Maple’s dreams of going to middle school with her best friends come crashing down when she’s held back in the fifth grade because she can’t read. Maple is Indian and Jewish (Hin-Jew as she calls herself) and constantly feels caught in between — never fully belonging on one side. On top of that, Maple gets caught in a web of lies when she tells a new fifth grader that she’s only in the class to support the new kids — and not because she’s a repeater. It doesn’t help that her friends Marigold and Aislin totally dump her because she didn’t move on to a new class with them. Can Maple find her place in the world?
In Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum, Luna and her family go out for dim sum on her birthday. When the mouthwatering meal arrives, the kids have six buns which they can share equally, but in her excitement, Luna drops one pork bun, leaving the three kids only five buns to share. As they negotiate using the Lunar calendar, common sense, and math skills, they find a surprising solution to their dilemma.
In Not Your All-American Girl, Lauren is Jewish and Chinese. It’s the 1980s and Lauren and her best friend — who’s blonde with blue eyes — do everything together. So when they don’t have any sixth-grade classes together, they’re bummed! They decide that they will audition for their school’s musical so that they can at least have that time together. Lauren’s audition goes swimmingly, and she’s obviously the better singer than Tara (even better than any of the other kids), but when the cast list is released Lauren is only part of the ensemble and Tara is cast as lead. Upon confronting the director, she explains that Lauren’s half-Jewish, half-Chinese looks don’t match the role of “all-American girl” in the “all-American town” depicted in their musical.
There are more mixed-race people in the world, than ever before and these middle-grade books with biracial protagonists highlight that fact. The characters in these stories benefit from being part of multicultural households. In most of these books, the fact that the character is biracial plays strongly into the story. They highlight how these kids handle more than one culture at home, and how they find the best of both worlds.