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…)

Education & Empathy; Thong’s Round Is A Tortilla & Green Is A Chile Pepper and the Importance of Diversity in Toddler Literacy

Round is a Tortilla cover green is a chile pepper

One thing that’s most lovely about books directed at very young children is their ability to invite and include. The books Round is a Tortilla and Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Greenfield Thong are musical and colorful representations of the Mexican-American subculture.

 The inclusion of subcultures and images which portray children of color is so immensely important to the development of empathy. Exposing very young children to stories where foods, colors, cultures, and concepts are dissimilar from what they see, allows them to see the world differently. In addition, finding comparisons is equally important. So, in these books, instead of something being round like a cookie, it’s round like a tortilla, or instead of green like the grass it’s green like a chile pepper. The shapes and colors are the familiar and the tortilla and chile pepper are the unfamiliar (unless you cook some spicey food!). In addition, if your child does happen to be part of the subculture represented, the mere presence of people who look (have brown skin, in the case of these stories) like your child reinforces their own sense of inclusion.

 So, a little brown girl with a red flower reads a book while sitting on the sill of a square window. This story could be any children’s book, but that seemingly small adjective: brown, changes everything! It doesn’t alter reality, because in reality our county is made of complex color combinations and subcultures, but it alters the trend in children’s books. A book about shapes is important for skill-building and recognition; it helps reinforce terminology, language and develop synaptic pathways for your child, but oh! That brown, that little qualifier, brown: well, it encourages diversity, inclusion, empathy, it reinforces the representations of the self.

 Finally, the minds of children are both absorbent and reflective. They can, like a sponge, retain all that’s around them while simultaneously finding themselves, and their place in that same space.   Round like a Tortilla invites your child to consider shapes outside the normal concepts, it includes your child-of-color or a non-related subculture and it helps children absorb information while finding their own reflections. What more do you need in a toddler’s shape book?

Highly recommended for ages 0 – 4

Reviewer: Rachelle Linda Escamilla

Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash/ Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual by/por Monica Brown

cover for Marisol Mcdonald and the Clash BashMonica Brown once again delivers a captivating protagonist in the character of Marisol McDonald whose bilinguality, red-headed, brown-skinned physical traits, and mixed Peruvian-Scottish-U.S.American ethnic heritage are significant influences on her daily life. Marisol McDonald became one of my favorite children’s literature characters in the first book in this series, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match. This time around, Marisol is days away from her eighth birthday. While she doesn’t want to choose clothes or a party theme that match, she does want to see her abuelita (grandmother) for her birthday. However, Marisol must deal with the disappointing reality that, despite the fact that she has been doing chores and saving money for two years to pay for her abuelita to visit, a visa for her grandmother to visit the U.S. takes too much time for abuelita to arrive before Marisol’s birthday. With the strategic use of hand made, individualized party invitations to her diverse,  multicultural group of friends, Marisol is able to get her mismatched costume birthday party and her abuelita finds a special, and realistic way to make an appearance. The story is told in a rich, first person point of view, which includes a sprinkling of Spanish in the English version and a sprinkling of English in the Spanish version so the reader always feels as if they are living in Marisol’s authentic bilingual world. Palacios’ painted illustrations add to the overall cheer of enjoying this book. And the dual language, English/Spanish telling of the story allow the reader to read the story in both languages in one sitting or read it in English one day and Spanish the next day.

My four-year-old who is rather good at decoding and following a good story didn’t follow all the detailed nuances that go along with Marisol choosing not to match and wasn’t as excited about this story as I was so I put target audience at just slightly older and a better fit for the child who can already read. The quality of the story should make it a favorite for children beyond the age of ten even though they will have already moved on to higher reading levels. For the 5-8 year old reader, new vocabulary is emphasized that will make them excitedly run to the dictionary so they can understand every single word and emotion of this spunky, energetic protagonist. I want to see so much more of Marisol McDonald. Once again, think Madeleine, think Eloise, think Olivia the Pig, think Orphan Annie all updated and in a Peruvian-Scottish U.S.American girl.  l I love this character; you and your kids will as well.  (buy

Recommendations: Highly Recommended Ages 5-8+

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

Book Review for Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown

cover for Marisol Mcdonald Doesn't MatchJust looking at the cover image of this book—a little red-head with toasty brown complexion and Punky Brewster clothing hanging upside down, pink and blue polka dot wrapped pig-tails flapping against her arms, I couldn’t wait to read it. With the title written in English and Spanish, I knew it was going to be a fun read. And, it didn’t disappoint. Once finished, I was so excited, I had to take a few minutes to calm down before writing this review. Marisol embodies and off-beat charm: think Pippi Longstocking, think Eloise, think Madeline; except, Marisol is a Mixed Heritage, Peruvian-Scottish-American and her story is written in English and Spanish with some dialogue in both languages as well. But she is just as confident, plucky, and determined as the other children’s stories’ heroines. Just as her friends and family say she doesn’t match because of her freckled brown skin and red hair (“the color of carrots” says her cousin; “the color of fire”, says Marisol), they say she doesn’t match because she puts peanut butter and jelly on tortillas, they say she doesn’t match because she paints stars in the same sky as the sun, Marisol says all these are good and tasty and unique. Then a friend says she couldn’t match if she wanted to. In true scrappy style, Marisol responds to this comment as if it is a challenge and tries to “match”. Matching is woefully, sad-faced boring until her teacher gives her a note encouraging her to be her mixed up, non-matching self because that is mismatching is true to her. So Marisol in the end is dressed in her Peruvian hat with pink ballet tutu, polka dot skirt and striped leg warmers. She likes herself not matching in every single way. You and your kid will like her too.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended;  Age range: 4-8

 

Book Review by Omilaju Miranda