Do you speak more than one language? Or maybe you just think you do, because you can read the menu at your local Mexican restaurant? The reality for many kids nowadays is that they come from a rich multicultural lineage, with parents from diverse ethnicities, cultures or countries, and several languages being spoken within the home. Luckily, the books currently being published are beginning to reflect this ever-stewing melting pot.
One book that seeks to serve as representation for kids whose parents and grandparents come from completely different continents is “Accordionly” by Michael Genhart, illustrated by Priscilla Burris. Utilizing music and the unique musical instrument of the accordion, one child’s pair of grandfathers find a clever way to break the language barrier when they happen to visit their grandchild at the same time.
Abuelo comes from Latin America and speaks Spanish. Opa comes from Europe and speaks German. When Abuelo and Abuela visit, Abuela always prepares delicious “tamales” to eat. When Opa and Oma visit, Oma prepares a honey gingerbread treat called “lebkuchen” to have with hot chocolate. Each grandpa has quite a reputation for being an accomplished musician in their own right, and both coincidentally happen to play the same instrument: the accordion. Abuelo plays accordion in a “mariachi” band, and “hoots and hollers louder than the rest.” Opa plays accordion in a “polka” band, and “he belts out a yodel that makes the windows shake.”
When both sets of grandparents visit their grandchild at the same time, the grandmothers seem to find a way to communicate with each other. But the grandfathers pass each day in awkward silence. Until one day, the child asks both grandpas to take out their accordions. They each play a song in their own language, then suddenly, they are playing together! And laughing! And music fills the awkward silence, and brings all the relatives together.
It’s a cute story of togetherness that many kids whose parents come from diverse cultures would enjoy. The pictures are cartoonish and appealing to younger eyes, mainly preschool age. In our family, we read the book to our 4-year-old and our 7-year-old. The 4-year-old was somewhat entertained, but the 7-year-old did not seem as interested.
Some of the kids' interest might have been lost due to the use of foreign words and phrases in the book. They didn’t understand the lyrics to the songs, or the names of some of the foods, or the phrases that were said in a foreign language. And when our kids asked questions to clarify, the book offered no translation or explanation for the adults to help explain. It would have been helpful to have explanations of the foreign terms, either within the text of the book, or in a glossary at the end. We had to independently look up words afterwards, and we still weren’t sure what language was even being spoken, or what countries specifically they came from. This broke up the cadence of the book a bit, and possibly caused the loss of the children’s interest.
Overall, though, we were generally entertained by the book and its pictures, even though we could not fully connect to or understand the cultures that were represented. However, if your family is of either Mexican or Western/Central European (Germanic) descent, you may find more connection to the book. Our family is of mixed European-American and Hispanic (Ecuadorian/Indigenous South American) descent, so we did find a way to relate to at least one part of the book, which was when the Abuela in the book was making “tamales” and “arroz” (rice), foods that are staples in many Latinx families.
It is nice to see multicultural families represented in diverse kids' books, so we are glad to have read this story, which allowed us to learn about other cultures while being entertained throughout the book.
If you choose to read this book with kids, it would be helpful to have some key terminology explained beforehand, preferably on a whiteboard (even with some photos or illustrations of each term), so kids can reference it when they encounter the new words in the book.
Some terms that could be explained beforehand are:
Abuelo/Opa = Grandpa
Abuela/Oma = Grandma
Ranchera music = traditional music of Mexico
Fiesta = party
Tamales = steamed corn patties typical in Latin America
Arroz = rice
Polka = traditional folk music of Europe
Yodel = a traditional singing style of Europe
Lebkuchen = honey gingerbread cakes typical in Europe
It would also be helpful to have several discussion questions for an extension activity. Here are some examples to use as an extension activity for afterwards:
How does the child feel when his grandparents come to visit? Have you ever had grandparents visit you, or have you gone to visit them? How did you feel, and what did you do together?
Why can’t the grandfathers talk to one another? Have you ever been in a situation where people couldn’t speak the same language? What happened?
What are some examples of food that the child’s grandmothers make? Are there any special foods that your family makes, to celebrate your culture(s)?
There is also a free printable Activity Kit for this book, which includes more discussion questions, details about the instrument of the accordion, and coloring pages, available HERE.
This book was gifted to us as part of an annual celebration of children’s literature known as Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Here is more information on the event, from the organizers:
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021 (1/29/21) is in its 8th year. This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators.
Eight years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues. Read about the Mission & History HERE.
Bronze Sponsors: Agatha Rodi and AMELIE is IMPRESSED, Barnes Brothers Books, Create and Educate Solutions, LLC, Dreambuilt Books, Dyesha and Triesha McCants/McCants Squared, Redfin Real Estate, Snowflake Stories, Star Bright Books, TimTimTom Bilingual Personalized Books, Author Vivian Kirkfield, Wisdom Tales Press, My Well Read Child
Poster Artist: Nat Iwata
Authors: Author Afsaneh Moradian, Author Alva Sachs & Three Wishes Publishing Company, Author Angeliki Stamatopoulou-Pedersen, Author Anna Olswanger, Author Casey Bell , Author Claudine Norden, Author Debbie Dadey, Author Diana Huang & Intrepids, Author Eugenia Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Green Kids Club, Author Gwen Jackson, Author Janet Balletta, Author Josh Funk, Author Julia Inserro, Karter Johnson & Popcorn and Books, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, Author Keila Dawson, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture Groove, Author Mia Wenjen, Michael Genhart, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Natalie Murray, Natalie McDonald-Perkins, Author Natasha Yim, Author Phe Lang and Me On The Page Publishing, Sandra Elaine Scott, Author Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher, Tales of the Five Enchanted Mermaids, Author Theresa Mackiewicz, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Author Toshia Stelivan, Valerie Williams-Sanchez & The Cocoa Kids Collection Books©, Author Vanessa Womack, MBA, Author Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series
Join in on the event Friday, Jan 29, 2021, at 9 pm EST for the 8th annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day Twitter Party.
This epically fun and fast-paced hour includes multicultural book discussions, addressing timely issues, diverse book recommendations, & reading ideas.
An 8-Book Bundle will be given away every 5 minutes plus Bonus Prizes as well. US and Global participants welcome.
Follow the hashtag #ReadYourWorld to join the conversation, connect with like-minded parents, authors, publishers, educators, organizations, and librarians.
Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect on social media and be sure and look for/use the official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.