Let’s Celebrate Diwali

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Image Credit: Bharat Babies (Mascot Books), Anjali Joshi/Tim Palin

 

It’s almost Diwali, the festival of lights, so why not celebrate with this cool picture book!? ūüôā

Let’s Celebrate Diwali tells the story of Harini and her friends. These four friends are in the same classroom and on Diwali, they share their Diwali stories. Harini is Hindu, Dhimen is Buddhist, Urvi is Jain and Amrit is Sikh. Dressed in traditional outfits, they take turns telling how they celebrate the holiday and readers learn how rich Diwali is. It’s important that their teacher, Ms. Lo, gives her students the ability to share their cultures and religions during circle time. Her classroom is a safe and welcoming space for all religions and cultures which is something children need to see and experience.

Harini and Urvi learn that they both light diyas for Diwali but the stories their families tell are different. This book does a great job of highlighting cultural diversity and respect; all the students in the classroom are engaged during circle time and ask great questions. At the end of the story, Anna, who does not celebrate Diwali, wishes for a special Diwali outfit too¬†and Harini lets her wear her dupatta (scarf) and bangles. Harini races home and can’t wait to share the new Diwali stories she learned at school. Maybe readers will be inspired to learn more¬†about the stories featured in this book!

I love the addition of a pronunciation guide + definitions of the vocabulary in the text. Anjali Joshi’s cute and relatable story is one that children will connect to and learn a lot from. I enjoyed Tim Palin’s vibrant and happy illustrations. I especially like the design of the cover; the bright, blocky letters¬†mimic the bright lights and exciting fireworks of Diwali. The round faces of the children in the book are warm and inviting.

Here is a cute¬†Paper Diya craft from blogger Artsy Craftsy Mom that pairs well with this book. ¬†Just like Harani and Urvi, you’ll have diyas in your home this Diwali.

 

Happy Diwali! ‚̧

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Holidays, Cultural Relativity, Cultural Diversity, India, Diwali, Friendship, Community, School Life, Family, Respect, Religion, Celebration
Book Info: Let’s Celebrate Diwali¬†by Anjali Joshi/Illustrated by Tim Palin,¬†2016 Bharat Babies (Mascot Books),¬†ISBN:¬†9781631774218

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It’s Ramadan, Curious George

Curious George 1

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hena Khan/Mary O’Keefe

It’s the month of Ramadan, a time for Muslims around the world to pray, reflect, and fast with loved ones. Last night at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, at least fifty people were killed and the shooter seems to be Muslim. ¬†In this time of sadness, this tragedy¬†has already resulted in increased Islamophobia and racism towards Muslims in our country.

We MUST love and understand each other. Hatred has no place here.

It’s Ramadan, Curious George is¬†an important and sweet addition to the Curious George book series. We need more books that are mirrors for Muslim children and this is one more to add to your shelf. There’s already a Happy Hanukkah, Curious George,¬†many Christmas books, and now we have one to celebrate Ramadan!¬†I hope this cute book makes it into the hands of Muslim children who need it and any child who wants to learn more about¬†Ramadan and Islam.

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hena Khan/Mary O’Keefe

It’s Ramadan, Curious George is a¬†tabbed board book; its sturdy size and format is perfect for little hands to grasp. Each tab highlights a chapter of the story with a small illustration. The story follows Curious George, The Man with the Yellow Hat and their new friend, Kareem. Kareem is going to try fasting for Ramadan for the first time and Curious George is actually helpful! ¬†ūüėČ ¬†He cooks delicious food with Kareem’s family¬†and helps Kareem make it through his tough first day of fasting. The book also discusses the importance of sharing with others; Curious George helps with a food drive at the mosque and even inspires a new tradition! At the end of Ramadan, they happily celebrate Eid together and Curious George is glad to have experienced it all.

Hena Khan (Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns) did another great job with this one. Her informative rhyming text with Mary O’Keefe Young’s sweet illustrations is perfect. You’ll want to keep this book on your¬†shelf not only for Ramadan, but all year long. Books like this are not only important for children who need them but are¬†also important¬†for fostering respect and understanding of different cultures¬†at an early age. I hope you’ll enjoy it with your family!

