I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Stand Tall Molly Lou Lemon. But I’m glad I did.
From the first page, it gripped my kids because it paints the picture of a little girl who stands out. Not because she’s popular but because she is the ‘shortest girl in first grade’. But that doesn’t stop her.
She has buck teeth, she’s short, has a voice like a bullfrog and she has wild curly hair. But she doesn’t care. She holds her head high and uses her limitations to stand tall no matter what.
But one day, she has to leave her friends and her supportive grandma… and start a new school.
She got called “Shrimpo” by the school bully and “Buck-tooth Beaver” but she doesn’t let that get her down.
An absolutely adorable book for children nervous about going to back to school, changing schools or facing bullies.
Molly Lou Lemon shows us that bullies will never win. That if you hold your head high, people will see the light within you. What a character and a lovely story. Perfect for ages 3-8 years.
One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time, Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way is the perfect book to introduce your child to loving their curly, thick, and wonderful hair.
But even better, I got to meet the author, Tola Okugwu who shared her story and what inspired her to start writing about afro hair.
Known even more for her blog about natural hair, when Tola had her first daughter, she noticed (like many of us) the lack of books to inspire her daughter to love her curls.
A book lover and journalist by nature, Tola decided she would write about it. But she didn’t just want to write any book. Every morning she went to work and her partner/ husband was the one doing her daughter’s hair. In her household this was normal. But where were the books that showed the beautiful relationship Dads and daughters can have doing hair??
Soon after, Tola wrote her first book Daddy Do My Hair and after trying unsuccessfully to find a publisher, she soon started her own publishing house and self published Daddy Do My Hair, along with Hope’s Braids and now, Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way.
I have to say though her latest is my favourite. It’s a fun book that still explores the relationship between Daddy and daughter poking fun at the way afro hair can’t be ‘contained. Curly hair’s ability to go “this way, that way and every which way” is a celebratory repetitive rhyme throughout that makes every child want to turn the page eager to see what happens next.
You can see from the videos below, Tola Okugwu is inspired by her daughters and truly believes in what she is doing. Her chat with the children in the audience encouraged them all to examine their own hair and see which way their hair curls, and if it does, does it go every which way?
Illustrated with lovely pictures throughout, Kechi’s Hair is one to look out for. And I’ve even got a few signed copies to give away to a few lucky readers! I will give details this week about how you can enter to get your free copies!
I grew up in mostly-white Edmonton, Alberta, Canada right smack in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war. Awareness of difference was low and I remember fantasizing about having a name just like everyone else.
The name calling and the teasing was too much at times. “Arriba, Arriba, Undalé, Undalé!” was called after me every time I was around. Adults too would struggle. And although they tried, I eventually shortened my name from Fariba to Fari. It didn’t help. “Fairy? No. Fiery? No. Ferrari?”
My chosen name? Jessica. In all of my fantasies, I was Jessica. Because Jessica was like everyone else, Jessica’s parents weren’t from somewhere else and best of all, Jessica didn’t stand out because of her name.
In Yangsook Choi’s book, “The Name Jar”, Unhei (pronounced Yoon-Hye) moves from South Korea to America. She starts her first day of school having to explain her new name to all of the other kids and, inevitably, they laugh and tease her about how it’s pronounced. “You-hye, bye bye!”, they tease her.
The story develops with Unhei wanting to choose a typical American name like Laura or Amanda. But she’s reminded soon enough about what her Grandmother taught her about her name. Unhei means grace. And her name’s meaning is far more important than fitting in.
Through a boy she becomes friendly with, he discovers her real name and it shows her she can be proud of her name- even in America.
With beautiful illustrations throughout, The Name Jar has inspired conversations with my children about how and why we’re different as a family. How we might ‘stick out’ and why it’s important to embrace those differences because they make up who we are.
I wouldn’t change my name for the world. But I only discovered that as an adult. I wish I’d been able to stand tall and correct the teasers and conformists who desperately tried to make my name sound english.
