Mama and Papa Have a Store: MCBD Review

Happy Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCBD)! January 27 has been designated as a day to celebrate and be aware of books by and about a diversity of people. It is so important for kids to see themselves in books and to see the diversity of the world we live in. I am grateful that authoring My Amazing Day has gotten me involved with this event, now in its fourth year.

This year, I volunteered to be a reviewer. I thank Lee & Low Books—for being such a longtime leader in publishing diverse children’s books, for being a sponsor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, AND for sending me a review copy of Mama and Papa Have a Store, a Pura Belpré Honor Book published in 1998 and written and illustrated by Amelia Lau Carling.

cover image from Mama and Papa Have a Store by Amelia Lau Carling, Lee & Low Books

cover image from Mama and Papa Have a Store by Amelia Lau Carling, Lee & Low Books

Based on the author/illustrator’s own childhood, Mama and Papa Have a Store recounts a day in the life of a girl whose family has immigrated from China to Guatemala. Too young to go to school with her brothers and sisters, she spends the day in and around her parents’ store in Guatemala City, observing what is going on and engaging in a variety of activities connected to her Chinese family background and Guatemalan home. During the story’s day a Mayan family, that has traveled from their village in the volcanic mountains, visits the store to choose colorful threads for weaving clothing.

The language in the book is beautiful—rich in images, sound words, and soothing rhythms. I was particularly taken with the descriptions of the thread colors the Mayan family requests, such as: “[p]arrot green, sky blue, pomegranate red, fire orange, loud magenta, and mango yellow—those are the colors from the rain forest that we want.”

Carling celebrates language not only with her lyrically written English, but also by including descriptions of the meanings of family members’ Chinese names, a smattering of Spanish, and the notion that the Mayan family speaks another language. Children will enjoy exploring the many details in the watercolor and gouache-rendered illustrations, while listening to the lovely rhythmic language. This is a book for a thoughtful time.

spread from Mama and Papa Have a Store by Amelia Lau Carling, Lee & Low Books

spread from Mama and Papa Have a Store by Amelia Lau Carling, Lee & Low Books

So often in the United States we present diversity in terms of our own country. Mama and Papa Have a Store expands that notion for American children (including immigrant children) by showing diversity and immigration in a setting outside the United States. While the geographic setting is in a country that will be unfamiliar to many children, the ideas of a store and events in a child’s day are very familiar and easy for kids to connect with.

When you read Mama and Papa Have a Store consider having your young readers find China, Guatemala, and their own country on a globe or map to get a sense of the scope of the world, and how far the protagonist’s family went. Here is a link to a world map with the Pacific Ocean in the middle allowing you to see the distance between China and Guatemala in a more meaningful way than on maps we typically see in the U.S., which have Asia and the Americas separated by a page break.

Mama and Papa Have a Store includes several references to the protagonist’s parents longingly keeping their connections to China. We learn in an introductory comment that the author/illustrator’s mother never was able to return to China, and her father returned once, late in his life. Reading this book provides an opportunity to talk about family members and ancestors who were immigrants. How far did they travel? Do you know if they made any trips back? What, if anything, did they bring with them from their countries of origin?

One of the many benefits of diverse books is that there is so much to discover and discuss. May this year’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day lead you to many diverse books and great discoveries and discussions for this day and every day!


From the Multicultural Children’s Book Day team:

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsors include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawMaria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

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 work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site:

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents:

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

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6 Responses to Mama and Papa Have a Store: MCBD Review

  1. Thank so much for your wonderful review! I have always loved this book! Thank you for your support of MCBD too!

  2. Lovely review. This book is on my list to read! I love the theme and the illustrations. Glad to see you part of MCBD.

  3. Yael Golton says:

    Very nice review.
    Would be nice to know for what age group?

    • Thank you, Yael!

      The publisher’s website says Interest Level: K-6; Reading Level: 3-4. I concur. I think children on the younger end of that age range would enjoy listening to the beautiful language while exploring the detailed pictures. Older kids might be more actively researching a culture or immigrant experience while reading it, but I think they would enjoy the language and illustrations as well.

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