By Brenda Barrera
We’ve come a long way from the days of the Bobbsey Twins, who were representative of their era that included negative stereotypes, so it’s truly refreshing to meet contemporary twins in an exciting new chapter book series featuring Astrid & Apollo, whose parents were born in Laos and came to the United States as young children.
I was gifted a book published by Capstone Publishing: ASTRID & APOLLO AND THE STARRY CAMPOUT by V.T. Bidania and Illustrated by Dara Lashia Lee. Now, this might not be a traditional sports story, but camping can often lead to activities that are sports-related like hiking, swimming, mountain biking, and the good ‘ole activity of communing with nature. The camping experience is an ideal way for kids to learn to be comfortable spending extended time in the outdoors and take on new, unfamiliar challenges.
From the get-go, even before they’re all in the car, Astrid is afraid. She is hiding in the closet, fearful of what she may encounter on their family overnight camping trip thanks to a friend (known to exaggerate) who has warned Astrid of bears, creepy things, and lots of mosquitos. But one by one, Astrid overcomes her fear of shadows, mosquitos, and dangerous animals stalking in the night. Readers who have camped or had to use an outhouse with no flushing toilet will chuckle as Astrid enters the wooden frame bathroom. Upon the excellent advice of her twin brother, she doesn’t look down but up, noticing all the skinny spiders, flies, and moths flitting about.
Both the author, V.T. Bidania, and illustrator, Dara Lashia Lee, are Hmong Americans who have teamed up to bring a welcoming voice and visual talent (anime) to children’s literature. They deftly weave qualities of Hmong life into the storyline from the food they eat to family traditions. Hmong children should be able to see themselves and their families in everyday experiences — this series certainly fills a need.
Back matter includes facts about the Hmong people, list of popular Hmong foods, glossary of terms, plus classroom activity suggestions for discussion and writing.
A delightful look a favorite pastime through the unique perspective of a young twin that will certainly inspire readers to follow Astrid and Apollo through additional adventures like ASTRID & APOLLO AND THE FISHING FLOP and ASTRID & APOLLO AND THE SOCCER CELEBRATION.
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 our Mission & History HERE.
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