[Image: Dokkaebi sipping a juice box from ‘Where’s Halmoni’ by Julie Kim]
About April’s Good Finds
- Age-reference: Tested by: The Little Earthquakes (LE) – Supreme Court Justice Q (age 6.5) & Dokkaebi-in-Chief R2, (age 4.5)
- Affiliate links: This post contains affiliate links. Check out the full affiliate disclosure along with the BFL statement of accountability.
This is a quick link list for folks who like to click through and add these to reading lists. See below for a review of each book.
- Not So Different (Burcaw)
- Joseph’s Big Ride (Farish)
- We Don’t Eat Our Classmates (Higgins)
- Where’s Halmoni (Kim)
- Magic Ramen (Wang)
- Clive And His Babies (Spanyol)
- Little Sid (Lendler)
- Diana Dances (Lozano)
- I Love My Purse (Demont)
Books we’ve been searching for
We’ve touched on my complicated family relationship with Buddhism previously, what with Siddhartha’s casual abandonment of his family and obligations and my own experience growing up with a single parent. But there are things about Buddhism that I want my kids to understand, things I still feel deeply. I want my kids to have a book that makes the simple-sounding-but-mind-twisting fundamental ideas of Buddhism, I want my kids to know about the flawed dude Siddhartha, but I also kind of…detest him.
So this was a wonderful book to do that. It takes liberty with the origin story of Siddhartha, and I bet it’s going to enrage fundamentalists. Then again, the folks who call themselves Buddhists and justify murdering Muslims because of it are jerks and I don’t care what they think.
This is a lovely book to introduce kids to the idea and basic concepts behind Siddhartha’s journey, and unlike every other book on him I’ve ever read – it even gets to the point of being mindful and not trying to control and avoid things so much. Also it’s adorable, and funny.
Annickpress sent this to me for free as well AND OH MY GOSH SO GREAT!
I’ve been searching for books that normalize boys in ballet class (SO RARE!) While okay sure, we’re never going to ever be able to afford signing the Earthquakes up for a ballet class, they are both in love with the idea of ballet, with all the spinning and leaping and tutus and badass, tough-as-nails tenacity of it. So I’ve been searching for a boy-friendly ballet book for 5+ years.
While the protagonist of this book is a girl, there are JUST AS MANY MALE-PRESENTING KIDS in her class as feminine ones! Oh oh oh, but that’s not even the best part. I’m just getting started. Also DIANA IS FAT. She is a FAT ATHLETIC SKATEBOARDER DANCER. And she wears stripes unapologetically and it is NOT EVEN A THING. I am dancing with joy. Can you see me dancing with joy? Witness my joy.
This book has nothing to do with Diana’s weight. Diana is ADHD, and this book is PERFECT for validating the experience of being neurodivergent and having all the grown ups think there is something wrong with you because you can’t do some silly math worksheets or whatever. While this is a fast-forward silly take on the identification and diagnosis process, I love EVERYTHING ABOUT IT:
1. A medical doctor looks at Diana and says she is perfectly happy. No attributing her learning disabilities with her weight. NONE.
2. It centers Diana’s confusion over being FINE with the way she is, while it’s everyone else around her who is ableist: “Diana didn’t think she had a problem. So why did everyone else? She left feeling confused and sad.”
3. This psychologist: “Madam, your daughter is not sick! Your daughter is a dancer!”
4. It doesn’t pretend that Diana is going to become some famous dancer or make achieving some outside goal the thing to strive for: “Maybe, Diana thought, she would get to dance in a big theater someday. Maybe not. But she would never stop dancing.”
YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!
Again, got this for free from Annick press (some of the books they sent were meh, but a lot of these really hit it out of the park).
I get…nervous when I see Sonja Wimmer‘s artwork on a book cover. A lot of her books are a hot mess. She’s one of those makerswho means well, but doesn’t do due diligence and just makes band-aid books that feed right back into the bigotry she’s supposedly against. The books she authors on her own are the worst, but she’s not super picky about authors to partner with. Magic cures for disabled folks, inspiration porn, and defining feminist icons by their marital status (barf, barf, barf). Also her earlier work with the giant eyeballs is creeeepy and gives me nightmares.
