So Not Ghoul by Karen Yin and Sunflower Sisters by Monika Singh Gangotra have connections in themes and are two very wonderfully different books. However, if you like one, you might just like the other.
I will start with the main difference between the two, which is the tone. Yin’s story is while seriously themed, is more humorous, and Gangotra created a story with a more overall serious tone that is still lighthearted in nature. The main and most important similarity is that both the characters of these picture books learn the important lesson of being themselves, and to love that about themselves.
Mimi is a Chinese American ghost going to her first day of school. She must wear her many-great grandmothers “old Chinese gowns.” And trust-you-me she does not fit in at school because of this look. After trying a few ways to try and fit in by dealing with bullies, and some not-so-helpful-helpful advice from her paternal family line, she finds a way to stand up, be noticed, and be what she always meant to be. So Not Ghoul is “boo-tifully” illustrated by Bonnie Lui. These images pop off the page with a combination of other-worldly and bold colors. Details are minimal but as needed. The cover, well covers, what the inside is hiding. The ending is a nice twist of learning about appreciation of each other and understanding true friendship. The story is familiar, but it has the quirk of ghosts and not the living, plus not only deals with first day shivers, but a stronger theme as well.
And Amitra (a South Asian girl) learns a similar lessen when her family comes to celebrate her older sister’s wedding. The aunties try to force their beliefs on the bride and Amitra. But their mother is having nothing to do with their face lightening creams, or their superstitions on what foods should/should not be eaten or drank to have “lighter skinned children.” And she most certain will let Amitra wear the sunflower yellow dress, regardless of her “coloring.” This love letter to yourself and all colors is blossoming beautiful, and not only does Amitra shine, but so does her best friend Kiki (a Nigerian girl), when they find each other at Kiki’s brother’s wedding in similar dresses. And to celebrate, they make a promise to each other to always be “Sunflower Sisters” and shine brightly. We are mothered by color, details and more in Sunflower Sisters when Michaela Dias-Hayes put instrument to paper (or computer, or whatever wonderful medium) to create the illustrations.
Both work for at least ages five and up, and with Sunflower Sisters going on the older side.