Celebrating Diverse Books – A Review by Anna-Celestrya Carr

I’m so happy to have the opportunity to review three picture books for the 5th Annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day. A day to learn, share, and talk about the fantastic diverse literature available for young readers. It was a joy to share these stories with my twin three-year-old boys. (Disclosure: I received the following three books from their authors to give an honest review for #MCBD2018.)

As an Indigenous woman with two little boys, finding them diverse stories is very important to me. As biracial children I want them to have books that reflect their Indigenous heritage as well as stories from as many cultural backgrounds as possible. I want my boys to have the opportunity to not only see a representation of themselves in stories but find a connection to diverse characters.

A Tall Tale About a Dachshund and a Pelican: How a Friendship Came to Be, written by Kizzie Jones, illustrated by Scott Ward and published by Tall Tales. This is a simple story about making friends regardless of differences and celebrating diversity. DachshundPelican001

This delightful flip-over bilingual English-Spanish picture book is a sequel to Kizzie Jones’ award-winning book How Dachshunds Came to Be. The illustrations are beautiful. As someone who grew up with a dachshund, I thought the artist portrayed the exuberance of Goldie the dachshund perfectly. Dog lovers will adore this story. This tale is about the excitement of a dog wanting to make a new friend. The lesson to take away is unmistakable: you can like and appreciate someone without being similar. It held the attention of both twins on our first reading. I can see it becoming a recurring book for story time. It is a charming sequel to the Tall Tale Series.

The next two picture books I have the pleasure of reviewing are Sporty Lou: Soccer King and Johnny Skip 2: The Amazing Adventures of Johnny Skip 2 in Australia written by Quentin Holmes and published by Holmes Investment & Holdings LLC.  The illustrations in both Sporty Lou and Johnny Skip 2 have a cheerfulness to them, and the bright color palette works well for both stories. It’s impressive that both books are drawn using the same style and the two little boys are completely different. The characters and background in each book are diverse.

Sporty Lou: Soccer King is a story about Lou, a spirited little boy being taught soccer for the first time. In Lou’s fantastic imagination his self-confidence is shown as he pictures a stadium full of people cheering his name. Lou’s disappointment in not being a naturally gifted player shakes that confidence. Lou’s dad wants to share this great game with him and doesn’t let Lou stay discouraged. He gently teaches and encourages Lou to persevere.

SportyLou001Lou is a little boy with dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, and cappuccino skin color. He is ethnically ambiguous and could be any nationality. It’s possible a child from any race could look at Lou and see themselves or someone familiar. He’s every child. I like the two sides we see of Lou; he pictures himself as a sports star and he’s a small boy who as he struggles, and misses finds the determination to keep trying.

Many kids who love sports will enjoy this book. But I think the lesson of perseverance in Sporty Lou is important for any child to hear. I appreciated the thoughtful way the dad taught and corrected Lou. Sporty Lou: Soccer King is an enjoyable read-out-loud book.

Johnny Skip 2: The Amazing Adventures of Johnny Skip 2 in Australia is a story about Johnny, a black little boy, and his dog Grounder who use a remarkable device to skip all over the world.  They go to Australia to explore the outback and help a kangaroo.

JohnySkip2001This story has a lot going on for a picture book and it didn’t hold my three-year-old boys’ attention. I think it would be better enjoyed by kids five to seven. This interactive adventure is an ambitious series that combines science and magic. The book teaches about the culture, language, animals, and environment of a continent. The story presents a lot of information on Australia quickly, but this causes the rhyme structure and rhythm of the text to feel forced making it difficult to read out loud. I’m interested to see what is next for both Sporty Lou and Johnny Skip 2 in their series.

Reading diversity in fiction creates empathy and understanding in real life. These three books reflect a piece of our diverse, beautiful and complicated world. I’d like to thank Kizzie Jones and Quentin Holmes for contributing their stories to Multicultural Children’s Book Day.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

–Anna-Celestrya Carr, CWW Media Development Intern

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