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black is brown is tan

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  289 ratings  ·  141 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 478)
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Errin Tucker
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
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
Cara Byrne
"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
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
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.
Jena Costin
This book provides a positive and strong narrative to depict a family that is multiracial. There are few books like this available for teachers and parents alike. When discussing the diverse families of today, it is important to encompass every kind of family in instruction. This book provides detailed and textured illustrations that elicit interest from the reader. Because the story is a poetic, it provides many modes for teaching literacy through the text as well. The author writes about the f ...more
This is a great book to teach children about interracial families. The color of the skin does not matter. Love for family has nothing to with race. This story display diversity of love ones in the family and expresses equality between children, parents and cultural background. Mr. Arnold Adoff and his wife Virginia Hamilton are great authors in writing children literature books. This story fits their family. A white father and a black mother. They have a great interracial family. The Mrs. passed ...more
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
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
Patricia Wilson
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
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
Keri Denin Milam
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
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
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
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
Tony Ruiz
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
Using his story poem form, Adoff touches on accepting the fact that individuals and family members can appear different, but they are inherently just man and woman, male and female. Told from perspective of parents, this book explains difference in a beautiful world. Essentially, the illustrations by Emily Arnold McCully demonstrate that above all, happiness and love between family members is all that matters.
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
Renea Freeman
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
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
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
Michelle Marcano
Adoff, Arnold, and Emily Arnold. McCully. Black Is Brown Is Tan. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.

Subgroup: Multiracial Families

Genre: Poetic Narrative

Synopsis: This Book by Arnold Adoff is beautifully written. It narrates the story of a family who is multiracial. The mommy in the book is black, the father is white and the children are a mixture of the two. Throughout the story the readers get to see the mother, father and both children's perspective of their every day life. The author uses desc
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
Amy B.
Jul 24, 2008 Amy B. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: elementary teachers/ parents
Adoff, A. (1973). Black is brown is tan. Harper Collins Publishers

This poetic form of text describes a interracial family that instills values of family, race and ethnicity. The text is based on true facts of the author and his family’s life in Yellow Springs, Ohio during the sixties. Adoff’s comparisons of skin color to milk and pumpkin pie is sure to give the reader the beauty of color of the people in the world. The watercolors presented in the renewed version capture the child-like innocence
Lamar Sanders

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
This is the first children's book featuring an interracial family. It shows the harmony and love between parents, children, and other family members. The extended family also plays a large role in this story. Instead of ignoring the issues of race within the family, they each embrace their own "color" and have creative ways of describing the color of their skin. This book is read as a poem and is a great read for children of all different races. It can provide a great message to children who com ...more
Dani Paiz
This book was ok, it discusses children of an interracial couple. It was good for vocabulary and print awareness, but not a very good book. Is recommend it for ages 1-4.
Chelsea Kimmey
This book is difficult to read unless read on a poetic manner. Great for interracial communities, multiracial families where color of your skin is an issue.
This picture book about a biracial family is written in free verse form and is still pertinent today, but the art is dated.
Angela Hollen
This book shows the many differences in families and how it's who they are. Could be good for a civil rights unit.
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