Posts Tagged weneeddiversebooks

News From the CBC

Middle Grade Authors

The mission of the Children’s Book Council (CBC) is to support the children’s publishing industry by connecting publishing professionals and creators with young readers. And they find a lot of ways to fulfill that mission. Take a look at some of the things the CBC is doing in the world of children’s books.

The CBC Diversity Initiative

White box, rainbow stripe, CBC Diversity

Founded in 2012, the CBC Diversity Initiative advocates for an inclusive and representative children’s publishing industry. The initiative is rooted in the belief that ALL children should see themselves and their worlds reflected in books. 

As part of this initiative, the CBC champions diverse book creators and their books, and they create and maintain diverse reading resource lists that can be used by teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents.

The #FReadom Movement

Letters to color in spelling #FReadom

The CBC actively supports #FReadom. This movement was launched by Texas librarians in 2021 as a way to combat book bannings. #FReadom resources are intended to highlight the positive impact of intellectual freedom, celebrate school libraries and librarians, and draw attention to the need to make diverse books available to young readers.

The CBC has made available six different coloring pages to support the #FReadom movement. Download the free coloring pages here

Children’s Book Week

Blue background, green and black book running gleefully, text "Read books. Spark change."

As part of their Every Child a Reader program, the CBC designates two separate weeks during the year to celebrate the joy of reading. Established in 1919, this is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. This year, Children’s Book Week will be celebrated May 1-7 and again November 6-12

This year’s theme for Children’s Book Week is Read Books. Spark change. You can download printable resources, including the free poster created by Rilla Alexander that speaks to the power of books and stories to inspire positive change.

Partnering with SLJGraphic illustrated, gray background, colorful characters, rainbow stream

In 2022, the CBC partnered with School Library Journal (SLJ) to create two posters celebrating the freedom to read. First, they worked with Penguin Random House and artist Rafael Lopex to create the “Open Books, Open Doors” poster to promote free expression and access to diverse books. You can download Lopez’s poster for free.

Next, they worked with artist Chan Chau to produce a poster themed “Imagining a world with you.”  The poster celebrates LGBTQIA+ children and teens, and it was showcased and made widely available by multiple organizations, including the CBC. You can download a copy of Chau’s poster for free.

Banned Books Week

Red book cover by yellow tape, text "Banned Books Week"

The CBC also partners with the American Library Association (ALA) to support and promote Banned Books Week. Launched in 1982, this annual observance has become more relevant now than ever. This year, Banned Books Week will be observed October 1-7. Mark your calendars!

Free downloads and information from last year’s Banned Books Week observance are still available on ALA’s website. While there, you can also find “Social Shareables” to show your support on multiple social media platforms.

Learn more about the Children’s Book Council and all their initiatives to promote free access to books and celebrate the power and wonder of books for young readers by visiting

Reasons to be Cheerful

Whatever your political leaning, you probably agree that it’s been a bruising couple of weeks. So for my last post on this blog, I’d like to share a few things that have made me happy lately.

truth-or-dare_final1- A book club for girls at Forgan Middle School in Forgan, Oklahoma chose to read my latest middle grade novel, TRUTH OR DARE. For the club’s seventh and eighth grade girls, as well as their teachers, to be able to buy their own copies, they needed a sponsor. And you know who sponsored their purchase of 23 hardcover copies? Delbert, the school custodian. The idea that this lovely man stepped up to buy all those copies of TRUTH OR DARE for a group discussing girls’ body issues, self-esteem, and related topics–well, it makes my heart burst.

A lot of folks want to keep kids reading–and they’re not just teachers, librarians, and publishing world insiders. Let’s be sure to celebrate the Delberts of the world. They’re definitely out there.

star-crossed-jpeg-516kb2-My next middle grade novel, STAR-CROSSED, will be published by Aladdin/S&S in March 2017. It’s about a middle school production of Romeo & Juliet in which the girl playing Romeo realizes she has a crush on the girl playing Juliet. This book is very much a middle grade novel–positive, gentle, and, unlike Shakespeare’s play, a comedy. Despite its lightness and wholesomeness, STAR-CROSSED would surely have been deemed too edgy for mainstream publication just a few years ago. But when I proposed STAR-CROSSED to my publisher, Simon & Schuster, they embraced it immediately–in fact, they recently highlighted it in their Spring 2017 Library/Education newsletter as a book promoting diversity. I’m also delighted to report that Scholastic has just licensed STAR-CROSSED (with a specially designed cover) for sale through book fairs and book clubs.   

