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black is brown is tan

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  450 Ratings  ·  188 Reviews
Brown-skinned momma, the color of chocolate milk and coffee pumpkin pie, whose face gets ginger red when she puffs and yells the children into bed. White-skinned daddy, not white like milk or snow, lighter than brown, With pinks and tiny tans, whose face gets tomato red when he puffs and yells their children into bed. Children who are all the colors of the race, growing up ...more
Paperback, 31 pages
Published 1973 by HarperCollins
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Errin Tucker
Apr 12, 2012 Errin Tucker rated it liked it
I gave this book 3 stars because I had some difficulty understanding the book in the beginning. It is considered to be in the genre of poetry. It wasn't until the end that I understood what the book was really about. This book is written for ages I and above.

The story was about a family where the mom is African American and the dad is Caucasian, therefore the children are bi-racial. It goes into more detail by showing the grandparents and showing how diverse the family truly is.

Overall the them
Abbery Milhouse-cunningham
Oct 22, 2013 Abbery Milhouse-cunningham rated it really liked it
Shelves: race-textset
This beautiful book depicts a multiracial family through poetry. The main characters are an African American mom, White father, and two mixed children. Throughout the book, they are seen doing typical family-oriented activities (ex.combing hair, kissing and hugging parents good-bye, sitting around the kitchen table). This story reiterates the idea that race is just a color and not a person. Meaning, we should see pass color. As a literacy teacher, I could use this story in various ways. For exam ...more
Renae Williams
This book features an interacial couple with two beautiful children. It is a great family book and it shows that families come in all colors. It also proves that children are a blend of both of their parents taking on their unique features. This would be great to read to biracial children who are struggling to find their identity.
Tori Alexander
Genre: poetry

Black is Brown is Tan is a poetic narrative about a nurturing interracial couple raising their two children. Although the theme of the storybook focuses on race, it touches on the concept of family. This storybook is an interesting read for children because it gives an inside look into a family that is loving regardless of its family orientation. Its poetic verses and style are appropriate for grade school children because of its easy-to-read language. The storybook includes realist
Tahya Bruce
Oct 24, 2016 Tahya Bruce rated it really liked it
Honestly, this book was a little hard to understand until about halfway. About halfway through the book you could really catch what it was trying to say and the meaning behind it. I would not recommend this to lower elementary kids. I would recommend this more for upper elementary and even higher ages. This book really demonstrates how just because some of us have different skin tones, we are all completely equal. I think this book falls more under the category of poetry.
Kim Bennett
Oct 19, 2016 Kim Bennett rated it liked it
Shelves: ece-3600
While the storyline of a biracial family is a great aspect to offer to children I will admit the book level can be difficult. The book is a story poem. Many of your lower level grades will struggle so I do suggested using this book for older children. The story offers students a lot to think about, question, or consider, such as having a mixed family. Many students can question the issues that biracial families race in society that others do not.
The illustrations in my opinion are ainteresting
Kalee Maneth
Sep 28, 2016 Kalee Maneth rated it liked it
Shelves: el230
I gave this book a three because although I enjoyed it I think it could be very difficult for a child that hasn't had a lot of poetry readings before and they may not understand the concept and story. I feel that a lot of explaining would have to happen after the story to deal with confusion, but I really did enjoy the story.
Jan 24, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
I read both editions of this book, curious to see how they differed from each other. While the text is the same, the illustrations and over-all layout is different. The words, themselves, draw you in with their warm descriptions of this loving, caring, interracial family. The story is based on Arnold Adoff’s own family experience—that of a white (Jewish) man married to a black woman (famous author, Virginia Hamilton) and their two multiracial children. The advantage to poetry over prose is that ...more
Patricia Wilson
Feb 24, 2012 Patricia Wilson rated it it was amazing
Black is brown is tan has the format of a picture book. It has 31 pages. It contains various genres including poetry and verse as well as biography. It is a story book for ages nursery to 100 because it can teach young and old not to look at color but the heart.It may also make people more tolerant of biracial couples and rid them of their prejudices. I recommend this book to any and everyone. Hopefully they will enjoy reading this story because this family is just like everyone else, an average ...more
Mar 29, 2014 Diana rated it really liked it
The poetic narrative tells the story of a white father (Adoff), a black mother (Virginia), and their two children. The kids describe their family as beautiful and perfect in its own sense. It does not only touch upon the color of their skin, but their attributes as a human being as well (“black brown is tan, is girl is boy, is nose, is face, is all the color of the race). It narrates how the family spends their time together (singing, chopping wood, going to the beach reading, etc.). The poem de ...more
Keri Denin Milam
Oct 19, 2013 Keri Denin Milam rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful book, and I love the fact that it was the first book involving an interracial family. This poem, along with the warm illustrations that enhance the idea of affection, paint a beautiful picture of a family that has "all the colors of the race." The poem shows an African American mom that is compared to the color of chocolate ("I am black, I am brown, the milk is chocolate brown, I am the color of the milk chocolate cheeks, and hands that darken in the summer sun"), and a Cauca ...more
Cara Byrne
Jul 16, 2014 Cara Byrne rated it really liked it
"this is the way it is for us / this is the way we are"

