Posts Tagged Diverse MG Lit

Diversity in MG Lit #38 July 2022

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:
book cover Children of the QuicksandsSet 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 novelbook cover Ravenous Things
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.
book cover Last BeekeeperThe 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
Non Fiction
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.
Graphic Novels
book cover InvisibleInvisible 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.
Chapter Books
book cover Surely SurelySurely 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.

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.