Diversity

September New Releases!

If you were too busy for books this summer, September is the month to dive back in! Time to cozy up and grab a new middle grade read . . . and there are lots to choose from. Here are some of the latest out this month.

 

Owl’s Outstanding Donuts by Robin Yardi

Robin Yardi, author of The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez, tells a story full of mystery, feathers, and sprinkles. After Mattie Waters loses her mother, she goes to live with her aunt, the owner of a roadside donut shop in Big Sur, California. When an owl taps on Mattie’s window one night, Mattie looks out to see something suspicious taking place nearby. With help from her friends—and from Alfred, a stuffy but good-hearted owl—, she’ll set out to find the culprits, facing fears that have followed her since her mother’s death.

 

 

 

Guts by Raina Telgemeier

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on?

Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.

 

 

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, Illustrated by Rafael López

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and award-winning artist Rafael Lopez create a kind and caring book about the differences that make each of us unique. Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful.

In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.

 

The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African American Midwives by Eloise Greenfield, Illustrated by Daniel Minter

The Women Who Caught the Babies highlights important aspects of the training and work of African-American midwives and the ways in which they have helped, and continue to help, so many families by “catching” their babies at birth. The blend of Eloise Greenfield’s poetry and Daniel Minter’s art evokes heartfelt appreciation of the abilities of African-American midwifes over the course of time. The poem “Africa to America” begins the poetic journey. The poem “The Women” both heralds the poetry/art pairing and concludes it with a note of gratitude. Also included is a piece titled “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” which pays tribute to the midwife who caught newborn Eloise.

 

If the Fire Comes: A Story of Segregation in the Great Depression by Tracy Daley, Illustrated by Eric Freeberg

It’s 1935, and the Great Depression and California drought has left eleven-year-old Joseph McCoy shining shoes to help his family survive. Through his hard work and games with his sister, Joseph has figured out how to get by as one of the few black people in a mostly white community. But the order of the town is disrupted when an all-black Civilian Conservation Corps camp comes to Elsinore, sparking racial tension. It isn’t long before prejudice spreads like wildfire and threatens to force the work camp to leave. Could Joseph’s secret project save the camp and bring his family hope for the future? If not, the whole town just might go up in flames.

Its the storytellers that preserve a nations history. But what happens when some stories are silenced? The I Am America series features fictional stories based on important historical events from people whose voices have been under represented, lost, or forgotten over time.

 

The Escape of Robert Smalls: A Daring Escape out of Slavery by Jehan Jones-Radgowski, Illustrated by Poppy Kang

The mist in Charleston Inner Harbor was heavy, but not heavy enough to disguise the stolen Confederate steamship, the Planter, from Confederate soldiers. In the early hours of May 13, 1862, in the midst of the deadly U.S. Civil War, an enslaved man named Robert Smalls was about to carry out a perilous plan of escape. Standing at the helm of the ship, Smalls impersonated the captain as he and his crew passed heavily armed Confederate forts to enter Union territory, where escaped slaves were given shelter. The suspenseful escape of the determined crew is celebrated with beautiful artwork and insightful prose, detailing the true account of an unsung American hero.

 

A Song for China: How My Father Wrote Yellow River Cantata by Ange Zhang

This is the fascinating story of how a young Chinese author, Guang Weiran, a passionate militant from the age of twelve, fought, using art, theater, poetry and song, especially the famous Yellow River Cantata ― the anthem of Chinese national spirit ― to create a socially just China. Set during the period of the struggle against the Japanese and the war against the Kuomintang in the 1920s and ’30s, this book, written and illustrated by Guang Weiran’s award-winning artist son, Ange Zhang, illuminates a key period in China’s history. The passion and commitment of the artists who were born under the repressive weight of the Japanese occupation, the remnants of the decaying imperial order and the times of colonial humiliation are inspiring.

Zhang’s words and wood-block style of art tell us the story of his father’s extraordinary youth and very early rise to prominence due to his great talent with words. We see and hear the intensity of what it meant to be alive at such a significant moment in the history of China, a country that understands itself as the heir to one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known. The humiliations and social injustice the Chinese people had endured in the colonial period were no longer bearable. And yet there were major factional differences between those who wanted to create a modern China. Ange’s words and art paint the picture for us through his father’s story, accompanied by sidebars that explain the historical context.

The book ends in a burst of glorious color and song, with the words of the Yellow River Cantata in Mandarin, as well as newly translated into English. This great song turns eighty years old in 2019, and will be sung and performed by huge orchestras and choirs around the world, as the Chinese diaspora has embraced the cantata as its own.

 

Stargazing by Jen Wang

Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known.

But after Moon moves in next door, these unlikely friends are soon best friends, sharing their favorite music videos and painting their toenails when Christine’s strict parents aren’t around. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret: that she has visions, sometimes, of celestial beings who speak to her from the stars. Who reassure her that earth isn’t where she really belongs.

Moon’s visions have an all-too-earthly root, however, and soon Christine’s best friend is in the hospital, fighting for her life. Can Christine be the friend Moon needs, now, when the sky is falling?

Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal yet wholly relatable friendship story that’s at turns joyful, heart-wrenching, and full of hope.

 

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut fantasy novel is a gorgeous, literary adventure about bravery, friendship, self-reliance, and the choice between accepting fate or forging your own path.

When Lalani Sarita’s mother falls ill with an incurable disease, Lalani embarks on a dangerous journey across the sea in the hope of safeguarding her own future. Inspired by Filipino folklore, this engrossing fantasy is for readers who loved Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Disney’s Moana.

