Wednesday, February 25, 2015

All of Me! The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods

“To white people,” Violet thinks, “I’m half black. To black people, I’m half white.... Is that what I am, a percentage?”

Since Violet Diamond turned eleven, she's begun to notice the looks people give her family when she's out with her blonde mother and her blue-eyed half-sister Daisy, born of her mom's first marriage. Violet, whose black father died just before she was born, is tired of curious people asking if she's adopted.

And when she learns that she has a famous grandmother, a noted black artist whom she's never met, she can't let the matter rest until she gets her mother to take her to Roxanne Diamond's exhibition in Seattle. But the visit does not go well. Her grandmother still blames her mother for the auto accident that ended her son's and Violet's father's life, and asks Violet and her mother to leave.

Violet feels even more like a puzzle piece that doesn't fit anywhere.

But Roxanne Diamond has a change of heart, and invites her to visit her over a long weekend. Violet loves her grandmother's art-filled house, meets her  aunts and cousins, goes to Disneyland, and bonds with the elegant Roxanne, whom she names "Bibi," from the Swahili for "grandmother." But just as the puzzle pieces begin to come together, Violet finds her grandmother unconscious on the kitchen floor. If Bibi dies, Violet will lose her and her memories of V's father before she can complete her understanding of who she is.

But this time, Violet is the missing piece that makes certain the picture can be completed.
Mom and Daisy were standing at Bibi's bedside. All eyes were on me. "Can Bibi and I be alone?" I asked.

"How are you feeling?" she asked Bibi when they were alone.

"Better and better. I've been waiting for us to have this time alone to thank you."

"Thank me for what?"

"If you hadn't been here and called 911, I probably would have died that day. You saved my life, Violet."

I grinned. "I did, huh?"

"You did. And because you did, you and I will have lots more fun times together," she said softly.

As Bibi had told her when they talked about their favorite color, "there are fifty-nine shades of blue," Violet sees that  families can come in many shades as well, in Brenda Woods' Coretta Scott King Award-winning The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond (Penguin Group, 2014). Although author Woods takes a fairly light-hearted look at some of the feelings inherent in living in a multicultural family, she doesn't eschew a dramatic rescue by Violet that saves her grandmother's life and mends the divide within the family, and her Violet is a likable and spunky character who will win middle readers' empathy and understanding. Kirkus Reviews gives this one a starred review and says, " Infused with humor, hope and clear-eyed compassion—a fresh take on an old paradigm."

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