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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…)
Look closely at the illustrations as you read this book and each time you will discover something new. The words are the lyrics of Bob Marley’s song “One Love”, the illustrations tell the story of community togetherness. A little girl waves goodbye to her loving mom and dad and walks into the friendly world outside her door, which is filled with nature, happy neighbors and close friends who play, plant, and recycle together. The illustrations are vivid, exciting and contagiously spread a smile across your face. Although the only obvious racial phenotypes are Caucasian, African Diaspora and black/white mixed, the full range of phenotypes within those ethnicities is represented. Children of all ages will enjoy this book and those who remember the song will love sharing the song with a new generation as they follow the illustrations telling the story of community responsibility and cooperation to repair, rebuild, and landscape a neighborhood park in disrepair. Simple, loving, lyrical of course, and with such strong illustration dependent story telling that this is a great book for the pre-literate child to practice decoding and multiple levels of “reading” comprehension, which is what I did with my pre-reading daughter. This is a book everyone should have and all who have children should read and discuss with their kids. (buy)
Recommendation: Highly recommended Ages 2+
What I like about this book more than anything is the idea. A single mother who lives in the United States with her son Justice, takes him on a trip to her Jamaican homeland where he is immersed in a new culture and learns a new language. While they are walking along the roads (pon di road), they meet a variety of adult characters running businesses from small shops or road side stands. Justice gets to try new types of food and meet people who instantly adore him as he learns new phrases. The tone of the narrative voice is fun and I find it appealing that there are positive representations of entrepreneurial black Jamaicans, as well as positive representations of African Diaspora people with uncombed, natural kinky, coily hair and dread locks. Also, there’s a great historical timeline and glossary in the back of the book, which are valuable teaching tools.
What is not appealing is that the narrative is just too long for this story; the illustrations which look like prematurely exposed film photos are often eerie, the detail is difficult to see, and are often not well paired with the narrative. The discontinuity of the illustrations often occurs because one page of the narrative will go on and on and the only thing illustrated is the experience Justice had in the first paragraph or first sentence. I think if a teacher is looking for a way to make a history lesson on Jamaica or the Caribbean fun, sharing the first few pages of this book and the rich glossary and history section in the back with a classroom would be valuable. The simple tone of the narrative and the stroller riding toddler protagonist indicate that the story is targeted to ages 1-5 but the length and history section are more appropriate for ages 7-9. I don’t know if the narrative will hold the attention of either age group for its entirety but an adult who reads the book in advance and edits the story for their child’s attention span will share a unique story with their child and learn more about Jamaica than just the music with which we are familiar.
Recommendation: Recommended for educational purposes to adults who will work around the narrative. Ages 2-9.
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
A good amateur writer’s effort at rhyming and cohesive story. The story is accessible and realistic, easily allowing a child to see the beauty of difference and how difference exists amongst people and animals. The rhyme is mostly on but off sometimes and she chooses some language that to me reads as raising mixed ethnicity to a superior level over non-mixed ethnicity but I’m just going to find a way to reword those two pages. The illustration is vivid and realistic.
Recommendation: Recommended; ages 3-6
Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda
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