Let the Party—and the Learning Begin!

Let the party—and the Learning Begin!.Let's Celebrate HoliChildren love festivals and celebrations–don’t we all!

What better way to expand cultural literacy than through learning about unique holidays marked by other cultures. Let’s Celebrate Holi, India’s Festival of Colors by Ajanta [Chakraborty] and Vivek [Kumar] brings to live a delightful holiday celebrated throughout India. The traditional observances vary throughout the country but all include bonfires and drenching one another in vividly colored water. Let the Party—and the Learning Begin! Celebrate Holi. This charming book will teach you how.

Kids will delight in discovering a holiday that provides the perfect excuse for drenching themselves and others in brilliant color, hurling buckets of water, exuberant dancing and, watching bonfires. While these elements will certainly grab their attention, children will simultaneously absorb information about the story behind the festivities. This knowledge will help build a foundation of awareness of and respect for, the traditions and beliefs from other cultures. This is a delightful and engaging book which help awaken interest in other cultures and will broaden their cultural awareness.

Let the Party—and the Learning Begin!.holi.3In this book (the third in the series) Maya and her brother Neel visit relatives in India. Their arrival coincides with the festival of Holi which provides the perfect opportunity for the cousins to explain the holiday. As Maya and Neel learn about their heritage and the various ways the people celebrate throughout the many regions of India, readers will also. They will discover that India is an immense country with many states, each of which observes the holiday in unique ways. The book also includes a pronunciation guide which demonstrates the proper ways to speak the Indian words.

The authors of the series also maintain a website which features additional resources, Bollygroove dance classes, etc. Check it out.

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AQ Lens: An appreciation for one’s cultural heritage is probably the most obvious Adoption-attuned opportunity which Let’s Celebrate Holi, India’s Festival of Colors provides. Because of the inherent elements of fun, color, dancing and water play most kids will find the story appealing. It may even make it easier for adoptees to share their culture with others–and feel safe about that sharing.

Be sure to read the other books in the series:

Let's Celebrate Diwali.Holi.Let the Party—and the Learning Begin!

 

Let’s Celebrate Five Days of Diwali 

and

 

Let's Visit Mumbai.Let the Party—and the Learning Begin!.61aW9I8-2vL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Let’s Visit Mumbai 

Birthday Celebration, Tree-style

Americans celebrate many beloved holidays  During February we mark Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and Groundhog Day.  Jewish people celebrate an additional holiday, Tu B’Shevat, “The New Year of the Trees or “the Birthday of the Trees.” In 2017,  Tu B’Shevat is observed from sundown on Feb. 10 to sundown on Feb. 11. 

Happy Birthday Tree.51w8spMfTjL._SX396_BO1,204,203,200_Happy Birthday, Tree: A Tu B’Shevat Story by Madelyn Rosenberg and illustrated by Jana Christy is a charming book centered on “The Birthday of the Trees.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          While resting in the branches of her favorite tree,  Joni a little girl living in Israel, ponders how to help celebrate it’s “birthday.” She struggles to find the perfect gift gor her tree.

Lightbulb moment– water, trees need water!

She carefully waters her tree. Although she knows her tree requires water she feels like she wants to give it more. Another idea pops into her mind. Decorations! After she adds them, the tree looks festive but Joni is still not satisfied.

What else does a tree need? Knowing how much she enjoys her own friends, Joni decides her tree needs a companion. She enrolls friends and families to help her. They plant a new tree and she presents it with the perfect gift. Joni promises to care for it well and to “… be good to the trees of the world.”

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned Lens: This story can jump-start many  conversations, for example, that kids can be problem solvers and can awaken adults to take action. This is important to all kids. Adoptees particularly benefit from experiencing competency and acting as agents of their own choices.

The idea to celebrate an obscure holiday might trigger an adoptee’s interest in observing a holiday tradition from their birth culture. Even if they resist the idea of celebrating the event publicly, kids may enjoy learning about it. At the very least the suggestion conveys an interest in and a valuation of their birth culture. That type of validation is vital to adoptees.

 

Families: Each is Special and Unique and Deserves Respect

a family is a family.51FYQ-KDJKL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Family Is A Family written by Sara O’Leary and illustrated by Qin Leng projects the reader into a moment that overflows with emotion. To show her students that all their families are each special and unique and deserve respect, a teacher asks the class to share what each student feels makes their family special.

