Embracing Differences and Finding Home

Not Quite NarwhalEmbracing Differences and Finding Home. Not Quite Narwhal. 51aFOgA1xkL._SX496_BO1,204,203,200_ by Jessie Sima features Kelp, the eponymous narwhal who can clearly see that he is quite unlike the rest of his family and friends. His tiny horn, his fluffy tail, his atypical skills even his food preferences all differ dramatically from the rest of the narwhals. because they embrace his differences, Kelp feels welcome and “at home.” As a consequence of feeling accepted, Kelp enjoys security and happiness.

Until…

Until one moonlit night, Kelp ventures close to the surface of the ocean. This single heart-pounding event transforms Kelp’s life. All it took was a glance. Atop a distant peak, he spies a creature–not just any creature–one that looks just like him! Never before has he experienced the glorious affirmation of this commonality. Compelled to investigate, Kelp escapes the ocean and scrambles up the cliff. He comes nose to nose with an adult version of himself. In fact, he has discovered an entire community of lookalikes. They introduce him to the world of unicorns!

exhilaration! Delight! They like the things he likes; they look the way he looks. No longer the “square peg,” Kelp finds where he belongs. Or, has he?

Kelp misses his family, his friends, the sea and the life he shared there. After wrestling with a difficult decision, Kelp decides to return home. Doubt besets him. He fears that once his family discovers he’s a unicorn and not a narwhal, they might not be glad to have him back.

A rousing welcome greets Kelp. He’s informed that they ALWAYS knew he was not a narwhal but loved him anyway. Kelp is thrilled. Yet…

Part of him longs for the sense of “fit” that he experienced among the unicorns. Eventually, he comes to realize that he does NOT need to choose between the two. To be complete, he needs both of his halves.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned Lens It’s an easy stretch to view Kelp’s attachment to both his narwhal side and his unicorn side as a metaphor for adoptive and birth families. The simple, brief text captures much of the subtle and unconscious tug of war that adopted kids feel as they strive to integrate their birth and adoptive heritages. This book offers a gentle pathway to very important adoption-attuned conversations. Kids will appreciate the message that each of their two “halves” are valuable for a lifetime.

Everybody knows what it is like to be the odd duck who doesn’t belong, who doesn’t have “the look,” “the clothes,” etc… We know it feels demoralizing and defeating. Learning how to accept and love ourselves while also learning how to meld in with others requires practice. Lots and lots and lots of practice.

Embracing Differences and Finding Home.Chee-Kee A Panda in Bearland.51In21h2ckL._SX497_BO1,204,203,200_Chee-Kee takes a slightly different slant on being “other,” fitting in, and adjusting to a new life. Written and illustrated by Su-Jean Rim, it tackles this issue straight from her own experience. Her family emigrated from Korea when she was a young girl. Her recollection of her experience, the teasing, the lack of acceptance and the yearning to be like everyone else—all these feelings informed the story line about a “Panda in Bearland.”

The plot follows Chee-Kee as he travels to Bearland which is a place which welcomes everybody.” The Bearlanders who greet the Kee family are enthusiastic. They also notice every bit of mismatch between themselves and the Kee Family. And little Chee-Kee feels each and every difference. Homesick for the familiar world of his native land, he yearns for the comforting feeling of belonging. Chee-Kee tries many methods to transform himself into a Bearland-type of person. Nothing seems to work.

Until…

Until a problem arises that only a panda can fix. Get the book to learn the what and the how of the problem! In the end, Bearlanders celebrate Panda the  for the part of him that was most different. What had formerly kept him on the fringe now became his gateway to acceptance by the Bearlanders and within himself.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned Lens: Adoptees often wrestle with feeling like they don’t quite fit—in their adoptive families, extended families, and among their peers, etc. Thus Chee-Kee’s struggles can serve as an apt metaphor for discussing this feeling of “otherness.” The conversation can be direct—specifically adoption-focused—or indirect—focused on the bear’s experience. Either pathway leads to some important conversation.

