Disclosure: Thank you to the Multicultural Children’s Book Day team for providing me with a copy of First Generation for this review. This post contains affiliate links; learn more here.
My children and I are thrilled to again participate in Multicultural Children’s Book Day, a celebration of the diversity of kids’ literature. We were asked to review First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, and truly there could not have been a more perfect book to send to us.
My nine-year-old daughter has been carrying First Generation around the house for weeks now, reading the stories aloud to the rest of family during mealtime and before bed. She brought it to school to show her friends, yet she’s been unwilling to share the book with her brother, which caused a bit of tension. He discovered a work around, though: stealing it from her room while she was in the shower!
First Generation is middle reader book the features the stories of 36 immigrants and refugees from 27 countries, including Afghanistan, Barbados, Belarus, Czech Republic, Cuba, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, China, Croatia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, Germany, India, Ireland, Iran, Japan, Korea, Mexico, The Netherlands, The Philippines, Poland, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Scotland, and Turkey. Each person featured in the book has made an impact on the world in which we live, and First Generation does an excellent job explaining his or her hardships, triumphs, and motivations. There’s also a nice highlighting of the people who helped them along the way, reminding the reader of the importance of community and connection.
As a parent, I appreciated the array of people featured in First Generation. They are scientists, architects, and politicians, as well as chefs, entertainers, and inventors. The range of stories—both people who voluntarily immigrated to the US and those who were forced to do so because of turmoil at home—is an important examination of the myriad of reasons people leave their homelands for a new life elsewhere.
I was especially pleased to have First Generation to read with my children now, in this political climate where refugees and immigrants face criticism and distrust. This book counteracts that negativity by demonstrating the important contributions immigrants and refugees have brought to this country, and the many ways the rest of us have benefited from having a diverse and welcoming society. While reading First Generation, my kids and I had a number of conversations about immigration, community, and tolerance, and I’m grateful for the book’s role in kicking off the dialogue.
The story about Albert Einstein is my daughter’s favorite. She also highlighted the colorful illustrations as another thing she loves about First Generation (each story features a full page illustration, paired with a one-page biography). When I asked her for a ranking of the book, she very quickly gave First Generation five out of five stars (and I agree).
This is a book to look for in your local library and bookstore. It would make a great gift for a child’s birthday and is well suited for kids (like my own) intrigued by the biographies of people both famous and new to them.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (today!) is in its sixth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. MCDB’s 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.
Recommendation: First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great is an excellent book to foster a conversation with your kids about the many ways people contribute to our country, and the reasons someone might be a refugee or immigrant.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars