Tag: diversity

Review: Over the River and Through the Wood by Linda Ashman


Over the River and Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Kim Smith (InfoSoup)

This modern take on the classic holiday song has family members from around the nation traveling to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the holidays. One family traveling by car comes with 2 dogs, 2 pies and one enormous teddy bear. When their car runs out of gas, they are rescued by a horse and sleigh. The next family, a gay couple with older daughter and baby, travel from a major city via subway and then train. They discover there aren’t any rental cars, but again they are rescued by the same sleigh. Two more families join the pattern, both with diverse family members, and all needing the rescuing sleigh in the end so they can all make it to Grandma’s house by night.

I love the jaunty rhyme here. While it can seem stilted when read silently, once you try to read it aloud it is magically fun and the rhyme works to create a real rhythm to the story. The repetition for each family no matter how they are traveling to Grandma’s house makes for a book that even small children will enjoy. Each meets with a disaster and then is rescued by that same sleigh. Hurray!

The diversity on the page here is especially welcome. Nothing is mentioned in the text, it is the illustrations that bring this large family filled with different types of families together. There is the gay couple, the multiracial family, and one family that may or may not have adopted children. Staying open to interpretation also means that many families will see themselves reflected here.

A great addition to holiday book shelves, this take on a classic song adds a modern sensibility to heading to Grandma’s house. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Sterling Children’s Books.


Review: Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin

Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin

Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Lauren Tobia (InfoSoup)

A picture book all about skin and how important it is to our bodies, this book also celebrates the different colors of skin we all come in. The book begins with the joy of baby skin in all of its sweet colors of cocoa, cinnamon, honey and ginger. It then talks about how skin forms a protective barrier for you, forming scabs when you hurt yourself and growing along with you. The way skin reacts to sun and to cold is also talked about and then the book talks again about how your skin is unique and so is everyone else’s too.

Written in rhyming couplets, this picture book has a jolly galloping feel to it with they rhymes propelling the text along. The book is a wonderful mix of scientific information about skin that is appropriate for very small children and praise for the beautiful variety of skin colors that you see. This is a wonderful book to start discussing diversity with very small children. The urban setting is a delight with people of differing abilities, Muslim families, and children and adults of all races. The book does focus on one family in particular where one of the parents could be any gender, making this book all the more welcoming.

The illustrations by Tobia go a long way to making this book inclusive and diverse. From henna on hands to families of mixed races, these illustrations are celebratory of the vast diversity we have. At the same time, there is a universal nature to all of them, with all of the families loving their children, adoring their infants, and spending the day outside together as a community.

A fresh and lovely look at diversity for the smallest of children, this book will serve as both a mirror and a window for all. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Untwine by Edwidge Danticat

Untwine by Edwidge Danticat

Untwine by Edwidge Danticat (InfoSoup)

Giselle and Isabelle are identical teen twins on their way to Izzie’s concert at school when their car is crashed into and their lives changed forever. Giz wakes up in a hospital room, unable to speak or move. She can hear though and is in a semi-conscious state. That’s how she realizes that everyone thinks that she is Isabelle. People don’t mention her at all, avoiding the subject, but Giz is sure that she would know if Isabelle had died. Her parents eventually come to see her, both physically battered by the accident and with bruises, broken bones and casts. Trapped and unable to communicate, Giselle thinks about her past with her family, their strong ties to their Haitian heritage and the bond that she and her sister have always had.

Danticat is an award-winning author of several adult books. This is her debut YA title. Her writing is superb. Told in Giz’s voice, the prose lilts and dances like poetry. It weaves around the reader, creating moments of clarity and then as Giz reminisces about her family and sister lifting into pure emotion. Nothing is told, all is shown and there is a radiance to the entire novel that is sublime.

Giz is a strong heroine. Haitian-American, she is solidly connected to her heritage through her grandparents who still live in Haiti. It’s a joy to see a depiction of a family of color who are complex and far from stereotypical. Giz is a large part of this. Her voice is clearly her own, her upbringing affects everything around her, and being a person of color is at the core of this novel yet not at center stage. It is done with a delicate yet firm hand.

One of the most beautifully written teen novels of the year, this look at sisterhood, death, grief and family is hauntingly lovely. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic Press.

Review: Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat

Mamas Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Leslie Staub

Saya’s mother has been taken to an immigration detention center and held for three months. Saya misses her a lot, spending time at night listening to her mother’s voice on the answering machine. Her Papa spends his evenings writing to judges and the media to find help, but no one ever responds. Every week, Saya and Papa go to visit her mother, but it is always hard to leave her behind again. Then Saya’s mother starts to record stories for her, all based on Haitian folk tales, some sad and some happy. Saya decides to write her own letter to the media and gains their attention. Soon Mama is brought before a judge due to the pressure brought by the media and viewers. The judge allows her to return home until her papers arrive.