Life is difficult on the island of Sanlagita. To the west looms a vengeful mountain, one that threatens to collapse and bury the village at any moment. To the north, a dangerous fog swallows sailors who dare to venture out, looking for a more hospitable land. And what does the future hold for young girls? Chores and more chores.

When Lalani Sarita’s mother falls gravely ill, twelve-year-old Lalani faces an impossible task—she must leave Sanlagita and find the riches of the legendary Mount Isa, which towers on an island to the north. But generations of men and boys have died on the same quest—how can an ordinary girl survive the epic tests of the archipelago? And how will she manage without Veyda, her best friend?

Newbery Medalist and New York Times–bestselling author Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut fantasy novel is inspired by Filipino folklore and is an unforgettable coming-of-age story about friendship, courage, and identity. Perfect for fans of Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Sea and Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

 

 

 

Diversity in MG Lit #11 Indigenous and First Nations books

New data on the representation of diverse characters in children’s literature came out recently and once again the least represented group is Indigenous youth. I have found that a MG books in particular are in short supply as most of the books with First Nations characters are picture books. Here’s a round up of a few new books and one gem from a few years ago that will work particularly well for young readers.
This Place: 150 Years Retold Forward by Alicia Eliot, 2019 
    This is a collection of graphic novel short stories about the history of First Nations in Canada. I LOVE this book. It covers areas of history not mentioned in text books. The words and art are by First Nations creators. Each story comes with a short preface and a timeline to place the story in context. This was published to coincide with Canada’s 150 anniversary, so all the stories take place in Canada. But many of the issues raised happened in the US as well. For example the potlatch was outlawed in the US in the same time period and for the same reasons that it was in Canada. There is plenty here for both kids reading for pleasure and teachers looking to expand their knowledge of North American history.
 Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, 2019
    Fans of the Rick Riorden formula of hero story will love this new offering set in the American Southwest and utilizing the rich source material of Diné (also known as the Navajo) mythology. Sister and brother team Nizhoni and Mac Begay take on the inheritance of the Hero Twins, and along with their friend Davery, a biracial boy, undertake a series of heart-stopping trials. They reach the Sun God who gives them awesome weapons to defeat the monster who kidnapped their parents. It’s a fun read with a glossary in the back for the Diné words that are sprinkled through the text.
Indigenous People’s History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, 2019
    Here’s a guide to US history through the lens of the Indigenous experience. It covers the full range from first contact through the recent pipeline protests. At 270 pages it’s more encyclopedia than narrative but it will be a valuable tool for teachers in adding context to the history they are teaching.  It has been adapted from an edition for adults with real sensitivity to the needs of the young reader by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese.
1621 A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M Bruchac, 2001 
    This lushly photo-illustrated book is a solid attempt to add some historical context and balance to the Thanksgiving story and is very useful guide for rethinking how the holiday is presented in the school context. Maps, timelines, recipes, and a bibliography give helpful context.
Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids  by Deborah Ellis 2018
    This gem of a book is a collection of interviews of Indigenous children ages 9 to18 in the US and Canada. Their stories are moving and diverse. The children are artists and athletes, able-bodied and living with disability, activists and survivors. They have much to say about living as Indigenous people today and they say it with candor and humor and sometimes sorrow. The book is photo illustrated and has an extensive list of resources in the back.

Diversity in MG Lit #10 Growing the next Generation of Writers

Many writers felt the spark of story in them when they were very young. But many never found the support they needed to develop and hone their skills at a young age.
When I visit schools for my books I often encounter one or two children out of hundreds who are hungry for more interaction than a school visit is designed to offer. Nine years ago I formed the League of Exceptional Writers a free mentoring workshop for young readers ages 8-18.
Because I’m a member of the SCBWI in Oregon, I approached them about providing a small honorarium for the authors and illustrators who were mentors to the League each month. I approached Powells Bookstore about hosting the events and providing promotional materials. Here’s an example of what they made for the last. year. Every month from October to May eager young writers pull up chairs at the bookshop and dig into the nitty gritty of making books with published authors, professional illustrators and other folks who work in the book industry, designers, editors, agents, audio book producers, etc. The League has seen its members grow from shy beginners in 3rd or 4th grade to active writers at their high school newspaper to editors of college literary journals. One has even gone on to work as a designer at a publishing house in Boston.
I mention this not to self-congratulate but rather to offer a model that could be easily replicated elsewhere. The SCBWI is a gently aging organization. Their survival depends on drawing in new young members year after year. What better way to promote the organization than to start mentoring young writers now. Most independent bookstores would be receptive to the idea of hosting a writing club for kids. So please consider starting a League of your own in your home town.
Many cities and states have writing enrichment programs in place such as the Writers in the Schools program sponsored by Oregon Literary Arts. Consider volunteering or donating money to these programs.
And finally if you have a young writer in your life, here’s a book they might enjoy. BRAVE THE PAGE: a young writer’s guide to telling epic stories by Rebecca Stern and Grant Faulkner is a kid friendly guide to writing a boo,k taking the NANOWRIMO model. The tone is peppy and practical. The text answers most of the questions even an adult writer has about the process of writing and the focus is solidly on the writing process rather than selling a manuscript. I think it will work well for avid writers as young as 9 and as old as 14 or 15. Brave the Page is on sale in August of 2019 and is available in audio.