Another possible topic can address how Chee-Kee’s talents and appearance and how they set him apart from others. This too offers an easy channel to discuss how an adoptee can look different from and possess valuable talents which differ from those common in his adoptive family. Discussion can focus on both reassuring the child as well as validating his struggles and affirming his contributions as a family asset. Again, this discussion can be overt or subtle: obviously about adoption or metaphorically.

DiverseKidLit
Our theme for #DiverseKidLit in February is Love.

Please consider sharing diverse books and resources that support love and families. (As always, the theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

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.

We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, February 18th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Theme

Our theme for the current month is Love. 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 18th linkups: Love. Let’s continue to 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 Marjorie’s review of

IBBY Review: Roses Are Blue by Sally Murphy and Gabriel Evans

on Mirrors Windows Doors. This novel in verse shares the struggles of a young girl

trying to process her new life after her mother is severely injured in a car accident.

 

My DiverseKidLit Shout-Out

Now more than ever, we need to share and promote books

by and about Muslims, and a great place to start is Kitaab World‘s

new series on Countering Islamophobia through Stories.

The first entry is a book list featuring Muslim Kids as Heroes.

I am also delighted to welcome Gauri, CEO and co-founder of Kitaab World, as a co-host!

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

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

Marjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors   Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestMia @ 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!

Guest Hosts for February

Gauri @ Kitaab World   an online bookstore for South Asian children’s books, toys and games
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries   Blog / Twitter / Facebook

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!

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.

 

Kids Find Inner Lion: the Strength of the Hero Within

The Lion Inside.51T3oKWEACL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_

Inside of each of us lives an Inner Lion. Sometimes he is dormant but he is always there waiting for  us to tap into our powerful potential. Even adults often struggle to remember this “hero within” so it is vital for us to help children discover and embrace their Inner Lion. This hero exists in all of us regardless of our stature or age. But he must compete with the other voices inside our heads-the ones who broadcast, fear, self-doubt, timidity and despair

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright and illustrated by Jim Field brilliantly demonstrates that the most powerful person in my life is me. It also hammers home the truism “Never judge a book by its cover.” So often the face we present to the world hides our genuine selves, the selves that our both brave and fearful, confident and cautious.

When we (both kids and adults) make judgments about others based on externals, we overlook the opportunity to connect with the whole person and all of us lose the chance to be genuine. Ironically, we often treat ourselves no better and criticize ourselves with the same harsh judgment!

Fields’ fabulous illustrations carry a lot of the story’s message. The difference in size between the tiny mouse and the huge lion reinforces the immensity of the mouse’s decision to confront the lion. By connecting to his Inner Lion he awoke the bravery needed to accomplish his goal. Taken from the lion’s perspective, the reader experiences the other side of the equation. Physical size doesn’t protect one from fear. Courage does. Courage acknowledges fear and still chooses to act.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: All kids strive to find their niche in school, their neighborhoods, etc. Adoptees also must learn to find their comfort spot in their new families. Sometimes they can feel as mismatched and powerless as this little mouse when he faced the roaring lion. This story invites readers to consider that beyond stature and externals, each of us has important skills and gifts to contribute, fears to overcome, and opportunities to grow. Each family member benefits from being part of the larger whole. Diversity enriches families. And classrooms, neighborhoods and communities.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles.51oUYa5gt8L._SY457_BO1,204,203,200_

All of us yearn to be included, to have friends and to be appreciated.  The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles  written by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Erin E. Stead tackles this idea from a nuanced perspective. Pastel images convey the watery context of both ocean and fantasy world and strike the perfect note of mystery and dreaminess.

