Sunday, December 04, 2011

Multicultual Week

In looking for topics for library lessons, I found that one of the state standards in Ohio involves sharing multicultural literature. Since I have been working to add to my collection books that portray people from lots of different backgrounds, I will be showcasing those titles in book talks this week.

Hiranandani, Veera. The Whole Story of Half a Girl (Comes out January 2012.)
Sonia's father loses his job, and she is forced to leave her small, private school where no grades are assigned and go to a public school. She doesn't have too much trouble finding friends, and is taken under the wing of Kate, a popular girl who encourages her to try out for the cheer leading squad. Sonia makes it as an alternate, and enjoys hanging out with Kate and her very different family. Still, Sonia has a hard time at school when people ask her "what she is". Her mother is of Russian and Polish Jewish extraction, and her father is from India, so Sonia keeps being asked if she is black or white. When her father spirals into clinical depression as his job situation doesn't get better, Sonia has even more trouble keeping up with friends and school work, but her supportive family works together to get her father assistance.
Strengths: This was well-done in that it addressed the issue of racial identity in a fuller context. I liked that this wasn't the only or even main conflict in the book... it was just another issue with which Sonia was struggling. There aren't a lot of books about cheer leading, so this is a welcome addition.
Weaknesses: There was a lot going on, so some of the issues weren't covered as much as they could have been. Sonia's almost-friendship with African-American and economically disadvantaged Alisha is rather ignored, and that would have been an interesting development.

Frazier, Sundee. Brendan Buckley's Sixth-Grade Experiment.(Comes out January 2012.)
Brendan Buckley is back, and he is still interested in science. Not only is he busy collecting rock samples with his newly found white grandfather, but he is working with a new GIRL classmate on a biomass fuel project for the science fair. Add to the general mayhem the fact that his parents are trying to adopt a baby, and Brendan's involvement in Tae Kwan Do, and this is one busy middle grade story. The addition of the equally science obsessed Michelle, and Brendan's reluctance to hang out with her because his friends don't hang out with girls, is a very nice touch.
Strengths: For some reason, people often ask for books involving science fairs, and there are very few of these, Everybody Bugs Out being the newest to come to mind.
Weaknesses: For some reason, it makes me cringe when Brendan's black grandmother calls him her "milk chocolate baby", but that's probably me being overly sensitive.

Khan, Michelle. The Hijab Boutique
Nominated for the Cybils by Jessica Sattell.
For International Women's Day, Farah is assigned a report for her private school. She is supposed to bring in an object that symbolizes her mother, and tell about her mother's life. Since her father's death, Farah's mother has become increasingly quiet and modest, adopting the hijab and having few interests outside the home. Farah's friends' mothers are all actresses or high-powered business women, so Farah is embarrassed to report on her mother until her mother tells her about her new plan-- she is opening a store where Islamic clothing and accessories will be sold. Farah takes a selection of hijabs to school and reports to her classmates about her mother's life style and new business.
Strengths: There is a very small number of books about Islamic culture, the most prominent being by Randa Abdel-Fattah and set in Australia, so this, while very short, will be interesting to my students, some of whom do wear the hijab.
Weaknesses: This is supposedly set in California but uses a lot of British terms. Also, while it was nice that Farah eventually saw her mother's choices as valid and valuable, the other mothers portrayed seemed really superficial. There were also a lot of awkward phrasings.


  1. Thanks for sharing. These look interesting.

  2. Anonymous1:07 PM EST

    You might be interested to read my upcoming book Wicket Season, from Lorimer. It's about a Jamaican Canadian boy and his love of cricket.

    Great reviews!

  3. The Brendan Buckley cover looks a bit weird, and circa 1980's

    The Whole Story of Half a Girl could've easily been an issues book but its very far from that. I thought it was a great debut.