Ramadan Mubarak!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Friendship, Community, Ramadan, Religion, Relationships, Love, Respect, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, Cultural Relativism, Cultures, Understanding, Discussion, Animals, Read-Aloud
Book Info: It’s Ramadan, Curious George¬†by Hena Khan/Illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young, 2016 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,¬†ISBN: 9780544652262

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story

ShiningStar

Image Credit: Lee & Low Books Inc., Paula Yoo/Lin Wang

Whenever I see photograph of Anna May Wong…SLAY QUEEN, SLAY! ¬†¬†>_<

Anna May Wong grew up in LA washing clothes in her parents laundry and healing from the hateful slurs from¬†her white peers at school. She started skipping school to watch¬†actors on movie sets and was inspired to act. Though she was discouraged by her parents (good Chinese girls didn’t act), as a teenager she won a role as an extra in a film¬†(her dad allowed it because they needed the money). She did extra roles for years until her first big role in Bits of Life in 1921. She played the wife of a Chinese man (White actor in yellowface) but they could’t kiss because it was against the law. She was disturbed by the yellowface but pressed on for the money and experience.

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Image Credit: Lee & Low Books Inc., Paula Yoo/Lin Wang

She’d continue to rise but her roles were very stereotypical and demeaning of Asian¬†women. Anna May moved to Europe and achieved fame there but when she came back, hoping to score the lead role in The Good Earth, they gave it to…a white actress. She was fed up with¬†discrimination and was caught between her desire to resist the racist roles AND follow her dream of acting in the US. During a trip¬†China (she faced some criticism there for accepting stereotypical roles) to learn more about her heritage and to visit her retired parents, her spirt was renewed. Her father reminded her to always¬†be proud of her race and fight to respectfully represent her people. She’d continue to act, but only in non-stereotypical Asian roles!

Lin Wang’s watercolor and acrylic illustrations are gorgeous. I just LOVE the way Yoo and Wang open the book; the illustration of the train rushing towards Anna May is extremely dramatic and dynamic! Wang really brings to life the glamour and grace of Anna May Wong.

What a good book!¬†Anna May Wong isn’t as well known as she should be…The efforts she made towards improving the representation of Asian Americans in film¬†isn’t as well known as it should be. With the current state of diversity in the film industry (not enough has changed),¬†it’s especially important to go back and learn about those who’ve paved the way!

 

Recommended for: 2nd grade and up
Great for: Determination, Confidence, Girl Power, Role Model, Women’s History Month, Acting, Film Industry, Discrimination, Racism, Stereotypes, Ant-Miscegenation Laws, Diversity, Cultural Relativism, History, Film History, Asian American, Chinese American, Dreams, Family, Relationships, Discussion, Biography, Non-Fiction
Book Info: Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Yoo/Illustrated by Lin Wang, 2009 Lee & Low Books, ISBN: 9781600602597

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin

DearPrimo

Image Credit: Abrams Books for Young Readers, Duncan Tonatiuh

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll know that Duncan Tonatiuh is one of my favorite author/illustrators. Not only does he write¬†great stories, he’s an amazing¬†artist. I got the chance to read this book (his very first one!)¬†while preparing for my interview with him and I’ve also reviewed his more recent books¬†Salsa¬†and¬†Funny Bones.

Dear Primo is a story about two cousins. Carlitos lives in Mexico, in the country and on a farm¬†and Charlie lives in a big city in the United States. They write letters back and forth to each other, explaining their daily lives and the things they like to do. While Carlitos rides his bicicleta to school every day past the perros and nopal, Charlie rides the busy subway, which he describes is like a long metal snake that travels underground. The duality of the storytelling makes it easy for children to compare and contrast. At the end of the story, both boys come up with the same conclusion; it’s time to visit each other! ūüôā

Though it seems their lives are very different, there are more similarities than differences. Duncan incorporates Spanish words into the¬†text¬†and they’re also printed in bold, white letters in the illustrations.¬†Children can¬†pick up the¬†words and definitions easily, matching visuals to the words.

