Multicultural Children’s Book Day Book Review

Multicultural Children’s Book Day Book Review

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.The book Professor Granpa Tonio reviewed for the event~

The Adventures of Joy Sun Bear: The Blue Amber of Sumatra, Co-authored by Blanca Carranza and John Lee. Illustrated by John Lee. Joy Sun Bear, Inc., 2018

Something tragic is happening in the Sumatran rain forest. Many animals–orangutans, tapirs, apes, a rhino– must flee deeper into the wilderness to escape the “human machine” that is tearing into their rainforest homes. When Joy and his older sister Ayu, both sun bears, overhear two fleeing orangutans expressing their fear, brother and sister begin to wonder about the danger that is threatening the rain forest animals. When Joy and Ayu arrive at the annual harvest day festival at the Great Big Fig Tree, they learn about the rainforest destruction. A somber mood has overtaken the festival. Keliru, the oldest orangutan and a self-appointed leader, and Papa Bear, Joy and Ayu’s father, are conducting a meeting of rainforest animals, natives to the community Keliru oversees, and refugees who abandoned the rain forest. The Great Big Fig Tree, a valuable food source, is barren, and Keliru has convinced himself that the refugees are at fault because they bear a curse. The refugees must be excluded from Keliru’s community!

Sadly, none of the animals know that a shape-shifting fox–a sly trickster and evil culprit–has worked up his dark magic to make the tree appear fruitless and to place the blame for the problem on the refugees. Immediately after Joy becomes the victim of one of the trickster’s ruses, he runs off to the Dark Forest. There, he meets up with a magical golden bird and a wise frog, both shape-shifters. The bird transforms itself into a hot air balloon that transports Joy to the devastated rain forest where he discovers a mysterious blue stone that has the power to change Joy into a spirit being protected from danger and endowed with the gift of clairvoyance because, as the bird tells him, “you have something special in you.”It is Joy’s command of the stone that eventually restores order and harmony to the animal community and rouses respect for the refugees.

Meanwhile, the frog–transformed into a powerful ancient leader–sets Joy off with the stone on a challenging mission at the story’s final moment, a perfect set up for the story’s sequel and a continuation of Joy’s adventures.

Full-color cartoonish illustrations enliven the narrative and provide the characters with a range of entertaining expressions and movements. The links to online resources for skills development—games, activities, guides– will make reading a very active and enjoyable learning process. The story encourages conversation about rain forest ecology and preservation, respect for nature, the terrible displacement of refugees, human rights, the need for community, and the joy of allowing foreigners a place to live and thrive. Ages 8-12.