In these stories, race is incidental but not invisible
Alphonse, That Is Not OK To Do!
By Daisy Hirst (Candlewick Press)
Natalie and her little brother mostly get along, but sometimes Alphonse just goes too far. In the delightfully silly illustrations, the characters are depicted as imaginary creatures yet are clearly recognizable human types. It’s a familiar but important trope that young siblings will relate to. The freshness of the presentation is what makes this book very much worth adding to your library.
By Irene Dickson (Nosy Crow)
Clear, easy first lessons on sharing and inclusion. A girl and a boy are playing together; one has red blocks; the other, blue. Trouble ensues when the blocks are mixed up. But just as their short skirmish is resolved, a third kid with green blocks shows up. If you need to add a sharing book to your shelves, this is a lovely one, with interracial characters.
By Aiko Ikegami (Albert Whitman & Company)
Children, animals or extraterrestrials, everyone has trouble making friends at first. Everyone feels different and alone. Who will eat lunch with me? Who will play with me? The story covers familiar terrain, but it does so gently and amusingly. This book will lighten the load for kids having to start at a new school and sensitize kids who need some help accepting a newcomer.
Henry Wants MORE
By Linda Ashman, illustrated by Brooke Boynton Hughes (Random House)
Henry wants more of everything, but especially having fun with his family. His family does its best to entertain him and to tire him out. At the end of the day, after Mom has read Henry his fourth book, he drifts off to sleep—now the challenge is putting him to bed without waking him. This is a lovely book for winding down an active kid and reassuring kids that they’re being watched over as they sleep. The family happens to be interracial.
Hurry Up, Henry
By Jennifer Lanthier, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant (Puffin)
This gentle story, with soft focus pastel and ink line illustrations, playfully suggests that some families might benefit from slowing down and enjoying their time together. Henry (a popular name this year!) is a thoughtful little boy who doesn’t want to always be late, but treasures time to think, observe and play. For his birthday, his grandmother figures out how to give Henry more time. Henry’s family is Asian and African-American, hitting an important demographic artfully and without comment.
By Sam Zuppardi (Candlewick Press)
Jack is preparing to perform in a class concert, and at first everything is fine. Then Jack’s Worry appears. It starts as a small creature that follows him around but gradually grows bigger, until Jack tells his mom he can’t perform in the concert—his Worry is just too big. Mom takes one look at Jack’s Worry (hard to miss, since it fills his room!) and understands. She doesn’t push but does a reality check, and Worry begins to shrink. The best part is that Jack learns how to make Worry shrink for himself. All children who need help taming Worry will identify with Jack’s story.
Looking for Bongo
By Eric Velasquez (Holiday House)
A little boy in pajamas is looking for Bongo. He asks everyone in his family, including his dog, but no one has seen Bongo. Who is Bongo, and who has hidden him? The bold illustrations provide character details and convey the warmth and humor of this close-knit African American family. This is a perfect story for settling a child down at bedtime.
By Dori Kleber, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Candlewick Press)
Without a single cliche, this book entertains while teaching two important lessons: a multicultural community enriches each individual, and practice yields rewards. Joey, an African-American boy, is introduced to origami, the art of folding paper, by the mother of his friend Sarah Takimoto. He is inspired to become an origami master and dedicates himself to practice. After driving his family crazy, Joey finds support in Mr. Lopez’s Mexican restaurant. In the end, Joey meets a girl who is amazed by origami, too.
My New Mom & Me
By Renata Galindo (Schwartz & Wade Books)
Puppy narrates this exploration of what it’s like to look and sound completely different from your mom. In Puppy’s case, Mom is a cat. Puppy tries to become more like her, but it doesn’t work. Mom can’t stop Puppy from feeling sad, but tells him it’s okay to be sad sometimes. He learns that life has ups and downs, but his mom will always be there for him. This is a warm and loving story for all families, adoptive or not. All kids gain when different-looking families are seen as normal.
The Summer Nick Taught His Cats To Read
By Curtis Manley, illustrated by Kate Berube (Paula Wiseman Books)
Some learn best by listening. Some learn best by drawing. Some learn best by teaching. When Nick undertakes to teach his two cats to read, Verne does the listening and Stevenson does the drawing. Stevenson is more reluctant to jump on board, but once he does there’s no stopping the adventures as the three of them act out the stories they read to each other. This book will inspire courage in the hearts of children still on the path to learning to read.
EJK Award Winners
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