Multicultural Children’s Book Day

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January 27th will mark the fourth anniversary of Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017. Valarie Budayr from Jump into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom are the founders of the event. Their mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include children’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content.

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As a maman/mom who brought up her four children six thousands miles away from her homeland, between two languages and cultures, I’ve always been drawn to multicultural books. Sharing the rich diversity of our planet through its settings and people has always been crucial to me. Such literature opens children’s minds and helps them embrace humanity, regardless of countries of origin, ethnicities, languages, and religions.

This is why I’m happy to participate to Multicultural Children’s Book Day for the second time in a row. A few weeks ago two authors sent me their books for review. Each reviewer is asked to provide a fair and honest evaluation of the books.

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Captain Mama’s Surprise/ La Sorpresa de Capitán Mamá

Written by Graciela Tiscareño-Sato Illustrated by Linda Lens

Published by Gracefully Global Group

Sometimes we don’t pay attention to the writer or illustrator behind the picture book. Unless this is a very established author or illustrator. After all, what matters is the story, right?

But Captain Mama’s Surprise/ La Sorpresa de Capitán Mamá is a different kind of book and knowing about the author matters.

Graciela Tiscareño-Sato is a woman, Hispanic and a Veteran. She is the author of the series Captain Mama and the founder of Gracefully Global, LLC, and the 2014 White House Champion of Change, Women Veteran Leader recipient. Wow!

Book Front Cover Art

Captain Mama’s Surprise/ La Sorpresa de Capitán Mamá is told from the perspective of Marco, a second grader. The young readers follow him and his classmates as they go on an Air Force base field trip where Marco’s mama works as the navigator on an aerial refueling tanker.

Every task on the tanker is explained through casual dialogues between the children and the crewmembers (I liked it that it is a coed team and also multiethnic). And since I had no idea that such a thing as an aerial refueling tanker existed I also learned a lot myself.

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The picture book is longer than a typical picture book and the pages are sometimes a little too crowded, mostly due to the fact that the text appears in English and Spanish, which is also an asset.

The physical quality is also less appealing than a traditionally published picture book. However the positive “message” of the story largely compensates.

Three elements make this picture book really special:

  • Lack of similar books on the topic written by a Hispanic Veteran woman.
  • Completely bilingual.
  • Final pages with an English/Spanish glossary, a list of educational resources and their websites, and a hands-on art/engineering project with different options depending of the children’s age.

Illustrated by Linda Lens (I love how she’s able to bring real-life expressions to the different characters) the 42 pages book is best suited for K to 3rd graders.

good-night-captain-mama-300dpi-rez-cover-artFirst Book in the Series

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I Know How to Bonjour

Written by Susanne Aspley Illustrated by Lucas Richards

Translated by Laurence Gallarato

Published by McKnight Artist Fellowships

One of the events coordinators approached me to review an additional book for Multicultural Children’s Book Day and of course when I read the title I could only say Oui.

I Know How to Bonjour is a great title. In an interesting way the author Susanne Aspley shares some common points with Graciela Tiscareño-Sato. She is also a woman Veteran and has traveled the world. I encourage you to visit her website. She is genuinely convinced that learning an additional language (or even more) is an asset for our children. It would be hard for me to disagree. Her book conveys a heartfelt message: learning a foreign language exemplifies how human beings are more similar than different, even though they speak another language. It’s another belief that I share.

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The first part of I Know How to Bonjour takes the young reader along a little girl’s first day in French immersion school. The back cover says kindergarten but nothing hints to the grade in the story. Some words are in fact quite complex, whether in English or French for a young child (stratosphere and troposphere, for example). Also the illustrator depicts the child as a little girl through the entire book, but the translation hints as a boy (French words have gender, thus adjectives too).

The little girl is meeting her new teacher who speaks French and although the child doesn’t understand what’s going on, she’s excited to learn something different. I can also testify that it is true: children are curious about the world around them and foreign words and sounds fascinate them. Even if they found me funny when I sang weird-sounding French songs, my kids’ American friends asked for more. Less self-conscious and more daring than adults young children will mimic native speakers with exceptional ability.

The second part of the book is a little confusing as the little girl reports her mom’s thoughts on the benefits of learning a foreign language. I found the wording a little too adult for a children’s book. I would have preferred staying in the child’s point of view.

