Marisol McDonald Series Celebrates Being Unique

Marisol McDonald-quirky-diversity-Series that celebrates Being-UniqueMarisol 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. Marisol is quirky diversity personified!

Marisol-McDonald-celebrates-Being-Unique-confidence-security-quirky-diversity-marisol-mcdonald-and-the-monster-51bcmtoy6vl-_sx437_bo1204203200_The third, and newest book in the series is,  Marisol McDonald and the Monster , debuted in July 2016 and finds Marisol  confronting a nightly visit by a monster under her bed!

Because most kids have had a similar experience at least once, young readers will easily identify with her situation. Marisol 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!*

Marisol-McDonald-celebrates-Being-Unique-confidence-security-quirky-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 quirky approach 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

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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 quirky “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 racially diverse family, her multi-ethnic heritage, and her two languages! Often, adoptive families don’t “match.” This series raises the topic in a non-threatening way, making it approachable and easy to address.

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.

Our theme for this #DiverseKidLit is books in a series. Series books are great for hooking readers, because there’s another book after you finish the first one! Share your favorite book series featuring diverse characters. (As always, the theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

DiverseKidLitWhat 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 serves as a resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Sat., August 5th. We will host one linkup per month (on the first Saturday) for the summer months.

Our theme for the current month is books in a series. Series books are great for hooking readers, because there’s another book after you finish the first one! Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you’re interested, you can start planning now …

Upcoming Theme  Our theme for August (5th) will be socioeconomic diversity. What are your favorite books for honoring characters and families who come from somewhere other than the 1% or even the upper/middle classes? We look forward to seeing your choices!

Most Clicked Post from Last Time: was this incredible resource from Colours to Us: 50 Picture Books about Mixed-Race Families. Wow!

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an online bookstore for South Asian children’s books, toys and games
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Books Help Kids Handle Grief and Loss

Books helps kids handle grief and loss which are inevitable parts of loving others. Books that both validate the depth of a child’s feelings and ease them over life’s rough patches can help children process their powerful emotions. Their world is small, their life experiences limited, and their life skills are just beginning. They experience emotions on a grand scale: elation, terror, delight, disgust, etc. When they perceive an imminent loss, fear crushes logic. By nurturing emotional literacy in our children, we strengthen them for the journey of life.

Cope love loss grief.wherever you are.51rmSaLK1rL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_Before tackling the difficult stuff, read books which reassure children and build a firm foundation of security. Nancy Tillman, author of the  NY Times Bestselling On the Night You Were Born, created a wonderful book that would be a great choices: Wherever you Are My Love Will Find You

This sweet book reassures children that the love which connects family bridges time and distance. The delicate illustrations suit the gentle, dreamy tone well. Although it never mentions loss or death, it’s  message would indirectly reassure kids who have faced the loss of a relationship, whether through divorce, death, or adoption.

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Adoption-attuned Lens Adoptees have intimate knowledge of deep loss and benefit from frequent affirmations of love. This book can be interpreted as both a reinforcement of the love of their adoptive family and can lead to conversations about their birth parents as well. Adopted children have a permanent connection to and interest in their birth parents.  They may find comfort in imagining their birth parents thinking about them with a love that can bridge difficult circumstances, distance and time.

Even if they came to adoption because of abuse and neglect, they may find solace in imagining some measure of positive connection with their birth parents. As always, validate the children’s feelings; if they can only conjure heart-broken, hurt or angry feelings. Empathize with how sad that must be for them. Eventually, they may be able reach resolution or forgiveness. Allow them to determine if and when that will happen.

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Exuberant illustrations dance across the pages of  The Way I Feel  written and illustrated by Janan Cain. It walks young readers through several moods and captures the intensity of their wildest feelings. Text spirals, bends and wriggles across the page. Color reinforces the feelings being described., for example, brilliant reds and oranges for anger, blues and turquoise for sad,

The story describes kid-familiar emotions : an older sib’s jealousy, frustration, disappointment, etc. With respect and validation, it describes these feelings in ways that help kids discern the difference between one feeling and another. This helps kids develop emotional literacy– the ability to accurately recognize, clearly express how they feel and then decide how to handle them. This is a vital life skill.