So yes: #weneeddiversebooks on middle grade shelves. And you know what? We’re getting them. Joining STAR-CROSSED, LILY AND DUNKIN, GRACEFULLY GRAYSON, DRAMA, GEORGE,  LUMBERJANES and others, there’s Jen Petro-Roy’s PS, I MISS YOU coming Fall, 2017.  For more middle grade titles with LGBTQ characters, click here.

3-A related development in middle grade fiction: tough topics explored with special sensitivity for the age of the reader–for example, Nora Raleigh Baskin’s NINE, TEN, A September 11 Story



and Kate Messner’s THE SEVENTH WISH.

 My other book launching next year, HALFWAY NORMAL (Aladdin/S&S Dec 2017), deals with a different sort of tough topic. It’s about a girl who, upon returning to middle school after two years away for pediatric cancer treatment, feels as if she can’t communicate her story–until the class begins its study of Greek mythology. Not once did my publisher fret about the subject matter being too dark for middle grade readers; they trusted me to write something age-appropriate and even (yes, really, I promise!!) fun.

Ultimately, what I think HALFWAY NORMAL and STAR-CROSSED are both about is how books give kids a language to express themselves, and connect to others. I’m truly encouraged by the way publishers have embraced stories like these, which promote empathy, inclusiveness, self-expression and self-esteem. We’re expanding the notion of what middle grade books should be–reaching more kids, touching more hearts, and opening more minds. We’re also making kids smile. As we give thanks this week, let’s remember that middle grade books are better, and more important, than ever. Cheers!        

BARBARA DEE is the author of six middle grade novels published by Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, including TRUTH OR DARE, which was published in September.  Next year Aladdin/S&S will publish STAR-CROSSED (March 2017) and HALFWAY NORMAL (December 2017). 

Interview & Giveaway – The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian FarreyToday I’m thrilled to introduce Brian Farrey’s new middle grade fantasy, The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse. I’m particularly excited about this story it turns the fairy tale trope on it’s head: there is no handsome prince here, and the princess is both curious and capable. I chatted with Brian about everything from what’s on his bookshelf to writing tough topics.

Don’t forget to read to the end for your chance to win a copy of Brian’s gorgeous book!

JA: Which do you prefer, writing MG or writing YA?

BF: I don’t know that I prefer one to the other. I think my approach to writing each is fairly similar. The challenge is to always write in a way that is mindful of the targeted age range—more so with Middle Grade than anything else—but doesn’t talk down to the readers. With Middle Grade, you avoid some of the….saltier word choices that are available for YA. With either, I try to focus on ideas the various age ranges can relate to. I think that’s really important: writing in a way that’s relatable.

JA: The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse is told from two very different points of view–Princess Jeniah and her soon-to-be-friend, commoner Aon Greenlaw. Can you talk a little bit about the challenge of creating two such different voices in one story? 

BF: This is something I was conscious of in almost every draft. I wanted both girls to be drawing from their own pools of strength but I worried that would make them sound alike. It became important to temper that strength with their insecurities. For me, that’s where the characters began to sound and behave differently. Jeniah comes from a place of fear and Aon from a place of despair. So, I really tried to focus on making their voices come through in their vulnerabilities.

JA: Can you talk about which fairytales you enjoyed as a child and which ones might have inspired you to create the world where this story takes place?

BF: I grew up with the sanitized fairytales, not the original Grimm or Perrault texts which were much more gruesome and violent. So if there were stories I liked, it was because I was probably drawn to whatever humorous elements were added to make it more palatable. As I got older and explored the origins of the fairy tales and subsequently learned how dark they could be, I felt lied to. More than anything, I think writing this book came from a desire not to emulate the fairytales I knew growing up. Maybe I was rebelling against those sanitized lies? I dunno. But it was definitely a conscious choice to not be like the sugary versions and create the world of the Monarchy.