Told through the words of a little girl, the story begins, “I went last because…”

What a powerful opening. Who among us hasn’t wanted to go last because we feared not fitting in or felt our situation was something to be embarrassed by, ashamed of, or which others might find inferior in some way? I’m guessing as children we all had some of these kind of moments. (Perhaps even as adults, we’ve had times when our stomach clenched as we imagined how others might judge our looks, our homes, our families … us.)

The story proceeds. Child after child describes his/her family. The reader meets an inclusive array of family configurations. Diversity abounds! We see step-families, interracial families, families with many children, foster families, families with only one child, single-parent families, families with two moms or two dads, families who “match” and families who don’t. The stories premise comes across clearly: all families are unique and… that variety does not make one type of family better or less than others. What counts is that families love, support and connect with one another, not how they look, how they came together, nor whether they “match” or not.

Leng’s delicate illustrations portray the families with a warm and whimsical touch which adds charm and appeal to the book.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: Family provides us a space where we feel connected, valued and safe. This book highlights some of the different ways families are formed. This is important for adoptees because they often operate under the misunderstanding that their (adoptive) family is the only one which is “different. Reading about other “alternative” families helps to put the adoptees experience of difference as a source of commonality. Talk about a paradigm shift! It provides children an opportunity to see that other kids may need to feel welcome and accepted and gives adoptees a chance to be the vector of acceptance and welcome. what a refreshing shift for adoptees to be on the giving side of offering acceptance and welcome instead always being the seeker.

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Marisol Rhymes with Parasol

Colorful rainbow umbrella isolated on white background. 3D illustration

Marisol rhymes with parasol which conjures images of brilliant sunshine. Marisol McDonald, the charming heroine of this series delivers a similar warm and sunny lift. She delights in her quixotic and colorful approach to life. She exudes confidence which provides her an umbrella of security to carry her through her days. The series, written in both English and Spanish by Monica Brown and illustrated by Sara Palacios highlights the adventures of Marisol. She has a rich ethnic ancestry (Peruvian-Scottish-American) and a penchant for quirkiness which makes for an interesting, colorful and, fun perspective. Most of us–whether we’re a child or an adult–admire spunk and the ability to be comfy in our own skin. Still, the struggle to find acceptance and to fit in is real, especially for kids. A spunky, self-assured character like Marisol delights and serves as a model for what is possible. Click To Tweet Confident people attract our attention. We want to be with them and be like them.

confidence security quirkiness diversity-marisol-mcdonald-and-the-monster-51bcmtoy6vl-_sx437_bo1204203200_The third, and newest book in the series is,  Marisol McDonald and the Monster  It debuted in July 2016 and finds Marisol  confronting a nightly visit by a monster under her bed. Young readers will easily identify with her situation because most kids have had a similar experience at least once. She tries to be brave and to dismiss the nightly encounter as a figment of her imagination but… try as she might, the monster continues to bother her. In typical Marisol fashion, she takes action.

She fashions a monster of her own, one that is real and–since she created it herself, it is not scary at all. Except her efforts prove unsuccessful. The monster and its nightly bump, bump, bump persists. Marisol is determined not to let the monster win. To learn how Marisol defeats the him get yourself a copy!*

confidence security quirkiness diversity-marisol-mcdonald-doesnt-match-510a77mjrpl-_sx421_bo1204203200_Sara Palacios won a Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Honor for her drawings in Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match the first book in the series. Her energetic illustrations brings Marisol’s quirkiness to life in a way that enchants readers and showcases the beauty of “not matching.” Whether it is her physical characteristics (carrot-colored hair and brown skin,) her kooky fashion choices or, unusual food concoctions, Marisol’s unique approach is appealing. Even her dog doesn’t “match.” He’s got one brown eye and one blue eye and a most unusual name: Kitty!

Even Marisol is tempted by the desire to blend in. She briefly attempts conformity. Everyone misses the bright spark that Marisol usually contributes and all are relieved when the real Marisol returns. This story provides a wonderful model for kids who all too often surrender themselves to a… Click To Tweet

confidence security quirkiness diversity-marisol-mcdonald-and-the-clash-bash-514-yahfjal-_sx421_bo1204203200_

Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash is the second collaboration between Monica Brown and Sara Palacios. The two previous books revealed that Marisol is one self-assured and unique young lady. It’s no surprise then, that when it comes to celebrating her birthday, the event is far from ordinary. Only one “theme” suits Marisol: a “clash bash!” Her party is a melange of ideas and her guests’ costumes embody variety and personality. Creativity reigns and all have wonderful fun. Inspired by Marisol’s “mix and match” approach, they “borrow” parts of one another’s outfits freely without worrying if it should be for only a boy or girl. There’s no jeering, judging or snubbing as they celebrate. They’re just having fun, fun, fun!

