I guess these numbers are similar if not worse here in Germany and I am convinced that also in Germany we need to talk more about multicultural children literature. So this year, I’m very honoured to be a part of the MCBD (taking place on 27th of January 2017) and to write a review about one multicultural children book in particular: “The Magic Poof“ by Stephen Hodges, illustrated by T. Kyle Gentry.
I am convinced that this is one more step into the right direction of a more diverse representation of all cultural groups, in particular for the smallest amongst us. So let’s jump into the brilliant (and sometimes quite “hairy”) book of Stephen Hodges, The Magic Poof!
“Ange-Marie has always felt different”, with this the story of the coloured girl with the curly, sometimes giant, sometimes tiny but always nutty brown hair ball on her head starts. The “Poof” is not only Ange-Marie’s best friend who always accompanies her, he also helps her to discover and embrace the world with his very funny and nutty nature. The Poof dances, jumps, flies, forms into different shapes… In a very adorable way he represents Ange-Marie’s uniqueness and how wonderful it is to be different and embrace this difference in all it’s shapes.
I thankfully received the hard copy of “The Magic Poof” from the author Stephen Hedges and read it to my daughter. We both absolutely loved it! Not only the drawings were very cheerful and colourful (as Ange-Marie herself!) but also the story was written in such a playful way that it was a real fun to read it aloud to my little one. “Pleeeeeeeeease”, said the Poof and “I looooooovvveee picture day!!” I totally enjoyed to stretch those words as long as I could, making my daughter laugh. Of the colourful drawings, in particularly the big eyes fascinated her. No wonder The Magic Poof was honoured excellence by the Mom’s Choice Award.
Beside the hard copy (which honestly doesn’t look too appearing as it is quite small and with thin pages) there is also an App (for Android and iPhone) that is just AMAZING!
The App is much more interactive than (who guessed…?) the book and beside the wonderful story it is also a great way to teach your kid to read. For older kids I would totally recommend this App (the App description says 4+ years but I personally believe children under 5 years shouldn’t play with electronic devices…).
The App has three sections: “Read to me”, “I can read” and “Shape”. Going on “Read to me” or “I can read” gives the option to read the first story of “The Magic Poof” or a further story of Ange-Marie and her “Poof”, called “A new friend”.
In the “Read to me” section the book is read to the kid, which is just hilarious to listen to. The voices of Robbie Daymond (The Poof, narrator and photographer) as well as the voices of Kimberly Woods (Ange-Marie) and Sunny Lu (Ling) do just sound very likeable.
In the “I can read” section, the kid reads itself. In addition (and that’s just AWESOME, I just LOVE this), each word can be touched to hear it spoken. That is just wonderful for new readers and for kids who are learning English!!! I will definitely return to this App, when my daughter is learning English at school. Another feature is the touch option. The reader can touch every object in the picture and play around with it (e.g. give a glass of milk to the Poof). There are funny sounds connected to this feature, too.
At the end, there is the “Shape” section, where your kid can take a photo and give himself a “Magic Poof”. I just love this feature! It’s fun and at the same time it can teach your kid a new reality. How would it be to have such curly hair as many coloured people have? Or if your kid has this kind of hair, it can be fun to discover other hairstyles and feel represented in the way your are. Maybe this can be also an opportunity to talk about your kid’s feelings regarding his or other kids’ differences.
Stephen Hodges graduated in Intercultural Communication and Broadcast Journalism at the Arizona State University, which shows his early interest in multicultural studies.
Stephen worked as a writer, producer and director even on large films in Hollywood (e.g. “The Matrix” and “Battleship”). Currently, Stephen is working on his own series of “The Magic Poof” that is going to be an animated series.
Multiculturalbaby: What inspired you to write about multicultural/multiracial topics?
Stephen Hodges: I myself have always felt different. I’m not a particularly large person, and as a little kid, I was much more into reading scifi books than I was sports. Geeky, small and shy would probably best sum up my grade school years. It was during this time that I really related to books, TV and Movies about people who are special, specifically because they are different. This carried on through college and led to studying abroad as well as a degree in Intercultural Communication. Multicultural / multiracial topics are a natural extension of who I really feel I am as a person… someone who is interested in the differences we all have that make us unique.
Multiculturalbaby: How does your own family look like? Or: Do you face multiculturality in your own family?
Stephen Hodges: On the outside, my family may not look multicultural, however, we are an incredible mix of different backgrounds. My paternal grandmother is from Mexico, so every Christmas we celebrate with Tamales, not Ham. I have cultural roots in many places, throughout Western and Eastern Europe including Serbia and Croatia. I was also very fortunate to be in a wonderful relationship with an African-American Woman for nine years. Though her and her family, I learned so many things. Learning about the struggles of people of color in the United States was an incredible eye opener that also allowed me to tie in my own experiences of feeling different with characters that everyone can relate to.
Multiculturalbaby: What was your favourite book as a child?
Stephen Hodges: I had so many. I loved the Ramona and Beezus series by Beverly Cleary. The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings series. I think my absolute favorite was the Hobbit.
Multiculturalbaby: Could you tell me a bit about the series you are working on?
Stephen Hodges: I am currently working on creating “The Magic Poof” animated series. My characters were never meant to be limited to just a few books. I want to create an entire world for them to live in, where The Poof takes kids on adventures and teaches them good values along the way. In the series, the Poof is unlimited in where he can take Ange-Marie and her friends, and his nutty nature certainly leads to some “hairy” situations. I’m also in development on a second animated series based on an idea from my illustrator, Kyle Gentry, as well as comedy and drama projects.
Multiculturalbaby: Among others, you worked in Hollywood on “The Matrix” and “Battleship”. What did you do? How was working in Hollywood?
Stephen Hodges: On both of those films, I worked on the technical side as a video engineer. A lot of running around on set setting up cameras and providing a link to the director for the rest of the video crew. I’m also a creative producer and have worked on documentaries, music videos, independent films, and commercials. Hollywood is always an interesting experience… you learn a lot and get to work with creative people everyday. Now my dream has moved from helping others with their stories to creating my own.
Thank you, Stephen, for your time and the amazing work you’re doing, to make this world more diverse and multicultural for children, parents and educators!
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.
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.