Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Multicultural Children's Book Day 2016: Because "She Looks Like Me!" Is Music to My Ears

I've been reading children's literature since I was a young'un (so, for a loooonnnggg time) and I honestly never noticed how little cultural diversity existed in kids' books.  Not when I inhaled them myself, not when I shared them with my three oldest children.  It wasn't until my beautiful, bi-racial daughter came into my life via adoption that my eyes started opening.  At 7, she doesn't necessarily notice that most of the characters in the t.v. shows, movies, and books she enjoys are white, but her reaction to seeing little girls onscreen or in books who "look like me" are always so surprised and euphoric that it's apparent how few of these depictions she actually views each day.  Despite my best intentions as a parent, it's obvious she just isn't seeing enough little girls with brown skin and curly black hair represented in the media she consumes.

While the situation has definitely improved over the years, there's still much that can be done.  That's why I'm so thrilled to be taking part in the festivities for Multicultural Children's Book Day 2016.  Started in 2014 by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, the annual (January 27) event not only celebrates and promotes diversity in children's literature but also pushes to get more such books into classrooms and libraries.  In the founders' words:  "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, and multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media." 

MCCBD is made possible by generous support from the event's sponsors:




Bronze: Pomelo Books* Author Jacqueline Woodson*Papa Lemon Books* Goosebottom Books*Author Gleeson Rebello*ShoutMouse Press*Author Mahvash Shahegh*China Institute.org*  

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As part of the MCCBD festivities, bloggers are matched up with authors of culturally diverse books.  I was thrilled to be paired with Marti Dumas, a teacher from New Orleans.  She's written three chapter books, two of which I will chat about today.  The other will be reviewed tomorrow.  

Featuring a kindergartner with a brain that's even bigger than his afro, Dumas' Jaden Toussaint series is upbeat, funny, and empowering.  Using his smarts to solve his own problems, our hero shows kids what they can do when they use their heads.  As he perseveres through failed experiments, brain blocks, and other challenges, Jaden teaches kids to keep trying until they find a workable solution to whatever problem they may be facing.  

In the first "episode," The Quest for Screen Time, Jaden longs to spend more time playing on the computer.  His parents regulate his online hours to avoid the brain frying that comes from Internet overindulgence.  Jaden isn't convinced his noggin's in any trouble.  In fact, he'll be using all the knowledge stored in his mighty mind to show his folks he means business.  When begging doesn't work, he calls in the big guns: science,
experimentation, his kindergarten buddies and, of course, a 3-minute ninja dance party.  If that doesn't sway his parents, nothing will ...

In The Ladek Invasion, Jaden Toussaint is faced with a new problem—an alien attack at his school.  Ms. Bates tells his class the creatures on the playground are moth buck caterpillars, but Jaden's not so sure.  The little monsters bear an uncanny resemblance to the space invaders he saw in his sister's super-scary comic book.  Whatever they are, the bugs need to be exterminated or the kids will never enjoy outside recess again.  What's a genius kindergartner to do?  Use his mad smarts to find a solution, of course.  Space aliens or stinging caterpillars, Jaden's got to find a way to stop the invasion ...

Not only are the Jaden Toussaint books cleverly worded, but they're brilliantly illustrated by Marie Muravski, whose unique artistry really brings these entertaining stories to life.  Middle graders will enjoy both the prose and the pictures, which work together to make the books fast, fun reads.  Besides a few distracting typos in the text of the second installment, I have no complaints about this engaging series—except that there aren't more "episodes" for me and my daughter to enjoy.

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Be sure to come back tomorrow to read my review of Jala and the Wolves by Marti Dumas.  In the meantime, check out her website for fun activities and lots of great recommendations on multicultural books to enjoy.  Also, visit the Multicultural Children's Book Day website for more information on MCCBD, additional multicultural book recommendations, and sponsor details.  You can also follow on Facebook and Twitter.
 

1 comment:

  1. "Multicultural Children's Book Day 2016: Because "She Looks Like Me!" Is Music to My Ears" LOVE that line! THANK YOU for a this thorough review AND for being a part of MCCBD 2016. Keep up the good work!

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