This book is about immigrants, about fitting in, peer pressure, multiculturalism and third culture kids. Definitely one for your bookshelves if you’d like to inspire conversations about diversity.
I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl by Betty K. Bynum is the newest in our series of mixed race book reviews.
At first glance, it appears that this book is not really for biracial or multiracial kids. But going with the one drop rule in American culture, the term ‘Black’ refers to all racial mixes who are part black.
The book’s illustrations are lovely.
Full of images of little girls doing what they love- playing, running, skipping, holding hands. Being who they want to be and loving who they are.
All the girls are different shades with different hair colours and textures. My girls love choosing which ones they think they look like. One girl has her hair in braids, one in ponytails, another with her curls out and proud and still another with straight black hair. All show the diversity of girls-whatever their racial background.
Book Review: I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl
That’s why we read it as “I’m a Pretty Little Girl” and skip the ‘black’. Because it’s really about the diversity of girls, about being proud and loving each and every one regardless of difference.
The girls are depicted running, skipping, jumping, helping, singing and being artistic as it follows one girls’ day at school with her friends. Then it ends with each girl fulfilling a dream of what they want to be when they grow up- showing a diversity of choices available.
I can’t recommend it more. Even just for the images. It’s lovely.
As part of our new mixed race book review series, I will be starting to review books featuring or highlighting mixed race or multiracial characters.
Today’s feature is the book : My Two Grannies by Floella Benjamin– a favourite of mine and my daughters’.
There’s perhaps no-one more apt to write a children’s book than British children’s presenter Floella Benjamin, a black woman in an interracial relationship who has two mixed kids. She’s a household face and name to British 30 and 40 somethings who grew up with her face on their television sets and is today the Vice President of Barnardos Children’s Charity.
The story is about a little girl named Alvina whose parents are going away for the weekend. Alvina gets very excited that her two grannies, whom she loves with all her heart will be coming to take care of her.
But her grannies are from two very different places. Granny Vero is from Trinidad and Granny Rose is from England.
Both Grannies have very different taste in food, interests and things they like to do. And they soon begin to argue about how best to take care of Alvina. Alvina comes up with a way they can both work together and enjoy each other’s ideas, recipes and activities. In the end, they both both realise they can appreciate what the other brings and can even learn from each other! A celebration of the different parts of what makes Alvina who she is!
My Two Grannies is a lovely book for mixed heritage or mixed race children who have family members from different parts of the world or from different cultures. My two oldest daughters love the book because they can relate to having two grannies of different colours and from different cultures. It’s a great way to get them to celebrate diversity whilst engaging them in their own real-life experience of having two grannies hailing from different parts of the world.
We highly recommend My Two Grannies and love that it’s written by such a well-known children’s presenter. So do consider it for your next purchase!
For more book reviews with mixed race characters, click here…
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown is the second in our mixed race book review series by Mixed.Up.Mama.
This is one my daughters’ favourites (and mine). Inspired by her Peruvian-American heritage, Monica Brown has won numerous awards and starred reviews for her Marisol series which, incidentally is also written in Spanish.
Marisol McDonald is a wonderful book about a Peruvian-American girl named Marisol who loves to be different. She loves to wear green polka dots and purple stripes, eats peanut butter and jelly burritos and tells her cousin off when he tries to tell her her skin colour (brown) does not match her red hair. Simply said, she loves who she is. When everyone, including her teacher, tells her she should match, she decides to change herself and the next day, she wears a matching outfit, plays pirates with her friends how they like it and writes her name in printed letters as her teacher says she should. But soon, she discovers how boring it is and how proud she is to be a mismatched Marisol.
The illustrations, done by Sara Palacios and the fact that it is written in Spanish beside the English are bonuses to the lovely story behind author Brown’s loveable character. For bilingual children as well as kids that come from more than one culture, this is a fantastic choice.
Another recommendation if you want your child to be proud of their mixed heritage!