Cuevas writes that the main character–the Uncorker of Ocean Bottles–“Had no name.” This choice is brilliant because his anonymity renders him as “Everyman” that part of all human beings, kids and adults, who crave recognition and validation. The Uncorker dedicates himself to his life task: ensuring that he locates the rightful recipient for every message in a bottle he discovers. Through his diligent efforts, he finds purpose, steps beyond his own loneliness and engages with others. His actions solve his “problem.” He is so pleased with the results of his efforts, he commits to repeating his efforts. Young readers will recognize the great model he sets.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: Action is key to overcoming fear, creating connection and displacing loneliness. This book helps adopted children to see the benefits of reaching out instead of waiting for others to reach out first. (This is not to shift the burden of creating family connection from the parents but rather to show kids how they can contribute to the process.)

Poor Little Guy.51A1ZTLGLWL._SX496_BO1,204,203,200_Poor Little Guy  written and illustrated by Elanna Allen also focuses on the relationship between stature, fear and, courage. Allen conveys a lot of information in her illustrations which include only two characters: an octopus and a tiny, tiny wide-eyed, bespectacled fish. Immense disparity in their size highlights why the fish feels threatened by the octopus.

At first glance readers might think the octopus is playing with the fish. The octopus’ immense arms transform into many things–a fish-sketball net, a complex maze, a bird-cage, etc. Soon it becomes clear that he is actually “toying” with the fish. Each transformation is intended to remind the fish of the octopus’ size, strength and power to control the little fish.

Until the octopus mentions how tasty he thinks the little guy will be. His threat awakens the Inner Lion of the fish. He draws on his courage and his ability to defend himself. The reader discovers that the little fish isn’t so helpless after all. He uses his special skill to successfully defeat the octopus’ evil intentions. Read the book to find out exactly how he accomplishes this! Don’t we all love it when the underdog–er, underfish– is victorious?

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: It is important for kids to recognize how they can stand up for themselves and tap into their ability to be agents of their own success. For adopted children who sometimes encounter bias and bullying because they were adopted, this message of self-advocacy is an important one. Again, this point is not intended to invalidate their experiences. Rather it is meant to add a skill with which they can cope. Dismissing or trivializing bullying does not address the situation!

I wasn't Invited to the Birthday.51QhF7wiBOL._SX428_BO1,204,203,200_I Wasn’t Invited to the Birthday  written by Susanna Isern and illustrated by Adolfo Serra addresses the universal experience of being left out. No one enjoys feeling invisible, inferior or, unaccepted. Among children these slights often occur “publicly” when kids distribute invitations at school. Even in classrooms where that practice is forbidden, kids talk about upcoming events which can leave the uninvited kids feeling bleak and marginalized.

The gift of this book is how it shows kids a way to take control. They can choose to look beyond the ranks of the “in crowd” to find friendship.  (Commonly, a child’s first instinct is to shun others who are on the margins in the hope that they will be “tainted” by befriending an unpopular child. Unfortunately, fear drives them to collude in the ostracizing of other children.)

In this story, however, the uninvited kids band together. The story takes a fantasy vibe and the kids “enjoy an unforgettable afternoon.”

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 Adoption-attuned Lens: For kids wrestling with feelings of rejection–which almost all adoptees report at some time in their lives–reading a story of finding ones “group” is helpful. Perhaps that means befriending other adoptees, or kids who share the same passion for a common interest–sports, the arts, etc. Whatever that common ground is, it is important to reach out and search for it.

As mentioned in the previous review, this point is not intended to invalidate their experiences. Rather it is meant to add another coping skill. Dismissing or trivializing their experience does not fix the problem.

Our theme for #DiverseKidLit in February is Love. Please consider sharing diverse books and resources that support love and families. (As always, the theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

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 18th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Theme

Our theme for the current month is Love. 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 18th linkups: Love. Let’s continue to 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 Marjorie’s review of IBBY Review: Roses Are Blue by Sally Murphy and Gabriel Evans on Mirrors Windows Doors. This novel in verse shares the struggles of a young girl trying to process her new life after her mother is severely injured in a car accident.