The story includes a wonderful use of contemporary technology which helps Marisol celebrate her birthday with her Peruvian Abuelita.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: Throughout the illustrations in all three books there are elements of Marisol’s rich ethnic heritage: llamas, chullos (the traditional knit hat,) Peruvian textiles. All blend in a colorful and rich celebration of cultural diversity. Highlighting these signposts of culture can easily lead to conversations about the ways an adoptive family honors all the different aspects of culture of the family–birth and adoptive. Marisol clearly values all aspects of her rcially diverse family, her multi-ethnic heritage, and her two languages!

These stories can also open dialog about the urge to fit in and conform, what it costs and how to cope. Since the need to be comfortable with self and to fit in is often complicated for adoptees, these stories can offer a non-threatening pathway for discussions. They can look through the third person perspective of Marisol and or the first person of the reader–if they’re receptive to that direct approach.

*I received a review copy of Marisol and the Monster from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. The opinions stated are my own. I purchased the other two books included in this review.

On Jan. 26, 2017 please join myself and the many other sponsors of Multicultural Children’s Book Day and help expand diversity in children’s literature. #ReadYourWorld

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Embracing Differences in Ourselves and Others

It's Alll GoodIt’s All Good: A Book ABout Self Acceptance & diversity by Gina I. Humber shares a timely and important message about diversity and acceptance, of embracing differences in ourselves and others. It features a sequence of children who happen to be classmates. Each child is different in a visible way and each experiences prejudice and hurtful comments from classmates. Each also participates in subtle “othering” of classmates.

This is one of the aspects which I appreciate in this book. It reminds readers how easy it is to call out others for mistreating us and simultaneously be blind to the biases and “othering” of which we ourselves may be guilty. This awareness is a vital part of addressing and eliminating any biases we–and our children–might hold, many of which we are not even consciously aware of believing. (Sometimes we even hold biases against ourselves!)

By highlighting this subconscious double standard, we help kids to build bridges of acceptance. Once we admit, that we too, have regarded others as less than, it makes it difficult to cry foul. Awareness allows us to move forward to being a conscious force for kindness, respect and equality. And that is a very good thing.

This book offers a wonderful gateway to important conversations about victimization, the collusion of silence and the courage to stand up for self and others. These are big concepts. Very big. They are also essential topics to explore with kids. It’s All Good is a tad heavy-handed. Still, it is a fabulous tool for parents and teachers to share with kids. (And it offers a good reminder to the adults, that they too, have blind spots, biases and feelings of being an outsider.) It also emphasizes the benefit of valuing differences in ourselves and others because differences are precisely what make each person unique.

diversity-is-a-verb-245b4c_101dacdf52394787be75b8ff2e9a9487-mv2The kindle version of It’s All Good: A Book ABout Self Acceptance & Diversity is available on Amazon and the paperback is sold on her website. Gina’s website is chock full of resources. Please visit and take advantage of her work on Diversity Is A Verb which aims to build “platforms for discussions surrounding topics of: global diversity, self-acceptance, special needs, and body imaging for both young and mature adults. …  Diversity is a Verb strives to be a source of empowerment to all involved; improving environmental and social conditions.”

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned Lens This book invites discussion of adoption as it is one profound way that adoptees differ from their non-adopted family, friends, and classmates. It’s also one of the most common ways adoptees find themselves being “othered.” Ask kids about their how they’ve been belittled for being different. Follow this up with explorations of ways they might have been the perpetrators of bias. Conclude with conversations that help them develop action points of to respond and stand up for themselves as well as others. Embracing differences in ourselves and others is a full-circle approach which requires us to live the Golden Rule. How might this principle benefit families, classrooms, schools and our country?

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Gina I. Humber: “Empowering communities and businesses on global diversity and cultural sensitivity.”

 

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What Is #DiverseKidLit?

Diverse Children’s Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children’s books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

DiverseKidLit

We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, February 4th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Theme 

Our theme for the current month is Human Rights. Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you’re interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes …

  • February 4th and 18th linkups: Love. Let’s spread our love of diverse books by sharing diverse books about love, families, and relationships.
  • March 4th and 18th: Changing Seasons. As we eagerly await the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and Autumn in the Southern, let’s share favorite books and resources on the seasons.

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most-clicked post from last time was a review by Alex of Randomly Reading of Ashes,

book 3 in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Seeds of America trilogy.