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Adoption-attuned Lens I began this review by stating: the proverbial Circle of Life inevitably links love, loss and grief. This is particularly true for adoptees whose lives have been uprooted from one family and grafted into another. Adoption requires kids to wrestle with very complex emotions. Having a broad vocabulary of emotions assists them in parsing out this patchwork quilt of feelings, relationships, losses and gains.

Reading a book about feelings helps convince kids that it is a permitted and welcome topic. Conversations can natural evolve from more general things to adoption-specific thoughts and experiences.

books Help Kids Handle Grief Loss. Ida Always. 51Aufwhsr8L._SY453_BO1,204,203,200_Ida, Always by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso is a sweet, two-hankie picture book that depicts how loved one’s imprint in our world and on our hearts remains after they die. It deals with death that acknowledges the sadness and grief and celebrates life and relationships.

A pleasure for eye, ear and heart, Ida, Always  focuses on sound to capture the loving relationship of two polar bears, the bustling zoo where they live and the vibrant city which surrounds them. (“Keys clicked and shoes clacked … buses groan,; trucks rumble …children laugh.” This encapsulates the theme: even when the people and places we love are out of sight, the sounds that surround us hold the audio track of precious memories.

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Adoption-attuned Lens Adoptees may find solace in a book like this because it invites them to intentionally search for and preserve good memories about relationships they have lost. Even when they lack actual memories, parents can help them imagine moments that his birth parents “might” have shared with them. Even kids with trauma histories are viscerally connected to their birth parents. They might benefit from finding some positive recollections, (Not to cancel out or invalidate any trauma or the reality of hurtful histories but as the first step to finding a way to heal any damage.)


books Help Kids Handle Grief Loss.Pancakes with Papa.61StzMzilAL._SY352_BO1,204,203,200_
The multi-award-winning book Pancakes with Papa by Dena Albergo Jason and illustrated by Rainer M. Osinger directly addresses a child’s loss of a grandparent. Johnny’s grandparents live with his family. They spend time together and have shared many memory-making moments. So, when his beloved Papa dies, his death leaves a large hole in Johnny’s life. His Nana brings Johnny around the house. She helps Johnny identify smells, sounds and memories of their time together. He learns to use these memories to trigger warm feelings that help ease his grief.

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Adoption-attuned Lens While everyone needs help coping with loss and grief, adoptees have a heavier load to shoulder than most kids their age. Whether they were adopted as infants or older, children may benefit from finding ways to see, hear, and smell the connection of lost relationships. Especially for adoptees with little information in their files, the exercise may rely more on supposition than fact. nonetheless, kids may find comfort in remembering or imagining magical, loving moments with people from their pre-adoptive lives.

Thinking, Feeling & Persisting

The Thinking Book.41xZ9SWJpoL._SY375_BO1,204,203,200_The Thinking Book  by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, connected with me in a visceral way I had not anticipated. The story unfolds through two voices–parent and child. The adult’s words, in bold font, are straight forward, brief, e.g.,  “Good Morning,” and, “Time-to-get-upright-now.” The tone is no-nonsense and a response is clearly expected from the child.

The novelty of this book is that it immerses the reader in the child’s thoughts. As events are happening. His lack of response is not defiance or rudeness; it results from his being completely engaged in his own inner world.

The reader sees how the boy’s thoughts leap-frog from one idea to another. The outer world cannot intrude because  he’s so totally engaged by his own thoughts. (At least for the moment!)

Those of us who spend time on the internet have experienced a similar journey from one attention-grabbing link to another.

This book cast me back to times when I sat through Individual Education Plan meetings to help tailor school expectations to an ADHD student’s learning style. In my opinion, it captured the thought processes of attention-challenged kiddos. My daughter who teaches second grade made the identical observation, “I wish I could share this with every teacher instructing kids with an ADHD or ADD diagnosis or parents  who are raising them. It could help everyone.”

This gem of a book has the potential to build bridges of understanding and empathy. More importantly, it might help people appreciate the potential gift of this child’s ability to think deeply and uniquely. We need thinkers that can leapfrog beyond rote channels of accepted thinking to create new approaches and solutions! (Think Steve Jobs, for example.)

