Written by Taye Diggs
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
(Feiwel & Friends; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
★ Starred reviews in Kirkus and School Library Journal.
Librarian Dornel Cerro reviews Mixed Me! by Taye Diggs with illustrations by Shane W. Evans.
“I’m a beautiful blend of dark and light, I was mixed up perfectly, and I’m JUST RIGHT!”
Mike, an exuberant and energetic boy rushes from one place to another in his superhero cape:
“I like to go FAST!
No one can stop me
as the wind combs through
my zigzag curly do”
It’s clear that Mike is a well-loved, confident and joyful child. However, although Mike is comfortable with the color of his skin and the “WOW” of his hair, sometimes his diverse heritage causes people to stare and wonder:
“Your mom and dad don’t match,”
they say, and scratch their heads.
There’s pressure at school to choose a group to belong to:
“Some kids at school want me to choose
who I cruise with.
I’m down for FUN with everyone.”
Using rich vocabulary, gentle humor, rhyme, and a hip-hop like rhythm, Diggs offers a inspirational message. The author uses the diversity in the foods we eat to vividly (and deliciously) capture the differences in human appearances. Mike’s mother’s skin is “… rich cream and honey …” and Mike describes himself as:
“I’m a garden plate!
Garden salad, rice and beans-
This is not only a fantastic read-aloud, but a wonderful starting place for positive discussions on image, esteem, diversity, friendship, and inclusion. Adults sharing the story can easily design extension activities to reinforce the book’s theme. What do words like “fused” and “blended” mean? How do these words apply to people? How many references to multicolored or “mixed” things can children find in the book’s illustrations? What kinds of theatre, music, movement, and dance activities could help children express their understanding of the book?
Evans complements Digg’s bouncy and humorous text with textured illustrations consisting of watercolors and cut pieces of fabric. There are many two-page spreads of Mike, dominated by all that wonderful “zippy” hair and the book is awash in multicolor images: even Mom’s apron and Mike’s cape contain a rainbow of colors.
Mixed Me! is a highly recommended read for all children and adults who work with this age group.
Visit the publisher to see interior artwork and other reviews. Check out Digg’s and Shane’s Chocolate Me! website for information about their earlier book which also sends a positive message about skin and hair type. Read Diggs’ tribute to his long time friend, Shane W. Evans, in The Horn Book. See Scholastic for a biographical sketch on Evans and other books he’s illustrated.
MY COUSIN MOMO
by Zachariah OHora
(Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin; $16.99, Ages 3-7)
is reviewed today by Cathy Ballou Mealey.
Momo, sporting tricolored head and wrist sweatbands along with a 35mm camera strapped around his neck, is exotic from the moment he arrives at his squirrel cousins’ home. From his hardsided yellow suitcase plastered with travel stickers (ACORN AIRWAYS, BUNNYLAND), we know that Momo likes to travel. After all, he is a flying squirrel.
Momo’s cousins and their forest friends can hardly wait for the visitor to soar into the air, but Momo seems shy. Alternative activities – such as playing superheroes or Acorn Pong – are not successful either. Poor Momo is deemed an awkward outsider. The narrator’s younger sister doesn’t hold back in expressing her disappointment, plonking her face with the pong paddle and kicking mushrooms in frustration.
Momo, tearful and dejected, starts to fill his suitcase. Even his camera gets packed away. Pangs of remorse grip his cousins. Thankfully, they redouble their efforts to make Momo feel at home, and discover the upside to trying things in new and different ways.
OHora’s text is direct, dry and funny. He nails the tone of an elementary school age narrator with precision. The illustrations are quirky and hip with inventive twists that capture the characters’ emotional highs and lows in bold, minimalist lines. Chunky black outlines and a dense but muted color palette give MOMO a rich vibrancy that bounces off the page. But there is still enough detail to delight the eye, from fluffy swirled squirrel tails to crisp cupcake liner pleats, OHora excels in depicting enticing textures. Peek under the dust jacket for a hidden surprise!
The last page leaves readers anticipating further funny, squirrely adventures. What could be better than mo’ Momo?
- Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Where Obtained: I reviewed a copy of MY COUSIN MOMO from my library and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Filbert the Good Little Fiend, (Candlewick Press, $15.99, ages 3-5) by Hiawyn Oram with illustrations by Jimmy Liao, is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.
SO GOOD HE’S BAD!
What are a FEROCIOUSLY fiendish Daddy Fiend and FIERCELY fiendish Mommy Fiend supposed to do when their little fiend, Filbert, is so good, so very, very good?
“He won’t say BOO to a goose,
MOO to a moose, or PANTS to an ant.
He’s no little fiend of mine!”
Filbert’s folks insisted he be gruesome and ghastly but it just wasn’t in him to behave like that. He couldn’t be “BOTHERSOME and BEASTLY.” He preferred kind words and caring to hollering and scaring and no one seemed to be happy about this including his teacher, Miss Fearsome-Frizz. Rather than get in a purple-paint fight in class, Filbert hid in the bathroom. This blatant lack of participation earned Filbert the Fearsome-Frizz’s ire so he was sent out to the Good Spot until he could learn to behave “like a proper little fiend.” Well as luck would have it, a little angel kicked out of Angel School crashed landed near the Good Spot where Filbert was relaxing.
Together the two figured out that by temporarily trading clothes and personalities they could give their parents and friends what they’d been asking for. And we all know that sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for. And then what? In the case of Florinda the not-quite-perfect little angel and Filbert the not-so-fearsome little fiend, their point was cleverly made. The old Florinda and Filbert were welcomed back and accepted for who they were because as the saying goes, better the fiend you know!!
I like the idea of the role reversal portrayed by the main characters as a way for parents to start the conversation about celebrating individuality. I’d certainly recommend Oram’s story, with its alliteration and irony, to read-aloud for story time. Couple that with Liao’s glowing Autumn-hued artwork, a delightful color collision of Sendak meets Scheffler, and you’ve got a picture book perfect for every little monster you know.