Posts Tagged Diverse MG Lit

Diversity in MG #32 January 2022.

Hello Mixed Up Files friends. I’m so happy to step into the new year spreading the word about all the new diverse books for MG readers. I’ll begin with three nonfiction books that came out last fall and end with some new fiction.
book cover Threads of PeaceThreads of Peace: how Mohandas Ghandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World by Uma Krishnaswami is a dual biography of two great leaders in non-violent resistance. I appreciate very much how the flow of history is presented. It points out similarities and differences between British-ruled India and the Jim Crow South. We see how each man developed their ideas about non-violent resistance to tyranny over many years and much study. Teachers will be glad to see lots of source notes, maps, a glossary and timelines. Readers will appreciate the many historical photographs and the lively writing. Perfect for middle school and high school history classes and also a great book club choice for church youth groups.
book cover Black Birds in the SkyBlack Birds in the Sky: the story and legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by Brandy Colbert is a detailed account of the destruction of a thriving Black community in Oklahoma. It describes how black families in the Greenwood district of Tulsa became so economically successful. It highlights notable people of the era such as Ida B Wells-Barnett. (happy side note: my local public high school changed its name from Woodrow Willson High to Ida B. Wells High) This title is generally shelved with the YA titles and is best suited to older middle grade readers.
I’m a big folktale fan. The graphic novel BlancaFlor: the hero with secret powers, a folk tale book cover BlancaFlorfrom Latin America by Nadja Spiegelman & Sergio García Sánchez was right up my alley. The art is energetic and whimsical. The story, everything you want in a folktale. It is billed as a feminist leaning story but I found BlancaFlor a tad too self effacing to claim that crown. She is stuck between a prince in desperate want of her magic powers and a family admonishing her not to show off–familiar ground for many mortal girls and women. There is also a Spanish edition of this title and it is from the same publisher who created Black Heros of the Wild West. I’m looking forward to many more diverse graphic novels in their future. (TOON 2021)
I wish Annie Blooms (the bookstore where I work) had a manifesto section. Aint Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds, art by Jason Griffin, would be its star title. It’s a short but powerful reflection on breathing. A timely topic but also an evergreen one given the rates of asthma in inner city children and emphysema in minority adults. I think the book will speak deeply to MG and YA readers. It’s best value though is in the implicit encouragement to write and illustrate a manifesto of your own. (Atheneum 2022)
book cover Dream Annie DreamI have a suspicion that while many aspects of everyday racism are the same as always, there is an increase in that particularly pernicious entitlement nonsense. “You only got …insert impressive achievement here…because you are a minority.” Ugh! This is exactly the territory Waka T Brown covers in her novel Dream, Annie, Dream. Seventh grader Annie Inoue lands a lead in the middle school musical The King and I only to hear from classmates that she only got the part because she’s Asian. Her hard won self confidence unfolds beautifully. A solid follow up to Brown’s debut While I Was Away. (QuillTree 2022)

