lovely Mia Wenjen (a.k.a. Pragmatic Mom) asked me to join in and feature a multicultural children's book today. So I did. Here's Mia's motivation behind Multicultural Children's Book Day, with some statistics, too. It's important stuff for all of us to consider.
I'll be honest: I agonized over picking the right book... I started by looking at picture books, because those are most likely to show their multiculturalness (is that a word?) on the cover. And there are lovely ones at my local library; we're fortunate that way. But then I felt out of my depth in the picture book department, so I went back to middle-grade, and looked at our bookshelf.
And one book jumped out at me: Vanished by Sheela Chari. It's a few years old, and originally made it on my radar because it was nominated for an Edgar Award in the Best Juvenile category. This book is one of our favorites here at Casa Bradley, and I hope you'll consider it for your kids, school or library. The author does an outstanding job blending mystery and Indian culture, with top-notch middle-grade appeal.
Eleven-year-old Neela dreams of being a famous musician, performing for admiring crowds on her traditional Indian stringed instrument. Her particular instrument was a gift from her grandmother-intricately carved with a mysterious-looking dragon.
When this special family heirloom vanishes from a local church, strange clues surface: a tea kettle ornamented with a familiar pointy-faced dragon, a threatening note, a connection to a famous dead musician, and even a legendary curse. The clues point all the way to India, where it seems that Neela's instrument has a long history of vanishing and reappearing. Even if Neela does track it down, will she be able to stop it from disappearing again?
This story felt like a classic middle-grade: the coming of age story, the unique cultural insight, and a mystery to keep the story moving. The author added some notes in the back of the book about the veena and her research--great extra material that I think should put this book with the classics in MG.
I'll add that I think this might be one of my all-time favorite covers...
How about you? Do you have a favorite multicultural children's book to share?