Diversity in MG Lit #46 January & February 2024

Last fall was a particularly hectic time for me. I had deadlines for both a novel and a picture book. I missed a few diverse titles that I think are very worthy of attention. Those are the first three titles in this post.  But first of all I’m going to highlight two books about how elections work, because diversity needs in democracy.
Book cover: Your Vote MattersYour Vote Matters: How we elect the US President by Rebecca Katzman, illustrated by Ellen Duda is a short and highly illustrated overview of how the US government is structured, how our democracy works, and the presidential election process. Obviously this book is very timely. It’s an accessible resource for 7 to 10 year olds. If you are looking for a more in-depth book for the older end of middle grade or young adult readers please try You Call This Democracy: How to fix our government and deliver power to the people by Elizabeth Rusch. You may have missed this one the first time around because it came out in 2020. It’s very well researched and engagingly written.
book cover abeni's songAbeni’s Song by P. Djèlí Clark is a “chosen one” fantasy story set in West Africa. Abeni’s whole village is spirited away by magical forces and sent on ghost ships to distant lands. Abeni is captured by a witch and learns about her mission to return her people home. This first in a series is sure to spark conversation about the African diaspora. P. Djèlí Clark has written extensively in the adult speculative fiction sphere. This is his first book for young readers.
book cover Two Tribes Two Tribes by Emily Bowen Cohen is about a girl named Mia who is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah. She’s also coming to more deeply understand the Muscogee side of her heritage. I love how frankly and bravely Mia address people who treat her heritage unkindly. This one is a graphic novel. There is a glossary in the back for the handful of Muscogee words  in the text. This is Emily Bowen Cohen’s debut, and I certainly hope we will see more from her. It has won the School Library Journal Best Book, National Jewish Book Award, and the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Kids award.
I loved Duel by Jessixa Bagley illustrated by Aaron Bagley so much! My son was a fencer for a few years and I’m always happy to see the lesser known sports featured in a book. But even more I loved that the story was honest about the intensity of rivalry among sisters. I also appreciated that it addressed the fallout of grief, not in the moment of loss, but also long after the deceased member is gone.
book cover Drawing Deena a girl with thick curly dark hair and a yellow shirt sits on the floor and draws. yellow daisies on a green background I am the only person in my family who makes a living at the arts. Even though I was over 30 yrs old when I started, my dad was so nervous about my prospects, not because he didn’t want me to be a writer, he just didn’t understand anything about how careers in the arts worked. So I felt a kinship with Drawing Deena by Hena Khan. It’s about a girl who longs to be an artist. She struggles to make her family understand what art means to her and how it can be as practical a path as any to career success.
Amil and the After by Veera Hirandandani is the follow up to her Newbery Honor winning book The Night Diary. It follows the story of Amil in 1948 as his Muslim and Hindu family starts over in Bombay. like Two Tribes, this one delves into what it means to belong to more than one spiritual tradition. The largest growing ethnic group in this country is bi or multi-racial children, Just as many young readers belong to mixed faith families. I hope to see many more books covering this terrain.
book cover Backcountry. A girl in snow gear and a helmet hikes on a snowy mountain with a large black dog at her sideBackcountry by Jenny Goebel is about a young athlete who is diabetic and has a diabetic alert dog. This thriller follows their adventure when they get lost in the snow in the backcountry. Most disability narratives focus more on the physical side and I see medical disability less often–though No Matter the Distance by Cindy Baldwin, about a girl with Cystic Fibrosis, is really well done. I liked how Jenny Goebel’s book delves into how differently Emily is treated as an athlete when people know she is diabetic even though nothing about her athletic performance has changed.  (Scholastic)
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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.