Wednesday, January 7, 2015

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Diverse picture books!

I love reading picture books with diverse characters because while short they give me a glimpse into life experiences different than my own.  And since I'm pretty much a homebody and don't travel much, it helps me see more of the world.  Here are three great picture books that look at the experiences of three very different little girls.


Marisol is turning eight, and it’s time to plan a birthday party that will be fabulous, marvelous, and divine. She also hopes that Abuelita, who lives far away in Peru, will be able to come to the celebration.

At the party store, Marisol can’t decide what kind of party to have. There are so many choices, but everything in the store matches! Nothing seems right for soccer, pirate, princess, unicorn-loving Marisol. Finally she comes up with just the right idea, and when her friends arrive for her Clash Bash birthday, a big surprise awaits. But in a heartwarming turn of events, Marisol gets the biggest surprise of all—a visit from Abuelita via computer.

In this delightful story told in English and Spanish, author Monica Brown and illustrator Sara Palacios once again bring the irrepressible Marisol McDonald to life. With her bright red hair, golden brown skin, mismatched outfits, and endearing individuality, this free-spirited Peruvian-Scottish-American girl is headed straight into the hearts of young readers everywhere.


I can safely say that I have never seen a red-haired latina girl before, but I am very much looking forward to seeing her again.  In some ways she reminds me of Fancy Nancy, especially in her rather unique dressing choices.  I loved the way Marisol used her imagination to create a birthday party that satisfied not only her own interests but those of her friends too.  Seriously, the book made me laugh.  And the sweet surprise at the end was the perfect touch.  I found it refreshing to read a contemporary story about a multiracial child who is comfortable in her own skin.  The author's note about what lead her to write the story reinforces the current movement toward greater diversity in children's books, so that other children like Marisol and like the author can read books about themselves.  Highly recommended.


Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, and more than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth Mauritanian women, like her mama and big sister, wear to cover their heads and clothes in public. But it is not until Lalla realizes that a malafa is not just worn to show a woman's beauty and mystery or to honor tradition—a malafa for faith—that Lalla's mother agrees to slip a long cloth as blue as the ink in the Koran over Lalla's head, under her arm, and round and round her body. Then together, they pray.

An author's note and glossary are included in the back of the book.


This book takes a look at an aspect of Islam that is often criticized by those of us who don't understand it: the wearing of a malafa.  So much attention is focused these days on Islamic extremists that those who honestly practice their religion are overlooked and often unfairly condemned.  I appreciated the sensitivity with which the author addressed the importance of the malafa as well as a girl's desire to be like the women she loves and admires.  I can relate to that, I loved to wear my mother's shoes and dresses when I was a girl.  I guess some things cross cultural and religious boundaries.  The book beautifully portrays one religious/cultural tradition from the point of view of that culture.  We need more books like this to help us understand each other better.


Each morning as the sun brightens the West African sky, mother and child prepare to start their day. They spend it bound together, the child riding on the mother’s back watching their world go past. Pounding millet, drawing water from the well, visiting friends, shopping at the outdoor market—days are shared in perfect step with one another. And even when the child grows big enough to go off and explore their world, the everlasting embrace endures.

Illustrated with E.B. Lewis’s stunning watercolors that bring to life the land and people of Mali, Gabrielle Emanuel’s tender story celebrates the universal bond between mother and child.


This is a beautifully tender book about the relationship between a mother and her child.  The book is set in Mali and follows a mother as she goes about her daily chores with her baby on her back.  Not only is this a tender love story between a mother and child, but it's also a wonderfully done portrayal of life in a small village in Mali.  A double winner in my book with sweet text from the child as she depicts what it's like to see the world from her mother's back and the gorgeous illustrations by Lewis.

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