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Katie @ The Logonauts      Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestCarolina @ La Clase de Sra. DuFault     Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

Gayle Swift, Author of ABC, Adoption & Me     Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Google+

Jane @ Rain City Librarian     Blog / Twitter / Instagram

Marjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors     Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

Mia @ Pragmatic Mom     Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / Instagram

Myra @ Gathering Books     Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live? Click here to join the mailing list. Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at thelogonauts.com.

(Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

Get #DiverseKidLit Recommendations on Pinterest!

Our Pinterest board highlights a wide range of amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children’s Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

Value Difference and Diversity, Fit In, Stand Up

Yearning for acceptance, apprehension about difference, the search for common ground…Here are three books which tackle these big concepts with humor and emotion. They open perspectives and minds while entertaining. Great selections for readers of ANY age.

Bob the artist. 41jSl9F6mzL._SX367_BO1,204,203,200_Embarrassed by his appearance, Bob, the gangly main character of Bob the Artist by Marion Deuchars strives to fit in with his short-legged peers. He tries several approaches to alter his appearance: exercise, diet, and costume. Still he peers continue to tease him. Fitting in is exhausting work.To escape his peers’ relentless teasing, Bob roams the neighborhood alone.

Until… he wanders into an art museum. Inspiration strikes. Convinced that this camouflage will distract the other birds and end the bullying he decides to transform his lovely red beak into works of art that honor the famous artists featured in the museum.

Bob discovers he has a talent for art. (Kids won’t even realize that they’re receiving an art history lesson as a bonus!) Proud of his talent, he comes to realize he no longer cares about the rude taunts. He’s happy with himself.

This delightful book entertains and makes its point so well. Young readers will understand two things. First, they can–and should–choose kindness and inclusivity. Second, they need to value their own talents and gifts. This must be done without a sense of superiority but simply as affirming everyone has value.

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Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: 
As I have written many times in other posts, adoptive families have a vested interested in expanding our culture’s definition of what is “real”, “normal” and, “acceptable” Kids naturally yearns for acceptance, fear being ostracized and judges as different. As parents and teachers, we have the chance to teach kids how to own their own uniqueness and how to value the differences of others.

In the story, Bob’s legs caused him to be “othered.” As adoptees, kids experience a level of “otherness” that cuts deep. Non-adopted children and adults often lack appropriate language to express their thoughts and questions and therefore unintentionally say or ask things that come across as especially cruel. Adoptees benefit from adult help in learning how to listen for the speaker’s motive. Giving them the benefit of the doubt may be overly generous; it also may assist our kids in having the confidence to speak up for themselves and “set things right.”

Bob the Artist is delightful and easily lends itself to deep conversations on many topics in addition to adoption.

My Name Is Octicorn. 417MjBeAKSL._SX440_BO1,204,203,200_Hello, My Name Is Octicorn by Kevin Diller and illustrated by Justin Lowe invites readers to consider befriending Octi, a creature whose mom was an octopus and whose dad was a unicorn.  Octi has trouble finding friends because he is so unique. Everyone shuns him. Because they fear his differences, they miss out on the pleasure of knowing him.

Octi showcases his many unique talents he has because he is half unicorn and half octopus. At parties he can juggle and dance with the best. At campfires he can toast marshmallows on his horn!…if he were invited. Ah, but that is the situation. Octi doesn’t get invited.

After presenting his case, Octi concludes his story with an invitation: “Will you be my friend? Yes or No?” This is brilliant writing because the question lands directly in the reader’s personal world. And hopefully, in their heart. Octi challenges them individually. They must make a choice–even if only in their mind. Will they choose friendship or rejection?

Justin Lowe’s quirky, unsophisticated, child like illustrations further the sense that this story is a personal conversation between Octi and the reader. This is a short, easy read with a message that packs an important punch.

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Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: 
This book has an obvious and easy segue into discussions of  the challenges, realities and benefits of being biracial and/or multiracial. So, kids who are bi-racial or multi-racial may feel a special resonance with the theme of this book. One illustration shows a genealogical diagram depicting Octi’s parents. (Dad is a unicorn; mom is an octopus.) This illustration might lead to conversations about the heritages of each birth parent. Parent and child can discuss both the reality and the cultural beliefs of both groups.

The book highlights the benefits of Octi’s dual heritage. This is an important point for all adoptees. There is a richness that comes from muti-ethnicity. We see it as an additive experience instead of as a subtractive one.

Friendshape.51IJjwW9liL._SX496_BO1,204,203,200_
Friendshape–An Uplifting Celebration of Friendship by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld asserts that friends “shape who we are.” They provide many benefits. They help us divide our troubles,  create fun, share our celebrations, and stand by us in good times and in bad. They remember to apologize and forgive each other. That’s a lot of goodness!