Diversity in MG Lit#30 Graphic Novels + Anthologies

Graphic novels are having quite a moment. They have grown by an astonishing 10-15% each year for the past 2 or 3 years and then in 2020, they grew by 29%. They now count for more than a billion in sales. The two factors driving this change are the willingness of independent bookstores and libraries to carry and promote graphic novels and the dramatic growth in graphic novels for children. This month I’m going to introduce a few of the many diverse graphic novels new this year. I’m also going to highlight two new anthologies.
Piece by Piece: the story of Nisrin’s Hijab by Priya Huq, Amulet 9/21book cover of Piece by Piece by Priya
If there’s one book I’d recommend to teachers and families trying to understand the lives of immigrants and refugees, it would be Piece by Piece. It’s a spare and powerful story of a Bengali girl who is the victim of a hate crime and goes on to use the very cultural markers that made her a victim to aid in her healing process. Along the way she comes to understand more fully her family’s generational trauma rooted in the Bengali genocide of 1971. I love this story for its nuanced take on a difficult topic and for it’s gorgeous art. I hope that debut author-illustrator Priya Huq has many more stories in the future.
Swan Lake: Quest for the Kingdoms by Rey Terciero & Megan Kearney, Harper Alley 3/22
Imagine a high speed collision between Swan Lake and The Princess Bride and you’ll be onto the vibe of this rollicking tale of friendship and adventure. The racial identity of the main characters are hard to parse in the blue toned illustrations but one of the chief swashbucklers is a single leg amputee.
¡¡Manu!! by Kelly Fernández, Graphix Scholastic 10/21
Here’s another friendship story about girls at a magical school (run by some seriously spunky nuns) who learn the limits of magical power and boundless power of friendship and loyalty.
Borders by Thomas King illustrated by Natasha Donovan, Little Brown 9/21book cover Borders by Thomas King
This simple and thoughtful story packs a lot of power in under 200 pages. It’s about First Nations identity, justice and belonging and is set at a US/Canada border crossing where a Blackfoot family refuses to claim any citizenship other than their own tribe. It’s not flashy but it’s a real conversation starter.
Ms.Marvel: Stretched Thin by Nadia Shammas illustrated by Nambi H. Ali, Marvel, Scholastic 9/21
Love this story about Ms. Marvel, the 1st Muslim American Avenger in a theme that I think will resonate with a lot of students. Ms. Marvel AKA Kamala, is trying hard to do all the things she loves successfully and sacrificing her own well being to do it. But in the end she embraces the super power of leaning on your friends when you need help. Timely! Also from the Marvel universe, Miles Morales: Shock Waves by Justin A. Reynolds illustrated by Pablo Leon, Marvel, Scholastic 6/21
Squire by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas, Harper Alley Quill Tree Books 2/22cover Squire by Sara Alfageeh
This one reminded me a lot of the Tamara Pierce stories. A Girl, a quest, a training regimen, allies gained and enemies vanquished, all with a middle eastern cast and setting. It’s great fun and sure to appeal to boys and girls equally.
City of Dragons: the awakening storm by Jaimal Yogis & Vivian Truong, Graphix 9/21
Fans of the Wings of Fire series will love this one. Set in Hong Kong, a group of friends find a dragon egg that hatches and becomes a creature of immense power who becomes the object of evil powers intent on destroying the entire city.
As a bookseller I LOVE a good anthology. It’s a great way to introduce kids to a variety of new authors. It’s great to help kids transition from chapter books to middle grade or from middle grade to young adult.  For teachers I love a themed anthology for augmenting curriculum. Here are two new anthologies that I think will serve you well.
cover of Living Ghosts & Mischievous MonstersLiving Ghosts & Mischievous Monsters: Chilling American Indian Stories by Dan Sasuweh Jones of the Ponca Nation, Illustrated by  Weshoyot Alvitre of the Tongva Nation. Scholastic Press, 9/21
Years ago I was a teacher on a reservation in Washington and one of the things I remember most was how eager my students were to tell me a scary story. This collection is not for the faint of heart though the tales vary in intensity quite a bit. They are collected from a tribes across the country. Chapters are devoted to ghosts, spirits, witches, monsters and the supernatural. Back matter includes books for further reading and reliable websites.
Beast & Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani  Illustrated by Julia Iredale Harper 9/21
The author of the School for Good and Evil series has a collection of 12 tales, all twists on familiar tales–thoughtful twists–conversation worthy twists.
This is just a small sampling of the many new graphic novels this summer and fall. Please mention your favorites that I might have missed in the comments.

LOVE SUGAR MAGIC with Anna Meriano

LOVE SUGAR MAGIC Mixture of Mischief


LOVE SUGAR MAGIC – just those three words conjure deliciousness enough to make any day feel warm and happy. Which is why I’m so excited that this week marks the third installation of the Anna Meriano’s wonderful LOVE, SUGAR, MAGIC trilogy: A Mischief of Magic (HarpersChildren/Walden Pond Press, February 2020)

LOVE SUGAR MAGIC Mixture of Mischief

About the Series

Leo Logroño and her sisters and mother are brujas–witches of Mexican ancestry–and have been keeping the residents of Rose Hill, Texas, well-stocked with both sweet treats from their panadería and problem-solving magic.  In her previous adventures, Leo learns of her own magical powers, tied to her birth order,  but has a couple of missteps along the way.

A Mixture of Mischief

In her latest adventure, Leo still hasn’t discovered exactly what her magical abilities are, but she’s excited to at least be learning the baking and spice magic secrets she needs to become a full-fledged bruja. Then, her family’s heirlooms start disappearing, and a new bakery opens up across town threatening her family’s livelihood. Around that time, Leo’s long-lost Abuelo pays her a visit and promises to teach her about her power. But something about him seems wrong, including his dire warnings about a world full of threats that only she can control (with his help, of course,) and the fact that his appearance seems to be tied to the disappearance of everything that holds her family safe and secure.

