WOODS, Brenda. The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond. 222p. Penguin. Jan. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25714-8. LC 2013024241.

Ages 8-12—When biracial preteen Violet bemoans her “predictable summer of boring nothing,” she does not anticipate a summer of revealed family secrets and new beginnings. Bright and energetic, Violet adores her family: doctor mom, teenage sister, and hippie grandparents, but never feels like she belongs. Her family is white and she is biracial; her African American father died in a car crash before she was born and she never met his family. Mom tries to understand, but soon recognizes Violet’s path to self-identity is through her estranged paternal grandmother, a famous African American artist. After a rocky first meeting, Violet spends a week with her Bibi (Swahili for grandmother) in Los Angeles, meets cousins who challenge and embrace her, and in discovering her black identity, blooms. A realistic and uplifting portrayal of a classic theme, Woods skillfully executes frank discussions of race and racism that promote further dialogue.

Violet is a likeable and introspective protagonist whose poignant reflections encourage empathy and understanding. An important book especially for children of mixed race heritage, but all may enjoy Violet’s journey and the celebration of diverse families.


#FridayReads Review: ONE COOL FRIEND

BUZZEO, Toni. One Cool Friend. Illus. by David Small. 32p. Penguin/Dial. 2012. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3413-5. LC 0803734131

PreS-Gr 3—An inseparable friendship emerges from a misunderstanding in this delightful 2013 Caldecott Honor winner. Elliot is a proper boy who wears tuxedos and dislikes “masses of noisy kids.” When his father suggests a visit to the aquarium for Family Fun Day, Elliot politely accepts. Avoiding other children, he discovers birds with coats resembling tuxedos and perfect posture like him—penguins. He asks his father for one and his father agrees, believing Elliot means the stuffed penguins, which are on sale. So begins what appears to be a hilarious misunderstanding between father and son and a beautiful friendship between Elliot and the penguin, Magellan. Elliot takes great care of Magellan, researching penguins at the library and adjusting his room to Magellan’s climate. Buzzeo’s selective text creates sly misdirection. An observant reader may catch on, as David Small’s expressive watercolor and ink illustrations offer visual clues. Line and perspective integrate seamlessly with the comedic text while colors direct, or misdirect, reader eyes. Suitable for ages 4-8 and best read with others for maximum enjoyment of the clever ending. Can also be used to teach older readers narrative devices.