As the first published picture book illustrating an interracial family (published in 1973), this sing-song story fills in a huge gap in children's literature and directly acknowledges the different color skin mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandmas and the children have with grace and ease. This work is written from the first hand experience of Adoff and his wife Virginia Hamilton (also an important writer for writer for children) of their own inter
I'm not opposed to semi-nonsense poetry for children, but I was unsure about this book from the get-go -- "black is brown is tan / is girl is boy / is nose is face / is all the colors of the race."

I like that it's matter-of-fact about the biracial family, and shows both the mom and dad doing manual labor stuff, and shows the grandparents on both sides of the family.

I imagine that "you say: chocolate momma, chocolate up the milk" came from the author's real-life family experience :)

I didn't love
Theresa Reifon
Format/Length: Picture book; 40 pages

1973 School Library Journal Best Children’s Book
School Library Journal Best Book

Theme(s): Family , Importance of Self, Individuals differences, Sense of home


Arnold Adoff wrote this poem in 1973. I was surprised to find out that this was the first children's book to feature an interracial family in it. I also found out that Arnold Adoff, who is a Jewish man, married to a woman of color himself (Virginia Hamilton), and they had t
Oct 31, 2014 Jabria rated it really liked it
Black is Brown is Tan, is a story poem, about a mixed family with a chocolate or black mother and a white father, but not the same color of the milk or the snow. It tells about their family dynamics and how they have both black and white members. It ends with saying a poetic quote, that means that everyone is together and that there are really no differences between being black, brown, or tan. This book relates to my topic because it is dealing with a mixed family with different races.

I think th
Oct 30, 2012 Melissa rated it really liked it
Genre: Realistic Fiction

