Tag: diversity

4 Picture Books Celebrating Hispanic Heritage

All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle

All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Mike Curato (9781627796422)

A boy and his family are heading to a birthday party for a newborn baby. But first they have to get their old car to run. The car, like many in Cuba, is very old and has been repaired again and again. Papa opens the hood and the boy helps hand him tools to get the engine chattering again. The road is bumpy and the car is crowded with neighbors who also needed a ride that day. As they get to Havana, the countryside transitions into an urban world, filled with other old cars, bicycles and people walking. After the party, the family heads back in the car in the darkness.

Engle’s skill with writing fills the page with the richness of Cuba and its cars. She spends time looking at the engine and letting the child help. There is a feeling of joy upon entering Havana and a wonder about it as well. The illustrations also feel that way, the text and illustrations slowing together as Havana comes into sight and is entered. A great pick for car fans and diversity. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya

La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal (9780399251566)

A Peruvian twist on the classic fairy tale of The Princess and the Pea, this picture book incorporates Spanish words into the story. El principe wanted a wife but his mother was very selective. When a maiden riding past caught the prince’s eye, his mother devised a sneaky test of a pea and a pile of mattresses. But this twist on the tale has one additional surprise for readers familiar with the tale: a prince with a mind of his own! The text of this book is simple and filled with touches of Spanish that keep the book firmly grounded in Peru. The illustrations do the same with traditional outfits and bright colors that blaze against the subtle backgrounds. A great pick to share with children who will love the twist at the end. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (ARC provided by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.)

Sing Don_t Cry by Angela Dominguez

Sing Don’t Cry by Angela Dominguez (9781627798396)

Two children are visited once a year by their grandfather from Mexico. He brings his guitar and shares songs with them every night. He encourages his grandchildren to sing even if they feel sad. When he was a child and had to find a new country to live in, music helped him. The power of music to change your mood and to draw new people and opportunities to you is explained very simply here. Preschoolers will understand the draw of music and will enjoy the direct message of using music as a way to change. Inspired by the author’s own grandfather, this picture book is a celebration of music and grandparents. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Yo Soy, Muslim by Mark Gonzales

Yo Soy, Muslim: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter by Mark Gonzales, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini (9781481489362)

Crafted as a letter from a father to his daughter, this picture book sings with love. The poetic language of the text soars celebrating their identity as Muslims and Indigenous people who speak both Spanish and Arabic. The book focuses on positivity but also addresses the fact that some people will be unkind, not smile or ask pointed questions. The book then returns to celebrating identity and diversity, strengthening the message of pride. The illustrations are filled with deep colors, natural scenes and a playfulness that heightens the book. An underlying folklore quality to them ties the images to heritage. A great diverse picture book for all libraries. Appropriate for ages 3-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman (9781481487726)

Kiko struggles to find her own voice in many ways. She can’t seem to be herself in crowds, even small ones. She certainly can’t tell her mother what she actually thinks, particularly when her mother lets her uncle return to their home after Kiko had accused him of molesting her as a child. It is only in her art that Kiko tells her own story and speaks the truth. She plans to finally get away from her mother by attending art school in New York City. When she doesn’t get in, Kiko is trapped in a life of seeing her molester in her home, being with her horrible mother, and seeing her best friend head off to school. That is when a childhood friend comes back into her life and she begins to see what a future filled with art and honesty looks like.

I read only the first few lines of this debut book and realized that I had tumbled into the world created by a very talented storyteller. It is a world of abusive mothers, where the abuse is emotional rather than physical. Bowman draws the abuse clearly and subtly, allowing readers to realize the depths of the damage along with Kiko herself as her mother not only fails to protect her but also hurts her directly. It is a world of art, where art pieces end each chapter, the image capturing the emotions that Kiko was just feeling with an accuracy that lets you see it before your eyes.

This is a book that explores being different, particularly Kiko, who is half Japanese and half Caucasian, looking different than her blonde mother. Her mother has specific cruelties related to Kiko’s appearance that are particularly awful. As Kiko begins to think for herself, readers will be able to start breathing along with her and see just how strong Kiko is as a young woman on her own.

A book that celebrates individuality, art and survival, this novel is fresh and deeply moving. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

ARC provided by Simon & Schuster.

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins (9780374304904)

Mothers and daughters fill the pages of this novel for teens that focuses on three generations of a Bengali family. Tara and Sonia are sisters born in India and who are moving to the United States from England with their parents. The two girls are very different from one another. Tara loves to act and works to figure out who she can pretend to be in this new environment. Sonia enjoys debate and falls for a boy whom her mother cannot accept. When their father dies unexpectedly, their family fractures even farther. As both sisters find men to love them for the modern women they are, they too have daughters. Chantal is a skilled dancer and athlete, who falls for a wealthy all-American boy. Anna grew up in India primarily, and finds herself in high school in America. She is like her Aunt Sonia and always willing to debate. As the women in this family come to accept one another and their life choices, Ranee grows older but still remains involved in everyone’s life even as she becomes more American herself.

This book is simply stellar. Nominated for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, this novel is exceptional in many ways. First, there is the writing by Perkins. It is writing of strength and knowledge, but amazingly unobtrusive too, allowing the story to unfold naturally for the reader. She ties repeating themes into the book: music and dance, diversity and romance. Perkins allows her characters to be racist and yet to learn, to change over the course of time, and to have their opinions and values change as well. This is a difficult thing to accomplish in a novel, giving characters a way forward rather than being villains or one-dimensional.