JA: You wear more than one hat, working both as a writer and as an editor. Putting on your editor hat for a moment, what trends do you see that might be of interest to our readers?

BF: I’m the acquiring editor for Free Spirit where I primarily acquire educational books for kids and teachers. It’s a whole new world in terms of the books I’m going after but I still keep a close eye on fiction for kids (even though I don’t acquire it anymore.) I’m really happy to see some fairly deep and complex themes showing in fiction of late, both for YA and MG. There’s still plenty of escapist books out there—lighter in tone and feel—and that’s great because people are always going to need that. But I’m enjoying seeing more books that will challenge readers with their complexity and subject matter. I enjoy picking up a beach read every so often and getting lost. But it’s important that I also keep my brain properly maintained with books that invite me to see other perspectives. I’m glad the selection of these books is widening.

JA: You’ve never shied away from tough subjects in your work. Can you talk about what inspires you tackle these subjects?

BF: Most often, I tackle these kinds of subjects because I’m trying to figure out how I feel about them. I’m not out to shove my opinions down others’ throats and I try really, really hard not to tell readers that THIS is how they should feel about a certain matter (but trying isn’t always succeeding….). Every book I’ve ever written is almost like a conversation I’m having with myself where I bring up points and counterpoints on a particular idea. A character in my book reaching a certain conclusion doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a conclusion that I, personally, have reached. If you take debate in school, one of the first things they teach you is how to argue a side you don’t believe in. It’s a step toward empathy. I think that’s what all writers are working toward. The most important thing about any story is that it’s going to (hopefully) expose young readers to new ideas and viewpoints. That’s so, so important and it’s why diversity has become such an important discussion point today. I firmly believe that we, as a society, need to make a better effort at not just understanding but also empathizing with one another. I’d like to think that books are a large part of that effort.

JA: What advice would you give to aspiring middle grade authors? 

BF: Write what you love. Really, that’s so important. When I work with beginning novelists, I find so many of them are writing what they think will make them bajillionaires or beloved by the masses. They’re looking at the market, pointing to books that are popular, and trying too hard to emulate that. Thing is: somebody already did that. Writers should always be trying to do something new. I think imitating other artists is a great way to get started when you’re new. It can help you grasp the basics: syntax, style, pacing, etc. But at some point, you have to be present in your own work. Figure out what you love and write that.

JA: What are you working on next?

BF: I just turned in a new book to my editor. It’s still sort of formative so I don’t want to say too much about it. I will say that it springboards off some of the ideas in Dreadwillow Carse but it isn’t a sequel. Like I said before, my books are often about me trying to figure out how I feel about certain ideas. Dreadwillow Carse raised more questions for me than I had room to answer in one book. So this next book is me exploring some of the spillover questions. But the new book is set in the real world (although there’s an element of magical realism in it.)

JA: I love magical realism! Can’t wait to see what you come up with next. What’s on your bookshelf right now?

Right now, I’m on a nostalgia tour. I’m tracking down books I read as a kid (some of which, sadly, are out of print and hard to find but yay for the internet and used books…). I’m falling in love with these books all over again. I’m reading Veronica Ganz by Marilyn Sachs, Banana Twist by Florence Parry Heide, The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs, and Alvin Fernald, Mayor for a Day by Clifford B. Hicks. And, as always, at some point this summer I’ll re-read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin because I re-read it every year.

The Vengekeep Prophecies by Brian FarreyJA: Tell us a little bit about your cat, Meowzebub. Does he live up to his devilish name?

BF: It would be disingenuous to call a cat Meowzebub and have him be perfectly boring. When he was a kitten, he faked his own death just so he could catch me by surprise and pounce on me. That’s pretty devilish, right? Now, he’s seventeen and not interested in pouncing but he’s no less sly.

Thanks so much for having me! This was a lot of fun.

You’re very welcome, Brian! Thanks for joining us and best of luck with The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse.

Brian Farrey is the author of the Vengekeep Prophecies series and the Stonewall Honor Book With or Without You. He knows more than he probably should about Doctor Who. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with his husband and their cat, Meowzebub. 

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