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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Five-year-old Ella is confused about who she is. She doesn’t think she looks very much like her mother, who is African American, or her father, who is Mexican American. On her first day of kindergarten, she tells her new teacher, Mrs. Chang, that she thinks she’s very pretty. Mrs. Chang is Chinese American. Ella asks if she can be Chinese, too. Ella has also noticed that she doesn’t look like anyone else in her class. Ella is sad, because she thinks her differences make her an outcast. She doesn’t feel like she belongs and she doesn’t like that feeling. Mrs. Chang suggests Ella ask her parents about her ethnicity. It’s a big word for a little girl, but she has a big story to learn: her family story. And it’s a story that will make her pleased to be Ella, a little girl with an African American mother and a Mexican American father. She is herself. She is unique.
All children need to know that they belong. They need to understand and appreciate their roots. Looks don’t define a person. These are all important lessons to learn and La'Shaun Garcia’s charming picture book story, Ella: Who Am I?, is just the book to help young readers learn, not just about that big word, ethnicity, but what it means to have so many unique qualities and attributes which define their heritage, their family background. The illustrations are beautiful and the language is simple, except for that one word that even Ella finds difficult to pronounce: ethnicity. But all children love the challenge of a new word, even a difficult one. And all children want to know and understand who they are. This is a real treasure of a book.