Mixed: A Colorful Story (Arree Chung)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung, a wonderful lesson in the importance of community diversity.

At first, there were only three colors: the Reds, the Yellows, and the Blues. The Reds were the loudest and most opinionated, the Yellows the brightest and most cheerful, and the Blues were the coolest by far. At first, they all lived in harmony, until a disagreement broke out about which color was the best. The negativity spread to every citizen in the city, and soon the colors had segregated themselves, building walls to keep those different from them out. But one day a very special Blue met a very special Yellow, and found that their differences complimented each other. Despite the disapproval of others, the two mixed together their lives, getting married and creating a new color: Green. She has a mix of her parents’ traits, and yet is a color all her own as well. The other colors begin to take notice, and realize that by reaching out, accepting, and loving those different from them, they are creating a stronger and infinitly more interesting world.

Wonderful! Creating a simple narrative to examine the causes and effects of prejudice, this story can help children to understand why diversity – not only of color, but also culture, ability, faith, gender, sexuality, etc. – helps communities to thrive and grow. The symbolism of the colors is easy to grasp yet still conveys the dangers of separatism with gravity. The text is lovely, honest yet hopeful; the length is great, and JJ loved identifying the colors and watching their world grow and change. A timeless story with timely applications, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

I, Too, Am America (Langston Hughes)

Hello, friends! As you know, February is Black History Month, so in honor of that, we will be reading a book every Friday that celebrates black heritage and culture, as well as black authors and artists. Today’s book is I, Too, Am America, a retelling of a poem by Langston Hughes with a story told through art by Bryan Collier.

Using the text of Hughes’s classic poem, Collier uses his art to tell a story of a Pullman railway porter, one of the first American jobs to offer black men decent pay and comparatively dignified work. Hughes’s words describe black Americans as a member of the American family, but one who is treated with scorn and shame. Yet despite this treatment, he will “eat well,/ And grow strong,” text that is juxtaposed with images of the porter releasing discarded magazines and newspapers from the back of the train, spreading knowledge to other black people as he travels. The art moves seamlessly from past to present, and in the face of a young black boy on a subway train with his mother, peering through the stripes of an American flag at what comes next, the future.

This was a superb book, featuring layers of meaning and interpretation through both Hughes’s words and Collier’s art. Visual and textual metaphors blend together perfectly, creating a story that both examines a very specific part of African-American history with the grand scope of growing up as a black person in America, and the indefatigable spirit doing so requires. The length is perfect for baby bookworms: there is limited yet impactful text, and JJ was so enamored of the art that she spent a solid twenty minutes staring at the pages after our initial read-through. It’s a fabulous book to share with little ones, and discuss afterwards, and we highly recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

People (Peter Spier)

Hello, friends! In honor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, we read People by Peter Spier, a stunningly illustrated exploration of worldwide cultures.

There are a great many people that share our earth, billions to be exact. And those billions of people come in all shapes and sizes, colors, cultures, religions, and more. People eat different foods, they celebrate different holidays, they speak different languages. All of these things are beautiful, unique, and part of what makes our diverse, multicultural world wonderful.

Visually, this is a stunning book. Spier’s detailed, intricate illustrations are endlessly fascinating, and you could spend an hour picking out the fine details included on every page. Plus, the core message, that diversity is one of the great and precious elements of our world, is important and treated with earnest reverence. But in a book published nearly 40 years ago, there are some cringe-worthy bits (outdated statistics, Inuits referred to as “Eskimos,” a depiction of Black Peter, to name a few). It’s also an overtly honest book, discussing death, inequity of power, poverty, and other realities of life, a fact that can be viewed positively or negatively based on your preference. It even features a bit of nudity in a title page that depicts a tiny Adam and Eve (just their bare tushies, but still).

I’ve heard that in later editions, some updates to the text were made, but I cannot speak to them (we read the original 1980 copy). Overall, this is a gorgeous book that means well, but shows its age. JJ really enjoyed it, too, so I’m torn. I would say give this one a read first (the updated version would likely be preferable), and see if it’s right for your child. But for its art and overall message, we’ll call this Baby Bookworm approved (with an asterisk).