Diverse Kids Books–Reviews

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little blue and little yellow by Leo Lionni

cover for little blue and little yellowlittle blue and little yellow is a cute book with two ragged-edged dots as the protagonists. One dot is blue and one dot is yellow. They hug and become one green dot that plays throughout the day with other dot friends. Then they go home, first to blue dot’s home then to yellow dot’s home and the parents of both reject green dot because they don’t recognize their child in the green dot. When green dot cries, blue and yellow tears come out until “they are ALL tears”. We see a bunch of little blue dashes and a bunch of little yellow dashes then we see the individual yellow and blue dot again. As their original selves, blue dot and yellow dot go home and their parents rejoice by hugging them and then the other parents. When the yellow and blue parents hug each other, they see that they also turn green when they hug. The difference for the parents is they do not allow themselves to become one new green dot. Instead, they visit each other and go out to watch their children play again with part of their green union intact while on either side they are their blue and yellow selves. They are now a role model for little blue and little yellow who are, like their parents, walking around and playing in the same configuration, which is blue and yellow on the edges and green in the middle. They play with other dots of different colors, some of which are also blending together.

This book functions on multiple levels that children of increasing age groups up to adult will be able to discuss and analyze: 1. It teaches children about color combining to make new colors; 2. It teaches children that you can have fun as friends and be affectionate with people of different colors and if you marry you make a whole unique creation. 3. It teaches that you can combine in a relationship while also being yourself hence green in the middle of yellow and blue on the edges. 4. It teaches that when families become united through marriage, even the in-laws change into a new creation. 5. It also teaches that when parents don’t recognize their children because of the way they have changed in their new relationship, they often reject them and it isn’t until they once again recognize their children, perhaps in the arrival of grandchildren, that they accept their children and their children’s chosen relationship but only the most advanced readers will get number 5.

I found it thought provoking on a simple and complex level. It was age appropriate and sparked questions from my 3-year-old daughter while making me recognize it as criticism of exclusionary, familial rejection and prejudiced social practices as well as a critique of in-law relationships especially in cross cultural families.

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

Felicia’s Favorite Story by Leslea Newman

Felicia's Favorite Story by Leslea NewmanThis is a simple story that demonstrates a girl’s self-knowledge and love of her own familial history. It’s Felicia’s bedtime and before she goes to sleep she wants a story but not one from a book—in classic, creative recognition of a young child’s vanity, Newman has Felicia ask her mom to tell her a story instead of reading her a story—the story of her adoption. Felicia and her moms become a family through an at-birth adoption in which New York native Mama Nessa and Puerto Rican native Mama Linda travel to Guatemala to bring Felicia home .
As her Mama Linda tells her the story, Felicia interrupts, often inserting her humor and her own retelling of the story into her mother’s narrative. Felicia isn’t the only one with humor as her mothers join in with humor of their own which includes ponderings of why they didn’t adopt certain animals instead of a child and stories of how they chose Felicia’s name. If you have an expressive child, you and your child will see their quick wit and self-indulgence in the character of Felicia and you and your significant other in the bargaining, nurturing ways of Mama Linda and Mama Nessa. Adriana Romo’s illustrations look like paintings; Romo even frames them in borders that refer to Latin American cultural art, pulling the reader in as admiring observer as well as reader.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Ages 4+

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

The Adventures of Harmony by Edward Rea

The Adventures of Harmony by Edward ReaGet this book if you want your child to see two characters in a book who are multiracial people of color as are the protagonist and the mother in The Adventures of Harmony. The book is not about their ethnicity or the family’s interracial composition. There’s only one line in the book about her parents “looking different” which isn’t even clearly about their race/ethnicity. The line is so vague that it could be a book about the fact that men and women look different. The blurb on the back cover promised a “round the world adventure” and there are four pages that reference Harmony in relation to the broader world. The illustration was very realistic which I find appealing.

Recommendation: Unenthusiastically recommended only for the purpose of showing your child reader diverse characters.

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

Friends by Eric Carle

Cover for Eric Carle's FriendsI came across this book in my walk through Barnes & Noble today and thought “how precious”. It is the very simple story of a boy who searches through mountains and valleys, trekking a long way through trees to find his friend who moved far, far away. He happens to be a white boy, his friend happens to be a brown girl and in the end, they get married. There is no mention of the fact that the two are different as he goes on his adventure. The illustration is inviting and the book is much more of a display of Eric Carle’s illustrations than of the story. I so like the message of marrying one’s best friend and the fact that the couple resembles so many of our children’s parents.

Recommendation: Recommended; Ages: 3-Adult

Book Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

Mommy, Mama, and Me by Leslea Newman

Mommy mama and meParenthood through a child’s eyes can’t get any simpler than the way it is presented in this book by Leslea Newman. Mommies are the people who care for you and make sure you have fun.  If you have a child under the age of five who you want to see that having two mommies is just regular life, this book should be a part of your home library. It is a  board book so if your child younger than three-years-old gets attached in a way that they play roughly with the books, the texts are durable.  One mother is white, the other appears to be of multiracial African descent;  The child also looks to be multiracial. The book simply carries the reader through a fun day in life; there is no discussion of adoption or biology. When I read Mommy, Mama, and Me with my daughter at age two, she was very interested in clarifying the gender of the child. My daughter asked me several times “Is she a boy or is he a girl?” and she kept trying to figure out which mother was “mommy”.  By opening these questions in my daughter’s mind, the book gave, and continues to give us a doorway to discuss having two moms. When this book is read with it’s companion book, Daddy, Papa and Me, my daughter’s questions about the child’s gender elucidate the one problem I have with Mommy, Mama, and Me and the books as a pair—the child in Mommy, Mama, and Me is androgynous and the child in Daddy, Papa, and Me is a boy  but what of girls who have two parents of the same gender? I still think these are “must have” books, which are easily accessible and enjoyable for kids of all ages.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Age 0-5

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

Daddy, Papa, and Me by Leslea Newman

Cover for Daddy, Papa, and MeParenthood through a child’s eyes can’t get any simpler than the way it is presented in this book  Daddies are the people who take care of you, play with you and fix things for you. If you have a child under the age of five who you want to see that having two  daddies is just regular life, this book should be a part of your home library. It is a board books so if your child younger than three-years-old gets attached in a way that they play roughly with the books, the texts are durable.  One father is white and the other father is Asian and the child is white. Because these are books that simply carry the reader through a fun day in the life, there is no discussion of adoption or biology. A few months ago when my daughter was still two, we read Mommy, Mama, and Me  by the same author and my daughter kept trying to figure out which mother was the mommy. However, when we read Daddy, Papa, and Me last night, my daughter, now three-years-old, only had questions about what the father was doing on the page where he is fixing a stuffed animal while a mug of coffee sits on the table beside him. She wanted to know why he was drinking coffee and why he needed scissors. This is a “must have” book, which is easily accessible and enjoyable for kids of all ages.

Recommendation: Highly Recommended; Age 0-5

Reviewer: Omilaju Miranda

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