he share his thoughts. He tells her that he wishes he could be with her forever but he knows that can’t happen. The white rabbit tells the Black Rabbit that he can have his wish if he wishes hard enough for it. When he tells her that he wants to be with her forever, she agrees to be with him forever and ever. The animals of the forest come out to celebrate their wedding.

This is a good book to demonstrate to children that wishes can come true, the importance of telling a person that you love them when you do, and the obvious: that physical differences especially skin/fur color should never stop people from deciding to be together forever. I’m not a huge fan of the “I’m thinking” motif used in the story or the fact that the only bunnies that come to their wedding are the black bunnies—I actually found the latter quite disturbing as it was illustrated clearly without being mentioned in the text. Other than those exceptions, I think ‘The Rabbits’ Wedding’ is a lovely way to introduce small children to the idea of obviously different people being friends and marriage partners.

Recommendation: Recommended; Ages 4+
Book Review by Omilaju Miranda