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: This book offers a fun way to discuss “trigger,” how conversations, events and actions can activate thoughts, memories, and behaviors. For children touched by trauma, this can be a way to explore a sensitive issue without actually discussing specific associations or memories. The discussion can focus on generalizations about triggers instead of specific ones. (Although, if a child wants to talk about specifics, follow their lead and talk about them. Be particularly sensitive to any overt or non-verbal cues to end the conversation.

 

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Stickley Sticks to It: A Frog’s Guide to Getting Things Done by Brenda S. Miles and illustrated by Steve Mack. Hilarious illustrations depict a charming bow-tie wearing frog of infectious optimism. Like other frogs, Stickley’s sticky feet allow him to hang on–often in the most unusual places.

A delightful two-page spread shows Stickley proudly dangling from the underside of a bowl of soup–much to the shock of a hungry lion and elephant. Another picture shows how being sticky has some challenges too, like when a soccer ball won’t launch to other players.

Stickley learns to manage his stickiness and to be “sticky” in other non-physical ways that require a stick-to-it-attitude. He develops ways to nurture and use this kind of persistence. The story outlines the exact steps he has to take to be sticky in attitude and accomplishes this in a way that engages and entertains. This itemized strategy demonstrates that the process is simple yet not easy. It takes practice, patience and stick-to-it-iveness!

The book also includes a useful “Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers.” This helps parents to identify the specific steps to teach kids that, like Stickley, they too, can have sticky-ness and become masters of persistence. These include:

  • Make a plan and gather supplies
  • Take a break
  • Go back to work after a break
  • Stop and think about the problem in a different way
  • Make a new plan
  • Ask for help

Stickley Sticks to It: A Frog’s Guide to Getting Things Done is a fun, useful book.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: The strategies outlined in this book can also serve purposes other than stick-to-it-iveness. For example, for kids who have difficult histories, some suggestions like taking a break or looking at it from another angle, and/or asking for help–are all excellent.

As crucial as taking a break is, it is equally important to go back and handle things and not be tempted to “stuff” it out of consciousness. Denial tends to create an environment where things can fester and cause more damage. This book can help kids develop both the skill and the mindset that encourages them to speak up, speak out, and hang on.

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The Feelings Book by Todd Parr features his signature boldly colorful, zany artwork and effectively captures an array of emotions. Books like this help provide kids with a broad vocabulary for the multitude of feelings that people experience. This helps them convey, share, and deal with their emotions and is an essential part of emotional literacy.

This book concludes with a reminder to share feelings and not keep them bottled up inside, something which is important for to remember whether one is a child or an adult.

 

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300AQ Lens: Emotional literacy is a vital skill for all of us. It is especially important that adoptive families become well-practiced in exploring, sharing and talking about feelings, especially those connected to adoption. These emotions are complex and intense and enmeshed in the experience and feelings of other family members. This can make it difficult to discuss because one might fear upsetting other family members. Kids sometimes choose to protect others at the expense of their own emotional and mental health.

Adoptive families must encourage conversations about emotions and ensure that all feelings are valid. Specifically discuss how something that makes one family member happy can make another sad or angry. For example, parents can be overjoyed that they were able to adopt a child while the child may have a range of feelings about it. These feelings most certainly will include loss, grief and probably some anger as well. Accept that these feelings can coexist; they do not void each other.

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:

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“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.

 

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“Out of the Blue”

Out of the Blue.51c4z0qMIuL._SX495_BO1,204,203,200_Out of the Blue illustrated by Allison Jay offers a unique reading experience. The story opens with an aerial view of a lighthouse which immediately arouses curiosity. Who lives there? And what is their story? There’s no text; this allows the reader’s imagination to soar.

We all know how kids love to spin a tale. This brilliant book provides an awesome vehicle for them to do so.

The next page turn reveals a boy and his dog peering from the window of the lighthouse tower.  Again, there is no text, only the opportunity for the reader to conjure a story.

