Hi there, my kidlit friends! Tomorrow is a big day for those of us with children under 5: the FDA is meeting to discuss whether or not to approve the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for children under 5. After years of delays and false promises, it’s hard to get too hopeful about their decision, but fingers crossed for us all! My daughter is so ready for some playdates, and I’m ready for some work days alone.
Ashley Franklin, the author of Better Together, Cinderella, asked an interesting question on Twitter last week about whether it’s weird for white authors to have their picture books illustrated with POC characters. There were many thought-provoking responses, and I especially like Antwan Eady’s, author of Nigel and the Moon, thread on the topic. There are no easy answers, but I do feel that publishers sometimes take the easy way out when it comes to diversifying their picture books. As a white book reviewer, I try to be purposeful about promoting books by POC authors and illustrators, as well as other marginalized identities. As a disabled woman, I can almost always tell when a non-disabled person writes a book with a disabled main character. It’s so apparent, and I imagine it’s often, if not always, as evident for POC readers, too.
Rosa’s Song by Helena Ku Rhee, illustrated by Pascal Campion
Jae has just moved into a new country and a new apartment building, and he’s nervous about making friends, especially since he doesn’t speak the language. However, Rosa soon befriends him and teaches him to use his imagination to find home. He uses what she taught him to make new friends when she leaves suddenly and without warning. This is a lovely picture book based on the author’s childhood experiences.
Mi Ciudad Sings by Cynthia Harmony, illustrated by Teresa Martínez
Set in Mexico City, a little girl and her dog hear all sorts of city sounds on their way to the girl’s mother’s florería every morning, and those sounds form into a song. When an earthquake strikes, the city’s song at first falls silent, then changes as people begin to help one another. The girl wonders if she can find a way to help and join the city’s song when she finds the baker’s dog all alone and helps reunite them. This is a super fun, rhythmic read-aloud interspersed with Spanish.
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Sunday is both Father’s Day and Juneteenth in the U.S., so I decided today I’d recommend some Juneteenth picture books, and next Tuesday, I’ll recommend some picture books about dads. I’m so glad more Juneteenth picture books are out there now!
Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, illustrated by Alex Bostic
This lovely free verse poem depicts the history of Juneteenth from its origins in Galveston, TX in 1865 to the present. It shows the ways Black people who were enslaved reacted to the news that they were free and follows those reactions and celebrations into the present. Bostic’s warm oil painting illustrations are stunning. The entire book is a work of art.
The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini, illustrated by Sawyer Cloud
This nonfiction title is a bit denser than the other two and would make an excellent book to teach about Juneteenth in elementary schools. It provides a nuanced overview of Juneteenth’s history from its origins to the present day. I especially appreciated how it didn’t romanticize Abraham Lincoln.
Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper
This picture book takes place in the present. While Mazie prepares for her family’s Juneteenth celebration, her father tells her about the history of Juneteenth. It’s an accessible read for young children, with gorgeous illustrations.
All Different Now by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
This lyrical picture book is told from the perspective of a child who has been enslaved and who hopes for a better future. When she and her family find out they are free, they celebrate. It’s a joyful book with beautiful, painted illustrations.
When publishers send me books for review consideration, they sometimes package them with these crinkled paper strips. Whenever I receive a box like that, I think the publicist must not have children because all those crinkles immediately become wildly strewn about the house. And on my head. Weeks later, I will still be finding them. I do look surprisingly good with blue in my hair, though, so I am now thinking about adding blue highlights.
I hope all the American followers have a lovely Juneteenth and Father’s Day this Sunday! If you’d like to read more of my kidlit reviews, I’m on Instagram @BabyLibrarians, Twitter @AReaderlyMom, and blog irregularly at Baby Librarians. You can also read my Book Riot posts. If you’d like to drop me a line, my email is email@example.com
Until next Tuesday!