Sunday, January 26, 2014

MMGM-- Multicultural Kidlit Day

In addition to the normal Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and It's Monday, What Are You Reading memes, we have an exciting day!  Mia Wenjen at Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr at Jump Into a Book have put together Multicultural Book Day. Loyal readers know that even though almost 40% of young readers are people of color, only 10% of the books published for them include characters like themselves. I've tried to do a World Wednesday feature for the last year, highlighting books with cultural context, so it's great to see others interested in this topic as well. 

For more information about this event, please visit the official page.

Please take some time today to visit some old friends and meet new ones. All of these sites are participating and have some great books with cultural context reviewed.

And a couple of commenters have asked about age range on the following, and I would say ages 10 and up, but they'd have to be strong readers.

17379587Mlawski, Shana. Hammer of Witches
9 April 2013, Tu Books
Review copy provided by publisher (Lee and Low Books)

Baltasar is having a difficult time in Palos de la Fronterra, Spain in 1492. His parents were killed by the Inquisition, and he lives with his aunt and uncle, who make books. The local children bully him because of his Jewish heritage, but that's not as bad as it gets. One night, he is attacked by a hameh, and things get worse from there. He finds out secrets about his family, including the fact that his real father is the Moorish warrior Amir al-Katib. This fact brings the organization Maleus Malificarum down on Baltasar's case, because it turns out that he has magical powers, and is actually a Storyteller. When the organization attacks his home, his uncle gives him a necklace and lets him escape, telling him to go far from Spain. When Baltasar investigates the necklace, he releases the Ifrit Jinniyah, who is supposed to help him find his father, and consults the Baba Yaga for advice.  Baltasar ends up getting hired as an interpreter by Cristobal Colon aboard the Santa Maria, with Jinniyah masquerading as Juan. His plan is to find Amir al-Katib, but there is danger everywhere he turns. His true nature as a Storyteller is known by all too many people, and this leads to him summoning magic that ends up getting him and a cabin boy, Pedro Terreros, washed overboard. Pedro turns out to be Catalina, and the two do their best to survive, and wash ashore, where they meet Arabuko, shaman of Marien, and the Taino people. Afraid that the great evil that the Baba Yaga foresaw will attack his new friends, Baltasar keeps looking for his father, who seems to keep sending monsters to kill him. But like with all magic, in the end, everything is not as it appears, and Baltasar has difficult choices to make.
Strengths: Tu Press specializes in fantasies with cultural contexts that are NOT medieval Europe (aren't 90% of fantasies that?), so it's nice to see such a rich diversity of cultures in this book. The Spanish, Moors, Jews, and the Taino all contribute a variety of magical elements to the story. The notes at the end explain a lot of the history and tales, which is an added bonus, since many of them were unfamiliar to me. 
Weaknesses:  This has some elements that edge it into Young Adult territory, and the cover is a bit murky.

Many thanks to Lee and Low Books for sending me this review copy. They've been very kind in the past about sending things as well, which can be very helpful when trying to get the word out about books with cultural contexts.  

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday at Anastasia Suen's blog.


  1. This book sounds fantastic. Thank you so much for celebrating diversity and multicultural books with us. It's such a joy to have you. Happy Reading !

  2. As a mom of 2 boys I'm so happy I found your site! I'm a book reviewer for Multicultural Children's Book Day too, I'm thrilled with all of the new books we have discovered. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Lots of variety and diversity in one place...Recommended age probably ten plus?

  4. I liked Hammer of Witches when I read it last year. It was neat to have a fantasy book set in a less typical place. I also appreciated the different perspective about Christopher Columbus.

  5. Wow, this book is full of topics, isn't it? I second Barbara's question.. it sounds like it might be ages ten and up? Great review. Happy #MCKLitDay!
    for The Stanley & Katrina Gang

  6. Yep, ten and up as long as they are strong readers.

  7. It sounds like a book that would be good to add to the library for variety. thanks for sharing so much about it, Karen.

  8. I am enjoying browsing all these new books and blogs :) A mention of Baba Yaga is intriguing to me (I am originally from the former Soviet Union) - I am racking my brain as to how she fits into this story :)

  9. I am very intrigued by this book! I am thinking it's something my reluctant readers will love. Thanks for sharing :)

  10. Thank you so much for joining us Ms. YingLing! We are so honored to have you!! Mia from PragmaticMom