12 Melting Pot Children’s Books - The Melting Pot
December is jam packed with holiday celebrations. There are the twelve days of Christmas; eight days of Hanukkah; and the seven days of Kwanzaa among many, many other holiday observances. In honor of this season, here are twelve children’s books that feature diverse and multicultural characters and stories.
Let’s add some rich flavors of the holiday season to the melting pot.
I love music! Celia Cruz and Tito Puente are two of my favorite musicians. When I saw these two books by Monica Brown, I HAD to include them. Ms. Brown’s stories are written in both English and Spanish. Like her other book featured in this column, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match (Marisol McDonald no combina), both of these books feature loving families, tight knit communities, and supportive adults. In addition to Ms. Brown’s rhythmic prose, what really makes these books POP are the richly colorful illustrations by Rafael López. I highly recommend these books.
My Name is Celia: The Life of Celia Cruz (Me llamo Celia: La vida de Celia Cruz) by Monica Brown, Illustrated by Rafael López
Tito Puente: Mambo King (Tito Puente: Rey del Mambo) by Monica Brown, Illustrated by Rafael López
A long time ago in China, the Emperor devised a test to find his successor. He gave each child a seed to nurture and grow for a year. The child with the best flower would claim his throne. The Empty Pot is a wonderful tale about working hard, doing your best, and most importantly – telling the truth. Each illustration is vividly drawn in a style modeled after traditional Chinese art. Truly wonderful things can happen, when you tell the truth.
The Empty Pot by Demi
In this collection, Ms. Isadora takes classic children’s tales and transplants them into an African setting. Cultural touches really bring these stories to life. In the Princess and the Pea, the prince courts princesses from different African countries. Each princess greets him in her native dress and language. In Hansel and Gretel, the witches house is made out of sweet breads and in Rapunzel, she lowers her long dread locks. There are several more books in the series and all of the books feature Ms. Isadora’s beautiful print and painted paper collages as the illustrations.
The Princess and the Pea by Rachel Isador
Rapunzel by Rachel Isador
Hansel and Gretel by Rachel Isador
Marisol McDonald is Peruvian-Scottish-American. She has red hair, brown skin, and freckles…in short, ‘she doesn’t match.’ Written in both Spanish and English, this lovely book is a celebration of self-love and acceptance.
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match (Marisol McDonald no combina) by Monica Brown, Illustrated by Sara Palacios
Little Imani is the smallest girl in her Maasai village, but she has BIG dreams. Despite being teased by the other children in the village, Imani perseveres and achieves her goals. I love the close relationship between Imani and her mother. The author and illustrator ‘nailed it’ with regards to the cultural elements of the story. I highly recommend this book.
Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood, Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell
The first day of school can be tough. For Unhei (Yoon-haye), it’s her first day at a new school in a new country. Worried and embarrassed that her Korean name is different and difficult for some of the kids to pronounce, Unhei decides to try to pick a new American name. In the end, she keeps Unhei (which means ‘grace’) and helps her class and teacher learn how to pronounce her name correctly. This story is about family, community, friendship, and holding on to ethnic traditions. I loved how Unhei’s grandmother plays a key role in her life and the story.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
Can a ‘tom boy’ and a ‘girlie girl’ be besties? Sure thing! Especially when they each find ways to ‘do their own thing’ together. This book is a real treat that celebrates both friendship and individuality.
Being Friends by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by Joy Allen
Mei’s Grandpa Tu magically wields his skills in the kitchen to make the best noodles for the village. Mei must work hard to master the art of noodle making in time for the emperor’s birthday celebration. With a little help there are plenty of noodles for the celebration. I love how this whimsical story features a strong and loving relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter.
Noodle Magic by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, Illustrated by Meilo So
Now, here’s a little something for older readers: Keena Ford and the Second-Grade Mix-Up. What’s a cake-loving girl to do when she accidentally writes her February 9th birthday as 9/2 and her teacher brings a cake to class? Tell the truth or have her cake and eat it, too? (Yes, I know that the day precedes the month in many countries, but in the USA the month precedes the day…this mix-up is the catalyst for the primary story conflict – J) Told through Keena’s journal entries, we learn about life with her mom in Washington, DC and weekends spent with her dad in Maryland. This book is the first in a fun series of tales about Keena Ford’s adventures and life lessons.
Keena Ford and the Second-Grade Mix-Up by Melissa Thomson, Illustrated by Frank Morrison
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a mechanical engineer. Soooooo, when I stumbled across this book at my favorite bookstore, I HAD to buy it!
Rosie Revere is a creative inventor who can turn a pile of parts into a funny, yet functional, device. When her great-great-aunt Rose (aka Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit, Rosie goes to work on building her a flying machine. This book is chock full of women’s history and is a true celebration of female creativity. Any book that encourages little girls to explore mechanics, the sciences, and engineering with this much fun and ‘joie de vivre’ gets an A+ from me!
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by David Roberts
Columnist: C. Morgan Kennedy
I have a confession to make. I’m a time traveler. I love flinging myself into the future, then hurtling fast to an alternative past. In my usual time-space-dimension, I’m a mechanical engineer and business woman. So, I have a natural penchant for hover cars and steam or aether powered engines. Though I was born in the wrong era, I’m actually a child of the sixties – 1860, 1960, 2060.
My stories feature strong women, who know how to wield their minds like weapons. Their men are smart and often controlling….but, rest assured, my female leads give them a run for their money. They strive to follow their hearts and dreams for the betterment of themselves and their loved ones. Like my life, all of my stories feature a diverse cast of characters.
With my business partner, Therese Patrick, I work to demystify marketing principles for my author friends. Our first book, Author Marketing 101 Guide & Journal, was published by Gazebo Gardens Publishing and released in October 2013.
Steampunk, futurist, blerd, artist, author, and marketing maven…a real creative force of nature – that’s me in a nutshell.
Keep tabs on my adventures via my blog, Morgan’s Mix Tape, on my website: http://www.cmorgankennedy.com.