Today is Multicultural Children's Book Day, and I'm celebrating by writing reviews for some amazing diverse chapter books. Before I dive into my reviews, here is a little bit more information about What Multicultural Children's Book Day is and how it came to be.
Founded in 2021 by Valarie Budayr from Audrey Press Books and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom, Multicultural Children's Book Day grew out of their own frustrations with the lack of diverse books for their own families. As a result, they decided to team up to create an event that would help raise awareness around children's books that celebrate diversity but also get these books into classrooms and libraries around the world. This event is now known as Multicultural Children's Book Day (MCBD) and is celebrated every year on the last Friday in January. Multicultural Children's Book Day (MCBD) is an online and offline celebration of thousands of supporters, educators, parents, caregivers, book reviewers, and quality authors and publishers who team up to spotlight diversity in children through YA literature. Over the course of its eight year run, the MCBD non-profit has donated over 8,000 books to kids and the intitiave has expanded offline to classrooms programs, celebrations and global connections.
I'm excited to participate this year by reviewing several recent chapter books series released with Capstone Publishing.
First up is the Yasmin series written by Saadia Faruqi; Illustrated by Hatem Aly and published by Capstone Publishing. I was gifted two of the newest books in the series titled, Yasmin The Librarian and Yasmin The Scientist. I absolutely adored these two books in the series.
In Yasmin the Librarian, the main character, Yasmin, learns all about teamwork, sharing, and the library system as she works with the Mrs. Kogo, the librarian, to help her shelve books and answer questions from her fellow classmates in the library. When her own special book gets misplaced, Yasmin searches the shelves to find it until she realizes that it may be the center of an unexpected story time.
In Yasmin the Scientist, Yasmin returns once again with the dilemma of what to present at the school science fair. With STEM elements woven in, Yasmin finds the key to success with a mixture of experimentation, happy accidents, patience, and creative problem-solving, Yasmin learns that "ideas are everywhere, "science is all around us," and "learning is messy." Her fizzy resolution leads her to a sweet and sour twist on a traditional science experiment that is an instant hit with her classmates and teachers.
In both Yasmin the Librarian and Yasmin the Scientist, readers are exposed to the benefits of creative-problem-solving, sharing, and teamwork. Both books in the series offer a slew of resources and activities in both the front and back matter that introduce readers to the Pakistani culture and Aly's art is bright and lively, bringing Yasmin's curiosity and generosity to life in a light-hearted manner that suits Yasmin's personality perfectly. I highly recommend following along with sweet Yasmin's adventures in this fun-filled series!
Next up is the Sadiq series written by Siman Nuurali; illustrated by Anjan Sarkar, published by Capstone Publishing. I was also gifted two review copies from Capstone-Sadiq and the Bridge Builders and Sadiq and the Ramadan Gift. It was a delight to follow along with Sadiq and his diverse crew of characters as they worked to solve different challenges in each story.
In Sadiq and the Bridge Builders, Sadiq and the crew are tasked with building a model city that can withstand a flood but when all attempts and ideas fail, Sadiq turns to his real-life surroundings where the key to success awaits. The story introduces readers to the concept of engineering, science, and team work as Sadiq and his friends work together to solve their problem. Through brainstorming, observation, and experimentation, Sadiq and The Bridge Builders persevere. The story encourages readers to make mistakes, to try and fail, and to observe the details in our environments.
Similarly, in Sadiq and the Ramadan Gift, readers are introduced to sadaqah, or charity, when Sadiq and his friends are tasked with raising money for a Dugsi or Islamic school. Sadiq has the idea of hosting an iftar, which is a meal where Muslims break their fast. Others jump aboard, naming themselves the Money makers Club but when Sadiq's friend Zaza has another fundraiser in mind, tensions arise in the Money Makers Club and Sadiq and Zaza must learn to communicate and compromise for the greater good.
