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.
Threads 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.
Black 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 from 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)
I 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)