Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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Perfect Lil Blends by Luke Whitehead

cover for Perfect Lil BlendsPerfect 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…)

When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright

cover for When a Black Girl SingsIf When the Black Girl Sings by Bil Wright was a dish served at a fancy restaurant it would be described as “adoption woes over a bed of teenage angst served with a side of parental problems and an empty glass of communication.” Doesn’t sound like a favorite dish you would order time after time, but it does fill a definite need on the menu.

The main character, Lahni, is a 13 year old black girl who was adopted by white, heterosexual parents when she was a baby. Living with white parents in Connecticut, Lahni attends a private school, with only a handful of non-white students. She feels completely out of place, alone and unable to connect with friends. Adding to her troubles, her parents are getting a divorce and her father has a new “friend”. Then her mother suggests they try going to church, where Lahni meets and befriends the choir director and the church’s soloist who are both black. She is coerced by her music teacher, who sees promise in her, into joining a singing competition at her school. Lahni joins her church choir to help her prepare for the competition and in the end finds her voice.

I found at many times in this book I was frustrated with Lahni and her parents mainly because they seemed to be hopeless at communicating honestly with one another and others around them. After a particularly upsetting incident at school where a classmate calls Lahni an “African baby on a television special” her mom says, “Maybe she meant it as a compliment.” Or when Lahni’s dad finds her waiting outside the door listening to her parents scream at one another, he simply takes his suitcase and gets into the taxi. Lahni, following the role models set out for her, never talks with her parents (or anyone) about how it feels to be a black child adopted by a white family or about the troubles she has as the only black girl in her grade. Lahni keeps her best friend at bay, only telling her about her parents impending divorce at the very end and then again shuts her friend down when she asks questions. Lahni’s struggle with communication does not end with her inability to share her thoughts, but it seems she is not able to garner messages others are telling her as well. Her music teacher and choir director clearly express on multiple occasions their admiration for her singing, yet even to the end Lahni refuses to have confidence in her ability. That said, the teenage years are not perfect. Transracial adoption is not always heart-to-heart chats and a warm cup of cocoa. And I am NOT a black, teenage girl being raised by struggling white parents, so perhaps I just don’t get it. And perhaps there is some reader in Lahni’s exact situation who will want to take Lahni into her heart because she is singing the reader’s song.

At one point in the story, Lahni is being stalked by a white boy in school who calls himself Onyx 1. This boy focuses his affection on Lahni purely based on his desire to date a black girl. Later he gets in a knife fight with two black boys and he calls them “two black apes”. When Lahni hears this, she is so confused about how a person can want to date someone who is black, nickname themselves “black” and then use racial slurs. In typical teenage style, although scared of Onyx 1, she chooses to handle it on her own. Lahni never mentions it to her parents or to another adult until the end of the book after she is forced in a deserted parking lot to confront him. I dislike the fact that the author had Lahni deal with this issue on her own. Obviously, in fiction the author managed the confrontation to work out in Lahni’s favor but in real life confronting a stalker is truly dangerous. I want the message to young adult readers to clearly state, “ask for help from an adult if this happens to you.” I did however like that the author kept Onyx 1’s character as undesirable and Lahni told him to get lost. Too many times, plots include the “good girl” falling for a “bad boy” when she discovers his soft side.

This book has a light Christian theme to it, but it is not overwhelming. In the beginning Lahni attends church for the first time and by the end she performs “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and realizes she is not singing but she is in fact praying.

Recommendation: This book is suitable for readers age 13+.

Reviewer: Amanda Setty

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

Book Review for I am Living in 2 Homes by Garcelle Beauvais and Sebastian A. Jones

cover for I am Living in 2 HomesFrom authors, Sebastian A. Jones and Garcelle Beauvais, we have the second book in the “I am” series of children’s books featuring fraternal twins, Jay and Nia. We met Jay and Nia in their first book, I am Mixed and now in I am Living in 2 Homes, the happy family that we met originally has experienced a split. Mom lives in the country near a river and dad lives in the city near sky scrapers. The children have fun playing in nature doing things like fishing and running after butterflies with mom and doing city things like baseball in the street and eating hot dogs off of food carts, with dad. This book captures the full spectrum of emotions that children feel in the face of their parents splitting up all the while showing us children who are celebrating life; who are joyful in the time they spend with each parent. The difficult feelings that they have to deal with like guilt and fear of their parents forgetting them if they remarry are illustrated first on the faces and in the gestures of the trio of frogs and toads that magically befriend and serve as entourage to Jay and Nia throughout the book. The trio of frogs adds humor throughout the story, which deals with the complexities of this heavy topic through a poetic narrative and many illustrations of parents hugging and reassuring their children.

James C. Webster’s illustrations are evocative and poignant. Adults will feel every emotion I’ve described and more as they read to their children. At the end of the book there’s a note from Jay and Nia about appreciating all family. Children have an opportunity to fill out a discussion form that allows them to identify good things about themselves and good things about living in two homes. There is also a parent discussion guide on using the book to discuss your family. Overall, this is a good book for children to have in the face of divorce or separation and is a great companion for parents who have to discuss the split family with their children and may have difficulty steering the conversation.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended. Age 3-8


Review by Omilaju Miranda