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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Other Medallion Level Sponsors include Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books
Author Sponsors include: Karen Leggett Abouraya, Veronica Appleton, Susan Bernardo, Kathleen Burkinshaw, Maria Dismondy, D.G. Driver, Geoff Griffin, Savannah Hendricks, Stephen Hodges, Carmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid Imani, Gwen Jackson, Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana Llanos, Natasha cessMoulton-Levy, Teddy O’Malley, Stacy McAnulty, Cerece Murphy, Miranda Paul, Annette Pimentel, Greg Ransom, Sandra Richards, Elsa Takaoka, Graciela 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:
Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents