Posts Tagged Diversity in MG Lit

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.

WNDMG Wednesday – The Latinx Kidlit Book Festival, fighting for Latinx voices in the world of children’s books

We Need Diverse MG Logo hands holding reading globe with stars and spirals floating around

Illustration by: Aixa Perez-Prado

More Than One Way to Fight For Diverse Representation in Kidlit

Demands for diverse representation in Kidlit have grown louder in recent years with the help of organizations like the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival and individuals alike that have taken to different methods to amplify this critical need. Why? Because all children deserve to find representation in books and it’s equally as important for kids to observe the world through diverse perspectives.

How It Started

The teachers, families, students, and creators fighting the good fight against book banning, educational oppression, and the inadequacy of diversity in children’s titles are best armed with resources, one of the founding bases that spearheaded the creation of the online Latinx Kidlit Book Festival (LKBF).

LKBF was created in 2020 during the COVID pandemic by members of Las Musas Books (founders Alexandra Villasante, Ismee Williams, and Mayra Cuevas). Their aim was to connect Latinx authors and illustrators with readers and educators in classrooms around the globe. It was a response to the disparaging lack of access kids had to books by Latinx creators and the inequities in Kidlit that became even more obvious when the world went virtual.

founders of LKBF on mission for diverse representation in Kidlit

Educator Resources

Three years later, the Latinx Kidlit Book Festival has grown in its offerings and programming. Affording educators across the country opportunities to bring authors and illustrators to their schools; gifting free sets of books to classrooms and libraries; and providing a free virtual festival each year during Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month, streamable from YouTube with flexible and engaging segments for kids of all ages.

On the festival’s website, teachers and librarians can find helpful resources like educator guides, 5-Minute craft videos, and a brand new book database set to launch tomorrow, June 15! 

This new public database supplies all Kidlit lovers looking for stories from Latinx creators to add to their libraries. The LKBF Book Database offers the ability to sort by age category, genre, and more, making it easier for teachers and librarians to find books for their favorite bookworms from picture books to young adult novels. While this database will serve educators with valuable information to help curate their bookshelves, it can also serve as an eye opener for publishing insiders as to the gaps that still exist within Latinx kidlit stories.

At a birds-eye view, the LKBF has the appearance of a hub where all who long for equitable Latinx representation in children’s books can come together to make change happen. Authors that refuse to quiet their stories, illustrators that paint Latinx truths, teachers and librarians that incorporate the festival into their agendas so that their students have exposure to diverse works of art, and families in search of Latinx Kidlit content for their children; all help to shape LKBF as it continues to grow and bring to bear their mission to foster a love of story and literacy as well as increase empathy and conversation among educators, students, and book lovers while uplifting the voices of Latinx kidlit book creators.

Who, What, When, Where, and I’ve Already Laid Out the Why

The 2023 Latinx Kidlit Book Festival can be streamed from YouTube (subscribe here) on four consecutive Fridays: September 22, September 29, October 6, and October 13. Whether watching from a school, library, or home, viewers can meet their favorite Latinx authors and illustrators of picture books, middle-grade and young-adult novels, poetry, comic books, and graphic novels! Past festival participants have included award-winning and fan-favorite middle-grade authors like Alda P. Dobbs, Claribel A. Ortega, Meg Medina, Ernesto Cisneros, Torrey Maldonado, and more!

diverse representation in Kidlit streaming into classrooms

Join the many classrooms and libraries that have enjoyed this interactive festival and the opportunities it provides children of all ages such as the possibility to win a free class set (30) of books when a student’s question is selected for use during the program (more on that here).

Save the dates, bookworms! And subscribe to their newsletter today because you WILL NOT want to miss all of this year’s programming announcements. 2023 is prepping to be bigger and better than ever!

((If you enjoyed this article, you’ll love this book list blog: Diversity in MG Lit #43 March & April 2023))

Diversity in MG Lit #43 March & April 2023

cover art Indigo and Ida

Diversity in MG Lit

It’s the beginning of May, but March and April were big months for diversity in MG Lit book releases, so I’m going to recap and highlight a few standouts and ask you to mention those I’ve missed in the comments. As usual I’m going to focus on debut authors and diverse representations that most need amplification.
book cover The StorytellerHappy to see a debut MG book from acclaimed Cherokee author Brandon Hobson, The Storyteller. Ziggy is already dealing with anxiety and the disappearance of his mother only makes things worse. In a search for answers about where his mother (and so many other Native women) have gone Ziggy is drawn to a nearby cave and the story tradition of the Cherokee for answers. (Scholastic Press, 4/18/23)
book cover Good DifferentBooks about neurodivergent girls are few and far between. I was thrilled to find Good Different by Meg Eden Kuyatt. Selah is an autistic seventh grader learning to embrace her inner dragon while still taking responsibility for her actions. The novel in verse format gives Selah’s story an engaging pace and emotional power. (Scholastic Press, 3/7/23)
book cover Parchute KidsTwo graphic novels caught my eye this month, both with Asian-American protagonists. Squished by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter is about the second oldest daughter finding some autonomy and space to make her art in a family of seven siblings. A large family is its own culture beyond race and ethnicity. I belong to a big family and found lots of scenes here that resonated. (Graphix 3/7/23) Parachute Kids by Betty C Tang is about being left in America with siblings or relatives while parents remain behind in an Asian country. (Graphix 4/4/23)
book cover BoundlessTwo stories about African-American athletes will appeal to sports fans. Colin Kaepernick Change the Game by Eve L Ewing and Orlando Caicedo is a graphic novel (Graphix 3/7/23). Track and field fans will devour the story of national champion, world champion, and four time Olympian, Chanunté Lowe in her debut MG biography Boundless. (Scholastic focus 3/7/23)
book cover Once There Wasbook cover The Scroll of ChaosAnd finally there are four notable additions to the genre of MG protagonist meets magical creatures and discovers hidden powers. They are Once There Was by Kiyash Monsef (S&S 4/423), Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind (Labyrinth Road RH 4/4/23), Hamara and the Jungle of Memories by Hanna Alkaf (HC 3/28/23), and The Scroll of Chaos by Elie Chapman (Scholastic Press 3/7/23)
As always this is only a small sample of the diverse books published in March and April. If I’ve missed something, do mention it in the comments.