Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Multicultural Books – Ages 5-7 In The House!

Can I get a shout out for my little friends?!  This Sunday, Mrs. Mimi is happy to bring you the selections for children ages 5-7 from the list 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know.  Last week, we covered books for the super small fries, preschoolers.  This week brings us a BUNCH of books I’ve never read before, so let’s bring it. Get your coffee, get your Sharpie, get your favorite list making paper and let’s get our read on!

The Nerd Flag has been raised!

First on the list this week is Grandfather Counts by Andrea Cheng.  I loves me a good counting book, so I hope this one is good. (Plus it’s a Reading Rainbow book – I heart LeVar Burton from back in the day, don’t you?)

Grandfather Counts (Reading Rainbow Book) (Reading Rainbow Books) (If you’re new to the extravaganza…welcome and click on the image for links!)

Holy crap!  I thought I was going to get your run of the mill counting book, not a touching story about a grandfather coming to America and bonding with his grand daughter – plus, an added bonus of some basic Chinese vocabulary!  Okay.  So Gong Gong (the grandfather) arrives in the US from China to live with Helen and her family.  Helen has to give up her room and isn’t too pumped about it or her inability to communicate with her grandfather.  Then one day, her grandfather joins her as she watches the trains go by and together they count the cars in English and Chinese.  They totally bond and begin to teach each other words in Chinese and English.  Too. Sweet.

So, this read aloud would be perf with friends in first and/or second grades!  I’m thinking you could use it during a unit on counting (although it’s not super math heavy at all), a unit on family, a unit on China or other cultures or just as a lovely little story about getting to know and understand one another.  I know a lot of friends in my classes had grandparents from other countries who spoke limited English so this could be a perf time to work on those text-to-self connections – boo yah!  Love it when it all comes together like that!

Next up is Hairs/Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros.  Clearly I’ve heard of The House on Mango Street, but didn’t know she had this text for smaller friends.


Sadly, this book is IMPOSSIBLE to find.  I’ve tracked it down at a semi-local library and am waiting for them to transfer it to my library.  I’m not sure if you know this, but I write a lot of these two or more weeks in advance so…I have been waiting awhile.  Will update asap.  Sor. 

I Lost My Tooth in Africa by Penda Diakite is next.  Personally, loose teeth tweak me out.  I can’t say I always handled “tooth related issues” well which was tricky considering they fell out of their mouths like drops of rain from the sky in my classroom.  *shudder*

I Lost My Tooth In Africa

A little girl named Amina is flying from Oregon to visit her father’s family in Mali.  She has a loose tooth and her dad says if she loses it in Africa and puts it under a gourd, she will get a chicken from the African Tooth Fairy.  (Insert me breathing sigh of relief that I only have to cough up a buck or two for Mini Mimi…chickens under pillows sound messy.)  Amina greets her family but is very anxious for her tooth to fall out.  When it finally does fall out, Amina puts her tooth under a gourd and soon a rooster and a chicken appear.  Amina takes good care of her chicken and eventually there are eggs!  Soon it is time to go home and Amina is sad to say goodbye to her family and her chickens.  Just before she leaves, she sees the chicks hatch.  Her family says they will be waiting for her and her next visit.

This is a great story.  I really enjoyed the colorful illustrations…you know I’m a sucker for arts ‘n farts.  I think this could be a good resource for introducing younger friends to the day-to-day life of people living in other countries.  We see Amina’s family’s house, how they spend their days and even learn a few terms in their native language.  I used to teach a Houses Around the World unit and would totally add this one in.

Also on the list for this age group is Honey, I Love and Other Poems by Eloise Greenfield.  I heart Greenfield’s poems and totally used them as Shared Readings in my classroom.  Especially her ones about city life – perf for our urban and rural unit.

Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems (Reading Rainbow Series)

What a beautiful book of poems!  These would be amazing to use with your friends who are fourth grade on up.  (I know The List we’re working from put them in the 5-7 age group and yes, you could pick out a few here and there that would totally work with the little guys, but honestly?  There are a few that are much deeper and would resonate so well with slightly older friends.  At least in my opinion.  And you KNOW I always have one.)  Ranging in length and rhyme scheme, these poems are about everything from jumping rope, to playing in the school band, to riding on the train.  Each poem has a lot of layers for your kiddos to dig into plus they model a lot of different ways to use rhythm, space and line breaks.  I say, chart some of these puppies as Shared Readings (Fourth graders are NOT too old to dig into a poem this way!!), photo copy a few for private reading and definitely use these when you’re teaching a writing unit on poetry.

Okay.  I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover and blah, blah, blah, but what can I say?  I tend to be a bit judgmental.  (At least I’m honest about my flaws.)  I have been pumped to check this book out since I saw the cover at the library….I hope it doesn’t disappoint.  It’s Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding by Lenore Look.

Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding

Well, this book didn’t disappoint.  A little girl, who is our narrator, is sad that her favorite Uncle Peter is getting married because it means she will have to share him with his new wife Stella.  The girl remains sad throughout the story as we see the couple go through what I imagine are the traditions of a Chinese wedding.  As the day continues, the girl feels more and more left out until….it is almost time for Peter and Stella to leave the party when Stella hands the girl a box.  Inside are thousands of butterflies to be released – Stellas has made her an important part of their special day.  They hug as the girl finally welcomes Stella to the family. 

Okay – this book is pretty cool for lots of reasons.  First of all, I dug the illustrations.  Very creative and colorful.  The story is great too – I think there would be a lot of feelings for our friends to relate to in there.  Plus, we get an inside look at some traditional Chinese customs, which would be hot if you’re studying other cultures.  Finally, this book is FILLED with metaphors that are just begging to be discussed in a fab book talk.  Get this one – “I am the jelly on his toast, and the leaves in his tea.”  I mean, what?  Fab. 

