Diversity in MG Lit #45 November and December 2023
Special shout out this month to diverse holiday books. A personal favorite is Nicholas the Maker by Brian W Parker. He is the author illustrator and publisher of this charming origin story of Santa featuring black characters, fantastical creatures, and heaps of holiday joy . I also love Lullaby for the King by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Michelle Carlos. On a holiday book shelf awash in reindeer and snow, shiny trees and wrapped presents, it’s nice to see a book that is about the real Christmas story and not the ever present commercial version.
Here is a new series from the creator of the Explorer Club, SJ King. It’s called The TimeKeepers, and it features time travel adventures with lots of rich historical detail. Like the earlier series there’s a nicely diverse cast and some non-fiction back matter. It’s an easier read than Kate Messner’s Ranger in Time series but a step up in reading level from Laurel Snyder’s Charlie and Mouse.
Continuing our time travel theme, there’s a new graphic novel called The History Club by Bret Baier illustrated by Marvin Sianipar. It’s about a menacing History Twister who travels through time to work evil and the History Club who thwarts him across the ages.
I’m so thrilled to see this debut graphic novel from a fellow Portlander and Filipino American illustrator and animator Zachary Sterling. I love it that he used a Filipino word of greeting for his title Mabuhay! It’s the story of first generation siblings JJ and Althea who are working hard at fitting in at school and who dread working on the family food truck. When the monsters of Filipino mythology come for their family the brother and sister team up to protect their own. A sweet story with top notch art and, perhaps best of all, an easy recipe for chicken adobo.
On a more serious note, Neal Shusterman has written a graphic novel called Courage to Dream: tales of hope in the holocaust, illustrated by Andrés Vera Martínez. This is for the older middle grade readers. It carefully and clearly represents the horrors of the holocaust, but gives attention to the hope and courage of the Jewish community and the help of their allies. If you are looking to open a conversation about anti-semitism in the present, this might be a good place to start.
Tagging Freedom by Rhonda Roumani also intersects with the politics of the moment. It is about cousins, one in Damascas, Syria and one in the US. Kareem, the Syrian cousin, gets involved in using graffiti as a means of protest against injustice. His parents send him to live in the US with his cousin Sam who is trying to fit in with the popular crowd at school. It’s a good conversation starter about how activism changes the way people see the world.
I have a special fondness for historical fiction. Light Comes to Shadow Mountain by Toni Buzzeo is set in the 1930s during the rural electrification projects in the US. Cora can’t wait for power to come to their impoverished Kentucky town. Her mother wants to see the older way of life and the environment safeguarded. Books set in Appalachia and featuring the rural poor are few and far between. This will be a welcome addition to any classroom or library.
Books for kids by indigenous authors are also few and far between and rarest of all perhaps are those by and about Native Alaskans. Eagle Drums by Nausgraq Rainey Hopson is the story of a boy who encounters an eagle god while on a mountain expedition to collect obsidian. It features Iñupiaq cultural folklore and beautiful color illustrations. This is one of my favorite book covers this year.
I typically focus on MG books but I couldn’t pass up sharing this wonderful anthology of essays by writers of color and the work of writing as a person of color in the US. Any student who loves to write will find something of value in Writing in Color, edited by Nafiza Azad and Melody Simpson. It has craft essays on topics like “Starting from the Blank Page” or “A Unique Point of View” as well as industry advice like “Coping with Imposter Syndrome”, “The Care and Keeping of Jealousy” and “Perseverance”. I’m a long published author myself and I found plenty of things to reflect on in these essays. It’s also a great introduction to writers of color you might want to read more of.
Rosanne Parry is the author of 8 MG novels including best sellers A Wolf Called Wander, A Whale of the Wild and her newest A Horse Named Sky. She sells books at Annie Blooms Bookstore in Multnomah Village and writes books in her treehouse in Portland, Oregon.
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.
To find out more, including how to control cookies, please see here: Read MoreClose
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.