At first, I was suspicious of Diversity is Key, which is written by Bryan Smith and illustrated by Lisa M. Griffin. The first-person narrative unfolds from the point-of-view of a blond girl with pale white skin named Amelia. A new student from Japan will be joining her class, and this just happens to coincide with “diversity week.” The plot is a bit contrived and the tone is a bit didactic, but overall it works.
The narrator seems to have never heard of diversity before her teacher begins discussing “diversity week.” But she quickly catches on and is receptive to the lessons her peers impart about their cultures. For instance, the new Japanese student demonstrates how school in Japan differs from school in the US. She explains that in Japan students serve lunch, eat in classrooms, and cleanup after themselves. A Mexican American student describes the importance of family to her community through a discussion of Dia De Los Muertos. The week ends with a Hawaiian celebration at a student’s home.
Importantly, learning about cultural difference prompts the narrator to reflect on and change her own behaviors. She will clean-up after herself at school and she will celebrate her deceased grandmother’s birthday by making spaghetti and meatballs.
Although it’s not a must have title, I appreciate the book. Back matter introduces activities parents and educators can use to extend the story’s lessons.
*I received a review copy of the text via NetGalley.
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