When this logo burst on the scene last year …
everyone who loves kids’ books (and kids) cheered. The call for more diverse books stemmed from a mixture of anger, urgency and love, a sense that it was long past time for all our children to be able to find themselves in the words and pictures of books.
Sometimes, that kind of fervor fades and the insidious status quo comes creeping back. Not this time! The newly appointed ambassador of children’s literature is Gene Luen Yang, author of the terrific “American Born Chinese”. The first goal of his Reading Without Walls mission is to make sure that not only are diverse books published and available, but that we get kids to actually read them—as he puts it, “to read books about people who do not look or live like them.”
Here are a few books, some recently published and some to come, that, first of all, tell wonderful, compelling stories. Some are hilarious, some suspenseful, some best read with the tissue box nearby. All of them underline the forever truth that diversity is fundamental to human experience.
From Shelley Pearsall, author of “Jump Into the Sky” and “Trouble Don’t Last”: One kid. One crime. One chance to make things right.
It was a bitterly cold day when Arthur T. Owens grabbed a brick and hurled it at the trash picker. Arthur had his reasons, and the brick hit the Junk Man in the arm, not the head. But none of that matters to the judge he is ready to send Arthur to juvie for the foreseeable future. Amazingly, it’s the Junk Man himself who offers an alternative: 120 hours of community service . . . working for him.
Arthur is given a rickety shopping cart and a list of the Seven Most Important Things: glass bottles, foil, cardboard, pieces of wood, light bulbs, coffee cans, and mirrors. He can t believe it is he really supposed to rummage through people’s trash? But it isn t long before Arthur realizes there’s more to the Junk Man than meets the eye, and the trash he’s collecting is being transformed into something more precious than anyone could imagine. . . .
From the author of “Blackbird Fly”: Two sisters from the Philippines, abandoned by their father and living with their stepmother in Louisiana, fight to make their lives better in this remarkable story for readers of Cynthia Kadohata and Rita Williams-Garcia, and for anyone searching for the true meaning of family.
Bildner created an instant league of fans with “Ballgame”, and he’ll make them even happier with “Rookie of the Year” this summer. Rip and Red are best friends whose fifth-grade year is nothing like what they expected. They have a crazy new tattooed teacher named Mr. Acevedo, who doesn’t believe in tests or homework and who likes off-the-wall projects, the more “off” the better. They also find themselves with a new basketball coach: Mr. Acevedo Easy-going Rip is knocked completely out of his comfort zone. And for Red, who has autism and really needs things to be exactly a certain way, the changes are even more of a struggle. But together these two make a great duo who know how to help each other and find ways to make a difference in the classroom and on the court.
Sepahban’s newest is a historical novel with (too much) contemporary resonance. Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family’s life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It’s 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her and her grandfather’s dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. She and her grandfather are devastated, but Manami clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn’t until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can reclaim the piece of herself that she left behind and accept all that has happened to her family.
And one more that offers pure fun:
Johnson, a terrifically entertaining writer, specializes in middle grade wish fulfillment. Jackson Greene is riding high. He is officially retired from conning, so Principal Kelsey is (mostly) off his back. His friends have great new projects of their own. And he’s been hanging out a lot with Gaby de la Cruz, so he thinks maybe, just maybe, they’ll soon have their first kiss.
Then Jackson receives a link to a faked security video that seems to show him and the rest of Gang Greene flooding the school gym. The jerks behind the video threaten to pass it to the principal — unless Jackson steals an advance copy of the school’s toughest exam.
So Gang Greene reunites for their biggest job yet. To get the test and clear their names, they’ll have to outrun the school’s security cameras, outwit a nosy member of the Honor Board, and outmaneuver the blackmailers while setting a trap for them in turn. And as they execute another exciting caper full of twists and turns, they’ll prove that sometimes it takes a thief to catch a cheat.
Okay! Please share your own recent favorites, or those you’re looking forward to in 2016!
Tricia’s new middle grade, “Every Single Second”, publishing in June, is about the impact a terrible, fatal mistake has on a community, a neighborhood, and the lives of two best friends.