Joffo, Joseph. (2013). A Bag of Marbles. Minneapolis: Graphic Universe.
Based on the 1973 memoir by Joseph Joffo, this graphic novel recounts and visualizes the true story of Joseph and his older brother Maurice’s dangerous journey from Nazi-occupied Paris to a free zone in which their other brothers reside. Through the use of watercolor and narrative blurbs, this visualization reads more like a comic and less like a picture book, however it does not make its contents any less endearing. By following the journey of these two young boys, not only does this book provide a visual experience for children who are learning about historical occurrences such as the Holocaust and WWII, but may appeal to those who also feel they are trying to find a way to be true to themselves while still trying to understand perceptions of their identity.
This work by Maya Angelou, first read at the White House tree lighting ceremony in 2005, becomes an illustrated children’s book that expresses the true meaning behind the concept of the holidays; a time where people of different ages, religions (believers and non-believers), and classes come together and celebrate communal peace. While this specific publication is illustrated more for the interpretation and enjoyment of children, these pictures illicit a beautiful representation of different individuals within the community coming away from rancor, and reveling in the abundant sound of peace which brings comfort, security, and harmony. What’s most interesting about this work, is the way in which although the word “Christmas” is used to describe this celebratory time of the year, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslims, etc., revel in this time of holiday celebration and peace. Christmas, here, I believe is being used as a word to denote a time of year, rather than being used as a sort of “religious umbrella”.
Thong, Roseanne. (2015). Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.
Written by the author of Round is a Moon Pie, this multicultural children’s book encourages there reader to find shapes in the different portrayals of food and objects of Hispanic origin. Not only is it great for children in learning shapes, but this book allows children to learn Spanish words such as paletas, masa, and sandia–encouraging an early learning of a second language. Scenes featuring different Latino traditions and cultural objects allow children to gain a greater understanding of the different cultures that not only are present within America, but all over the world. Bonus to this? There’s a glossary located within the back of the book that parents and children can utilize in order to look up the Spanish terms that occur throughout this bilingual piece of literature.
Beaty, Daniel (2013) Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream For Me. New York: Little Brown and Company.
This children’s book tells a powerful and moving story of a young boy’s growth into a man when his father does not knock on his bedroom door as expected. What makes this book so intriguing in the realm of diverse children’s books, is that it explores the emotions and strength development a child goes through when experiencing the loss or absence of a parent. Here I feel that loss and/or absence is interchangeable. When first reading this book, I interpreted the situation to be that the father voluntarily left the boy and his mother, and that he had either decided to write and send the response letter himself, or that the boy’s mother had written it posing as his father. But now I see that there are other interpretations that can be gained from this reading–perhaps the father died, was incarcerated, etc. It makes the story flexible so that children that are dealing with loss such as this can relate.
Smith, Charles R., Jr. (2015). 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World. New York: Roaring Book Press.
What I love about this book in terms of stories for all and diverse books, is that it is not a work of fiction. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with children’s fiction books, as they do provide diversity in allowing children to feel relation to these fictional characters. However, this book which includes 28 descriptions of people and events in black history from 1770 to present day, makes known the importance of African American contributions and milestones. What makes this book even more personable is the fact that it then challenges the reader with a 29th day labeled, “today”. This urges children to ask themselves what today will bring them, how will they make a difference or impact on the world? How will their life story be told? Although it is a succession of biological facts, by including the reader, it allows who ever is reading it to question how they are making a difference in the world.