My DiverseKidLit Shout-Out

My DiverseKidLit Shout-Out

Now more than ever, we need to share and promote books by and about Muslims, and a great place to start is Kitaab World‘s new series on Countering Islamophobia through Stories. The first entry is a book list featuring Muslim Kids as Heroes.

I am also delighted to welcome Gauri, CEO and co-founder of Kitaab World, as a co-host!

 

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

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

Marjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors   Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestMia @ 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!

Guest Hosts for February

Gauri @ Kitaab World   an online bookstore for South Asian children’s books, toys and games
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries   Blog / Twitter / Facebook

 

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!

Excitement or Fear: Braving the Dark and Unknown

dark-dark-cave-61ax5z8evol-_sx405_bo1204203200_The cover of A Dark, Dark Cave by Eric Hoffman and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor features two smiling children aiming flashlight beams into the shadows.  The title page illustration shifts the mood slightly. It shows the gaping mouth of a tunnel entrance shrouded in darkness. Readers will wonder what will happen next. Will the children face danger? The next page-turn reveals the children and their trusty dog aiming a flashlight into the abyss. Will they respond with excitement or fear when braving the darkness? Will they choose to enter the cave? 

Yes! An adventure of sight, sound and emotion begins as they explore. They cautiously, bravely continue and encounter a variety of surprises–bats, lizards, sparkling crystals. Until …

Until a brilliant shaft of light pierces the dark and reveals their father looming overhead, admonishing them to pipe down because the baby is sleeping. Readers discover that the children’s adventure  was imaginary play.

Tabor’s illustrations serve the story well as he deftly captures the children’s emotions in each vignette–wonder, hesitation, excitement, fear-a gamut of feelings hint at the children’s experience. This book offers a great way of talking about the mixture of courage and caution that kids need as they explore their world, stretch their skills and dare to try something new. The line between excitement is narrow. Kids need both emotions in  healthy measure.

Imaginative play serves children well as it allows them to try on behavior and skills, to imagine themselves as brave and daring, as defeating fears and feeling powerful.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned Lens Use this story to discuss the need for courage in facing the scary moments of life. This is an especially important message for adoptees who must confront the reality of some big grief and loss issues which resulted from their adoptions. Parents can start the conversation by asking kids to tell them a story of the kinds of things they imagine might occur on a”cave” exploration of their. Children may volunteer some adopted-connected elements. Gently, follow their lead if they do. If they avoid the adoption connection, pose a question like, “What if you discovered your birth mom there?”

Always let your child’s response guide you. If they open up, great; if they resist, do not push it. Ask a second, neutral question and let the conversation flow from there.

Try, Try, Try Again, Failing Forward into Success

Timeless Thomas51TxnoesHmL._SX449_BO1,204,203,200_Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives written and illustrated by Gene Barretta is a fun family read, that focuses on learning through failure. It opens with the lines, “Have you ever thought about inventing something of your own? You’re never too young to try.” What a fun invitation to spark a dream  in a child’s mind. Heck, I will paraphrase that quote and say, “You’re never too old to try.”

Barretta does a great job of connecting specific inventions to how they relate to kids’ lives today. Two-page spreads feature kids enjoying the  current versions of an Edison-shaped-invention on the left and Edison’s lab on the right. This helps to sustain the reader’s interest in a topic which might otherwise be a bit dry. The illustrations are energetic and humorous. Those set in current times include a multicultural cast of characters.

Viewing failure as the stepping stone to success is one foundational theme of the book as reflected in this Edison quote: “I know several thousand things that won’t work.” He learned from failure instead of allowing it to end his dreams. Timeless Thomas conveys this essential life lesson well.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: Throughout their lives, adoptees encounter questions about their origins, the validity and “realness” of their families, and why they were adopted. It is easy to become frustrated and tired of such intrusive questions. This book might help them see that each time they set questioners “straight” they are helping to educate people about adoption. Their efforts contribute to improving our culture’s understanding of adoption.