So this book has to be above-and-beyond for me to be willing to recommend it. AND IT IS! Written with the silly patterns of a Munsch story, we see how everyone questions, questions, questions Charlie’s choice to carry a red purse. He shuts them down in the most perfectly casual way, which is exactly what we need for the 6yo – who is prone to over-reacting and having a screaming fit when folks dare insult his honor.
Over the course of the book, we see how the folks who have challenged him slowly grow comfortable with being just a little bit more loud about the things they wish they could do in public, too.
I originally picked this book up as a first-day-of-school book for R2’s entry to kindergarten next year. It’s not really about school jitters at all – it’s a validating and destigmatizing story about misgendering from Korea!
Around 4y is when kids start sub-categorizing into little groups to exercise and give labels to their self-identities. The gender identity, obviously, is a fairly rigid one in most preschools, and kids aren’t often allowed to question or experiment with that. Yoon identifies as a girl, and her classmates and teacher repeatedly misgender her. We see how this stresses her out, and how it makes a difference when a neighbor steps in to defend her. On our own, we also talked about what it feels like to be nonbinary in schools where teachers separate kids into gender groups.
Cis folks will often roll their eyes and complain, ‘why do trans people have to transition?,‘ or whatever. I’ve heard this most often from transphobic folks who wanted to identify as another gender but didn’t bother – because of the stress, because they could only take so much abuse, because it is shameful and not an option in their families, because they had enough on their plate already. But in this book, we start to see how stressful it is, the dysphoria of being misgendered and what a huge impact one feminine headband has on Yoon’s life at school. So adorable and lovely!
Little boys caring for baby dolls, it’s totally normal and chill, and it’s a board book for very young toddlers! This whole series is so good. In other books, Rosa, Clive’s counterpart, plays with trucks and dinosaurs. Also good news – we got Little Feminist Book Club to include it in their most recent 0-3 book box!
Books that made us laugh
We got this a while back, but Q asked to read it again – and even went so far as to search for it in his school library and check it out (he never does this.)
It’s hilarious, honest, and both Q & R2 ADORE Shane’s jokes. Normally the LE refuse to read books with photos instead of illustrations. For this book though – it was SO HELPFUL to see actual real-life photos of Shane’s wheelchair and his body – he knows kids are prone to staring, so this gives us the space to really look at him – long enough that we can see past the parts of his body that make him look different from average bodies, straight through to how he’s just like, a regular dude.
The photos also gave us so many opportunities to answer the LE’s questions – stuff they’d be nervous to ask. How does he pee? Why is his body so little? Is he a baby because he has a tiny body, or a grown-up? Why is he like this?
We see how he relies on his family for support – but not just his family. He has friends, including women. While this isn’t mentioned in the book, this was a great jumping off point to discuss how Shane has a girlfriend, travels, etc. Which makes disability (and the potential/inevitability of becoming physically disabled ourselves) seem so much less scary.
Joseph’s Big Ride (Farish)
Annick Press reached out to me to ask if I was interested in a book for teens written by a white autistic dude who uses functional language (Aspie). GUH. I think we’ve cornered the market on books for autistic white dudes written by autistic white dudes) so I was like ‘hmmm…NAH, what else you got?‘ I picked this book out of the catalogue (FYI they sent it to me for free) because it had a Black boy riding a bike. Stories about Black boys outside basketball, jazz, and Black history are rare, so I’m always searching for more books normalizing smart boys with complex personalities.
And OH. MY. GOODNESS. Chills.
You know how most books about refugees flattens them into pity-parties? Like, the only thing that defines you, once you become a refugee, is that you’re sad, traumatized, and think 24/7 only about how awful life is?
Not saying we should erase that, but I SUPER WOULD LIKE a book that humanizes refugees and shows readers that just because something terrible happens to you, it doesn’t become your sole defining feature. You are capable of joy, happiness, humor, and goofiness. You’re still human.
So this book fills that niche. It’s hilarious. It’s also got a girl in it who refuses to tame her big natural hair (+1000 points). Q loves it so much, he asked me to come to school on his birthday and read it with the class. He just laughs and laughs and laughs.