But the real message of this book is: Friends do not have to look alike. And yet both children and adults struggle to learn to befriend individuals whom they perceive as “other.” In fact their differences often help us in significant ways. They influence to grow and change in response to the relationship.

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Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: 
Adoptive families will find an easy and obvious segue to discussions about racial and cultural differences among friends and even families. How do these differences inform who we are and how we interact with one another? How does difference influence the way our families are received in school? Whom we choose to befriend? How does the way our friends view us and our families influence our own inner dialog as well as the interactions we all share.

Making Room for All: Diversity in Action

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Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki and illustrated by Dom Lee is especially relevant in today’s climate of intolerance and anti-immigration. Baseball is considered by many to be our national past time. In 1942, the United States gathered Japanese Americans, stripped them of their property, forcibly relocated them, and temporarily housed them in horse stalls! Ultimately these families were interned in isolated desert camps.

With little to do, few resources and the constant surveillance of armed guards, tensions grew between the authorities as well as among the internees themselves. It is ironic that these citizens turned to baseball as a way to cope.

Baseball Saved Us  serves as both a cautionary tale of how unbridled hate and suspicion can destroy lives and lead countries astray. It is also a brilliant story about how to confront and survive bullying. Four Stars!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens Chock full of potential leads to conversations about overcoming difficult circumstances and/or ethnic differences as well as bullying, this story can be read many times. Each visit can explore these talking point from a fresh vantage point. The story describes how the young people rejected their elders, turned to disrespect and anger as a response to their difficult circumstances. Since many adoptees also follow this strategy, the story provides a chance to scrutinize this choice from a less personally direct angle.

Weedflower.51VUwRNliVL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_For families with teens, Weedflower by Newbery medal-winning author  Cynthia Kadohata is also an excellent book on  the unjust internment of Japanese-Americans. The characters are well drawn. By narrating the story through a child’s eyes, young readers can identify more easily with her plight and with the injustice that created this shameful part of American history.

In addition to the challenge of coping with internment, the teens face the universal issues of adolescence: peer intolerance, family dynamics, young love, and interracial relationships. (The camp at which this story is set is adjacent to a Native American reservation. They too, face challenging circumstances because of their confinement to the inhospitable location.) This plot point explores intolerance and prejudice from an additional angle.

Four Stars!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens This book targets an older audience and offers a chance to explore the same themes mentioned above from a greater depth, e.g, interracial dating. This is an experience that many adoptive families will face. A story like this one allows discussions to occur long before it becomes a reality within a family. Such conversations can help both young reader and parent to explore their thoughts and feelings and perhaps unmask information that might otherwise remain unexplored and unexamined.

Sixteen Years.61tDb7FK3ZL._SY400_BO1,204,203,200_In Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds by Paula Yoo and illustrated by Dom Lee sport again features as the tool that both highlights and ultimately triumphs over prejudice and bigotry. Students may be familiar with the history of banning African-Americans from parks, restaurants, hotels, schools, community pools, etc. Students may not realize that people of other races also faced similar discrimination.

Sammy Lee’s life story is inspiring from the angle anti-discrimination but also as an example of dedication and determination to succeed.

Four Stars!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens This book recounts how important persistence and dedication to one’s dreams can be. It also sets a backdrop about the history of anti-Asian sentiment in this county. This provides an important chance to explore cultural beliefs and myths about Asians which Asian-American adoptees face on a daily basis.

 

Strictly No Elephants.61v2C6aJBZL._SX449_BO1,204,203,200_Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo presents a heart-warming riff on friendship, inclusion and tolerance.  The story opens with a young boy interacting with his special pet: a tiny elephant. They do lots of things together, help one another and share experiences as best friends always do. When the boy decides to bring his pet elephant to the local celebration of Pet Club Day, he  discovers elephants are not welcome.

Forlorn, he  trudges off. On his way home he encounters another child whose pet skunk also had been banned from joining the Pet Club festivities. They comfort one another and develop the perfect solution. They establish their own club, a place where “All are welcome.”

Yoo’s charming illustration suit the story well and depict an array of ethnicities–and animal species!–which reinforces the story’s message of inclusivity and tolerance. The text flows reveals a lovely telling of friendship-in-action that every reader can understand and emulate. Five Stars!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens While making some very important points about inclusion and acceptance, this book accomplishes its goal with great subtlety. Instead of becoming angry, the two main characters face their situation with action and partnership. They are problem solvers not victims! This is a great model for all kids, especially those whose histories include difficult and/or traumatic starts.

