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black is brown is tan

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  338 ratings  ·  167 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

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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 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
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
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
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
Eric Cagle
When this book was published, it was one of the first of its time, an interracial family. This was a very easy read, and it has a great message. Just like my milk can be changed from white to black, my skin doesn't matter, its who we are. In the story the mother of two kids is African American, and the father is Causation. Through the book it talks about Mom and how she treats their kids. Then it talks about how Dad treats their kids. Guess what it is the same, because no matter the race Mom and ...more
Stef Rozitis
Quite a beautiful book and poem. Some of the words are reminiscent of Galatians 3:28 but you don't need to read the bible to get the point. Connections across barriers. Types of people ultimately dissolve into a shared personhood of food and bed-times, bickering and music and darkness and light.

This book was quite activist when it was first written and also true to the author's (and his wife's) actual experience.

It is an anti-racist book. A pro-human book. A celebration of family and of love. Be
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
I like that this book shows a multicultural family. I also like that the parents each have their own pages showing them with their children in similar situations. The title is a nice way to tie together the colors of the family members. I would read it to my students while we discuss family. I might also read it if we talks about segregation as a way to show an opposite way. I would read this if the issue of ethnicity came up in my classroom.

Interest Level
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
Jennifer Stoddard
This book is great for multi cultural. The mom is african american and the dad is white. The book describes their skin tones. The children are mixed. They are colors of brown, tan and black. The story is about the family. The mom, dad and children are happy in a home full of love. I love this book. It is very simple. The illustrations are not the best. I think it is great to introduce into a classroom.
Kelly Tisdale
This book would be a great to have on my shelf in my classroom for students to know families can be different and for students in bi-racial families. I wasn’t a fan of the way the book is written but as a teacher I need to know that my students will have different opinions on books than I do. I would like to have all types of books on my shelves to try and reach each student as much as possible.
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
Alison Durbin
I loved this book simply because it was incredibly unique, and I wish their were more books like this (poetry or not). I appreciated the fact that the subject matter was a biracial family, and I think the poems were absolutely beautiful and heart-warming. There is no question that this book will be featured in my classroom library.
Marissa Pezzullo
This book is one that i would have in my classroom library. Depending on if i had any mixed families in my classroom i may even read it as a read aloud. This book shows the students that it is perfectly normal to have a family this way. There is no difference except color which does not even matter.
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