The last part includes a drawing, a game, a guide on pronunciation and a French English glossary.

The drawing is cute since the child can draw his/her teacher in a picture frame.

The game is a “draw the line between a picture and a word,” always a hit with young children.

The How to Pronounce Bonjour and other French Words guide is misleading. It is in fact a list of French sounds with English examples. It would have been a good idea to add the pronunciation of the words the little girl hears on that first day of school.

The glossary shows some inconsistencies and some words are misspelled. Which unfortunately is the case through the entire book.

As much as I was excited by the theme and the title and was eager to review the book, I cannot lie: the quality of the English text, written in rhyming verses, is superior to the French translation. I spotted several misspelled words, missing accents, grammatical errors and inconsistencies within the story and the glossary.

The product itself (artwork, paper, font, formatting, colors…) is pleasant, but these mistakes spoil a good idea and an author’s genuine goal.

The artwork is from Lucas Richards. He works at a small design firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The translation is from Laurence Gallarato.

I Know How to Bonjour is part of three books in the Series I Know How to Books. I Know How to Ni-hao (bilingual book for children learning Chinese) and I Know How to Hola (bilingual book for children learning Spanish).

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The following information covers all you need to know about Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017.

Some amazing sponsors ( a mix of editors and authors) are helping to the success of the event.

Platinium Sponsors:  ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli

Other Medallion Level Sponsors include Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press, Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsors include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawMaria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha cessMoulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

The Multicultural Children’s Book Day CoHost Team is working at spreading the word.

Free material is also available for Parents and Educators:

For Teachers

Kindness Classrooms Kits for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators

Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents

 

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Comments

  1. Promoting multi-cultural understanding among children is one of the most important tasks we have as a society, Evelyne. The reality of today’s world is that we live in a multicultural world that is only going to become more so. Good job. Kudos to you and the Multi-Cultural Children’s book group. –Curt

  2. It sounds like someone really needed a good French-language proofreader and editor. Maybe the author will take the hint and get a good editor and republish. One can but hope. Really good review.

    • Yeah, it’s too bad. The idea was great, but the result could have been much better with a qualified translator and also a good copy editor. Some mistakes could have been spotted before publication. The multicultural children’s books day remains a great idea and is more than ever relevant as we enter a challenging new presidency.

  3. Thanks for the reviews of these books. It is nice to see bilingual books – I’m on the lookout for Spanish/English titles for families where both languages are spoken. I like to read them as I’m trying to improve my Spanish. It is good that you reviewed I Know How to Bonjour. I reviewed I Know How to Ni-Hao for a previous MCCLD but don’t speak Chinese so I found a Chinese speaking friend to help me with it.

    • It is easier to find Spanish/English books than French/English ones and it makes complete sense. Margarita Engle has a few I believe, besides the English titles now translated in Spanish. How did your friend react to I Know How to Ni-Hao? I would be interested to know if the translation was good. Do you participate this year?

  4. This sounds like a nice program, and you are good to participate..We’ve been saying for too long that we look forward to a tie when we won’t need events like this, or when we won’t be marking “the first time…” something happens. The only way we get there is through efforts like this.

    • Thank you, Dan. I so agree with your point. Despite all the differences between the people who live across the world, we are still sharing the same planet, breathing oxygen (not saying the same air since the quality varies depending of our place on earth) in order to live and experiencing the wide range of human feelings, so using art as a bridge between all of us still appears to be the best medium. Children are often so much better at ignoring differences benefit from early exposure to differences.

  5. What a fabulous idea! My nephew is half Scottish, half Brazilian and lives in (French) Switzerland – so speaks more languages at two and a half than I do at… much older than two and a half! He has some books in French and English, but I’m always on the lookout for more – thanks for sharing!

    • Your nephew is lucky! Children who learn more than one language at an early age become easily proficient and are also more open minded than the average. The English/Spanish book would be a good pick since most children love planes and anything mechanical. The book explains really well what’s going on an aerial refueling tanker. I had no idea that it was done in the air, so even if I’m also much older than two and a half I still discovered something new. 🙂
      So nice to see you here, Claire. I will pay you a visit and see what you are up to.

  6. Thanks for your great reviews of these bilingual books! We appreciate so much your support of Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

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