Review: Children's Literature
"Black is Brown is Tan" is a beautifully written poem by Arnold Adoff. First published in 1973, this delightful story marked the first acknowledgment of an interracial family in children's book publishing. With an African American mother, the skin color of chocolate, and a Caucasian father, who's skin is not white, but light in color with tans and pinks and all the colors of the rainbow, this story blends colors in such a way that the beauty o
Christina Koester
Apr 21, 2016 Christina Koester rated it it was amazing
The book Black is brown is tan by Arnold Adoff is an award winner of the 1988 National Council of Teachers OF English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children, for ages four to eight years old. Black is brown is tan is about a multie-culture family. Where they have a African American mother and a Caucasian father. The reason I rated this book the way I did was because the book is basically saying that they are a normal family, just have two different races in one. I the book the mother compar ...more
Megan Piero
The author, Arnold Adoff, did a fantastic job at weaving his personal life story of being in a bi-racial marriage with bi-racial family into a beautiful poem. The words flow eloquently across the page (ex. “black is brown is tan/ is girl is boy/ is nose is face/ is all the colors of the race”). At the time Adoff and his wife got married in 1960, it violated segregation laws in 28 states. Although the topic of bi-racial marriage seems a normal part of society today, it was a very controversial to ...more
Oct 29, 2012 Juso rated it it was amazing
This poetic narrative tells about an interracial couple Arnold (white), Virginia (black), and their two kids. The kids are assured by their father that they are beautiful just the way they are (ex."black is brown, is tan, is girl, is boy, is nose, is face, is all the colors of the race"). The poem continues with the author, Arnold Adoff, showing the Adoff family as they interact and spend time with each other (ex "go out to cut wood for the fire, or cook the corn and chicken legs"). As a literac ...more
Brittni Hover
This is a wonderful story showing that colored and white people might have different colored skin, but we all are still the same. Brown skin is the color of chocolate milk and coffee. While white-skinned are not white like the snow, they are white with pink and tans. No matter what color we are we are all the same. This story is in poem format. This book fits into the multicultural literature category because it is comparing dark skinned people to white people, and showing that we are all the sa ...more
Tony Ruiz
Apr 23, 2010 Tony Ruiz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Black is Brown is Tan – Arnold Adoff
Grade: 3-5
Pages: 40
Theme: Interracial Family, Poetry
Genre: Poetry, Picture Book
Response: For an older book, this is a wonderful treat. A black mother, a white father, and a son and daughter, originally wrote in 1973, was some tough stuff to swallow back then. With how common it is today seeing interracial families in society, I thought it would be great for older elementary students to view and analyze. I kind of felt like it was a product of the 70’s, poetry
Molly Alexander
Mar 07, 2015 Molly Alexander rated it really liked it
This children's book is like poem, with its chopped sentences and lack of punctuation. I love the squiggly and colorful illustrations on each page. The two parents of this book are from different ethnic backgrounds. The mom is described as "the color of chocolate milk and pumpkin pie", and the dad is white, but not like snow, but with "pinks and tiny tans". The children are a blended mix of both parents, they look different than both of their parents but also like each of them. They are a family ...more
Aug 12, 2016 Marina rated it it was amazing
This is an awesome book which describes a mixed family.The dad is white, the mom is black, and the kids are brown. This book brings a message of how this family experiences the same things as single race couples. The children are no different and neither are the parents.In addition,the book presents so well the words that flow well throughout the book. This book can be used in our modern classrooms and children will be informed about mixed families. Teachers can teach students from the early age ...more
Mar 15, 2015 Jazzmyne rated it liked it
Black is Brown is Tan is a bit confusing. There is no proper sentence structure which would make this book confusing to children. This book is written as a poem that can be read as a song, but there is trouble when trying to read or sing it correctly. The message of diversity was unclear until I reached the end of the book. This book has a bit of a rhyme scheme. The illustrations are great and well thought out. The two parents are of different ethnic groups. as described in the book, the mother ...more
Tiffany Wideman
This story is about a interracial family from the perspective of the Caucasian father and African American mother. The author, Arnold Adoff, captures the voices of two parents who explain the way they are to their children (ex.This is the way it is for us, this is the way we are). As a teacher I will use this book to teach children that skin color does not affect love within a family. Also, I will use this book to teach children about poetry and how to recognize rhyming words within a text. I al ...more
Renea Freeman
Oct 23, 2013 Renea Freeman rated it it was amazing
I really liked reading this book by Arnold Adoff. The book is about a biracial family (White and African American). The main character telling the story is a little mixed boy. He describes his family and all the fun that they have when all of them are together, and although they are different colors they still love one another at the end of the day. I think a lot of kids can relate to this book, especially the children who come from a biracial and multiracial family. I like how the author says ...more
Sep 30, 2013 Mason rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry-book
Arnold Adoff's "Black is Brown is Tan" is a simple poetry book with great meaning. In the diverse society that we live in today, this book gives a description of a mixed family. The dad is white, the mom is black, and the kids are brown. This book does a great job portraying how this family experiences the same things as single race couples. The children are no different and neither are the parents. Emily Arnold McCully's water color illustrations are fantastic. They compliment the story well an ...more
Emma Apple
Jul 22, 2015 Emma Apple rated it it was amazing
Now this one, I loved. Being the Mama in a mixed race (Arab/White) family, I got this one off the shelf primarily because of the mixed race family on the cover – representation matters – but also because of the beautiful watercolor illustrations (I’m a sucker for beautiful watercolors). It’s a re-release of a book written in the 70’s describing the author’s family. It’s a poem more than a story, which was fun to read and my kids really enjoyed it. We meet a whole, happy, normal family, and, as a ...more
Apr 09, 2013 Anita rated it really liked it
Shelves: noticing-craft
Black is Brown is Tan is a wonderful children's picture book. Arnold is a white male and his wife Virginia is black. When they were married in 1960, their marriage violated segregation laws in 28 states across the U.S. This book is explaining to his children that they are normal just like everyone else. The ways he uses language, it seems to flow like a poem or a song.

The only part about the book I would use caution with is the placement of the words on the page. If you aren't an advanced reade
Lamar Sanders
Jul 17, 2012 Lamar Sanders rated it liked it

Point of View: 3rd person
Setting: a family home, various
This book is written in poetic format and follows the realizations of self concept of two biracial children in an interacial family. I think this book can be very useful as mixed race families are becoming more prevalent today. It can be used a talking point for classroom discussions of diversity and serve as a peice of comfort literature for student who come from diverse backgrounds to see themeselves in this book. The writing style is bot
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