The five female characters are exceptionally well drawn. Readers will be enthralled with all of their stories, the tale of Ranee herself tying the entire book together in the end. The characteristics of family members are celebrated: passion, intelligence, caring and more. These create a wholeness for the family, a feeling of generations being different but also alike despite clothes, life styles and decisions they make. There is a solidity to this family, one that reads with clarity and honesty and feels like home.

A triumph of a novel for teens that celebrates family, diversity and love. Appropriate for ages 13-16.

(Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.)

Most People by Michael Leannah

Most People by Michael Leannah

Most People by Michael Leannah, illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris (9780884485544, Amazon)

Released August 15, 2017.

This reassuring picture book shows children that the world around them is filled with helpful and friendly people. It’s a strong response to the negativity so often seen in our world and absorbed by our children as frightening ideas and thoughts. The picture book is set in an urban and diverse neighborhood where accidents happen and neighbors help out. It’s a place where people are friendly, smile at babies, and watch out for one another. It’s a place where people in need are given assistance, where children are empowered to help. It’s the world where we all live right now, if we only can see it that way.

Leannah writes in very straight-forward prose. He states again and again the certainty that most people are good and that most people see the world exactly the way the reader does. That most people want to help and do good. It is a book that brings a sense of safety to the young reader or listener, one that can help see their community and their school in a different way. It’s also a book that will start conversations about what kind of person they are and what positive changes they want to see in their world.

The illustrations emphasize diversity and the friendly urban setting. The book follows the course of a day and ends with a beautiful city night and people seen through windows and on rooftops as a larger community.

A strong and positive book that is important for children of today. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Netgalley and Tilbury House Publishers.

 

This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe

This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe

This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe (9781452150185, Amazon)

The lives of seven children from around the world are documented in this engaging nonfiction picture book. A child each from Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Russia and Uganda share their daily lives. They talk about what they eat, where they live, their schools, how they play and where they sleep. This is an intimate look at these children and their lifestyles that offers a way to look at how cultures are different but also how certain things are universal as well.

Lamothe worked with seven real families to create the book, showing photographs of them at the end of the book. The focus on concrete things that make up our lives offers a tangible way for children to see cultures and explore differences and similarities. It’s a clever way to invite children to explore and learn.

The illustrations are phenomenal and with their fine details offer the same sort of window as photographs. While it is great to see the photographs at the end, they offer a sort of confirmation that the illustrations truly have captured the lives of these children. These are illustrations to pore over and enjoy, allowing them to transport you around the globe.

Wonderful for classrooms and libraries, this nonfiction picture book is exceptional. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

 

Up! by Susan Hughes

Up! by Susan Hughes

Up!: How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones by Susan Hughes, illustrated by Ashley Barron (9781771471763, Amazon)

All around the world, families use different ways of carrying their children. This book travels the globe, showing widely diverse families and how they hold their babies close. There are babies being carried in arms, others in shawls, still others in parka hoods. Baby carriers can be used in different ways, whether you are father or brother and if you are differently abled. Baskets and shoulder rides are also shown. Up we go!

Hughes has chosen a wide range of baby carriers in her prose. She keeps it deliberately simple, making it a book that can be happily shared with little ones. The small format of the book also helps make it approachable. Only a little prose is given on each page, the brisk pace and changing scenes keeping the book very lively. It has a lovely bounce to the text, a sway like holding a baby on your hip or bouncing them merrily along.

Barron’s illustrations embrace the diversity and add to it. She has people of a wide range of races and religions on the page. The images are done in cut-paper collage and have a simplicity but also fully depict that part of the world. The crisp lines and bright colors add to the appeal for little ones.

A grand picture book that I hope gets made into a board book as well, this is a jolly journey through babies and how they are carried. Appropriate for ages 1-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Aminas Voice by Hena Khan

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan (9781481492065, Amazon)

Amina doesn’t like the spotlight. Her best friend Soojin knows that Amina can really sing, but Amina just won’t even try for the solo for the upcoming concert. Amina’s life is changing now that they are in middle school. Soojin has started being friendly with Emily even though Emily had helped bully them in elementary school. Amina just isn’t ready to forgive Emily so quickly. Meanwhile, Amina’s uncle comes to visit from Pakistan, bringing new ideas about what it means to be Muslim. He causes Amina to start to question whether she should even be singing or playing music at all. Amina feels pressured to change but in multiple directions at once.

Khan has created a book for middle schoolers that takes a quieter look at diversity, family and being true to oneself. It is a book that looks closely at what it means to be a Muslim girl in America and how to follow the values of your culture even as you are pressured to be more American. It is a book that looks at the power of voice, of music and of community to overcome hardship and to share emotions. It is a book that has a gorgeous warmth to it, a joy of family, friendship and diversity.

Amina is a very special protagonist. Rather than being the center of attention, she doesn’t seek it at all. Still, she is lonely or ignored. She has friends and is grappling with the normal changes that come during middle school. On top of that, she is also asking deeper questions about faith, culture and living in America that will ring true for all young readers. Amina’s quietness and thoughtfulness allow those questions to shine.

Filled with important questions for our modern world, this middle-grade novel sings with a voice all its own. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Salaam Reads.