Posts Tagged Diversity in MG Lit

Diversity in MG Lit #28 June: Summer!!

wild horsesFriends, it has been a long and challenging year. I feel equal parts hope and exhaustion going into the summer break. Mostly I’m looking forward to being outside. I will be spending my summer going to wilderness to research my future stories. I’m so grateful for public lands and all the advocates who have made access to the wilderness possible.
At the same time I’m keenly aware that wilderness spaces can feel very unwelcoming to some communities of color and very inaccessible to the disabled. We all need open spaces. People of every race and continent have worked to defend the wilderness. I have just one book recommendation this month. If it were in my power I’d give this to every family in the world to encourage them to enjoy the wilderness and to do the work of protecting the earth.
Cover of The Wild World HandbookThe book is The Wide World Handbook: how adventurers, artists, scientists–and you–can protect earth’s habitats by Andrea Debbink, illustrated by Asia Orlando (Quirk Books). It introduces nine world ecosystems: mountains, forests, deserts, polar lands, ocean, fresh water, cities, rainforests, and grasslands.
Each ecosystem chapter includes biographies of people whose work impacted that ecosystem positively. A few of the people were well known: Wangari Maathai, Ansel Adams, and Jules Verne for example. Most were new to me. They included Bob Coomber, a wheelchair-using advocate for accessibility in the wilderness. Junko Tabei, a pioneering Japanese mountain climber and the first woman to summit Everest. And Rue Mapp, a black woman who created the blog Outdoor Afro. She encourages Black people to learn about the ways they have been denied access to public lands and encourages them to engage fully with the wilderness. She launched a movement towards inclusion that now numbers 35,000 members in 80 locations across the US.
I would have recommended this book if it only had biographies, but it is so much more. For each ecosystem there is a facts page, a natural wonder, and an environmental success story. I particularly appreciate this focus on the positive. Though we do need to learn all the ways we are harming the earth, we will never get to the changes we need if we don’t also include the things we’ve done that help.
high desert flowersThere are DIY projects for each ecosystem, including practical things like hiking sticks and bird houses, and also art projects using natural materials. Best of all there are suggestions for field trips and stewardship opportunities. I hope you read this book but more than that I hope you get outside this summer and spend sometime taking in all the wilderness has to offer. And I hope you all, teachers, students, and parents, return to school next year with renewed vigor and a heart for all the wild things of the earth.

Diversity in MG Lit #23 Dec 2020 Holiday books

When it comes to holiday books for kids European and white American versions of the holiday are easy to find. Here are a few new and more diverse offerings to put you in the holiday spirit.
Nicholas the Maker by Brian and Josie Parker. Here’s a little gem of a book from the micro-press Believe in Wonder Publishing. It’s the story of Nicholas, the son of Bishop Nicholas of Myra. He’s a half-elf in search of his mother’s people. It’s a magical quest tale leading to the origins of our modern myth of Santa Claus. It is beautifully illustrated throughout with pictures that make it clear that Nicholas is a brown boy. Historically fitting as the real person Bishop Nicholas of Myra, who became St. Nicholas, is from the southern coast of modern day Turkey.
Ten Ways to Hear Snow by Cathy Camper illustrated by Kenard Pak.
Here is a celebration of snow which reminds me a bit of another favorite, Before Morning by Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes. Lina goes on a wintery walk to her grandma’s to make their special holiday treat, warak enab. Along the way she reflects on all the sounds that snow makes. It’s a sweet ode to holiday baking and it celebrates so much more than the Arab-American culture in which it is rooted.
Simon & the Bear by Eric Kimmel illustrated by Matthew Trueman. Like Cathy Camper, Eric Kimmel is a fellow Portlander. He’s written many Hanukkah stories. This one is his most fanciful yet. It features an immigrant struggling to survive, a highly unlikely rescue, and an even more unlikely Hanukkah guest. Throughout it highlights eight everyday miracles: family, friendship, hope, selflessness, sharing, faith, courage, and love.
And finally if you are a fan of the Netflix holdiay extravaganza Jingle Jangle, there is a novelized version of it. Jingle Jangle by Lyn Sison Albert
Not holiday related but I wanted to make quick mention of these books which are coming out Jan 21st.
Sea in Winter by Christine Day
I found this story particularly resonant because all of my  children are dancers and they have struggled at times, like Maisie in Christine Day’s book, with injuries that cause them to call their whole sense of self into question. Maisie lives in Seattle and is Makah/Piscataway. This book runs deep with questions of identity and history set against the backdrop of the Makah whale hunts and ancient archaeological sites. A great read for a thoughtful and tenderhearted child.
Amari & the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston is the first in a trilogy of books about a black girl with a magical destiny. This has already been made into a movie, so it stands poised to take its place in the realm of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.