This is a proof from my latest Neon Tiki Tribe Book. The artwork is by Jeremy Selzer and the book was co-written by me and Joe Lorenzano about a year ago. But because of the work that goes into producing a children’s book, and the order in which the books are being published, it is just now getting finished. I get excited every time we publish a new book; however, this one holds a special place in my heart. I’ll tell you why.
I am one class away from being finished with a Master’s Degree in English Education, and one of the ideas that I have gained from my studies is that children learn from literature more effectively when they find themselves reflected in the story. Seems like a pretty common sense idea, right? Well, it’s backed up by lots of research too. We have a goal at The Neon Tiki Tribe for our stories and the lessons they teach to be accessible to all children, and so we really try to focus on having a diverse cast of characters in our books. While writing this particular script, it occurred to me that I didn’t recall seeing many, if any, storybooks with mixed race children in them. I am a white woman with white children and a plethora of choices of storybooks that reflect my kids. Maybe I didn’t notice because I just wasn’t looking. Okay, that’s possible. So, I called a friend with mixed race children, I called a couple more, and then I did some research. This is a very poorly covered area in children’s literature, especially considering that the 2010 US Census showed that 9 million people in America identified as multi racial. That’s a lot of people and we need to do a better job for them.
I brought the idea to the rest of the Tribe that I wanted our main character in this book, “Strangers: A Ku Kidnapping,” to be a multi racial child. “Yes! Absolutely!” was the resounding answer I received. I felt so good about that, like I’m doing something really great for my friends’ children and so many others too.
Then, the Cheerios commercial came out. I couldn’t believe it! This was a controversy? An adorable little girl caring about her daddy causes controversy? That is so messed up! But, a good thing also happened. People rose up in support of the little girl en masse. People were rightfully angry that anybody should think it in any way justifiable to speak out against a multi racial child’s right to exist openly, publicly, peacefully, and without hatred. I loved that! It’s a beautiful and hope filled tribute to the love and acceptance that exists in so many hearts.
It also told me that the Neon Tiki Tribe is in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.