Interview with Anna Meriano

It was a whirlwind week for Anna as she marked the release of her book on Tuesday, but she kindly took the time to talk to us at Mixed-Up Files to share some of her thoughts about her latest book and what’s next.

HMC: I absolutely love the imagery and smells in this book. I was hungry so often while I read it! Do you bake like Leo – is that where her inspiration comes from?

AM: Actually, no! It’s always so gratifying when people ask this because I’m constantly worried that my lack of baking experience is going to come through in my writing, but so far I seem to be fooling everyone by doing plenty of research (eating lots and lots of delicious baked goods)! The imagery (and especially the smells) come from the wealth of fantastic bakeries in Houston, plus a few years rooming with a baker in college.

HMC: AND THE SPICES….oh, the spices and the molcajete … please give us a tidbit about how you learned the art of spice blending. (AND ALSO – my mother had a black stone bowl with a grinder like that, and no one knows where it is anymore, but now I want it baaaaaack.)

AM: Again, I have to laugh because while I theoretically know that some people grow, dry, and grind their own spices, that is all so far above my culinary ability that I’ve never even considered doing it myself. Leo’s spice magic came about mostly because we needed her to interact with more family heirlooms (for plot reasons) and we wanted things that you would find in the kitchen. Plus, I thought it would be really hard to bake specific magic into a recipe if the herb you wanted to use didn’t taste good with the rest of the recipe! 

Good luck finding your own family heirloom!

Dark Magic

HMC: (Thank you!!) In this third book, you mix in a darker magic theme—was this always what you planned for this series, or did it bubble up as you were writing the first two?

AM: It was definitely something I was thinking about toward the end of book two (hence that cliffhanger ending), but it wasn’t planned from the beginning of the series. Part of the reason things got darker has to do with the world feeling darker now than it did in 2014. I also wanted Leo to grow after each book, so it made sense for her problems to grow along with her. 

HMC: Among the many things children get to do (besides have delicious chills and protect their toes from duendes!) when they read books with conflict or scary people is work out for themselves how to process fear and discomfort. What kind of darkness in the world does your dark magic Abuelo represent?

AM: Thank you for this question! Abuelo Logroño represents a whole host of attitudes and people that I find scary, and it’s always tricky to boil fictional characters down to their exact real-life influences, but I would say that he embodies the toxic result of power combined with fear. This is especially dangerous because he thinks of himself as a hero, and tries to convince Leo that he is too. 

HMC: Abuelo is both comical and scary – how did you craft that perfect blend of laughter and goosebumps?

AM: Unfortunately, I think I pulled straight from real life here! We’ve seen a lot of powerful figures lately that are, simply put, kind of ridiculous, so it didn’t seem at all unrealistic to make Abuelo Logroño a ridiculous figure who still represented a real threat. I do hope that readers find him less scary because of his silliness, and I hope they recognize that the bullies they meet in real life have some of the same weaknesses.

Bruja Power

HMC: If you were a bruja, what would your power be?

AM: Well, if I follow the rules of Leo’s family magic, I would have the second-born power of making objects appear from thin air, which is a pretty cool power to have! But I like to consider that my bruja power is the thing I already love doing, which is telling stories and putting ideas into people’s heads. That’s a bit more along the lines of Isabel’s power, and I’m happy with it.

HMC: Will there be more in the LOVE SUGAR MAGIC series?

AM: This is the end of the trilogy! It makes me tear up every time I say it, though, so please don’t make me say it anymore!

HMC: What’s next for you?

AM: I have a Young Adult novel coming out this year about teens who play quidditch, which is something I do in real life, so I’m very excited for that! 


Author Anna MerianoAnna Meriano
is the author of the LOVE SUGAR MAGIC series, which has received starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Shelf Awareness. She grew up in Houston, graduated from Rice University with a degree in English, and earned her MFA in writing for children from the New School. Anna works as a tutor and part-time teacher with Writers in the Schools, a Houston nonprofit that brings creative writing instruction into public schools. In her free time, she likes to knit, study American Sign Language, and play full-contact quidditch. Her YA debut, Brooms Up, hits shelves in the fall of 2020.

You can find the trilogy here:

Buy it here: Amazon | | Kobo | Powell’s | Indiebound