Danticat is a National Book Award winner for her adult books. In her Author’s Note she speaks to the impact of immigration and separation in her own childhood. In the United States in recent years, over 70,000 parents of American-born children have been jailed or deported. This is an issue impacting every community in our country. Danticat offers not only a view of how this separation affects a child, but also a way forward for both children to feel they are doing something to help and parents who are jailed to stay in touch with their children through stories from their heritage. Beautifully written, this picture book sings the message of diversity, inclusion and humanity.

The illustrations by Staub are lush and colorful. They show the power of the human voice and shared stories in a visual way, swirling the page with images of Mama as well as from the stories being shared. The colors of joy infuse the pages just as the colors of sorrow appear on others. It is a very effective way to show the myriad of emotions that Saya is feeling.

An important book that is beautifully written and illustrated, this picture book belongs in every library. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

Review: One Family by George Shannon

One Family by George Shannon

One Family by George Shannon, illustrated by Blanca Gomez (InfoSoup)

A joyous look at how different families can be and how very happy people can be in small and large families. The book is a cheery mix of counting book and family size, moving from one person happily sharing her book with her cat to a very large family of ten with grandparents mixed in. The book celebrates diversity in families as well with people of different ethnic backgrounds and gay parents. This picture book will have every child seeing themselves on the page and able to relate, which is definitely something to be celebrated!

Shannon writes a great little poem that carries this book forward at a brisk and jaunty pace. Each verse looks at a larger family but begins with “One is…” and then the number of people in that family. The verse then goes on to show other objects and items that are that number but still a solid unit, like a bunch of bananas or a flock of birds. The message is one of being loved and included no matter the size of your family or who is part of it.

Gomez’s illustrations are lovely. She creates diversity with a sense of ease, rather than it being forced at all. It is a joy to see the final page where all of the families are in the same neighborhood and mingling outside, one big rainbow of people together. Her paper collage illustrations are friendly and filled with small touches that are worth lingering over. It’s those touches that make the book feel even more warm and the families all the more loving.

A great pick to celebrate the diversity in every community, this is a great pick to share aloud thanks to the clever rhyme and lovely illustrations. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Review: The World in a Second by Isabel Minhos Martins

world in a second

The World in a Second by Isabel Minhos Martins, illustrated by Bernardo Carvalho (InfoSoup)

This picture book explores time and the way that things happen all at once across the world. Small moments are captured from various countries: an elevator stuck in New York City, a horn honks in traffic in Mexico, a volcano erupts, a boy learns to balance on his bike. One after another these snapshots of time are happening all at once and yet also form a lovely series of events that are all entirely human and show how interrelated our world actually is.

The concept is at once immensely simple and also incredibly complex, the understanding that your own life is just one of many being lived at the very same time. Martins embraces that duality in the book, capturing those universal moments but also showing the diversity around the world. A guide at the end of the book includes a map of where the various events take place all at the same time. There is a distinct wonder to the book, a feeling that the world is both larger and smaller than it had seemed to be a second before.

Carvalho’s illustrations are bold and graphic. He uses thick black lines to create scenes that are active and beautiful. One page contrasts with the next, showing diverse people and settings. The result is a feeling of moving clearly from one place to the next with each turn of the page, from lush jungles to concrete settings, from bright sunlight to clouded evening.

Perfect to start discussions about time and place and even time zones, this picture book allows children to think in a bigger way about their world, diversity and their own place. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Review: Room for Bear by Ciara Gavin

room for bear

Room for Bear by Ciara Gavin (In InfoSoup)

Bear visited the Duck family one spring and then never left. He fit in perfectly in many ways, except for their house which was not designed for someone Bear’s size. So Bear set off in search of a perfect space for all of them. But it was hard to find a place that worked. Places that fit Bear perfectly did not work for the Ducks. Where the Ducks were happy, Bear was not. Then Bear thought that maybe it was because HE did not fit in with the Ducks after all, so he went away to find a home just for him. The Ducks missed Bear horribly, and Bear missed the Ducks. Finally, Bear found just the right huge cave for himself and then came up with a clever Duck-sized solution that would let them all live together happily.

This picture book is about families and what makes a family. Told from the point of view of animals, it speaks beyond cultures and skin color to a feeling where differences in general are embraced and honored. At the same time, the book honors the feeling a person can have of fitting in just fine sometimes and in other situations feeling that they are an outsider. These complex feelings are caught on the page without over dramatizing them. The result is a book the embraces adoptive and blended families of all sorts without making the picture too rosy and uncomplicated.

Gavin’s illustrations are done with a whimsical sense of humor. From Bear trying to fit into a tiny and tippy Duck boat as a home to the unhappy Ducks sitting around the table forlornly missing Bear, she captures emotions clearly on the page as well as the dilemmas of differences. The illustrations are softly painted with fine ink lines that allow both the big bear and small ducks to have personality galore.

A winning read that speaks to all families and particularly adoptive and blended families. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.