Young readers might draw another important message: anything worth accomplishing requires great effort, dogged persistence and takes time–lots of it.

Ready for School?

Hand to hold.51dShZYSNeL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_A Hand to Hold by Zetta Elliott and illustrated by Purple Wong. I find many things to recommend about this book. The little girl enjoys both her parents but the story focuses on the loving father-daughter relationship. The girl sees her father as strong, loving, encouraging and compassionate. Though she’s “not a baby anymore,” she still reaches for his steady hand when he “blinks his hand…open, closed, open, closed.” His hand provides her comfort.

It is Daddy that accompanies her on her momentous first day of school. With her “heart going BOOM BA-BOOM BA-BOOM,” He leads her into the classroom. He encourages her to confront her fear, to be brave and join the world of the classroom.

When Daddy heads for the door, she’s left with only her own hand to hold, her own courage to trust. The teacher introduces the girl to Ginny, a girl with tear-streaked face. Our heroine recognizes that Ginny looks “sad and a little bit scared.” She knows how steadying holding hands can be so she offers her hand to Ginny in a gesture of friendship. Together, they both feel steadier, stronger and ready to play. The story reminds me of the adage that you have to leave the shore to reach the opposite bank.

This is a wonderful getting-ready-to-go-to-school-for-the-first-time book. Still, I do have two criticisms. First, I wish that the author had provided a name for our heroine because I think it would make her feel more real. Second, in the scene where they enter the classroom when Daddy tells her “Don’t be afraid.” Adults often advise kids that they shouldn’t feel cry (feel sad, lonely, etc.) While well-intentioned, this invalidates the child’s emotions, judges them as wrong or inappropriate. Children are better served by acknowledging their emotion (in this story, her fear.) Parents can then help kids cope with and move forward to a steadier emotional state. Perhaps this sounds like hair-splitting. In fact it teaches kids to recognize, own and then shift their emotions. This kind of emotional literacy is a vital social skill.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: All kids must face their first day of school; kids adopted at an older age also have to face the first day in a new family. Many similar emotions are reflected in this story. So conversations can easily diverge to talking about those memories as well as the ongoing challenges of growing into a new family.

School Days around the World.51+4W8FAp8L._SX376_BO1,204,203,200_ School Days around the World by Margaret Ruurs and illustrated by Alice Feagan shows readers that school means much more than a building or a classroom or a specific curriculum or course of study. The world serves as a school. And “classrooms” around the world may look different from the ones with which they are familiar.

At their core, however, schools have much in common. They teach the fundamentals of language, reading, mathematics, physical education and cultural traditions like music and arts. Human beings share the same basic needs, so the specifics may differ from country to country, but the purpose of education remains the same: to open minds and touch hearts and provide for the common good.

Simple illustrations depict kids being kids and reinforce the point that we have more in common with one another than may first appear to be the case. Readers will enjoy learning about the variety of games, musical instruments and “classrooms” in which children around the world attend school. A fun and informative read.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: This book provides an easy way to discuss transcultural and transracial differences. The story also mentions orphanages in Kenya. (Although it does not mention the AIDS crisis it does say that the children are there because their parents died.) For adoptees who spent time in orphanages, this might be a valuable part of the story to explore.

 

So Big, So Soon.51K1MQSSSDL._SX493_BO1,204,203,200_As a little boy prepares for bed the night before his first day of school Mama comments  How Did You Grow So Big, So Soon? Thus begins a story that reminisces about the  ways in which the boy has grown and catalogs the variety of skills he’s accomplished. The recounting of this history reassures both of them. Anne Bowen’s text unfolds in a question and answer format. The boy poses them and Mama replies. She reminds her son that his successes resulted from persistence and learning through many failures: “You stood up and tried again.”

This message that success results only through persistence is crucial for kids to understand. School won’t be easy but it will be worth it. And they are capable of achieving success.