 

separate is never equal.61+DUdFaUSL._AC_US160_Separate Is Never Equal, a multi-award-winning book written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh tells the story of Mexican-American Sylvia Mendez and how her family fought for desegregation. They were instrumental in ending school segregation in California seven years prior to the  historic Supreme Court Case, Brown v. Board of Education. They demonstrated great bravery in the face of discrimination

Separate Is Never Equal, provides an excellent companion story to Strictly No Elephants because it debunks the falsity that separate can be equal, and points out that isolation and division lead to misunderstanding, fear and inequality. This story models the importance of standing up for one’s rights, for being willing to demand the civil rights that every person deserves.

Tonatiuh’s gorgeous artwork is reminiscent of Mayan glyphs, an important element of cultural pride for Mexican-Americans. Five Stars!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens What a great example of ethnic pride and valuing all parts of one’s history. For adoptees from other nations or cultures, this is a good story about preserving culture while insisting on having one’s full measure of their rights as Americans. All parts of their story have value. All parts of themselves have value.

The same is true for others. Just as each of us deserves to be respected and accepted, we must offer the same respect and acceptance in return.

All Sing Same Voice.51k2csmqwfL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_We All Sing in the Same Voice by J. Philip Miller and illustrated by  Paul Meisel celebrates harmony and commonality. Because it is told in the first person, it reinforces the shared humanity of all people.  “I” am…” each of these people, “I am … ” mankind and mankind is me. And “I am …” the one who can demonstrate acceptance and respect for each of these aspects of diversity.

Joyous illustrations depict a broad array of people, each of whom has similar needs, thoughts, desires and inclinations. This book is based on the Sesame Street song of the same title.

A digital sound track is available on Amazon. Five Stars!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens This book is a delight. Exuberant illustrations capture individuals, families, locations and activities of every stripe. This warm celebration of diversity and acceptance is an important theme for adoptees.

 

The Richness of the Melting Pot: Adding an Asian Flavor to the Bookshelf

The social climate today is increasingly nativistic so this is an important time to expose children to literature that affirms diverse cultures and expands limited horizons. This group of books includes newer titles as well as some classics and reflects both Chinese and Japanese culture.  

Red Is A Dragon.51w9jo8sHdL._SX474_BO1,204,203,200_Red Is A Dragon: A Book of Colors by Roseann Thong will delight readers of any culture. Grace Lin’s illustrations rendered in brilliant colors and bold illustrations will captivate readers . One need not be Asian to appreciate the artistry and enjoy the simple rhyming text. Red Is A Dragon: A Book of Colors is a delightful way to learn how to recognize colors while being exposed to a hint of Asian culture: dragon kites, fire crackers, jade bracelets, incense sticks and Chinese opera. At the same time, many illustration reflect universal elements like going to the beach, flying kites, etc. This book does an excellent job serving as both mirror and window and is a visual delight that teaches more than colors. Includes a glossary that to further explain the cultural elements. Five Stars!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens This concept book uses elements of Chinese culture to deftly show how one can simultaneously celebrate one’s heritage and be “American.” This is a subtle but important message for adoptees who spend a lifetime braiding the diverse threads of their life into a healthy tapestry, of which they can be justifiably proud. Every “thread” has value and contributes to who they are.

Grandfather Tang.51oPetR0aBL._SX400_BO1,204,203,200_Grandfather Tang’s Story: A Tale Told in Tangrams  by Ann Tompert and illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker is a unique book which uses tangrams–the traditional Chinese art form– to expand the lovely pastel illustrations. The plot line features a sweet moment between granddaughter and her grandfather. The little girl requests her grandfather to tell a story so that they can both bring it to life with their tangrams.

Readers can easily duplicate the tangram shapes and then mimic each illustration themselves which offers a unique interactive element to the story. Or, they can simply enjoy the illustrations without taking on the challenge–and fun–of manipulating the tangram pieces.

Grandfather Tang’s Story: A Tale Told in Tangrams offers a good example of families connecting across generations, creating fun from their imaginations — without depending on elaborate tech. It highlights a subtle message of loyalty, friendship and learning from mistakes.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens This tale can easily digress into a conversation about the many ways we try to change ourselves, something many adoptees struggle with as they try to figure out how to fit in. Readers can discuss how each transformation brought risks and rewards; most importantly the foxes recognize they must be true to themselves. This is such an important lesson for all of us but especially for many adoptees who are tempted to reshape themselves to fit their idea of what they believe their parents “wish” them to be.

