Two Exceptional Diverse Books for Kids for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020!

I’m excited to be a Co-host of Multicultural Children’s Book Day this year!

As much as I’m looking forward to participating in the upcoming Twitter event, I’m delighted to have been gifted two diverse books for review. For MCBD2020. I was lucky enough to be gifted Sumo Joe by Mia Wenjen and The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane by Nikki Shannon Smith for review. Enjoy!

Sumo Joe by Mia Wenjen

This picture book is a great example of how a simple story can achieve so much.  A brother’s love of sumo wrestling with his friends is put to the test when his sister wants to join in their “boys only” game.

On Saturday mornings, Sumo Joe is a gentle big brother to his little sister. But on Saturday afternoons, he and his friends are sumo wrestlers! They tie on makeshift mawashi belts, practice drills like teppo, and compete in their homemade dohyo ring. They even observe sumo’s ultimate rule: no girls allowed! But when Sumo Joe’s little sister wants to join in the fun, Sumo Joe is torn between the two things he’s best at: sumo, and being a big brother.

Fists, feet, and martial art forms collide in this sweet yet spirited rhyming story by author Mia Wenjen and illustrator Nat Iwata.

What I Loved: Exposing Children to New Cultures

This story is unapologetically and explicitly shares an aspect of Japanese culture — sumo wrestling– with a young audience. The way that Wenjen weaves Japanese words into the story makes the reader interested in sumo wrestling and aware of key vocabulary for participating in and talking about sumo.

Such exposure to the Japanese language goes far in teaching young children that there are other languages spoken besides English and demystifies the anxiety that some people feel when they see a new word, especially from a different language.

Through fun illustrations, the reader experiences Sumo Joe’s love of sumo, and how much fun he has recreating the sumo wrestling experience with his friends. 

Wenjen brilliantly made the decision to include girls, and girl power, in this story when Sumo Joe’s sister decides to join in. 

Sumo Joe goes a long way to bring one aspect of Japanese culture, with its vocabulary, into the mainstream, while also normalizing the inclusion of girls and the idea that strength and sibling love are shown in different ways.

I recommend this fun read for your little ones, but be prepared for some sumo afterward!

The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane by Nikki Shannon Smith

This easy reader chapter book about a third-grader living in Washington, D.C. is filled with so much information and important life lessons.

Azaleah is the middle child and has to contend with her older and younger sisters. While she loves to learn and only wants to spend her time working on her extra credit science diorama, Azaleah prioritizes helping her younger sister solve the mystery behind how a favorite stuffed animal disappeared.

What I Loved: Relatability

As a diverse author, I really appreciate the nuances of African American pride in the book. The celebration of natural hair in the illustrations, as well as the references to the older sister’s afro, is something I don’t see nearly enough in children’s books.

As a parent, I love how the book goes far beyond the story to teach life skills such as making lists, time management, and steps for looking for something lost. Azaleah’s love for science combined with her keen observation and logical reasoning skills make this mystery a learning experience that kids will enjoy. 

About Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th 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.  

Seven 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.

MCBD2020  is honored to partner with the following Medallion Sponsors

Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,


Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,


Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,


 Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,


Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers BooksTimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books,  Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales


MCBD2020  is honored to partner with the following Author Sponsors

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture Groove,  Lauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

TWITTER PARTY! Register here!

 MCBD2020 Twitter Party

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

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  1. Thank you for taking time to review Sumo Joe and share it with Multicultural Children’s Book Day. I so appreciate your insight and kind words regarding my debut picture book. Thank you so very much!

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