In both Sadiq and the Bridge Builders and Sadiq and the Ramadan Gift, I was pleased to see the initiative of the main character, Sadiq, when it came to problem-solving and idea generation. Similar to the Yasmin series, through fun and fact-filled front and back matter, readers are invited to learn interesting information and terms from the Somali culture and are reminded that kids can make a difference in the world! Sarkar's lively, stylized artwork inspires readers to be bold and think big just like Sadiq and his friends.
Finally, I'm leaving you with the Astrid & Apollo series written by V.T. Bidania; illustrated by Dara Lashia Lee and published with Capstone Publishing in 2021. Capstone gifted me review copies of Astrid & Apollo and the Starry Campout, along with Astrid & Apollo and the Happy New Year. It was a pleasure to Meet Astrid and Apollo--the fun and adventurous twin sibling duo from Minnesota whose mom and Dad were born in Laos and came to the US when they were very young.
In Astrid & Apollo and The Starry Campout, the twins partake in their first family camping trip-an event that Apollo is excited but Astrid is not. Astrid would have to rely on her glow in the dark wand to get her through but when she realizes she left her wand at home, Astrid turn to the light and love of her family to help her conquer her camping fears. In the end, when Astrid and her family encounter some cooing critters, Astrid's brave actions make their camping trip one to remember. Young readers learn the importance of being brave, conquering fears, and the benefits of trying new things, along with a tasty introduction to the many delicious foods of the Hmong culture--egg rolls and Hmong sausages--yum, yum!!
In Astrid & Apollo and The Happy New Year, Astrid and Apollo return to ring in the Hmong New Year! To celebrate, Astrid, Apollo, and their family attend the Hmong New Year Festival. Dressed in special clothes with sashes and belts with coins, Astrid and Apollo navigate their way around the festival until they get separated from their parents and must find their way back before it is too late. Along the way, they meet a host of interesting people and work together to make their way back to their parents and enjoy the show.
In both Astrid & Apollo and The Starry Campout and Astrid & Apollo and The Happy New Year, I enjoyed the sense of a tight knit family and witnessing the bond of a twin sibling duo. I learned many new things about the Hmong culture and know that young readers would as well. Above all, both books left me feeling warm with the love of family and Lee's sweet and expressive illustrations are the perfect complement to enhance this familial mood. As with all the books mentioned the Astrid & Apollo series also contained front and back matter to help the reader learn more about the Hmong culture.
To sum up, I thoroughly enjoyed all of the above series from Capstone Publishing. I always love learning new things as a reader and these books did not disappoint. I learned additional facts about cultures that are different than my own such as, why Ramadan is celebrated or that kitaab means book in the Urdu language of Pakistan or the traditions of a Hmong New Year Festival. I have no doubt young readers will walk away from these reads with a greater sense of awareness around different cultures and a connection to the universal themes of teamwork, problem-solving, conquering fears and the importance of familial love. The adventures of Yasmin, Sadiq, and Astrid & Apollo are not to be missed!
I want to give a BIG thank you to Capstone Publishing for gifting me these wonderful books to review and helping me diversify my own bookshelf. Thank you to all the organizers involved in Multicultural Children's Book Day for helping us raise awareness around the importance of diverse books in our homes and schools and helping to get these wonderful books into the hands of children around the world. Cheers!
For more MCBD fun, follow along on social media at #ReadYourWorld!!
BONUS! Check out this MCBD Diversity Book List & Activities for Teachers and Parents!
Thanks for reading!
Who Am I?
Hello! My name is Amanda Davis. I am a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator. I've been writing and creating art in all forms since I was young. Writing and art have always been powerful outlets of expression for me. This is one of the many reasons I was inspired to teach art and pursue my passion for writing and illustrating children's books. You can usually find me hanging out in nature, petting dogs, and immersed in all things creative. I'm inspired by my students, life experiences, and small acts of kindness. I live in the Boston area with my husband and rescue pup, Cora.