I have an aversion to these Hallmark holidays at the best of times, but as I look at this year’s crop of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day books, what’s really got me down is seeing how few of them celebrate families of color. Of the 31 books in our Mother’s Day/Father’s Day roundup in this issue, just three—three!—feature protagonists that children of color might readily see as mirrors.
Catch a Kiss, by Deborah Diesen and illustrated by Kris Aro McLeod, depicts a brown-skinned mother-daughter pair playing in the backyard. There’s nothing that specifically indicates their ethnicity, but it’s easy to see this book filling a void in many Latino households, for instance—and given that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that almost 25 percent of Americans under 18 are Hispanic as of 2014, that’s an awful lot of Latina mothers who might be happy to find this book. Similarly, Before We Met, by Laura Krauss Melmed and illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong, depicts an expectant mother whose identity is not specified but looks as though she could be Asian; with 3.3 million Asian-Americans under 18, here’s one 2016 book that might reflect many of their families.
In the Father’s Day department, Thunder Boy Jr., by Sherman Alexie and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, offers an explicit depiction of a loving Native American boy and his dad. Although American Indians and Alaskan Natives make up a much smaller percentage of the American population than just about any other demographic, with over 1.5 million children under 18 as of 2014, it sure is nice that there’s one book that specifically celebrates them.
And the 28 other books in the roundup? Fifteen depict nonhuman families (including dinosaurs), one depicts several children, including children of color, and 13 depict children and families who appear to be white. Americans under 18 are almost 50 percent children of color, and most of them probably have parents. They are probably buying a lot more books than the dinosaur parents are. Vicky Smith is the children’s & teen editor.