Book Review: Tan to Tamarind

Tan to Tamarind: Poems about the color brown
Written by: Malathi Michelle Iyengar
Illustrated by: Jamel Akib
Publisher:  Children’s Book Press
Pub Date: January 2009
32 pages

When I first read this book, I knew this would be the perfect book to kick-start National Poetry Month. Tan to Tamarind is a celebration of brown skin in shades from tan to tamarind, ocher to beige. There’s a small afterword by the author, where she explains why she wrote this book,

When I was a little girl in North Carolina, I hated waiting for the school bus. Every day at the bus stop a group of older kids would call me names and make fun of my brown skin, saying brown was a dirty, ugly color. I longed to trade in my brown complexion for peachy-pink. . . As I got older, though, I began discovering lots of wonderful stories and poems about the color brown, written by and about proud brown people. When I read their words, I didn’t feel ugly or dirty anymore. . .”

I read this book to my children who felt the poetry was easy to read and listen to. The book features so many shades of brown and also people and words from a few different cultures to illustrate that brown is everywhere. Each poem is just a few stanzas long, perfect for kids with short attention spans and aren’t used to poetry. The illustrations by Akib features masala tea, adobe buildings, fall leaves, and more. The illustrations complimented the author’s message of beauty.

I found this book at my library and I’m grateful that my librarian ordered it. Tan to Tamarind is a book that has a place in my personal library. It’s worth buying. I’m also going to look out for more books by the publisher, Children’s Book Press.

From Tan to Tamarind:

Tan

Brown.
Milk-tea brown.
Spicy-sweet masala tea brown.

Tea leaves and cardamom,
ginger and clove.

Amma steeps them in hot-hot water,
adds lots of cream and sugar.

Sweet, milky brown.
Delicate, fragrant brown.

My milk-tea brown hands
hold a cup of spicy tan masala tea,
to sip on a golden-brown summer afternoon.

Other reviews:
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11 thoughts on “Book Review: Tan to Tamarind

  1. Oh, what a beautiful book! My class is filled with beautiful children, of all beautiful colors, and I feel so enriched by them. But, I’d love to read this aloud both for Poetry month and for their own edification. Lovely, thanks for sharing!

  2. This reminds be of a poem about the shades of brown I read back in college but I cannot remember the title or the author!
    I like how this poem is subtly empowering. Good stuff!

  3. I’m looking for this. Recently, my daughter complained about me donating one of her childhood favorites, Bright Eyes, Brown Skin by Cheryl Willis Hudson. I didn’t know the book meant so much to her. My daughter grew up with lots of books with brown people. I didn’t realize till now that having these books meant something to her. I’m glad they did. I’m ordered her a new copy for her 25th birthday (4/4)

    When I find this one, I’m going to send her a copy, too.

    Thanks, V.

  4. This sounds like a great book of poetry. We’ll have to see if our library has a copy. :) Thanks for participating in the POC mini-challenge.

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