Looking for picture books that embrace diversity? The following stories present kids from a variety of backgrounds enjoying time with their friends, their family members…and their pet llamas.
Maria and her llama smile out at us from the cover of Angela Dominguez’s bilingual picture book set in the Peruvian Alps, Maria Had a Little Llama / María Tenía una Llamita — a riff on “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The text mirrors the traditional tale (“He followed her to school one day. / Un dia le siguio a la escuela”), and the limited amount of text allows both the English and Spanish to appear on the same page or spread. All throughout the bold ink and gouache illustrations, Maria and her llama’s personalities — and their affection for each other — shine through. (Holt, 3–5 years)
Musa, star of Alone in the Forest, is sent by his mother into the woods to fetch firewood. He’s proud and confident about performing this grown-up task…until an ominous “crack!” and a “boooom!” ignite his fears. Authors Gita Wolf and Andrea Anastasio set their tale of a child venturing outside his usual sphere among the forest-dwelling Gonds of central India. The stylized, boldly outlined illustrations by Gond tribal artist Bhajju Shyam brim with energy. (Tara, 4–7 years)
“When Clarence was little, his grandma / carried him on her back through / the woods to the clearing to pick / wild berries / pikaci-mīnisa.” Now Clarence, around age five, follows Grandma on his own two feet. In Julie Flett’s Wild Berries / Pikaci-Mīnisa, each double-page spread introduces a single line of text describing the sights and sounds — dropping berries in a bucket (tup, tup), observing a fox (rustle, rustle). Each page also uses one word in a dialect of Cree (the “n” dialect, known as Swampy Cree), highlighted in red typeface (a glossary and pronunciation guide are appended). The muted earth tones of Flett’s watercolor and collage illustrations in browns, grays, and reds perfectly complement the quiet tone of the story. (Simply Read, 4–7 years)
Here I Am by Patti Kim is a wordless graphic novel–style picture book told through detailed, mixed-media panel illustrations by Sonia Sánchez. After immigrating to America with his family, a little boy is sad and lonely. One day he accidentally drops a red seed he carried from home out of his brownstone window. A little girl picks it up, and his search for her finally draws him out of his loneliness. Newcomers to any country, and the adults who work with immigrant children and their families, will find a lot to talk about here. (Capstone/Picture Window, 5–8 years)
From the January 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.