The story also shows how the little girl “read” the cues her grandfather gave so she recognized when he needed to end their game and rest.  This plot points can leading to talking about reading social cues which is an important skill that all kids need.

More-Igami. 51dH3wl9xwL._SY495_BO1,204,203,200_More-igami by Dori Kleber and illustrated by G. Brian Karas celebrates origami–the art of traditional Japanese folding. In a fresh spin on the topic, the main character, Joey, is African-American. After a classmates mother, Mrs. Takimoto visits his class to demonstrate how to fold paper cranes, he becomes obsessed with origami. Joey embraces her instruction :”If you want to become an origami master, you’ll need practice and patience.”

He practices folding shapes from his homework, the newspaper, gift wrap, recipes cards… until his exasperated mother insists that Joey stop. Eventually Joey solves his problem by folding napkins into origami shapes for the local Mexican restaurant.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens In this simple, charming story, readers find several cultures interacting respectfully and finding delight in the richness of diversity.  More-igami is not an issues book, nonetheless is does an excellent job of depicting  people of many races and ethnicities working together and enjoying snippets of each other’s cultures. This story models cultural harmony and also shows individuals valuing their heritages proudly. Like Red Is A Dragon: A Book of Colors this book quietly lobbies for diversity. It’s not a placard-carrying stand, not an “issue” book and not an primer on any culture. It is a story well told with an important message brilliantly integral to the story without being the story.

And now on to the classic books…

I Don't Have Your Eyes.51R+1Y9LtGL._AC_US160_I Don’t Have Your Eyes by Carrie A. Kitzie presents a variety of parent/child racial and ethnic pairings that reflects great diversity. Its simple, spare text details the ways  individual children differ a parent and then follows with another way in which they are same. Kitzie’s message: each of us is unique and have traits that are valued by families. Our differences enrich the family while our commonalities knit us together. This book appears on many lists as a favorite among adoptive families. It has broad appeal for many diverse families, not just a single ethnicity. It is relevant even to families who share ethnicity, race and culture because each of us are unique and in some ways each of us differs from our other family members.

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The key message here is that differences do not need to divide families nor do they need to be minimized or dismissed; differences can be noticed, appreciated and valued. An adopted child most know, feel & believe they are accepted for whom they authentically are. Because Rob Williams’ illustrations display such a broad spectrum of “looks” , children from many ethnicities and diverse backgrounds can enjoy this book.

Shining Star. Anna May Wong.51QB+bZoUXL._SY387_BO1,204,203,200_Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Yoo and illustrated by Lin Wang is particularly apt in today’s social political climate as it follows the career of performer Anna May Wong. It chronicles her career as an actress in Hollywood. For many years she struggled with a dilemma: the only roles offered to her as a Chinese-American were demeaning stereotypes. In order to fulfill her dreams and to help support her impoverished family she accepted the caricature roles. But, she worked consistently to demand better portrayals of Chinese characters in film.

The book effectively captures Anna May’s passionate dreams, her humiliations, her compromises and her ultimate success as well as the sacrifices her parents made when they immigrated to the United States. This riff on the immigration theme is a pertinent read for current times.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ* Lens: Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story depicts a character immensely proud of her heritage. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Anna May faced racial discrimination, gender limitations, knew poverty and hard labor. She spent a lifetime carving out a place for Chinese American performers. Through her efforts in the cinema, she helped to spread acceptance and understanding of her culture. This pride and willingness to stand up for one’s roots is a key message for adoptees.

Paper Crane.51U52Hx9lNL._SY444_BO1,204,203,200_

 

The Paper Crane retells an ancient Japanese fairy tale. Written and illustrated by Molly Bang it is a delightful read that reveals the importance of both hard work and kindness. It pairs well with More-igami because it hints at some of the cultural backstory that the reader of that story might otherwise not know. This book was a Reading Rainbow selection.

 

 

 

Asian culture.PicMonkey Collage

What Is Seen Depends on Where One Looks

As adoptive families we frequently experience the assault of being “othered.” Some people view our families with suspicion and with a subtle judgment of inferiority. Frequently this prejudice reveals itself in off-hand comments such as:

Bigotry word cloud concept

“What do you know about her “real” mother?

“Do you ever wish you had children of your “own”?

“How could she give him away?”

“How much did he cost?”

“He brings such chaos, why not just send him back?”

“You’re amazing; I could never love a child who wasn’t my own.”

I believe most people don’t intend to be hurtful or offensive but in their ignorance, they are. Their mistrust of anything perceived as “other” magnifies their fears. They demean what they do not know or understand. Their prejudice appears on levels both minor and major.