Mama and the boy talk about how the day will unfold, what he can expect and how he will cope. He asserts, “I’m not little anymore, Mama” as a refrain which both comforts and encourages him. Mama also reassures him that though she’ll miss him while he’s gone, she’ll be comforted by his presence in her heart. He need not worry about her. She will be fine and so will he.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300

Adoption-attuned (AQ) Lens: Transitions can be challenging for  adopted children. Leaving the security of home and entering the unknown world of school can be more intimidating for our kids. This book specifically refers to being pregnant with the boy: “I knew your heart first, beating beneath mine, a tiny fist curled inside me.” This may prove to be uncomfortable to an adoptee or it might provide s chance to talk about  a child’s birth mother, birth family, etc..

Al Pha's Bet.51nCt7EfVmL._SX413_BO1,204,203,200_ Al Pha’s Bet by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Delphine Durand delivers a silly, engaging explanation for how the alphabet came to be arranged in the familiar order. We all know how kids like to reread their favorite books often until they can “read” it from memory and we parents are just barely hanging on to our sanity.

Kids love zany, hyperbolic explanations like the one this story delivers. They might actually find the story line useful to help them remember the alphabetical sequence. At the very least, they’ll laugh at the silly story which will help lighten their hearts as they contemplate the beginning of the school year.

Our theme for today’s Diverse Children’s Books linkup is Diverse Books for Back to School. Please consider writing and sharing your favorite books either about school / back to school or that might make a great read aloud during those first few weeks of school. (The theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are still always welcome.)

What’s 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, August 6th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Themes

Our theme for the current linkup (beginning Aug. 6th) is Diverse Books for Back to School. Themes are a suggestion only, all diverse book posts are welcome. If you’re interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes …

  • August 20th linkup: Favorite International Book(s) for Children. Share your favorite book or books that take place in a different country!
  • September 3rd linkup: Diverse Book(s) Featuring a Character with a Disability. (Need ideas? Check out past winners of the Schneider Family Book Awards.)

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most clicked post from the previous #DiverseKidLit linkup comes from author Gayle H. Swift: The Essential Life Lessons We Must Teach Children. Gayle shares her thoughts about some of the most important lessons we teach children, as well as a detailed review of two great books to use with kids. This is a useful resource for teachers and parents alike!

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

Katie @ The Logonauts
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestBeth @ Pages and Margins
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 / InstagramMarjorie @ Mirrors Windows Doors
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / PinterestMia @ Pragmatic Mom
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest / InstagramMyra @ Gathering Books
Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Guest Host for August

Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries
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!

We’ve started a new group board on Pinterest to highlight all the amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children’s Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

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.

 

My Heart Is Like A Zoo? — Talk About Love

My Heart Is Like A Zoo How would you reply if you asked yourself, “What is your heart like?” What would you predict your child might reply? My Heart Is Like A Zoo written and illustrated by Michael Hall offers a delightful variety of answers to this question. In an additional and entertaining surprise, the illustrations are made of different configurations of hearts– large and small, complete and incomplete. What a wonderful demonstration of creativity!

Kids will giggle and smile their way through this sweet, silly book. Ear-catching rhyme and unexpected descriptions add dimensions of fun. For example, “Silly as a seal/ rugged as a moose/ happy as a herd of hippos drinking apple juice.” Who knew hippos love apple juice? Or how quiet a caterpillar can be when “wearing knitted socks”?  Casey read this book with her second grade class; they enjoyed it tremendously, then created their own zoo-heart animals as metaphors for their own emotions. Five Stars

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AQ Lens:  A fun book like this one makes it easy to talk about upbeat feelings and lays important groundwork for more difficult conversations. Because of the complexities of adoption, adopted children benefit from having a broad vocabulary for describing and identifying their feelings. This helps them discuss their emotions as well as to understand these emotions.  The uniqueness of the illustrations also encourage creativity and showcases the benefit of not thinking/being exactly like everyone else.

