Diversity in MG Lit
Summer is typically a quieter time for book releases. The big surge of new books tends to come in the spring and fall. This is convenient for me this year as I’m going to be very busy with the revision of a new novel in August. My plan is to highlight July and August releases this month. If my revision proves particularly time consuming I will skip my usual mid-August post guilt free because I’ve already given you those titles now. However if time permits, I’ll do half of the September diverse releases in August and the rest in September.
Here are new middle grade diverse titles to get excited about.
Available in July:
Set in a remote Nigerian village far from the jangle of cellphones and human noises, Children of the Quicksands by Efua Traoré, tells the story of a girl who defies her grandmother and gets lost in a parallel world. Plenty of thrills and chills memorably set in the culture and traditions of Nigeria and featuring Yoruban mythology. This is Traoré’s debut novel
Ravenous Things by Derrick Chow is on the surface the typical MG spooky story–a riff on the Pied Piper tale complete with evil rats and a haunted subway train and tunnels. It is also an examination of grief and the lengths the bereaved will go for one last moment with a loved one. In an era of unprecedented loss this book is likely to speak to more than the just thrill seekers. I recommend it for the older end of MG readers. This is Chow’s debut novel
Sweet and Sour by Debbi Michiko Florence looks a little bit like a romance novel on the cover, but it’s really a friendship story about long time friends Mai and Zach who spend summers together in Mystic, Connetecut. A misunderstanding breaks their friendship but with the support of loving parents they learn to turn over a new leaf and try again.
The survival of bees has always been one of my environmental interests so I was glad to see The Last Beekeeper by Pablo Caraya a climate fiction tale that will thrill young climate activists. Yolanda Cicerón is a climate warrior who puts all her hopes on saving honey bees. Along with the thrills and action is a celebration of the determination and resilience of the Latinx community.
Available in August
We Are Your Children Too: Black students, white supremacists and the battle for America’s schools in Prince Edward County Virginia by P O’Connell Pearson is the story of an often forgotten piece of the struggle to desegregate schools. It’s 1954. Brown v, Board of Education passed and rather than integrate a county in Virginia decided to close the public schools entirely. This well-referenced and photo-illustrated book will be of interest to young activists and teachers looking to round out their knowledge of our nation’s education history.
Kid Trailblazers: true tales of childhood from change-makers and leaders words by Robin Stevenson, art by Allison Steinfeld, Here’s another in the True Tales of Childhood series: Chipper, illustrated stories about Benazir Bhutto, Kamala Harris, Stacy Abrams, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, John Lewis, Marley Diaz, Mari Copeny, Greta Thunberg, Ai Weiwei, Shonda Rhimes and Elliot Page among others.
The Antiracist Kid: a book about identity, justice and activism words by Tiffany Jewell, art by Nicole Miles is a handbook meant to help kids 8-12 understand the language and concepts underlying identity, social justice and activism. It contains lots of affirming strategies and dwells more on positive action than blame. A solid choice for families who need a conversation starter.
Invisible by Christina Gonzalez & Gabriela Epstein is a great friendship story about five kids who have nothing in common besides all of them speaking Spanish. They have community service hours to complete and forge an unlikely friendship in the process. The art is fun and vibrant and the considerable amount of Spanish dialog is translated into English for readers who can’t do that for themselves. It’s tricky to inclusively convey the experience of being bilingual in print but this graphic novel does it more successfully than most.
Surely Surely Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada Kelly occupies that vital territory in what I think of as the Ramona Quimby/Encyclopedia Brown zone. This is where kids fall in love with reading for the first time, or don’t. Find themselves reflected in books for the first time, or don’t. I’m thrilled to see Filipino-American champion of kindness, Marisol Rainey back for book two in the series. I hope we see more sweetly-illustrated books about overcoming fears big and small. She joins some other notable diverse characters in the chapter book space. Mindy Kim by Lyla Lee
Ryan Hart by Reneé Watson
Jojo Makoons by Dawn Quigley
Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi
Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina
Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke
Punky Aloha by Shar Tuiasoa
I welcome them all but I do wish that more of them were about human boys. Just putting that thought out there, hoping that several brand new (hopefully diverse) Encyclopedia Browns or Nate the Greats come along.
Kelly Lyons has a Miles Lewis series coming out that is promising, but you’re right that the early chapter books frequently have female main characters. I think the US cover for Children of the Quicksands is a bit different; very interesting. And ALL THE BOOKS are coming out in September! I think over 100 middle grade titles, and another 75 or so in October!
Good luck on your revisions. I’m going to be starting mine soon too. There’s so many good books this month. I’m looking forward to Ravenous Things and Children of the Quicksand.