Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day, started by Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr of JumpIntoaBook.com. I am super excited to be part of the blogger team supporting this! I have been watching this great event grow over the last couple of years. Just a few things to share from them before the book review.
First, there is a *free* downloadable classroom kindness kit – check it out here!
Tonight, there will be a big Twitter party where you can win bundles of diverse children’s literature.
And there is a free downloadable ebook from Amazon about Multicultural Children’s Book Day.
And now on the review!
Author Jill Diamond was kind enough to send me a copy of her book, Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery to review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day.
Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery by Jill Diamond. Pictures by Lesley Vamos. Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2016.
LouLou Bombay and her best friend Pea Pearl have their Friday afternoon PSPP tea party – Post-School Pre-Parent. After tea, they walk through their neighborhood and decide whether they’d rather go buy a cupcake or visit the friendly owner of the candle shop. But their usual weekend routine is interrupted when LouLou finds that her prize camellia has been killed just days before she enters a garden competition. She is distraught and determined to find the culprit. Soon, she and Pea find that others in their neighborhood are having things go wrong as well – a missing pet rabbit here, a vandalized craft display there – and all of the disasters are being painted into the many murals around town. Are they memorials or bragging? The adults don’t seem to notice, and even Pea isn’t as suspicious as LouLou of the oddly behaved boy who’s just appeared in the house next door. But all the neighborhood preparations for Dia de los Muertos should give them some good cover for figuring out exactly what’s going on. The neighborhood in general and Pea’s family in particular are Latinix, and there are lots of Spanish phrases used throughout the book, with a glossary and recipe and craft ideas related to Dia de los Muertos in the back.
This is a super-appealing book – everyone who saw it while I was reading it wanted to find out more about it. I really liked the depiction of a close-knit, happy city neighborhood with a coziness usually reserved for small towns. It’s written in a very descriptive style, with lots of adjectives and alliterations, features which I would have loved as a kid. The cartoon-like illustrations from Lesley Vamos add a lot. It was a fun mystery, and I liked that LouLou’s first suspicions were absolutely off base. However, I had some serious reservations about the way things played out. I think it’s entirely natural that LouLou would be celebrating Dia de los Muertos even though that’s not her heritage because of her best friend and the neighborhood she lives in. But taking over an altar previously dedicated to Pea’s deceased aunt and using it to remember LouLou’s dead flower seemed downright insensitive, no matter how much LouLou loved her flower. Adding some camellias to the existing altar would have been more appropriate. I also felt that Pea had some issues, besides the unfortunate name – Pea (short for Peacock) is cute in print, but lends itself too easily to playground cruelty. She just didn’t feel like as fully developed a character as LouLou, and while we need more diverse characters of all kinds, she felt more like a sidekick than an equal partner here. All in all, while this book had a few too many problems for me to love it, it’s a start that could be very well developed in future books.
Here are some other multicultural mysteries:
- Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells
- Greenglass House by Kate Milford
- Murder is Bad Manners: A Wells & Wong Mystery by Robin Stevens
- The Mystery of Meerkat Hill: A Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers by Alexander McCall Smith
Betsy Bird at a Fuse #8 Production was excited about the Museum Mysteries early chapter book series by Steve Brezenoff, which begins with The Case of the Haunted History Museum, though I still need to track them down. Mia at Pragmatic Mom has an even longer list!