I was very fortunate as a new white mom of two adopted Haitian children and one child by birth to have a dear friend who was a librarian. She hooked us up with every children’s book featuring people of color that existed. This was no easy task as there weren’t that many books to choose from at the time. Though the genre of multicultural children’s books has widened considerably since then, it still has a long way to go.
This is why I am thrilled to be a participating blogger in the upcoming Multicultural Children’s Book Day, an event held on January 27th and co-created by Mia Wenjen from and Valarie Budayr from /Audrey Press.
As a participating blogger, I received three gorgeous children’s books in the mail. Despite my children’s oft repeated mantras that they are “not little kids anymore”, all three books disappeared as soon as I opened the box. And with good reason. The books, all from Capstone Young Readers, are captivating enough to ignite the imaginations of all ages.
(You can order the books by clicking on their corresponding pictures. Disclaimer: while I was not paid for these reviews, the links are affiliate links — so if you purchase from the link, I might be able to save up enough to buy a cup of coffee. And mamma needs a cup of coffee!)
Juneteenth for Mazie, written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper
“I can’t go where I want, do what I want, or have what I want,” little Mazie tells her dad in a new Children’s book by Floyd Cooper. Mazie is anxiously awaiting her family’s Juneteenth celebration, the day when African Americans celebrate the announcement in Texas of the end of the Civil War and slavery — albeit a full two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Mazie’s father cleverly uses her frustration with her own perceived lack of freedom to illustrate the struggle of her great, great, great grandfather Mose. Mose was a slave who had to keep working in the fields no matter how “dog tired” he might be.
With exquisite illustrations, also by Cooper, the story journeys smoothly through slavery, emancipation, the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century, and into Mazie’s own experience as a modern day African American child. Mazie’s dad passes her the torch once carried by her ancestors, imploring her to both remember the struggle and celebrate freedom.
Juneteenth for Mazie, like all good holiday stories, is a perfect book to accompany any family’s Juneteenth celebration. It can also be used to introduce the special day to children who do not celebrate it. The book suggests a meal including B-B-Q and strawberry soda. It might be fun for parents to allow their young readers to develop a menu and invitation list for their own Juneteenth party.
As we have focused more on Haitian traditions than African American ones in our home, the arrival of this book has sparked great interest in a Juneteenth celebration this year.
Juneteenth for Mazie is a picture book that all ages would enjoy. For independent readers, it reads at about a 3rd grade level.
Here I Am, story by Patti Kim, pictures by Sonia Sanchez
Readers will watch with anticipation as the boy attempts to navigate a new culture, environment, language, and school. So overwhelmed is he by this strange and intimidating new world that he clings to a single seed he brought with him from his birth place. When he accidentally drops the seed from his window, though, he is forced to explore his neighborhood in an attempt to retrieve it. In doing so, he finds the familiar and universal in his surroundings: a bit of humor, a friendly interaction, enticing sights and smells. Newly comfortable, when he finally finds his seed, he no longer needs the security it offers. He shares it with a new friend. Together they plant it, bringing new life to his new home.
The story-teller ends the book with her personal narrative of immigration and encourages the reader to let go of fear. It is the perfect opening to explore with young readers how the pictures resonate with them. Perhaps taking a tour of your own neighborhood with your child while prompting her to share the places that feel familiar and those that feel uncomfortable might help her garner a bit of independence.
Children will be captivated by the detailed drawings, beautifully strewn throughout the book like a patchwork quilt. Each one tells a story that will resonate with most people, but especially with children who have made such a tremendous move. I wish I’d had this book for my kids when they were younger and had just arrived in American through adoption. It is a jarring experience for any child to leave their home and culture past infancy. This book, particularly with its vivid illustrations that bypass language barriers, might have provided some solace. I recommend it for all children, but especially for children who have experienced a seismic culture change in their young lives.
Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventure, written by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Kim Smith
Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventure, the fifth in the Sofia Martinez series, offers a delightful glimpse into young Sofia’s relationship with her large, extended, Spanish-speaking family. Sofia, her sisters, and cousins meander through a succession of realistic predicaments. Whether Sofia is facing bigger challenges, like feeling a bit invisible as the youngest childi, or smaller ones, like losing the class mouse in the house, her family bans together to support her.
Simple words and phrases in Spanish are woven throughout this early-reader chapter book, offering Spanish speakers a bit of familiarity and those who do not speak Spanish some instruction. It might be fun for non Spanish speaking kids and their parents to try and learn the words together. They stand out in red, making them easy to find.
Though the illustrations are obviously characterizations, I appreciate that they are more realistic than I often see in books depicting people of color (where stereotyping and fetishizing abound). Sofia is adorable and child-like, Mamá looks her age, and abuela has actual wrinkles.
Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventures would be enjoyable for kids in kindergarten through about fifth grade. It is billed as a reader for kindergarten through second grade, but I think it better suited for second through fourth grade.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day
Multicultural Children’s Book Day’s mission “is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.”
Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that.
MCCBD team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.
We’re also partnering with to offer a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. We want to help get diversity books into the hands of kids who most need it and now we have a way to do it! The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found .
MCCBD’s 2015 Sponsors include Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, Gold Sponsors: Satya House, MulticulturalKids.com, Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Silver Sponsors: Junior Library Guild, Capstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books, The Omnibus Publishing. Bronze Sponsors:Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing, Rainbow Books, Author FeliciaCapers, Chronicle Books Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.