Tag Archive | theme: differences

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Black Is Brown Is Tan

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

black_is_brown_is_tanTitle: Black Is Brown Is Tan

Author: Arnold Adoff

Illustrator: Emily Arnold McCully

Publisher: HarperCollins

Year: 2002

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Race; family life

Opening:

black is brown is tan

is girl is boy

is nose is

face

is all

the

colors

of     the     race

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website)

Brown-skinned mama, the color of chocolate milk and pumpkin pie. White-skinned daddy, not the color of milk or snow, but light with pinks and tiny tans. And their two children, the beautiful colors of both. For an all-American family, full of joy, warmth, and love,

this is the way it is for us 
this is the way we are

When it was first published in 1973, Black is Brown is Tan featured the first interracial family in children’s books. Decades later, Arnold Adoff and Emily Arnold McCully continue to offer a joyous and loving celebration of all the colors of the race, now newly embellished with bright watercolor paintings that depict a contemporary family of the twenty-first century. And the chorus rings true as ever:

black is brown is tan 
is girl is boy 
is nose is face 
is all the colors of the race

What makes it great: There aren’t many picture books that feature interracial families. This one not only features a black/white interracial family, but is about race and skin color. The text mirrors what kids of all colors notice about the people around them.

What readers notice: We have an interracial extended family, and my kids have biracial friends and classmates. They have often brought up the subject of differences in skin color and it’s nice to see a book that mirrors their own observations of the world.

What a writer notices: I love the rhythmic language of this book and the child-centered descriptions of skin color.

This page describes the mother:

i am black i am a brown sugar gown

a tasty tan and coffee pumpkin pie

with dark brown eyes and almond ears

and my face gets ginger red

when i puff and yell you into bed

 

And this page describes the father:

i am white i am white

i am light

with pinks and tiny tans

dark hair growing on my arms

that darken in the summer sun

brown eyes

big yellow ears

and my face gets tomato red

when i puff and yell you into bed

 

And I love the beautiful, songlike refrain:

this is the way it is for us 
this is the way we are

Activities/Resources:

HarperCollins has produced a teaching guide to go along with the book.

 

 

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Earth to Clunk

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

Title: Earth to Clunk

Author/Illustrator: Pam Smallcomb/Joe Berger

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers

Year: 2011

Genre: Fiction picture book

Ages: 4+

Themes: Making friends; differences; siblings

Opening:

Today Mr. Zookian said I have to write to my pen pal. His name is Clunk.

“He lives on the planet Quazar,” said Mr. Zookian.

“Write him a letter and sent him something from Earth.”

I don’t want a pen pal named Clunk from the planet Quazar. I’m not writing a letter.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) What do you send your alien pen pal Clunk to make it clear you do not want an alien pen pal? You send him your big sister. That’ll teach Clunk to have a pen pal from Earth-or so our intrepid narrator thinks. But then Clunk sends him a Zoid, an exasperating Zoid that follows him everywhere. After swapping dirty socks, three Forps, some old lasagna, a weird glob, and a string of Christmas lights, our hero seems to be having…could it be…fun? But then: Clunk stops sending stuff. Oh no! Earth to Clunk . . . ? Is he too busy being bossed around by our hero’s big sister? Will her ever send another package again? Maybe-or maybe not. More hilarious surprises await!

Deadpan comedy, vibrant artwork (a bit Calvin & Hobbes, a bit Eloise), a warm friendship theme, and an extraordinary surprise ending will have kids laughing all the way back to the first page of this sweet-in-spite-of-itself story.

What makes it great: The quite unique alien pen-pal premise is fun, and the voice of the main character is deadpan wonderful. It’s refreshing once in a while to find a main character with what can only be described as a bad attitude. This kid reminds me a bit of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

What readers notice: My 7-year-old absolutely loves this book. We’ve checked it out from the library 3 or 4 times now (I know – we should just go ahead and buy the thing) and he keeps asking for it. He thinks it’s very funny. He also likes the fact that the main character sends his sister off to another planet. I can’t imagine why that’s appealing…

What a writer notices: While the premise is sort of whacky, the author brings us into the world by mentioning planet Quazar right on page one. She keeps the world realistic – it’s basically just like our world today, but with aliens. So it’s easy to accept this altered reality. Also, she does a great job of letting kids play out a fantasy (getting rid of a sibling for a while) and since it is within the whackiness of the story we know it’s not “real.” I also appreciated how she carefully layered in the change in the main character’s attitude. For example, the main character at first hates the lovable Zoid that Clunk sends him, but a bit later in the story ends up sleeping with it, as a stuffed animal, signaling the beginning of the shift in his attitude.

I also noticed that of the four books I’ve reviewed so far for PPBF, three of them are published by Dial BFYR. Coincidence? Maybe…

Links to Resources: I did not find any specific resources for this book, but it would be wonderful to use as an introduction to a pen pal project in school.

Here’s a great interview with Pam Smallcomb