One of the things that brings most joy to our world, that inspires imagination and sparks creativity, is variety. The richness of our multicultural world is to be celebrated and the current recognition of the need for diverse picture books in which children from every culture and family background can find themselves is long overdue. The collection, though still small, is growing.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCBD) is an organisation that has been promoting multicultural children’s books for the past nine years. Founded by Valarie Budayr from Audrey Press Books and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom in 2012, MCBD has a mission ‘To raise awareness for children’s books that celebrate diversity by getting more of these books into classrooms and libraries. This non-profit also strives to shine the spotlight on the diverse books and authors that often get overlooked by mainstream publishing and media.’
On the last Friday of January each year, Multicultural Children’s Book Day is celebrated with reviews, promotions and other events. I have been delighted to join in the celebration of multicultural books by sharing reviews for the past three MCBDays.
I participated for the first time in 2019 with a review of I am Farmer by Baptiste and Miranda Paul with illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon.
I Am Farmer is the story of Tantoh Nforba, an environmental hero in the central African nation of Cameroon. Tantoh was bullied as a child and nicknamed ‘Farmer’ for his interest in plants, the earth and nature. He now bears the name ‘Farmer’ proudly as he improves the lives of people in his own community, and others, by improving access to clean water and establishing productive gardening practices.
In 2020, I reviewed two books: The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree written by Angeliki Stamatopoulou-Pederson and illustrated by Tety Swlou, and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle by Elizabeth Godley with illustrations by Paige M. Leyh.
The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree is about Jacob who hears with the assistance of hearing aids. Jacob tells his friends how the aids help him hear better, just as glasses help people see better. He explains what they (the children) can do to help him hear and understand them better. As children’s understanding grows, so does their friendship.
Ribbon’s Traveling Castle is the story of a girl called Ribbon whose father was uncomfortable with the constantly changing world. He hitched their castle to a truck to take her somewhere happier. On their travels, Ribbon meets a cast of characters, all of whom are scared of changed. She invites them into her castle where they learn to accept change and find that life can still be fun.
This year, I once again had the pleasure of reviewing two books:
Jamie and Bubbie, A Book about People’s Pronouns was written by Afsaneh Moradian and illustrated by Maria Bogade.
Jamie and Bubbie is a book for our times. In a gentle way, it introduces children and adults to the appropriate use of pronouns when another’s gender is unknown. It is explained in simple language and easy-to-understand ways. I like Jamie’s gentle and tactful approach, and also that it is the child who does the explaining to great grandma in the story.
Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess was written by Deedee Cummings and illustrated by Charlene Mosley.
Kayla: A Modern-Day Princess was inspired by the life of Deedee’s own daughter, Broadway actress Kayla Pecchioni. Kayla’s mum tells Kayla that plans give you hope and hope gives you dreams. When Kayla’s mum earns a promotion for which she worked hard, Kayla realises that the world is a magical place and that, with a plan, she too can make her dreams come true.
In 2019, I also interrogated my own bookshelves for multicultural picture books and was surprised at how few I found. I am pleased to say that more have been added since then.
Fortunately, if you are looking for multicultural books, you don’t have to rely on my few reviews or wait for Multicultural Children’s Book Day. The MCBD website is a treasure trove all year long.
If you follow this link to the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website, you will find a list of hundreds of diverse children’s books (picture books, middle grade and YA) that were reviewed as part of MCBD this year. Scroll through the sixteen pages of 381 reviews that are mostly listed by cover and linked to the review to easily find a book about a topic you are looking for.
If that is not enough books to choose from, listed below the 2021 reviews, are reviews from previous years.
As stated above, the MCBD website is a treasure trove for teachers and parents. I suggest you set aside some time to explore it fully. There is a lot of interesting information and many free resources are available under the tab Reading Resources. There is also information about receiving free diverse books for your school or to review. I’m sure you will find the suggestions and resources of enormous benefit as you strive to include more diverse books in your classrooms and schools.
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