Diversity in MG Lit #45 November and December 2023

book cover, Lullaby for the KingSpecial 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 book cover Nicholas the MakerChristmas story and not the ever present commercial version.
Chapter books
book cover the TimeKeepers seriesHere is a new series from the creator of the Explorer Club, SJ King. It’s called The Time Keepers, 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.
Graphic novels
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.
book cover MabuhayI’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.
Book cover the Courage to DreamOn 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.
MG novels
book cover Tagging FreedomTagging 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.
book cover eagle drumsBooks 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.
YA novels
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.
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Rosanne Parry
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.