Book Reviews, Kids' Corner, Picture Books

Kids’ Corner: Diverse Children’s Picture Books (February 2019)


Hello bookworms!

Today I am back to feature 4 diverse children’s picture books that deserve some attention…

*What do I mean by diverse children’s picture books?  I mean children’s picture books that are written by or about people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+, and any other minorities.  Diversity in books is just as (if not more) important in children’s literature.
Books included in this post: Free As A Bird: The Story of Malala by Lina Maslo, Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle, and A Different Pond by Bao Phi


» Free As A Bird: The Story of Malala by Lina Maslo



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Published: January 2018

When Malala Yousafzai was born, people shook their heads because girls were considered bad luck. But her father looked into her eyes and knew she could do anything.
In Pakistan, people said girls should not be educated. But Malala and her father were not afraid. She secretly went to school and spoke up for education in her country.
And even though an enemy tried to silence her powerful voice, she would not keep quiet. Malala traveled around the world to speak to girls and boys, to teachers, reporters, presidents, and queens—to anyone who would listen—and advocated for the right to education and equality of opportunity for every person. She would shout so that those without a voice could be heard. So everyone could be as free as a bird.
Free as a Bird is the inspiring true story of a fearless girl and the father who taught her to soar.
I’m sure most people have heard of the young woman named Malala, and know the basics of how she stood up for her right to an education and how the Taliban tried to assassinate her.  As someone who has not read I Am Malala, I really enjoyed reading Free as a Bird and hearing Malala’s story.  After reading this book, I Am Malala is definitely going on my TBR.
I absolutely love reading books that center around empowering young girls.  Malala’s story is so inspiring, not only to girls, but to all children around the world that deserve the right to an education.   I loved that Malala’s father was such a positive & encouraging person in her life.  It was lovely to see such a positive father figure in a picture book.

» Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton



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Published: April 2018

Spend the day with Mimi and her granddaughter in this charming picture book about the magic found in Mimi’s favorite accessory, perfect for readers who love How to Babysit a Grandma!
When Grandma Mimi comes to visit, she always brings warm hugs, sweet treats…and her purse. You never know what she’ll have in there–fancy jewelry, tokens from around the world, or something special just for her granddaughter. It might look like a normal bag from the outside, but Mimi and her granddaughter know that it’s pure magic!
In this adorable, energetic ode to visits from grandma, beloved picture book creator Vanessa Brantley Newton shows how an ordinary day can become extraordinary.

Grandma’s Purse is about a little girl who is visited by her Grandmother, along with her Grandmother’s very special purse.

There was something very nostalgic about this book.  My daughter really enjoyed reading this one because much like Grandma Mimi from the book, her own Grandmothers are known to keep a variety of items in their own purses: mints, stickers, hairbrushes, chapstick, etc.  Purses can me magical (and practical) things can’t they?  Especially purses that belong to indulging Grandmothers 🙂  What a wonderful celebration of the special relationships between Grandmothers and Grandkids.

The illustrations are absolutely beautiful & very colorful.  I really enjoyed Brantley-Newton’s style, and look forward to reading more of her book that she has written and/or illustrated.

» All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle



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Published: August 2017

So we purr, cara cara, and we glide, taka taka, and we zoom, zoom, ZOOM! 
Together, a boy and his parents drive to the city of Havana, Cuba, in their old family car. Along the way, they experience the sights and sounds of the streets–neighbors talking, musicians performing, and beautiful, colorful cars putt-putting and bumpety-bumping along. In the end, though, it’s their old car, Cara Cara, that the boy loves best.
Told in poetic prose, All the Way to Havana is the story of a young boy & his family traveling into the city to celebrate the birth of a cousin.

What a perfect book for the little car lover in your life!  I love that this book centers around classic cars, since Cuba is famous for cars driving down the road that are decades old.  While on the surface this book is about cars, it is really a tribute to the ingenuity, resourcefulness, & tenacity of the Cuban people.

After reading a book about Cuba last year, I know that Castro placed a ban on importing foreign-made cars during his reign, so many Cubans were forced to keep their vehicles running by inventive do-it-yourself type fixes.   This is why cars made in the 50’s are often seen driving down the road there to this day.
The illustrations are an absolutely beautiful tribute to Havana.  I’ve never been to Cuba, but I definitely feel like the illustrator captured its essence.    If you read the illustrator’s note, he mentioned that he traveled to Cuba for research in order to illustrate this book.

» A Different Pond by Bao Phi



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Published: August 2017

As a young boy, Bao Phi awoke early, hours before his father’s long workday began, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis. Unlike many other anglers, Bao and his father fished for food, not recreation. A successful catch meant a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, Bao’s father told him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam.
There is something very serene about this story. It is definitely more of a serious book, so if you are looking for a silly story with colorful illustrations, this isn’t that book.  The illustrations are darker shades – the story takes place in the early hours of the morning when it is still dark out – so this book would make for an excellent bedtime story.
A Different Pond is an #OwnVoices book, and is inspired by the author’s own experiences.  Bao Phi was a baby when his family fled from Vietnam to the United States as refugees during the Vietnam War.  This book is very much a refugee/immigrant experience book.  I was heartbroken to read about Phi’s childhood.



Have you read any of these picture books to your children?  If so, what did you think?

If you are an educator, have you utilized any of these books in the classroom?

Comment below & let me know 🙂

4 thoughts on “Kids’ Corner: Diverse Children’s Picture Books (February 2019)”

  1. Great selection of books! I agree diversityin books is extremely important when it comes to children as well as adults… One of the reasons I don’t understand why a lot of these books don’t get more attention. (I read Ghost boys myself in January and still don’t understand why there aren’t more mentions of it out there…)


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