Allison's Book Bag

Four Multicultural Picture Book Golden Sower Nominees

Posted on: April 11, 2012

If you’ve been following my blog for the past few weeks, you know that I’ve been focusing exclusively on multicultural books and what I’m learning from them. Until now, I’ve read only intermediate and young adult fiction. For the next two days, I’m going to switch to picture books, of which I have eight to review. Below are the first three!


Alma Flor Ada was born in Cuba. As a child, she loved to read, spend time in nature, swim, and explore. Everyone in her family were storytellers. Despite that, she didn’t expect to become a writer and so instead became a teacher. Her first books were textbooks with the lessons that she had cre­ated for her high school students and were published in Peru. The themes that Ada most likes to explore now that’s an established author are: the joy of fam­ily, the sur­prise of finding friend­ship with those who are dif­fer­ent, and the capacity to change the envi­ron­ment. She also likes to write about the rich­ness of the Latino cul­ture, so that others can better appre­ci­ate it. If you visit Ada’s website, you’ll find a lot of information in both English and Spanish.

Her picture book I Love Saturdays y domingos tells of a young girl who enjoys the similarities and differences between her English-speaking and Spanish-speaking grandparents. The title refers to the fact that Saturdays and Sundays are her special days to visit her grandparents. Language is one of the most important parts of culture. Although I Love Saturdays y domingos is written mostly in English, the conversations between the main character and her Spanish-speaking grandparents are in Spanish. Family heritage and traditions are also important aspects of culture. I Love Saturdays y domingos shares where each family originally came from and the types of jobs they held, along with introducing differences in meals and birthday celebrations. According to her website, author Alma Flor Ada has a passion for multicultural education. Her picture book is a perfect example.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?


Carmen Deedy was also born in Cuba. Coming to the Unites States as a refugee in 1964, she grew up in Georgia. Her writing career began when her NPR commentaries on All Things Considered were collected and released under the title, Growing Up Cuban In Decatur, Georgia. Since that time, Deedy has written several picture books for children, many of which have won awards. She has also told stories to hundreds of students, who remain her favorite audience.

To write Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, Deedy drew on her love of Cuban folktales. This lavishly illustrated picture book tells of a cockroach that is ready to marry. As with I Love Saturdays y domingos, Martina is written mostly in English but also contains a few Spanish phrases. Otherwise, the value of Martina the Beautiful Cockroach for intercultural communication book might come through a comparative study of folk tales.

In a Question and Answer for the National Book Festival, Deedy shares: “I’ve always loved the traditional version of this story. La Cucarachita Martina, or, Martina the Little Cockroach, is the Cuban folk tale, which tells of a tiny cockroach who goes a-courting—or, more accurately—sits on her balcony to be a-courted. As enacted by my marvelous storytelling mother, Martina was a truecoquette, who drew many suitors before finding her perfect match. I loved the story so much that as soonas it ended, I was already begging, ‘Otra vez!’ Again!”

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

THE OTHER SIDE by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson is an African-American author, born in Ohio. Growing up, she wrote on everything and everywhere. Seriously, she wrote on sidewalks and buildings, along with writing on paper bags, denim binders, and her shoes. Woodson also told a lot of “stories”. Although she’d get in trouble for lying, she didn’t stop until fifth grade because there was something wonderful about seeing her friends’ eyes grow wide with wonder. Besides writing, Woodson enjoys reading the works of emerging writers and encouraging young people to write, spending time with her friends and her family, and sewing. Woodson currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.

“I wanted to write about how powerful kids can be. Clover and Annie fight against segregation by becoming friends. They don’t believe in the ideas adults have about things so they do what they can to change the world.”
–Jacqueline Wilson, Picture Books

Her picture book The Other Side is a simplistic story with an overt message. It’s about how two girls, one black and one white, are separated by a town fence. The girls wear dresses and hats, as if the story is set in earlier days of segregation, and keep eyeing one another. Eventually, they sit together on that fence. I’m sure it won’t take you many guesses to figure out the moral of the story.

My rating? Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.

How would you rate this book?

RUBY’S WISH by Shirin Yim Bridges

Born in Malaysia, Shirin Yim Bridges spent the latter part of her youth in Hong Kong before coming to the United States to attend the Santa Clara University. Bridges comes from a family of writers and artists. From her grandmother and mother, she also learned independence. Her first book, Ruby’s Wish, is based on the life of her grandmother who grew up in old China and dreamed of attending university like the boys in her family. Ruby’s Wish is on several state reading lists, has been translated into seven languages, and won the Ezra Jack Keats awards for Best Writer and Best Illustrator in 2003.

After her nine-year-old niece became captivated by the stories of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, and listened to her talk about how princesses were rescued in dramatic fashion by their princes, Bridges set about writing a series of books about women from history who found ways to get beyond existing boundaries. By also being the publisher of the series, she maintained creative control over them. Bridges ensured that readers would always find a map showing where each historical woman lived, a section on what she wore, and even a section on what she ate. In addition to the main illustrations of the story, every page in the series is covered with artifacts and historical images that add to the text. Even the backgrounds and colors of each book have something to do with the period of history being talked about.

Women have, against greater odds than we can imagine, asserted themselves and made their mark in different countries,
different cultures, and different periods of history. And this fact is simply not reflected on our bookshelves.
Shirin Yim Bridges, Looking Glass Review

My students first introduced me to Ruby’s Wish. It is a sweet and inspiring story about a Chinese girl named Ruby, who grew up determined to attend university just like the boys in her family. Ruby’s Wish could be used in a couple ways for intercultural communication studies. First, one could compare stories about historical women. Second, one can learn about life and traditions in old China. Now that I’ve taken time to read it, I see so many possibilities for its educational value!

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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