The Gifted Blog

December 19, 2011

Gift Guide: Books for Mixed Race Kids

Some of you know that my family is an interracial one. I'm 4th generation Japanese American and my husband has German, English and Italian roots. Before N was born I did quite a bit of thinking and reading about how to raise a biracial kid.

One of my hopes was to find books that thoughtfully addressed cultural diversity, especially after finding out how crucial reading aloud is in a child's development. After finding some great books, I really wanted to share them! Maybe there's a child on your Christmas list who might be able to connect with these stories.

How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman, illustrated by Allen Say
A biracial girl tells the story of how her parents, an American sailor and Japanese woman, fell in love. Each one faces the fear of embarrassment to learn how to eat one another's food...and finally bond over dinner.

I Love Saturdays y domingos by Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Elivia Savadier
A little girl spends Saturdays with Grandma and Grandpa and Sundays with Abuelito and Abuelita. An affectionate story that incorporates Spanish phrases and words.

Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney, photographs by Myles C. Pinkney
A beautiful book that celebrates the many ways being black can look. The children photographed confidently talk about their skin, eyes and hair.

black is brown is tan by Arnold Adoff, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
A lovingly illustrated poem, this was the first children's book about an interracial family. I especially enjoyed the father's description of his own skin. N would repeat lines from this book ("chocolate up the chocolate milk!") after reading it together.

Shades of People by Shelly Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly
Even if we're not aware, young children are noticing differences between the people around them. This vivid book shows kids of many different shades and emphasizes that "our skin is just our covering, like wrapping can't tell what someone is like form the color of their skin." 

Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding by Lenore Look, illustrated by Yumi Heo
A book that I will never tire of reading! Spunky Chinese-American protagonist mourns the marriage of her favorite uncle, only to find herself playing a special role at his wedding.

Country Road ABC by Arthur Geisert
From "ammonia fertilizer" to "Z-frame," this book chronicles farm life in America's heartland. We loved that the author is from Iowa (G's home state!), and the book is based on County Road Y31 in his community. Good stuff.

Do you have any books to add to this list? Edit: Many thanks to librarian friend Jessica for this link to other great books!

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  1. I love how much thought you have given to this and I will be sure to share it with my sister! Thank you!

  2. @KnockKnocking - Agnes, thank you so much! This post is outside the scope of my normal blogging but it's a topic that means a lot to me.

  3. I saw this post in my Google Reader and thought it was by one of the kidlit blogs that I subscribe to! I meant to post a kidlit gift guide this year but sadly failed... :/ Maybe next year!

    You have some great picks!

    I also love Bee-bim-bop! by Linda Sue Park. I gave it to my cousin's daughter, who is half Chinese, half Korean (heeeey!!), and it's her favorite book. :) Have you read any of Allen Say's books, or the Yoko books by Rosemary Wells? Also, I've recently read some fantastic fantasy chapter books set in the Midwest. For when N gets older... super cute old pic of him and G, btw! :)

  4. @Jessica - Yesss! A weighing-in from a real live librarian! How cute that the gift you gave turned into a favorite book! I have actually looked through Bee-bim-bop!, but I forgot about it - thank you for the reminder. (Have you already read the Uncle Peter book? I just think it's great.)

    I will look into the titles you've mentioned. Who wrote the Midwest fantasy books?? What a sub-genre!

  5. The fantasy based in Iowa is The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill! I loved it; it's a little bit weird and kinda creepy (in a good way!). I tried to give my cousin's daughter a Korean food book and a Chinese food book, so for the Chinese book I gave her Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin, but I didn't like the art in it. Perhaps Uncle Peter's Wedding would have been better. :)

    I don't read a lot of picture books, but here's a list of some multicultural (mixed-race) picture books from Cynthia Leitich Smith (American Indian children's author):

    1. Jessica, thank you for all the recommendations! (When are you going to start a kid lit blog?) : )

      We read a couple of Rosemary Wells' Yoko books but I didn't like them...I felt the representation of Japanese culture was a little exoticized. But I read Allen Say's graphic memoir and enjoyed it very much!

  6. Hi Charissa! Thanks for connecting with my list over at Multiracial Asian Families You've got some good ones here I didn't know about. Just put them on hold at the library. Did you know I also have a broader working list on Pinterest "Anti-Bias Children's Books" You live in my part of the world? Let's connect some time :-)


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