The list keeps on going with Mirandy and Brother Wind by Patricia C. McKissack.  This is a Caldecott book y’all, so you know I have high expectations.  At the end of every year, we used to sit back and enjoy a month of all Caldecott read alouds – even if it meant repeats.  Sometimes it’s just nice to enjoy a book together instead of picking it to pieces and mining it for all it’s worth.  This one is new to me though…

Mirandy and Brother Wind (Dragonfly Books)

The book is set in the early 1900s. (I’m guessing.)  It’s the night of the cakewalk (a dance) and Mirandy wants to catch Brother Wind so that she can impress everyone.  (Hint: Brother Wind is literally the wind, not some dude’s nick name.)  She tries everything to catch him.  Meanwhile, Ezel, who really wants to take Mirandy to the dance, tries to make her jealous by pretending he’s going to ask another girl. She never does catch the wind and at the dance, when another girl makes fun of Ezel, Mirandy gets mad, defends her friend and decides to be his partner.  They end up winning the cakewalk. 

I don’t know.  This book is a great illustration of what life was like long ago, but I’m not sure it would have held the attention of my first grade friends.  I mean, even I was wondering what the hell a cakewalk is and there really wasn’t much of an explanation in the book.  (I totally googled it…you’re welcome for the link by the way.)  A lot of the language is reflective of the time period (like “conjure woman,” “notion,” “do their bidding”).  I guess you could spend time using the context to discover the meaning (always a fab strategy to reinforce) but I think it would just be too overwhelming and they’d lose the meaning of the text.  I read the author’s note and the story was inspired by her grandparents which is LOVELY, but still…I’m not sure I would use this one.  (insert Debbie Downer music here)

Moving along, we have Shades of Black: A Celebration of our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney.  This book uses a lot of photography and, if I haven’t already told you this, Mrs. Mimi fancies herself as a bit of an amateur photographer (I take a lot of pictures of my cat.  Is that sad?) so I love books that use photos to change things up a bit.

Shades Of Black

With very little text (although a rich vocabulary), this book shows all the different skin tones, hair types and styles and eye colors of African American children.  Fabulous photographs are included on each page.  With the refrain, “I am Black, I am Unique,” this book is powerful.  First of all, the photos are gorgeous. (Way better than the ones I take of my cat.) And I love the words the author uses to describe the various skin tones of African American children. Get this one. “I am the velvety orange in a peach and the coppery brown in a pretzel.”  Talk about beautiful, descriptive language!  You could definitely use this as a mentor text to encourage more descriptive language in your friends’ writing.  Also, it reminds me a lot of The Colors of Us, which is one of my favorite books.

I’m going to try to get in as many of the books on this section of the list as I can find, so stick with me. I know this post is getting long with a capital L!  Coming up next is What Can You Do with a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla.  Yet another new book for me to potentially obsess over.  Let’s see if it’s any good.

What Can You Do with a Paleta?

This is a totally cute little story.  It reminds me of the end of the school year when the kids (and teachers…let’s be real) would crowd around the icy cart that sat on the corner outside the school.  50 cents for some of the delicious-ness?  Yes, please.  Back to the story though.  A little girl introduces us to her barrio, complete with a description of all the colors and smells.  But, her favorite thing of all is the paleta wagon (popsicle cart).  She shows us all the things you can do with a paleta – from cooling off to turning your tongue green and scaring your brother.  At the very end, there is a brief paragraph with some additional information about paletas to share with your class.

I think this book would work best with kindergarten or first graders.  You would definitely need to stop and think a bit with some Spanish terms (like “barrio,” “fruta,” and “sarape”) as well as with some of the rich descriptive language.  But there is very little text on each page, so it’s totally do-able, plus I’m not sure the story would hold the attention of friends older than first grade.  Great for a unit on Latin American culture, or if you’re studying different neighborhoods and cultures. 

And, at the end of our list for this Sunday is Growing Up with Tamales = Los tamales de Ana by Gwendolyn Zepeda.

Growing Up with Tamales/Los Tamales de Ana (Hardcover w/CD)

I’m wiped.  How about you guys?  There ARE a few titles that appear on the list but not in this post.  The only reason for that is they are IMPOSSIBLE to find at any public library nearby.  Here are their titles…you know, just for ha has.

Morning on the Lake  Morning On the Lake by Jan Bourdeau Waboose

World Team  World Team by Tim Vyner

When the Shadbush Blooms  When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger and Susan Katz

The Good Luck Cat  The Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo

I’m not giving up on these yet though.  Have tracked them down at other libraries in my state and am waiting for them to get to me.  Updates imminent, y’all!


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  • I decided to read through the 100 novels list too only I started with 1 and am not reading the books entirely in order. I just read the Phantom Tollbooth and LOVED it. Why had I never heard of it before?

    I love this multicultural list even more and I am going to encourage the librarian at my school to purchase some of these books. The newest post on book #96 isn't coming up for some shows up in my blog roll but when I clicked the link it wasn't there…

    May 23, 2010 at 3:03 pm
  • Sneaker Teacher- glad you are enjoying the series and hope your librarian can pony up for some of these fab titles!

    As for novel #96, I TOTALLY posted it by accident instead of just scheduling it to automatically post. See, I'm trying to store up a bunch of posts, so while I'm in the hospital and/or trying to figure out life with Mini Mimi, my lovely readers won't totally have to go without! So sorry…but it's coming soon!

    May 23, 2010 at 3:05 pm
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry – read that at school, was BRILLIANT!

    Also read Wheel of Surya and Red Sky in the Morning – both v. good (for 9-11 I think, rather than 5-7 though)

    May 24, 2010 at 1:45 pm

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