A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
All the major characters show much respect for education, intelligence, and critical-thinking skills. Young readers will pick up a smattering of French from Violet's older sister Daisy, as well as a travelogue of some of Seattle and Southern California's favorite attractions. Violet's grandmother reveals that one of her relatives was a Tuskegee Airman, which may inspire kids to find out more about that chapter in history.
Strong messages about kindness, perseverance, finding your own path, and the importance of family and friends.
Positive Role Models
Funny, studious Violet is appealing in her quest to find her unknown family; all the adult characters are loving, supportive, and successful in their chosen careers (for example, Violet and Daisy's mom is a neonatologist, and Violet's grandmother is a world-famous artist).
Violence & Scariness
Violet's father died in a car crash when she was a baby, and, although she doesn't remember him, his death profoundly affects the lives of the whole family.
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Products & Purchases
Violet goes to Taco Bell, Disneyland, and Pike Place Market, among other destinations. The adults in her life love music, including Jimi Hendrix and Nina Simone. She and her grandmother watch the Cooking Channel.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that in Brenda Woods' follow-up to Saint Louis Armstrong Beach, she tells the story of 11-year-old Violet Diamond, who has a pretty great life in the Seattle suburbs with her mom (a doctor), her older sister, and her grandparents. But Violet's dad, who died in a car accident when she was a baby, was black, and his family has been absent from her life, leaving her to feel "like a brown leaf on a pile of white snow." Sometimes she makes unwise decisions, as when she and her friend try to achieve her blond relatives' "sun-kissed" hair and turn her locks bright orange. As Violet connects with her long-lost paternal grandmother and her father's side of the family in Los Angeles, she gets a different perspective on the issue of skin color, as well as learning long-buried secrets, and arrives at the conclusion, "I still feel like me...only more."
Is It Any Good?
THE BLOSSOMING UNIVERSE OF VIOLET DIAMOND offers appealing characters and an interesting exploration of quests for self-discovery. Some plot devices seem a bit too convenient (for example, Violet's long-estranged grandmother suddenly has a change of heart), but Violet's narrative voice is hard to resist, and author Brenda Hughes describes the sights and sounds of Southern California with the affectionate knowledge of a true local. The book's predominant message is one of love, friendship, and family ties, but along the way it delves into some subjects that may spark some discussion, from religion and prayer to the whole issue of "race" and what definition of yourself you're willing to settle for.
"Human race comes in many colors. This word 'biracial' is silly talk," says the Greek grandmother of Violet's BFF. But Violet's black grandmother says, "In a perfect world, we are all flesh and blood, the same species, one race, the human race. But this isn't a perfect world and most people insist on holding on to the many-race concept. ... [I]n the eyes of most, even though you have a white mother, you are considered to be black."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.