A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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."
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What's the story?
Eleven-year-old Violet Diamond, a smart, funny kid growing up in the Seattle suburbs, is the child of two doctors. Her mom, a neonatologist, is white, as is her older sister; she's never known her dad, who died in a car accident when she was a baby, and his family has been absent from her life. When she discovers that her dad's mother, a renowned African-American artist, is having an exhibition in Seattle, she engineers a surprise meeting. Soon she's in Los Angeles for an extended visit with her grandmother, getting acquainted with her dad's side of the family, and having new experiences, ranging from going to Disneyland to attending the Holy Trinity First Baptist Missionary Temple of Los Angeles.
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."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why some people think "race" is an issue, and others think there's only one race, the human race. What do you think? Do any of the characters here give you a different perspective?
If you had a chance to visit Seattle or Los Angeles, what places would you visit and what fun things would you do?
Do you have relatives you haven't met? Do you think it would be fun to get to know them?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love family books and African-American stories
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