The magic of this book is the unexpected and total absence of text. The story is revealed solely through exquisitely detailed illustrations which invite the reader to wonder a story line for each element. The main characters who are lucky enough to reside at the lighthouse are apparently brother and sister. We see their island adventures through sunny as well as stormy days.

In one dramatic sequence of illustrations they discover a giant octopus marooned on the beach after a raging storm. A closeup view centers on the octopus’ eye; a single tear falls… The balance of the book depicts the children’s efforts to rescue it and to encourage others to help in the effort. With heroic effort , the children and the unlikely team succeed in rescuing the giant creature.

An exceptional book, Out of the Blue provides a clear message of empowerment, teamwork, empathy and respect for animals. The back matter of the book includes fascinating information about giant octopuses and lighthouses.

Five Stars

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AQ Lens:  While all kids can enjoy the story-telling potential of this stellar book, Out of the Blue offers a powerful opportunity for parents to listen to their children’s invented stories. The illustrations provide a wonderful channel  for kid’s to reveal their private thoughts in a non-threatening way. For example, where the waves assault the tower, kids can tap into their own concerns about the “storms” in their lives, their fears, and how they cope. Parents will be amazed what they can discern between the lines of their children’s narrative.

Along the same line, the panels which depict the octopus’ struggle and need to depend on others for help will tap into similar deep emotions connected to the child’s own history of struggle, etc. Each “reading” of this book has the potential to generate conversations between child and parent. Some will be deep; others might be silly or light-hearted. All will be a chance for the child/ren to have the stage and to experience being “heard,” an all too rare occurrence in our hectic lives.

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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 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.

 

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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.

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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.

Someone Wonderful Is Coming

Something Wonderful.612ElbG3o9L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Regardless of specific faith, the holiday season focuses on family, generosity and being a light for others. They Told Us Something Wonderful Was Coming written and illustrated by Bev Stone,  beautifully captures the joy which envelopes a family as they anticipate a new child’s arrival. The narrator explains to the reader that the entire world recognized that “something wonderful was coming.” Animals and insects, clouds and rainbows, all quivered with joyful anticipation. And what could ignite such wonder and excitement? The arrival of a new child of course!  The story concludes creatures, great and small “somehow, they knew about you!”

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ* Lens: This story serves a feast for the eyes and the heart. Delicate watercolors fill each page depicting the manifest ways that the world brightened in anticipation of a marvelous event. Each page turn delivers a unique moment of excitement that builds the reader’s excitement as he wonders what could provoke such happiness?

All of us–child and adult–love to hear and feel that are arrival was celebrate. The age of the child on whom the story centers is not specified; it could be a baby, toddler, teen or any age in between which makes this story a great fit for adoptive families.  Many books honor the anticipation and arrival of a new baby but rarely do we find a book that expands the arrival of a new family member who is older. As adoptive parents we know how important it is for older children to feel welcome, important and special. Five stars

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Full, full, full of love.51a0ldDzfzL._SY490_BO1,204,203,200_Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cole is another story that elicits warm, snugly feelings. It follows a grandson’s visit with his grandmother. Together they prepare the Sunday feast for the extended family. Jay Jay is excited to  spend time with his Grannie. Their tender connection jumps off every page. Grannie keeps Jay Jay busy “helping”  which distracts him until everyone arrives. It also teaches an important lesson about work: it is not a punishment but rather a way of showing how much we care. Young children yearn to “help”; often it is easier for adults to deflect their awkward attempts because it is easier for adult to do it alone. This story shows how if draws the boy closer to his grandma and reinforces the desire to work.

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ* LensFull, Full, Full of Love depicts an African-American family in a universal  experience. Aunts, uncles, and cousins gather for a home-cooked meal at Grannie’s. It’s not to observe a holiday or some major event but simply to celebrate the blessing of being a family. I appreciate the ordinariness of this.  

This book would be a wonderful choice for any child, regardless of race. It serves to depict the commonalities we share and thus, is a great choice for advancing a multicultural awareness.

