Multicultural Children's Book Day Review: Two Picture Books about Life in India

I'm honored to take part in the Multicultural Children's Book Day initiative, in which parenting, education, and book bloggers introduce international and multicultural kids' books to encourage their inclusion in libraries and classrooms. I think Publisher's Weekly summed it up well in the following:

Next month, more than 100 bloggers affiliated with parenting, education, and children’s blogs will review a selection of diverse and multicultural books on their respective blogs. The reviews will be promoted and shared by Jump Into a Book and the day’s nine “powerhouse” co-hosts with more than two million followers total across social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+. The participating bloggers will also share reviews with their respective followers. There will be giveaways and children’s activities as well throughout the day.

Well, "next month" is today, so here we go! And make sure to click on the link above to participate in all the activities related to this awesome day!

You might remember the stats I referred to in a recent post on the lack of diversity in American children's publishing, as highlighted by the We Need Diverse Books movement. While we wait and push for greater inclusion of people of color in American books, we must also remember to seek international picture books that are already forging the way. These books help non-Anglo kids see themselves in popular media and Anglo kids learn about and appreciate other cultures. 

Tulika has been publishing children's books about India since 1996. They are an independent publisher based in Chennai, India. Praba Ram, a writer and mother from Chennai, and Meera Sriram, a writer and mother from Northern California, have come together to publish a series of books about India under the Tulika imprint. I'm going to introduce you to two of these titles today!

In Dinaben and the Lions of Gir, kids are introduced to the beautiful and little-understood Asian/Asiatuic lion, which makes its home in western India. Unfortunately, estimates put these creatures at only about 250 left in the wild, due to loss of their land to humans. Readers are introduced to a Maldhari woman who lives in Gujarat in the Gir forest. They learn about the diverse animals that live both in the wild and in the village, as well as the Asian lions who live in the wildlife preserve. Readers learn about how the Maldhari of this area live and work in peace side-by-side with the lions, and why its important to preserve the lions' tenuous status. The book ends with facts about the lions introduced in simple bullet points. The edition of Dinaben and the Lions of Gir that I received was presented in both English and Tamil, although the book is available in other Indian languages, as well. Dinaben and the Lions of Gir is appropriate for kids ages three to seven.

Bijoy and the Big River is written for children ages seven to ten. It walks kids through a day in the life of a boy who lives in Northeast India, just south of the Himalayas, in Assam on the Brahmaputra River. Readers learn about life on the river as they journey with Bijoy, including local lifestyles, customs, and animals. This engaging look at an Indian culture features silkworm farming, from harvesting to spinning, in detail. Readers also learn about the animals who make the Kaziranga National Park home, along with the beautiful and endangered xihu dolphin that lives in the Brahmaputra. Alongside the story text are notes with engaging drawings that give factual information about animals, customs, and peoples that Bijoy encounters.

Both Dinaben and the Lions of Gir and Bijoy and the Big River offer an engaging means to introduce kids to two diverse Indian cultures, as well as the endangered animals that live alongside them. Kids will be drawn in by large photographs of people and animals, and plenty of factual information gives readers the perfect place to begin learning about these cultures. These titles would make a strong addition to a unit on India or Asia for children from preschool through upper elementary ages. 

Below are some online resources with which to pair these books for such a unit:

Time for Kids: Day in the Life: India  

A Kid's Life: India 

Kid World Citizen: India Activities for Kids

Multicultural Kid Blogs: India  

Multicultural Kids

Artsy Crafty Mom: Top Indian Children's Picture Books

Gnaana Blog 

Now don't forget to visit Multicultural Children's Book Day or one of the following sponsors:

Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop 

Gold SponsorsSatya House,,   Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof

Silver Sponsors: Junior Library GuildCapstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books, The Omnibus Publishing 

Bronze Sponsors: Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing,  Rainbow Books,   Author FeliciaCapers,   Chronicle Books   Muslim Writers Publishing , East West Discovery Press.