I’ll never get enough of Duncan Tonatiuh’s art style. Inspired by Mixtec codices, his figures are inspired by the past and updated for modern day. He uses digital collage for texture; an image of blue jean for Charlie’s pants and images of marbles for Carlito’s game of canicas!¬†I love the well-balanced cover with crinkly lined paper in the background.¬†As I mentioned to Duncan in our interview, it’s interesting to see how his lines have become cleaner and more polished over the years.¬†Dear Primo‘s art is¬†much more “raw” as he put it, compared to his most recent book¬†Funny Bones, but I enjoy the art of both for their similarities and differences. Teachers, this book is great to introduce a unit on pen-pals.¬†I think you’ll enjoy Dear Primo. Check it out!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Family, Cousins, Friendship, Duality, Relationships, City Life, Country Life, Culture, Cultural Relativism, Games, Daily Life, Traditions, Mexico, Mexican-American, Food Culture, Mexican Food, Spanish Language, Pen-Pals
Book Info: Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010 Abrams Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780810938724

Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic

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Image Credit: Lee & Low Books Inc., Ginnie Lo/Beth Lo

 

There’s nothing like finding a little bit of home in a new place.

Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic tells a story that may be familiar to many immigrant families in the US; a story about finding comfort with like minded people and forming community in a new country. Jinyi lives¬†a little far away from her Auntie Yang but her family makes sure to visit often and stay close. She grows up with Chinese lessons, art lessons, cooking Chinese food and lots of¬†playtime¬†with her cousins.

One day on a lazy Sunday drive, Auntie Yang spots¬†soybeans growing in a field! At this time, soybeans aren’t commonly eaten in the US. The farmer thinks the Chinese family wants the beans to feed their pig, but no, they will boil¬†them to eat!¬†And so begins the yearly tradition of The Great Soybean Picnic. Each year it gets bigger and bigger and more Chinese families in the Chicago area join in with lots of delicious Chinese dishes. Auntie Yang and her sister become less¬†homesick because the happy discovery of soybeans brings them¬†a new large and loving Chinese community in the US.

This is a sweet story of family, food and finding place…in a new place. It’s inspired by real events and in the back of the book, Ginnie and Beth Lo share family photos, more information about the Soybean Picnic, information about soybeans and a glossary¬†of the Chinese words used in the book. We even get to see photos of the dynamic Auntie Yang!

Beth Lo’s paintings¬†have a vintage mid-century Chinese art vibe to them that I like. I didn’t realize that the illustrations are actually painted on porcelain plates until I read the back of the book. I’ll repeat that, each “illustration” is a plate! How cool is that??¬†Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic is a great¬†story to share with your family. I’m off¬†to get some edamame! ūüėČ

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Chinese American Culture, Chinese Food, Friendship, Family, Food Culture, Community, Immigration, Soybeans, Cousins, Siblings, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Home Sickness, Discussion, New Traditions in a New Place, Chinese Language, Cultural Relativism
Book Info: Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic¬†by Ginnie Lo/Illustrated by Beth Lo, 2012 Lee & Low Books Inc.,¬†ISBN: 9781600604423

Today is the Day

TodayistheDay

Image Credit: Tundra Books (Penguin Random House), Eric Walters/Eugenie Walters

This story is joy. ūüôā

All the children in the orphanage are waiting for their special day, their birthday! Today is the Day is inspired by real life events at the Creation of Hope orphanage in Kikima, Kenya. The author notes at the end of the book that “birthday celebrations” in general are often not a big deal in several cultures around the world BUT this orphanage decided to make a yearly birthday celebration to remind the children that they are special. Many of the children at the orphanage’s parents died from HIV and AIDS and they don’t know their birthdays. So, once a year, they hold a special celebration to celebrate their existence and they also get a government-issued birth certificate!

In the story, Mutanu wakes up excited for the day because she knows it is their birthday! Her energy is contagious and she walks around their home, doing her chores and checking on the baby animals. She remembers their birthdays as well! Mutanu is at the orphanage because her parents died and she went to live with her grandma but when her grandma got too old to care for her, she had to take her to the orphanage. On this special day, she reunites with her beloved grandma and can hardly wait to hear her name called to get her gift bag and to sing Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday Mutanu! It’s truly your day.

