Diversity in MG Lit #16 Celebrating Shorts, April 2020
Friends, one thing I’m hearing these days from everyone is how hard it is to focus in the stress of this pandemic. The last thing I want to do is fire out a list of books so that you can feel bad about not having the energy to read them.
This month I’m going to celebrate short stories and traditional tales highlighting some books which have been out for a while, some which are forth coming. I hope that they will be points of comfort in these weeks of sorrow and places of connection and validations where all children can feel seen and understood.
The beauty of the short story is that it can be read in one sitting, and is ideal for reading aloud. It’s a great way to discover new authors or try out a genre that you don’t usually read.
I’m going to start with The Creativity Project by Colby Sharp (LittleBrown, 2018) which is now available in paperback. It’s a collection of writing prompts or story exercises contributed by more than 40 MG authors. Each of them shared their favorite creative spark and worked a prompt given by another author. These are short and sweet. Meant to fire the imagination. If I was still teaching I’d definitely lean on these exercises as a way to keep even my most reluctant writers motivated.
Perfect for the times is the short story collection Hero Next Door edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. (RandomHouse 2019) This book celebrates courage in all its disguises, and features characters trying their best to make the world a better place.
In a similar vein, Kid Activists: True tales of childhood from Champions of Change by Robin Stevenson Illus. by Allison Steinfeld (Quirk Sept 2020) honors a group of activists dedicated to changing the world. There’s a nice mix here of historical figures like Alexander Hamilton, Helen Keller and Frederick Douglass and contemporary heroes like Malala Yousafzai, Autumn Peltier, Iqbal Masih, and even Emma Watson. There are illustrations throughout and the text is geared toward the younger end of MG readers. While you are waiting for this title to arrive in September, take a look at others in the series Kid Scientists, Kid Artists, Kid Authors and Kid Athletes.
This one comes out in October and is written with a YA audience in mind, but there’s plenty for a mature MG reader to enjoy. Come On In: 15 stories about immigration and finding a home ed. by Adi Alsaid. It would pair well with Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros or the graphic novel When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed which comes out this week and chronicles the childhood of Omar Mohamed in a refugee camp in east Africa.
Funny Girl: Funnest stories. Ever. by Betsy Bird (Puffin 2018) is my go-to recommendation for reluctant girl readers— a collection of funny stories with girls at heart. It’s not the usual “burp and fart” fare that is squarely targeted at boys. This is a collection of short stories and graphic shorts by women for girls. It’s a great way to keep things light and introduce a new favorite author. Clear back in 2010 Waldon Pond Press started a Guys Read series edited by Jon Scieszka. The first is Guys Read: Funny Business. Its a solid collection too.
And finally, here are two collections of folk tales to sweep your mind away to far off times and places.A Whisper of the East: tales from Araibia by Franziska Meiners (North/Suoth 2018) has a retro feel with two color printing and an art style reminiscent of woodblock prints. In the back endpaper there is an ABC with words written in Arabic. Spellbound: tales of enchantment from ancient Ireland by Siobhán Parkinson illus, by Olwyn Whelan was first published in the UK. It’s a vividly illustrated collection of fierce and funny stories from an era when fairies and dragons were as common as fish and any child might on a whim turn himself into a bird.
From the Mixed-Up Files is the group blog of middle-grade authors celebrating books for middle-grade readers. For anyone with a passion for children’s literature—teachers, librarians, parents, kids, writers, industry professionals— we offer regularly updated book lists organized by unique categories, author interviews, market news, and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a children's book from writing to publishing to promoting.
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