One Love.MarleyValentine’s day brings thoughts of love. Add a sprinkle of multiculturalism to your celebrations with the charming One Love by Cedella Marley, daughter of the Reggae artist, Bob Marley. Illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton enliven the text, based on his song, “One Love.” Beautiful multi-media pictures will brighten the reader’s day.  The mood of the story is upbeat and positive and reinforces the idea that we are all part of the community of earth, that we all can choose to work, laugh and love together. Five stars

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magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens:
 This is not an “issues” book, rather it shows people engaging in ordinary tasks, living their normal daily activities. This sweet book easily introduces the idea that we need not look the same in order to be friends, neighbors or family. It depicts people of different races happily playing and working together. People of many shades of color appear throughout the story. Several images of Bob Marley are tucked into the illustrations. Hunting for them  would be fun. Plus, it would be an easy segue to a conversation about birth parents–how they are “present” in a child in ways both subtle and obvious.

 

plant a kiss.517n7oFF8oL._SY351_BO1,204,203,200_

Valentine’s Day brings kisses to mind.  A wonderful book that looks at kisses in a unique way is Amy Krouse  Rosenthal’s gem, Plant A Kiss.  Illustrated brilliantly by Peter H. Reynolds, the very spare text literally sparkles and matches the mood of the story perfectly. Have you ever wondered what might happen if you planted a kiss? No? Well, you are in for a delight when you share this book with your special child. Before you begin, ask your little one to predict what might happen if he or she planted a kiss. The question is sure to fire up their imaginations. It will also open a window into the way they think and feel which helps parents know and understand their children better.  Five stars

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magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens:
 This story line can serve as a wonderful conversation starter. Ask kids what else they might “plant.” Then, have them predict what might happen. Compare the “harvest” of each emotion. Conversations like these can be a wonderful gateway to important conversations about deeply held adoption-related thoughts and feelings. You might be surprised by what your child reveals. This creates a great chance to validate their feelings, clarify confusion and address their worries and concerns.

All Kinds of Children.61bmJzGzaVL._SY406_BO1,204,203,200_A title like All Kinds of Children sets our expectations of inclusivity and multicultural characters and  content. This book delivers on all accounts as it explores “fascinating differences” as well as “all they have in common with other boys and girls.” Written by Norma Simon and deftly illustrated by Diane Paterson, the duo presents similarities and differences in foods, housing, families, playtime activities and work. Many ethnicities and races are depicted although no interracial families are shown which is unfortunate. Still this book deserves a spot on the family library shelf. Five stars.

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magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: The biggest plus of this book is the way that it depicts the myriad ways in which everyone is both alike and dissimilar. Since many adoptees have a wrestle with the process of blending their identities from a mixture of both nature and nurture, this book opens an easy entry into talking about the many ways in which they are similar to each family as well as the multiple ways in which they differ. A book like All Kinds of Children accomplishes this task without judgment and thus normalizes the conversation.

What Is #DiverseKidLit?

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 18th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Theme

Our theme for the current month is Love. 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 18th linkups: Love. Let’s continue to 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 Marjorie’s review of IBBY Review: Roses Are Blue by Sally Murphy and Gabriel Evans on Mirrors Windows Doors. This novel in verse shares the struggles of a young girl trying to process her new life after her mother is severely injured in a car accident.

My DiverseKidLit Shout-Out

Now more than ever, we need to share and promote books by and about Muslims, and a great place to start is Kitaab World‘s new series on Countering Islamophobia through Stories. The first entry is a book list featuring Muslim Kids as Heroes. I am also delighted to welcome Gauri, CEO and co-founder of Kitaab World, as a co-host!

#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

Guest Hosts for February

Gauri @ Kitaab World   an online bookstore for South Asian children’s books, toys and games
Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

Shoumi Sen, Author of Toddler Diaries   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!

