Written by Taye Diggs; illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Feiwel and Friends, 2015, Grades 2-5
This story is about a young boy named Mike who is mixed. His mother is white and his father is black, and he is often judged because of this fact. His friends call him Mixed-up Mike because they have noticed that his parents “don’t match” (Diggs 11), and they are confused. They point out his differences, making fun of his hair, as it is a “zigzag curly ‘do” (4), but Mike pays no attention to their words. He is confident in himself. He likes himself just the way he is, and he is proud of his identity. Through the course of the story, he expresses the belief that race doesn’t matter, encouraging readers to be more open-minded and accepting of others, as he has so expertly demonstrated.
The author writes this story in a very unique way. The book begins with the phrase, “Hey, now!” (1), indicating that the speaker, Mike, is going to present an argument to his readers. This is proven to be the case, as he goes on to refute the judgements that so many people have placed on him as a mixed child. Additionally, the author uses informal diction or “slang,” and multiple instances of rhyme in the text to increase the pleasure that readers feel when reading it. He has presented a serious topic in an enjoyable format, ensuring that readers have fun reading the book.
The illustrations add a level of complexity to the text of the story. For starters, the illustrations are done in a manner that highlights the mixing of colors, depicting this in a positive light, as Mike is seen wearing a cape of many colors, carrying a multicolored skateboard, and wearing shoes of different colors. In addition to this, in the backgrounds of many of the pictures, readers are able to see pictures of the family demonstrating their love for one another, indicating that regardless of a difference in race, they are full of love for one another. The pictures are able to show that in reality, love transcends the racial boundaries that society so often places on people. Furthermore, the word “mix” and many of its derivatives, such as “blended,” “fused,” “united,” and “merged” (17-18), are incorporated into the illustrations to emphasize the story’s theme of acceptance and inclusion.
Upon reading this book, I immediately loved it. It explores the topic of race, a subject that is generally regarded to be “heavy,” in a way that children can understand and relate to. The author encourages readers to rid themselves of their judgements, and instead, be more accepting of others and the things in which they do not understand. At the same time, he encourages mixed children, and children who are deemed “different,” to take pride in who they are. For these reasons, I would absolutely recommend that elementary school teachers use this book in their classrooms.
Reviewed by Taylor Newcomb