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black is brown is tan

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  501 Ratings  ·  199 Reviews
Brown-skinned mama, the color of chocolate milk and pumpkin pie. White-skinned daddy, not the color of milk or snow, but light with pinks and tiny tans. And their two children, the beautiful colors of both. For an all-American family, full of joy, warmth, and love, this is the way it is for us this is the way we are

When it was first published in 1973, Black is Brown is Tan
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published March 26th 2002 by Amistad Press (first published 1973)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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
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.
I loved finding this book again as an adult! I enjoy Arnold Adoff's poetry - his style is open verse, like a conversation or stream of consciousness, and here the poem makes me feel like a guest among his family, enjoying their company and their love for each other. In part biographical, the poems are about a family with a white dad and African-American mom, their two multiracial kids, and their extended family.

The greatest strengths of this book are the way it shows quite simply a loving famil
Christy Love
Feb 07, 2017 Christy Love rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: el-230
This is a story about a family that has a beautiful range of skin color. This is a good read for ages 6 to 8. It teaches that a person is a person. The color of their skin does not change how they act or interact. I will use this book when going through the history of how African American's got their freedom. One thing that I didn't like about this book was the spacing of the words. They varied at times making it hard to read. If they do a reprint I would suggest that they did more of a pattern ...more
Tahya Bruce
Oct 24, 2016 Tahya Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
This is a poem with illustrations. It's a strange poem and I wasn't a fan of it at all. I wish there were more books with black woman + white man couples that didn't focus on race or skin color. There need to be more books with this combination where the couple is just a couple and the skin colors HAPPEN to be different, no commentary on it necessary. Four stars purely because it's hard to find books with black woman + white man couples.
Kim Bennett
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
Feb 17, 2017 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-vivian
It took a little bit for me to figure out how to approach reading this book, but once I did I loved it!
It's always great to see a family that looks like yours depicted in a children's book. This was an engaging read for me and my daughter.
Paige M
Feb 01, 2017 Paige M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We need diverse books! Glad to see this one, which I hadn't read before, be repurchased for the library collection.
Dianne J.
Beautiful illustrations and imagery through the words in the book that reveal three generations of an interracial family. Great vocabulary words for K-3rd grade as well as a good example of a style of poetry most may not have discovered at the elementary school level.
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 21, 2012 Patricia Wilson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
"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
Oct 31, 2016 E.S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Black is brown is tan is a poetry book written by Arnold Adoff and illustrated by Elizabeth Arnold McCully. The book focuses on an interracial family (a black mother and a white father and their mixed children). This isn’t a traditional poetry book, however, but written in free verse. The unusual spacing and the way the sentences end indicate that this is a poetry book. This book is definitely for children ages 5 and up. The way the sentences are written may be too confusing for a younger presch ...more
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 14, 2014 Jabria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Oct 21, 2013 Marina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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