ALSO, there is one negative review for it from Amazon – from a person who didn’t actually read the book and talks in weird vague circles about how the book forces the child into “correct thinking” (translation: propaganda) and how it’s ‘dumbed-down and rudimental.’ I read it like twelve times and didn’t even know what they were talking about. So I did some digging. Here is the original post (shhh, don’t tell anyone I put it here, since technically Amazon doesn’t like when affiliates do that:
“Disclaimer- Ive only heard PART of the book, and had to look online for refresher examples- but here are a few gems: “…America, where everything is strange and new” remarkable for its profundity (eye roll) & this: “She points, and he sees a building that’s long like a river.” The last one made me whince. Children are brighter than we give them credit for and this global village Kumbaya lesson is so dumbed-down and rudimental. What bothered me the most is that it leads the child, slowly but surely into “correct thinking” . I dislike people and books that tell us what opinions are correct, what feelings are “acceptable”. I do like books that take children as intelligent and capable of making their own choices and promoting thought, invention and integrity. This book I do not like.“
Right? Like what on earth is going on? This review makes even less sense when you read the book. It has nothing to do with the book, other than the one pull quote. So I dug.
This reviewer has blocked all of their reviews from the public (so we can’t recognize a pattern of behavior and call BS). They REALLY had it out for this one book. This ‘Ex-Technitian for Telecom Company’ (what even the what?) hates this book specifically because it humanizes refugees. On their website (I won’t include it because it’s really PACKED with utter nonsense and who knows what kinds of terrible things it will do to your computer), it’s just more word salad full of 9/11 conspiracy theories, railing against the fascist forces of multiculturalism, and swastikas. EW.
UGH EW FUCK THIS PERSON. +2357204567816291635936454956345 points for this book as a big middle finger to nazis!
Another favorite that we’ve been reading for almost a year now. It. Is. Hilarious. It’s also an amazingly fun read aloud. Lots of screaming and tattling. Seriously, this book just never gets old.
Oh yeah there’s also a good lesson in there for kids who are being bullies and need to learn empathy, first day of school jitters, and so on. But really, I’m in it for the carnivorous goldfish.
Another book that we adored, made 100x better by a negative reviewer who justifies raising terrible, ableist kids who can’t follow a story simply because they don’t understand this book and can’t be bothered to read the end-notes. Apparently they don’t like the idea of a 1.5+ generation Asian melding their home culture with their heritage. (We have a lot of that in the Asian community, by the way, and this ethnic purity /birthplace supremacist culture BS is why Asian Americans can’t get their shit together to organize for AAPI rights.) Mostly wordless, with layers and hints that kids uncover with each subsequent read, it’s just funny and adorable.
R2 bears a suspicious resemblance to one of the dokkaebi (a mythical creature), which I find utterly delightful. Raised by Korean immigrants in America, the author merges her TKC (third-culture-kid) perspective to make a whole new type of story. It’s utterly adorable.
Books that gave us hope:
First, a little background knowledge – since we struggled for money and my mom came home from work as late as 11pm some nights, we just didn’t have time or money to make home-cooked dinners. I learned to cook my own dinner at age 5, and ate ramen at once a day (sometimes several times) for the next 20 years. My mom was overworked, exhausted, had undiagnosed ADHD, so sometimes she’d forget to feed me. Those little squares saved me, and were often the only hot food I got each day.
It’s fair to say that the invention of ramen had a huge impact on my life. I know it’s not super healthy – but when you don’t eat breakfast for 15+ years, but still manage to get enough calories to hold it together in school, to have the comfort of a hot meal – that makes a difference. It’s not really something I thought of, but Ramen has always been a comfort. Even when I was sleeping in my car, I could still afford 10 cents for a brick of noodles. I knew at least I wouldn’t stave. I could always break off a hard chunk of uncooked noodles, and those would get me by.
SO…learning about the history of how instant ramen was invented all pulled that together for me. If you like books about tenacity, folks working tirelessly over YEARS to create something, this is your book. If you want more Asian heroes of history, this is your book. If you want to teach your kids how to really see a problem and create a solution around the needs of folks you’re trying to help, rather than coming up with a fun thing you wanna do and trying to savior some folks (re: safety pins!), this is your book.