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And Here's to You..51ccZotpV8L._SX452_BO1,204,203,200_And Here’s to You,  by David Ellitott and illustrated by Randy Cecil is an exuberant riff on tolerance and respect for others and the universality of our experiences. Cartoon-like illustrations pair with a refrain that carries throughout the book. Whether it is birds, bugs, cats, dogs, bears, or all manner of people, each is wonderful and valued. Now that is a message we all enjoy hearing. Again and again and again.

 

 

 

magnifying-lens-AQ.2-161x300 (1)AQ* LensFull, Full, Full of Love depicts a variety of characters both animal and human and infused with diversity that is the foundation of the story’s premise. It reinforces another important concept of unconditional love: “Here’s to the sweet you/The messy and the neat you/ the funny-way-you-eat you/ The head to your feet you…Oh, how I love you!” Kids can never get enough reassurance that their parent’s love is not conditional on behavior, looks or anything else.

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Cinderella Around the World

family readingFairy tales are a perennial favorite with children. They appear in all cultures. Infused with regional/national flavor and history, they hold common elements. They offer an easy and effective way of broadening your child’s involvement in the greater world. (This is important as technology shrinks our modern world and increasingly reinforces our connection as citizens of the world.)

 

The Cinderella tale, for example has been shared through the generations around the world. While young readers will recognize the fundamental similarities, they will also be fascinated–perhaps even surprised–to see the myriad ways in which the tale can be tweaked. In addition to cultural nuances,  some Cinderella tales spin a yarn with a male hero. This provides a fun and unexpected twist and demonstrates another way in which difference can be embraced instead of feared.

Cendrillon.Caribbean Cinderella.61BFZ1ecydL._SX463_BO1,204,203,200_

Reading several versions of a tale like Cinderella, can also jump start a child’s imagination and help him to understand there isn’t necessarily only one “right” way for things to be. Why not explore the world through Cinderella’s tale? You’ll find many chances to talk about your child’s beliefs about magical solutions, persistence, kindness, bullying etc. These are important topics that you will want to be intentional about nurturing and shaping.

 

Some versions of Cinderella infuse the tale with Cindy Ellen. American West Cinderella.61nQJOTv9IL._SY417_BO1,204,203,200_

regional flavor like, The Salmon Princess: An Alaskan Cinderella, or Cindy-Ellen: A Wild West Cinderella, or Smokey Mountain Rose: An Appalachian Cinderella

 

 

Appalachian Cinderella.518tfdZW0XL._SX367_BO1,204,203,200_Others recast the story the tale in a contemporary light, like Cinder-Elly which is a rap-type retelling with an urban setting. Check out the book cover array for additional suggestions. Invite your child to create his/her own version of the tale. Will the hero be male or female? Contemporary or from times past? Set locally or in a more exotic land? Have fun!

Perhaps your child will rewrite the story so that Cinderella creates her own solution instead of being rescued. Start the project and see where it leads you.

 

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AQ Lens. As I’ve consistently written, adoptive families live with the duality of being seen as both the same and different from biologically formed families. Reading versions on a Cinderella theme can easily segue into conversations about how one’s adoptive family is also a variation of a family–not better or less than–yet none-the-less different. Children may share some of their complex feelings about this “different-ness.” Such big feelings are a lot for a child to shoulder alone. A book that helps kids bring their thoughts into the open and get the support they need is well worth reading.

As you read stories that differ culturally, read with a sharp eye for any bias in the texts and/or illustrations. This too,is an important lesson: look at things with a judicious eye and do not accept something simply because it is in print, on-line, etc. Start early to teach your children to be savvy, critical thinkers.

Rough-face Girl.41PgXz2z3jL._SX380_BO1,204,203,200_

Golden sandal.61FQFW87XTL._SY473_BO1,204,203,200_

Egyptian Cinderella.61WHLPPrxWL._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

 

 

 

Adelita. Mexican Cinderella.51A6Y827nOL._SX390_BO1,204,203,200_Anklet for a Princess. India Cinderella.510X4AQ7B8L._SY390_BO1,204,203,200_

Domitila.Mexican Cinderella.513558DVPKL._SX354_BO1,204,203,200_

Abedaha.Philipine Cinderella.61D-X4LuYZL._SX402_BO1,204,203,200_