Changing One’s “Spots” and Other Compromises

naughty nice.A slender and wiggly thread divides contrariness from being true to oneself. As our kids learn to discern the difference, we parents must deal with the confusion, frustration and—Dare we say it?—the irritation. Teaching our kids how to think for themselves, choose well and not follow the crowd takes patience and practice.

Lots. And. Lots. Of. Patience. And. Practice.

Theirs and ours!

This requires us as parents to encourage kids to explore, make choices–and mistakes–so they can discover their talents, manage their emotions and, nurture resilience and perseverance.

This post will review several picture books that focus on the inherent conflict between conforming and standing out in the crowd. A tall order for a simple picture book, right? But this group accomplishes the task with humor and fun.

Little Pea.41Q9WQC99HL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Little Pea and Little Oink, both written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace invert the “normal” behavioral expectations children face. Little Pea must eat his candy–such a trial!–before his parents allow him to savor his vegetables! How’s that for a backwards and fun switcheroo? Kids will delight in this silly twist.

Five stars ∗∗∗∗∗

 

Little oink.419Y2Va9sbL._SX482_BO1,204,203,200_Amy Krouse Rosenthal reprises a similar premise in Little Oink which features a neatnik pig who yearns to leave the mandatory messiness behind and settle into the comforting refuge of his spic-and-span tree house. (Sounds inviting and positively zen, doesn’t it?)

Most everyone yearns to fit in. While compromise and flexibility have their place, some kids feel compelled to sacrifice themselves so others will accept them. Kids must learn to set and hold boundaries about themselves and know when they must stand true and unchanged.

Five stars  ∗∗∗∗∗

spots in a boxSpots in a Box by Helen Ward tells of a guinea fowl who lacks any spots which is disastrous, if you’re a guinea fowl. He can’t fit in and feels “made him odd/ cause the others had lots.” Young readers know what it feels like to be odd one out, so they can easily identify with the story line. The young fowl creates a solution–he ends out a letter asking for others to send him some spots. His request yields some unexpected and fun results. Fowl comes to understand that the best way to attract friends, is to be content with himself. Five stars  ∗∗∗∗∗

 


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AQ Lens: Adopted children consistently report feeling “othered”, like they don’t quite fit in their families, circles of friends, classrooms, etc. It is essential that these feelings be validated, not dismissed or minimized. It is equally important that our kids experience the richness and joy that results when everything and everyone is not cookie-cutter-identical.

Books like those included in this post help kids see the value in being comfortable being themselves. These books also invite them to wonder what might happen if things unfolded in unexpected and unique ways.

Read more about adoptees feeling “othered.” 

 

 

 

Love Is Always in Season

Love.Eric Carle.51cnuPybmDL._SX406_BO1,204,203,200_

 

In the vein of Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle’s new book  Love from The Very Hungry Caterpillar,  is a treasure for all ages not only for children. Pictured in his signature style of  artwork, the sweet message of love is expressed in simple metaphor, brilliant color and spare graphics.

Snuggle close to your special sweetie and share this little gem. The human heart craves affirmation; sometimes a book is the perfect way to do it. Read it often. It’s a great way to get used to expressing the love in your hearts.

 

 

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)#AQ Lens Too often we forget how important it is to express our love to our family. In this season of gift-giving it is easy to think that the stuff we buy conveys our emotion. Things are appreciated, expected and enjoyed but the thrill of stuff quickly fades. What persists in memory is the way we make our loved ones feel.

It is especially important for our kids not only to hear but also feel our love. Our best gift to them is our undivided attention, attentive listening and willingness to express in words and actions the love we have for them. Often, children who were adopted struggle with doubt, rejection and feeling inadequate. Be intentional about the many ways in which you live the love you feel for them. Help them experience it in words as well as actions. Give them more time than stuff. Connection with you is what they really crave.

When parents freely express their emotions, it provides both a model as well as “permission” for kids to do the same. What a blessing to teach kids that it is not only okay, it is actually encouraged to open up and share their feelings.