Bias is undeniably obvious in the temperature of current political discourse which grows increasingly less civil, less tolerant, and less respectful day by day. The easiest response is to tighten ranks around the status quo, esteeming that which is most similar to one’s circumstances, thoughts and experiences. It takes work to understand and familiarize oneself with the unknown. But it is work that must be done. To thrive as a family, as a community and as a country, we must pull together with mutual respect. We must not tolerate hits on our children’s culture, race, ethnicity, etc. We cannot afford to crush the dreams and talents of those who are different from the norm. We must not condone the “cloak of invisibiltiy” which traps children and people of color in pigeonholed boxes.

Rarely has the influential role of books loomed more pivotal. View this wonderful video by Grace Lin. She is the award-winning author of many books, among which is the classic, Dim Sum for Everyone. She focuses her Ted Talk on the needs of our children, however, her point is crucial for us all. Please watch her brief presentation and then review your family bookshelf. What changes would benefit your family?

Look for my future reviews of Grace’s many books.

 

where the montain meets.grace lin.Starry River.grace lin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dim Sum.51UFjAVVC4L._SY382_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness Is…

happy. Pharrell.510abOYfFcL._SX407_BO1,204,203,200_It feels appropriate to conclude the month of February with a final nod to affairs of the heart. Beyond romance, each of us yearns to love and be loved. We wish to be seen and accepted as our authentic selves. We need to be appreciated for our differences as much as for what we have in common with family and friends. It is our differences that make us unique. This acceptance is difficult to achieve.

Ironically, it is often our own selves who are the most challenging to convince. That’s why a book like Happy by Pharrell Williams is an excellent choice to read as a family. The lyrics of Pharrell William’s song form the text of the book. Before reading this book, play the song. Can you feel your body itching to jump up and move? Go for it! Encourage your child to do the same.

The photo illustrations are wonderfully diverse and capture the energy of the song well. The notes included as back matter are n added bonus. Pharrell invites readers to become a Happy Helper, sprinkling seeds of happiness and contributing to the creation of a better world. This book is a delightful five star read!

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: It is easy to get lost in the habit of waiting to be happy. We clutch the negative aspects to our hearts and minds to focus on what is missing; on some event/result that awaits us in the future; on the the conclusion of some restriction; on the accomplishment of some goal, etc..

We must teach our children to take the time to enjoy the blessings of what and who are in their lives in the present moment. This is not to invalidate their losses, yearnings and unfulfilled needs. Rather it is to teach them to hold a both/and mentality. (Although in adoption circles we usually think  about this concept in relation to valuing and respecting both birth family and adoptive family, this mindset is beneficial for all aspects of their lives.)

We truly bless our children when we succeed in teaching them how to hold and enjoy their life in spite of their trials, disappointments and losses–those rooted in adoption as well as those losses and frustrations originating elsewhere. To some extent, happiness is a practice we must learn to cultivate. It is an important skill we can teach our kids. Along the way we can carve out time to connect through having fun together which is a proven way to strengthen the ties that bind families together across time and distance.

Remember to look for reasons to be joyful; our personal example is our most effective teaching tool.

 

Happy in our skin.61UbYd7biJL._SX458_BO1,204,203,200_

The title Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Lauren Tobia pretty much captures the message of this book. Richly diverse illustrations capture children and their families in various activities. Readers will notice that regardless of ethnicity, culture or physical ability, families interact and love the same. Children will also learn that skin has important function: “It keep the outsides out and the insides in.” All people have this in common. Skin presents obvious differences as well: color, texture, freckles, dimples, even goose pimples.

Happy in Our Skin can create an easy opportunity to have some important conversations about race. This can help parents lay the groundwork for tolerance, acceptance and for the end of racism.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens:Race matters. “Color blindness” is a misguided strategy for nurturing racial harmony and racial identity. It is essential for transracial adoptive families to have consistent conversation on the topic. Parents must ensure that they are encouraging a reality-based discourse not one that is sanitized because it is easier to pretend race is less of an issue than it is.

Adult adoptees who were adopted into transracial and/or trans-cultural families have raised their voices to proclaim the absolute necessity to tackle issues of race with courage and openness. Happy in Our Skin offers an easy conversation starter. Like many difficult adoption-connected conversations, it is best to begin discussions at a young age.

This accomplishes two things. First, it affirms that parents want to talk about it and are capable of hearing the real story. The good. The bad. And the ugly. This allows parents to provide loving support for children facing tough experiences themselves. It also educates children who are not transracial adoptees to have empathy, understanding and a willingness to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Second, it prepares children with information, strategies and validates their true experiences.