Today is the Day features very cute acrylic illustrations that are joyful and full of energy. Fernandes bases Mutanu on an actual girl (her photo is in the back) and she is happy with eyes full of love and kindness. This book is a great way to introduce important social issues to your child; issues of HIV and AIDS in Kenya, homelessness, orphans, building community and self-confidence. If you enjoy this story, Eric Walters and Eugenie Fernandes have two more books in this series called My Name is Blessing and Hope Springs.

P.S. The cover of the book opens to a beautiful poster!

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Community, Friendship, Birthdays, Orphans, Social Issues, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, We Need Diverse Books, Kenya, Joy
Book Info: Today is the Day by Eric Walters/Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, 2015 Tundra Books (Penguin Random House), ISBN: 9781770496484

 

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors

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Image Credit: Chronicle Books LLC, Hena Khan/Mehrdokht Amini

 

Islam. Let’s celebrate it through a picture book, shall we? ¬†ūüôā

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns is a gorgeously vibrant rhyming picture book. Henna Khan shares her culture and religion with readers in a beautiful way; through teaching colors and showing daily life. The book begins with an intricate red rug that the young girl’s father uses to kneel on and pray to Mecca five times each day. Her mother’s hijab or head scarf is blue. The dates her family eats during Ramadan look so plump and delicious. Each page is a new color and a new aspect of Muslim culture.

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Image Credit: Chronicle Books LLC, Hena Khan/Mehrdokht Amini

 

Sometimes we judge others and their beliefs before taking the time to learn; Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns introduces children to a culture and religion that might be different from their own and aims (and succeeds) to teach. Cultural relativism, understanding and education are important and essential to being a respectful global citizen and this book is a great one for your family’s diverse collection.

Amini’s illustrations are bold. She is¬†inspired by islamic art and her style incorporates collage; real life photographs seamlessly blend into her scenes. I love the large almond shaped brown eyes, the strong noses and lips of the family members. The colorful images in the book will stay with you and after reading, perhaps your family or class will be more interested in learning more about the very old religion that is Islam.

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Colors, Family, Rhyme, Cultural Diversity, Cultural Relativism, Religion, Islam, Community, Vocabulary
Book Info: Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan/Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini, 2012 Chronicle Book LLC, ISBN: 9780811879057

People

Image Credit: Doubleday Books for Young Readers, Peter Spier

Image Credit: Doubleday Books for Young Readers, Peter Spier

People takes a snapshot of the world. This book has a lot of emotional meaning for me because it was one of my favorites as a child. I still have my original copy from 1980. Look what I wrote inside the front cover:

Image for People

I’ve always loved meticulous illustration and Peter Spier doesn‚Äôt miss any details. His bold and colorful illustrations of peoples, towns, foods and traditional games are amazing. People is essentially about cultural diversity. His simple sentences prompt reflection and discussion about our similarities and differences. Children learn about tolerance, humanity and how varied our cultures are. As I read through this book again, I thought ‚ÄúWell goodness, he taught me about cultural relativism!” I‚Äôm pretty certain that this book is one of the reasons why I studied cultural anthropology in college. It sparked an early interest in learning about all types of people.

Though there are many great things about this book, there are some¬†problems. Some parents and teachers might not like that Adam and Eve are the first people in the book. Spier does a fair amount of cultural stereotyping with his illustrations and the book is rather dated in many ways. So why am I recommending this book? I‚Äôm recommending it because I believe that it’s still an excellent book that people of all ages can learn from. For his mistakes, he has many more successes and a book like this one is still a good resource for a curious child. Parents and teachers can use these stereotypes (ex. Native American houses in USA are teepees/The Japanese family always wears Kimono) as learning tools. By encouraging questions and prompting discussion about these issues, children can take away more valuable lessons. A teacher or parent can also challenge their children to “update” this book by having them choose a culture featured and research how they live today.

**I reviewed the 1980 version but there is a more updated version now available. Information below

Recommended for: 1st Grade and Up
Great for: Cultural Diversity, Cultural Relativism, Discussion, Anthropology
Book Info: People by Peter Spier, 1988, Doubleday Books for Young Readers, ISBN: 9780385244695